History On Line
Walter G. Hermes
CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D.C., 1990
. . . to Those Who Served
Truce Tent and Fighting Front covers the last two
years in the Korean War and treats the seemingly interminable armistice
negotiations and the violent but sporadic fighting at the front.
The scene therefore frequently shifts from the dialectic,
propaganda, and frustrations at the conference table to the battles on key hills
and at key outposts. The author presents a solid and meaningful reconstruction
of the truce negotiations; he develops the issues debated and captures the color
of the arguments and the arguers. The planning and events that guided or
influenced the proceedings on the United Nations side are thoroughly explained.
The volume abounds in object lessons and case studies that illustrate problems
American officers may encounter in negotiating with Communists. Problems
encountered by the U.N. high command in handling recalcitrant Communist
prisoners of war within the spirit and letter of the Geneva Convention are
explained with clarity and sympathy.
Truce Tent and Fighting Front is offered to all thoughtful
citizens- military and civilian- as a contribution to the literature of limited
18 June 1965
HAL C. PATTISON
Brigadier General, USA
Chief of Military History
Walter G. Hermes received his M.A. from Boston University and his
Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University.
During World War II he served with the U.S. Army in radio
intelligence and military government assignments. After the war he attended the
University of Denver and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Dr. Hermes joined the Office of the Chief of Military History
in 1949. For many years he served as Department of the Army representative on
the Department of Defense Liaison Committee with the Department of State on the
Foreign Relations of the United States series insofar as they covered
World War II and the international conferences of that period. Dr. Hermes is at
present a member of the Current History Branch of the Office of the Chief of
He has assisted Dr. Maurice Matloff in the preparation of the
volume Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944 in the UNITED
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II series, and has edited the volume by Maj. Robert K.
Sawyer, Military Advisors in Korea: KMAG in Peace and War in the ARMY
This volume is offered as a contribution to the politico-military
history of the Korean War. Unlike nearly all of the previous wars waged by the
United States, the conflict in Korea brought no military victory; in fact,
during the last two years of the struggle neither side sought to settle the
issue decisively on the battlefield. In this respect the Korean War had no
modern American counterpart. It resembled most the War of 1812 when the nation
had also carried on a desultory war while it attempted to negotiate a peace with
the British. More important fighting, in both cases, went on at the peace table
than on the field of combat.
Although the action at the front from July 1951 to July 1953
was inconclusive, there was a definite interrelationship between the intensity
of the fighting and the status of affairs at the truce meetings. Both the United
Nations Command and its opponents tried with some success to induce more
reasonable negotiating attitudes in their adversaries through the application of
limited military pressure.
Under the command system operating during the Korean War, the
U.S. Army was given executive responsibility for carrying out U.S. military
policy in Korea and for negotiating the truce agreement. Thus, the volume
crosses service and departmental lines. General Matthew B. Ridgway, Commander in
Chief, Far East Command, and his successor, General Mark W. Clark, commanded
U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine forces as well as Republic of Korea
units. As Commanders in Chief, United Nations Command, they also controlled
ground, air, and naval forces contributed by some members of the United Nations
for the prosecution of the war in Korea. Although the armistice negotiations
were supposed to be strictly military in nature, political elements entered the
discussions and the Army often had to participate in formulating and carrying
out the policy adopted by the President and his advisors. Army officers, through
Army channels, frequently handled not only military relations between the United
States and the Republic of Korea, but economic and political affairs as well.
The Army story in Korea, therefore, is more than a service account; in essence,
it is the American story of the struggle for peace during the war.
For the focus of the volume, the activities of the theater
commander were chosen as the most appropriate. From this intermediate point the
author could shift to Washington for policy decisions that affected the war,
or move easily to the truce tent or the fighting front in Korea
to show how the policy was carried out. The theater commander served as a
moderator between the world of policy and the world of action, leaving his
imprint on both.
The unavailability of reliable documentation of the Communist
Chinese and North Korean plans, objectives, and casualties has forced the author
to rely upon the U.S. intelligence estimates for information in these areas.
While the information contained in these estimates cannot be regarded as firm or
precise, it was the best available when the volume was written.
Since the last two years of the war produced few large-scale
ground operations, battlefront coverage has been selective. Major operations
are, of course, described in some detail, but to attempt to cover the hundreds
of hill actions, patrols, and raids would require an over-sized volume cluttered
with monotonous detail. The emphasis, therefore, has been placed upon
small-scale actions involving U.S. Army units that most typically portray the
fighting of a given period.
No attempt has been made to do more than summarize the combat
operations of the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Marines during the last two years of
the war, as these services have published, or are in the process of publishing,
their own detailed accounts. Similarly, the Republic of Korea and many of the
other participants in the United Nations Command have published, or presumably
will publish at some future time, accounts of their participation. The
contributions made by the other U.S. services and by the other nations of the
United Nations Command in Korea deserve full consideration and credit, but the
author felt it was quite proper to devote the majority of his attention to U.S.
Army units in the combat portions of the volume.
The problem of dating the many radio messages exchanged between
Washington and the Far East has been met by accepting the date on the document
used. The time differences between the two areas meant that different dates were
used in each place for the same message, but it was felt that any attempt to
change all the dates to Washington time or to Tokyo time might lead to further
confusion. In most cases the difference of a day meant little substantively and
the messages can be identified and located by number as well as by date.
In the course of researching and writing this volume the author
has received help from many sources, both within and without the Office of the
Chief of Military History, and gladly acknowledges his indebtedness. He owes
special debts of gratitude to Col. Joseph Rockis, former Chief of the Histories
Division, OCMH, and to Dr. Maurice Matloff, Chief, Current History Branch, OCMH,
for their steadfast confidence and support during the initial phases of the
project. For their many helpful suggestions and wise counsel the author is also
deeply grateful to Dr. Stetson Conn, Chief Historian, Dr. John Miller, jr.,
Deputy Chief Historian, Mr. Billy C. Mossman, General History Branch, and Dr. Robert W.
Coakley, General History Branch, all of the Office of the Chief of Military
History, as well as to Mr. James F. Schnabel, JCS Historical Division, Mr.
Wilber W. Hoare, JCS Historical Division, and Dr. Jules Davids, Georgetown
Without the cheerful and efficient documentary research
assistance of Mrs. Lois Aldridge and Mrs. Hazel Ward of the World War II
Division, National Archives and Records Service, the author's task would have
been far more difficult. In the Office of the Chief of Military History the
personnel of the General Reference Branch under Mr. Israel Wice and his
successor, Mr. Charles F. Romanus, have provided services too numerous to
The volume was edited by Mr. David Jaffe, whose interest and
professional skill were welcomed throughout the writing and revision of the
manuscript. Mrs. Marion P. Grimes performed yeoman service as assistant editor
and Mrs. Frances R. Burdette ably assisted in the preparation of the manuscript
for the printer. The index was prepared by Mr. Nicholas J. Anthony.
The author was fortunate in having the maps drawn under the
direction of Mr. Billy C. Mossman, whose knowledge of the terrains and the
records to be researched left little to be desired. The photographs were
skillfully selected by Miss Ruth A. Phillips.
It is perhaps needless to say that any substantive errors that remain in the
manuscript are solely the responsibility of the author.
In conclusion the author would be remiss if he failed to
express his appreciation of the encouragement that he received throughout the
writing of this volume from his wife, Esther Festa Hermes.
WALTER G. HERMES
18 June 1965