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History  Bert '53  On Line

Back to Ebb And Flow

Substitute for Victory

General Ridgway, like his predecessor, considered the joint Chiefs of Staff directives governing his duties as Commander in Chief, U.N. Command, and as Commander in Chief, Far East, to be deficient in important respects. Within a week of replacing General MacArthur, Ridgway had attempted to change one provision that he believed diminished his ability to carry out his overriding mission of defending Japan, specifically of defending the islands against an attack by the Soviet Union. Since intelligence estimates accorded the Soviets the capability of launching an attack with little or no warning, he asked the joint Chiefs for independent authority to withdraw his forces from Korea to Japan should the Soviets attack. It was not that Ridgway expected an attack but that he considered it just as urgent to be prepared to deal with what the Soviets could do as with what they might do.1

An ongoing review of U.S. objectives and courses of action in Korea partially conditioned the joint Chiefs' response to Ridgway's request. Although General MacArthur's pronouncement of late March had spoiled President Truman's initiative to open armistice negotiations, examination of the pros and cons of a cease-fire and of other steps that should be or might have to be taken to settle the Korean situation continued. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in submitting recommendations to the National Security Council on 5 April, had for the first time declared that the war, let alone the whole of the Korean problem, could not be resolved satisfactorily by military action alone. In their estimation, the best course for the United Nations Command depended upon the future action of the Soviet Union. If the Soviets did not start a general war, the U.N. Command should remain in Korea and maintain pressure on enemy forces with a view to a satisfactory armistice; if the Soviets did open a general war or intervene in Korea, the U.N. Command should withdraw from the peninsula.

Because these recommendations were under review at the time of Ridgway's request, the joint Chiefs preferred to retain control of any withdrawal from Korea. On 1 May they sent Ridgway new instructions governing combat operations in which they also restricted the depth of any Eighth Army general advance. Ridgway was to make no general move beyond the combined trace of lines Kansas and Wyoming without prior approval. He could go farther north on his own, but only in limited operations designed to keep enemy forces off balance, to maintain contact, to insure the safety of his command. Ridgway himself had similarly restricted general advances in his initial instructions to General Van Fleet. But the Joint Chiefs preferred to assume control, in part because their recommendations were still under study and in part because they believed that potential armistice negotiations could develop more easily if the general Eighth Army drive into North Korea was kept so shallow that Chinese and North Korean authorities could see advantages in accepting a line of demarcation along the main line of contact.2

Ridgway complained to the joint Chiefs that their instructions seriously abridged "the authority and freedom of action I believe you intend me to have in order to discharge assigned responsibilities." Since his military objective in Korea as stated in the 1 May directive was to destroy the Chinese and North Korean forces operating "within the geographic boundaries of Korea and waters adjacent thereto," he believed he should be the one who held authority over a general advance above the Kansas-Wyoming trace. And since his mission as Commander in Chief, Far East, of defending Japan had priority over his objective as Commander in Chief, U.N. Command, in Korea, he believed he should be the one who decided when his forces would withdraw from Korea to take up the defense of Japan. The Joint Chiefs replied that strategic considerations (without stating precisely what these considerations were) required that they themselves control any withdrawal from Korea, that Ridgway's instructions were in keeping with existing national objectives, and that, consequently, the instructions would not be altered. The Joint Chiefs did emphasize, though, that these objectives were currently under review and that Ridgway's mission would be made to accord with President Truman's action on forthcoming recommendations of the National Security Council.3

The security council first met to consider the joint Chiefs' April recommendations on 2 May. On the following day the Senate Committees on Armed Services and on Foreign Relations convened jointly to inquire into the military situation in the Far East and the relief of General MacArthur. Invited earlier to speak to a joint session of the Congress, MacArthur had made an eloquent and dramatic statement of his convictions. He again had proposed the retaliatory measures- now softened somewhat- against China first recommended to the joint Chiefs in December and again had insisted, as in his March letter to Congressman Martin, that there was "no substitute for victory." First to speak at the Senate hearings, he forcefully elaborated on the points he had made before the full Congress, and, in urging decisive steps to end the war, he explained that there was at the present "no policy-there is nothing, I tell you, no plan, or anything."4

Media reports of MacArthur's speech and testimony generated considerable public interest in the issues involved. That interest, in turn, spurred the National Security Council to develop a clear and practicable statement of military and political policy in Korea. Concluding its deliberations on 16 May, the security council produced a statement evolved from the recommendations of the joint Chiefs of Staff and other advisory bodies, including allies. On the following day President Truman approved the statement, which introduced no new concepts but did at last firmly and officially declare that the United States would seek to conclude the fighting in Korea under suitable armistice arrangements. General MacArthur's protests notwithstanding, there was to be at least an attempt to produce a substitute for victory.

General Ridgway meanwhile continued trying to clarify his directives, sending two members of his staff to Washington to present his views on what he considered to be points of ambiguity and conflict. Their consultations coincided with the establishment of the new policy. While the policy had little effect on revisions made to clarify Ridgway's responsibilities and authorities as Commander in Chief, Far East, it brought about a major redefinition of his mission as Commander in Chief, U.N. Command. In new instructions sent on 1 June, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed Ridgway:

you will, consistent with the security of your forces, inflict maximum personnel and materiel losses on the forces of North Korea and Communist China operating within the geographic boundaries of Korea and adjacent waters, in order to create conditions favorable to a settlement of the Korean conflict which would as a minimum:

a. Terminate hostilities under appropriate armistice arrangements.

b. Establish authority of the ROK over all Korea south of a northern boundary so located as to facilitate, to the maximum extent possible, both administration and military defense, and in no case south of the 38th Parallel.

c. Provide for withdrawal by stages of non-Korean armed forces from Korea.

d. Permit the building of sufficient ROK military power to deter or repel a renewed North Korean aggression.5

Retaining the authority they had assumed over general Eighth Army advances, the joint Chiefs further instructed Ridgway:

With regard to ground operations you will obtain approval of JCS prior to undertaking any general advance beyond some line passing through the Hwachon Reservoir area. You are, however, authorized to conduct such tactical operations as may be necessary or desirable to insure safety of your command, to maintain contact, and to continue to harass the enemy. This includes guerrilla operations and limited amphibious and airborne operations in enemy rear areas.6

Although the Joint Chiefs had previously issued similar instructions to govern the operations of the Eighth Army after it reached the Kansas and Wyoming lines, the latest directive at least gave the underlying objective of those operations more definite shape. Their future course, in the main, was to be designed to support a negotiated end to hositilities.

