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The Search For Policy

The changes in policy to which General MacArthur constantly referred involved decisions by the President to take, or not to take, certain specific military actions against the Chinese. General MacArthur first suggested such measures in conversations with General Collins early in December, and throughout the term of his command in Korea insisted with increasing emphasis that the actions he had sponsored be carried out.

MacArthur's view of the world situation, with particular emphasis on his own theater, was simple in its approach but exceedingly complex in its implications. He reasoned that the Chinese had, omitting only the formality of open declaration, gone to war against the United Nations Command. The Chinese were prosecuting this war, in MacArthur's view, with all the resources at their disposal and were being supported logistically by the Soviet Union.

On 30 December, he posed four retaliatory measures that he believed feasible and that would require a relatively small commitment of military forces. The first was to blockade the China coast; the second, to destroy Communist China's war industries through naval gunfire and air bombardment; the third, to reinforce the troops in Korea with part of the Chinese Nationalist garrison on Formosa; and the fourth, to allow diversionary operations by the Nationalist troops against vulnerable areas of the Chinese mainland. These measures, he was certain, could not only relieve the pressure on United Nations forces in Korea but could indeed severely cripple Communist China's war-making potential and thus save Asia from a Communist engulfment that otherwise faced it. While he realized that such actions previously had been rejected for fear of provoking Communist China into a major war effort, he now insisted that Communist China was already fully committed and that the retaliatory steps therefore could not prompt it to greater efforts. He also realized that there might be some danger of Russian interference if the courses he described were adopted. But he discounted this risk, reasoning that any Russian decision to start a general war would be reached solely on a basis of Russia's own estimate of relative strength and capabilities of the United States and itself. [1]

If Communist China was permitted to

[1] Rad, C 52391, MacArthur (Personal) for JCS, 30 Dec. 50.

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get away with what he called its "flagrant aggression," and if the United Nations Command evacuated Korea without attacking the Chinese mainland, MacArthur believed that the Asian peoples, including the Japanese, would be greatly dismayed. He implied that the United States would lose so much face with these peoples that a material reinforcement of the Far East Command would be necessary even to hold the littoral island defense chain, including Japan. [2]

MacArthur pointed out that the evacuation of his forces from Korea under any circumstances, forced or otherwise, would at once release the bulk of the Chinese Army then occupied in Korea and leave them free to attack other areas-quite probably areas of far greater importance than Korea itself. MacArthur claimed:

     On the other hand, the relatively small command we now have in 

     Korea is capable of so draining the enemy's resources as to protect 

     the areas to the south which would in itself be possibly a greater 

     contribution to the general situation than could be made by such a 

     force disposed in other areas for purely defense purposes, but not 

     possessing the power to pin down and localize so massive a part of 

     the enemy's potential as now committed in Korea. 

The ROK Army, if a general evacuation took place, would disintegrate or become of negligible value. Japan itself would become extremely vulnerable following the loss of Korea. [3]

MacArthur again assailed the refusal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to send reinforcements to his aid in Korea. This refusal had been based on the possibility of a greater need for these forces, in case of emergency, in areas more strategic than Korea. MacArthur explained to his superiors that sending additional forces to the Far East would foster rather than hinder the development of military resources in those strategic areas, particularly in western Europe. "I understand thoroughly the demand for European security and fully concur in doing everything possible in that sector," MacArthur continued, "but not to the point of accepting defeat anywhere else-an acceptance which I am sure could not fail to insure later defeat in Europe." He noted that the preparations for the defense of Europe were, by the most optimistic estimates, based upon a condition of readiness two years in the future, and he argued that sending him more American divisions could not possibly prejudice these preparations. Rather, it would insure thoroughly seasoned forces for later commitment to Europe synchronously with Europe's own build-up of military strength. [4]

Touching briefly upon the Joint Chiefs' tactical estimate of the situation in Korea and the danger of forced evacuation, General MacArthur agreed that their estimate was sound under the con-

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] (1) Ibid. (2) On 19 December 1950, President Truman had, at the request of the NATO Council, appointed General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Eisenhower was to establish in western Europe an integrated allied command to which the member nations of NATO would contribute such forces as they were able. MacArthur knew of this. At this date however, the plans for an allied defense of Europe including the extent of United States participation had not been prepared. For the story of this planning and the later build-up of NATO forces in western Europe, see Sir Hastings L. Ismay, Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO: The First Five Years, 1949-1954 (Utrecht: Bosch-Utrecht, 1955).

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ditions then existing. These conditions were, as he enumerated them: no reinforcements, continued restrictions upon Chinese Nationalist action, no military measures against continental China, and the concentration of China's strength solely upon the Korean sector. [5]

The various actions MacArthur recommended against the Chinese outside of Korea were quite plainly acts of war. The United Nations was not committed, and all indications pointed toward a great reluctance on the part of its member nations to commit themselves to a war with China. The United States could endorse MacArthur's recommendations on its own behalf, but the President lacked authority to send any but American forces against China outside of Korea. If he ordered MacArthur to carry out the recommended actions, the United States, ipso facto, would be at war with China. Thus far, the Chinese Government had not declared war against the United States and had, in fact, disclaimed responsibility for the actions of Chinese armies in Korea. While this was purely a technicality it was an important one.

