Biography

Acheson, Dean Gooderham [Ambassador SecOfState]

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George Marshall & Dean Acheson

Dean Gooderham Acheson (April 11, 1893 – October 12, 1971) was an American statesman and lawyer. As United States Secretary of State in the administration of President Harry S. Truman from 1949 to 1953, he played a central role in defining American foreign policy during the Cold War.

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower followed him as 34th President of the Untied Sates of America. Acheson helped design the Marshall Plan and played a central role in the development of the Truman Doctrine and creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Acheson's most famous decision was convincing President Truman to intervene in the Korean War in June 1950. He also persuaded Truman to dispatch aid and advisors to French forces in Indochina, though in 1968 he finally counseled President Lyndon B. Johnson to negotiate for peace with North Vietnam. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy called upon Acheson for advice, bringing him into the executive committee (ExComm), a strategic advisory group.

In the late 1940s Acheson came under heavy attack over Truman's policy toward China, and for Acheson's defense of State Department employees (such as Alger Hiss) accused during the anti-Communist Red Scare investigations of Senator Joseph McCarthy and others.


Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years at the State Department (New York: W.W. Norton, Inc., 1969), pp. 355-358.


THE THEME OF CHINA LOST

The speech of January 12, 1950, "Crisis in China-An Examination of United States Policy," has been called "one of the most brilliant as well as the most controversial speeches ever made by Secretary Acheson." Both adjectives are interesting: the first, because how complimentary it was meant to be obviously depends upon the author's unknown opinion of my other speeches; the second, because, although there was an immediate outburst, the principal controversy arose later and involved not what was said about China, but inferences drawn about a wholly different subject, Korea.

The speech was another effort to get the self-styled formulators of public opinion to think before they wrote, and do more than report as news the emotional or political utterances of political gladiators. On the preceding day, one of these, Senator Taft, had been widely quoted charging in the Senate that the State Department had

"been guided by a left-wing group who obviously have wanted to get rid of Chiang and were willing at least to turn China over to the Communists for that purpose."

Senator Vandenberg had rebuked him for saying this. At the time, Mao Tse-tung was in Moscow negotiating with Stalin what proved to be the Sino-Soviet Treaty of February 14, 1950. It was a supercharged moment to be speaking on Asian matters.

