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The Chinese Take a Hand

The Chinese Move

Unbeknown to MacArthur or to Washington authorities, the Chinese Communist government had begun sending infantry divisions into North Korea on October. Between 14 October and 1 November, it appears, some 80,000 troops from the Chinese Fourth Field Army crossed the Yalu into Korea. More than two-thirds of this force had been in Manchuria, near the border, since July 1950. Three days before these crossings, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs prefaced this invasion with a blunt public warning: "Now that the American forces are attempting to cross the thirty-eighth parallel on a large scale, the Chinese people cannot stand idly by with regard to such a serious situation created by the invasion of Korea...." Ominously, the Chinese Foreign Office described MacArthur's operations as ". . . a serious menace to the security of China. . ." [1]

The first real proof that Chinese soldiers had entered the fighting came about noon on 25 October, when the ROK 1st Division in western Korea clashed with a Chinese force and captured the first Chinese Communist soldiers taken in the Korean War. The ROK 1st Division commander, General Paik Sun Yup, found many dead Chinese on the battlefield and so informed General Milburn, the I Corps commander. General Paik also took prisoners, who, by revealing that they belonged to organized units and that Chinese soldiers were in Korea in large numbers, gave ample proof of intervention. In eastern Korea, Almond's troops met Chinese units and took their first Chinese prisoners on the same day as did the Eighth Army. By 31 October they had captured a total of twenty-five Chinese and General Almond had personally interrogated some of them. [2]

[1] (1) Whiting, China Crosses the Yalu, p. 115. (2) Appleman, South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, pp. 687 and 767.

[2] Appleman, South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, pp. 675-708

The evidence, however, was not accepted at face value in any quarter that counted. General Willoughby, after reporting to Washington that Chinese troops had been captured and that he believed organized Chinese units to be in Korea, said, on 28 October:

     From a tactical standpoint, with victorious United States divisions 
     in full deployment, it would appear that the auspicious time 
   for intervention has long since passed; it is difficult to believe 
     that such a move, if planned, would have been postponed to a time 
     when remnant North Korean forces have been reduced to a low point    
     of effectiveness. [3]

Indeed, American ears were attuned to victory and the ominous harbinger of military disaster wrought no change in General MacArthur's plans to advance to the border with all speed and with all forces.

Despite the assurances they had received, the Joint Chiefs of Staff showed apprehension over the indication of Chinese Communist intervention. General Bradley noted on 31 October that the intervention was conforming to none of the patterns envisaged by the Joint Chiefs in their studies and in their directives to General MacArthur. Chinese actions were "halfway between" and left some doubt as to what the specific countermoves by MacArthur should be. Bradley based his analysis on information which showed that elements of five Chinese Communist divisions had been identified south of the Yalu, the largest element being a regiment. On the same day, General Collins told the Army Policy Council that these reported crossings of the Yalu River might reflect a face-saving effort since Chou En-lai had said that his government would not stand idly by and watch the North Koreans go down in defeat. Collins did not think that the Chinese would cross the river in sufficient numbers to risk a serious beating by MacArthur's forces. Nevertheless, when asked if the Chinese could become a real threat to the United Nations Command, Collins replied that they definitely could in spite of their lack of air-power and their weakness in artillery. [4]

[3] DIS, GHQ, UNC, 2971, 28 Oct. 50.

[4] (1) Memo, CVRS for Maj. Gen. Robinson E. Duff, 31 Oct. 50, in C-3, DA file 091 Korea, Case 14/38. (2) Min., Army Policy Council, 31 Oct. 50, in CofS, DA file 334 (APC), 31 Oct. 50.

Eighth Army Grows Cautious

Despite the Chinese threat, General Walker attempted to carry out his current instructions from General MacArthur. He sent two of his corps plunging toward the border in the west. In the coastal sector, the I Corps fanned out in a 3-pronged drive, crossing the Ch'ongch'on River and rolling up hard-fighting North Korean units making a last-ditch stand. Farther east, the ROK II Corps pushed columns northward along main roads. One of these columns, a regiment from the ROK 6th Division, stepped far ahead of the others and on 26 October pushed its reconnaissance troops all the way to the Yalu at Ch'osan. There was little elation over this feat, for almost simultaneously other ROK divisions of the ROK II Corps ran head on into very strong Chinese units. Not only was the ROK 1st Division badly mauled, but the regiment of the ROK 6th Division on and near the border also was cut off by the Chinese and nearly destroyed. The climax of this early Chinese intervention came on the night of 1-2 November when the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, was attacked by a full Chinese division in positions near Unsan and very roughly handled. [5]

As soon as Walker saw what was happening, he ordered the advance halted and withdrew his forces back across the Ch'ongch'on, holding only a shallow bridgehead above the river. When General MacArthur learned that Walker had stopped driving toward the border, he directed his acting chief of staff, General Hickey, to telephone Walker in Korea and find out why. Hickey reached Walker's chief of staff, General Allen, who furnished an interim explanation on 1 November. Walker a few days later followed this with a fuller and more detailed explanation in a letter to General MacArthur in which he said:

     On 26 October Eighth Army was advancing on a broad front in widely 
     separated columns in pursuit of defeated North Korean Forces. The 
     advance north of Pyong-yang was based upon a calculated logistical 
     risk involving supply almost entirely by air-lift. Supplies 
     available were sufficient for bare maintenance of combat operations 
     of one reinforced American division and four ROK divisions against 
     light opposition with no possibility of accumulating reserves to 
     meet heavier opposition. An ambush and surprise attack by fresh, 
     well-organized and well trained units, some of which were Chinese 
     Communist Forces, began a sequence of  events leading to complete 
     collapse and disintegration of ROK II Corps of three divisions. 
     Contributing factors were intense, psychological fear of Chinese 
     intervention and previous complacency and overconfidence in all ROK 
     ranks. There were no indications that Chinese troops had entered 
     Korea prior to contact. The presence of Chinese troops increased 
     materially the will to fight of remaining and reconstituted North 
     Korean units. The ROK Corps retreated in confusion to a position in 
     the vicinity of KUNURI, 13 miles from the only crossing area into 
     the I Corps combat zone, before some semblance of order could be 
     restored. Losses in equipment and personnel were large. The 
     collapse on the east flank together with heavy attack on the 1st 
     ROK Division and 8th Cav RCT on the east flank of the I US Corps 
     seriously threatened the only road supplying the I Corps and 
     dictated temporary withdrawal of exposed columns of 24th Inf. Div. on 
     the west, a regrouping of forces, an active defense, a build-up of 
     supplies pending resumption of offensive and advance to the border. 
     By intense effort progress is being made in reorganization and 
     stabilization of II ROK Corps, however, it is at most only fifty 
     percent effective at present. The 2d US Division has been brought 
     up in a position to take over in the event of collapse by ROK 

     There has never been and there is now no intention for this Army to 
     take up or remain on a passive perimeter or any other type of 
     defense. Every effort is being made to retain an adequate 
     bridgehead to facilitate the resumption of the attack as soon as
     conditions permit. All units continue to execute local attacks to  
     restore or improve lines. Plans have been prepared for resumption 
	 of the offensive employing all forces available to the 
     Army to meet the new factor of organized Chinese Communist Forces. 
     These plans will be put into execution at the earliest possible 
     moment and are dependent only upon the security of the right flank, 
     the marshaling of the attack troops and the restoration of vital 
     supplies. In this connection there now exists in the forward areas 
     only one day of fire. Opening of Port of Chinnampo and extension of 
     railroad to Pyongyang is essential to movement of supplies and   
     troops. [6] 

[5] See Appleman, South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, pages 689-708, for detailed account of these actions.

