Part 4: 38th Parallel leads straight to Taiwan <>

Henry C K Liu

Part 1: Two nations, worlds apart

Part 2: Cold War links Korea, Taiwan

Part 3: Korea: Wrong war, Wrong Place, Wrong Enemy

This article appeared in AToL on June 9, 2004

An exhausted US colonel, lacking adequate maps and working deep into the night on August 10, had thirty minutes to dictate the critical Paragraph 1, which outlined the terms of the Japanese surrender in World War II, terms that would shape the future of the Far East and set the stage for the Korean War and the Taiwan crisis. The 38th Parallel wasn't a good division. In fact the colonel knew it was quite undesirable, but it did bisect the peninsula and it could keep the Soviets at bay - so he drew the line that would have devasting consequences.

On August 10, military planners in the US War Department Operations Division began to outline surrender procedures in General Order No 1, which general MacArthur would transmit to the Japanese Government after its surrender. The first paragraph of the order specified the nations and commands that were to accept the surrender of Japanese forces throughout the Far East. The Policy Section of the Strategy and Policy Group in the Operations Division drafted the initial version of the order.

Under pressure to produce a document as quickly as possible, members of the Policy Section began to work late at night on August 10. They discussed possible surrender zones, the allocation of American, British, Chinese and Soviet occupation troops to accept the surrender in the zone most convenient to them, the means of actually taking the surrender of the widely scattered Japanese military forces, and the position of the USSR in the Far East. They quickly decided to include both provisions for splitting up the entire Far East for the surrender and definitions of the geographical limits of those zones.

The chief of the policy section, colonel Charles H Bonesteel, had thirty minutes in which to dictate Paragraph 1 to a secretary, as the Joint Staff Planners and the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee were impatiently awaiting the result of his work. Bonesteel thus somewhat hastily decided who would accept the Japanese surrender. His thoughts, with very slight revision, were incorporated into the final directive. Bonesteel's prime consideration was to establish a surrender line as far north as he thought the Soviets would accept. He knew that Soviet troops could reach the southern tip of Korea before American troops could arrive. He knew also that the Soviets were on the verge of moving into Korea, or were already there.

The nearest American troops to Korea were on Okinawa, 600 miles away. Bonesteel's problem therefore was to compose a surrender arrangement which, while acceptable to the Soviets, would at the same time prevent them from seizing all of Korea. If they refused to confine their advance to North Korea, the US would be unable to stop them. Thus the subsequent existence of South Korea was essentially the result of Soviet good will.

At first, Bonesteel had thought of surrender zones conforming to the provincial boundary lines. But the only map he had in his office was hardly adequate for this sort of distinction. The 38th Parallel, he noted, cut Korea approximately through the middle. If this line was agreeable to president Harry Truman and to the Soviet leader, generalissimo Joseph Stalin, it would place Seoul and a nearby prisoner of war camp in American hands. It would also leave enough land to be apportioned to the Chinese and the British if some sort of quadripartite administration became necessary. Thus he decided to use the 38th Parallel as a hypothetical line dividing the zones within which Japanese forces in Korea would surrender to appointed American and Russian authorities.

Former secretary of state Dean Rusk wrote years later:
"During a meeting on August 14,1945, colonel Charles Bonesteel and I retired to an adjacent room late at night and studied intently a map of the Korean peninsula. Working in haste and under great pressure, we had a formidable task: to pick a zone for the American occupation. . .Using a National Geographic map, we looked just north of Seoul for a convenient dividing line but could not find a natural geographic line. We saw instead the 38th Parallel and decided to recommend that. . . [The State and War Departments] accepted it without too much haggling, and surprisingly, so did the Soviets . . . [The] choice of the 38th Parallel, recommended by two tired colonels working late at night, proved fateful."

The US Joint Chiefs of Staff telegraphed the general order to general MacArthur on August 14 and directed that he furnish an estimated time schedule for the occupation of a port in Korea. Among the items it specified, General Order No 1 stated that Japanese forces north of the 38th Parallel in Korea would surrender to the Russian commander, while those south of the parallel would surrender to the commanding general of the US expeditionary forces.

As Washington waited for Moscow's reaction to president Truman's message, there was a short period of suspense. Russian troops had entered Korea three days before the president accepted the draft of General Order No 1. If the Russians failed to accept the proposal, and if Russian troops occupied Seoul, brigadier general George A Lincoln, chief of the strategy and policy group, suggested that American occupation forces move into Pusan. Stalin replied to Truman on August 16,1945, saying nothing specifically about the 38th Parallel but he offered no objection to the substance of the president's message.

The new dividing line, about 190 miles across the peninsula, sliced across Korea without regard for political boundaries, geographical features, waterways, or paths of commerce. The 38th Parallel cut through more than 75 streams and 12 rivers, intersected many high ridges at variant angles, severed 181 small cart roads, 104 country roads,15 provincial all-weather roads, eight better-class highways, and six north-south rail lines. It was, in fact, an arbitrary separation, symbolic of the unnatural notion of two Koreas. South of the 38th Parallel, the American zone covered 37,000 square miles and held some 21,000,000 people.

