The Unseen Hand - Ralph Epperson

The Korean War

In 1944, the Council on Foreign Relations prepared a confidential memorandum for the State Department that began the process of involving us in a war in Korea. It read, in part:

"The sovereignty fetish is still so strong in the public mind that there would appear to be little chance of winning popular assent to American membership in anything approaching a super-state organization. Much will depend on the kind of approach which is used in further popular education."

A review of the memorandum stated that: "a further difficulty was cited, namely that [difficulty] arising from the Constitutional provision that only Congress may declare war. This argument was countered with the contention that a treaty would override this barrier, let alone the fact that our participation in such police action as might be recommended by the international security organization need not necessarily be construed as war."

That treaty was the United Nations Treaty, created in 1945, essentially by the Council on Foreign Relations (there were forty-seven members in the American delegation to the U.N. Conference at San Francisco.)

The Korean War had a unique place in history: ". . . for the first time a world organization voted to use collective force to stop armed aggression."

The Korean War was made possible at the Potsdam and Yalta conferences, as World War II was ending, when the Allied governments, represented by Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt, divided Korea into a North and South. North Korea quickly created an army of 187,000 men, with Russia supplying the military equipment (the artillery, tanks and planes, etc,) necessary to wage the war. The South only raised an army of 96,000 men, with sparse military equipment

One of the reasons for this inadequacy of their military equipment was the fact that, even though the United States had voted $10 million in military assistance for South Korea, only a small percentage of it reached that country.

General Douglas MacArthur, who was later to command these forces, wrote in his book Reminiscences:

"The South Koreans had four divisions along the 38th Parallel [the dividing line between North and South Korea].

"They had been well trained, and the personnel were brave and patriotic, but they were equipped and organized as a constabulary force, not as troops of the line.

"They had only light weapons, no air or naval forces, and were lacking in tanks, artillery, and many other essentials.

"The decision to equip and organize them in this way had been made by the State Department. The argument advanced by the State Department for its decision was that it was a necessary measure to prevent the South Koreans from attacking North Korea, a curious myopic reasoning that, of course, opened the way for a North Korean attack."

But North Korea's attack should not have come as a surprise as General Albert Wedemeyer had warned President Harry Truman that the North Koreans were preparing for an invasion. And on June 25, 1950, they crossed the 38th Parallel and started the war.

The Russians could have prevented the United Nations from getting involved had they wanted to by vetoing the U.N. efforts:

"The Soviets, using the non-membership of Red China in the U.N. as an excuse, walked out of the Security Council. The Council, with Russia absent, then voted U.N. intervention in Korea—a decision which the Soviet Union could have blocked with its veto if it had been present. After the vote, and with Red China still not seated in the United Nations, the Soviets returned to the Security Council."

Some have seen Russia's absence during this crucial vote as an intentional maneuver on the part of the Russians:

". . . the Soviets started the war themselves. This means that they knew when it would start If they wanted to keep us out, Stalin would have told his U.N. delegate, Jacob Malik, to forget the boycott, to take his seat at the Security Council, and vote nyet [no]. The fact that the Soviets didn't do this is proof, not just that they didn't want to keep us out of the Korean War, but that they wanted to trick us in." Two days after the invasion of South Korea, the Chinese on Taiwan, sensing that the time was ripe for them to move against the Communist government on mainland China, got severely reprimanded by President Truman: ". . .I am calling upon the Chinese government on Formosa [Taiwan] to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland."

Not only did Truman declare it was against American policy for the free Chinese to reclaim Communist China, but he also ordered the American Fleet into the Straits of Formosa to insure this.

General Douglas MacArthur later revealed that he saw this action as an intentional act on the part of the American government to insure the entry of Red China into the war. He wrote:

"The possibility of Red China's entry into the Korean War had existed ever since the order from Washington, issued to the Seventh Fleet in June, to neutralize Formosa, which in effect protected the Red China mainland from attack by Chiang-Kai-shek's forces of half a million men.

"This released the two great Red Chinese armies assigned the coastal defense of central China and made them available for transfer elsewhere.