Meanwhile, traces of further Chinese participation in the west faded quickly as the new enemy pulled back into the mountain masses from which he had come.

X Corps and the New Enemy

Across the Taebaek mountain range far to the east of the Eighth Army and completely out of physical contact with Walker's forces, General Almond meantime had landed the rest of his American forces and was preparing to carry out his part of General MacArthur's directive to advance with all possible speed to the border. His plan of advance called for the ROK I Corps to drive up the east coastal road to the northeastern border of Korea. He ordered the U.S. 7th Division, which had landed at Iwon, to drive up the corridor from Pukch'ong through Pungsan and Kapsan to the Yalu River at Hyesanjin. To the U.S. 1st Marine Division, Almond assigned the task of pushing up from Hamhung to the Changjin Reservoir, from where it could either drive north to the border or shift its attack to the west and then north again. The rear areas around Wonsan-Hamhung were to be guarded by the 3d Division, which was en route from Japan after having completed a very brief training period. [7] Until the 3d Division arrived, the 1st Marine Division had the responsibility for securing the Wonsan-Hamhung area and therefore would not be entirely free to concentrate for its advance to the Changjin Reservoir.

It was while moving toward this reservoir that the ROK 26th Regiment had on 25 October found its way blocked by strong Chinese forces at the small village of Sudong. Prisoners taken in the heavy fighting identified the unit opposing the ROK regiment as the CCF 124th Division. The ROK regiment fell back and for the next few days made no headway. But the 7th Marines, U.S. 1st Marine Division, coming up from Hamhung, took over from the ROK unit on 2 November and in a fierce running encounter, marked by the first and last appearance of Chinese tanks in the area, virtually destroyed this Chinese division. The 124th was barely accounted for, however, before the Marines picked up prisoners from a fresh division, the 126th.

It was now quite clear that the eventuality so long discussed by American planners, Communist China's entry on the side of North Korea, was no longer hypothetical. Yet there was great reluctance at Eighth Army and X Corps headquarters, at GHQ in Tokyo, and in Washington to accept this intervention at face value.

[6] Memo, Gen. Walker for Gen. MacArthur, 6 Nov. 50.

[7] War Diary, X Corps, 4 Nov. 50, G-1 Rpt, Notes on Conference Between CG X Corps and Gen. Partridge, CG 5th AF, 4 Nov. 50.

Immediate Effects

The open employment of Chinese units against the United Nations Command in late October and early November caused a swift reversal of plans to reduce support to that command. General Bolte, Department of the Army G-3, had flown to Tokyo on 31 October to confer with MacArthur. On the next day he discussed with General MacArthur, General Wright, and the JSPOG staff the cancellation and reduction of forces to be sent to Korea and the plans for redeployment of forces already there. Even as these officers were talking, the Chinese struck Walker's advancing divisions and hurled them back. From Tokyo Bolte flew to Korea where he conferred with Walker, all corps commanders, and some division commanders. As a result of his observations, General Bolte cabled Washington that he was ". . . convinced that any deferment, cutback, or cancellation of requested units, individuals, or material would be premature." He urged that full support of MacArthur be continued. He pointed out that even the psychological impact of withdrawal or diminution would now adversely affect the command in the field. "Recent reverses-in Eighth Army," Bolte concluded, "require assurances of full support, which I have given them." [8]

Army officials in Washington had anticipated General Bolte's call for reappraisal. Maj. Gen. Robinson E. Duff, acting G-3 during Bolte's absence, immediately replied that action had been started on 3 November to halt the cutback trend. He had recommended to General Collins that all units originally intended for shipment to FEC, but held in the United States when it appeared they would not be needed to finish the job in Korea, be sent at once. He also asked that the planned reduction in United Nations units be called off. [9]

[8] Rad, Gen. Bolte to Gen. Duff, 5 Nov. 50, in G-3, DA files.

[9] Rad, WAR 95938, DA to CG RYCOM (Pass to Bolte), 6 Nov. 50.

Robert A. Lovett, Deputy Secretary of Defense, also noted the new developments with some alarm. He was particularly disturbed by an intelligence report on 1 November which estimated that the Chinese Communists had decided to establish a cordon sanitaire south of the Yalu border. This report, coupled with what Lovett described as "the renewed vigor of the enemy attacks in the border area," caused him to counsel the Joint Chiefs of Staff to reconsider their plans to reduce the number of United Nations units to be sent to Korea. The acting G-3, General Duff, seconded this suggestion, pointing out that "the possible utilization of the enormous manpower of Communist Asia against the United States makes it mandatory at this time to provide General MacArthur with the largest possible United Nations force until the overall situation is better clarified." Duff held that it was now necessary, politically and militarily, to set a pattern for the development and use of the manpower of other friendly world areas, particularly those where manpower was the chief military resource. The United States, Duff felt, could not continue to provide the bulk of anti-Communist manpower for military operations, but ". . . must preserve its technical and scientific resources, its productive capacity, and its trained military leadership." [10]

On 6 November, the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed that the time was no longer propitious for reducing contributions from other nations and set out to amend the steps they had already taken in that direction. They recommended to the Secretary of Defense that, "due to the fluid situation in Korea," action on cutting back United Nations forces be deferred. The Secretary of Defense subsequently passed this recommendation to the Department of State and the move to retrench was halted. [11]

From the Far East Command, the G-1, General Beiderlinden, again demanded replacements. "This theater has been operating throughout hostilities seriously understrength," he charged on 5 November. "The shortage of essential replacements is continuing and reaching critical stage." The current situation made it mandatory that replacement schedules be revised and that substantial numbers of men be shipped at once. General Beiderlinden admitted that it would be difficult to estimate what the losses would be in November and December, but he maintained that the trend was upward to a marked degree. Department of the Army officials were unable to understand, since there was no accompanying explanation, on what basis Beiderlinden was predicting increased battle casualties. When General Brooks, the Department of Army G-1, asked Beiderlinden for an explanation at the next teleconference, it became apparent from the reply that Beiderlinden had accepted Chinese Communist intervention as a proven fact and that he expected the worst. He pointed out that battle casualties had risen from 40 per day in October to 326 per day in the first week of November and that this upward swing was no flash in the pan. He based his theory on a number of disturbing considerations, and felt that the United Nations Command faced a situation as dangerous as that of the Pusan Perimeter. He noted that the new enemy would be better trained and equipped than the North Koreans, and that the fighting would be carried on in bitter winter weather. Furthermore, the Eighth Army was already experiencing transportation, supply, and evacuation difficulties which would multiply; combat divisions were understrength; periods which the individual soldier must spend in combat would probably increase; and there had already been a great drop in morale among combat men at the prospect of continued heavy fighting. [12]

[10] (1) Memo, Robert A. Lovett, Dep. Secy. Defense for JCS, 4 Nov. 50, sub: Reduction in Forces to be Deployed in Korea. (2) Memo G-3 (Duff) for CofS, USA, 6 Nov. 50, sub: Utilization of U.N. Ground Forces Contingents, in G-3, DA file 091 Korea, Cases 111/8, 111/10.

[11] (1) Decision on JCS 1776/152, 6 Nov. 50. (2) Ltr., Secy. Defense to Secy. State, 16 Nov. 50, in G-3, DA file 091 Korea, Cases 111/8, 111/2.

[12] (1) Rad, CX 68300, CINCFE: to DA, 5 Nov. 50. (2) Telecon, TT 3982, DA and GHQ (Brooks and Beiderlinden), 7 Nov. 50.