Not yet in possession of his new instructions but informed of their development and essential content by his staff officers in Washington, General Ridgway in assessing the results of recent operations for the joint Chiefs on 30 May indicated that conditions in Korea already were favorable, at least on a short term basis, for seeking to open armistice negotiations. Enemy forces, he reported, had suffered a defeat so costly that without reinforcement from China they would not again be capable of attacks as strong as those launched in April and May; even assuming- as some prisoner and agent reports indicated- that a new Chinese army group arrived in Korea, the Eighth Army within the next two months could face enemy forces no stronger than those it had already soundly defeated. Thus, for the next sixty days, he predicted, "the United States Government should be able to count with reasonable assurance upon a military situation in Korea offering optimum advantages in support of its diplomatic negotiations."7 Predicting further that as an immediate course enemy forces would attempt to put up strong defenses below the Iron Triangle and in the ground flanking the triangle on the east and west, he outlined General Van Fleet's preparations to advance through these defenses toward line Wyoming and toward the altered segment of line Kansas east of the Hwach'on Reservoir. Barring the arrival and rapid deployment of sizable Chinese reinforcements, Ridgway expected the Eighth Army to reach these lines within two weeks. If the attack progressed as he expected, he told the Joint Chiefs, he would within a few days give his recommendations for operations to follow the Eighth Army's seizure of its KansasWyoming objectives.8

Operation Piledriver

For advancing the I Corps right to line Wyoming, General Milburn on 28 May laid out an attack by three divisions, the 1st Cavalry Division moving along the west side of Route 33 to occupy the segment of the line slanting southwest of Ch'orwon to the Imjin River, the 3d Division advancing on the Route 33 axis to take the Ch'orwon base of the Iron Triangle, and the 25th Division attacking astride Route 3 to seize the triangle's eastern base at Kumhwa. In the IX Corps zone, General Hoge also organized a threedivision attack to occupy the Wyoming trace reaching southeastward from Kumhwa to the Hwach'on Reservoir. Nearest Kumhwa, the ROK 2d Division and the 7th Division were to seize Wyoming objectives along and above the stretch of Route 17 leading northwest into the Iron Triangle from Hwach'on town. On the right, the ROK 6th Division was to advance above the western half of the Hwach'on Reservoir between Route 17 and the Pukhan River.9

While Milburn and Hoge organized fullblown attacks to start on 3 June in the I Corps zone and 5 June in the IX Corps zone, forces edging above line Kansas in preliminary advances in both corps zones encountered stiff opposition. As General Ridgway had predicted, the Chinese were determined to hold the Iron Triangle and adjacent ground as long as possible. Then drenching rains during the last two days of May began to turn roads into boggy tracks and, along with low clouds and fog, limited close air support and both air and ground observation. Two clear days followed, but as the full attacks got under way on 3 June rainstorms returned to hamper operations through the 5th.10

Engineers Search For Mines
Engineers Search For Mines

Aided by the bad weather, Chinese delaying forces fighting doggedly from dug-in regimental positions arranged in depth held the advance to a crawl through 8 June, then finally gave way under the pressure and began a phased withdrawal, moving north in what air observers estimated as battalion-size groups. Against declining resistance and in drier weather, the assault divisions occupied their line Wyoming objectives between 9 and 11 June. In the I Corps zone, General Milburn sent tank-infantry patrols up each side of the Iron Triangle on 13 June to investigate P'yonggang at its apex. The patrols met no resistance en route and found P'yonggang deserted. The Chinese defenders of the triangle had taken up positions in commanding ground northeast and northwest of the town. IX Corps forces reconnoitering northeast of Kumhwa located Chinese defenses below the town of Kumsong. Rimmed on the north by Chinese and on the south by the I and IX Corps, the coveted road complex in the Iron Triangle area now lay largely unusable in no-man'sland.11

East of the Hwach'on Reservoir, North Korean forces opposing the X Corps advance gage ground even more grudgingly than the Chinese in the Iron Triangle. It was the end of May before the 1st Marine Division captured Yanggu and longer before other corps forces completed mop-up operations in the ground east of Inje and Hyon-ni. Two regiments of marines moved north of Yanggu on 1 June, but only on the 4th could General Almond open a coordinated attack by the 1st Marine Division and ROK 5th Division toward line Kansas and the Punchbowl some six miles above the corps front. By that date the ROK I Corps, advancing three divisions abreast along the east coast, had driven through spotty resistance and occupied its line Kansas segment slanting across the first high ridge above Route 24. Having far outdistanced the X Corps, General Paik was obliged to refuse his inland flank in strength against the possibility of enemy attacks from the direction of the Punchbowl.12

The six-mile attack to the Punchbowl involved General Almond's forces in some of the most difficult conditions of combat. In some areas, sharply pitched axial ridges limited advances to extremely narrow fronts; in others, repetitions of steep transverse ridges forced assault troops to make arduous climbs and descents over and over again. The two main arterial roads, through the Sochon River valley in the west and the Soyang River valley in the east, were heavily mined. Other access roads-the few that existed-winding through the mountains were narrow and required substantial engineering work before supply trucks could use them. Spates of rain frequently caused landslides that blocked the roads or so slickened them that trucks skidded off at hairpin turns. From time to time the rain and fog limited air support and observation. Most difficult of all were the North Korean defenders. They were in well organized fortified positions on every ridge; they gave no ground voluntarily; and, after losing a position, they counterattacked quickly in an attempt to regain it.13

