Korean War

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War broke out when Communist North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. In response, 16 member countries of the United Nations, including the United States, joined with the Republic of Korea to defend freedom. ~ Myung-bak Lee
The North Koreans see the American bombing as a Holocaust, and every child is taught about it. ~ Bruce Cumings
A divided Korea was something unprecedented. Fundamentally it was a civil war, fought over issues going back into Korea’s colonial experience. ~ Bruce Cumings
The dangers are great. Make no mistake about it. Behind the North Koreans and Chinese Communists in the front lines stand additional millions of Chinese soldiers. And behind the Chinese stand the tank, the planes, the submarines, the soldiers, and the scheming rulers of the Soviet Union. ~ Harry S. Truman
By the time the armistice was signed, on July 27, 1953, B-29s had more than paid their way. The old bombers had flown 21,000 sorties and dropped 167,000 tons of bombs. Says Allan: “By the time we left, there wasn’t any electricity in North Korea.” ~ Dean Allan
It will begin with its President taking a simple, firm resolution. The resolution will be: To forego the diversions of politics and to concentrate on the job of ending the Korean war–until that job is honorably done. That job requires a personal trip to Korea. I shall make that trip. Only in that way could I learn how best to serve the American people in the cause of peace. I shall go to Korea. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation. ~ Douglas MacArthur
Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description. They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. Their last words to me were: 'Don't scuttle the Pacific!' ~ Douglas MacArthur
There was no clear strategy worked out ahead of time for what the role of nuclear weapons in the limited war would be. You’re talking about a war, particularly after the Chinese intervene, with peasants coming down mountain trails carrying everything on their backs. And this was simply not what the atomic bomb had been built for. ~ John Lewis Gaddis
There was a lot of field contact between American and Chinese forces. In a sense, this was the first and only war between China and the United States, so far. ~ Charles K. Armstrong
It was from the Korean War onward that we had a permanent, global American military presence that we had never had before. It was a real turning point for America’s global role. ~ Charles K. Armstrong

The Korean War (in South Korean Hangul: 한국전쟁, Hanja: 韓國戰爭, Hanguk Jeonjaeng, "Korean War"; in North Korean Chosungul: 조국해방전쟁, Joguk Haebang Jeonjaeng, "Fatherland Liberation War"; 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953) was a war between North and South Korea, in which a United Nations force led by the United States of America fought for the South, and China fought for the North, which was also assisted by the Soviet Union. The war arose from the division of Korea at the end of World War II and from the global tensions of the Cold War that developed immediately afterwards.

Quotes[edit]

  • The Korean War was fought for a just cause. After North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, U.S. forces were rushed into battle from Japan, joined later by many thousands of Americans, 36,000 of whom lost their lives in battle to defend freedom. In the early weeks of the war, U.S. troops were young, under-trained, and unprepared for the battle tactics of the North Korean forces. The sacrifices of the United States and the South Korean soldiers who lost their lives in this fight for freedom on the Korean peninsula could never be forgotten.
  • The United States is the power that introduced nuclear weapons into Korea, and it took this drastic step primarily to stabilize volatile North-South relations. Always suspicious of North Korea's intentions, in the mid-1950s the Eisenhower Administration also worried that South Korean President Syngman Rhee might reopen the war. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles wanted to restrain both sides -- with nuclear weapons. Even hotheads like Rhee and Kim Il Sung, he believed, would think twice before starting a war that would rain atomic destruction on the peninsula. In January of 1958 the United States positioned 280mm nuclear cannons and "Honest John" nuclear-tipped missiles in South Korea; these were followed a year later by nuclear-tipped Matador cruise missiles. Soon American and South Korean defense strategy rested on routine plans to use nuclear weapons very early in any new war -- at "H + 1," according to one former U.S. commander in Korea, meaning within one hour (more likely a few hours) of the outbreak of war if large masses of North Korean troops succeeded in attacking south of the DMZ. Annual "Team Spirit" military exercises included rehearsals for battlefield nuclear war. North Korea responded by building enormous facilities underground or in mountain redoubts, from troop and materiel depots to munitions factories and warplane hangars. This was a bit of a problem for American surveillance, in that it allowed for a great many places to hide an atomic bomb.
  • Somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 Korean women were mobilized into this slavery, along with smaller numbers of Filipinos, Chinese and a handful of Westerners. Pae Pong Gi was the first Korean woman to come forward and tell her story with her identity unprotected . She did this in Tamatani Tetsuo's 1979 film, An Old Lady in Okinawa. "Like so many other comfort women,' george Hicks writers, she "remained in the same role with the American Occupation Forces" on Okinawa. Yun Chong Mo's novel, My Mother Was a Military Comfort Woman, was inspired by the sight of a drunken American soldier dragging a Korean girl down a street in Seoul.
  • In January 1956, Life magazine published an article that purportedly explained how the Eisenhower administration had ended the Korean War. Secretary of statae John Foster Dulles revealed that he had conveyed an "unmistakable warning" to Beijing that the United States would use nuclear weapons against China if rapid progress toward a negotiated settlement was not made. He asserted that it was "a pretty fair inference" that this nuclear threat had worked. Dulles made this claim in defense of the notion that nuclear weapons were useful, indeed essential, tools of statecraft: When nuclear capability was combined with communication of intent to ue it if necessary, deterrence- and een compellence-worked. Dulles spoke in response to partisan critics at the beginning of an election year, but his words influenced policy and history long after the 1956 contest ended. They defined the parameters of a debate about the political and diplomatic utility of nuclear weapons generally and the outcome of the Korean War in particular. However, the secretary of state's claim wass doubly deceptive.It focused analysts' attention on the six months of Republican conflict management, to the neglect of the preceding two and a one-half years of Democratic stewardship.
  • Korea was not vital to U.S. interests but Truman and his aides were determined to respond to what they saw as Soviet-inspired aggression. They approved what Truman would call a “police action,” not a full-fledged war, wary of potential Soviet countermoves in Europe or the Middle East.
    To seize the initiative, MacArthur launched a daring amphibious landing at Inchon, behind enemy lines, in September 1950. A month later, U.S. troops captured Pyongyang, the northern capital, and then, despite orders from Washington, pushed north to the Chinese border. They’d be home by Christmas, the general promised.
    Instead, the Chinese invaded that December, overwhelming and outmaneuvering American troops. MacArthur again claimed utter surprise and Brands surprisingly ignores scholarship that shows he and his aides discounted or dismissed multiple reports of a Chinese military buildup in the area.
    Refusing to concede any errors, MacArthur urged Washington to let him expand the war by bombing bases in China. His threats — including one to plant minefields with radioactive waste — worried allies, created turmoil in Washington and irked Truman no end.
    The final provocation came when MacArthur publicly called for all-out war against China just as Truman was trying to coax the Chinese into peace talks. “Rank insubordination,” Truman angrily wrote in his diary. The general, he decided, had to go.
    MacArthur’s star quickly faded back home. Gen. Omar Bradley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, helped seal his fate when he told Congress that the general’s “strategy would involve us in the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong enemy.”
  • It will begin with its President taking a simple, firm resolution. The resolution will be: To forego the diversions of politics and to concentrate on the job of ending the Korean war–until that job is honorably done. That job requires a personal trip to Korea. I shall make that trip. Only in that way could I learn how best to serve the American people in the cause of peace. I shall go to Korea.
  • It’s best to understand the immediate impact of the atomic bomb in context of the use of airpower in the Korean War. Atomic weapons might have had a surprisingly small effect on the war itself. Notwithstanding the success of the MiG-15 against U.S. bomber formations, the United States largely controlled the sky over the Korean Peninsula, with B-29s delivering devastating airstrikes at the time and place of their choosing. The atomic bombs on 1950 did not yet have the power of the thermonuclear weapons developed later in the decade. When employed for tactical purposes, these bombs would have amounted to not much more than very large explosives. Employed against dispersed Chinese and North Korean forces, the limited number of bombs available to the U.S. Air Force (which had to conserve many weapons for use against the Soviets) might have had only a limited effect on the ability of China to mobilize forces and move them to the front. Moreover, the relatively primitive nature of infrastructure in North Korea and Manchuria would have worked against the effectiveness of the bombs on staging and logistics centers.