At a higher level, General MacArthur on 7 November appealed to the Joint Chief of Staff for more combat strength. He told them that the appearance of the Chinese Communist forces in strength had completely changed the over-all situation and asked that all previous plans for sending men and units to his command be put into full effect immediately. Holding that it was essential for the replacement flow to his theater to be resumed at full force, MacArthur asked also that all Army combat and service units previously requested be sent without delay. He could not say at that date whether more Army, Air Force, and Navy units than had already been asked for would be required, but he was certain "that the full requirement for balanced forces as stated during the earlier phases of the campaign must now be met with possible appreciable augmentation thereof." "The alternatives," General MacArthur warned, "are either a stalemate or the prospect of losing all that has thus far been gained." [13]

Department of Army officials had already taken action to send 40,000 replacements to the Far East in November and December, and it was estimated that all units in the Far East would be up to strength by March 1951. With regard to the additional units, 112 combat and service units of various types had been recommended for shipment to the Far East, although shipment of 92 of these was contingent upon approval to send civilian component units overseas. On 16 November, the Chief of Staff told the United Nations commander that steps to fulfill his needs were being taken. "In view of the gravity of the current situation," Collins said, ". . . the flow of Army replacements has been resumed at an increased rate and you will be informed earliest of the combat and service type units alerted for movement to your command." [14]

One interesting outgrowth of the Chinese intervention was the effect on personnel policy in the Far East with respect to the ROK soldiers who had been integrated into American units in September. The Far East Command had established a policy during the period of October optimism of releasing South Korean soldiers to ROK Army control as American replacements arrived to take their places. As of 7 November, over 8,000 of these Korean soldiers had been released from Eighth Army's units. On that date, however, the practice was suspended because of the new threat, and more than 20,000 Koreans remained in American divisions. [15]

[13] Rad, CINCFE to DA, 7 Nov. 50.

[14] (1) Memo, Bolte for CofS USA, 10 Nov. 50, sub: Regarding CCF in Korea, in G-3, DA file 091 Korea, Case 14/42. (2) Rad, WAR 96672, DA (Collins) to CINCFE, 16 Nov. 50.

[15] Telecon, TT 3992, DA (Brooks) and GHQ (Beiderlinden), 9 Nov. 50.

A Time for Reappraisal

One of the first intelligence reports on the Chinese intervention to reach Washington was that of General Willoughby, who revealed on 2 November that 16,500 Chinese Communist soldiers had entered North Korea. The Chinese Communist government reputedly was labeling these troops "volunteers." The Sinuiju radio had announced that these troops formed the "Volunteer Corps for the Protection of the Hydroelectric Zone" and had entered Korea expressly to prevent the destruction of hydroelectric facilities along the Yalu. General Willoughby admitted that the increasing resistance being met by MacArthur's forces had removed the problem of Chinese intervention from the realm of the academic and turned it into "a serious proximate threat." He was puzzled by the Chinese device of committing "volunteers" in "special units" instead of in regular organized regiments of the Chinese Communist Army. He speculated that the Chinese, who he acknowledged were extremely subtle and obsessed with "saving face," might be doing this in order to have their cake and eat it too. By labeling their troops "volunteers" and claiming that no recognized units of their army were in Korea, the Chinese would avoid the appearance of intervention. Nor would they involve the prestige of the Chinese Communist Army if defeated. On the other hand, by furnishing troops to North Korea, China could claim credit for helping North Korea in its hour of need. MacArthur's intelligence chief concluded by warning:

     Although indications so far point to piecemeal commitment for 
     ostensible limited purposes only, it is important not to lose sight 
     of the maximum potential that is immediately available to the 
     Chinese Communists. Should the high level decision for full 
     intervention be made by the Chinese Communists, they could promptly 
     commit 29 of their 44 divisions presently deployed along the Yalu 
     and support a major attack with up to 15O aircraft. [16] 

On the same day, 2 November, the American Consul General in Hong Kong sent Washington a report that in August, at a conference of top Sino-Soviet leaders, a joint decision had been made that Communist China would enter the Korean War. According to his report, the formal decision had come on 24 October at a meeting presided over by Premier Mao Tse-tung. An estimated twenty Chinese Communist armies had been sent to Manchuria. [17]

On the next day, Willoughby reported 316,000 regular Chinese ground forces and 274,000 Chinese irregulars, or security forces, in Manchuria. Most of the regulars were believed to be along the Yalu at numerous crossing sites. [18]

These disclosures had an extremely ominous ring and, coupled with the news of the withdrawal of Eighth Army before Chinese forces already in Korea, caused the Joint Chiefs of Staff to call on General MacArthur for an evaluation. They requested his earliest "interim appreciation of the situation in Korea and its implications in light of what appears to be overt intervention by Chinese Communist units." [19]

MacArthur's reply scarcely enlightened them. He told them, "It is impossible at this time to authoritatively appraise the actualities of Chinese Communist intervention in North Korea." MacArthur posed four courses of action which the Chinese Communists might be following. The first was open intervention with full force and without restraint; the second possibility, covert intervention concealed for diplomatic reasons; the third course might be the use of "volunteers" to keep a foothold in Korea; the fourth, Chinese forces might have entered Korea assuming they would meet only ROK units which they could defeat without great difficulty. [20]

[16] Telecon, TT 3968, G-2 DA (Bolling) with G-2 FEC (Willoughby), 2 Nov. 50.

[17] Intelligence Rpt, 2 Nov. 50, in G-2, DA files.

[18] Telecon, TT 3971, DA and GHQ UNC, 3 Nov. 50.

[19] Rad, WAR 95790, CSUSA to CINCFE, 3 Nov. 50.

[20] Rad, C 68285, CINCFE to DA for CSUSA for JCS, 4 Nov. 50,

Full intervention, according to General MacArthur, would represent a "momentous decision of the gravest international importance." "While it is a distinct possibility," he told the JCS, "and many foreign experts predict such action, there are many fundamental logical reasons against it and sufficient evidence has not yet come to hand to warrant its immediate acceptance." Although he made no definite prediction, MacArthur felt that a combination of the last three courses of action by the Chinese were, at the moment, the most likely. In a cautious mood, he told the Joint Chiefs, "I recommend against hasty conclusions which might be premature and believe that a final appraisement should await a more complete accumulation of military facts." Nothing in the tone or content of General MacArthur's report implied that an emergency existed or that the situation even showed signs of getting out of hand. His report was, in a sense, reassuring. [21]

On the same day that General MacArthur sent this appraisal to Washington, the Chinese Communist government in an official statement charged that the United States was bent on conquering not only Korea but also China, as "the Japanese imperialists have done in the past." The statement, possibly made to prepare the Chinese people for further moves in Korea, claimed that in order to protect China, Chinese military forces must now assist North Korea. [22]

Chinese troops had crossed and were continuing to cross into North Korea over a number of international bridges leading in from Manchuria. By 3 November, General MacArthur's headquarters accepted the possibility that 34,000 Chinese had entered Korea and that 415,000 regular troops were located in Manchuria, ready to cross if ordered. Two days later, General Willoughby warned that the Chinese Communist forces had the potential to launch a large-scale counteroffensive at any time. [23]

The appearance of Chinese military formations in Korea, and evidence that these forces were being augmented rapidly, caused MacArthur to call for an all-out air effort to smash them. On 5 November, he directed General Stratemeyer to throw the full power of the Far East Air Forces into a 2-week effort to knock the North Koreans and their new allies out of the war. "Combat crews," he ordered, "are to be flown to exhaustion if necessary." He instructed Stratemeyer to destroy the Korean ends of all international bridges on the Manchurian border. From the Yalu southward, and excluding only Rashin, the Suiho Dam, and other hydroelectric plants, the Far East Air Forces would "destroy every means of communication and every installation, factory, city, and village." MacArthur warned that there must be no border violations and that all targets close to or on the border must be attacked only under visual bombing conditions. [24]

[21] Ibid.