I began with an explanation of how it seemed to me that good and effective policies develop. Relations between people, I said, depend upon the fundamental attitudes, interests, and purposes of those peoples. Day-to-day actions grow out of those attitudes, interests, and purposes and are developed into policies. To be good policies they must come about on both sides in this manner. To be effective, they must become articulate through all the institutions and groupings of national life-press, radio, churches, labor unions, business organizations. In Asia, population, differences in race, ideas, languages, religion, culture, and development are vast. But, throughout, run two deep common attitudes-revulsion against the poverty and misery of centuries and against more recent foreign domination. Blended, they had evoked throughout Asia the revolutionary forces of nationalism. Resignation had given way to hope and anger.
Many, I continued, bewildered by events in China, failed to understand this background, looked for esoteric causes, and charged American bungling. No one in his right mind could believe that the Nationalist regime had been overthrown by superior military force. Chiang Kai-shek had emerged from the war as the leader of the Chinese people, opposed by only one faction, the ragged, ill-equipped, small Communist force in the hills. Chiang controlled the greatest military power of any ruler in Chinese history, supported and given economic backing by the United States. Four years later his armies and his support both within the country and outside it had melted away. He was a refugee on a small island off the coast.
To attribute this to inadequate foreign support, I said, was to miscalculate entirely what bad been going on in China and the nature of the forces involved. The almost inexhaustible patience of the Chinese people had ended. They had not overthrown the Government. There was nothing to overthrow. They had simply ignored it. The Communists were not the creators of this situation, this revolutionary spirit, hut had mounted it and ridden to victory and power.
This, I suggested, was a realistic explanation of what had been going on in Asia and of the attitudes of its people. Throughout our history the attitude of Americans toward the peoples of Asia had been an interest in them not as pawns in the strategy of power or as subjects for economic exploitation, but simply as people. For a hundred years some Americans had gone to Asia to offer what they thought was the most valuable thing they had-their faith. They wanted to tell the Asians what they thought about the nature and relationship of man to God. Others had gone to offer what they knew of learning; others to offer healing for Asian bodies. Others, perhaps fewer, had gone to learn the depth and beauty of Asian cultures, and some to trade. This trade was a very small part of American interest in the Far East, and it was a very small part of American interest in trade.
The outstanding factor in the interest of the American people in Asia-the people in towns, villages, churches, and societies-was that over the years it had been parallel and not contrary to the interest of the peoples of Asia. In China, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Korea it had strongly, even emotionally, supported people working out their own destinies free of foreign control. To say that our principal interest was to stop the spread of communism was to get the cart completely before the horse. Of course we opposed the spread of communism; it was the subtle, powerful instrument of Russian imperialism, designed and used to defeat the very interests we shared with the Asian peoples, the interest in their own autonomous development uncontrolled from abroad.
For generations, long before communism, I pointed out, Russia had aimed to dominate Asian peoples, and none more persistently than those in north China. The Soviet Union had gone on with this policy, attempting to spread its influence even to the extent of detaching Outer Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Sinkiang, and Manchuria. This most significant, most important, fact should not be obscured. We should not deflect from the Russians to ourselves the righteous anger and hatred of the Chinese people. Now, as in the past, we shared their view that whoever violated the integrity of China was their enemy. Those who proclaimed their loyalty to Moscow proclaimed loyalty to an enemy of China.
From the political theme, the speech turned to "the questions of military security." Its purpose was to bring home what the United States Government had done to defend vital interests in the Pacific, not to speculate on what it might do in the event of various exigencies in Asia. Our defense stations beyond the western hemisphere and our island possessions were the Philippines and defeated, disarmed, and occupied Japan. These were our inescapable responsibilities. We had moved our line of defense, a line fortified and manned by our own ground, sea, and air forces, to the very edges of the western Pacific. Less than a year before, on March 1, 1949, General MacArthur had discussed the same subject in an interview in Tokyo:
Our defensive dispositions against Asiatic aggression used to be based on the west coast of the American continent.
The Pacific was looked upon as the avenue of possible enemy approach. Now the Pacific has become an Anglo-Saxon lake and our line of defense runs through the chain of islands fringing the coast of Asia.
It starts from the Philippines and continues through the Ryukyu Archipelago, which includes its main bastion, Okinawa. Then it bends back through Japan and the Aleutian Island chain to Alaska.
My defense line, called our defensive perimeter, followed General MacArthur's, but was described from northeast to southwest:
 "This defensive perimeter runs along the Aleutians to Japan and then goes to the Ryukyus. We hold important defense positions in the Ryukyu Islands, and these we will continue to hold.... The defensive perimeter runs from the Ryukyus to the Philippine Islands."

With the authority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and General MacArthur behind me, it did not occur to me that I should be charged with innovating policy or political heresy. But to make sure that I would not be misunderstood or distorted, I added two more paragraphs to care for interests outside of our own defense line:

So far as the military security of other areas in the Pacific is concerned, it must be clear that no person can guarantee these areas against military attack. .

Should such an attack occur . . . the initial reliance must be on the people attacked to resist it and then upon the commitments of the entire civilized world under the Charter of the United Nations, which so far has not proved a weak reed to lean on by any people who are determined to protect their independence against outside aggression.

After a brief look at particular areas, I concluded that old relationships between East and West in Asia were ended. If new and useful ones were to succeed them, they must be based on mutual respect and helpfulness. We were ready to be helpful but could be so only where we were wanted and where the conditions of help were sensible and possible. So the new day just dawning could go on to a glorious noon or darken and drizzle out. Which would come about would depend on decisions of the Asian peoples, which no friend or enemy from the outside could make for them.