    What about juicier targets, such as Beijing or Shanghai? In 1950, the USAF remained committed to the idea that wars could be won through the destruction of civilian industry and infrastructure, and that such targets could be most readily found in cities. The USAF would soon demonstrate this conviction by leveling Pyongyang in a long series of conventional raids. Even this might not have had a decisive effect on the war. At the first sign of nuclear escalation, the elite of the CCP would have dispersed from the capital and the major cities. The propaganda value of the abject annihilation of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians probably would have outweighed any military advantage gained by the United States.
  • Scholars have long debated the existence of the “nuclear taboo.” Do states refrain from using nukes because of impracticality, or do they view nuclear weapons as fundamentally immoral? The Korean War provided an important test case, because the United States had nukes, while North Korea and China did not. Moreover, few American policymakers believed that the Soviets would use any of their few primitive devices on behalf of Pyongyang or Beijing. The United States did not shy away from using strategic weapons (B-29s) for tactical purpose against North Korea; what message would the use of the Bomb have sent?
    We know that Truman worried about the optics of using the weapon against two (or possibly three, depending on targeting decisions) different Asian countries. We also know that U.S. allies in Europe were very nervous about the prospect of having to politically defend the use of atomic weapons against China. While it’s possible to list these reservations under either “morality” or “practicality,” it’s also quite likely that using atomic weapons against China would have lowered the psychological and bureaucratic thresholds for using them in future conflicts against non-nuclear powers.
  • The Korean conflict was less than six months old on the morning of November 30, 1950, when a U.S. Air Force B-29 Superfortress, attacking an air base in North Korea, was lightly damaged by a fighter that overtook the bomber too fast for the attacker to be identified, much less for the Superfort’s gunner to fix it in the sights of his gun’s tracking system. Straight-wing Lockheed F-80 jets escorting the bomber made a token pursuit, but the accelerating fighter rapidly shrank to a dot, then disappeared.
    The bomber crew’s reports sparked an organized panic that sizzled through the U.S. chain of command. Although the airmen’s description of the intruder matched no aircraft known to be operating in the theater, U.S. intelligence officials quickly made an educated assumption. The attacking aircraft was a MiG-15, most likely flying from a base in Manchuria. Before the incident, analysts believed that the only use Stalin had authorized for MiGs supporting communist China’s air force was protecting Shanghai from attack by nationalist Chinese bombers. The MiG was an ominous sign: China’s involvement in Korea was increasing, and Soviet technology was spreading.
  • Immediately following the war, the claims of Sabre superiority were overstated. Against 792 claimed MiG kills, the U.S. Air Force officially conceded just 58 Sabre losses. The Soviets, in turn, admitted MiG losses of around 350, yet have always claimed to have downed an improbable 640 F-86s—a figure that represents a majority of the entire deployment of Sabres to Korea. “All I can tell you is the Russians are damned liars,” says Sabre pilot Cleveland. “At least, in this instance they are.”
    In the 1970s, an Air Force study called “Sabre Measures Charlie” upped the Sabre losses directly attributed to MiG combat to 92, which cut the F-86 kill ratio to 7-to-1. Later, with the dissolution of the USSR, the archives of the Soviet air force became available to scholars, whose studies have since pegged Soviet MiG-15 losses in Korea at 315.
  • By the spring of 1953, the remaining Soviet MiG-15 pilots in Korea began avoiding engagement with U.S. aircraft. Stalin was dead, a cease-fire at Panmunjom appeared inevitable, and nobody wanted to be the last casualty. Ilya Grinberg sums up the attitude of the men in the cockpits of the capable fighter: “Soviet MiG-15 pilots viewed Korean air combat as simply a job to be done. After all, they weren’t fighting to protect the motherland. They viewed the Americans as adversaries, but not really enemies.”
  • We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, someway or another, and some in South Korea too.
    • Curtis LeMay, in Strategic Air Warfare: An Interview with Generals (1988)
  • Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — twenty percent of the population of Korea as direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure?
    • Curtis LeMay in Strategic Air Warfare: An Interview with Generals (1988)
  • The official Chinese media stated for the first time that it was North Korea that dealt the first blow. In a special report, Xinhua's International Affairs journal said: "On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army marched over 38th Parallel and started the attack. Three days later, Seoul fell."
    China and North Korea were "as close as lips and teeth," said Mao Tse-tung.