[22] Telecon, TT 3975, DA and GHQ, UNC, 5 Nov. 50.

[23] DIS GHQ, FEC UNC, No. 2977, 3 Nov. 50 and No. 2979, 5 Nov. 50.

[24] USAF Hist. Study No. 72, United States Air Force Operations in the Korean Conflict, 1 November 1950-30 June 1952, ch. 1, p. 22.

On 6 November, General MacArthur notified Army authorities that he intended to have his B-29's take out immediately the international bridges across the Yalu between Sinuiju and An-tung. He hoped, by destroying these bridges, to prevent or at least slow down the flow of Chinese military strength into Korea. MacArthur conveyed this information to Washington in a routine manner during a teleconference with the Army staff at the Pentagon. [25]

Had this matter been handled routinely by the Army staff and merely reported through channels, the mission might have been well under way before the nation's leaders learned of MacArthur's intentions. However, General Stratemeyer, apparently feeling that his chief's decision held more than passing interest, sent to Air Force authorities in Washington a message describing his orders from MacArthur. Within minutes, Under Secretary of Defense Lovett had been informed and the fat was in the fire. [26]

Lovett doubted very seriously that the advantage of bombing the Sinuiju-An-tung bridges would offset the great danger of bombing Chinese territory. He went at once to discuss the problem with Secretary of State Acheson and with the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, Dean Rusk. The latter pointed out that the United States had promised the British Government not to take action which might involve attacks on Manchuria without consulting the British. Also, the United States was even then taking steps to have the Security Council pass a resolution calling on the Chinese to halt action in Korea, a resolution that surely would be jeopardized if bombs fell in Manchuria. Rusk was concerned, too, over possible Soviet reaction if China should invoke the mutual-assistance treaty with the Soviet Union.

Acheson and Lovett agreed that MacArthur's attack should be held up until the Korean situation became much clearer, particularly in view of Rusk's comments. Lovett then called Secretary Marshall and informed him of the details. Marshall agreed that unless a mass movement across the Yalu was threatening the security of MacArthur's forces, the planned bombing was unwise. Lovett then directed the Air Force Secretary Thomas K. Finletter, to tell the JCS of the feeling at State and Defense that the action by MacArthur should await a decision from the President himself. As a final step, Acheson called the President who was in Independence, Missouri. President Truman stated that he would approve this bombing only if there was an immediate and serious threat to MacArthur's forces.

Since MacArthur had reported no such threat and, indeed, only two days before had cautioned Washington against precipitate judgment and had recommended a wait-and-see attitude, the puzzlement of Mr. Truman and his chief advisers was natural. The President directed that the attack be put off and that MacArthur be asked to explain why he found this potentially dangerous action suddenly so necessary.

[25] Telecon, TT 3976, DA and GHQ, UNC, 6 Nov. 50.

[26] Truman, Memoirs, II, 374

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, acting on the President's instructions, immediately directed MacArthur to call off until further orders any bombing of the international bridges. "Consideration is being urgently given to the Korean situation at the governmental level," they told him.

     One factor is the present commitment not to take action affecting 
     Manchuria without consulting the British. Until further orders 
     postpone all bombing of targets within five miles of the Manchurian 
     border. Urgently need your estimate of the situation and the reason 
     for ordering bombing of Yalu River bridges as indicated. [27] 

This order from Washington brought from General MacArthur an immediate protest couched in strong terms which portrayed the situation in Korea in the most pessimistic vein since July and August. He warned on 6 November that "men and materiel in large forces are pouring across all bridges over the Yalu from Manchuria," and, for the first time since Chinese entry had become evident, admitted that the situation was serious. "This movement not only jeopardizes but threatens the ultimate destruction of the forces under my command." He described for them how the Chinese were moving across the bridges under cover of darkness. Chinese troops could be committed without being attacked effectively by air because of the short distances from the river to the front lines. "The only way to stop this reinforcement of the enemy is the destruction of these bridges and the subjection of all installations in the north area supporting the enemy advance to the maximum of our air destruction," General MacArthur declared. "Every hour that this is postponed will be paid for dearly in American and other United Nations blood." He had intended hitting the main crossing at Sinuiju within the next few hours but in accordance with the Joint Chiefs's order had suspended the strike "under the gravest protest that I can make." He pointed out that his original order to bomb the bridges was, in his opinion, entirely within the scope of his directives, the rules of war, and the resolution made by the United Nations. It constituted to him no slightest act of belligerency against Chinese territory.

It is interesting to note MacArthur's reference to the resolution of the United Nations since he received his operating instructions and directives from the very quarter at which he was lodging his protest, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The resolutions of the United Nations were merely guides which the United States Government, as the Unified Command under the United Nations, used in determining the specific policies for the United Nations Command in Korea. General MacArthur seemed sure that the Joint Chiefs did not realize the disastrous effect, both physical and psychological, that would result from the restrictions they were imposing. In an extraordinary request, he asked that President Truman be informed of the restriction, saying, "I believe that your instructions may well result in a calamity of major proportion for which I cannot accept the responsibility without his personal and direct understanding of the situation." He concluded by asking immediate reconsideration of the decision. [28]

[27] (1) Rad, JCS 95878, JCS (Personal) for MacArthur, 6 Nov. 50. (2) This series of actions reveals clearly the speed with which important decisions could be taken and the "streamlining" of the normal policy-making methods. Stratemeyer's message had been received in Washington about three and one-half hours before his planes were scheduled to take off on their missions. In the interim every appropriate official within the Defense and State Departments had been consulted and the Presidential decision based on their advice had been reached. The JCS had sent out the order to MacArthur only an hour and twenty minutes before the B-29's were scheduled to take off from Japan. See Truman, Memoirs, II, 374-75.

[28] Rad, C 68396, CINCFE to DA (for JCS), 6 Nov. 50. That MacArthur did not fully understand the mechanical procedures by which the instructions he received were evolved in Washington is evident. He seems to have assumed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had ordered a halt to his planned attack without Presidential backing.

The sense of grim urgency conveyed by MacArthur's protest and his accompanying picture of a sudden, mammoth build-up of Chinese Communist forces in Korea surprised Washington. General Bradley called the President and read to him MacArthur's message. Still concerned over the dangers of bombing Manchuria by mistake, Mr. Truman nevertheless agreed to let MacArthur go ahead with his plans. President Truman, because MacArthur was on the scene and felt very strongly that this was of unusual urgency, told Bradley to give him the green light. [29]

Nevertheless, it was evident that both Truman and the military planners in Washington were gravely concerned by the tone of MacArthur's protest. The Joint Chiefs of Staff told MacArthur in an immediate reply that the situation he now depicted had changed considerably from that described in his last report of 4 November. They agreed that destruction of the bridges in question would probably alleviate the immediate problem but that the cure might be worse than the ailment. It might well bring increased Chinese Communist effort and even Soviet contributions in response to what the Communists might construe as an attack on Manchuria. Not only would this endanger MacArthur's forces, it would enlarge the area of conflict and American involvement to a dangerous degree. [30]