Confining the fighting in Asia to a limited arena in Korea and preserving the unity of the bloc of nations allied with the United States against Communist aggression were basic principles of established national policy. With these aims uppermost in their minds, the nation's top policy-makers weighed and analyzed each of the actions proposed by General MacArthur to determine whether or not the benefit to be derived from it would justify the great risk of causing the Korean fighting to mushroom and of alienating allied powers. [6]

The Retaliatory Measures: An Examination

American leaders studied the specific courses of possible retaliation against Communist China carefully, seeking in each case to determine how effective it would prove if applied; if it were practicable; the effect of its application on the unity of United States allies; and, looming larger than all the other points, if it would cause a general war. The existing national policy approved by President Truman stated, "The United States should not permit itself to become involved in a general war with Communist China." [7] Russia and Communist China had concluded a "peace and universal security" treaty which was made public on 15 February 1950. This treaty could be invoked by either party against "a state which indirectly or directly unites with Japan in acts of aggression," or where "important international questions touching on the mutual interests of the Soviet Union and China exist." [8] Hence, the treaty materially increased

[5] Rad, C 52391, MacArthur (Personal) for JCS, 30 Dec. 50.

[6] President Truman's thoughts on this controversial subject are pertinent. In his view, the United States was in Korea in the name of and on behalf of the United Nations. The unified command under General MacArthur was a United Nations Command and neither the President nor MacArthur would have been justified in exceeding the mission originally established by the United Nations General Assembly. Unrestricted military action against China, however attractive, had to be avoided if for no other reason than that it was a huge booby trap.

[7] JCS 1924/35.

[8] Rpt. by the JSSC to the JCS on Possible Action in Event of Open Hostilities Between the United States and China, 6 Dec. 50, in G-3, DA file 38 China, Case 1/3.

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the possibility of Russian intervention in the event retaliatory measures were invoked against China.

Naval Blockade of China

The United States had imposed an economic embargo on Communist China on 3 December. All exports from the United States to Communist China had been banned with the exception of those authorized by validated export licenses; and no more such licenses were issued. On 14 December, the President authorized the Departments of State and Treasury to work out the application of controls over Chinese Communist assets in the United States. On 17 December, these assets were brought under control by a blocking order from the Department of the Treasury. On 16 December, the Department of Commerce had issued orders prohibiting United States ships and aircraft from visiting Chinese Communist ports. [9] But these economic sanctions were never fully effective because other nations, including members of the United Nations with forces in Korea, did not strictly observe them.

General MacArthur had recommended that the coast of Communist China be placed under a naval blockade, an entirely different matter from an economic embargo. For the imposition of a naval blockade implies the existence of a state of war between the blockader and the blockaded. It would have to be limited to ports and coastal lands belonging to or occupied by the enemy. It could not bar access to neutral ports or coasts. It would have to be applied equally to all ships of all nations. Hence, if the United States were to impose a naval blockade of the Chinese mainland unilaterally and without the full cooperation of the United Nations, numerous undesirable complications could arise.

Unless Port Arthur, Dairen, and Hong Kong were blockaded, the whole procedure would prove ineffective. Russia undoubtedly would demand unlimited access to the Dairen and Port Arthur areas, over which it exercised military rights, and other privileges under Sino-Soviet treaties. The British most certainly would refuse any American blockade of Hong Kong. From a political standpoint, unilateral action on a naval blockade probably would set the United States apart from its allies and promote the view that a war with China would be simply a United States war.

On the other hand, Communist China was extremely vulnerable to a properly enforced naval blockade since China depended to a great degree on imports for the materials of war as well as for other goods. The Joint Chiefs of Staff therefore were very much interested in a United Nations naval blockade as an instrument of pressure against China. They felt that if the United Nations should declare a naval blockade, the Russians would respect it just as they had the United Nations blockade of Korea. If the United States undertook its own blockade, however, the Russians might conceivably oppose it with military action. [10]

[9] Note by Secy. Commerce, sub: Position of the United States Regarding a Blockade of Trade With China, JCS 2118/3, in G-3, DA file 091 Korea, Case 27/6.

[10] The Joint Chief of Staff later testified that they were opposed to any naval blockade of China which was not fully sanctioned and approved by the United Nations. Not only did they believe that such a blockade would "leak like a sieve" but that the dangers of alienating the British and of getting into a shooting war with the Russians were too great to accept. MacArthur, on the other hand, did not think that an American blockade, including Port Arthur and Dairen, would ". . . materially affect in any way the great decisions that would be involved in bringing the Soviets into a global war," See Rad, JCS 80080, JCS (Personal) for MacArthur, 9 Jan 51; and MacArthur Hearings, pp. 261, 355, 483, 1188, 1517.

