Military history


To Make a War…

The water downstream will not be clear if the water upstream is muddied.

— Korean Proverb.

ON A STEAMING AUGUST night of 1945, if anyone along the Potomac had gone in to see what the boys in the back room would have, they'd have found them sweating over a brand-new problem: Korea. The men of Swink—the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, or SWNCC—had been told to come up with something on Korea and to do it fast.

For after three years of working on it, two days after the Bomb went off over Hiroshima, the United States had finally finagled Soviet Russia into the war against Japan. And even before they declared war, the Russians had sent their armies crashing into Manchuria, and across the Korean border.

Colonel General Ivan Chistyakov crossed the Yalu with 120,000 men, and pushed south. On orders from Tokyo the Japanese were falling back.

The men of Swink knew that the Cairo Declaration of December 1943 had promised a free and independent Korea in due time, and they knew that at Yalta, and later at Potsdam, the big powers had agreed on some form of international trusteeship for Chosun. Russia had accepted the Potsdam agreements. On the surface, then, it did not seem to matter that Russia was now overrunning the Japanese Empire on the continent of Asia.

But there were hard-bitten, unidealistic types on Swink—men who doubtless had never truly accepted the Russkies as comrades-in-arms—who thought the United States had better get some troops up that way pretty quick. Ivan could manage the surrender of Japanese troops alone, of course—but that was not the point.

The Government of the United States agreed with them. It was decided to ship troops to Korea as soon as possible.

But it was also apparent that an untidy situation could arise from having armed Americans, armed Russians, and gun-toting Japanese all milling about in one small peninsula. Swink was given the problem of hacking out zones of operations for the two Allied powers, within which each would accept the Japanese surrender.

"We'll have to draw a line of demarcation; they handle the Japs on one side, we handle them on the other," it was suggested.

Everyone on the committee bought that. Agreement those days in the Pentagon was somewhat easier, since there was as yet no independent Air Force to protest the role of strategic bombing in the surrender.

But where to draw the line?

Some of the men of the unidealistic group asked, "Why not the Yalu?"

But it was too late for that; the Russians had already crossed the Yalu. And a man from State wanted it understood that if the military were going to view the Russians with suspicion, it would thoroughly louse up the bright new world everyone had fought for. As a mater of courtesy, the Soviets could not be asked to retreat from territory they had already captured.

"Let's look at the map," Army suggested.

Navy agreed, though Navy couldn't be of too much help there. The strategic wall map didn't show fathoms.

A line or zone had to be found that was far enough north not to jeopardize the future role of the United States, but also far enough south so that the Russian Army could not have already crossed it.

It was noted that the 38th parallel of latitude cut the peninsula almost in half. "How about that?"

State liked it, for the line put the political capital of Chosun in the American sector.

Navy liked it, because it gave the United States two larger ports. "This Fusan"—Navy was looking at a Japanese map—"down here in the south is the biggest port in the country—"

"Anybody got a better idea?"

Nobody had.

"Let's take it upstairs, then."

And upstairs they bought it—the 38th parallel to serve as a temporary line of demarcation dividing Russo-American responsibility for the Japanese surrender. The line was incorporated into General Order Number 1, the protocol for the surrender of Japan, and it was flashed to London and Moscow for confirmation.

Good show, London agreed. The Russians said Da, for once.

And the 38th parallel it was.

The men of Swink could not anticipate that the world was not going back to what it had been in 1939, only with the bad boys removed, and that there was now a distressing bipolarity of power in the world, split between two essentially hostile philosophies. Anyway, it wasn't their job.

Nor was it their job to worry over what the Russians might do, or to fear that the temporary lines of expediency being drawn now across the earth might become hard political frontiers.

The Army and the Navy had been directed to win a war, and they had done just that. And the State Department, to quote Mr. W. Walton Butterworth, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs under Marshall, "should have no opinions about anything," especially on career-officer levels.

To anticipate what might happen politically was the responsibility of the highest circles of civilian government, the men surrounding the President, who should have been planning beyond 1948, 1952, or even 1964.

Now, in late summer 1945, pending a final solution to the problems of the world and of the war, American troops entered Korea.

Lieutenant Colonel William P. Jones, Jr., of Morrisonville, Illinois, was redeployed with his 1108th Engineer Combat Group Headquarters from Leghorn, Italy, to the Pacific during the summer of 1945. Sailing through the Panama Canal, the 1108th reached the Philippines in September. The war was over, and the troops were clamoring to go home.

The XXIV Corps, under Lieutenant General John R. Hodge, had gone to Korea, to take the Jap surrender and serve as occupation troops, and General Hodge needed engineers. But he wasn't going to get them from the 1108th, as Colonel Jones soon discovered.

