Page 378


New Direction, New Policy

As the controversy within the national defense structure heightened and finally culminated in General MacArthur's relief, tension also mounted steadily at the battlefront. Pushed back by Ridgway in March and April, enemy forces had compressed like a huge spring, and apparently were about ready to burst forth again in a major attack. Just before MacArthur's removal, Ridgway had called his American corps commanders together and warned them that, if the Chinese struck in full strength, the Eighth Army might be in for the worst period since it had entered Korea. [1]

General Ridgway learned of the startling command change late on 11 April. The next day he flew to Tokyo, where he found MacArthur "amazed" by the President's action in relieving him but not outwardly bitter or resentful. MacArthur briefed Ridgway on some of the key problems of the command, then wished Ridgway well in his new assignment. [2]

The change of commanders was attended by some confusion as to General Van Fleet's role. The Secretary of Defense, in notifying Ridgway of his own appointment as United Nations commander, had added that Van Fleet was being sent to Korea for "such duties as you may direct." Immediately after meeting with MacArthur, Ridgway telephoned Secretary of the Army Pace and, expressing uncertainty as to his authority in choosing a commander for the Eighth Army, asked how he was expected to use General Van Fleet. But Secretary Pace knew no more about the matter than did Ridgway and could only refer the question to Secretary Marshall. [3]

The Joint Chiefs of Staff promptly set the matter straight. They notified Ridgway that the President had personally approved Van Fleet as the successor to the command of the Eighth Army. They themselves suggested the phrase, "for such duties as you may direct," since they realized the imminence of a major Chinese offensive and felt that General Ridgway might wish to retain direct command in the field for the time being, presumably until the threatening enemy offensive had been turned back. Until that time, they suggested, Van Fleet

[1] Ridgway, The Korean War, Issues and Polices, pp. 418-19.

[2] Ibid., p. 160.

[3] Comd Rpt., Eighth Army, Apr. 51, sec. II, Book I, OCG.

Page 379

could serve as General Ridgway's deputy commander. [4]

But General Ridgway saw no reason to delay turning the Eighth Army over to its new commander. He already had made plans to meet any Chinese attack; and the army staff and subordinate commanders could be counted on to carry their new chief safely past the difficult familiarization period. General Van Fleet arrived in Korea at 1230 on 14 April and immediately assumed command of the Eighth Army. General Ridgway, who had returned to Korea to receive Van Fleet, left for Tokyo at 1900 the same day. [5] Two days later, on 16 April, General MacArthur and his family left Japan for the United States.

On 16 April, Ridgway reported to Washington, "Although the enemy has remained on the defensive since mid-February, only partially exploiting his enormous potential of more than sixty divisions, he retains the capability of assuming the offensive at any time." [6] Three days later, Ridgway placed definite restrictions on the advance of Van Fleet's divisions out of conviction that the Chinese would attack soon and that for Van Fleet to overextend his own lines to attack could be dangerous. Accordingly, Van Fleet was not to send any strong force farther than Line WYOMING without Ridgway's prior approval. [7]

Responding to Ridgway's instructions on the same day, the new Eighth Army commander informed his superior that he planned to jump off in a general advance toward Line WYOMING on 21 April. He also asked Ridgway to approve a secondary limited objective attack in the east, to be opened on 23 April, to seize the Kansong-Inje road by securing what he called Line ALABAMA from Yanggu to Songhyon-ni. [8]

General Ridgway authorized Van Fleet to secure the Kansong-Inje road, but designated a modified Line ALABAMA which ran somewhat farther east and west than the line proposed by Van Fleet. Seizure of this line would bring the eastern quarter of the Eighth Army front well north of the 38th Parallel. Ridgway specified that no large enemy groups were to be bypassed and that lateral coordination within and between corps was to be maintained. [9]

In briefing his staff on 19 April, Ridgway described the current enemy situation as much more favorable for United Nations forces than might appear. Existing North Korean units, in his judgment, could operate successfully only against South Korean troops; and while he expected a Chinese offensive soon, he was certain that the Eighth Army could defeat it. [10]

The Chinese Offensive-22 April

United Nations forces were still edging toward Lines WYOMING and ALABAMA when the enemy launched their expected offensive. The opening attack on the night of 22 April halted Van

[4] Rad, JCS 88374, JCS to CINCFE (Personal) for Gen. Ridgway, 12 Apr. 51.

[5] Comd Rpt, Eighth Army, Apr. 51, sec. II, Book 1, OCG.

[6] Rad, C 60250, CINCUNC to DA, 16 Apr. 51.

[7] Rad, CX 60388, CINCFE to CG Eighth Army, Apr. 51.

[8] Rad, G-4 3901 KCG, Gen. Van Fleet (Personal) for Ridgway, 19 Apr. 51.

[9] Rad, C 60684, CINCFE to CG Army Eight, Apr. 51.

[10] MFR, sgd. Surles, 19 Apr. 51, in SGS, GHQ, FEC files.

Page 380

Fleet's central forces just short of Line WYOMING when three Chinese armies struck toward the Yonch'on-Hwach'on area. After this initial blow, actually a secondary effort, the Chinese delivered the main attack against I and IX Corps in the west in an attempt at a double envelopment of Seoul. A tertiary drive developed simultaneously in the east near Inje. The Eighth Army held firm against the assaults everywhere except in the central sector, where one ROK division crumpled and fell back in considerable disorder for almost twenty miles. This breakthrough prompted Van Fleet to withdraw, as previously planned by Ridgway, to Line KANSAS.