On 8 June General Almond widened his attack, inserting a regiment of the ROK 7th Division on the left to clear the ground above the eastern half of the Hwach'on Reservoir while the 1st Marine Division concentrated on taking the lower lip of the Punchbowl and the segment of line Kansas astride the Sochon River valley to the southwest. Accordingly, General Thomas, the Marine division commander, committed his reserves on the 9th so that he had four regiments in the attack. First to slug through the bitter North Korean resistance was the regiment of the ROK 7th Division, which reached line Kansas on 10 June. The marines and ROK 5th Division took a week longer to gain full possession of their objectives.14

Marines Advance in the Yanggu Area
Marines Advance in the Yanggu Area

With the seizure of line Wyoming and the adjusted segment of line Kansas in the east, the Eighth Army had reached its allowed limit of general advance in support of efforts to open cease-fire negotiations. As yet there had been no clear sign that Chinese and North Korean authorities favored that kind of resolution, but there had been a search for a way to open armistice talks, and with some result.

Armistice Negotiations
The Search for a Beginning

When, in mid-May, President Truman formalized the policy of ending hostilities under appropriate cease-fire arrangements, he and his advisers eschewed any attempt to open negotiations through a direct appeal to Chinese and North Korean authorities lest they interpret the initiative as indicating weakness and refuse to talk. Enemy forces, after all, were then on the offensive and beginning to make inroads through Eighth Army lines in the east central sector. The chosen approach was to try to draw an offer to negotiate from the other side by keeping sufficient pressure on enemy forces to convince their leaders that they could not win and by indicating U.S. and U.N. willingness to end hostilities near the prewar border between North and South Korea. Secretary of Defense Marshall, testifying on 8 and 9 May during the MacArthur hearings, had been asked how he visualized the war would be ended. "If it goes on in the manner that it has for the last 2 months, and particularly in the last two weeks," he replied, with reference to losses suffered by enemy forces during April offensive, "it would appear that the trained fabric of the Chinese Communist forces will be pretty well torn to pieces . . . if we destroy their best-trained armies as we have been in the process of doing, then, it seems to me, you develop the best probability of reaching a satisfactory negotiatory basis with those Chinese Communist forces."15 While not specifically designed for the purpose, the Eighth Army's stand against the enemy's May offensive and its subsequent counteroffensive had suited the approach adopted to get armistice negotiations under way.

By both coincidence and design, indications of U.S. and U.N. willingness to negotiate came from officials in several forums. On the day President Truman approved the new policy, Senator Edwin C. Johnson, Democrat of Colorado, proposed to the Senate that it ask the United Nations to call on all belligerent nations to declare a cease-fire at 0400 on 25 June, the exact hour and date of the war's anniversary. He also proposed that U.N. forces withdraw south of the 38th parallel beforehand. The Senate took no action, but the Indian delegate to the United Nations, Sir Bengal N. Rau, spoke to the General Assembly the following day in response to Senator Johnson's proposal. He urged his colleagues to consider General Ridgway's 12 March statement that it would be a victory for the United Nations if the war ended with U.N. forces in control of all territory in Korea up to the 38th parallel. In Moscow, Pravda on 20 May played up Senator Johnson's recommendations as a sign that the United States was growing tired of the war.16

Lester B. Pearson, Canada's secretary of state for external affairs, defined the U.N. objective in Korea in a speech broadcast on 26 May during the U.N. radio program, "The Price of Peace." The objective, Pearson emphasized, was not the complete capitulation of the enemy but solely the defeat of aggression against South Korea. U.N. Secretary General Trygve Lie reinforced Pearson's point while speaking to the U.N. Association of Canada in Ottawa on 1 June. "If a cease-fire could be arranged approximately along the 38th parallel," Lie asserted, "then the main purpose of the security council resolutions of June 25th and 27th and July 7th will be fulfilled, provided that a cease-fire is followed by the restoration of peace and security in the area." On the same day and the one following, Secretary of State Dean Acheson authoritatively stated the U.S. position in testimony at the MacArthur hearings. A cease-fire at or near the 38th parallel, provided its arrangements supplied reliable assurances that hostilities would not be resumed, he said, would "accomplish the military purposes in Korea."17

Seeking a response to the indications being given, State Department officials meanwhile "cast about like a pack of hounds searching for a scent."18

Contacts with Soviet figures at the United Nations and in Paris proved fruitless. Another official made himself available for contacts in Hong Kong, but with no success. Sweden's delegate to the United Nations announced on 23 May that a Soviet source two weeks earlier had indicated the war might be ended if the prewar border between North and South Korea was reestablished; but Jacob Malik, the Soviet delegate to the United Nations, declared that the report was completely groundless.19

Still, it was Malik who provided the first positive response. At Secretary Acheson's request and with President Truman's approval, George F. Kennan, a State Department official with a profound background in U.S.-Soviet relations, although at the time on leave of absence from the department, succeeded in arranging a private meeting with Malik at the latter's summer home on Long Island. Kennan's purposes were to make sure that the U.S. desire for a cease-fire as soon as possible was absolutely clear to the Soviets and to obtain Moscow's views and suggestions. As Kennan prepared to meet with Malik on 31 May, Secretary Acheson sent word of the coming event through the joint Chiefs of Staff to General Ridgway so that he could prepare to advise on relevant military matters and to take any required action in Korea. In response to both Acheson's message and the 1 June directive from the joint Chiefs, Ridgway asked General Van Fleet to recommend the best location for the Eighth Army during a cease-fire, based not on political implications but on purely military considerations."20

When Kennan raised the cease-fire subject at the 31 May meeting, Malik predictably avoided answering but agreed to meet again after he had considered the matter; that is, after he had checked with Moscow. The two met again on 5 June. The Soviet government, Malik said, wanted a peaceful solution in Korea as soon as possible but could not appropriately take part in cease-fire negotiations. His personal advice to Kennan was that American authorities should approach their Chinese and North Korean counterparts.21