North of the line, the USSR zone totaled 48,000 square miles and had about 9 million people. Of the 20 principal Korean cities,12 lay within the American zone, including Seoul, the largest, with a population of nearly 2 million. The American zone included six of Korea's 13 provinces in their entirety, the major part of two more, and a small part of another. The two areas, North and South Korea, complemented each other both agriculturally and industrially. South Korea was mainly a farming area, where fully two-thirds of the inhabitants worked the land. It possessed three times as much irrigated rice land as the northern area, and furnished food for the north. But North Korea furnished the fertilizer for the southern rice fields, and the largest nitrogenous fertilizer plant in the Far East was in Hungnam. Although North Korea also had a high level of agricultural production, it was deficient in some crops. The political barrier imposed serious adverse effects on the natural symbiosis of the divided zones.

South Korea in 1940 produced about 74 percent of Korea's light consumer goods and processed products. Its industry consisted of some large and many small plants producing textiles, rubber products, hardware and ceramics. Many of these plants had been built to process raw materials from North Korea.

North Korea, a largely mountainous region contains valuable mineral deposits, especially coal. Excellent hydroelectric plants, constructed during the last 10 years of Japanese domination, ranked with the largest and best in the world. Because of its power resources, North Korea housed almost all of Korea's heavy industry, including several rolling mills and a highly developed chemical industry. In 1940, North Korea produced 86 percent of Korea's heavy manufactured goods. The only petroleum processing plant in the country, a major installation designed to serve all of Korea, was located in the north, as were seven of eight cement plants. Almost all the electrical power used by South Korea came from the north, as did iron, steel, wood pulp and industrial chemicals needed by South Korea's light industry.

Sharp differences between North and South had traditionally been part of the Korean scene. South Koreans considered their northern neighbors crude and culturally backward. North Koreans viewed southerners as lazy schemers. During the Japanese occupation, Koreans in the north had been much less tractable than those in the south. Differences in farming accounted for some of the social differences in the two zones. A dry-field type of farming in the North opposed a rice-culture area in the South to produce marked variations in points of view. In the South were more small farms and a high tenancy rate, while in the North larger farms and more owner-farmers prevailed.

All of those economic and cultural differences the 38th Parallel promised to exacerbate.

In this famous address to Congress on March 12, 1947, known as the Truman Doctrine Speech, president Truman stressed the moralistic duty of the US to combat totalitarian regimes worldwide. His speech specifically called for US$400 million in aid to Greece and Turkey, both of which he considered to be threatened by communist insurrections as a result of British withdrawal. Congress responded to Truman's appeal by allocating both the requested financial aid and US troops to administer postwar reconstruction.

The Truman Doctrine eventually led to the Marshall Plan, spending $13 billion (out of a 1947 GDP of $244 billion or 5.4 percent) to help Europe recover economically from World War II and to keep it from communism. The most significant aspect of the Marshall plan was the US guarantee of US investors in Europe to exchange their profits in European currencies back into dollars. This established the dollar as the world's reserved currency and laid the foundation for dollar hegemony for over half a century. In the same speech, to justify the high cost of combating communism in Europe, Truman said: "The United States contributed $341 billion toward winning World War II."

Today, the US spends about $400 billion a year, or 4 percent of its of GDP, on its defense budget, not counting the open-ended cost of the Iraq War and occupation so far. All in all, if the US were to spend 4 percent of its GDP annually on foreign economic aid, US security might well be better enhanced.

Professor Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago has pointed out that declassified Soviet documents do not support the existence of any plan by North Korea of a wholesale invasion of the South, only a limited military operation to seize the Ongjin Peninsula - jutting southward from the 38th Parallel on Korea's west coast, reachable from the South only by sea or by an overland route through North Korean territory. This is where the Korean War conventionally dated from June 25, 1950, began, and where fighting between the South and North began on May 4, 1949, in a battle started by the South, according to the most reliable accounts.

According to Soviet documents, Kim Il-sung first broached the idea of an operation against Ongjin to Soviet ambassador T F Shtykov on August 12,1949. This came on the heels of the biggest Ongjin battle of 1949, initiated on August 4 by the North to dislodge South Korean army units holding Unpa Mountain, a salient above the 38th Parallel which the South had attacked in a previous battle. The coveted summit commanded much of the terrain to the north. The North sought, in the words of the American commander of the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) "to recover high ground in North Korea occupied by [the] South Korean Army." Before dawn, it launched strong artillery barrages and then at 5:30 am, 4,000 to 6,000 North Korean border guards attacked the salient. They routed the South Korean defenders, destroying two companies of Republic of Korea soldiers and leaving hundreds dead.

Virtual panic ensued at high levels of the South Korean government, leading President Syngman Rhee and his favored high officers in the army to argue that the only way to relieve pressure on Ongjin was to drive north to Chorwon - which happened to be about 20 miles into North Korean territory. Rhee, who began his political career by forming a government-in-exile in Nationalist Shanghai, was meeting in a southern Korean port with Chiang Kai-shek [Jiang Jieshi] on forming an anti-communist military alliance.

He returned immediately to Seoul and dressed down his defense minister for not having "attacked the North" after the Ongjin debacle. The American ambassador and the Korean Military Advisory Group commander both intervened, since an attack on Chorwon would lead to, in the words of the latter, "heavy civil war and might spread". The South did not move against Chorwon, but attacks from both sides across the 38th Parallel on the Ongjin peninsula continued through the end of 1949.