By 24 April, it appeared that 337,000 Chinese were driving toward Seoul in the main enemy effort, and that the enemy's secondary effort in the central zone was being pressed by about 149,000 troops. [11] In both the west and central sectors, these enemy forces followed the Eighth Army withdrawal closely despite high losses. (Map VIII) By the end of April, additional withdrawals took the Eighth Army back an average of thirty-five miles to a new defense line arching no more than five miles north of Seoul in the west and running generally northeastward across the peninsula to a point slightly above Yangyang on the east coast. But Van Fleet's forces, after again inflicting tremendous casualties on the enemy, fell back no farther and the Communist offensive beat itself out along this line. General Ridgway's 19 April evaluation had been well based. [12]

Missions and Responsibilities-CINCUNC

Ridgway applied a similar searching analysis to all of his new duties as commander in chief, United Nations Command. One of his first acts was to obtain from his staff a complete recapitulation of the missions and authorities he had inherited from General MacArthur.

In summing up, Ridgway's staff described specific positive missions, inferred positive missions, restrictive missions, and complementary authorities. As commander in chief of the United Nations Command, Ridgway was responsible for maintaining the integrity of United Nations forces; continuing to fight in Korea so long as, in his judgment, such action offered a reasonable chance of success; maintaining a blockade of the entire Korean coast; stabilizing the situation in Korea or evacuating to Japan if forced out of Korea; taking all appropriate steps to ensure stability throughout Korea; and taking actions under the auspices of the United Nations to establish a unified, independent, and democratic government in the sovereign state of Korea. [13]

He was forbidden to take military action against Chinese territory without authority from Washington; to use non-Korean forces in areas bordering on Manchuria or Russia; to allow any of his forces to cross those borders; to take air or naval action against Rashin; or to attack the hydroelectric installations in North Korea in the vicinity of the Yalu

[11] Telecon, TT 4635, GHQ and DA, 24 Apr. 51.

[12] Comd Rpt., Eighth Army, Narrative, Apr. 51.

[13] Study, CINCUNC and CINCFE, Current Military Missions as Derived From JCS Communications, no date, in Comd Rpt., GHQ UNC, Apr. 51, Annex IV, Part III, Doc. 35.

Page 381

River. Nor could he consider the region above the waist of Korea as a general objective area, but he could, subject to the restrictions on troops and targets, operate north of the 38th Parallel. [14]

Finally, he had authority to command all military forces assisting the Republic of Korea which were placed under the unified command of the United States; to use ROK soldiers and civilians in North Korea so long as they were designated as United Nations instrumentalities under his control; and to dispose of prisoners of war in such a manner as would least interfere with military operations, providing such disposition was in consonance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention. [15]

Once aware of what was expected of him by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Ridgway sent his major commanders written instructions telling them exactly what he expected of them. As became apparent to these subordinates, Ridgway's approach to the Korean conflict differed completely from that of General MacArthur-Ridgway's greatest concern seemed to be that some rash act of his command might cause the conflict to spread to other areas.

General Ridgway warned his principal commanders, "The grave and ever present danger that the conduct of our current operations may result in an extension of hostilities, and so lead to a world-wide conflagration, places a heavy responsibility upon all elements of this command, but particularly upon those capable of offensive action." "In accomplishing our assigned missions," Ridgway emphasized,

     this responsibility is ever present. It is a responsibility not 

     only to superior authority in the direct command chain, but 

     inescapably to the American people. It can be discharged only if 

     every commander is fully alive to the possible consequences of his 

     acts; if every commander has imbued his command with a like sense 

     of responsibility for its acts; has set up, and by frequent tests 

     has satisfied himself of the effectiveness of his machinery for 

     insuring his control of the offensive actions of his command and of 

     its reactions to enemy action; and, in final analysis, is himself 

     determined that no act of his command shall bring about an 

     extension of the present conflict, except when such act is taken in 

     full accordance with the spirit of the accompanying letter of 

     instructions. [16]

Ridgway emphatically pointed out that international tensions within and bearing upon the Korean theater had created acute danger of World War III, and that the instructions from Washington reflected the intense determination of the American people, as well as of all free peoples of the world, to prevent World War III, if it could be done without appeasement or sacrifice of principle. "In the day to day, in fact the hour to hour, performance of his duties," Ridgway concluded, "I therefore desire that every responsible commander, regardless of rank, bear constantly in mind that the discharge of his responsibilities in this respect is a sacred duty." [17]

In his instructions to General Van Fleet, General Ridgway warned that until American intelligence agencies had determined otherwise, Van Fleet was to assume that the enemy forces were determined to drive the Eighth Army from Korea or to destroy it in place, and that

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Rad, C 60965, CINCFE to JCS, 25 Apr. 51, quoting memo from Ridgway to All Comdrs, 22 Apr. 51.

[17] Ibid.

Page 382

Russia might at any time attack the United Nations Command. "You will further base your operations," he told Van Fleet,

     on the assumptions that your own forces will be brought to and 

     maintained at approximately TO & E strength, but that you will 

     receive no major reinforcements in combat organizations or service 

     support units; that the duration of your operations cannot now be 

     predicted; that you may, at any time, be directed by competent 

     authority to initiate a withdrawal to a defensive position and 

     there be directed to defend indefinitely; that you may at any time 

     be directed by competent authority to initiate a retirement 

     designed to culminate in an early evacuation of the Korean 

     peninsula. [18] 

General Ridgway then charged Van Fleet with a mission which appears to have been Ridgway's own idea, a balance between what the Joint Chiefs of Staff had directed him to do and the military capabilities which he felt he possessed. "Your mission," he told Van Fleet, "is to repel aggression against so much of the territory (and the people therein) of the Republic of Korea, as you now occupy and, in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Korea, to establish and maintain order in said territory." [19]

Keeping in mind constantly the restrictions upon his own authority, General Ridgway cautioned Van Fleet that, while he could operate north of the 38th Parallel, he could only use Korean troops in the areas bordering on Manchuria and Russia and that he must prevent any border-crossing by these forces. [20] "You will direct the efforts of your forces," he ordered Van Fleet, "toward inflicting maximum personnel casualties and material losses on hostile forces in Korea, consistent with the maintenance intact of all your major units and the safety of your troops." Indicating that he was satisfied with the way things were going in Korea, Ridgway further stated:

     The continued piecemeal destruction of the offensive potential of 

     the Chinese Communist and North Korean armies contributes 

     materially to this objective, while concurrently destroying 

     Communist China's military prestige.... Acquisition of terrain in 

     itself is of little or no value. [21] 

Although General Ridgway had not yet been so directed, he fixed a line beyond which the Eighth Army could not advance without his permission. Clearly, Ridgway intended to keep a much tighter rein on the new field commander than MacArthur had kept upon him. In similar instructions to Admiral Joy and General Stratemeyer, Ridgway gave strict warnings against violating the borders of China and the USSR, and forbade these commanders to employ their forces except in support of United Nations operations within a 20-mile range of USSR territory or within a 3-mile range of Chinese Communist territory.