But in view of the apparent emergency, with men and materiel pouring across the Yalu bridges, the Joint Chiefs of Staff told MacArthur that he could bomb these bridges but with certain restrictions. ". . . you are authorized to go ahead with your planned bombing in Korea near the frontier including targets at Sinuiju and Korean end of the Yalu bridges." This did not mean, General MacArthur was cautioned, carte blanche to bomb any dams or power plants on the Yalu River. The Joint Chiefs expressed deep concern that careless action by the United Nations Command near the Yalu might trigger a crisis which would cause the fighting to spread. They specifically warned MacArthur on this, urging him to enforce extreme care to avoid Manchurian territory and airspace and to tell them promptly of any hostile action from Manchuria. They chided him obliquely for being lax in reporting new developments, prompted no doubt by the great discrepancy between his description of the situation on 4 November and that of 6 November. Certainly the routine and special reports from his command had not indicated so great a change in the Chinese Communist situation as appeared to have actually taken place. "It is essential," the Joint Chiefs maintained, "that we be kept informed of important changes in the situation as they occur and that your estimate as requested . . . be submitted as soon as possible." [31]

American intelligence agencies had been busy, meanwhile, preparing the best possible estimate of Chinese intentions based on the pooled information from all

[29] Truman, Memoirs, II, 376.

[30] Rad, JCS 95949, JCS to CINCFE, 6 Nov. 50.

[31] Ibid.

American intelligence agencies had been busy, meanwhile, preparing the best possible estimate of Chinese intentions based on the pooled information from all their sources. This estimate was furnished all high-level planning and policy groups, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the same day General MacArthur's pessimistic report arrived. The estimate concluded that between 30,000 and 40,000 Chinese were now in North Korea and that as many as 700,000 men, including 350,000 ground troops could be sent into Korea to fight against the United Nations forces. These Chinese forces would be capable of halting the United Nations advance by piecemeal commitment or, by a powerful all-out offensive, forcing the United Nations to withdraw to defensive positions farther south. The report concluded with a significant warning:

     A likely and logical development of the present situation is that 
     the opposing sides will build up their combat power in successive 
     increments to checkmate the other until forces of major magnitude 
     are involved. At any point the danger is present that the situation 
     may get out of control and lead to a general war. [32] 

This chilling prognosis was followed at once by another report from the United Nations commander. He confirmed that the Chinese threat was a real and developing one. That Chinese forces were engaging his troops was unquestionable although their exact strength was difficult for his commanders to determine. They were strong enough to have seized the initiative from Walker's forces in the west and to have materially slowed Almond's advances in the east. "The principle seems thoroughly established," General MacArthur declared, "that such forces will be used and augmented at will, probably without any formal declaration of hostilities." He emphasized that if the Chinese augmentation continued it could force the United Nations Command to perform a "movement in retrograde." But he affirmed his intentions to resume his advance in the west, possibly within ten days, and to try to seize the initiative, provided the enemy flow of reinforcements could be checked. In his first reference to what he later termed a "reconnaissance in force," General MacArthur told the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Only through such an offensive effort can any accurate measure be taken of enemy strength." [33]

Once again he reiterated his conviction that the bridges had to be bombed "as the only resource left to me to prevent a potential build-up of enemy strength to a point threatening the safety of the command." This bombing was, in his eyes, so plainly defensive that he could hardly conceive of its causing increased intervention or provoking a general war, as the Joint Chiefs had intimated it might do. He promised that there would be no violation of the Manchurian or Siberian borders and that he would not destroy the hydroelectric installations along the Yalu. [34]

[32] Intelligence Estimate, 6 Nov. 50, sub: Chinese Communist Intervention in Korea, in G-2, DA files.

[33] Rad, C 68465, CINCFE to DA for JCS, 7 Nov. 50.

[34] Ibid.

Twelve railroad and highway bridges spanned the Yalu and Tumen Rivers from Manchuria and Russia into Korea. The most important of these were the rail and highway bridges at Sinuiju and An-tung. These bridges were 3,000 feet long and very sturdy. The highway bridge at Sinuiju had been built in 1900 by the American Bridge Company and perhaps equaled in strength any in the world. Despite the swift current, winter ice, and spring floods, the builders had laid the foundations on bedrock. The Japanese had built an equally sturdy double-track rail bridge of twelve trusses in 1934, 350 yards north of the highway bridge. It was the largest rail bridge ever built by the Japanese. [35] Near Sakchu a double-track railway bridge spanned the Yalu, while at Manptojin both a rail and footbridge crossed the river. Other highway bridges were located at Ongondong, Ch'ongsongjin, Lin-chiang, Hyesanjin, Samanko, and Hoeryong.

As authorized by the President, MacArthur sent his bombers, starting on 8 November, against the bridges at Sinuiju, Sakchu, Ch'ongsongjin, Manp'ojin, and Hyesanjin. But bombing the Yalu River bridges involved almost insurmountable difficulties. Antiaircraft fire from Manchuria forced the bombers above 20,000 feet, and enemy jet fighters threatened them on their bomb runs. MacArthur's orders positively forbidding any violation of Manchurian airspace severely limited the possible axes of approach to the bridges and permitted enemy antiaircraft artillery to zero in on the flight path of the bombers. Also, the provision that the bridges could be attacked only under visual bombing conditions meant that any cloud cover at the target diverted the bombers to secondary or last-resort objectives.

On 12 November, carrier-based Navy bombers joined in the effort to destroy the bridges. All during November, the aerial attacks against the bridges continued but the results were disappointing. By the end of the month, the air effort had succeeded, at great cost, in cutting four of the international bridges and in damaging most of the others. But by this time the Yalu was frozen over in many places and enemy engineers were building pontoon bridges across the Yalu at critical points. On 5 December, the bridge attacks were suspended. [36]

[35] (1) DA WIR No. 91, 17 Nov. 50, p. 38, NK Border Crossings. (2) FEC Intelligence Digest, vol. 1, No. 13, 16-30 June 1953, p. 26.

[36] (1) USAF Hist. Study No. 72, U.S. Air Force Operations in the Korean Conflict, 1 November 50-30 June 1952, ch. 1, pp. 27-31. (2) Maj. Gen. Emmett "Rosie" O'Donnell, Commander, FEAF Bomber Command, during the period in question, testified before the Senate committee investigating General MacArthur's relief to the difficulty of destroying the Yalu bridges in November 1950. General O'Donnell said, "We were not, however, allowed to violate Manchurian territory, and by violation of territory I mean we were not allowed to fly over an inch of it. For instance, the Yalu has several very pronounced bends like most rivers before getting to the town of Antung, and the main bridges at Antung we had to attack in only one manner. There was only one manner you could attack the bridge and not violate Manchurian territory, and that was a course tangential to the southernmost bend of the river. So you draw a line from the southernmost bend of the river to the bridge and that is your course, and these people on the other side of the river knew that, and they put up their batteries right along the line and they peppered us right down the line all the way.... In addition to that, they had their fighters come up along side; while I didn't see them myself, the combat mission reports indicate that they would join our formation about 2 miles to the lee and fly along at the same speed on the other side of the river while we were making our approach, and just before we got to bombs-away position, they would veer off to the north and climb up to about 30,000 feet and then make a frontal quarter attack on the bombers just about at the time of bombs-away in a turn. So that they would be coming from Manchuria in a turn, swoop down, fire their cannon at the formation, and continue the turn back into sanctuary-and the boys didn't like it." See MacArthur Hearings, pp. 3069-70.