    "It is not convenient for me to comment on the matter," said Zhang Liangui, a leading professor of Korean studies at the Communist Central Party School in Beijing. "I was not aware of this timeline [in the Xinhua article]. As far as I am aware there has been no change to the official view on the war."
    Meanwhile, the Global Times, a government-run newspaper, said it was "high time to renew and strengthen efforts by Chinese scholars to discover the truth about the Korean War."
    In Seoul, South Korea held an official ceremony to remember the war and Lee Myung-bak, the president, paid tribute to the dead. "Sixty years ago, North Korea's communists opened fire on a weekend's dawn when all people were sleeping peacefully," he said.
    Meanwhile, across the border, North Korea put across its own view of the conflict. Under the headline: "US, Provoker of Korean War," the country's state news agency accused Washington of starting the war with a surprise attack.
    "All the historical facts show that it is the US imperialists who unleashed the war in Korea and that the United States can never escape from the responsibility," the Korean Central News Agency said.
  • Sixty years ago, at dawn on June 25, the Korean War broke out when Communist North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. In response, 16 member countries of the United Nations, including the United States, joined with the Republic of Korea to defend freedom. Over the next three years of fighting, about 37,000 Americans lost their lives. They fought for the freedom of Koreans they did not even know, and thanks to their sacrifices, the peace and democracy of the republic were protected... On the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, I remain grateful to America for having participated in the war. At that time, the Republic of Korea was one of the most impoverished countries, with an annual per capita income of less than $40. In 2009, my country became a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance Committee, the first aid recipient to become a donor and in only one generation.
  • The Puerto Ricans forming the ranks of the gallant 65th Infantry on the battlefields of Korea … are writing a brilliant record of achievement in battle and I am proud indeed to have them in this command. I wish that we might have many more like them.
  • The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation. Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description. They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. Their last words to me were: 'Don't scuttle the Pacific!'
  • General Douglas MacArthur had opposed dropping the bomb on Japan.  MacArthur believed that the Japanese were ready to surrender and would have done so if assured that they could keep their Emperor.
    Korea was a different story.  A mere two weeks into the war, MacArthur requested atomic bombs from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS),a request which was denied.
    If China and the USSR entered the war, MacArthur proposed dropping atom bombs on the tunnels and bridges connecting North Korea to Manchuria and Vladivostock.
    On December 9, 1950, “MacArthur requested authorization to use atomic bombs at his discretion.” MacArthur followed up this request on December 24 with a “‘a list of retardation targets’ for which he required 26 atomic bombs.  He also wanted four to drop on the ‘invasion forces’ and four more for ‘critical concentrations of enemy air power.’” These requests were denied.
  • In July 1950, President Truman ordered Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command, to send B-29s to Great Britain, putting the bombers within easy striking distance of the western Soviet Union. “The order grew out of General [Hoyt] Vandenberg’s desire to do something to counter the impression of ineffectiveness conveyed by the meager results of American bombing in Korea,” writes Dingman in a 1988 issue of International Security. He points out that this was not the first occasion of Superfortress statesmanship. In 1948, after the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin, two squadrons of B-29s were deployed to Western Europe. During the Berlin crisis, it was a bluff. The B-29s were not configured to handle nuclear weapons.
  • According to cold war historian John Lewis Gaddis who was interviewed about the Korean War for a 1999 PBS documentary “American Experience: Race for the Superbomb,” the role of the atomic bomb was undefined. “It’s one of the biggest dogs that did not bark in the entire cold war,” says Gaddis. “There was no clear strategy worked out ahead of time for what the role of nuclear weapons in the limited war would be. You’re talking about a war, particularly after the Chinese intervene, with peasants coming down mountain trails carrying everything on their backs. And this was simply not what the atomic bomb had been built for. The only way that you can make the atomic bomb credible is precisely by not using—by keeping it out there as a kind of mysterious, awesome force. That to use it would actually cheapen it somehow.”
    Conventional bombing had, however, taken a toll on North Korea’s civilian population. In The United States Air Force in Korea 1950 –1953 by historian Robert F. Futrell, he includes a description of the town of Huichon written by General William F. Dean, who was held prisoner in North Korea: “The city I’d seen before—two-storied buildings, a prominent main street—wasn’t there anymore. I think no important bridge between Pyongyang and Kanggye had been missed, and most of the towns were just rubble or snowy open spaces where buildings had been. The little towns, once full of people, were unoccupied shells. The villagers lived in entirely new temporary villages, hidden in canyons or in such positions that only a major bombing effort could reach them.”