New Orders for CINCUNC

Ridgway's responsibilities as commander in chief, Far East Command, and commander in chief, United Nations Command, while nominally separate, were nonetheless closely related, and on

[18] Ltr. of Instructions, Gen. Ridgway to Gen. Van Fleet, 22 Apr. 51.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

Page 383

occasion became so intertwined as to interfere with each other. This had been one of the major causes of General MacArthur's professed inability to understand or reconcile his instructions.

This conflict between roles became especially noticeable when General Ridgway on 17 April asked that the Joint Chiefs authorize him, at his own discretion, to withdraw United Nations forces from Korea in the event of a USSR attack and to use them to defend Japan. He must have known that such a unilateral procedure would certainly exceed his authority as a United Nations commander, and probably made the request to emphasize not only the threat of a Russian attack on Japan but also the need for making his missions and authorities clearer by distinguishing between the United Nations in Korea and the United States in the Far East. In this purpose, if such it was, he was eminently, but not immediately, successful. [22]

The immediate response of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was to turn Ridgway down. They agreed in principle to a withdrawal of United Nations forces from Korea in the event of Russian attack, but retained the right to control such a withdrawal. They notified Ridgway that "Subject . . . to the immediate security of your forces both in Korea and Japan, you will initiate major withdrawal from Korea only upon instructions furnished you after receipt of information from you as to conditions obtaining." Since Ridgway's first concern in the event of a Russian attack undoubtedly would be the security of his forces, these instructions were, to a degree, unclear. [23] On the related matter of employing other than American and ROK forces against a Russian attack, Ridgway, as he probably expected, was told that he would not plan on using such forces for that purpose "pending further instructions." [24]

Prompted by Ridgway's request, the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered the Army Chief of Staff to prepare for General Ridgway a directive governing the conduct of Korean operations. Exhaustively analyzing all outstanding JCS directives to CINCFE and CINCUNC, the Army G-3, General Taylor, furnished General Collins with a proposed new set of instructions for General Ridgway. Collins presented it to the Joint Chiefs who passed it on to the Secretary of Defense and the President for final approval. [25]

In the meantime, General Ridgway had been doing his own analyzing and on 30 April sent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff a draft directive to himself, which he proposed they approve and return to him as his authority for operating in Korea. But General Ridgway had waited too long. The President had already approved the set of instructions prepared for Ridgway by the Army G-3, and on 1 May these instructions were sent to him. [26]

But even this newest directive did not clearly separate Ridgway's responsibilities as CINCUNC from those as CINCFE. The over-all mission assigned to Ridgway as CINCUNC was "to assist

[22] Rad, C 60308, CINCFE to JCS, 17 Apr. 51.

[23] Rad, JCS 88950, JSC to CINCFE, 19 Apr. 51.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Memo, ACofS G-3 for CofS, 21 Apr. 51, sub: Directive to CINCFE for Opns in Korea, in G-3, DA file 381 Korea, Case 6.

[26] Rad, JCS 9000, JCS to CINCFE, 1 May 51.

Page 384

the ROK in repelling aggression and to restore peace and security in the area," and his military objective was "to destroy the armed forces of North Korea and Communist China operating within the geographic boundaries of Korea and waters adjacent thereto." But in pursuit of his objectives in Korea, the security of forces under his command and his basic CINCFE mission of defending Japan were still overriding. [27] Here, then, the Joint Chiefs of Staff again had failed to differentiate between the needs and powers of CINCFE and CINCUNC and had defined these unclear relationships with insufficient precision.

The usual injunctions against violating Communist China or Russian territory were passed on to Ridgway. If the Chinese attacked United States forces outside of Korea by sea or air, in Japan for instance, retaliation against China's mainland would be permitted, but no retaliatory step would be taken without the specific approval of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [28]

For the first time, the Joint Chiefs of Staff limited the advance of United Nations forces. Ridgway was to make no general advance beyond the original trace of the Lines KANSAS-WYOMING without prior approval. They did authorize deeper limited movements. Ridgway could, at his own discretion, move north of the line in limited operations, including amphibious and airborne operations, to keep the enemy off-balance and to maintain contact, or for the omnibus and elastic purpose of "insuring the safety of your command." [29]

The restriction on general advances reflected a growing conviction that the Korean problem would not be solved by military action alone. [30] Later critics claimed that this restriction interfered with the field commander, and attached various sinister motives to its proponents. The truth was that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Ridgway as well, had realistically faced the military facts. They knew that no major reinforcement was available or would become available from United States forces. They were aware of the great reluctance of member nations of the United Nations to send more fighting men and equipment to the United Nations Command and of the desire of some of these nations to get out of the Korean situation gracefully and without unduly aggravating the Chinese. They were fairly certain that some sort of armistice negotiations could be developed if the U.N. advance into North Korea was so modest that the enemy could profitably agree to a demarcation line along the line of contact. They were aware that each mile of advance into North Korea changed the balance of logistic capability in favor of the enemy and brought the United Nations forces within ever closer range of the increasingly strong enemy air force based in Manchuria. They were reluctant to accept the numerous casualties that a further advance would cost. But most of all, both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Ridgway knew that the

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] In this connection see: (1) Rad, C 59397, CINCFE to JCS, 5 Apr. 51. (2) Rad, CX 60388, CINCFE to CG Eighth Army, 19 Apr. 51. MFR, sgd. Surles, 19 Apr. 51, SGS, in GHQ, UNC, SGS files. (3) Rad, C 60965, CINCFE to JCS, 25 Apr. 51, quoting Memo for Ridgway to All Comdrs, 22 Apr. 51.