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Employment of Chinese Nationalist Troops in Korea

General MacArthur had insisted on several occasions, most recently on 30 December, that troops from Chiang Kai-shek's forces on Formosa be sent to Korea to fight. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had consistently refused this request.

The strongest arguments against using these troops lay in the political ill effects of such action. As mentioned earlier, if Chinese Nationalist troops were employed in Korea by the United States, the United States would have to accept the re-establishment, to a large degree, of the World War II relationship between Nationalist China and the United States. Recognition of this acceptance would be widespread both nationally and internationally. The United States would have to reconsider, and possibly revise, its announced policy toward Formosa. This policy, in effect the neutralization of Formosa, was based on President Truman's announcement on 26 June 1950 in connection with the war in Korea. Because they believed that employment of Nationalist troops in Korea would cause the Chinese Communists to behave with even greater militancy, a majority of the United Nations members would probably reject a United States proposal to that effect.

There was also a strong possibility that any change in the American attitude toward Chiang involved in use of his troops would be interpreted by western European nations as reducing the defense of Europe to a lower priority. Further, the move would be certain to make it much harder to obtain a political solution to the Korean conflict through negotiation with the Chinese and North Koreans.

Chinese Nationalist Operations Against the Mainland

As one of his proposals for relieving the Communist Chinese pressure against his troops in Korea, General MacArthur had suggested that the United States "Release existing restrictions upon the Formosan garrison for diversionary action (possibly leading to counter-invasion) against vulnerable areas of the Chinese mainland." If MacArthur's proposal were taken at face value it would have meant that the order, sent to him on 29 June 1950 to insure by naval and air action that Formosa would not be used as a base of operations against the Chinese mainland by the Chinese Nationalists, need only be rescinded. From then on, it would be up to the Chinese Nationalists. But the problem was much more complex than that. In addition, there were a number of possible interpretations of the term "diversionary action," ranging from guerrilla action to full-scale invasion by Chiang's forces, supported by American naval and air power. Authorities in Washington studied this proposal from every conceivable angle to determine if it could be profitably carried out. [11]

[11] Rpt, JIC to JCS, sub: Estimate on the Effectiveness of Anti-Communist Guerrillas Operating in China, JIG 318, in G-3, DA file 091 China, Case 41.

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The military capabilities of the Chinese Nationalist forces on Formosa were extremely limited. General MacArthur was quite aware of this, having visited Formosa on 31 July 1950. In comparison to mainland China, with its population of 452,000,000 and an army of over 2,000,000 men, the Nationalists on Formosa had a population under their control of only 7,500,000 and an army of 428,000 men. The Nationalist Army had comparatively few arms; and these were a mixture of American, Japanese, Russian, and German weapons which were poorly maintained. The ratio was one individual weapon for every two and a half men. American leaders were under no illusion that the Nationalists could mount any sort of significant attack against the Chinese mainland unless the United States furnished the materials and transportation. Nor could this be done easily and quickly, even if the United States should decide to divert resources from other vital areas to support operations by Chiang Kai-shek. [12]

Considerations in Bombing China

Direct air and naval surface attacks on the Chinese mainland were probably the most immediate way of striking a hard blow against the Communists. These were also the actions most likely to precipitate a full-scale war. [13] All of the nations allied with the United States against Communist aggression in Korea were strongly opposed to direct attack on China. Since China had no great industrial centers, the most profitable targets would be military and air installations, railroads, and shipping facilities. But experience in World War II had shown that in spite of the best intentions and most accurate bombing, the civil population suffered along with such targets; and any heavy loss of civilian life undoubtedly would be sure to turn many Asiatic nations against the United States. There was little question, moreover, that China, if faced with this bombing, would call upon the USSR to come to its rescue. Most American leaders were therefore not willing to risk bombing China except as a last resort.

In all the discussions of "privileged sanctuary" enjoyed by the Chinese in Manchuria no mention had been made by MacArthur, or by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for that matter, of a similar privileged sanctuary enjoyed by the United Nations Command in Japan. Both naval and air operations against Korea were mounted from Japanese bases, and Japan was the main staging area from which thousands of U.N. troops were sent to fight in Korea. Consequently, if the United States bombed Manchuria to destroy enemy bases, the Chinese might bomb Japan. Whether the Chinese possessed such a capability was certainly a moot point; but it seemed reasonable to assume that with Russian help it would not take them long to acquire such a capability.

President Truman stated that he had never been able to believe that MacArthur, seasoned soldier that he was, did not realize that introducing Chinese Nationalist forces into mainland China

[12] JCS 2118/15, 29 Jan 51, in G-3, DA file 381 China, Case 6/3.