A new discharge and rotation list had been published after VJ-Day, and almost all officers of the group, including the surgeon and dentist, and all but fifteen of the eighty enlisted men of Group Headquarters were eligible to go home. Only two officers of the Corps of Engineers branch would remain, with the exception of Jones himself, who was Regular Army, and not going anywhere.

Bill Jones, a stocky, square-jawed man with a moustache and thinning hair, protested the removal of his troops. How the hell was he going to get anything done, if all the trained men were sent home?

Up at Headquarters he was told that nothing, absolutely nothing—not the occupation, the surrender, or anything else—could take precedence over sending the boys home. The Regular Army, which was about two hundred thousand men, would have to carry on by itself. Congress had decided that the most urgent matter had come before it for four years was the question of whether some of the brass were nefariously plotting to keep a lot of men in uniform beyond their time.

Congress, and the American people clamoring behind them, needn't have worried. Most of the brass just sighed, and gave up.

The boys went home.

Colonel Jones received replacements, of course. He got officers from the Quartermaster Corps and the Infantry, and plenty of basic riflemen from the eighteen-year-olds just drafted, who didn't have Skill One, even for basic riflemen. Engineers he didn't get. Engineers, like most professional men, serve in the military only when the draft moves them.

With a Group HQ that didn't know a crowbar from a wrecking iron, and who thought a balk was part of baseball, Colonel Jones, as part of "Blacklist Forty" (code name for Korea), reported to General Hodge in Korea. Hodge sent him to Pusan, to take control of some three thousand engineer troops in the area. The engineers' mission was to construct housing for the United States occupation troops and otherwise furnish engineer support, after, of course, all the boys had been sent home.

These were days and weeks to break a career officer's heart. The United States Army, which had been the most powerful in the world, did not melt away in an orderly fashion. It disintegrated into a disorganized mob, clamoring to go home. Men who had come into the service three months before, now that the war was over, figured they should go home too. No one gave much thought to the work that had to be done.

Fortunately for Jones, the Jap soldiers in Korea waiting to be sent home were willing workers. Both Koreans, drunk with new liberation, and Americans, already mentally wearing civilian clothes, grew sullen at the idea of labor. The Japs, now that the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was gone, were affable, smiling, professional, and entirely helpful. Jones put them to work. Somebody had to get the job done.

Eventually, though, all the Japs had to be repatriated. They took with them, when they left, every military officer, every professional man, every engineer, bank teller, and executive in the Pusan area. They left behind a hell of a mess.

Like most Americans, Colonel Jones was not prepared to take Chosun. The appalling poverty, the dust, dirt, filth, and eternal clamor of Pusan repelled any man accustomed to the West. Orphan children, with running sores, lay in the streets. Society, with the iron Japanese hand gone, was in dissolution. Money was worthless, since the Japanese had printed billions of yen prior to the surrender and passed it out to all who wanted it. Almost all responsible Koreans, particularly the educated were—rightly—tarred with the collaborationist brush.

Yangban, in conical hats, white robes, graybearded and wise with years, got roaring drunk and staggered through the streets. Women and children fell beside the roads, and died, ignored by both authorities and passersby. Jones saw one old woman try to cross a street of Pusan against the orders of the traffic policeman on duty. The cop pushed her back and knocked her down. Nobody bothered to help her up.

Forty years of slavery and brutality could not be brushed aside in a month, or in a year. Military Government had a hell of a situation on its hands, Jones realized.

He never got used to the stink. Inside the city, the odors were of decaying fish, woodsmoke, garbage, and unwashed humanity. Outside, the fresh air was worse. Koreans, like most Orientals, use human fertilizer. Their fields and paddies, their whole country smells somewhat like the bathroom of a fraternity house on Sunday morning.

Clothing washed in their rivers turns a sickly brown.

But slowly, holding their noses, the officers of the Occupation and Military Government tried to get things organized. None of them had had any experience with the job, or with Orientals. In Germany, or even Japan, the problem was much easier. There were, after all, skilled people to call upon, once the formality of Denazification was over.

In Korea, there were no trained administrators for either government or business, regardless of their politics.

Colonel Jones became acquainted with the complexities of Korean politics only indirectly. As an engineer, he became responsible for fire fighting in Pusan, and he noticed a great number of fires were breaking out. He asked a Korean fireman about this.

"Oh, it is the different factions, setting each other's houses afire," the Korean answered cheerfully. With most of Pusan constructed of wattle with tile roofing, Colonel Jones soon had his hands full.

Once he attended a fire personally. He saw the Korean firemen, with high courage, battling the flames with their old Jap equipment. Then, close by, he heard screams.

He turned, and saw several firemen and a policeman torturing a Korean. He ran over. An American major touched his sleeve. "Don't interfere with them, Colonel. They're trying to solve who set the fire!"