Page 385

Chinese had ground forces available in North Korea and Manchuria that had not been tapped and that far outnumbered those of the United Nations Command in the area. Furthermore, the Joint Chiefs of Staff evidently expected some sort of political effort toward stopping the military operations. They told Ridgway that, if Communist military leaders requested an armistice in the field, he was to report that fact to them immediately and await instructions. [31]

Meanwhile, the Joint Chiefs of Staff reminded Ridgway, the prohibition against the use of the 40th and 45th Infantry Divisions had not been lifted. These divisions were to be kept in Japan and the integrity of their men and units preserved. With regard to the ROK Army, Ridgway could use such forces as were already available, but the United States would not furnish logistic support for any other major ROK units at that time. [32]

A New Directive for CINCFE

When General Ridgway examined his new instructions, he found that they did not coincide with the version which he had recommended on 30 April, nor did he completely understand them. He therefore notified the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 7 May that he was sending to Washington "an officer of my staff thoroughly familiar with our problems and points of view." "I request," he continued, "that he be permitted to consult with your planners on current ambiguities and conflicting instructions." [33] He asked, at the same time, that he be allowed to operate under the instructions he himself had proposed to them "until you approve new instructions as a result of these consultations." Such authorization would, he claimed, remove all doubt as to his missions and as to means and methods permitted in their accomplishment. [34]

General Collins was puzzled as to what constituted the ambiguities and conflicting instructions to which Ridgway referred and directed his G-3 to examine and report on the two sets of instructions. After a comparison, the Army G-3 reported some conflicts. General Ridgway, for instance, had recommended that he be allowed to order his forces across the Manchurian and USSR borders if he felt it necessary, whereas the Joint Chiefs of Staff had told him that under no circumstances would United Nations forces cross those borders. Ridgway also felt that he, as CINCUNC, should command all military forces placed under the unified command by United Nations members, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff had specifically excluded the U.S. 40th and 45th Divisions from CINCUNC control. [35]

The Joint Chiefs agreed to receive the liaison officer from General Ridgway's headquarters but refused to cancel their current directive in the interim. They would clarify any pertinent portions, where necessary, by radio. [36] The Joint Chiefs received a better idea

[31] (1) Rad, JCS 9000, JCS to CINCFE, 1 May 51. (2) Memo, JCS for Secy. Defense, 27 Mar. 51, Incl to JCS 1776/201 forwarded to CINCFE on 4 Apr. 51.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Rad, C 61932, CINCFE to DA for JCS, 7 May 51.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Memo, ACofS G-4 (sgd. Duff) for CofS USA, 7 May 51, in G-3, DA file 381 Korea, Case 6/15.

[36] Rad, JCS 90687, JCS to CINCFE, 9 May 51.

Page 386

of what General Ridgway considered wrong with their directive when on 9 May he registered three major objections. Ridgway objected most strongly to the mission itself, claiming that it was impossible, with the forces he had, to destroy the armed forces of North Korea and Communist China within Korea, especially since his forces could make no general advance beyond Lines KANSAS-WYOMING. Second, he charged that the two concepts embodied in the phrases "security of forces under your command" and "your basic mission as CINCFE of the defense of Japan," were antithetical, and that these two conflicting concepts, when further complicated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff order that he would not evacuate Korea except with their permission, "constitute a serious abridgement of the authority and freedom of action I believe you intend me to have in order to discharge assigned responsibilities." [37]

A successful defense of Japan, Ridgway declared, would be almost impossible if the United States military force in Korea were destroyed by Russian attack. The only forces then remaining in Japan would likely be the two National Guard divisions, such provisional units as could be organized from the support forces in Japan, and the comparatively new and ill-prepared Japanese National Police Reserve. Ridgway felt that since his CINCFE mission of defending Japan took precedence over his CINCUNC mission of clearing Korea, he should at least be able to say when his troops in Korea would withdraw and begin the defense of Japan. If this decision were left to Ridgway, he could withhold such an announcement until the proper time; and the United States Government could announce simultaneously a decision to evacuate ROK soldiers and governmental officials along with the Eighth Army. But, Ridgway claimed, "If authority is retained in Washington, I believe the difficulty of avoiding premature disclosure, with consequent risk of disaster, will be very great if not insurmountable." [38]

The third major objection to the Joint Chiefs' instructions sprang from the permission granted to attack, under certain conditions, enemy air bases in Manchuria and China. Ridgway saw need also for authority to make prior reconnaissance of these areas. [39]

These specific objections prompted no immediate changes in Ridgway's directive. The Joint Chiefs of Staff refused to grant Ridgway permission to pull his forces out of Korea on his own initiative. Without being specific, they told him that strategic considerations demanded that they retain authority for ordering any such withdrawal. Their latest instructions, they believed, gave sufficient latitude to plan a withdrawal and to take any preliminary action required. They did not share Ridgway's fear of a premature disclosure and assured him that there would be plenty of time for them to delegate withdrawal authority to him and that they would not make any premature disclosure of intentions in Washington. [40]

The Joint Chiefs of Staff fully realized

[37] Rad, C 62088, CINCFE to DA for JCS, 9 May 51.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Rad, JCS 90999, JCS to CINCFE, 12 May 51.