[13] Other than broadly hinting that the atomic bomb would be effective in Korea, MacArthur did not recommend officially or, as far as is known, unofficially, that the decision be taken to use the atomic bomb against either the North Koreans or the Chinese, in or out of Korea.

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would be an act of war. Certainly, a commander who had been in the forefront of world events for thirty-five years must realize that the Chinese people would react to the bombing of their cities in much the same manner as the people of the United States would have done. The President did not believe, either, that MacArthur with his knowledge of the Orient could really think that he could cut off the vast flow of materials from Russia merely by bombing Chinese cities. The next step would have to be the bombing of Vladivostok and the Trans-Siberian railroad. Because he was sure that MacArthur could not possibly have overlooked these considerations President Truman was left with the simple conclusion that MacArthur was ready to risk general war. The President was not. [14]

Because they were not privy to MacArthur's intentions or to the instructions given him, British officials grew concerned that he might do something that would cause the conflict to spread beyond Korea. When these misgivings were brought to the attention of President Truman, he attempted to allay British fears by assuring Prime Minister Attlee:

     There has not been any change in the agreed United States-United 

     Kingdom position that resistance to aggression in Korea should 

     continue in Korea unless and until superior force required 

     evacuation of our troops. Present tactical situation does not 

     reflect any change in this position but rather essential 

     adjustments to cover increased jeopardy to United Nations troops 

     resulting from recent marked decrease in effectiveness of sorely 

     tried South Korean divisions. [15] 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff sent MacArthur an interim denial of his proposals on 9 January. They told him that his suggestions were being carefully considered but that, for the time being at least, little chance existed for a switch in the national policy. The blockade of the China coast, for instance, if imposed, would not take place until the United Nations Command had either stabilized the situation in Korea or had evacuated the peninsula. Nor would American authorities undertake such a blockade without British approval, in deference to the extensive British trade with China through Hong Kong. The Joint Chiefs felt also that any blockade required the concurrence of the United Nations Organization. [16]

The naval and air attacks which MacArthur wished to launch on the Chinese mainland would, in the opinion of the Joint Chiefs at this time, be authorized only if the Chinese attacked American forces outside of Korea, but no decision would be made on the matter until the eventuality arose. Nor did the Joint Chiefs, doubtful that Chiang Kai-shek's troops could have any decisive effect on the outcome of the Korean campaign, intend to approve their use in Korea. They noted that these troops might have a greater usefulness elsewhere in the future. [17]

Neither did they believe that MacArthur should or could count on action outside of Korea to ease the pressure on his forces. They directed him to defend in successive positions, inflicting the greatest possible damage on enemy forces,

[14] Truman, Memoirs, II, 415-16,

[15] Rad, State to SCAP (including quotation of Truman msg. to Attlee), 12 Jan 51.

[16] Rad, JCS 80680, JCS (Personal) for MacArthur, 9 Jan 51.

[17] Ibid.

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"subject to primary consideration of the safety of your troops and your basic mission of protecting Japan." At the same time, they granted him authority to withdraw from Korea to Japan if in his judgment evacuation was essential to avoid severe losses of men and materiel. [18]

The Joint Chiefs of Staff had given MacArthur two major interlocking courses of action to follow. Whereas he was to defend Korea, this defense was secondary to his mission of saving his troops from destruction and protecting Japan from invasion. The second course, withdrawal, must have been, in the minds of the Joint Chiefs, the natural sequel of the first. But MacArthur chose to interpret the directives strictly and found them, therefore, incompatible. Arguing that both directives could not be carried out simultaneously, MacArthur on 10 January asked for clarification of his orders. He tied to this request another hint that American political objectives needed looking into. He said:

     In view of the self-evident fact that my command as presently 

     constituted is of insufficient strength to hold a position in Korea 

     and simultaneously protect Japan against external assault, 

     strategic disposition taken in the present situation must be based 

     upon the over-riding political policy establishing the relativity 

     of American interests. 

It seemed that he was asking the Joint Chiefs to decide which of his missions they considered most important when, in fact, they already had told him. [19]

General MacArthur pointed out to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that his command originally had been sent to Korea to oppose the North Korean Army. There had been no intent that the United Nations Command should engage the armies of Communist China, MacArthur claimed; and he doubted very seriously that his troops would have been sent to Korea at all if it had been foreseen that they would have to fight the Chinese. [20]

His men were capable of holding a beachhead line in Korea for a limited time, the United Nations commander believed, but not without losses. Whether or not these losses could be termed "severe" depended, MacArthur said, "upon the connotation given the term." He angrily decried the unfavorable publicity given the withdrawals of the Eighth Army and X Corps. "The troops are tired from a long and difficult campaign," he complained heatedly,

     embittered by the shameful propaganda which has falsely condemned 

     their courage and fighting qualities in the misunderstood 

     retrograde maneuver, and their morale will become a serious threat 

     to their battle efficiency unless the political basis upon which 

     they are asked to trade life for time is clearly delineated, fully 

     understood and so impelling that the hazards of battle are 

     cheerfully accepted. 