On the day of the second Kennan-Malik meeting, representatives of all U.N. countries with forces in Korea met in Washington to consider the U.S. position. Giving some thought to offering another cease-fire proposal to enemy authorities, they elected instead to make the American position known to Premier Mao Tse-tung and Foreign Minister Chou En-lai through neutral diplomats in Peking. This the diplomats did in mid June, but there was no direct response. Reaching London from Peking were reports that Chinese publications were reviving Mao's 1937 statement that "a true revolutionary leader must be adept at making himself and his followers advance and change their views according to changing circumstances." Some Britons interpreted this revival as evidence of Chinese preparations for a truce in Korea, but no other Chinese behavior supported such an interpretation. For example, when the departing Swedish ambassador to Peking made a farewell call on Chou En-lai and asked if there was anything he could report to his government or the United Nations about Korea, the Chinese foreign minister "replied with an irrelevancy about the weather."22

Thus, by mid June, the only positive development in the search for a beginning was Malik's answer to Kennan. U. S. officials had no doubt that Malik's statement was authentic, but, in the words of Secretary Acheson, it had "a sibylline quality which left us wondering what portended and what we should do next."23

The Question of Future Operations

In a different, yet related, context, what to do next had also become a large question for General Van Fleet as the Eighth Army moved to its limit of advance along lines Kansas and Wyoming. Although he said nothing publicly until much later, he was particularly displeased by General Ridgway's disapproval of the T'ongch'on operation. Before the Senate Committee on Armed Services after his return to the United States for retirement in early 1953, he testified that enemy forces in June 1951 were badly hurt, out of supplies, and in a panic and that he believed he could have won a decisive, if not complete, victory had he been permitted to continue his offensive.24

But within the limits that had been imposed on him by General Ridgway, Van Fleet saw distinct advantages in conducting future operations along and from the Kansas and Wyoming lines. In a 9 June reply to Ridgway's earlier request for an estimate of the situation and recommendations for operations over the next sixty days, he stated his belief that, despite the severe punishment enemy forces had absorbed during April and May, they would recover sufficiently during the next two months to launch at least one major offensive. This probability made a strong defense mandatory, and the best place to develop it, in Van Fleet's judgment, was along the Kansas-Wyoming trace. To begin with, even if he was authorized to occupy a more northern line, the next terrain permitting a strong line of resistance across the entire peninsula and allowing the Eighth Army to man it in sufficient strength lay as much as seventy-five miles above the 38th parallel. Advancing that far could cost the Eighth Army considerable casualties. Using a more northern line also would shorten enemy lines of communication, robbing U.N. air forces of time and opportunity to attack enemy supply movements from distant depots. Further, Van Fleet's engineers would face monumental reconstruction work since U.N. air and naval forces had destroyed or damaged important bridges, rail lines, roads, and communications centers throughout North Korea. In any case, the ground along lines Kansas and Wyoming was well suited for defense and was backed up by a road net that would allow adequate logistical support.25

Van Fleet offered General Ridgway several plans for limited offensive action to keep enemy forces off balance, three of which he proposed to execute immediately after the Eighth Army reached the Kansas and Wyoming lines. Each of the three called for a raid on enemy troops and supplies within a specific area. In the west, a division was to hit Kaesong, the ancient capital of Korea on Route 1 some ten miles above the Imjin. In the central region, an armored task force was to attack P'yonggang at the apex of the Iron Triangle. In a more ambitious move, the 1st Marine Division was to make an amphibious landing at T'ongch'on and attack southwest over Route 17 to regain Eighth Army lines at Kumhwa. Ridgway agreed with Van Fleet's concept of holding the Eighth Army along the Kansas-Wyoming front and punishing enemy forces with limited attacks but turned down the 1st Marine Division operation, presumably for the same reasons he had refused Van Fleet's earlier T'ongch'on landing proposal. He approved the other attack plans, but they were to be executed only if intelligence confirmed that remunerative targets existed in the Kaesong and P'yonggang areas.26

In responding on the same day to Ridgway's subsequent request for recommendations on the best location for the Eighth Army during a cease-fire, Van Fleet assumed that enemy forces would violate the terms of an armistice by improving their offensive capability and renewing operations without warning. On the basis of this assumption, he recommended line Kansas because of its suitability for a strong defense. Besides the other disadvantages he foresaw in establishing a defense line farther north, he anticipated that during a cease-fire the Eighth Army would inherit immense problems of civil relief and military government in areas the enemy had denuded of food and young manpower. In recommending line Kansas to Ridgway, however, he pointed out that since a cease-fire agreement might require opposing forces to withdraw several miles from the line of contact to create a buffer zone, the Eighth Army must be well forward of Kansas at the time an agreement was reached.27

Ridgway agreed that line Kansas would be the best location for the Eighth Army if armistice negotiations started soon and assured Van Fleet that if possible he would advise him of forthcoming negotiations in time to allow him to move at least part of his forces to a line of contact twenty miles above Kansas. At the same time, since remaining behind a self-imposed line could prove exceedingly costly if enemy authorities refused to negotiate or if they protracted negotiations while they prepared a major offensive, Ridgway directed his own planning staff to explore, as a long range matter, the feasibility and possible profits of penetrating more deeply into North Korea. The staff considered various schemes of maneuver, selecting objective lines on the basis of whether they could be held as cease-fire lines and weighing in particular the logistical problems that would attend advancing to them. Of several concepts developed, Ridgway favored one posing a three-phase offensive to occupy the P'yongyang-Wonsan line. The first phase called for an advance on Wonsan in two columns, one moving up the east coast road, the other over the Seoul-Wonsan axis. In the second step, an amphibious force was to land at Wonsan to assist the overland advance. In the finale, Eighth Army forces were to drive northwestward and seize P'yongyang. Ridgway passed the outline to Van Fleet and instructed him to submit detailed plans for the operation by 10 July.28