Page 387

that the forces available to Ridgway were too weak to destroy the North Korean and Chinese Armies. But, they pointed out optimistically, if the Chinese withdrew, this condition might change. In any event, they considered the mission currently assigned to Ridgway to be in keeping with existing national objectives. These objectives were at the time, of course, under intensive review. "Depending on actions of the President on recommendations of the National Security Council," the JCS informed Ridgway, "your mission will be made to accord therewith." But, Washington authorities bluntly told Ridgway, for the time being, "Your mission remains unchanged." [41]

The Chinese Attack Again

The Chinese and North Korean Armies fell back to recover in early May. But it was clear that they had not been decisively defeated, and equally plain that they were replacing losses and rebuilding their offensive strength for another try at destroying the United Nations forces. Prisoner reports and other intelligence sources, in fact, had long indicated that the enemy spring offensive would come in two installments. [42]

Despite great losses in the first installment, the enemy still had a numerical advantage over Van Fleet. The Chinese ground forces totaled about 542,000 men, according to intelligence estimates on 1 May. Smaller in numbers, but still dangerous, the North Korean Army numbered more than 197,000. Across the Yalu in Manchuria, an additional Chinese force of almost 750,000 stood waiting. Van Fleet, on the other hand, commanded 269,772 U.S. Army, U.S. Marine, and allied troops and 234,993 ROK Army troops. [43]

In view of the likelihood of another enemy offensive, Van Fleet's most profitable tactics were to keep the enemy off-balance, break up enemy attack formations, and reconnoiter to discover enemy dispositions and plan of attack. Besides, General Ridgway had ordered Van Fleet on 25 April to "maintain the offensive spirit of your Army and retain the initiative." General Van Fleet therefore directed on 4 May that each of his front-line divisions establish a patrol base, manned by a complete RCT supported by corps armored units, in advance of its main position. These regimental patrol bases were set up seven or eight miles in front of the main line of resistance, and from them armor-supported patrols ranged ten to twelve miles into enemy territory to carry the fight to North Korean and Chinese screening units. Other elements of Van Fleet's forces meanwhile cleared the Kimp'o Peninsula west of Seoul and made substantial advances up the main arterials leading north and east

[41] Ibid.

[42] (1) Comd Rpt, GHQ UNC, May 51, Annex IV, Part 1, p. 3. (2) Telecons TT 4668, DA and GHQ, 3 May 51; TT 4680, 5 May 51 and TT 4682, 7 May 51, (3) Comd Rpt, Eighth Army, Narrative, May 51.

[43] (1) Enemy statistics from Order of Battle. CCF and NKA 1 May 1951, DIS, FEC, UNC 3159, 4 May 51. (2) Data on U.N. forces from Comd Rpt., Eighth U.S. Army, Narrative, May 1951, p. 29 and Plate No. 12, sec. II, Book 2.

Page 388

from Seoul, recapturing Uijongbu and Ch'unch'on. [44]

At the same time, when General Ridgway visited Korea on 3-4 May, Van Fleet announced that if the enemy did not attack soon, he intended to open a general offensive himself. Ridgway agreed. [45]

Accordingly, Van Fleet began planning an advance and tentatively set 12 May as the opening date. [45] But in the week following, intelligence sources provided clear signs that the enemy was all but ready to move out once more in a full-scale offensive. On 12 May, General Ridgway reported to Washington, "It appears the enemy is again in the advanced stages of preparation for the resumption of the offensive which he can

[44] (1) Comd Rpt, Eighth Army, Narrative, May 1951. (2) Comd Rpt., GHQ UNC, Introduction, May 51.

[45] Rad, C 61848, CINCFE to DA, 5 May 51.

[46] Rad, CX-1483, CG Eighth Army to All Comdrs, 9 May 51,

Page 389

launch at any time, probably within the next 72-96 hours." [47] By that date, Van Fleet already had postponed his own advance indefinitely. [48]

From the disposition of enemy forces Ridgway predicted that five Chinese armies would make the main effort down the west central sector toward the lower Han River corridor, along with a secondary drive on Seoul by three Chinese armies and one North Korean corps. He expected a lesser attack farther east by two Chinese armies and three North Korean corps striking down the Ch'unch'on-Hongch'on axis. [49] But the enemy mass shifted eastward during the period 10-16 May; and late in the afternoon of the 16th, five Chinese armies launched the main enemy effort down the Ch'unch'on-Hongch'on axis. In the west the enemy made only strong probing attacks. [50] (See Map VIII.)

To General Ridgway it appeared that the Chinese had concentrated their principal strength of seven armies on a 25-mile front from Ch'unch'on northeastward to the Hwach'on Reservoir, and that only four enemy armies remained in the 40-mile sector to the west. Ridgway estimated it would take the Chinese a full week, probably longer, to shift their mass again to the Ch'orwon-Seoul axis in the western sector, and therefore saw an opportunity ". . . for the Eighth Army to deliver strong attack on the Uijongbu axis, using at least two U.S. divisions with the objective of relieving the pressure on IX and X Corps by threatening vital enemy lateral communications through Chorwon." He held high hopes for this strategy and told General Van Fleet that if the contemplated counterattack were successful, "unlimited opportunities for major exploitation would result." [51]

After reconnoitering the front on 19 May, Ridgway ordered Van Fleet to attack immediately not only up the Uijongbu-Ch'orwon corridor, but across the entire front. The enemy had obviously overextended and Ridgway hoped to catch him off-guard. [52]

Consequently, even as the enemy was still attempting to move south along a 40-mile front in the east central sector, Van Fleet ordered his forces forward. (Map IX) The sudden reversal of direction caught the enemy by surprise. As a result, not only were substantial ground gains registered, but also in a single day the Eighth Army claimed to have killed 21,000 enemy and wounded 14,000. [53]

Along the entire front, U.N. troops continued their counterattack against moderate to weak resistance. By the end of May, Van Fleet's forces had just about made their way back to Line KANSAS, and perhaps more important, had killed the enemy at a rate higher than ever previously achieved by Eighth Army.

With the enemy's much-vaunted offensive transmuted into rout and confusion and the Chinese and North Korean forces reeling back into North Korea,

[47] Telecons, TT 4682, DA and GHQ, 7 May 51 and TT 4704, 12 May 51.

[48] Rad, GX-5-1176 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to All Comdrs, 11 May 51.