Professor Cumings wrote: "All this is based on unimpeachable American archival documentation, some of which was reproduced in the 1949 Korea papers of the Foreign Relations of the US and which I treated at length in my 1990 book. When we now look at both sides of the Parallel with the help of Soviet materials, we see how similar the Soviets were in seeking to restrain hotheaded Korean leaders, including the two chiefs of state. Indeed, two key Soviet Embassy officials seeking to restrain Kim used language almost identical to that which John Foster Dulles used with Rhee in his June 1950 discussions in Seoul (both, upon hearing Kim or Rhee declaim their desire to attack the other side, 'tried to switch the discussion to a general theme', to quote from document No 6). We see that Kim Il-sung, like southern leaders, wanted to bite off a chunk of exposed territory or grab a small city - all of Kaesong for example, which is bisected by the 38th Parallel, or Haeju city just above the Parallel on Ongjin, which southern commanders wanted to occupy in 1949-50."

The issue of socialist world revolution had been settled by the Stalin-Trotsky dispute before World War II, with Stalin's strategy of "socialism in one country" accepted as official Soviet policy. Stalin never expected the Chinese communists to gain control of China and urged them to cooperate as a minority polity with the Kuomintang (KMT). This Soviet posture fit with general Marshall's attempt to forge a coalition government in post-war China. But the march of history made irresistible throughout the oppressed world the struggle against Western imperialism, a dilapidated system weakened by two world wars of inter-capitalist rivalry.

Much of the national bourgeoisie in colonized nations, co-opted for over a century into the role of submissive compradors, after World War II took up the banner of defending capitalism, under the wing of a new economic imperialism emanating from the US to replace collapsing European colonial empires. This new imperialism smeared indigenous anti-imperialist struggles as part of a fantasized centrally directed world communist revolution that fueled justification for the Cold War. The Cold War was America's pretext to inherit the Franco-British empire, which Germany tried twice to seize without success. Reactionary nationalist leaders such as Chiang Kai-shek and Syngman Rhee used anti-communism as a ticket to get US financial and military aid to advance their own agenda.

From 1945 to 1950, the Soviets repeatedly avoided confrontation with the US. Soviet conditions required a long period of peace for the reconstruction of the war-decimated Soviet economy. Soviet policies assigned indigenous communist struggles in the colonial world the role of fending for themselves with their own meager resources, with only moral support from the USSR, seasoned with practical constraints based on geopolitical realpolitik. Stalin's priorities were essentially local and practical: he was determined that the outcome of the war must provide absolutely dependable arrangements for the geopolitical security of the Soviet state in the form of a classical sphere of influence, an understanding he had reached with president Roosevelt, both hoping the US-USSR war-time alliance would continue into peace-time mutual acceptance of separate spheres of influence. Both camps saw their separate ideology as a necessary basis for the security of their separate domestic political survival.

Under Truman, in response to indigenous liberation struggles in former European empires, the US turned away from a bipolar regional sphere of influence, the principle by which the Kremlin expected to exercise political influence over its immediate neighbors - and instead favored a universal approach that gave the West a pretext to meddle in the Soviet sphere in the name of freedom. The US policy of containment then turned into a reactionary global strategy against social progress in the name of anti-communism. The notion of a Soviet strategy for socialist world revolution was entirely the paranoid fantasy of National Security Council Report 68, furnished as a counterpoint pretext for US global hegemony.

Since imperialist expansion violates the American self-image, the US invariably must demonize its targets of aggression, with charges such as "axis of evil" in order to link nations deemed obstructively hostile to US imperium, such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea - nations that otherwise have no military alliance or even political similarity. Two new major post-war US allies, Germany and Japan, former adversaries in the war against fascist militarism, were nurtured into what society would have become if fascism had won the war and eventually normalized its excesses. And this is clearly shown by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the talented and insightful post-war German filmmaker, in his thought-provoking productions.

Evgueni Bajanov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Institute for Contemporary International Problems, studied recently declassified Soviet archives and wrote in his article: "Assessing the Politics of the Korean War, 1949-50," that Stalin was worried about an attack from South Korea, and did everything to avoid provoking Washington and Seoul. Through 1947-48, Soviet leaders still accepted the possibility of an eventual unification of Korea under a dominant South, and refused to sign a separate friendship and cooperation treaty with North Korean leader Kim Il-sung. In the beginning of 1949, the Soviet embassy in Pyongyang began to alert the Kremlin to the growing number of violations of the 38th Parallel by South Korean police and armed forces. On February 3,1949, Soviet ambassador to North Korea Shtykov bitterly complained that the North Koreans did not have enough trained personnel, adequate weapons and sufficient numbers of bullets to rebuff intensifying incursions from the South.

Receiving Kim Il-sung in the Kremlin on March 5, 1949, Stalin showed an open concern about growing pressure from the opponent in the vicinity of the 38th Parallel and emphatically told Kim: "The 38th Parallel must be peaceful. It is very important."