"This meant that the Communist China leaders need have little worry about a possible Nationalist landing on the mainland opposite Formosa, and that they could move Red troops northward to the Manchurian country above the Yalu River with perfect safety.

"It gave their Korean war plans a tremendous impetus, because Red China could now enter the Korean War at any time she chose without fear of being attacked on her flank and rear by the Nationalist troops on Formosa."

But this action by the American government did not deter the Taiwanese government of Chaing-Kai-Shek, who, less than a week after the North Koreans had crossed the 38th parallel, offered "the State Department an advance force of 33,000 troops that could be embarked for Korea within five days after the offer was accepted. The suggestion was politely refused."

Formosa was, at the time, a member of the United Nations and therefore could have been represented in the United Nations Force, but the American government would not tolerate such a move.

It was a few months later that the results of the State Department's tactics began to show up. In October, 1950, General MacArthur began sensing that the Red Chinese were building up their troops in Manchuria, just north of the Yalu River. This intelligence report went unheeded by the State Department which advised MacArthur that there was no possibility of their intervening in the war. But the State Department was incorrect, as the Red Chinese crossed the Yalu River, the river separating North Korea and Red China, on October 15, 1950.

As the war against Red China and the North Koreans continued, General MacArthur continued to feel that there had been a leak in his intelligence and that his strategy was known in advance to the enemy. One of MacArthur's senior field commanders, General Walton Walker: " . . . continually complained . . . that his operations were known to the enemy in advance through sources in Washington."

The truth is that MacArthur's strategies were indeed falling into the hands of the North Koreans who were being commanded by Russian officers.

The chain of command under the United States Constitution for any military officer leads upward through the Executive Branch of the government and ends with the President who is the ultimate authority for military decisions. MacArthur was, of course, constitutionally required to obey the orders of his ultimate commander, but under the treaty binding the United States to the United Nations, the command chain went past the President into an office in the United Nations known as the Undersecretary for Political and Security Council Affairs who reported directly to the Secretary General.

Because of a secret agreement made by Secretary of State Edward Stettinius in 1945, this key position, the official who controlled such things as United Nations "police actions," was to be filled by a Communist from some Eastern European Communist country. At the time of the Korean War, this post was filled by Constantine Zinchenko, of Russia.

The North Koreans had Russian military advisors during the war, and it later became known just who was in charge of the North Korean war efforts. According to a Department of Defense press release dated May 15, 1964, high-ranking Russian military officers were actually on the scene in North Korea directing military operations. The release stated:

"A North Korean Major identified two of these Russian 'advisors' as General Vasilev and Colonel Dolgin. Vasilev, he said, was in charge of all movements across the 38th parallel. Another prisoner . . . said he actually heard General Vasilev give the order to attack on June 25th."

General Vasilev's chain of command went through the United Nations as well. He "had been the chairman of the United Nations Military Staff Committee which, along with the office of the Undersecretary General for Political and Security Council Affairs, is responsible for United Nations military action under the Security Council."

That meant that two Russians shared authority in planning the North Korean war efforts, and one of them planned the efforts of the United Nations. "In effect, the Communists were directing both sides of the war!"

The Russians were not only controlling both sides of the war and supplying technical advisors for the North Korean war effort, they were actually supplying Russian pilots for flights against the Americans: "Lt Gen. Samuel E. Anderson, commander of the Fifth Air Force, revealed that entire Soviet Air Force units fought in the Korean War for over two and a half years "

General MacArthur, aware that the Red Chinese were about to enter the war, realized that one way to prevent their massive entry was to bomb the bridges crossing the Yalu River. He: "ordered General Stratemeyer, [Chief of the Air Force] to employ B-29's on the following morning to destroy the Yalu bridges and cut this easy line of communication between Manchuria and North Korea. An immediate dispatch came from Secretary [of State George] Marshall countermanding my order and directing me to 'postpone all bombing of targets within five miles of the Manchurian border.'"

In addition, MacArthur was ordered not to pursue aircraft fleeing North Korea into Manchuria, nor could he bomb the supply base in the town of Racin.