Later, one of his trucks ran down a Korean child. The officer he sent to investigate reported that the family was unconcerned. Life was hard and bitter and apt to be short, and now there was one less mouth to feed.

He soon learned to use Korean guards for U.S. military stores. The Koreans were desperately poor, and would steal anything, even if nailed down—nails had commercial value—but American sentries would not willingly shoot down women and boys carrying off gas cans and water buckets. Not after they had killed two or three, anyway—they lost all heart for it. But Korean guards would shoot or beat hell out of the thieves, if they caught them. By using Korean guards, the U.S. saved money.

Because he was a sincere, conscientious man, Colonel Jones of Illinois did the best he could. But he never learned to understand the people of Chosun, and he felt, reluctantly, that any hope for real democracy on the American pattern in that land was wishful thinking.

But he didn't know what to do about it, and he was glad when his time came in early 1946, and he, like the boys a year before, went home.

Captain Edward H. Landers, Infantry, arrived at Inch'on, Korea, in 1946. He went to XXIV Corps at ASCOM City, between Seoul and Inch'on, as Troop Information Officer. Tall, slow-talking, he was an Army brat, born in old Fort Dupont, in Delaware.

ASCOM City had been built by the Occupation Forces, and was the center of the Army Service Forces in Korea. From the first, Captain Landers didn't like it. But that was nothing startling—nobody in his right mind liked being in Korea.

The summers were hot and dusty, or hot and rainy, with hundred-degree temperatures. The winters were Siberian. The country literally stank, except for the few months during which the ground stayed frozen.

Nor did Captain Landers like his job. Nobody cared much for Troop Information. You had to watch what you said, or somebody wrote to Congress. Landers, a sincere man, felt about as useful as the proverbial appendages on a male pig.

Troop morale was lousy. All the men wanted to go home; some of them could get pretty nasty about it. In the meantime, they made out as best they could. Korean girls ran up and down the barracks at night, and everybody made black-market deals. There was no discipline among the troops.

When Landers spoke to any of the junior officers, they shrugged. "What can you do? The war's over."

A deadly thing had been done to the Army, which even the Army had not yet fully understood. The Doolittle Board had been convened in 1945 to iron out the inequities of the so-called "caste system" of the Army. The board interviewed a total of forty-two witnesses, and read approximately one thousand letters. Most of the letter writers were unhappy. In all fairness, many of them had a right to be. In making an Army of eight million men, the United States had commissioned many thousands of men who should never have risen above PFC. Some lousy things happened, particularly in the Service Forces. Officers and noncommissioned officers, in some cases, did abuse their powers.

Basically, there were two ways to reduce abuses of power in the service. One was to overhaul the officer procurement system, make damned certain that no merely average man could ever be commissioned, and have fewer officers, but better ones. The other way was to reduce the power to abuse anybody.

The Doolittle Board, probably thinking of a long period of pleasant peacetime coming up, in early 1946 chose to recommend the second.

It was a good idea, but it wouldn't work. The company commanders in Korea watched the girls run in and out of the barracks, had men talk back to them, and didn't know what to do about it. In fact, they weren't sure but what the American thing to do was to ignore it, and get a girl of their own.

Which many did.

What the hell, the war was over. Anybody who said a new one was brewing was definitely a goddam Fascist, or something.

Besides, contracting a venereal disease was no longer a court-martial offense. That kind of thinking had gone out with the horse, with saluting except on duty, with the idea that you should respect a sergeant.

Captain Landers made some contacts with the natives. After all, the American Army was in Korea for their benefit—or that was what he kept telling the troops. He met newspapermen from Seoul, and a Dr. Ahn of Inch'on. He learned to take off his shoes, even in winter, and sit politely in a Korean house. But the conversation with these intelligent Koreans sometimes threw him.

"What is democracy?" asked Dr. Ahn.

"Why is your democracy good for Korea?" the newsmen asked.

"Why do Americans refuse to have anything to do with the people of Chosun?" Dr. Ahn asked. "Why do you try to re-create your own way of life in our country?"

"Why do MP's throw Koreans out of the American compartments on the trains? Why do your allies the Russians keep Korea divided at the parallel? Why do you not go home and let us rule our own country?" Koreans were very inquisitive.

"But what really is democracy?" Dr. Ahn still asked, after Landers had spent half an hour telling him.

"Let me ask you one," Captain Landers said. "Yesterday, I saw a Korean girl fall alongside the road near the Education Center. I called the Special Korean Police. They wouldn't come. Only after I had called three times did they show up to take the girl away."

"Ah," said Dr. Ahn. "They did not want to accept responsibility."

"Don't your people have compassion?"