[49] Rad, CINCFE to DA, 12 May 51.

[50] Rad, G (TAG) 172 KCG, Ridgway (Personal) for Collins, 20 May 51.

[51] Rad, C 62789, Ridgway (Personal) for Van Fleet, 18 May 51.

[52] Rad, G (TAG) 172 KCG, Ridgway (Personal) for Collins, 20 May 51.

[53] (1) Rad, GS-5-3290, CG Eighth Army to All Comdrs, 19 May 51. (2) Rad, BCX 6355DI, CG FEAF BOMBCOM to All Comdrs, 22 May 51.

Page 390

General Ridgway was justifiably confident in reporting to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 30 May that the enemy had suffered a major defeat in Korea. The estimate by field commanders of the total number of enemy soldiers killed in late May was so high that General Ridgway could not, he told the Joint Chiefs, accept it as credible. Nevertheless, he assured his superiors in Washington that the Communist casualties far exceeded those they had suffered during the 22 April offensive; and since the majority of enemy casualties were infantrymen, the loss of combat effectiveness by major enemy tactical units was much greater than a mere reduction in numbers would indicate. Also, the relatively primitive nature of enemy medical and evacuation facilities would reduce the number of wounded returned to duty, and would thus compound enemy losses. Moreover, nearly 10,000 prisoners, the vast majority of whom were Chinese, had been taken by the Eighth Army. [54]

Huge quantities of enemy materiel, Ridgway reported, had been and were still being captured. Artillery, mortars, and automatic weapons were seized in amounts exceeding anything previously taken in the Korean fighting. Accompanying these enemy losses, understandably, was a noticeable drop in the fighting spirit of Chinese Communist forces. A shortage of food was also lowering enemy morale. Captured Chinese reported that their units had had to eat grass and roots because of the exhaustion of ration supplies. In sum, Ridgway judged that "A plainly evident disorganization now exists among both the Chinese Communist forces and the North Korean Peoples Army forces." [55]

The outlook for the United Nations Command, in contrast to that for the enemy, was comparatively bright. "Eighth Army," General Ridgway told his superiors, was "at near full strength with morale excellent and logistic capabilities little affected to date by deteriorating weather...." [56] He concluded his report to the JCS with a significant prognosis: "I, therefore, believe that for the next sixty days the United States Government should be able to count with reasonable assurance upon a military situation in Korea offering optimum advantages in support of its diplomatic negotiations." [57]

Efforts at Political Settlement

The recent U.N. success in blunting two major enemy drives took place against a background of continuing reexamination of the nation's goals and the laying of plans for achieving those goals. The opposition of American allies to increased involvement in Asia, the apparent reluctance of the American public to increase operations in Korea, and the uncommitted war potential of the Chinese Communists all emphasized the wisdom of negotiating a settlement. Hence, the thinking of most of the nation's officials tended strongly in that direction.

In the course of a meeting on 19 March 1951 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,

[54] Rad, C 63744, CINCFE to DA (for JCS), 30 May 51.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

Page 391

Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense, a possible cease-fire leading to an armistice in Korea was thoroughly discussed. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were specifically directed to re-examine the proposed armistice terms they had submitted on 12 December 1950 and to determine whether these terms were now valid. [58] But encouraged and emboldened by the fine showing of U.N. military units in Korea under direction of General Ridgway, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from the military point of view, did not then see many advantages in an armistice. For even in late March, the Chinese were suffering heavy losses, and the Joint Chiefs were not averse to seeing those losses continue. "Any arrangement which did not prejudice their [the Chinese Communists'] position in Korea but which would end the infliction of large losses on the Communists would be greatly to their advantage," the Joint Chiefs told the Secretary of Defense. Conversely, any armistice arrangement which would keep United Nations forces in Korea, and which did not prejudice the position of the Communist forces there, would be greatly to the disadvantage of the United States. "Such an arrangement," the Joint Chiefs held, "would in all probability, jeopardize the security of our forces, constitute an unwarranted drain on our military resources, and tie down our forces in Korea almost as effectively as if they were engaged in combat." Consequently, from a purely military point of view, the Joint Chiefs judged that "an armistice arrangement of itself would not, even temporarily, constitute an acceptable solution of the Korea situation." [59]

On the other hand, the Joint Chiefs realized that the losses being incurred by the Communists would probably tend to make them more conducive to a political settlement than heretofore. Indeed, it might be possible, in light of the military situation, to take political action to end the aggression, conclude the fighting, and insure against its resumption. But the nation's military leaders insisted that any such political resolution had to provide for a settlement under circumstances which would permit the ultimate attainment of United States objectives without forfeiture of or prejudice to the nation's general position with respect to Russia, to Formosa, and to the seating of the Chinese Communists in the United Nations. [60]

On 5 April, the Joint Chiefs of Staff furnished the Secretary of Defense, for transmittal to the President and to the National Security Council, their views on the military outlook for Korea and on the military position which the United States should maintain. If Russia intervened, either with "volunteers" or as part of a general war, United Nations forces should be withdrawn from Korea. If Russia did not start a general war prior to settlement of the Korean problem, there were two ways to look at the world situation. The Joint Chiefs felt that if the immediate objective of the Russian strategy lay in western Europe, it would be to Russia's advantage to keep the maximum number of United Nations

[58] Memo for Secy. Defense, 27 Mar 51, sub: U.S. Position Regarding an Armistice in Korea.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid.

Page 392

forces tied up in Korea. On the other hand, if Russia's immediate objectives were in the Far East, they would be fostered if the United Nations forces left Korea. [61]

Conversely, under either of the two conditions cited, the Communists would profit by leaving their military forces in Korea. An armistice which left Communist armies in Korea would be to the great disadvantage of the United Nations, and would place a heavy drain on U.S. military reserves by forcing the retention of troops in Korea.