  • By the time the armistice was signed, on July 27, 1953, B-29s had more than paid their way. The old bombers had flown 21,000 sorties and dropped 167,000 tons of bombs. Says Allan: “By the time we left, there wasn’t any electricity in North Korea.”
  • Since 1953 there has been an uneasy coexistence between North and South Korea, which hosts over 20,000 American troops. At one time hundreds of American nuclear weapons were based there.
    “It was from the Korean War onward that we had a permanent, global American military presence that we had never had before,” Professor Armstrong said. Other countries that host American troops include Qatar, Japan, Italy and Germany. “It was a real turning point for America’s global role.”
    In the decades after the war, South Korea transformed into an economic powerhouse. Professor Cumings said many of its citizens now know little about the conflict and have “a fatalistic orientation” toward the economically isolated North.
    Meanwhile, North Korea became “the world’s most amazing garrison state with the fourth largest army in the world.”
    “Its generals are still fighting the war,” Professor Cumings said. “For them it has never ended.”
  • It may well be that, in spite of our best efforts, the Communists may spread the war. But it would be wrong-tragically wrong-for us to take the initiative in extending the war.
    The dangers are great. Make no mistake about it. Behind the North Koreans and Chinese Communists in the front lines stand additional millions of Chinese soldiers. And behind the Chinese stand the tank, the planes, the submarines, the soldiers, and the scheming rulers of the Soviet Union.
    Our aim is to avoid the spread of the conflict.
  • China's decision to intervene in the Korean War on behalf of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had its historical roots. It was the natural result of gradually developed animosity between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and what it regarded as the foreign imperialist powers, especially the United States, and of the fear of a threat from the latter.
    Over the past century or more, a quiet, self-reliant and complacent Middle Kingdom jas neem rediced nu fpreogm agggressopms tp a se,o=colony. Its populace was repeatedly abused and its national dignity, of which the Confucian intellectuals had been proud over thousands of years, was humiliatingly affronted.

“Texts of Accounts by Lucas and Considine on Interviews With MacArthur in 1954”, Jim Lucas and Bob Considine, New York Times, (April 9, 1964)[edit]

  • Of all the campaigns of my life, 20 major ones to be exact, the one I felt most sure of was the one I was deprived of waging. I could have won the war in Korea in a maximum of 10 days, with considerably fewer casualties than were suffered during the so‐called truce period, and it would have altered the course of history.
    The enemy's air (power) would first have been taken out. I would have dropped between 30 and 50 atomic bombs on his air bases and other depots strung across the neck of Manchuria from just across the Yalu River from Antung (northwestern tip of Korea) to the neighborhood of Hunchun (just north of the northeastern tip of Korea near the border of the U.S.S.R.).
  • Between 30 and 50 atomic bombs would have more than done the job. Dropped under cover of darkness they would have destroyed the enemy's air force on the ground, wiped out his maintenance and his airmen. His only means of rebuilding would have been over the singletrack Trans‐Siberian Railroad. It is an excellently run railroad but it could not have handled the material needed to rebuild the enemy's air force in a sufficient space of time.
    With the destruction of the enemy's air power I would then have called upon 500,000 of Chiang Kai‐shek's troops, sweetened by two United States Marine diivisions. These would have been formed Into two amphibious forces. One, totaling four‐fifths of my strength and led by one of the Marine divi’ sions, would have landed at Antung and proceeded eastward L along the road that parallels the Yahi.
    The other force, led by the other Marine division, would have landed simultaneously at Unggi or Najin, hit the same river road, and charged very quickly westward. Forces could have joined in two days, forming a wall of manpower and firepower across the northern border of Korea. I had nearly all the shipping I needed, In Japan, and could have procured the rest from Pearl Harbor That was no problem.
    Now, the Eighth Army spread along the 38th Parallell would then have put pressure on . the enemy from the south. The joined amphibious forces would press down from the north.
    Nothing in the way of supplies or reinforcements could have moved across the Yalu. North Korea, holding not les than one million to one million . and a half of the enemy, could ; not have sustained him. It had been picked clean.