The Joint Chiefs of Staff meanwhile had taken Ridgway's recent evaluations of enemy forces as reason to consider revising their 1 June directive. Two weeks after telling them that the Chinese and North Koreans over the next two months could assemble no force greater than that which the Eighth Army already had defeated twice, Ridgway on 14 June reported that "enemy lines of communications are overextended [and] his supply situation is aggravated by heavy rainfall and air interdiction." These and other encouraging reports convinced the joint Chiefs that it might be wise to remove all restrictions on Ridgway's freedom to exploit these conditions.29

Wanting further justification before taking this step, the joint Chiefs on 20 June asked Ridgway to inform them how an advance into North Korea would affect U.N. Command air operations, whether such an advance would increase the effectiveness of enemy air operations, and how logistics would be affected if his lines of communication were lengthened. Ridgway agreed immediately to the proposed removal of restrictions but deferred commenting on the effects of a general offensive until General Van Fleet had completed plans for advancing to the P'yongyang-Wonsan line.30

Negotiations Begin

On 22 June the U.S. State Department's Voice of America urged Jacob Malik to heed Trygvy Lie's appeal made in Ottawa at the beginning of the month and "say the one word the whole world is waiting for." The next day Malik said the word during a fifteen-minute recorded speech broadcast on the U.N. "Price of Peace" program. After spending most of his time blaming the United States for the war, Malik closed with the announcement that the Soviets believed the conflict could be settled and that, as a first step, the belligerents should start discussions to arrange a cease-fire and an armistice that provided for the mutual withdrawal of forces from the 38th parallel. He refused to elaborate on his speech thereafter, even claiming illness on 25 June when Nasrollah Entezam, the Iranian president of the U.N. General Assembly, attempted to see him to get more details. On 4 July Malik sailed from New York for home.31

The immediate American reaction to Malik's statement was largely skeptical. State Department officials advised General Ridgway that the proposal might be only an attempt to get UNC troops away from the 38th parallel and, further, that intelligence reports in Washington gave no indication of Chinese and North Korean readiness to stop fighting, but quite the contrary. Ridgway himself reminded his principal subordinates of "the well-earned reputation for duplicity and dishonesty possessed by the USSR" and of "the slowness with which deliberative bodies such as the security council produce positive action" and insisted that they ward off any relaxation by their commands.32

Following the joint decision of Generals Ridgway and Van Fleet that line Kansas would be the best location for the Eighth Army during a cease-fire, Ridgway had had his planning staff plot an outpost line ten miles above Kansas and a "cease-fire" line another ten miles forward. By occupying the deeper line the Eighth Army would be able to make a ten-mile withdrawal from the line of contact- a withdrawal that an armistice agreement might require- and still retain its Kansas positions and a suitable outpost line of resistance. Although somewhat skeptical of the Malik proposal, Ridgway on 25 June sent a staff officer to Korea to get Van Fleet's views on seizing the proposed cease-fire line. Van Fleet some two weeks earlier had considered such an Eighth Army advance essential, but now, in view of the recent hard fighting to reach the Iron Triangle and the Punchbowl, he voted against the deeper move as potentially too costly. On the following day Ridgway went to Korea, where after further discussing the matter with Van Fleet he agreed that while a deep advance was tactically and logistically feasible, the price would not be worth the results.33

In Moscow, Pravda and Izvestia, the party and government newspapers, respectively, put an official stamp on Malik's statement by publishing its full text on 24 June. In China, the authoritative Peking paper Jen Min Jih Pao (People's Daily) endorsed the proposal on the 25th, and Peking radio followed suit the next day, but with conditions. Although "the Chinese people fully endorse" the Malik statement, Peking radio announced, the United States had to accept the peace proposals "repeatedly" made by China and the Soviet Union, proposals which included the withdrawal of all UNC troops from Korea, the return of Formosa to Red China, and the seating of Red China in the United Nations.

Malik had included no such demands in his proposal, but the question arose whether the Soviet position was indeed the same as that reported by Peking radio. On 27 June, Alan G. Kirk, U.S. ambassador to Moscow, sought out Duputy Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko for an answer. Gromyko asserted that the Soviet government had no knowledge of Peking's view of the Malik proposal but advised that the armistice envisaged by the Soviets would include a cease-fire and would be limited to strictly military questions and not deal with political or territoral matters. Further, military representatives of the United Nations and South Korean commands on the one hand and of the North Korean command and "Chinese volunteer units" on the other should negotiate the armistice. Subsequent special arrangements, Gromyko added, should be made for a political and territorial settlement.35

By 30 June there had been no further comment from the Chinese, and the only North Korean "response" had been a 27 June P'yongyang radio change of propaganda slogan from "drive the enemy into the sea" to "drive the enemy to the 38th parallel." But after Gromyko's confirmation and explanation of the Malik proposal, the U.N. legal counsel quickly ruled that the United States could conclude an armistice without further authorization or instructions from the U.N. Security Council or General Assembly. With the ambassadors of all U.N. nations with forces in Korea giving him their approval to proceed, President Truman authorized General Ridgway to tender a direct offer to negotiations. U.S. military authorities were not enthusiastic about being given responsibility for conducting armistice discussions, but there were strong reasons for doing so: (1) the United States did not officially recognize Chinese or North Korean authorities, (2) the talks were to shun political matters, (3) the prospect of negotiations was directly related to conditions on the battlefield, and (4) China accepted no responsibility for the Chinese "volunteer" forces in Korea, but their commander could speak for them.36

As instructed by the joint Chiefs of Staff, General Ridgway broadcast the offer from Tokyo at 0800 on 30 June, addressing it to the "Commander in Chief, Communist Forces in Korea" and using a prescribed text:

As Commander in Chief of the United Nations Command I have been instructed to communicate to you the following:

I am informed that you may wish a meeting to discuss an armistice providing for the cessation of hostilities and all acts of armed force in Korea, with adequate guarantees for. the maintenance of such armistice.

Upon the receipt of word from you that such a meeting is desired I shall be prepared to name my representative. I would also at that time suggest a date at which he could meet with your representative. I propose that such a meeting could take pace aboard a Danish hospital ship in Wonsan Harbor.