But the Joint Chiefs of Staff sounded the keynote of subsequent American policy toward Korea, both military and political, when they told the Secretary of Defense, "The Korean problem cannot be resolved in a manner satisfactory to the United States by military action alone." The Korean problem was a symptom of world tension which could only be relieved in a manner satisfactory to the United States when, and if, there was a general relaxation of the world tensions. [62]

They concluded with four significant recommendations, recommendations later integrated into the basic policy developed by the National Security Council as a statement of American objectives and procedures in facing the Communist threat in the Far East. These were: (1) The United States forces in Korea must pursue their current military course of action there until a political objective for that country appeared attainable without jeopardizing United States positions with respect to Russia, Formosa, and seating the Chinese Communists in the United Nations. (2) Dependable South Korean units should be generated as rapidly as possible and in sufficient strength to take over the major part of the burden from United Nations forces. (3) Preparations should be made immediately for action by naval and air forces against the mainland of China. (4) Action should be taken as a matter of urgency to ascertain the policies and objectives of the allies toward Korea specifically and the Far East in general, and also to discover the degree and nature of the support which the United States could expect from them if, while continuing the present military course of action in Korea, operations against the mainland of China were initiated. [63]

It grew more apparent each day, particularly in view of the much-publicized hearings on the relief of General MacArthur which started on 3 May in Washington, that the United States badly needed a clear, workable statement of its military and political objectives with regard to Asia and, particularly, to Korea. Not only had the American people become confused over the issues; they did not fully understand or appreciate the reasons why the United States had pressed for UN intervention. American military and political strategists had themselves failed to agree on the proper objectives, much less the proper ways and means of attaining them. General MacArthur's return, accompanied as it was by vituperative and bitter attacks on national policy, only served to cloud the issues further.

Finally, in mid-May, after long and

[61] Memo, JCS (Bradley) for Secy. Defense, 5 Apr. 51, sub: Military Action in Korea.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

Page 393

careful consideration of the views of all main advisory bodies, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council submitted to the President a statement of policy which the council believed the U.S. Government should now follow in facing the Communists in Korea and throughout Asia. This statement of policy was approved by President Truman on 17 May. In accepting the advice of the National Security Council, the President decided that the United States would retain as an ultimate objective a political, not military, solution which would provide for a united, independent, and democratic Korea. At the same time, he directed all governmental agencies to do whatever required to put the policy in effect at once. [64]

The significance of this blueprint for American action in Asia can hardly be overstated insofar as its effect on the Korean problem is concerned. For it was this blueprint, with some modification, that the United States followed from that day forward in bringing a conclusion to the fighting in Korea. There was nothing startlingly new in this policy. Seemingly by instinct, the United States had been following most of the precepts right along. But by setting forth in a single statement the best possible answers to all the questions which had been repeatedly asked for many months, the National Security Council took a firm step toward the immediate goal of stabilizing the situation in Korea. The statement implied no hope of military victory in Korea; but it did bespeak a certain confidence that Communist designs could be thwarted even though United States aims could not be fully accomplished. [65]

The significant portion of the new policy was, of course, the American Government's intention to seek through United Nations machinery a settlement acceptable to the United States which would as a minimum terminate hostilities under appropriate armistice arrangements. But until such an armistice could be brought about, the United States would "continue to oppose and penalize the aggressor." In the absence of a negotiated settlement, ". . . recognizing that there is no other acceptable alternative . . . ," the United States would keep up the current military course of action ". . . without commitment to unify Korea by military force . . . ," but with the purpose of inflicting heavy losses on the enemy, preventing the seizure of South Korea, and limiting Communist capabilities for aggression elsewhere in Asia. While the United States was determined to avoid extending hostilities beyond Korea, it intended to deflate the military strength and prestige of the Chinese by inflicting heavy losses upon them in Korea at every opportunity. Furthermore, the Joint Chiefs were to prepare detailed plans for punitive action against China itself should China take aggressive action outside Korea or if United Nations forces were compelled by military action to evacuate Korea. These punitive actions would include those previously recommended by General MacArthur-blockade, military operations against China, and exploitation of Chinese Nationalist forces. [66]

[64] JCS 1992/82.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Ibid.

Page 394

Rebuilding the ROK Army

A principal feature of the policy established on 17 May was aimed at generating strong, dependable ROK military forces to take over from U.N. forces. The ROK Government itself was fully in favor of this objective, at least of the intention to strengthen the ROK forces. General MacArthur, who in early April had turned thumbs down on proposals to arm additional South Korean military units, had been gone from the Far East Command less than a week when the Korea representative to the United Nations handed General Bradley a request that the United States arm and equip ten additional ROK divisions, and that the new divisions be commanded, if possible, by American officers. [67] On 24 April, President Rhee sent President Truman a duplicate request. [68]

Past performances of ROK battle units, most recently during the enemy's April offensive, lent little support to these requests. Yet, on 26 April, General Collins sent General Ridgway a message which seemed to indicate that a substantial increase in the number of ROK divisions was being contemplated in Washington. "It is highly desirable," Collins told Ridgway, "to develop possible ways of utilizing available Korean manpower in order to augment United Nations forces and eventually to replace some United States units." General Collins, mainly seeking information, asked Ridgway to tell him the answer to five general questions. These were: How many Korean males of military age could be put into the Army without damaging agricultural and industrial programs of the ROK? Would it be possible to expand leadership training facilities for ROK troops to meet an increased mobilization and, if so, would it require more American personnel to train them? Should Americans command Korean units and, if so, at what level of command should Americans be so employed? Was it advisable to send senior Korean officers to higher American military schools? Should the TO & E of Korean divisions be changed? General Collins concluded by asking General Ridgway if he thought the ROK Army should have ten more divisions as President Rhee had requested. [69]

General Ridgway's response to these questions was emphatically negative. Like Ridgway, General Van Fleet also frowned on the idea of activating more divisions. "If excess trained officers and non-commissioned officers are available," he stated, "they are needed in units presently constituted." [70]

Both Ridgway and Van Fleet took decided stands against placing any American officers in command of ROK Army units, because of the language barrier, for one reason. But also, command, to

[67] When Bradley reported this to General Marshall, the Secretary of Defense evinced great interest. He suggested that this request might be taken into consideration in the contemplated rotation plan then being set up for Korea. He thought some officers, rather than rotating, would be happy to transfer to South Korean divisions if promotion were involved. Memo, Gen. Bradley for Gen. Collins and Adm. Davis, 19 Apr. 51, in G-3, DA file 091 Korea, Case 174.