The Sanctuary and Hot Pursuit

On at least three separate occasions, American pilots, through error, had previously violated their instructions and attacked targets in Manchuria and Siberia. Although the U.S. Air Force attributed these incursions upon neutral territory to pilot and navigational error, these incidents, regardless of their cause, were serious matters. It was entirely possible that either China or Russia could have used the incidents as an excuse for expanding the war or for retaliating in other forms. [37] Indeed, after mid-August, Chinese antiaircraft batteries in Manchuria fired at U.N. aircraft flying south of the Yalu. By late October one American plane had been shot down and another damaged. [38]

The Department of State had been particularly apprehensive lest further such encroachments should provide the Russians or Chinese a semblance of justification for overt attacks against the United States. In a series of pointed questions addressed to the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State had asked whether it was necessary for American air and naval forces to operate along the North Korean border and whether the Joint Chiefs should not caution MacArthur against such operations. Secretary Marshall had requested advice from the Joint Chiefs. The Joint Chiefs, who had already instructed General MacArthur on the matter of border violations, felt that MacArthur was fully aware of the necessity for avoiding such incidents and that they could not curtail his mission. Consequently, on 1 November, the Joint Chiefs told the Secretary of Defense, "The need for air interdiction operations in areas contiguous to the international boundaries of Korea is sufficient justification for not further delimiting air operations." They pointed out that it appeared to them that all United Nations forces would be required to operate clear up to the international boundaries of Korea. "Therefore," they said, "it is not considered desirable from the military point of view, to deny these ground troops air and naval support in these areas, nor would acceptance of the loss of life entailed by such denial be justified." [39]

The efforts to bomb out the international bridges brought the question into sharp focus. The sorties against these bridges continued to be strongly opposed. Russian-built jet aircraft, later identified as MIG-15's presumably piloted by Chinese pilots, had been encountered by American pilots in the area since 1 November, when one such aircraft made a non-firing pass at a U.N. plane; and when the U.N. air force undertook the bombing of the Yalu bridges on 8 November the enemy jet pilots attacked in earnest. One MIG was sent down in flames on the first day of the attacks.

[37] USAF Hist. Study No 72, ch. 5, pp. 80-81.

[38] Rad, CX 68001, CINCFE to DA, 28 Oct. 50.

[39] (1) Memo, Ch. Intnl. Br., G-3, for Gen. Schuyler, sub: Delimitation of Air Opns Along the Northern Border of Korea, JSPC 853/60. (2) JCS 2150/9, Incl A, Memo, JCS for Secy. Defense, 1 Nov. 50, in G-3 DA file 091 Korea, Case 115.

The enemy jets did not stray far from the Manchurian border, and since American planes were forbidden to cross, enemy pilots enjoyed an almost insurmountable advantage. They could break off combat whenever things got too hot for them and dash across the border to safety. American Air Force commanders naturally complained to General MacArthur about the protection afforded enemy pilots by their Manchurian sanctuary.

MacArthur had already sought help. "Hostile planes are operating from bases west of the Yalu River against our forces in North Korea," General MacArthur informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 7 November. These planes were increasing in number; and the distance from the Yalu to the main line of contact was so short that it was almost impossible to deal effectively with the hit-and-run tactics that enemy pilots were employing. "The present restrictions imposed on my area of operation," MacArthur asserted, "provide a complete sanctuary for hostile air immediately upon their crossing the Manchurian-North Korean border. The effect of this abnormal condition upon the morale and combat efficiency of both air and ground troops is major." General MacArthur predicted that unless corrective measures were promptly taken the air problem could assume serious proportions, and asked for instructions for dealing with this new and threatening development. [40] He did not, it should be noted, ask specifically for permission to bomb Manchurian air bases or to follow enemy planes across the border.

The Joint Chiefs could not tell MacArthur to send his fighter planes into Manchuria after the fleeing Chinese pilots. All they could do was push the matter with their superiors, and in an immediate reply to the United Nations commander they told him that "urgent necessity for corrective measures" was being presented for highest United States-level consideration. [41]

Meanwhile, other member nations of the United Nations had noted the situation growing out of Chinese intervention and American border violations with mounting alarm. The French Government made two proposals designed to reassure the Chinese that the United Nations Command meant to respect their territory. The French first proposed that the United Nations General Assembly should publicly call upon the United Nations Command to refrain from bombing the Yalu River power installations "except the military necessity arises." The second proposal was in the form of a resolution to be passed by the General Assembly which would assure the Chinese that the United Nations Command considered the Chinese border "inviolate." The Joint Chiefs had no objection to the first French proposal since General MacArthur had already assured them he did not intend to bomb the power installations. Besides, the phrase "military necessity" was extremely elastic. But they considered the second French resolution wholly unacceptable because the term "inviolate" would convey an impression to the Chinese that the United Nations would not, under any conditions, trespass beyond the border, whereas there was no guarantee that the United States might not have to operate across the Chinese frontier even before the General Assembly had a chance to adopt the French-sponsored resolution. [42]

[40] Rad, CS 68411, CINCFE to DA for JCS, 7 Nov. 50.

[41] Rad, CX 95978, JCS to CINCFE, 7 Nov. so.

On 10 November, the Secretary of Defense transmitted to the Secretary of State the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the French proposals for resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly. Marshall agreed with the State Department view that some form of reassurances to the Chinese Communists was called for. "I believe it should be made clear," he told Mr. Acheson, "that a sanctuary for attacking Chinese aircraft is not explicitly or implicitly affirmed by an United Nations action." [43]

A draft resolution calling for withdrawal of the Chinese forces from Korea and sponsored by six nations of the United Nations, including France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, was placed before the Security Council of the United Nations on 10 November. This draft resolution assured the Chinese that ". . . it is the policy of the United Nations to hold the Chinese frontier with Korea inviolate and fully to protect legitimate Chinese and Korean interests in the frontier zone...." (Department of Defense objections to the term "inviolate" obviously were unavailing.) But this measure was never passed by the Security Council since the representative of the Soviet Union exercised his power of veto against it. [44]

On 16 November, President Truman also attempted to reassure the Chinese Communist government that the United Nations Command had no designs on its borders and, further, that the United States desired no expansion of the war. In a public announcement, he took note of the resolution then under consideration by the Security Council, affirmed American support of this resolution, and declared that "Speaking for the United States Government and people, I can give assurance that we support and are acting within the limits of United Nations policy in Korea, and that we have never at any time entertained any intention to carry hostilities into China." [46]

[42] Memo, Actg. ACofS G-3 (Duff) for CofS USA (Collins), 10 Nov. 50, sub: Resolutions in the U.N. to Provide Certain Assurances to the Chinese Communists, JCS 1776/157, Include to Decision on JCS 1776/157, in G-3, DA file 091 Korea, Case 14/39.

[43] Ibid.

[44] U.N. Doc. S/1894, Joint Resolution of the Security Council, 10 Nov. 50, contained in Department of State Publication 4263, United States Policy in the Korean Conflict, July 1950-February 1951, Doc. 13.