After Kim's return to Korea, the situation did not improve. On April 17,1949, Stalin warned his ambassador of an imminent attack from the South. The Soviet ambassador confirmed that a large-scale war was being prepared by Seoul with the help of Americans and raised alarm about the inability of North Korean troops to withstand the aggression. In May-August 1949, the Kremlin and Pyongyang continued to exchange data about a possible attack from the South. The USSR was clearly afraid of such an attack, and was nervous not knowing how to prevent the war. Stalin repeatedly castigated ambassador Shtykov for failing to do everything in his power to maintain peace on the 38th Parallel.

While Stalin tried to prevent a full-scale civil war in Korea in 1949, the North Korean leadership increasingly put pressure on the Kremlin, demanding support to continue the civil war to liberate the South as a matter of ideological imperative. On March 7,1949, while talking to Stalin in Moscow, Kim Il-sung said: "We believe that the situation makes it necessary and possible to liberate the whole country through military means."

The Soviet leader disagreed, citing the military weakness of the North, the Soviet-US agreement on the 38th Parallel, and the possibility of American intervention. Stalin added that only if the adversary attacked Pyongyang could they try military reunification by launching a counterattack. "Then," Stalin explained, "your move will be understood and supported by everyone."

On September 11,1949, Stalin ordered a new appraisal of the situation in Korea, sending instructions to the Soviet embassy in Pyongyang to study the military, political and international aspects of a possible attack on the South. The embassy gave a negative view on the matter on September 14, and on September 24 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee Politburo rejected the North Korean appeal to start an all-out civil war, concluding that the North Korean army was not prepared for such an attack militarily, that "little has been done to raise the South Korean masses to an active struggle," and that an unprovoked attack by the North "would give the Americans a pretext for all kinds of interference into Korean affairs".

At the same time of the exchange of cables between Moscow and Pyongyang, Mao Zedong, in his new status as leader of China, was visiting the Soviet capital. Stalin discussed with Mao the Korean situation, but according to all available data the Soviet leader never mentioned to his Chinese guest any decision to support a full-scale civil war, nor his invitation to Kim Il-sung to come to Moscow. Kim and his delegation spent most of April 1950 in the Soviet Union. The first issue on the agenda was the ways and methods of unification of Korea through military means. Thereafter, Stalin gave his approval to an all-out civil war and outlined his view on how the war had to be prepared.

Stalin changed his mind on Korea because of:
1) The victory of the communists in China.

2) The Soviet acquisition of the atom bomb, first tested by Moscow in August 1949.
3) The establishment of NATO and general aggravation of Soviet relations with the West.

4) A perceived weakening of Washington's positions and of its will to get involved militarily in Asia over Korea as implied by secretary of state Dean Acheson's speech.

Stalin might have also concluded that the US had decided to embark on a Cold War and that a US-Soviet condominium envisioned by FDR was no longer possible. Still, Stalin had only aimed at a strengthening of the North to balance massive US military aid to the South for a protracted but controlled confrontation, not expecting the North to overrun the South's military so quickly and easily.

Stalin did not consult Mao in advance of his decision because he wanted to work out the plans for the long-range unification of Korea without Chinese interference and objections, and then he would present Beijing with a fait accompli, which Mao would have no choice but to accept as a given fact, and assist. While in Moscow, Mao insisted on the liberation of Taiwan, for which Soviet help on the nearly non-existent Chinese navy was necessary, but Stalin reacted negatively to the idea. It would have been hard for Stalin to convince Mao in Moscow to help the Koreans reunify their country before the Chinese had completed the reunification of their own country. Also, Korea was more critical to Soviet security than Taiwan.

China had been involved in working out revolutionary unification strategy in Korea by the late 1940s. Mao supported Kim's desire to liberate the South on principle and even promised to help with troops eventually if necessary. However, Mao recommended patience, to wait until the Chinese completed their own revolutionary civil war. In the beginning of May 1949, Kim Il-sung had meetings with Chinese leaders. Mao warned Kim not to advance to the South in the near future. He cited the unfavorable situation in the world and the preoccupation of China with its own civil war. Mao recommended postponing a full-scale civil war in Korea until all China was reunited under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

After Kim's April 1950 visit to the USSR, of which declassified records showing Mao as knowing nothing, Stalin authorized the Soviet ambassador in Beijing to tell the Chinese leadership the following: "Korean comrades visited us recently. I'll inform you shortly about the results of our conversations." Simultaneously Kim Il-sung requested a visit to Beijing to execute Stalin's instructions: to continue with civil war plans only if China supported the idea. On the eve of the visit, Kim said to the Soviet ambassador that he did not intend to ask anything from the Chinese since "all his requests had been met in Moscow."

In April 1950, leaders of the guerilla movement in the South arrived in Pyongyang to work out a program of action for before and after the full-scale civil war. On May 12, 1950, Kim Il-sung informed the Soviet ambassador that his General Staff had already started to plan the operation. Pyongyang wanted to start the campaign in June but was not sure that preparations could be completed by that time. By the end of May, the armaments that had been promised by Stalin arrived and the plan of a full-scale civil war was ready. Kim insisted on commencing action in June, not in July as Soviet advisers preferred, arguing that large-scale preparations could be detected by the South; and that in July, rain would slow the advancement of troops.