With these words, MacArthur seemed to be asking, in the name of his troops, that the measures he had recommended be put into effect or that an explanation be rendered to him and his men. [21]

Citing the limitations under which he was being required to carry on the campaign against the Chinese-namely, no reinforcements, continued restrictions upon Chinese Nationalist military action, no measures permitted against China's

[18] Ibid.

[19] Rad, C 53167, MacArthur (Personal) for JCS, 10 Jan. 51.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

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continental military potential, and the concentration of China's military force in the Korea-Manchuria sector-MacArthur asserted that the military position of his forces in Korea would soon be untenable. He strongly recommended that, under these conditions and in the absence of any overriding political consideration, his troops should be withdrawn from the peninsula just as rapidly as it was tactically feasible to do so. [22]

The final factor in deciding what course to follow, in MacArthur's judgment, was just how far the United States was prepared to go in order to keep a position in Korea. If the primary interest of the United States in the Far East lay in holding a position in Korea and in pinning down a large segment of the Chinese military potential, "the military course is implicit in political policy and we should be prepared to accept whatever casualties result and any attendant hazard to Japan's security." The decision to remain in Korea or to withdraw was not a matter for him to determine, MacArthur contended.

     The issue really boils down to the question of whether or not the 

     United States intends to evacuate Korea and involves a decision of   

     the highest national and international importance, far above the 

     competence of a theater commander, guided largely by incidents 

     affecting the tactical situation developing upon a very limited  

     field of action. [23]

Since the directives he had received from the Joint Chiefs of Staff left the initiative of the decision to evacuate in the hands of the enemy, MacArthur wanted to know if the present objective of United States political policy was to maintain a military position in Korea indefinitely, for a limited time, or to minimize losses by evacuating as soon as possible. "As I have pointed out before," he concluded, "under the extraordinary limitations and conditions imposed upon the command in Korea, its military position is untenable, but it can hold for any length of time, up to its complete destruction, if over-riding political considerations so dictate." [24]

The Joint Chiefs did not change their directives to General MacArthur despite his objection that he did not understand them. They did attempt to explain them to him. They made it quite clear that, after studying all the factors which he had recently presented, they were under no illusion that the United Nations Command could stave off a sustained major effort by the Chinese for any great length of time. But they wanted MacArthur to stay in Korea as long as possible and to kill as many Chinese as possible before pulling out for Japan. This would be in the national interest since it would gain further time for essential diplomatic and military consultations with other United Nations members. The Joint Chiefs told MacArthur:

     It is important also to United States prestige world-wide, to the 

     future of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty 

     Organization and to efforts to organize anti-communist resistance 

     in Asia that Korea not be evacuated unless actually forced by 

     military considerations, and that maximum practicable punishment be 

     inflicted on Communist aggressors. [26]

The Joint Chiefs could not judge the morale of MacArthur's troops from

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Rad, JCS 80902, JCS (Personal) for MacArthur, 12 Jan 51,

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Washington, they freely admitted. But they were quite concerned about the effect on his men, especially on ROK soldiers, if news of imminent evacuation should reach them. In JCS opinion, any instructions to evacuate would become known almost at once, despite security measures, and any resulting collapse of ROK resistance could seriously endanger the Eighth Army's ability to reach a secure beachhead about Pusan and ho]d it long enough for actual evacuation. "Your estimate is desired," they told MacArthur, "as to timing and conditions under which you will have to issue instructions to evacuate Korea." Meanwhile, their current directives remained in effect. [26]

The President was deeply disturbed by this. MacArthur was saying, in effect, that the course of action decided upon by the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and approved by the President was not feasible. He was saying that his forces would be driven off the peninsula or, at the very least, suffer heavy losses. MacArthur had always been kept informed but apparently few of the important papers had really found their way to his desk. President Truman therefore resolved to send a personal letter to General MacArthur setting forth the political aspects of the situation from the standpoint of the nation's leaders. [27]

"I want you to know," President Truman wrote MacArthur on 13 January, "that the situation in Korea is receiving the utmost attention here and that our efforts are concentrated upon finding the right decisions on this matter of the gravest importance to the future of America and to the survival of free peoples everywhere." Mr. Truman took special care to emphasize that what he said did not constitute a directive. He merely wanted to let MacArthur know what was being considered in Washington. Mr. Truman called upon MacArthur for assistance in solving some of the problems facing the United States. "We need your judgment as to the maximum effort which could reasonably be expected from the United Nations forces under your command to support the resistance to aggression which we are trying rapidly to organize on a world-wide basis," the President told MacArthur, and enumerated the political advantages which would come with a United Nations victory in Korea. [28]

President Truman cautioned MacArthur obliquely on the latter's proposals for more direct action against China. He warned:

     Pending the build-up of our national strength, we must act with 

     great prudence in so far as extending the area of hostilities is 

     concerned. Steps which might in themselves be fully justified and 

     which might lend some assistance to the campaign in Korea would not 

     be beneficial if they thereby involved Japan or Western Europe in 

     large-scale hostilities. [29] 

The President fully appreciated the seriousness of the United Nations Command's military position in Korea at that time and was in no way minimizing the danger. He recognized that continued resistance in Korea might not be militarily possible; but he suggested that, if MacArthur thought it practicable, resistance might still be continued, after

[26] Ibid.