    The enemy commander would have been starved out within 10 ’ days after the landings. I suggest now he would have sued for peace immediately after learning his air had been taken out and we had spread across his supply routes.
    You may ask what would have prevented the enemy's reinforcements massing and crossing the Yalu in great strength.
    It was my plan as our amphibious forces moved south to spread behind us—from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea—a belt of radioactive cobalt. It could have been spread from wagons, carts, trucks and planes. It is not an expensive material. It has an active life of between 60 and 120 years.
    For at least 60 years there could have been no land invasion of Korea from the north. The enemy could not have marched across that radiated belt.

The General vs. The President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, (2016)[edit]

The air force of the United States, as I have said, is really a shoestring air force. ~ Hoyt Vandenberg
Our naval forces are operating on the flanks allowing us naval gunfire support, carrier aircraft strikes, and the landing of such formations as the Inchon landing, all without the Chinese air force projecting itself into the area. Therefore, the sanctuary business, as it is called, is operating on both sides, and is not completely a limited war on our part. ~ Hoyt Vandenberg
  • Democrat Harry Byrd of Virginia asked Omar Bradley about Russian strength in the vicinity of Manchuria and North Korea. Bradley responded forthrightly, “There are 35 Russian divisions in the Far East. Nine of them are in the Vladivostok area; four in the Port Arthur-Dairen area; three in Sakhalin; two in the Kurile Islands; one near Kamchatka; and 16 others scattered along the railway from Lake Baikal on east.”
    “About 500,000 in all?” asked Byrd.
    “Thirty-five divisions, plus supporting troops, run probably something like 500,000 or more,” Bradley replied.
    Bradley’s comments were deleted when the transcript was released.
    Another category of excisions revealed American vulnerabilities in a larger war. Byrd asked what would happen if those 500,000 troops were “thrown into action with enemy submarine attacks to prevent the evacuation of our troops should they be badly outnumbered and have to evacuate?”
    Bradley answered: “Should Russia come in with this army strength, her naval strength, which is quite strong in submarines, and her air power, which is quite strong in the Far East—if she should come in with all of those, we might have a hard time supplying our troops in Korea and would even, under certain circumstances, have difficulty evacuating them.”
    How many submarines did the Russians have in the vicinity of Korea? asked Byrd.
    “Approximately 85,” Bradley said.
    “If they went into action, could we then still evacuate our troops?”
    “Yes, to a certain extent because we have considerable naval forces there who could help us.”
    But it wouldn’t be easy, Byrd sensed. “It would be a very serious situation?”
    “It would be a very serious situation,” Bradley confirmed.
    Byrd asked about the broader consequences of Russian intervention. “What other areas in Asia is Russia likely to take over if there is war in Asia?”
    “Through the use of the Chinese they have the possibility of and even capability of taking over Indochina, Siam, Burma and maybe eventually India,” Bradley said. “In addition to that, they could take over Hong Kong and Malaya.”
  • Other excised testimony revealed a fundamental reason for the administration’s reluctance to escalate in northeast Asia: There was precious little for the United States to escalate with. American air power, in particular, was stretched very thin. Hoyt Vandenberg, the Air Force chief of staff, told the committee that Korea was already claiming a large part of America’s available air strength. “The Air Force part that is engaged in Korea is roughly 85 percent—80 to 85 percent—of the tactical capacity of the United States,” he said. “The strategic portion, which is used tactically, is roughly between one-fourth and one-fifth. The air defense forces are, I would judge, about 20 percent.”
  • Vandenberg wasn’t going to disabuse America’s enemies of such notions, but he needed for the senators to hear, behind closed doors, that this was far from the case. “I am sure Admiral Davis will take this off the record,” Vandenberg said, referring to the officer overseeing the excisions, who did indeed take his remarks off the record. “The air force of the United States, as I have said, is really a shoestring air force.” Vandenberg had used the phrase in open testimony; now he provided details. One small, intrinsically insignificant country—Korea—was absorbing an alarming portion of America’s air resources. “These groups that we have over there now doing this tactical job are really about a fourth of our total effort that we could muster today.” To escalate against China, even if only from the air, would be reckless in the extreme. “Four times that amount of groups in that area over that vast expanse of China would be a drop in the bucket.”