[68] Rad, 230830Z, USAMB Korea to CINCFE, Apr. 51.

[69] Rad, DA 89517, Collins (Personal) for Ridgway, 26 Apr. 51.

[70] (1) Rad, C 61433, Ridgway (Personal) for Collins, 1 May 51. (2) Rad, C 61589, CINCFE to DA, Ridgway (Personal) for Collins, 2 May 51.

Page 395

be effective, must include complete authority to administer and to discipline; and since the Republic of Korea was a sovereign nation, American officers would have no inherent authority to discipline ROK soldiers. Van Fleet pointed out further that if American command were to be effective it would have to extend down to battalions and companies and therefore would require large numbers of trained officers and noncoms. He insisted ". . . that the basic problems with the ROK Army at this time are training and development of leadership qualities. This is a long range project, especially the development of an officer corps as would be true in any new army." Ridgway not only agreed, but also believed the "Creation of an officer corps is . . . the first and prime consideration." [71]

The nation's top authorities nonetheless had decided that the United States would "develop as rapidly as possible dependable ROK military units in sufficient strength eventually to assume the major part of the burden of United Nations forces in Korea." [72] Hardly had this new policy been approved, when President Rhee announced that if the United States would only equip his already well-trained soldiers, American troops could be withdrawn from Korea and the job left to the ROK Army. Disturbed by this announcement, General Ridgway sought, through Ambassador Muccio, to induce Rhee to make no more damaging statements. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were equally concerned and called on the Secretary of Defense to seek further action by the Department of State. They told General Marshall, "Any action of the United States will never be entirely successful without the full cooperation of the Government of the Republic of Korea...." The Department of State accordingly directed Ambassador Muccio to convey to President Rhee, "in the strongest terms," the grave concern which the United States felt over the continuance of such statements. [73]

Revision of Ridgway's Directives

Two officers of General Ridgway's personal staff meanwhile had been in Washington since 11 May to explain and support Ridgway's own proposed directive of 30 April rather than the one that Ridgway had been given on 1 May. In their appeal to the Army Chief of Staff, Ridgway's representatives suggested that if the Joint Chiefs of Staff turned down Ridgway's directive as it stood, that the existing directive then be revised sufficiently to make it acceptable to Ridgway. [74] General Collins elected to begin with the latter approach, and on 23 May presented the revamped directive to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This revised version was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was dispatched to General Ridgway on 1 June. [75]

[71] Rad, C 63287, CINCFE to CSUSA, Ridgway (Personal) for Haislip, 25 May 51.

[72] JCS 1992/82.

[73] (1) Memo, Gen. Bradley for Secy. Defense, 23 May 51, sub: President Rhee (ROK) Statements, in G-3, DA file 091 Korea, Case 178/4. (2) Ltr., Rusk to Lovett, 1 Jun. 51, same file, Case 178/3.

[74] (1) MFR, 26 May 51, sub: Staff Visit, GHQ Representative to DA, sgd. Hefelbower and Smith, in JSPOG GHQ, UNC files. (2) Memo, Hefelbower and Smith for CofS USA, 16 May 51, sub: Proposed Modification of CINCUNC and CINCFE Missions, in G-3, DA file 381 Korea, Case 178/3. (3) Rad, DA 91236, Hefelbower (Personal) for Hickey, 16 May 51,

[75] Rad, JCS 92831, JCS to CINCFE, 1 Jun. 51,

Page 396

The major differences between the revised directive and the one given Ridgway on 1 May lay in a definite division of his responsibilities as CINCFE and as CINCUNC and in a drastically changed statement of his mission. No changes were made in the restrictions upon his operations in Korea. But as a result of the National Security Council policy decision, approved by the President on 17 May, certain new instructions were given him with regard to development of ROK forces, and on planning for retaliatory action against Communist China. [76]

With regard to his duties as CINCUNC (his duties as CINCFE were stated separately), by far the most important feature of this new directive was the altered mission with which Ridgway was charged. Influenced both by Ridgway's protestations that he could not clear all of Korea, and by the recent decision to settle the Korean situation by political means, the Joint Chiefs of Staff instructed Ridgway to:

     Inflict maximum personnel and materiel losses on the forces of 

     North Korea and Communist China operating within the geographic 

     boundaries of Korea and waters adjacent thereto, in order to create 

     conditions favorable to a settlement of the Korean conflict which 

     would as a minimum: (A) Terminate hostilities under appropriate 

     armistice arrangements; (B) Establish authority of the ROK over all 

     area south of a northern boundary so located as to facilitate, to 

     the maximum extent possible, both administration and military 

     defense, and in no case south of the 38th Parallel; (C) Provide for 

     the withdrawal by appropriate stages of Non-Korean Armed Forces 

     from Korea; (D) Permit the building of a sufficient ROK military 

     power to deter or repel a renewed North Korean aggression. [77]

The restriction against a general advance beyond Line KANSAS-WYOMING (defined by the JCS as a line passing approximately through the Hwach'on Reservoir area) was retained in the new directive. Nor was General Ridgway granted permission to withdraw from Korea at his own discretion.

Ridgway now knew clearly what was expected of him, and what limits were set upon his authority as commander in chief, United Nations Command. These goals and restrictions would obtain throughout the remainder of his term of duty.

[76] Memo, ACofS G-3 for CofS USA, 22 May 51, sub: Proposed Changes in Directives to CINCFE, App. A.

[77] Ibid.

CMH Homepage