(Signed) M B Ridgway, General, U.S. Army
Commander in Chief
United Nations Command

Both Peking radio and P'yongyang radio broke into regular broadcasts late on the following day with a joint reply from Premier Kim Il Sung as supreme commander of the North Korean People's Army and Peng Teh-huai as commander of the Chinese volunteer forces. They agreed to a meeting of representatives for "talks concerning cessation of military action and establishment of peace" but preferred to meet at Kaesong and proposed that the talks begin between 10 and 15 July. Ridgway accepted Kaesong as the meeting site but urged an earlier start so as not to "prolong the fighting and increase the losses" and offered to send a three-man liaison team to Kaesong on 5 July or soon thereafter to arrange for the actual negotiations. He agreed to a return proposal for an 8 July preliminary meeting. Conducting themselves with strict formality when they met on the 8th, the two liaison teams had no serious difficulty in reaching agreement to open negotiations on 10 July.37

The New Dimensions of Battle

As armistice negotiations opened on the 10th, the opposing ground forces were almost even in numbers, the Eighth Army totaling about 554,500, the Chinese People's Volunteers and North Korean People's Army some 569,200. New units had recently joined each side. Now a part of the Eighth Army was an infantry battalion from Colombia which had arrived in Korea on 15 June and was training at the U.N. Reception Center. Colombia would be the last U.N. member nation to contribute ground combat forces to the U.N. Command.38 With the addition of the Colombian unit, the Eighth Army consisted of four corps, seventeen divisions, four brigades, one separate regiment, and nine separate battalions. Among enemy formations, periodic inactivations of units to obtain replacements for others had reduced the North Korean Army to seven corps, twentythree divisions, and two brigades, while reinforcements had raised Chinese forces to five army groups, seventeen armies, and fifty-one divisions. As Eighth Army intelligence suspected but had not yet confirmed, the Chinese XX Army Group with two armies, the 67th and 68th, had entered Korea in May and June and assembled for further training at Yangdok, the centrally located town on the lateral P'yongyangWonsan road. In addition, the 50th Army, which had returned to Manchuria for reorganization in March, reentered Korea during the first week of July. That army, too, remained deep in North Korea.39

3d Infantry Division Troops in the Sobang Hills
3d Infantry Division Troops in the Sobang Hills

Chinese and North Korean casualties by 10 July had reached an enormous figure. Estimates of the total varied, but all were close to 1 million. Of these, Eighth Army prisoner of war compounds held about 163,000, more than 85 percent of whom were North Koreans. The remaining casualties were almost evenly divided between Chinese and North Koreans. U.N. Command losses after a year of fighting stood near 294,000. South Korean casualties had mounted to 212,500, American losses to around 77,000, and losses among other U.N. units to about 4,500. Army forces had suffered by far most of the American casualties: 11,327 killed outright; 42,925 wounded or injured in action, of whom 1,075 later died; 6,088 captured, of whom 2,583 eventually died in captivity; and 3,979 recorded as missing in action, of whom 3,323 later were declared dead either on direct evidence or under the provisions of the Missing Persons Act of 1942. Thus, out of a total of 64,319 Army casualties chargeable to the first year of the war, deaths numbered 18,308.40

As the first armistice conference convened, combat operations continued as the diminished pace that had set in after the Eighth Army ended its general advance at lines Kansas and Wyoming. Since that time, Eighth Army forces had conducted only extensive patrolling and a few limited attacks, the two largest an unsuccessful attempt in the X Corps sector to establish an outpost on the western rim of the Punchbowl and a successful attempt in the I Corps sector to clear the Iron Triangle of Chinese who after mid June had crept back into the Sobang Hills, an island of mountains within the triangle. Otherwise, Eighth Army was preoccupied with developing defenses along the Kansas and Wyoming lines. (See Map 37.) As directed by General Van Fleet on 1 June, line Kansas was being organized as the main line of resistance with defensive positions arranged in depth and elaborately fortified. Forces deployed on the looping Wyoming line were developing hasty field fortifications from which to delay and blunt the force of enemy attacks before withdrawing to assigned main line positions. To deepen the defense further, patrol bases were being established ahead of the KansasWyoming front on terrain features dominating logical enemy approach routes. To prevent enemy agents reconnoitering Eighth Army defenses from mingling with local farm folk, the battle area was being cleared of Korean civilians from five miles behind line Kansas northward to the line of patrol bases.41

Lending haste to the preparation of defenses was an expectation that the Chinese and North Koreans would use the respite from Eighth Army pressure to rehabilitate their units and reconstitute an attack force quickly. Familiar signs of enemy attack preparations had appeared: main forces were off the line for refitting; screening forces on the periphery of the Kansas-Wyoming trace vigorously opposed the Eighth Army's ground reconnaissance; supplies were moved into forward dumps; and some captives mentioned a forthcoming "Sixth Phase Offensive." By early July the Eighth Army intelligence officer was predicting an enemy offensive anytime after midmonth. He revised his estimate after armistice negotiations started, predicting then that there would be no enemy attack unless the negotiations failed, but he expected a continuation of enemy offensive preparations.42

The Eighth Army estimate overrated the ability of enemy forces to recover from their recent defeat. As armistice negotiations began, both the Chinese and North Koreans- especially the Chinese- remained occupied with restoring units shattered over the past three months, most of which had moved far to the north to reorganize, and reequip. The immensity of the problem of refitting them was indicated in estimates placing enemy casualties suffered in April, May, and June above two hundred thousand and in visible battlefield evidence of tremendous losses in weapons and equipment. The size of the problem was also implicit in the 1 July response of Kim Il Sung and Peng Teh-huai to General Ridgway's offer to negotiate: "We agree to suspend military activities [during the course of negotiations]." Indeed, the Chinese and North Koreans needed only to consider the failures and heavy costs of their April and May attacks to realize that they could no longer conduct offensive operations successfully against the Eighth Army. This realization became evident when they agreed to enter into armistice negotiations without mentioning the conditions that Chinese authorities earlier had insisted upon.43