The press comment on the speech, moderate to favorable, was muffled by an event of far greater importance. On January 13, Jacob A. Malik, Soviet Representative on the UN Security Council, walked out of the chamber after announcing that the Soviet Union would not attend or recognize the legality of the council's actions until the Chinese Nationalist representative had been removed. This critical Russian error opened the way five months later to uniting the United Nations against the attack on South Korea.


However, the China bloc in Congress opened fire on me at once. Senator Styles Bridges demanded a vote of censure against the Administration and a withholding of funds until it changed its policy. The next day a new uproar followed announcement that the Chinese Communists had seized our consular premises and property in Peking, thus repudiating the treaties of 1901 and 1943. Senator Knowland demanded my resignation. Mr. Vishinsky attacked me from Moscow. However, the Democratic senators voted to support our Far Eastern policy.


On January 19 came a bitter and unexpected blow. "This has been a tough day," I wrote our daughter, "not so much by way of work, but by way of troubles. We took a defeat in the House on Korea, which seems to me to have been our own fault. One should not lose by one vote.
[The vote was 193 to 192.] We were complaisant and inactive. We have now a long road back."


The vehicle of this trouble was not an important or controversial bill, but a comparatively small supplemental appropriation for aid to Korea in 1950. In accordance with resolutions of the United Nations sponsored by us at the request of the Pentagon to get our remaining divisions out of Korea, all foreign troops (that is, Soviet and American) were to leave Korea and did so by mid-1949. For our part, only an advisory group of about five hundred officers and men remained to complete equipping South Korean forces. We wished to boost South Korean morale by some economic action. Hence the bill. It seemed so small and harmless that we neglected our usual precautions and were caught off guard by a combination of China-bloc Republicans and economy-minded southern Democrats and defeated on a snap vote.
The President and I expressed our "concern and dismay" over what had occurred and called for its early remedy. An extension of the China Aid Act for a few months was joined with the Korean appropriation and a little sweetening added for congressional adherents of Chiang Kai-shek.

The new bill became law on February 14, 1950. But the damage had been done. Later it was argued that my speech "gave the green light" to the attack on South Korea by not including it within the "defensive perimeter." This was specious, for Australia and New Zealand were not included either, and the first of all our mutual defense agreements was made with Korea. If the Russians were watching the United States for signs of our intentions in the Far East, they would have been more impressed by the two years' agitation for withdrawal of combat forces from Korea, the defeat in Congress of a minor aid bill for it, and the increasing discussion of a peace treaty with Japan.

Trouble Moves Eastward to Iran Throughout 1946 demobilization in the United States went forward apace under the same strong pressures of public demand that voted in the November election for liquidation of other wartime inconveniences. Speaking in Boston in June, I voiced disquiet at the trend:

"The slogans 'Bring the boys home!' and 'Don't be Santa Claus!'