"Of course. But it is always wise to shun the unfortunate," Dr. Ahn said, wisely. "Now, tell me what democracy is, and why it is best—"

Captain Edward H. Landers, Infantry, walked back to his quarters, thinking. He passed a group of drunken colored soldiers coming back from town. They pretended they didn't see him, so they wouldn't have to salute.

At ASCOM City, plenty of girls were hanging around, waiting for the lights to go out. Captain Landers remembered the Korean word for young girl was seikse. Like the Chinese, the Koreans optimistically refer to their young women as virgins.

Many a young Korean woman of the better class, approached by an American soldier, said, "Oh, no—oh, no! I am seikse!"

This sometimes confused the issue beyond repair. The girls were often beyond repair, too, but that was life.

Captain Landers was old Army. He could not understand Korea or the Koreans, and he could no longer understand the Army itself.

He requested separation.

First Lieutenant Charles R. Fletcher came to Korea in July 1946. Things were better now; the first complete chaos of the early months had gone. But the squalor, the smells, and the hopelessness of a conquered, brutalized people produced the same sense of shock in him as it produced in most of his countrymen. Lieutenant Fletcher had been born and raised on a farm near Wichita, Kansas, but this was no preparation for Chosun.

A hundred years before, Americans might have gone to Korea and taken it in stride, but no longer. America had changed, both materially and subtly over the decades, and now in the Orient American soldiers could not live without insulating themselves from the life around them.

It was not that Americans came with arrogance or with a feeling of insurmountable superiority. They simply would not—could not—accept the way the people of Chosun lived.

No matter how cultured or ancient the civilization, no average American is going to condone the absence of flush toilets. Not now, not ever. The United States Government and international planners may as well face that simple fact.

Because Fletcher, a good-looking, quiet, pipe-smoking young man, planned to stay in the service, he made the best of what he considered a bad deal. His wife, who came over later, reminded him that some people were occupying Germany or Austria, but there was nothing he could do about that.

He was assigned to Major Herbert Van Zandt, who ran the huge New Korea Company. American occupation officers still had control of all important parts of the Korean economy; South Korea had not been able to develop the necessary capable executives since the Japanese surrender.

Neither Americans nor Koreans were enthusiastic about the arrangement.

The New Korea Company was actually the old Oriental Development Company, that Japanese octopus of industry that had dominated the Far East before the war. It had owned mines, mills, shipyards, factories, smelters, and farmland. Now, for the most part, only farmlands remained.

Van Zandt installed Fletcher, an infantry officer, as Director of Mining Industry and Engineering, an imposing title for a farm boy from Kansas. However, Fletcher soon found that most of the mines were in the North, where he might as well forget them, and that engineering was defunct.

By this time, most American Military Government officers realized that they might never be able to restore the Korean economy. Certain things had come to light since 1945: two-thirds of Korea's people lived and farmed south of the 38th parallel, but almost the entire industry and mineral wealth of the country lay in the north.

By themselves, the two halves might possibly build a viable economy by the year 2000, certainly not sooner.

And Fletcher soon found that the occupying Russians to the north intended that the country be joined on their terms, or not at all. Their terms included formation of a "democratic"—Communist—government for the entire peninsula. They allowed neither Koreans nor Americans to enter their zone.

Korea had always been a homogeneous nation. There was no difference between the North and South, no cultural line such as divides the United States along the Ohio Valley, no separate ethos, no distinct dialect. The split made absolutely no sense—except to two mutually hostile occupying powers, each with its own irons in the fire.

The Russians would not cooperate with American attempts to rebuild the South. Worse, they meddled. They fomented economic disorder and political protest. They demanded conferences, and requested joint commissions. If a commission met, they made demands. If the demands were met, they made further demands. If something was asked of them, they yelled, "Unfair!" picked up their marbles and went north. In short, they acted as Russians had acted around the world since the war.

Finally, Military Government in Korea quit trying to do business with them. General Hodge was criticized for this inflexible attitude; the world had not yet learned that it is completely impossible to do business with Russians except from either a position of power or upon Russian terms.

Soon enough, the Director of Mining Industry and Engineering found that his job was not all gravy. The Koreans working for him tended to be temperamental and sullen. Some of them thought they knew as much about mining industry and engineering as he did. None of them could distinguish between right now, tomorrow, or next year, when asked to do something.

Nor was the living exactly high, even on directorate level. Winter came, and Charles Fletcher had to wear overcoat and gloves at his desk. Once, as an experiment, he put a glass of water on his space heater. The water turned to ice. Two weeks later, checking, he found it was still ice.

His wife had servants, but she had to cook on a wood range. The range was used for heating the house, too. Often, Charles Fletcher found it expedient to stay late at the office, even in gloves and overcoat.