  • Democrat Walter George of Georgia, echoing MacArthur’s assertion that “China is using the maximum of her force against us,” said it was unfair that MacArthur had to fight a limited war while the Chinese fought all out.
    Omar Bradley responded that George was quite mistaken—and, by implication, that MacArthur was quite misleading. The Chinese were not fighting all out, not by a great deal. “They have not used air against our front line troops, against our lines of communication in Korea, our ports; they have not used air against our bases in Japan or against our naval air forces.” China’s restraint in these areas had been crucial to the survival of American and U.N. forces in Korea. On balance, Bradley said, the limited nature of the war benefited the United States at least as much as it did the Chinese. “We are fighting under rather favorable rules for ourselves.”
    Vandenberg amplified this point. “You made the statement, as I recall it, that we were operating against the Chinese in a limited fashion, and that the Chinese were operating against us in an unlimited fashion,” the air chief said to Republican Harry Cain of Washington.
    “Yes, sir,” Cain replied.
    “I would like to point out that that operates just as much a limitation, so far, for the Chinese as it has for the United Nations troops in that our main base of supply is the Japanese islands. The port of Pusan is very important to us.”
    “It is indeed.”
    “Our naval forces are operating on the flanks allowing us naval gunfire support, carrier aircraft strikes, and the landing of such formations as the Inchon landing, all without the Chinese air force projecting itself into the area,” Vandenberg said. “Therefore, the sanctuary business, as it is called, is operating on both sides, and is not completely a limited war on our part.”

Robert Jervis,'“The Impact of the Korean War on the Cold War”, c, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Dec., 1980)[edit]

  • [I]n the late 1940s most officials had a mixed, if not incoherent, view of the danger of war. Russia was seen as threatening but weak; expansionist but cautious. Korea led the former elements to dominate over the latter. As Secretary of Defense Johnson put it when testifying before Congress: The very fact of this aggression ... constitute[s] undeniable proof that the forces of international communism possess not only the willingness, but also the intention, of attacking and invading any free nation within their reach at any time that they think they can get away with it. The real significance of the North Korean aggression lies in this evidence that, even at the resultant risk of starting a third world war, communism is willing to resort to armed aggression, whenever it believes it can win [U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, 1950b: 272].
    • P. 579.
  • Communist threat seemed more vivid and a great deal of money was needed to maintain the troops fighting in Korea. Furthermore, once the budget smashed through the old ceiling and the economy did not fall apart, much of the resistance collapsed. It was therefore possible to act on the heightened sense of threat. The second important change was the militarization of NATO; the transforming of a paper organization built on a symbolic American commitment to a force capable of resisting Soviet attack. Here, too, Korea resolved the ambivalence felt by many decision makers and permitted the adoption of a policy that some of them had already come to favor. NSC-68 argued that because the Russians were willing to run significant risks in order to expand, and because they would soon have a significant nuclear stockpile, the West needed the capability for conventional defense. Korea appeared to prove this point-the Rus- sians had tried to gain a small prize in spite of America's atomic weapons and mobilization base; would they not be tempted to gain a much greater one unless the local imbalance were corrected? (See Stebbins, 1951: 244.) Furthermor\e, Korea was an unpleasant reminder of the deficiencies of having to mobilize an army after the war had started. Allied forces were nearly pushed off the peninsula before adequate reinforcements could arrive, and the same thing could happen in Europe.
    • P. 580.
  • Korea showed that limited wars were possible. Conventional forces, either American or local, were needed if similar cases recurred. Of course, it is better to avoid limited wars than to have to fight them, and in this Korea provided important lessons. By strongly implying that it would not defend Korea (in large part because decision makers did not think an attack there would be an isolated one), the United States had invited attack. It would not make the same error in the future; it would extend commitments to threatened areas, stake its reputation on meeting force with force, and thereby deter adventurism. SEATO, CENTO, and permitting Greece and Turkey to join NATO thus followed.
    • P. 581.