[45] Statement, President Harry S. Truman, 16 Nov. 50, quoted in Department of State Publication No, 4263, Doc. 14,

Chinese aircraft operating out of bases in Manchuria meantime attacked MacArthur's planes with increasing intensity. By mid-November, large groups of Communist jet aircraft were ranging across the border to intercept U.N. fliers. The Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed with General MacArthur that this should be stopped and proposed corrective action. They favored the removal of as many restrictions on U.N. air operations as would allow MacArthur's airmen to pursue enemy attackers six or eight miles across the Manchurian border. This would greatly reduce the Communist fliers' advantage of being able to attack and escape without suffering effective retaliation. Secretary Marshall approved this scheme and later testified that his views were shared by Secretary Acheson and President Truman. But these American authorities were reluctant for the United States to take the initiative in giving MacArthur permission to enter Manchurian airspace. To do so without consulting other nations whose forces were in Korea would be viewed by those nations, it was believed, as unilateral American action and might well cause a rift between the United States and its allies. [46]

Secretary Acheson, in mid-November, instructed his ambassadors in certain key nations to sound out their attitude toward "hot pursuit," as the issue was termed, of Chinese aircraft into Manchuria. The reaction was unanimously against any such action by the United Nations Command. Typical was the attitude of one nation whose official spokesman expressed the fear that "United States unilateral action in this regard would afford a basis to the Soviet charge that the United Nations is only a front for the United States." One American ambassador after interviewing the officials of the country to which he was accredited stated that he firmly believed that the Atlantic Pact nations would disassociate themselves from such American action as being unilateral and without United Nations endorsement. As a result, the United States shelved the idea of carrying the air war into Manchuria. [47]

The Mission Is Re-examined

The Joint Chiefs of Staff meanwhile reacted cautiously to the mounting evidence of Chinese intervention. After examining intelligence from the theater and other sources, they informed General MacArthur that the eventuality anticipated in their instructions to him of 27 September, "entry into North Korea by major . . . Chinese forces," appeared to have arrived. At least the introduction of Chinese forces to the extent reported by him would so signify. "We believe therefore," they warned him, "that this new situation indicates your objectives as stated in that message, 'the destruction of the North Korean armed forces,' may have to be re-examined." [48] A change of mission in the face of Chinese pressure could mean abandoning the drive to the Yalu, going on the defensive, and consolidating the ground seized since Inch'on.

But MacArthur was of no mind to abandon his drive to the Yalu. Protesting to the Joint Chiefs against any re-examination of his mission, MacArthur pointed out that their instructions to him on 10 October had exactly defined his course of action in this present situation. They had told him, in the event of the open or covert employment anywhere in Korea of major Chinese Communist units without prior announcement, to continue the action as long as in his judgment his forces had a reasonable chance of success. [49]

[46] All of the following are in the MacArthur Hearings: Testimony of General Marshall, p. 329, 1912; Testimony of General Vandenberg, p. 1410; Testimony of Secretary Acheson, p. 1723.

[47] JCS 2150/10, Note by the Secys. to the JCS, sub: Reactions to Proposal to Permit U.N. Aircraft to Pursue Attacking Enemy Aircraft into Manchuria, 4 Dec. 50, in G-3, DA file 091 Korea, Case 115/5.

[48] Rad. JCS 96060, JCS to CINCFE, 8 Nov. 50.

[49] Rad, C 68572, CINCFE to DA for JCS, sgd MacArthur, 9 Nov. 50.

MacArthur rejected completely any course of action short of his original intentions. "In my opinion it would be fatal to weaken the fundamental and basic policy of the United Nations to destroy all resisting armed forces in Korea and bring that country into a united and free nation," he charged. General MacArthur proclaimed his faith in the effectiveness of air interdiction by telling the Joint Chiefs that he could, with his air power, keep the number of Chinese reinforcements crossing the Yalu low enough to enable him to destroy those Chinese already in Korea. He meant to launch his attack to destroy those forces about 15 November and to keep going until he reached the border. "Any program short of this," he explained:

     would completely destroy the morale of my forces and its 
     psychological consequence would be inestimable. It would condemn us 
     to an indefinite retention of our military forces along difficult 
     defense lines in North Korea and would unquestionably arouse such 
     resentment among the South Koreans that their forces would collapse 
     or might even turn against us. 

He charged that anyone who hoped that the Chinese, once they had succeeded in establishing themselves in North Korea, would abide by any agreement not to move southward would be indulging in wishful thinking at its very worst. [50]

The Joint Chiefs had told MacArthur that consultation with the British Government on any new course of action against China was an integral part of American policy. In an unusually vehement burst of impatience, MacArthur directed a scathing comment at what he termed, "The widely reported British desire to appease the Chinese Communist by giving them a strip of Northern Korea," and cited British action at Munich in 1938 as historic precedent for their present attitude. [51] He went further and referred to a State Department criticism of the British appeasement of Hitler to lend emphasis to his statement. He charged that any such appeasement of the Communists carried the germs of ultimate destruction for the United Nations. "To give up any portion of North Korea to the aggression of the Chinese Communists," General MacArthur declared, "would be the greatest defeat of the free world in recent times. Indeed, to yield to so immoral a proposition would bankrupt our leadership and influence in Asia and render untenable our position both politically and militarily." MacArthur asserted that by moving to halt his forces short of the Yalu River American authorities "would follow clearly in the footsteps of the British who by the appeasement of recognition lost the respect of all the rest of Asia without gaining that of the Chinese segment." [52]

[50] Ibid.

[51] A current news report had stated that Mr. Bevin favored a buffer zone south of the Yalu. Dr. Pannikar recalls that in mid-November Mr. Bevin sent a message through his minister in Peiping to be conveyed to Chou En-lai or the highest accessible Chinese official. Pannikar says of this message to which he apparently was given access, "It was a strange communication, an elucidation of the objectives of the United Nations in Korea, an assurance from Britain that Chinese boundaries would be respected.... when Hutchinson [the British Minister] discussed the matter with me I frankly told him that I doubted whether the Chinese would look at any proposal which did not include an offer of direct negotiations of the whole issue with them; and that I considered that the idea of Britain assuring China of the inviolability of her boundaries was patronizing, to say the least." See Pannikar, In Two Chinas: The Memoirs of a Diplomat, pp. 114-15.

[52] Rad, C 68572, CINCFE to DA for JCS, sgd MacArthur, 9 Nov. 50.

After elaborating his point, General MacArthur said that he believed that the United States should press the United Nations for a resolution condemning the Chinese Communists and calling upon them to "withdraw forthwith to positions north of the international border on pain of military sanctions by the United Nations should they fail to do so." He ended his protest on a note of confidence as he told the Joint Chiefs of Staff that complete victory could be achieved if "our determination and indomitable will do not desert us." [58]

Despite the optimism implicit in General MacArthur's protest that his mission should remain unchanged, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were not cheered. His protest merely underscored the critical need for a firm course of action to meet the Chinese interference in Korea. President Truman directed the National Security Council to meet on 9 November to consider on an urgent basis what the national policy should be toward Chinese Communist participation. The Joint Chiefs had been instructed to furnish their views on what should be done. It will be recalled that the national policy agreed upon in September had provided that in the case of Chinese Communist intervention the United States should attempt to localize the action in Korea and thereby avoid a general war. A second position, but one that had only tentative approval for use as a planning guide, stated, in substance, that United Nations forces would continue the action so long as such action had a reasonable chance of success, and that the United Nations commander should be authorized to take appropriate air and naval action outside Korea against Communist China. [54]

As of 8 November, however, no firmly established set of instructions outlining detailed measures against Chinese Communist intervention, regardless of degree, had been agreed upon by the nation's leaders. That was the task which faced them as MacArthur, heartened by the dwindling evidence of Chinese participation after the first week of November, demanded to be allowed to continue his original line of action in Korea.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff on 9 November forwarded to the Secretary of Defense for the National Security Council a lengthy analysis containing their view on the significance of the Chinese intervention and some suggestions on what the United States should do about it. Without accepting the theory that the Chinese troops in Korea were volunteers, the Joint Chiefs expressed the opinion that such a view was feasible in the event that the Chinese merely wanted to gain time for the defeated and disorganized remnants of the North Korean Army. But they pointed out that intelligence reports did not back up this theory, since they showed that Chinese Communist soldiers were entering Korea both as individuals and in well-organized, well-led, and well-equipped units, probably of division size. [56]

[53] Ibid.