The Army did what it could, but in 1946 Korea was logistically at the end of the line. Most Army equipment had been diverted to surplus sales, to ease the screaming civilian demand for goods, and short of war, there was likely to be no new appropriation.

At his desk one day, Fletcher heard that there was trouble in Samch'ok, on the east coast. He left his office in Seoul to investigate. At a company iron-ore mine, he found agitators were encouraging idle workers to carry away company property. He had the Korean Special Police arrest the agitators, and beat hell out of them.

Back at Seoul, there was some criticism—but nobody had a better idea.

The policy now became one of giving Korean nationals control of the company. The new executives learned some things quickly. They became adept at losing company property, mostly into their own pockets.

Meanwhile, a crisis developed with the Russians just across the border from Seoul Province. The waters that irrigated company rice paddies flowed down from the north, and suddenly the Russians dammed them off. The company agricultural adviser, PFC Peavey, was sent up north to investigate.

The Russians were not offended by negotiating with a PFC. They had political officers masquerading in low ranks in their own forces; they understood perfectly Gospodin Peavey's desire not to appear conspicuous. They sat down with Peavey and informed him they wanted a portion of the company's rice harvest in return for the water.

Peavey argued awhile. Finally, getting nowhere, he figured, what the hell? He was due to rotate out any day and become a civilian. He agreed to everything. He returned to Seoul, and soon the water flowed south.

When asked how he had outwitted the Ivans, Peavey would only smile gently. A few weeks later, he sailed for the States.

When fall came, the Russians asked for their rice. Military Government, of course, with some confusion, explained why they couldn't have it.

Next summer, the New Korea Company had a hell of a time getting water.

Meanwhile, political organizations and parties were springing up all across the South. Most, like the Full Moon Mating Society, had small success, unless that faction had something to do with the exploding population.

Through a hassle for power, a group of conservatives led by Dr. Syngman Rhee were gradually consolidating their hold on the country. General Hodge himself personally disliked Rhee, who could be both cantankerous and autocratic, but Rhee had a big lobby in Washington. A Christian, he had the missionary group behind him.

And the choice was not between Rhee and middle-of-the-roaders. Outside the Anglo-Saxon countries, there are few middle-of-the-roaders. It was, to Fletcher, a choice between right and left.

Charles Fletcher's daughter was born in Korea, and shortly afterward he was sent home. He did not feel that he had done a good job, although he had tried to do his best. But the country was just too damn poor, too primitive, too temperamental, too stinking, for Americans to like or understand. Charles Fletcher had become aware that few Americans, forced to live for an extended period in a land without safe drinking water or plumbing, can keep both equilibrium and an open mind.

By 1947 the Government of the United States, as well as the men still stationed in Chosun, was sick of the Korean problem. A great deal of effort had been made; a great deal of money had been thrown at it; but the problem wouldn't go away.

As long as Military Government remained, South Korea would remain in chaos; no lasting solution to the country's ills could be made. And the forty-five thousand men tied down there were desperately needed elsewhere by the shrunken American ground forces.

And the Korean problem could not be solved of itself; it was part of a larger problem: that freezing of boundaries and attitudes men were beginning to call the "cold war." It had become obvious to many men in Washington that the world was split between two hostile groups, that the danger of a collision was increasing, and that something must be done, either to ease the tension or to strengthen the largely disarmed West.

But the deadly weakness of the Truman Administration was that Truman's domestic supporters, in the main, were indifferent to foreign policy. And domestic leaders of the Democratic Party were totally unfit by training and inclination for playing roles in foreign affairs. In general, Republicans, even of the liberal sort, left Washington at the end of the war, and businessmen would have nothing to do with the Administration. To execute his foreign policy Truman was forced to fall back on the great foundation bankers, who were largely isolated from the mainstream of American liberal tradition, soldiers, and career diplomats. On the whole these men, the Marshalls, the Clays, the McCloys, Forrestals, and Kennans, were professional, patrician, and conservative, much in the way the proconsuls of the early Roman Empire must have been: they disliked the violent enthusiasms sweeping the postwar world; they desired above all else order; and they were instinctively and instantly hostile to world Communism.

Their thinking, on the whole, was concise and clear, but it was unfortunately thinking isolated and often opposed to the thinking of the bulk of the American people. During the war, some members of the government had made an incalculable mistake: they had propagandized the Russians as heroic brothers-in-arms, indicated to the public that Stalin and associates were democrats at heart, and led the people to believe that Russia had fought the war from motives as pure as America's own.

All of which, even as early as December 1945, had been proved nonsense—but many people still believed it. Fortunately, there was government by consent of the governed in America—but just as unfortunately, such governments dearly hate to admit a mistake. The image of the Russians was not corrected.

The problem was that America had fought the war—as she had most of her wars—as a crusade, while Russia had fought first for survival, then for power. Crusades are usually inconclusive; it was no accident that Russia won the peace.