are not among our more gifted or thoughtful contributions to the creation of a free and tranquil world. This seems to me true for the simplest of all reasons, which is that the sensible way to strengthen a structure is not to weaken its most essential parts." The year 1946 was for the most part a year of learning that minds in the Kremlin worked very much as George F. Kennan had predicted they would. We reacted vigorously to the grosser forms of Communist probing, such as the downing of our planes in Venezia Giulia, but we were slower to see through the murkier methods by which Moscow was extending its control, always under the shadow of the Red Army. Henry Wallace had many followers in his doctrine that the Soviet Union was entitled to its spheres of influence. The Russians themselves greatly helped our education. In picking the Straits and Iran as points of pressure, they followed the route of invasion by barbarians against classical Greece and Rome and later of the czars to warm water. From Thermopylae to the Crimea the responses to pressure at these points had been traditional.' If some Americans found their history rusty, neither the British nor the President did. The Iranian crisis of 1945-46 revolved about two issues: whether the Soviet Union would withdraw its troops from northern Iran as it had agreed to do in 1942 and 1943, and whether it would succeed in creating out of the northern Iranian province of Azerbaijan an autonomous entity subject to Soviet control. In 1942 the Soviet Union and Great Britain had put troops into northern and southern Iran, respectively, to block a possible German move and to protect Iranian oil. Troops were to be withdrawn six months after the end of hostilities. In the Teheran Declaration of December 2, 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin had reaffirmed Iranian independence and integrity. In September 1945 Bevin and Molotov set the date of troop withdrawal as not later than March 2, 1946. Meanwhile, the Soviet Government had been arming a separatist movement (the Tudeh Party) in Azerbaijan, and when it staged a revolt against the Shah in November 1945 refused to allow his troops access to the province to suppress it. The crisis was on, with the United States and Britain supporting Iran. It continued throughout the year in the Council of Foreign Ministers and the United Nations, where Gromyko walked out when the Security Council accepted jurisdiction. Bilateral discussions were carried on amid mutual suspicion. The date for troop withdrawal passed without action. In the spring tension increased through reports of reinforcement of Soviet forces in Azerbaijan. We addressed a public inquiry to Moscow. At this point, on March 24, Teheran and Moscow reached an agreement that seemed dubious. Russian troops would be withdrawn, while Iran would agree to a joint oil company and to arrangements which seemed to permit consolidation of the autonomous Azerbaijan regime. However, in the Near East things are not always what they seem. Russian troops withdrew in April, but the Majlis (Iranian parliament) repudiated the joint oil company. Tension grew again as the Tudeh Party demanded an election under its control. In October I had a series of visits from the Iranian Ambassador, Hussein Ala, as Mr. Byrnes was still away. The Ambasador, a good man, wanted the United States to take the initiative in reopening the Iranian case in the Security Council and in having it supervise elections in Azerbaijan. I said to him—with the President's and Secretary's approval—and asked our Ambassador to tell Qavam, the Prime Minister, that we could not act for but only in support of the Iranian Government. It must take the initiatives. Furthermore, it seemed a mistake to hold elections until Iranian authority was established in the province. Then United Nations observation could be useful. A little later, similarly authorized, we sent a favorable response to Qavam's request for our strong support should the Soviet Union object to Iranian troops entering Azerbaijan. When the troops arrived they were wildly welcomed, and the separatist regime collapsed. The troop movement, begun as a tentative feeler, ended in the reacquisition of the whole province. With the crisis over, Ambassador George Allen cabled on December 17, 1946, that in the Iranian view the quick collapse of the Tudeh Party was due to the conviction of everyone—the Russians, the Iranians, and the Azerbaijanis—that the United States was not bluffing but solidly supporting Iranian sovereignty; as he put it, "Iran is no stronger than the UN and the UN, in the last analysis, is no stronger than the US."

In his memoirs Dean Acheson writes:

"A young officer recently returned to the Pentagon, Dean Rusk from the Chinese theater, found an administrative dividing line along the 38th Parallel."
[l65]

January 12 1950

In 1950,(1/12/50) Secretary of State Dean Acheson omitted Korea from the list of critical international zones in which American forces could possibly be expected to fight. Congress did authorize $11 million in military aid to South Korea that year, but it didn't reach Sŏul until after the attack.

Meanwhile, Russians, who invaded North Korea and whipped Japanese forces, have been arming and training North Korean armed forces. So when they attacked, their Army outnumbered the ROK by 135,000 to 98,000. They also had many tanks, artillery and aircraft. South Korea had mostly rifles and light artillery. The North also had 16 warships and the South nothing bigger that an PC.

Russians and North Korean communists believed they would reach the southern tip of the peninsula in a very short time. However, the undermanned and under-armed ROK forces manage to delay the NKPA long enough for the United States and other countries to enter the war.