While making final preparations for the full-scale civil war, the North continued proposing initiatives on the peaceful unification of Korea as a last effort. Initially, the North wanted to strike at the Ongjin peninsula, but at the last moment the strategy was changed. It was believed that Seoul had learned about the pending attack and had beefed up its defenses of Ongjin. The North Koreans now sought Moscow's support for operations along the whole border. The final period, May-June 1950, before the attack is not well documented in Soviet materials declassified to date, and additional research in the archives by historians is required to get a clearer and more detailed picture of the final preparations for the war.

Some evidence suggests that the North had originally wanted merely to stop repeated hostile incursions from the South, but the unanticipated rapid collapse of the South Korean military in the early days of the campaign led the North to change its strategy to an all-out war of hot pursuit to take control of the entire peninsula - a task it had not planned to undertake originally and for which it did not have proper logistic support. Accordingly, the North's advance south ran out of steam after US intervention and turned into disastrous disarray after the US landing at Inchon three months later.

While China supported Korean reunification as a general principle, Chinese leaders were distressed and offended by the fact that the North Koreans did not consult with them and did not pay heed to their advice of caution. On July 2, 1950, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai in a conversation with Soviet ambassador N V Roshchin complained that the North Koreans had underestimated the probability of American military intervention, ignoring Mao's warnings against adventurism back in May 1949 and 1950. Zhou passed on Mao's advice to the North Koreans to create a strong defense line in the area of Inchon, because American troops could land there.

In Chinese history, an expeditionary campaign to Korea in the 7th century by Tang dynasty forces had landed at Inchon with great success. The Chinese leadership feared landing operations by Americans behind North Korean lines in other parts of the Korean peninsula as well. In this conversation, Zhou confirmed that if the Americans crossed the 38th Parallel, Chinese troops of Korean ethnicity would engage the opponent. Three Chinese armies, 120,000 men in total, had already been concentrated in the area of Mukden, known as Shengyang, in Manchuria as a contingency. Zhou inquired if it would be possible to cover these troops with Soviet air support. On July 20, North Korean troops captured Taejon, taking US major general William Dean prisoner. On July 29, Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese Nationalist leader on Taiwan, offered to send 33,000 soldiers to Korea, but the UN, under US control, declined the offer, as that would bring the Chinese civil war into Korea.

According to Roy E Appleman of the Center of Military History, US Army, (South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu), MacArthur's daring landing at Inchon was based on intelligence reports that the enemy, as a result of unanticipated battlefield success in the drive south, had neglected his rear. The information added that the North's military advance was dangling on a thin logistical thread that could be quickly cut in the Seoul area, that the enemy had committed practically all his forces against the US Eighth Army in the south, and had no trained reserves and little power of recuperation.

MacArthur stressed strategic, political and psychological reasons for the landing at Inchon and the quick recapture of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. It would capture the imagination of Asia, restore US prestige and win support for the UN Command, he argued. MacArthur pointed to a huge wall map and told a planning conference - in order to overcome Navy doubts based on difficult tidal conditions at Inchon - that Inchon would be the anvil on which the hammer of lieutenant general Walton H Walker's Eighth Army from the South would crush the North Koreans.

The Navy was apprehensive that tides in the restricted waters of the channel and the harbor must have a maximum depth of 33 feet. World War II landing craft that were to be used required 23 feet of tide to clear the mud flats, and the Landing Ships with Tank (LSTs) required 29 feet of tide - a favorable condition that prevailed only once a month over a period of three or four days. The narrow, shallow channel necessitated a daylight approach for the larger ships. Accordingly, it was necessary to schedule the main landings for the late afternoon high tide. A night approach, however, by a battalion-sized attack group was to be made for the purpose of seizing Wolmi-do during the early morning high tide, a necessary preliminary to the main landing at Inchon itself.

MacArthur and his planners had selected September 15 for D-day because there would then be a high tide giving maximum water depth over the Inchon mud flats. Tidal range for September 15 reached 31.2 feet at high and minus 0.5 feet at low water. Only on this day did the tide reach this extreme range. No other date after this would permit landing until September 27 when a high tide would reach 27 feet. On October 11-13, there would be a tide of 30 feet. Morning high tide on September 15 came at 0659, forty-five minutes after sunrise; evening high tide came at 1919, twenty-seven minutes after sunset. The Navy set 23 feet of tide as the critical point needed for landing craft to clear the mud flat and reach the landing sites.

Another consideration was the sea walls that fronted the Inchon landing sites. Built to turn back unusually high tides, they were 16 feet in height above the mud flats. They presented a scaling problem except at extreme high tide. Since the landing would be made somewhat short of extreme high tide in order to use the last hour or two of daylight, ladders would be needed. Some aluminum scaling ladders were made in Kobe, Japan, and there were others of wood. Grappling hooks, lines and cargo nets were readied for use in holding the boats against the sea wall. All considered, it was an uncommonly daring operation and its success was a testimony to the excellence of the US military.

Air strikes and naval gunfire raked Wolmi-do and, after this three rocket ships moved in close and put down an intense rocket barrage. The landing crafts straightened out into lines from their circling and moved toward the line of departure. Just as the ship's loud speaker announced: "Landing force crossing line of departure," MacArthur came on the bridge of the Amphibious Force Flagship USS Mt McKinley. It was 0625. The first major amphibious assault by American troops against an enemy since Easter Sunday, April 1,1945, at Okinawa was under way. About one mile of water lay between the line of departure and the Wolmi-do beach. The US X Corps expeditionary troops arriving off Inchon on September 15 numbered over 70,000 men.