[54] Memo, ACofS S3 (Bolte) for CofS USA (Gruenther), 8 Nov. 50, sub: U.S. Courses of Action With Respect to Korea, in Ss, DA file 091 Korea, Case 37.

[55] Memo, JCS (Bradley) for Secy. Defense (Marshall), 9 Nov. 50, sub: Chinese Communist Intervention in Korea.

Examining Chinese motives in sending military forces against the United Nations Command, the Joint Chiefs saw three possibilities, although none of these had as yet been made clear by Chinese actions either in Korea or in Manchuria. The Chinese might wish to protect the Yalu River and the Changjin-Pujon Reservoir power complexes and establish a cordon sanitaire in North Korea; they might wish to continue the active but undeclared war in Korea to drain American resources without expending too much of their own military strength; or they could be planning to drive the United Nations forces from Korea. If the Chinese Communists were prevented, through United Nations action, from obtaining electricity from the Yalu power systems, Manchuria's economy would suffer severely. Consequently, if the Chinese Communists had intervened in North Korea solely to protect the power plants, it might be well, the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Secretary of Defense, to announce an unmistakably clear guarantee that the United Nations would not infringe on the sovereignty of Manchuria, would not damage the power plants, and would not interfere with their operation. If the Chinese Communists rejected such a guarantee, the United States could feel fairly certain that they had had some other objective in intervening. [56]

That the Chinese might be planning a limited war of attrition in Korea to tie down and dissipate United States strength was also a real possibility. As the Joint Chiefs pointed out, "Korea is at such a distance from the United States that it would be expensive for the United States in manpower, materiel, and money to conduct an undeclared war in that area over a long period." Conversely, the Chinese, being next door to Korea, would find it comparatively inexpensive, with their practically unlimited manpower and Soviet equipment, to carry on such a war indefinitely. The continued involvement of United States forces in Korea would, in the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, be in the interests of Russia and of world communism by imposing a heavy drain on U.S. military and economic strengths. They still considered Korea a "strategically unimportant area" and felt that, in the event of a global war, fighting in Korea would leave the United States off-balance while Russia completed its plans for global conquest. The Joint Chiefs could also visualize quite clearly a situation whereby the United States, through concentrating its strength to defeat the Chinese in Korea, might, "win the skirmish in Korea but lose the war against the USSR if global war eventuates." [57]

The Joint Chiefs did not truly believe that the Chinese Communists intended to drive the United Nations forces from all of Korea. While it was possible that the Chinese did have that intention, the Joint Chiefs felt they could not force MacArthur's men off the peninsula "without material assistance by Soviet naval and air-power." If Russia did intervene to that extent, it would be evident that World War III had begun and the United States should get its divisions out of Korea as fast as possible. [58]

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

If the Chinese intervened in full strength, the Joint Chiefs foresaw three possible courses of action for United Nations forces: to continue the action as planned; to set up a defensive line short of Korea's northern border; or to withdraw. In the first instance, some augmentation of United Nations military strength in Korea might be necessary if a drive to the Yalu were to succeed, even if no more Chinese troops entered the fighting. The second course, pause and dig in, was, in the eyes of the Joint Chiefs, perfectly feasible and, indeed, perhaps expedient in the face of unclarified military and political problems raised by Chinese entry. But they rejected withdrawal because "if conducted voluntarily it would so lower the world wide prestige of the United States that it would be totally unacceptable...." If the United Nations forces were compelled to leave Korea involuntarily it "could only be accepted as the prelude to global war." With specific reference to global war, the Joint Chiefs maintained that current conditions did not conclusively indicate that global war was imminent, only that the risk of global war had been increased. [59]

One significant conclusion drawn by the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the evidence which they had was that the United States should, as a matter of urgency, make every effort to settle the problem of Chinese intervention by political means. They recommended that, through the United Nations, the Chinese be reassured concerning the intentions of the United Nations Command and, if necessary, that direct negotiations be carried on through the diplomatic channels of nations that had recognized Communist China and thus had some access to the leaders of its government. Insofar as General MacArthur's assigned mission in Korea was concerned, the Joint Chiefs were willing to await clarification of the Chinese Communists' military objectives before recommending a change in the plan to drive to the Yalu. But with respect to American preparedness elsewhere, they recommended that plans and preparations be made on the basis that the risk of global war had been substantially increased by the Chinese action. [60]

At the very important meeting of the National Security Council on 9 November in Washington, General Bradley presented views developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff with regard to possible intentions of the Chinese Communists in Korea. Bradley ventured a personal opinion that U.N. forces could hold in the general area of their present positions but that the question of how much Chinese pressure these forces would have to take before being impelled to attack the Manchurian bases would become increasingly urgent. He pointed out, however, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had agreed that any decision to attack Chinese territory would have to be a U.N. decision since under the terms of U.N. authority, which now was the guiding force behind MacArthur's directives, no such attack was authorized. Bradley told the assembled leaders that he did not agree with MacArthur that the bombing of the Yalu bridges would stop the Chinese from entering Korea in strength should they choose to continue their incursions. General Smith added that within fifteen to thirty days the Yalu would be frozen anyway, rendering the entire question of bridge bombing academic. [61]

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid.

When Secretary of Defense Marshall questioned the disposition of X Corps, which he felt was in some danger because of its great dispersion and lack of depth, Bradley defended MacArthur's reasons. He pointed out that in deploying his troops MacArthur sought to carry out his directives to occupy all of North Korea and to hold elections. On this same point, Secretary Acheson pressed Bradley to tell them whether there was not a better line for MacArthur's forces to occupy in Korea. Bradley agreed that, from a purely military point of view, the chances of defending a line in Korea would increase as that line was moved south of the Yalu. But he noted also that any backward movement on MacArthur's part would reduce U.N. prestige and might adversely affect the will of the South Koreans to fight. [62]

Acheson then recommended consideration of a buffer zone twenty miles deep, ten miles on each side of the Yalu. He felt that the Russians were interested in such an arrangement. Insofar as the Chinese were concerned, he saw them as having two interests, first, to keep the United States involved and, secondly and less important, to protect the border and its power plants. The Chinese, of course, would, if such a buffer zone were proposed, insist on the departure of all foreign troops from Korea. This would have the effect of abandoning Korea to the Communists. [63]

After studying these various views and recommendations, the National Security Council recommended certain interim measures to the President of the United States. These recommendations represented the combined sentiments of the nation's policy-makers, and largely aimed at a possible political solution to the problem of Chinese Communist intervention and in keeping with the established policy of avoiding, by every honorable means, a general war.

The President later recalled that November 195O found the United States mainly concerned with three moves with regard to Korea. The United States was attempting to reassure its European allies, especially England and France, that it did not intend to widen the conflict or to abandon Europe for new entanglements in Asia. Secondly, in the United Nations the United States was attempting to gain maximum support for resistance to Chinese Communist intervention, at the same time avoiding any United Nations move toward military sanctions against Peiping-which would have undoubtedly meant war. Third, the United States was making every effort to ascertain the strength and direction of the Chinese Communist effort. [64]

[61] Truman, Memoirs, II, 378-80.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Ibid., 381.

Although these moves may seem to have been inadequate in light of the problem that developed later, it should be remembered that the problem itself was then in the formative stage. The moves, at the time, did present a logical basis from which to proceed as the problem developed, and formed the framework of the policy that the United States pursued until changes were forced by the pressure of events.

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