And it was no accident, in the late forties, that the makers of American policy, unwilling to backtrack with the public, began to try to isolate foreignpolicy decisions from public and Congressional control. The great decisions—the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine—that gave the earth a hope of eventual order were not instantly popular with the American people. There was no great attempt to sell them—it was significant that every historic decision of the Truman Cabinet was debated by Congress only after it had been made irreversible. The makers of foreign policy, not by accident, universally held Lockean notions of federal executive power; and, not by accident, they escaped the popular will.

They began, knowingly and cunningly, to contain the spread of Communism through whatever policy, short of war, might be required. This containment was vital to American interests, but it must always be remembered that the mere mention of such a policy would have sent millions of patriotic, well-meaning American liberals into convulsions. Liberal thought, which had scented Hitler early, seemingly remained tragically blind to Communist tyranny.

Before any attack on the morality of the men who formulated the policy of Communist containment may be made, several things should be recalled: these men had no designs on the world. They had no nationalist or imperialist policies to foist on anyone; they wanted to keep order and, so far as possible, the status quo, in an era when the Soviet Government clearly desired the opposite. The Soviets were doing their utmost to create chaos, so that they might then impose their own tyrannical system over an ever-widening circle.

If the popular will of the earth desired the Communists to be given a free hand, if it did not have either the physical or moral hardness to offer opposition—then the popular will, for its own sake, needed circumvention.

Thus in the Truman Administration there existed a basic dichotomy, between the politicians and liberals, the Hannegans, McGraths, McGrannerys, on the one hand, and the soldiers and bankers on the other. Each operated almost in a vacuum where the other was concerned.

The one rare exception to the pattern, Louis Johnson, was the most tragic figure of all. Johnson was a businessman liberal, a "go-getter," the sort of man who would later look for a "bigger bang for a buck." When Louis Johnson began to cut the armed forces, it must be remembered he was giving the bulk of the American public, liberal and business-conservative alike, precisely what it wanted.

Truman's own tragedy remained that the people on whom he depended for domestic support would simply not support his foreign policy. For the policy that evolved in the 1940's was new to American thought. It was not underprivileged Democratic, nor was it business Republican. It was orderly, worldseeing, pragmatic, and conservative—but conservative in the British or ancient Roman sense, not in the American sense.

Denied popular support, Truman functioned without it. Possibly history will accord him that as his greatest feat. History must also condemn him, with his Cabinet, for his inability to communicate. Wherever there is rule by consent of the ruled, the rulers must always be salesmen, however difficult the task.

For the first time in history, or at least for the first time since before the War Between the States, America had embarked upon a foreign policy that was not at least partially a crusade. The policy was the restoration of order in the world, and the orderly containment of Communism—not its hysteric extirpation, as with Hitler and "Kaiser Bill," by means of cataclysmic war that could, at best, solve nothing.

Since Wilson's time, some Americans had learned much.

In Europe, beginning with 1947, the policy succeeded brilliantly. It succeeded without the sine qua non of international politics, armed force, for both sides understood the stakes in Europe were too vital to risk less than all out effort, if force were used.

The policy in Asia succeeded less well, because American planners were slow to see the importance of the East, and did not early recognize the Soviet shift to that area in 1949. Because of a certain indecisiveness on Asian policy, apparent to the Soviets, there would be war.

But even then it would be war different from all wars in American experience, except the Indian campaigns on the Plains. It would not be a crusade, because neither Harry Truman nor the men who handled his foreign policy were crusaders across the water. Because it was different, it would have far-reaching results. It would be the first war to bring down a government, to oust a party in power, not because of the actions that party had taken, but because the policy makers were never able adequately to explain those actions to a troubled and increasingly hostile public.

Like the Indian Wars, it would leave a troubled feeling, a trauma, in its wake. Crusades, even when failures, are emotionally satisfying. Wars of containment, wars of policy, are not. They are hard to justify unless it is admitted that power, not idealism, is the dominant factor in the world, and that idealism must be backed by power.

It was hard for a nation and a people who had never accepted the idea of power, not as something immoral in itself, but as a tool to whatever ends they sought, to fight and die for limited goals. In short, it was hard to grow up.

The Korean problem came again in Swink in 1947. Now the men of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee understood three things:

1. The Russians had different ideas as to what should be the solution to the Korean problem, and they would not cooperate, not now, not ever.

2. Without massive American support and economic aid, Korea would never achieve a viable economy.

3. And in event of large-scale war, Korea was a liability; the men based there would be lost to the services.

Swink wanted a way out of Korea, if there was a graceful one to be found. They requested the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A complete decision was not, of course, the responsibility of the Joint Chiefs, who should have had no influence on what was, essentially, a political rather than a military matter. But in 1947, the civilian branches of government were letting Asian policy fall to the military by default—someone, qualified or not, had to make decisions, however painful such decisions might be to make.