 

June 25, 1950

All that day, Sunday, [3-6/25 ] Washington planners and policymakers huddled in urgent conferences. These early discussions were influenced to no small degree by the Roberts-Muccio view that the ROK Army was the best army in Asia and could handle the NKPA. That belief was reinforced that day by a memo from Bradley to the JCS. During his recent trip to Tokyo he had spent nearly an hour on June 20 in conference with Lynn Roberts, who was in Tokyo on his way home to retirement. In this private soldier-to-soldier talk, Roberts had assured Bradley the ROK Army could "meet any test the North Koreans imposed on it." Bradley memoed the JCS for planning purposes:

 "After my talk with General Roberts, I am of the opinion that South Korea will not fall in the present attack unless the Russians actively participate in the action.[3-12]

 

[3-12] A generals life

The confidence in the ROKs was reinforced by an urgent cable from John Muccio. Owing to the departure of Roberts (not yet replaced) and KMAG Chief of Staff W. H. Sterling Wright (in Tokyo, also preparing to go home), Muccio had assumed the role of military adviser to the ROK Army.

"Ammunition is critically needed," he wrote, "to meet situation. . . ."

He had simultaneously asked MacArthur to ship him a ten-day supply immediately and begged Acheson to "back up" his request. Not to do so would be "catastrophic," he went on, concluding on this upbeat note:

 "I am confident that if adequately supplied, ROK security forces will fight bravely and with distinction.[3-13]

 

June 25, 1950

Misled by  Roberts and Muccio, MacArthur and his GHQ continued to take a casual view of the situation in South Korea. On the first day of the alert Acheson's special representative John Foster Dulles, who was in Tokyo working on the Japanese peace treaty and who had recently visited South Korea, called on MacArthur to express his concern. Curiously MacArthur told Dulles the exact opposite of what his G2, Willoughby, had told the Pentagon: that the NKPA attack was "not an all-out effort" to subjugate South Korea. He went on to assure Dulles confidently that the ROK Army "would gain victory." In a memo describing this encounter and his ensuing experience in Tokyo, Dulles wrote that two full days elapsed before GHQ realized the NKPA attack was "serious."[3-22]

[When did MacArthur first go to Korea?] June 28th

June 25, 1950 1120

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At about 9:20 P.M. [3-June 24th] Acheson telephoned Truman, who was in Independence, Missouri, to say that while the reports were still fragmentary, the news from South Korea appeared to be "serious." He suggested that as a first step the United States should summon the United Nations Security Council into emergency session the following day, Sunday, and press for a condemnation of North Korea, together with a demand for a ceasefire and an NKPA withdrawal to the 38th Parallel. Truman approved this suggestion, and later that night Acheson set the machinery in motion at the Department of State.[3-2]

[3-Why do they make a point out of who's idea it was, if Stalin had said no, there would not have been any invasion.  Period.]


The news came as a shock. Believing that communism was a worldwide monolith controlled by Moscow, Washington assumed that North Korea would not invade South Korea except on the specific orders of Joseph Stalin. Up to this point in the cold war Stalin had not resorted to overt military hostilities to achieve the apparent Kremlin aim of communizing the world. What did this resort to force portend? All-out war? If so, why begin in South Korea? Was the invasion merely a military feint designed to draw the West's military forces into the maw of Asian mainland? Would the real Soviet move come in Western Europe? The Middle East?[3-3]

June 25, 1950 1200
That noon a correspondent about to catch a plane for home asked him about the significance of the Korean developments, explaining that he would remain in Japan if there was any likelihood of a widening conflict. General MacArthur told him it was merely "a border incident," that he "shouldn't be concerned over such a trifle." He took the same line with Dulles. The ROKs would hold, the General predicted; a few LSTs landing craft could bring out any Americans who wanted to leave under an umbrella of fighter planes, and that would be the end of it.

Dulles was 'unconvinced. Later in the day he called again, and was dismayed to find that MacArthur was still confident. The General said that he had heard he might become responsible for Korea, but it was his impression that his duties would be administrative. At all events, he saw no cause for alarm.

 Dulles was unconvinced. Always the super hawk, he wired Acheson:

"Believe that if it appears the South Koreans cannot contain or repulse the attack, United States forces should be used even though this risks Russian counter moves. To sit by while Korea is overrun by unprovoked armed attack would start a world war."