On September 6, the US daily intelligence summary included a report of the Nationalist Chinese Ministry of Defense G-2 on Taiwan that if the war turned against the North and moved into Northern territory, elements of marshal Lin Piao's Chinese Fourth Field Army probably would be committed by Beijing. This report further indicated that such troops would not be used as Chinese units but would be integrated into the North Korea People's Army. The US Far East Command learned in mid-September of an alleged conference in mid-July in Beijing where it was decided to support North Korea - short of war. Premier Zhou was quoted, however, as having said that if the North Koreans were driven by US forces back to the Yalu, Chinese forces would enter Korea.

US Far East Command intelligence, in commenting on this report, said that the Chinese communist authorities apparently were worried over Korea and would regard a US advance to the Yalu as a "serious threat to their regime". In a little more than a week, MacArthur's troops were in the capital, Seoul, and they had cut off the bulk of the North Korean forces around Pusan.

On September 27, the US Joint Chiefs ordered MacArthur to destroy the enemy army and authorized him to conduct military operations north of the 38th Parallel. On October 7, US troops crossed the Parallel. The same day, the UN General Assembly approved, 47-5, an American resolution endorsing the action. On the last day of September, the daily intelligence summary reported on an alleged high-level conference in Beijing on August 14, at which it had been decided to provide 250,000 Chinese troops for use in Korea.

In general, Moscow and Beijing held convergent views on the strategy and tactics of the war, until the US landing at Inchon, when the perspective in China started to change. In a conversation with Soviet ambassador Roshchin on September 21, premier Zhou stated that there were those in China who worried that the Korean War would drag on and would require costly sacrifices on the part of China. China's authorities provided Soviet intelligence with information showing Kremlin policy in Korea in a bad light.

At one point, Moscow was informed by Beijing that the British consul in the Chinese capital had reached the conclusion that the USSR and the US had colluded in Korea, trying - with the help of the war there - to prevent China from liberating Taiwan, completing the civil war and becoming a power in Asia. (Roshchin cable to Moscow, July 13, 1950, Arkhiv vneshnei politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii AVP RF). In the 1970s, during the Sino-Soviet split and US-China rapprochement, Taiwan played its Soviet card by trying to develop a rapprochement of its own with the USSR.

Harvard historian and Russian specialist Adam Ulam concluded that Soviet support for the attack on South Korea was not to gain control over South Korea, "a negligible prize, certainly not worth the risk incurred in authorizing the operation". Instead, Ulam suspected that Stalin could have foreseen that Washington would protect Taiwan should war break out in Korea, and that Mao, faced with the possibility of a renewed civil war on the mainland, would thus require Soviet support.

"It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the Korean imbroglio was instigated by the Russians for the specific purpose of discouraging the Chinese Communists from breaking away from Soviet tutelage," Ulam wrote. (The Communists: The Story of Power and Lost Illusions: 1948-1991 (New York and Toronto: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992), 81-82).

On October 1,1950, Stalin came to the conclusion that China had to come to the rescue of the collapsing North Korean defense. On that day he sent an urgent message to Mao and Zhou asking them "to move to the 38th Parallel at least 5-6 divisions in order to give our Korean comrades a chance to organize under the protection of your troops' military reserves to the north of the 38th Parallel." Stalin added that Pyongyang was not informed of this request. It did not take Mao long to respond to Stalin's cable, declining on the ground that Chinese troops were not strong enough and a clash between China and the US would ruin Beijing's plans for peaceful reconstruction and could drag the USSR into a war with Washington. Instead, he suggested that the North Koreans accept defeat and resort to guerrilla tactics.

Stalin, notwithstanding earlier signals to the US of no direct Soviet intervention in Korea, tried to convince Beijing that the US would not dare to start a big war and would agree on a settlement on Korea favorable to the socialist bloc. Under such a scenario, China would also solve the Taiwan issue. He added that even if the US provoked a big war, "let it take place now rather than a few years later, when Japanese militarism will be restored as an American ally, and when the United States and Japan will possess a military spring-board on the continent in the form of Rhee's Korea."

Stalin informed Kim Il-sung about his attempts to persuade China and called upon the North Koreans "to hold firm to every piece of their land". However, on October 12, 1950, the Soviet leader told Kim that China had refused again and that Korea had to be evacuated. On the next day, however, Stalin had better news: The Chinese, after long deliberation and discussion, had agreed to extend direct military aid to North Korea. Moscow, in exchange, agreed to arm the Chinese troops and to provide them with air cover. However, Soviet supplies of military material to both North Korea and China never matched that provided to South Korea by the US.

According to available sources, it was not easy for Beijing to adopt that military decision. Two members of the Chinese leadership sympathetic to Moscow, Gao Gang, who was in charge of Manchuria, and general Peng Dehuai, finally managed to convince Mao to take their side. Their main argument was that if all of Korea was occupied by the US, it would create a mortal danger to the Chinese revolution. Those who opposed participation, on the other hand, complained about Soviet refusal to participate directly in a conflict initially encouraged by Moscow. Memory was still fresh about the Soviet deal with the Chinese Nationalists to recognize Outer Mongolia's independence in exchange for keeping Chinese communists from entering Manchuria, so that the Soviets could dismantle Manchurian industrial assets for shipping back to the Soviet Union.