  • In the first evening after the attack on Korea, Truman decided to interpose the Seventh Fleet between Formosa and the mainland without paying much attention to how the Chinese Communists might react. With hindsight it is not surprising that they were enraged by the porspect of the indefinite continuation of an alternative regime which challenged their power and legitimacy, but the American leaders failed to understand the degree to which their actions harmed and threatened China. They saw the increase in Chinese hostility not as an understandable reaction to what the United States had done, but as evidence of underlying Chinese enmity springing from a desire to harm U.S. interests. It is important to note that this judgement, while incorrect is similar to those made by other decision makers under similar circumstances.
    • Pp. 582-583.
  • The Chinese entry into the war completed the process started in June. Again, American leaders did not see the degree to which their drive to the Yalu threatened Chinese security because they thought China knew that the United States was not a menace. As Acheson put it: "no possible shred of evidence could have existed in the minds of the Chinese Communists about the non-threatening intentions of the forces of the United Nations" (quoted in Spanier, 1965: 97). Since the Chinese counterattack then could not be seen as self-defense, the explanation had to be unprovoked Chinese hostility. Furthermore, for Dean Rusk, John Davies, and Edmund Clubb, the Chinese intervention served only Soviet interests and so showed that that country was controlled by Russia (FRUS, 1950, VII: 1080, 1088). Even if the Soviet Union had not ordered China to fight, the two countries clearly had parallel objectives and so would work together in the future. They were a bloc, and accretions of power to one of them aided the other.
    This is not to argue that the United States would have had good relations with China had there been no Korean war. As we discussed above, by early 1950 the U.S. government saw China as a menace and was stiffening its position. Many wanted to prevent the fall of Formosa, and almost all sought to prevent Communist expansion in Southeast Asia. The administration was on the defensive, with the bulk of mobilized opinion against it, blaming it for the "loss of China" and wanting to take a stronger position against the new regime. Further more, Acheson's expectations of Sino-Soviet friction were premature.
    • P. 583.
  • Finally, we should note that the traditional explanation of the cold war, which affirms the validity of Truman's view that Korea was a Soviet-designed test of American resolve, implies that there were several possible substitutes for Korea. In the absence of this war the Soviets would have picked another battleground. The United States would have had to fight and rebuild its position, as it did after Korea, if it was to prevent the Russians from dominating the globe. A full examination of this theory is beyond the scope of this article, but we should note that it is one that few historians now defend. Even if the war was planned by Russia-which is hotly disputed-the cause was linked to the local context. Had it not occurred, it is not likely that the Russians would have posed an armed challenge to the United States elsewhere.
    • P. 588.
  • For if Korea produced such crucial aspects of the cold war as high defense budgets, a militarized NATO, and the spread of American commitments, and if Korea was an accident, then the imperatives of bipolarity or the U.S. domestic system are not a sufficient explanation for much of the cold war. The United States and the USSR may have been "enemies by position" (to use Aron's phrase), but this did not require much that we have come to associate with bipolarity, especially the globalization of commitments and the viewing of most local conflicts as tests of strength between the superpowers. Similar problems arise with those theories that stress the needs not of the international system but of the American internal politicoeconomic system. Thus, according to Ambrose, By June 1950, a series of desperate needs had come together. Truman had to have a crisis to sell the N.S.C. 68 program; Chiang could not hold on in Formosa nor Rhee in South Korea without an American commitment; the U.S. Air Force and Navy needed a justification to retain their bases in Japan; the Democrats had to prove to the McCarthyites that they could stand up to the communists in Asia as well as in Europe. The needs were met on 25 June 1950 [Ambrose, 1971: 195].
    • P. 589
  • In the same vein, Kolko and Kolko argue, "A society's goals, in the last analysis, reflect its objective needs." Since America is capitalist, these goals have "always reflected the class structure and class needs." By the spring of 1950 the economy was faltering and American control over Western Europe was in danger. "Other means having failed, the only acceptable continuous government expenditure for an orthodox capitalist economist-and politically for Congress-was for armaments." "The artificial stimulus of rearmament needed as its rationale a crisis somewhere in the world if Washington was to resolve its ... dilemma" (Kolko and Kolko, 1972: 19, 473, 476). As we saw, LaFeber initially argued that NSC-68 "was being implemented" when the Korean war broke out. Were this to have been the case, the argument for revisionism or for the compelling nature of a bipolar system would be stronger. However, this was not the case, and without Korea such implementation was unlikely.
    • Pp. 589-590.

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