Later, this power of decision would be taken away from the military, just as it should never have been given them. But it must be remembered that all through the 1940's civilian policy makers tended to shun Asian questions, letting the military have a disproportinate voice. Only when it came to cutting back military strength and expenditures did civilian planners advance with firm and happy tread.

At the end of World War II, American military policy, digesting the Japanese lessons in China, was to control air and sea lanes throughout the East but never to engage in ground hostilities on the Asian mainland. As one spokesman put it, "There was no point to mucking about through Manchuria."

The only war that military planners could envision was a big one between the United States and the Soviet Union. They assumed that in the future, as historically, America would never fight for limited goals; in the event of actual war, an all-out effort would be made to break or destroy the Soviet homeland. This was neither faulty thinking nor planning. The military men were following what had been American experience in the twentieth century. Many of the military planners themselves were not aware of the change to conservative, pragmatic thinking in certain quarters of Washington—thinking that was never explained to the public or to the military. The military continued to plan for the only kind of war they had been told to plan for: worldwide, atomic holocaust.

On 26 September 1947 the JCS sent Secretary of Defense Forrestal their reply:

From the standpoint of military security, the United States has little strategic interest in maintaining the present troops and bases in Korea.

Thinking of the then-American atomic monopoly, the JCS wrote:

…Enemy interference from Korea could be neutralized by air action, which would be more feasible and less costly than large-scale ground operations.

But the JCS made one other point very clear:

A precipitate withdrawal of our forces … would lower the military prestige of the United States, quite possibly to the extent of adversely affecting cooperation in other areas more vital to the security of the United States.

The JCS, then, clearly understood that the problem was in essence not military but political. They were nervous and uncomfortable at having to make recommendations on it. They knew that military considerations, as they foresaw them, required the removal of troops from the Korean periphery, but also that the "rat leaving the sinking ship syndrome" was very prevalent in Asia. Korea was not militarily vital to American security. But American withdrawal from Korea might discourage Japan, which clearly was. American refusal to interfere with the fall of Nationalist China was already hurting American prestige in the Far East.

There were American planners who saw that a million ground troops, and a billion in aid, could hold the problem in check. But these planners knew that such things were not in the cards. The pragmatists in the high echelons of foreign policy could accomplish many things by fiat or executive agreement, but they could not raise troops or money against the popular will. This was a basic weakness to the policy of containment inherent in any parliamentary democracy, and as it proved in Asia, an insurmountable one, that would recur again and again, in China, in Korea, and finally in Vietnam.

Listening to the Joint Chiefs, the Government saw an out—one that got the United States off the hook militarily, and yet seemed to promise stability for Korea. They offered the question to the United Nations, which immediately, at American urging, accepted responsibility, voting Korea a U.N. ward and establishing a U.N. mandate over the divided nation.

On the surface, it look like a good solution, in keeping with the United States' professed aims in the world. Yet under the surface it was and remained an American withdrawal. There were only two centers of power in the world, and the United Nations was neither of them.

Stalin, who had asked how many divisions the Pope had, knew exactly how many divisions the U.N. maintained: none. When UNCOK, the United Nations Commission on Korea, tried to cross the dividing parallel, the Russians weren't even polite. UNCOK, after much debate, was able to accomplish nothing toward the reunification of Korea.

Despairing, the United Nations proposed free elections in South Korea to set up a rump state. After much political turmoil, these elections were held 10 May 1948.

The elections were reasonably honest, but Koreans were a disorganized and submissive people, almost without political education. It is not always easy to get an honest count in Chicago or Jersey City; what happened in Pusan or Seoul cannot be considered too harshly. The conservative parties behind Syngman Rhee came legally to power, and by 15 August the Taehan Minkuk, the Realm or Republic of Korea, had been established.

Russia protested each proceeding. Then, in September 1948, Russia established the Chosun Minjujui Inmun Kongwhakuk, the Korean Democratic People's Republic, in the North. This "republic" was in all respects what has since become known as a "tank democracy"; however, from the million Korean refugees that had fled Japanese tyranny Russia was able to cull many able, dedicated Communists to organize its government. Kim I1 Sung, a Soviet citizen and officer, became Premier. Kim I1 Sung could and did call upon the thirty thousand Korean veterans of the Chinese Communist and Soviet armies to return to form the nucleus of his Inmun Gun, or People's Army.

From its start, the North Korean State had a cohesion that the South lacked. It also had a purpose expressly denied Syngman Rhee, however much he might threaten it: the unification of the country.