The Chinese communists had to fight with captured Japanese remnant 1930s equipment to liberate Manchuria from newly US-equipped Nationalist forces, to whom the Soviets had delivered control of Manchuria after they accepted Japanese surrender. Nationalist troops were airlifted by the US into Manchuria with Soviet concurrence. The Manchurian Campaign turned into the PLA's first victory in conventional warfare in the long civil war. It saw the destruction, surrender or desertion of 400,000 of the KMT's finest troops, together with their newest weapons and armor when the campaign was over. Some even suggested that China should accept the American advance, even risking occupation by the US of Manchuria - because in that case, a war between Moscow and Washington would break out and China could stay away from unneeded trouble or even be the balancer of power.

On October 3, 1950, China's then foreign minister, Zhou Enlai, summoned Indian ambassador Sardar K M Panikkar in Beijing and told him that if US or UN forces crossed the 38th Parallel, China would send troops to defend North Korea. He said this action would not be taken if only South Korean troops crossed the 38th Parallel, as China would not interfere with the Korean civil war. This information was communicated quickly by the Indian ambassador to his government, which in turn informed the US and the UN.

Washington immediately dispatched the message to general MacArthur in Tokyo. Representatives of other nations reported similar statements coming from Chinese officials in Beijing. Then, on October 10, Beijing Radio broadcast a declaration of Chinese intentions in a statement to the same effect. On October 15, the US Department of the Army informed MacArthur's headquarters of another report from a reliable source that Moscow was preparing a surprise for American troops when they approached the northern Korean border.

Ten days earlier, on October 5, for the first time, US Far East Command intelligence listed the number one priority in terms of enemy capabilities as being the "Reinforcement by Soviet Satellite China". But this estimate did not long remain its first priority; it dropped to second place the next day, to third place on October 9, and remained there through October 13. On October 14, the intelligence estimate again raised the reinforcement of North Korea to first priority. There it remained during the Wake Island Conference between president Truman and general MacArthur.

The US Far East Command daily intelligence summary for October 14 carried a lengthy analysis of the problem and presumably represented the official view of major general Charles A Willoughby, Far East Command G-2. This intelligence estimate accepted a total strength of 38 Chinese divisions in nine armies in Manchuria, which Chinese refer to as the Northeast, or dongbei. The region borders Inner Mongolia to the west, Russia to the north and North Korea to the east, and is comprised of Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning provinces. The intelligence report expressed the view that the USSR would find it convenient and economical to stay out of the conflict and let the Chinese provide the troops if there was to be intervention.

It went on to say that the interest of all intelligence agencies was focused on the "elusive Lin Piao" and the Yalu River. One significant paragraph stated:

"Recent declarations by CCF (Chinese Communist Forces) leaders, threatening to enter North Korea if American forces were to cross the 38th Parallel, are probably in a category of diplomatic blackmail. [Italics supplied.] The decision, if any, is beyond the purview of collective intelligence: it is a decision for war, on the highest level; i.e. the Kremlin and Peiping [Beijing]. However, the numerical and troop potential in Manchuria is a fait-accompli. A total of 24 divisions are disposed along the Yalu River at crossing points. In this general deployment, the grouping in the vicinity of Antung is the most immediately available Manchurian force, astride a suitable road net for deployment southward."

This same report pointed to the recent fall of Wonsan as a serious loss to the enemy and one jeopardizing his entire defense structure. It went on to say: "This open failure of the enemy to rebuild his forces suggests that the CCF and Soviets, in spite of their continued interest and some blatant public statements, have decided against further expensive investment in support of a lost cause."

Meanwhile, President Truman on October 10 had announced his intention to fly to the Pacific for a meeting with General MacArthur over the coming weekend to discuss "the final phase of UN action in Korea." The conference between the President, General MacArthur, and selected advisers of each took place on Wake Island, Sunday, October 15. Most of the talk concerned plans for the rehabilitation of Korea after the fighting ceased.

General MacArthur said he expected formal resistance to end throughout North and South Korea by Thanksgiving Day and that he hoped to get the Eighth Army back to Japan by Christmas. In response to President Truman's question, "What are the chances for Chinese or Soviet interference?" official notes of the conference indicate that General MacArthur replied substantially as follows:

"Very little. Had they interfered in the first or second months it would have been decisive. We are no longer fearful of their intervention. We no longer stand with hat in hand. The Chinese have 300,000 men in Manchuria. Of these probably not more than 100,000 to 200,000 are distributed along the Yalu River. Only 50,000 to 60,000 could be gotten across the Yalu River. They have no Air Force. Now that we have bases for our Air Force in Korea, if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang there would be greatest slaughter."

General MacArthur then discussed briefly the chance of Russian intervention, holding the view that it was not feasible and would not take place. He said the Eighth Army would be back home by Christmas.

