Notes


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    The growing public demand for complete victory and revenge. Only five years after World War II Americans were conditioned to clear-cut and overwhelming victories, concluding with "unconditional surrender," followed by war crimes trials designed to punish aggressors legally. Americans were outraged by the Communist resort to "raw aggression," the atrocities inflicted on the South Koreans and American GIs, and shocked and grieved by the 27,500 American battle casualties.

    The unspoken but urgent need to liberate American (and ROK) prisoners of war from the NKPA. By the time of the decision the NKPA had captured an estimated 2,500 American soldiers and perhaps ten times that

number of ROKs.

    The pressures of American politics. The Democrats faced a tough off‑year election in November. The Republicans had made considerable headway in planting the idea that the Truman administration was "soft on communism" at home and abroad and, as a result, had "blundered" in the Far East. To stop at the 38th Parallel would bring further accusations of "appeasement" and "timidity," perhaps (in view of his VFW statement) even from MacArthur himself. A resounding, unequivocal victory in Korea would show the Truman administration to be decisive and tough.

    The hope that wresting North Korea from Moscow's yoke would not only profoundly diminish Soviet strategic designs and influence in the Far East but also eventually drive a wedge between Peking and Moscow. A unified, non-Communist Korea, it was suggested, might someday provide adjacent Manchuria with a market for trade, ultimately drawing China back into the American orbit.

  The hope that a smashing American victory in Korea would have a positive impact on Asians who had embraced or were flirting with communism in Indochina Malaya, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere. MacArthur had told visitors at GHQ: "Victory is a strong magnet in the East."

    A belief that Moscow was not willing to run the risks of global war including deployment of nuclear weapons - by directly supporting the NKPA on the battlefield.

    A belief that Peking was not willing to run the risks entailed in Korean intervention. The Mao government, then preparing to celebrate its first anniversary in office, was burdened by massive domestic political and economic problems. It did not appear likely that it could afford the time, money, and resources to challenge the powerful American forces in Korea. While its army was impressive in numbers (and battlefield experience), it was so lacking in artillery, tanks, and other mechanized weapons as to invite contempt by the American Army.

    A new confidence in MacArthur. In war, as elsewhere, nothing succeeds like success. As a result of Inch'ŏn, MacArthur's stock had climbed at the White House. Truman was more disposed to give MacArthur's military views greater weight. MacArthur was insistent that North Korea be invaded and was personally convinced that neither Russia nor China would intervene in Korea.