[27] Truman, Memoirs, II, 434-37.

[28] Rad, JCS to CINCFE, JCS 81050, Truman (Personal) for MacArthur, 13 Jan 51.

[29] Ibid.

Page 325

an evacuation, from offshore islands such as Cheju-do. In any event, Truman continued, ". . . it would be important that, if we must withdraw from Korea, it be clear to the world that that course is forced upon us by military necessity and that we shall not accept the result politically or militarily until the aggression has been rectified." Concluding, President Truman lauded MacArthur for his conduct of the campaign. "The entire nation is grateful for your splendid leadership in the difficult struggle in Korea and for the superb performance of your forces under the most difficult circumstances." [30]

The Joint Chiefs Visit Tokyo Again

General MacArthur's professed failure to understand their directives and his statement that troop morale was at a low ebb convinced the Joint Chiefs of Staff that it was time for another face-to-face talk with the Far East commander. General Collins and General Vandenberg, the designated representatives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, landed in Tokyo on 15 January.

In the first conference, held on the 15th, MacArthur explained to Collins and Vandenberg that his confusion over his directives had arisen because it was not clear to him how long and under what conditions he was expected to keep his forces in Korea. Nor had he felt that his directives explained clearly enough his responsibility for defending Japan. But MacArthur then read to Collins and Vandenberg the President's letter, which, he maintained, had removed all doubts as to his responsibilities and missions. He interpreted the President's words as a directive to remain in Korea indefinitely. [31]

Collins, after hastening to point out to MacArthur that the President's message was not a directive, as had been clearly stated therein, declared that, at a conference with Mr. Truman just before their departure from Washington, it had been generally agreed that the decision to evacuate Korea should be delayed as long as possible without endangering the Eighth Army or the security of Japan. The United States objective was to permit the longest possible time for political action by the United Nations and the fullest opportunity to inflict the maximum punishment on the Chinese. [32]

Collins held that even if a decision were made to send reinforcements to Japan, it would take at least six weeks for them to arrive and that, in the interim, MacArthur's basic mission of defending Japan would remain unchanged. MacArthur countered by declaring, with some emotion according to General Collins, that his command should not be held responsible for the defense of Japan and still be required to hold a line in Korea. He maintained that Russian forces in Sakhalin and in the Vladivostok area had the capability of attacking Japan; and because this threat was always present, he urged that the four National Guard divisions he sent to Japan to help in its defense. MacArthur said that he understood that these divisions had been mobilized for this purpose; but Collins pointed out that MacArthur had

[30] Ibid.

[31] Memo, Gen. Collins for the JCS, sub: Rpt. on Visit to FECOM and Korea, Jan 51.

[32] Ibid.

Page 326

already been advised that these divisions had not been called up for that purpose and refused to make any commitment on sending the requested units. [33]

Encouraging Signs in Korea

The first real chance for a coordinated, though limited, attack since the abortive advance of 24 November, developed in mid-January and General Ridgway quickly took advantage of it. An enemy build-up was discovered north of the Eighth Army's defensive line between Osan and Suwon, and on 14 January General Ridgway ordered an armor-supported coordinated attack against this enemy concentration.

He decided on this attack against the advice of his staff. "To a man, the Eighth Army staff was against offensive action north and I alone had to make the decision," Ridgway stated. [34] Ridgway's purpose was to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible and then to withdraw to main positions, leaving a covering force in the area. The attack, known as Operation WOLFHOUND, jumped off on 15 January and inflicted some enemy casualties. The attack was most notable, however, as a sign that the Eighth Army was no longer entirely on the defensive and as a harbinger of the offensive spirit that General Ridgway was bent on developing in his new command. [35]

Generals Collins and Vandenberg arrived in Korea while Operation WOLFHOUND was in progress. General Collins spent two days with General Ridgway, touring the front lines and talking with corps and division commanders. Both the Army Chief of Staff and the Eighth Army commander made statements of great significance at a press briefing held on 16 January in Taegu. General Collins told the newsmen, "As of now, we are going to stay and fight," while General Ridgway seconded this by saying, "There is no shadow of doubt ins my mind that the Eighth Army can take care of itself in the current situation." [36]

When Collins returned to Tokyo on 17 January, he sent a most encouraging report to his fellow members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. He told them that the Eighth Army was in good shape and improving daily under General Ridgway's leadership. He had found morale very satisfactory, all things considered. The weakest link in the United Nations team was the ROK component. General Collins considered this force still capable of holding off North Korean units, but believed it lacked confidence and instinctively feared the Chinese. He had seen no signs of dissatisfaction or collapse in the ROK Army, but warned that such reactions could develop quickly in case of a serious reverse. [37]

[33] Ibid.