How a big war could be prevented by waging a small one was not mentioned. It didn't have to be; since Munich the proposition had been accepted as an article of faith by American diplomats in both parties. Later, in the debates over Vietnam, it would be incorporated in the domino theory.[9]

June 25, 1950 1205

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Shortly after noon on the 25th, word came in that Ambassador Muccio had decided to evacuate women and children dependents of American personnel from Korea. Mr. John Foster Dulles, special adviser to Secretary of State Acheson, then visiting Tokyo on a mission regarding the Japanese peace treaty, cabled his superior that United States forces should be used to assist the South Koreans even at the risk of Russian countermoves. To sit by while Korea was overrun by an unprovoked attack would start a disastrous chain of events leading, most probably, to another world war.

June 25, 1950 1300 - 1000 PM June 24th

ON Saturday, June 24, 1950, I was in Independence, Mo. It was a little after 10 in the evening, and we were sitting in the library of our home when the telephone rang. it was the Secretary of State calling from his home in Maryland.. "Mr. President." said Dean Acheson,

"I have very serious news. The North Koreans have invaded South Korea."

My first reaction was that I must get back to the Capital. Acheson explained, however, that details were not yet available and that he thought I need not rush back until he called me again with further information. In the meantime, he suggested that we should ask the United Nations Security Council to hold 2 meeting at once and declare that an act of aggression had been committed against the Republic of Korea. I agreed.

June 25, 1950 1205

biography 

Shortly after noon on the 25th, word came in that Ambassador Muccio had decided to evacuate women and children dependents of American personnel from Korea. Mr. John Foster Dulles, special adviser to Secretary of State Acheson, then visiting Tokyo on a mission regarding the Japanese peace treaty, cabled his superior that United States forces should be used to assist the South Koreans even at the risk of Russian countermoves. To sit by while Korea was overrun by an unprovoked attack would start a disastrous chain of events leading, most probably, to another world war.

2 AM 25 June Washington DC time 2AM Washington

June 25, 1950 1700

biography  biography; biography

    Sunday in Washington was a day of frenzied activity. Two hours after midnight Secretary Acheson again telephoned the President, the decision to seek action of the Security Council was made,

June 25, 1950 2200 - 0800 Washington

biography

Acheson called the President again the next morning, a Sunday, apprising him of the dangerous nature of the developing crisis. The President decided to leave for Washington without delay, and he asked the Secretary of State to meet with the service secretaries and the Joint Chiefs of Staff immediately to work out a plan for his consideration. [04-20]

[04-20] Truman, Memoirs, II, 331-43, gives a general background of Presidential action and considerations in the first few days of Korean fighting. (2) See also Acheson, Present at the Creation, pp. 402-13.

June 25, 1950 2200 - 0800 Washington

biography

Flying back to Washington the next morning, [6/24/1950 0900 - 6/24/1950 2200 Korea] Truman ordered an immediate conference of his diplomatic and military advisers around the large mahogany dining table at Blair House, 1651 Pennsylvania Avenue, diagonally across the street from the White House. By the time they convened, there were more messages from Muccio, all of them discouraging. Among other things, a strong PA tank column was driving toward Sŏul, and  Kimp'o airport, apparently advancing at will. "South Korean arms," Acheson concluded, summing up the situation, were "clearly outclassed."

June 26, 1950

biography   biography

In Washington the State and Defense Departments thought that the United Nations' resolution of 25 June met the needs of the immediate situation. On the preceding night Secretary Dean Acheson had told President Truman that he was not immediately needed in Washington, but at midday on 25 June [1200+1400=2600-2400=0200] he was less certain.
 

June 25, 1950

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1130 AM Central Time 0230 Korea

Acheson's next call came through around 11:30 Sunday morning. Additional reports had been received from Korea. There was no doubt that an all out invasion was under way. Some decision would have to be made at once as to the degree of aid or encouragement which our government was willing to extend to the Republic of Korea. I asked Acheson to get together with the service secretaries and the Chiefs of Staff and start working on recommendations for me.

I was returning to Washington at once.