From a purely tactical standpoint, the ceasefire during negotiations proposed by Kim Il Sung and Peng Teh-huai was unacceptable to General Ridgway because he would not be able to employ air and ground reconnaissance to check on enemy activity, in particular on any preparation for major offensive operations. Beyond that, Ridgway had his 1 June instructions from the joint Chiefs, confirmed on 10 July, to conduct operations primarily designed to create conditions favorable to concluding an armistice. As Army Chief of Staff Collins wrote later, the main purpose of U.N. Command operations was "to keep pressure on the enemy . . . in order to force an agreement that would end the fighting."44 Admiral C. Turner Joy, commander of Naval Forces, Far East, whom Ridgway appointed as chief of the U.N. Command armistice delegation, set the matter straight at the first conference when he announced that hostilities would continue until an armistice agreement was reached. Given the prospect of a unilateral ceasefire, the enemy delegation had no choice but to agree.45

The Kaesong Armistice Conference Site
The Kaesong Armistice Conference Site

In applying pressure, U.N. naval surface forces would continue to blockade both North Korean coasts and keep enemy shore installations under bombardment. U.N. air forces already were engaged in Operation STRANGLE, a campaign of concentrated interdictory attacks on major roads in a one-degree latitudinal belt across the peninsula just above the battle line, and on 13 July General Ridgway directed General Otto P. Weyland, the new Far East Air Forces commander, to exploit the full capacity of his command to punish the enemy.46 General Weyland ordered the Fifth Air Force to increase fighter and light bomber attacks on enemy troops, vehicles, supplies, and installations. Within a week Weyland's staff developed plans for a massive air attack on P'yongyang to destroy troops and supply stocks concentrated in the North Korean capital city area and to impress upon the North Korean government the prudence of concluding an armistice quickly.47

As of 10 July General Ridgway was free to continue ground operations as he saw fit: on that date the joint Chiefs of Staff lifted both the limit of general advance previously placed on the Eighth Army and the requirement that major offensive action have their prior approval. Ridgway had in hand at the time the plan he had asked General Van Fleet to prepare for an advance to the PyongyangWonsan line. In Plan OVERWHELMING, Van Fleet tentatively set 1 September as the date for opening the operation. But in forwarding the plan to Ridgway he repeated his earlier conclusion that he could best accomplish his mission of inflicting losses on enemy forces from his Kansas-Wyoming positions and recommended that the Eighth Army not carry out the plan unless by 1 September there had been a major deterioration of enemy forces, a change in mission requiring the seizure of territorial objectives, or an allocation of additional forces to the Eighth Army sufficient to ensure the success of the offensive.48

Ridgway shelved the plan, not because of Van Fleet's recommendations but out of the possibility that the two armistice delegations would reach agreement in the near future. He and "ground commanders of all ranks," he wrote later, "hesitated to fight for ground that an early armistice might require them to relinquish" in order to conform to an agreed-upon line of demarcation. But more than that, he said, "it seemed to me, with a cease-fire faintly visible on the horizon, that I should do all I could to keep our losses at a justifiable minimum." He consequently elected to conduct no major offensive but to "retain the initiative through the use of strong patrols and local attacks."49

Thus, there was to be no great ground pressure to help persuade enemy authorities to conclude an early armistice. And without that pressure, neither would there be an early armistice.50 Ridgway's decision, in any case, set the tempo of future U.N. Command ground operations. Indeed, the ebb and flow of battle had already subsided, and the fighting would not again take on the scale and momentum of the war's first year.


1 For more detailed coverage of events described in this section, see Schnabel, Policy and Direction, pp. 382-85, 390-93; Collins, War in Peacetime, pp. 298, 302-05; Ridgway, The Korean War, pp. 168-69; Rees, Korea: The Limited War, pp. 223-27, 264-83; Truman, Years of Trial and Hope, p. 456. Unless otherwise noted, this section is based on the above sources.

2 Rads, JCS 88950 and JCS 90000, JCS to CINCFE, 19 Apr and 1 May 51, respectively.

3 Rad, C 62088, CINCFE to DA for JCS, 9 May 51; Rad, JCS 90999, JCS to CINCFE, 12 May 51.

4 MacArthur Hearings, p. 68.

5 Rad, JCS 92831, JCS to CINCFE, 1 Jun 51.

6 Ibid.

7 Rad, C 63744, CINCFE for JCS, 30 May 51.

8 Ibid.

9 I Corps Opn O 7, 28 May 51; IX Corps Opn O 22, 28 May 51.

10 I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, May 51; IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, May 51; Tech Rpt, Weather Effect on Army Operations: Weather in the Korean Conflict, vol. II, ch. XIV, "Operation Piledriver."

11 I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jun 51; IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jun 51.

12 X Corps Special Rpt, "Battle of the Soyang River"; Montross, Kuokka, and Hicks, The East-Central Front, pp. 133, 141; Rad, X 19979, CG X Corps to CG Eighth Army, 3 Jun 51; Rads F747 and F521, ROK I Corps to Eihth Army, 28 May and 4 Jun 51, respectively; Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jun 51.

13 See Montross, Kuokka, and Hicks, The East-Central Front, ch. VII, "Advance to the Punchbowl."

14 Ibid.; X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jun 51; Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jun 51.

15 MacArthur Hearings, pp. 365, 430.

16 New York Times Index, 1951, p. 565; Facts on File, 1951, p. 162.

17 Rees, Korea: The Limited War, pp. 261-62; United Nations Bulletin, vol. 10 (15 June 1951), p. 559; MacArthur Hearings, p. 1782.

18 Acheson, Present at the Creation, p. 532.

19 Ibid.; Facts on File, 1951, pp. 162, 169.

20 Acheson, Present at the Creation, pp. 532-33; Ltr, Gen Van Fleet to CINCUNC, 9 Jun 51, sub: Location of EUSAK During a CEASEFIRE (Military viewpoint).