[34] Interv, Appleman with Ridgway, Oct. 51.

[35] Rad, CX 101066 KG00, CG Army Eight to Corps Comdrs, 14 Jan 51.

[36] Comd Rpt., EUSAK, Jan 51, Narrative, p. 75. While it is axiomatic that a field commander must keep a stiff upper lip and issue optimistic statements under the most adverse conditions in order to strengthen the will of his forces and to avoid giving comfort to the enemy, these statements, both by Collins and Ridgway, were not to that end. There is every indication that Ridgway believed exactly what he said at this point and that Collins, trusting Ridgway's judgment, was for the first time since late November satisfied that a successful stand could be made by Eighth Army troops.

[37] Rad, C 53613, Collins (Personal) for Bradley, 17 Jan. 51.

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What he had seen of the enemy made General Collins optimistic. The Chinese had made no major move to push south from the Han River, and when counterattacked had usually fled. He had detected signs also of enemy supply difficulties and indications of a lowered morale among the Chinese. "On the whole," Collins reported, "Eighth Army is now in position and prepared to punish severely any mass attack." [38]

General Vandenberg, meanwhile, had inspected Air Force installations in Korea. In making both aerial and ground reconnaissance, a most remarkable procedure for a man of his high position, he flew by helicopter twelve miles in front of the main U.N. positions and joined a ground patrol. [39]

Both officers met with MacArthur in Tokyo once more before leaving for the United States. Collins read to MacArthur the message that he had sent to General Bradley forecasting a more favorable future for the United Nations Command. General MacArthur agreed that things did indeed look brighter and, after reviewing the military situation as he now saw it, stated that his forces could hold a beachhead in Korea indefinitely. He felt that with continued domination of the sea and air by the United Nations, and with the enemy's lengthening lines of communication, the Chinese would never be able to bring up enough supplies to enable them to drive his forces from Korea. But he reiterated strongly his belief that the decision to evacuate Korea was a purely political matter and should not be decided on military grounds. [40]

The effect of Collins' cheering report on the nation's leaders and on the national policy can hardly be exaggerated. For the first time since late November, authorities in Washington saw reasonable hope that catastrophe might be forestalled in Korea and that all was not as black as had been painted. Recommendations and plans for national policy that had been predicated on almost complete United States helplessness to continue the action in Korea faded in significance.

Clearly, the man most responsible for bringing about this radical change in the situation was General Ridgway. There is little question that when Ridgway took command of the Eighth Army in December, he was under no restrictions as to making further rearward movements. He could have continued falling back without serious recrimination, in view of the prevailing belief in Washington and GHQ that enemy strength was great enough to force the United Nations Command out of Korea. His leadership turned the tide, kept the Eighth Army fighting in Korea, and paved the way for advances that were soon to come.

[38] Ibid.

[39] MacArthur Hearings, p. 329. Vandenberg's excursion beyond the lines is one of the most remarkable sidelights of the entire Korean conflict. While speaking well for his courage, it reflects some doubt on his judgment. Probably no other single individual was in possession of a greater wealth of knowledge of the status, plans, and developments of the United States Air Force at this time. If the Communists were allowed to choose the individuals they would most like to have at their mercy, Vandenberg would doubtless have ranked well toward the top of their list; and that Vandenberg risked capture is certainly apparent.

[40] Memo for JCS, sub: Consultation with Gen. MacArthur, 15-18 Jan. 51, sgd. by Collins and Vandenberg.

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The 12 January Memo

The alternatives facing the United States in meeting the Chinese moves in Korea and elsewhere in Asia remained under constant review. In early January, a series of studies, prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop recommended measures for the consideration of the National Security Council, enabled the nation's military leaders to crystallize their views on actions that should be taken. These views, at first glance, seemed strikingly similar to those held by General MacArthur. The essential difference lay in the timing of some of the recommended measures. MacArthur wanted all the military actions against the Chinese to take place at once in order to halt the Chinese drive in Korea. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, taking a longer view, attached to some of their recommendations conditions which would not have stopped the Chinese in Korea but would have held them to Korea. Nevertheless, there is in the recommendations made to the National Security Council much justification for General MacArthur's contention later that the Joint Chiefs of Staff supported him in his demands for direct action against China.

Admiral Sherman had sparked the movement in the Joint Chiefs of Staff for taking a stronger stand against Chinese aggression. Sherman told the other members that, so far as he was concerned, a state of open hostilities existed between the United States and China. He felt that since the Chinese, with Russian logistic support, had intervened so effectively in Korea, the time had come for the United States to re-examine its objectives and, particularly, the restrictions which had heretofore been accepted as necessary to prevent a spreading of the conflict. Sherman made certain specific recommendations as to actions which the United States should sponsor and which, after due consideration, the other members of the Joint Chiefs accepted and endorsed.