 

1230 PM Central 0230 Korea

The crew of the Independence had the plane ready to fly in less than an hour from the time they were alerted, and my return trip got under way so fast that two of my aides were left behind. They could not be notified in time to reach the airport. I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to fall, no small nation would have the courage to resist threats and aggression by stronger Communist neighbors. If this were allowed to go unchallenged it would mean a third world war, just as similar incidents had brought on the Second World War. It was also clear to me that the foundations and the principles of the United Nations were at stake.

June 26, 1950 1100

biography

President Truman and his key advisers gathered at the Blair House in Washington on the evening of 25 June for an exchange of views. Five State Department members, the Secretaries of the military departments, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chief of Staff were present. [04-24]

At this meeting, the policy-makers discussed the major problems facing the United States in the Far East. Foremost in their minds was a consideration of Soviet intentions and American capabilities. Louis A. Johnson, Secretary of Defense, believed strongly that Formosa was more vital to the security of the United States than Korea, and at his direction General Bradley, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, read a memorandum on Formosa prepared by General MacArthur. At the insistence of Secretary of State Acheson, questions of Formosa were postponed temporarily, and the attention of the group was redirected to Korea. [04-25]

 Acheson recommended that General MacArthur furnish supplies and ammunition to the ROK at once and that he be directed to evacuate U.S. nationals by any means required. When no one offered to comment on Acheson's proposals, Johnson asked each defense representative in turn for an expression of opinion. The responses came forth, and

"A major portion of the evening was taken in the individual, unrehearsed, unprepared and uncoordinated statements of the several Chiefs and the Secretaries." [04-26] 

June 26, 1950 1200

biography

Throughout the morning the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Army, and the military chiefs were in conference at the Pentagon. [note]

[About noon in Korea] This opening thrust was quickly deflected, and the discussion properly turned to the larger picture: Stalin and the Kremlin. What did Stalin's decision to resort to "raw aggression" portend? Bradley speculated. He did not think Stalin was "ready" for global war; the Kremlin was probably "testing" America's spiritual resolve to its containment rhetoric. However, Bradley went on, this major escalation in the cold war was a "moral outrage" which the United States and United Nations could not countenance. To knuckle under in this test, he said, would be tantamount to "appeasement." One act of appeasement could lead to further acts and hence almost inevitably to global war. "We must draw the line somewhere," Bradley concluded, and Korea "offered as good an occasion for drawing the line as anywhere else.[3-19]

All fourteen men present, including most emphatically President Truman and Dean Acheson, were of like mind. All the prior policies set forth in various position papers, reached after years of careful study - that South Korea was of little strategic importance and should not be a casus belli - were summarily dismissed. On June 24, 1950, South Korea had suddenly become an area of vital importance, not strategically or militarily (as Acheson would write in his memoirs) but psychologically and symbolically. Stalin had chosen that place to escalate cold war to hot war. The line would be drawn. South Korea would be supported, not because its conquest would directly threaten America's vital interests but because a failure to meet Stalin's challenge there would be so morally derelict it might fatally damage America's prestige and lead to a collapse of the free world's will to resist Communist aggression in places that really counted.

The conferees next wrestled with these questions: How much help? What form should it take? There was a stingy approach to the problem: Minimize, not maximize, the commitment. Finally, they agreed on the following steps, to be carried out with utmost haste under the "guise of aid" to the UN, which that day had condemned the NKPA invasion and invited "all members" to help the ROKs.

 

MacArthur would proceed (as he was already doing) with sending "ammunition and equipment" to the ROKs in order to help "prevent the loss" of Sŏul.

MacArthur would rush a "survey party" to South Korea to find out what other military aid the ROKs might need to hold Sŏul.

MacArthur would provide "such naval and air action" as was necessary to prevent the loss of Sŏul partly under the guise of ensuring "safe evacuation of United States dependents and noncombatants."

The Navy's Seventh Fleet, then at Subic Bay in the Philippines, would proceed to Sasebo, Japan, to augment MacArthur's thin naval forces.[3-20]