The Russians had eyed the United States withdrawal, and misinterpreted it. But if the Soviets misunderstood American policy, it was perhaps because Americans did not clearly understand it, either. All the riddles within riddles wrapped in enigmas were not in the Kremlin.

To make a war, it is sometimes necessary that the eventual antagonists not know, or understand, what the other is doing. Russian policy had shifted to limited war, to subversion and terror and military operations on the periphery. American policy had drawn a line in Europe, but had not yet firmed in Asia. Russians had already moved in China, and in Indo-China, and set the future pattern. The United States had given no indication that it would oppose the Soviet game, provided its vital interests, such as Japan, were not involved.

The Russians, who had kicked up the dust, saw Americans waiting for the dust to settle. They could draw their own conclusions.

Americans, blissfully unaware of their weaknesses in conventional military strength, assumed that their government would, by blowing up any troubles, solve them, so that the Soviets would never dare to act.

To make a war, sometimes it is necessary that everyone guess wrong.

In the South of Korea, the economically impossible, democratically imperfect regime of Syngman Rhee struggled with massive problems. In the North, the Chosun Minjujui Inmun Kongwhakuk struggled only to overthrow Rhee. It used border raids, sabotage, guerrilla action, and propaganda, plus economic pressure.

One irrefutable measure of the success of cantankerous, autocratic, and Christian old Syngman Rhee was that the North failed. In spite of massive infiltration, treason, and chaotic political turmoil in South Korea, the majority of the people south of the parallel wanted no united nation that would be a tool of the Soviets.

On 1 January 1949 the United States recognized the new Republic of Korea. Special Representative to Korea John J. Muccio became the United States' first ambassador; the last American occupation forces were quickly withdrawn, though the United States by treaty agreed to help train ROK security forces. And economic aid continued; the Republic of Korea could not exist without it.

On 12 January 1950 Secretary of State Acheson spoke to the National Press Club in Washington. During the speech it came to public light that neither Korea nor Taiwan were within the United States' security cordon in the Far East. This was nothing new. The Korean decision had been made prior to 17 September 1947, when the United States had informed Russia of its intention to place the Korean problem before the United Nations. And the United States was still cautiously waiting for the "dust to settle" on the Chinese question.

Mr. Acheson neither blundered nor gave away state secrets. In global war—which was the only kind American policy makers contemplated or for which any service was preparing—neither Taiwan nor Korea was of much use. But neither Mr. Acheson nor his colleagues, who understood the European situation very well, quite knew or understood what was happening in Asia.

Europe could no longer be lost without a big war, but Asia had begun to teeter on the brink. There were plenty of farsighted men who were uneasy at the prospect, but in each case the dichotomy of the Truman Administration kept them hamstrung. Pragmatists and conservatives might be willing to put ground troops in Asia to fight "agrarian reformers and starving peasants"—but American liberal opinion was not.

The bulk of the people, indifferent as they were, might have been convinced, but the intellectuals, never. And the Democratic Administration did not feel it could completely circumvent its liberal spokesmen at home.

Dean Acheson drew his soon famous line, but he told the Russians nothing. By their process of reasoning, the United States had abandoned any real interest and power position in Korea when it had sent the question to the United Nations. Even as Mr. Acheson spoke, Russian and Chinese and North Korean leaders conferred in Peiping, agreeing that if the waters were muddied further in Korea the United States would stand aside, as it had during the fall of Nationalist China. They agreed that there would be no resort to atomic war if Korean attacked Korean; and observing American armed strength in the Orient, they correctly assumed that the United States had no other capability.

The United States could not be bought, or even intimidated, but it had a long history of looking the other way if not immediately threatened.

A war is made when a nation or group of nations is frustrated in political aims or when ends can be achieved in no other way. Communism was receding from its high-water mark in Europe, and the Atlantic Treaty Organization promised new stability there. It was succeeding in Asia, but the United Nations-sponsored Taehan Minkuk stood in its way. The Republic of Korea was not vulnerable to subversion, but it was vulnerable to armed force. And if it fell, the Russians saw, as the Americans did only imperfectly, that Communist control of the peninsula would soon become disastrous to the American presence and prestige in Japan.

Clausewitz, whom the majority of Americans read only to try to refute, had written: War is not pastime, no mere passion for daring and winning, no work of a free enthusiasm; it is a serious means to a serious end. War always arises from a political condition and is called forth by a political motive. Beside this passage, Lenin had drawn a marginal line.

A war is made when a government believes that only through war, and at no serious risk to itself, it may gain its ends.

Even before Dean Acheson spoke and told the Russians what they already knew, the Communist leaders were agreed. Soon, Senior Colonel Lee Hak Ku and his brother staff officers would receive orders, in Cyrillic script, to be translated into the Korean Hangul.

It was to be a bold stroke, with every chance of success.

It would almost succeed.

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