21 Acheson, Present at the Creation, p. 533.

22 Leckie, Conflict: The History of the Korean War, 1950-1953, p. 293; Poats, Decision in Korea, pp. 200-201; Facts on File, 1951, pp. 185, 193-94.

23 Acheson, Present at the Creation, p. 533.

24 U.S. Congress, Senate, Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services: Ammunition Supplies in the Far East, 83d Cong., 1st sess., 5 March 1953, pp. 31-32 (hereafter cited as Van Fleet Hearings).

25 Ltr, Gen Van Fleet to CINCFE, 9 Jun 51, sub: EUSAK Operations During Period 10 June-10 August 1951; Eighth Army G3 SS Rpt, Jun 51.

26 Ltr, Gen Van Fleet to CINCFE, 9 Jun 51, sub: EUSAK Operations During Period 10 Jun-10 Aug 51; Rad, CX 64976, CINCFE to DA for JCS, 14 Jun 51.

27 Ltr, Gen Van Fleet to CINCUNC, 9 Jun 51, sub: Location of EUSAK During a CEASE-FIRE (Military viewpoint); Eighth Army G3 SS Rpt, Jun 51.

28 GHQ, FEC JCPOG Staff Study 9 Jun 51 ; GHQ FEC, Memo, SGS for CofS, 13 Jun 51; Ltr, CINCFE to CG Eighth Army, 19 Jun 51, sub: Planning Directive; Ltr, Gen Ridgway to Gen Van Fleet, 22 Jun 51, sub: Location of EUSAK During a Cease-Fire.

29 Rads, C 63744 and CX 64976, CINCFE to DA for JCS, 30 May and 14 Jun 51, respectively; Rad, JCS 94501, JCS to CINCFE, 20 Jun 51.

30 Rad, JCS 94501, JCS to CINCFE, 20 Jun 51; Rad, C 65529, CINCFE to JCS, 22 Jun 51.

31 Poats, Decision in Korea, p. 201; Facts on File, 1951, pp. 201-02, 218.

32 Acheson, Present at the Creation, p. 533; Facts on File, 1951, p. 202; Rad, CX 65667, CINCFE to CG Eighth Army, 24 Jun 51.

33 Ltr, Gen Ridgway to Gen Van Fleet, 22 Jun 51, sub: Location of EUSAK During a Cease-Fire; Ridgway, The Korean War, pp. 181-82; Collins, War in Peacetime, p. 309; Schnabel, Policy and Direction, p. 403; Van Fleet Hearings, p. 651.

34 Facts on File, 1951, pp. 201-02; Leckie, Conflict: The History of the Korean War, 1950-53, p. 294.

35 Poats, Decision in Korea, p. 202; Acheson, Present at the Creation, p. 533; Facts on File, 1951, p. 202; Dept of State Bulletin, 9 July 1951, p. 45.

36 Facts on File, 1951, p. 202; Goodrich, Korea: A Study of U. S. Policy in the United Nations, pp. 183-84; Acheson, Present at the Creation, pp. 533-34.

37 Facts on File, 1951, pp. 209-10; Goodrich, Korea: A Study of U. S. Policy in the United Nations, p. 184; Schnabel, Policy and Direction, pp. 403-04; Hermes, Truce Tent and Fighting Front, pp. 15-21.

38 Also arriving in June from the United Kingdom were the headquarters and service units of what would be the 1st Commonwealth Division. When eventually formed in late July 1951, the division would include the Canadian 25th, British Commonwealth 28th, and British 29th Brigades.

39 Summary, ROK and U.N. Ground Forces Strength in Korea, 31 Jul 50-31 Jul 53; Eighth Army G2 Estimate of Enemy Strength and Locations, 1 Jul 51; Fox, "Inter-Allied Co-operation During Combat Operations"; Hq, USAFFE, Intel Dig, no. 96, 16-28 Feb 53, and no. 115, 1-15 Feb 53.

40 Facts on File, 1951, pp. 193, 202-03, 218, 234; Mono, Hq, USARPAC, Military History Office, "The Handling of Prisoners of War," Jun 60; Battle Casualties of the Army, Office, Asst Chief of Staff, G1, DA, 31 Mar 54.

41 LOI, Gen Van Fleet to CGs I, IX, and X Corps and to CG ROK I Corps, both 1 Jun 51; Eighth Army Comd Rpts, Nar, Jun and Jul 51.

42 Rad, CX 65365, CINCUNC to DEPTAR, 4 Jul 51; Eighth Army G2 SS Rpt, Jul 51.

43 Hq, USAFFE, Intel Dig, no. 1, 1-31 Dec 52, no. 96, 16-28 Feb 53, no. 99, 16-31 Jan 53, and no. 115, 1-15 Feb 53; Hq, FEC, History of the North Korean Army, 31 Jul 52; Rees, Korea: The Limited War, p. 258; Rad, CX 66183, CINCFE to DA for JCS, 1 Jul 51.

44 Collins, War in Peacetime, p. 306.

45 Rad, CX 66188, CINCFE to DA for JCS, 2 Jul 51; Rad, JCS 92831, JCS to CINCUNC, 1 Jun 51; Rad, JCS 95977, JCS to CINCFE, 10 Jul 51; Hermes, Truce Tent and Fighting Front, p. 23.

46 General Weyland replaced General Stratemeyer in June after the latter suffered a heart attack and, following hospitalization, returned to the United States.

47 Field, History of United States Naval Operations, Korea, pp. 35058; Cagle and Manson, The Sea War in Korea, p. 241; Futrell, United States Air Force in Korea, pp. 400, 403.

48 Rad, JCS 59577, JCS to CINCUNC, 10 Jul 51; Ltr, Gen Van Fleet to CINCFE, 5 Jul 51, sub: Advance Beyond KANSAS-WYOMING Line.

49 Ridgway, The Korean War, pp. 182-93, 187.

50 For an analysis dealing in part with this possibility, see MS, Edwin Augustus Deagle, Jr., The Agony of Restraint: Korea, 1951-1953, copy in CMH.

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