The Joint Chiefs forwarded their recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on 12 January. Among them was a JCS agreement that the United States should support the South Korean Government as much and as long as practicable, even an exile government, if the United Nations Command were forced to evacuate Korea. The preservation of U.N. combat forces was the most important consideration; but, if possible, the United States should stabilize the situation in Korea. If that were not possible, the United Nations Command would be evacuated to Japan. Major U.S. ground forces in the Far East should not be increased, but limited to those already engaged. If, however, the Chinese should prove unable to force the United Nations Command out of Korea, two of the recently mobilized National Guard divisions might be sent to Japan for defense of that nation. The economic blockade of China should be intensified at once. Further, preparation for an effective naval blockade of China should take place immediately. As soon as the United Nations Command's position in Korea was stabilized, or in the event of a forced evacuation, the naval blockade should be established. They did not specify, however, that it should be a U.N. blockade. The Joint Chiefs recommended further that all restrictions on

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air reconnaissance of Chinese coastal areas and the Manchurian base be removed at once. They also recommended that restrictions on operations of Chinese Nationalist forces be removed and that the United States furnish logistic support to those forces and to Nationalist guerrillas in China. The Joint Chiefs concluded their recommendations with the suggestion that damaging naval and air attacks be mounted against objectives in Communist China if and when the Chinese attacked U.S. forces outside of Korea. They did not recommend that Chiang Kai-shek's troops be used in Korea. [41]

During his January visit, General Collins had read the 12 January paper to MacArthur. MacArthur apparently did not note the stipulated conditions since he told Collins that he concurred with all the proposals contained in the Joint Chiefs' paper. Later, during the hearings on the relief of General MacArthur in May 1951, this study became rather notorious as the "January 12 Study," with General MacArthur claiming that the views expressed in this paper by the Joint Chiefs of Staff coincided with his own recommendations and that, therefore, he and the Joint Chiefs were in agreement on actions to be taken against the Chinese. But MacArthur's recommendations for immediate reprisal and the Joint Chiefs' recommendations of reprisals only under certain future conditions were hardly identical.

Consideration of the actions recommended against China by General MacArthur on 30 December, and largely supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in their 12 January memorandum, revealed differences of opinion among the senior members of the National Security Council staff. In each case, these differences stemmed from divergent attitudes with respect to the question of U.N. support. The representatives of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense agreed with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the desirability of blockading China and supporting attacks by Nationalist forces on the mainland, but they did not want to take such action unless it was done in cooperation with other friendly nations. Secretary of the Army Pace, in commenting on this position to the Secretary of Defense, said:

     It appears to me that the split views . . . generally revolve 

     around the question of obtaining approval of cooperation of other 

     friendly nations. While I agree that we should make every attempt 

     to obtain their cooperation we should not permit the lack of their 

     cooperation to deter us from a course of action that would 

     contribute to a successful prosecution of the war. 

Secretary Pace recommended to the Secretary of Defense that he support the Joint Chiefs of Staff position on these matters. [42]

The measures recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff encountered opposition in the National Security Council and were not approved, although discussion of the various courses continued. [43] On 24 January, the President met with the National Security Council, at which time the recommendations of the Joint

[41] (1) Memo, CNO for JCS, 3 Jan. 51, sub: JCS 2118/5. (2) Memo, JCS for Secy. Defense, 12 Jan. 51, sub: JCS 2118/10. (3) MacArthur Hearings, p. 1532.

[42] Memo, CofS for Secy. Army, 16 Jan. 51, sub: U.S. Action to Counter Chinese Communist Aggression.

[43] Memo, JCS for Secy. Defense, 23 Jan. 51, sub: Recommended Policies and Actions in Light of the Grave World Sit, in G-3, DA file 381 Korea, Case 55.

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Chiefs of Staff and the counter-recommendations of the National Security Council Senior Staff were reviewed. But no decision was reached. Mr. Truman then directed a continuation of the study by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense in connection with a joint review of American politico-military strategy.

General Marshall has stated that as a result of the encouraging view of the military situation brought back by Collins and Vandenberg, the courses of action contained in the Joint Chiefs' January 12 study went into virtual discard. "As the result of this change in the military situation from that which prevailed during the early part of January," Marshall testified:

     It . . . [became] unnecessary to put into effect all of the courses 

     of action outlined in the Joint Chiefs' memorandum of January 12. 

     None of these proposed courses of action were vetoed or disapproved 

     by me or by any higher authority. Action with respect to most of 

     them was considered inadvisable in view of the radical change in 

     the situation which originally had given rise to them. [44] 

[44] MacArthur Hearings, p. 324.

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