MacArthur felt that of these decisions the "most incomprehensible of all was the refusal to let me bomb the important supply center at Racin, which was not in Manchuria or Siberia [Russia] but many miles from the borders, in northeast Korea. Racin was a depot to which the Soviet Union forwarded supplies from Vladivostok for the North Korean Army."

On November 25, 1950, the Red Chinese Army commander, General Lin Piao, launched his full forces across the Yalu River and into North Korea. MacArthur felt that: ". . .information must have been relayed to them, assuring that the Yalu bridges would continue to enjoy sanctuary' and that their bases would be left intact."

This was, unfortunately, the truth, as even General Lin Piao later admitted that he "would never have made the attack and risked my men . . . if I had not been assured that Washington would restrain General MacArthur from taking adequate retaliatory measures against my lines of supply and communication."

General MacArthur would later write that the order not to bomb the Yalu bridges: "was the most indefensible and ill-conceived decision ever forced on a field commander in our nation's history." One of General MacArthur's generals in the Air Force, George Stratemeyer, said that:

"We had sufficient air, bombardment, fighters, reconnaissance so that I could have taken out all of those supplies, those airdromes on the other side of the Yalu; I could have bombed the devils between there and Mukden, stopped the railroad operating and the people of China that were fighting could not have been supplied But we weren't permitted to do it As a result, a lot of American blood was spilled over there in Korea."

House Minority Leader Joseph Martin also expressed his dismay at the administration's apparent desire not to win the war in Korea by such tactics as not allowing the bombing of strategic military targets:

"If we are not in Korea to win, this Administration should be indicted for the murder of thousands of American boys."

Congressman Martin was involved in the last chapter of General MacArthur's story in the War in Korea. On March 8, 1951, he wrote to MacArthur asking for his views on foreign policy and overall strategy in the Far East, suggesting in addition that the Free Chinese government on Formosa should be employed in the war in Korea to take the pressure off the American forces.

General MacArthur replied to the letter on March 20, 1951, agreeing that the Nationalist Chinese should be allowed to enter the war. In addition he wrote:

"It seems strangely difficult for some to realize that here in Asia is where the Communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest, and that we have joined the issue thus raised on the battlefield; that here we fight Europe's war with arms while the diplomats there still fight it with words; that if we lose the war to communism in Asia, the fall of Europe is inevitable, win it and Europe most probably would avoid war and yet preserve freedom . . . . We must win. There is no substitute for victory."

President Harry Truman apparently read General MacArthur's letter and concluded that generals should not set foreign policy. He decided to relieve him of his command. On April 10, 1951, he announced to the American people:

"With deep regret, I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is unable to give his whole-hearted support to the policies of the U.S. Government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties."

General MacArthur replied:

". . . never in the history was there a more drastic method employed than in my relief—without a hearing, without an opportunity for defense, with no consideration of the past."

Truman replaced MacArthur with a general who he felt could be trusted to support the administration policies, General Matthew B. Ridgeway, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Under Ridgeway, the war was allowed to run down until an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. American General Mark Clark, who signed the armistice for the United States, stated that he had gained: ". . . the unenviable distinction of being the first United States Army commander in history to sign an armistice without victory."

One of the last public utterances General MacArthur made on the subject of the Korean War was a speech he gave on December 5, 1952:

"Never before has this nation been engaged in mortal combat with a hostile power without military objective, without policy other than restrictions governing operations, or indeed without even formally recognizing a state of war."

The significant results of the Korean War can be summarized as follows:

  1. The war helped Red China solidify control of its people who were becoming ripe for revolt because of famine and harsh living conditions;
  2. The United States lost considerable prestige by becoming the paper tiger that could not even defeat tiny North Korea.
  3. The United States sacrificed tens of thousands of American lives and billions of dollars because other nations in the United Nations did not want America to fight back in earnest
  4. The United States further conditioned the people to the idea of having future control of America's military forces under the control of the United Nations; and
  5. For the first time in American military history, the United States was not victorious.