General MacArthur later challenged the accuracy of the official notes of the conversations at the Wake Island Conference. He maintained that the question concerning possible Chinese or Soviet intervention was low on the President's agenda, and that while he replied that the chances of such intervention were "very little," he added that this opinion was purely speculative and derived from the military standpoint, while the question fundamentally was one requiring a political decision. His view, he stated, was also conditioned by the military assumption that if the Chinese did intervene, US forces would retaliate, and in a peninsular war could create havoc with their exposed lines of communication and bases of supply. He said, in effect, that he took it for granted that Chinese knowledge of this capability would be a powerful factor in keeping them from intervening. Militarily, MacArthur was right: a peninsula war greatly discounts the numerical advantage of large army against a technologically superior smaller force with air superiority.

The statement of Zhou Enlai to the Indian ambassador on October 3, the announcements made over Beijing radio, the timing of Chinese troop movements as learned from intelligence, taken in connection with later events, made it seem reasonably clear that China had decided by early October on intervention in North Korea if UN troops other than South Korea's crossed the 38th Parallel.

Whether Chinese leaders believed the UN Command would cross the Parallel is unknown, but there is at least one good reason to think the North Korean Government believed the UN Command would stop at the 38th Parallel. Kim Il-sung, commander in chief of the North Korea People's Army, in an order to the army dated October 14, 1950, stated in part, "Other reasons that we have failed are that many of us felt that the 38th Parallel would be as far as the US Forces would attack. . ."

Within a few days after the lead elements of the US forces crossed the 38th Parallel at Kaesong on October 9, lead elements of the Chinese "volunteers" were crossing the Yalu River at the Manchurian border into North Korea. The first of these troops apparently crossed the boundary on October 13 or 14. Four Chinese armies, each of three divisions, then crossed the Yalu River between October 14 and 20. Two of them, the 38th and the 40th, crossed from An-tung, Manchuria, to Sinuiju, North Korea; the other two, the 38th and 42nd, crossed from Chi-an, Manchuria, to Manpojin, North Korea. All four armies were part of Lin Piao's Fourth Field Army and upon arrival in Korea were subordinated to the XIII Army Group. The 1st Motorized Artillery Division, two regiments of the 2nd Motorized Artillery Division, and a cavalry regiment also crossed into Korea at An-tung about October 20-22 in support of the four armies already across.

At the time that general MacArthur was telling president Truman and his top advisers on Wake Island on October 15 that there was very little likelihood the Chinese would intervene, and that, if they did, no more than 60,000 could get across the Yalu, and that his air force would destroy them - approximately 120,000 Chinese soldiers either had already crossed, were in the act of crossing, or were moving from their assembly and training areas to the crossing sites for the purpose of crossing.

China entered the war officially on October 27. About 20,000 Chinese and that many North Koreans attacked South Korean and American forces in the region stretching from Unsan to Huichon about 55 miles south of the Yalu. The Republic of Korea (ROK) 6th Division was forced to withdraw from positions they had established a day earlier on the Yalu. They and the 7th and 8th Divisions were put on the defensive. A regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division was trapped near Unsan. More troops and equipment were being brought in from China daily. China also announced that it sent 50,000 troops to Tibet on October 19.

US State Department experts on the USSR, George Kennan and Charles Bohlen, urged the Joint Chiefs against crossing the 38th Parallel. They believed that the USSR and China would join the war - if US invaded North Korea. But the hawks - Dean Acheson, Dean Rusk (who drew the 38th Parallel and who later got the US involved in the Vietnam War) and John Allison - won the day and talked Truman into siding with MacArthur over the objections of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

October 1950 was a month of rapid daily critical developments:

South Korean troops crossed the 38th Parallel on October 1, the day MacArthur called upon North Korea to surrender. The ROK 3rd Division on Korea's east coast pursued North Korean troops across the 38th Parallel with no resistance. A US Army observation plane had airdropped orders to them to enter North Korea. The 3rd Division had pursued the enemy since they began retreating following the US Inchon landing.

The Capital Division followed soon after on October 3. On the same day, Premier Zhou Enlai informed the Indian ambassador to Beijing that China would intervene in the Korean War if US or UN forces cross the 38th Parallel. On the next day, India warned the UN that China told them it would enter the war if UN forces crossed the 38th Parallel.

That same day, October 4, general MacArthur issued "United Nations Command Operations Order 2" which was the plan for UN forces to cross into North Korea. ROK troops were already 20 to 30 miles north of the 38th Parallel on the east coast at this time. The 27th British Commonwealth Brigade was airlifted to Kimpo Air Base. It became part of US I-Corps.

On October 3, the US Eighth Army issued its attack order across the 38th Parallel, calling for the US I-Corps to seize a line west of the Imjin River. I-Corps would then conduct operations northward, the main effort being spearheaded by the 1st Cavalry Division. The US 24th Division and ROK 1st Division were to protect the Corps' flanks and form a reserve. UN Command air forces began a three-day bombing campaign against Wonsan in North Korea and roads between Antung and Pyongyang. Aircrews claimed they knocked out a 100-mile long convoy moving heavy guns and other military supplies coming from Manchuria.

The UN authorized UN Command forces to cross the 38th parallel on October 7, the same day US forces crossed the 38th Parallel. Following a debate on "the future of Korea after the defeat of communism", the UN General Assembly voted to "reunify and rehabilitate" Korea. Under the false impression that the US had won the war, part of the resolution gave UN forces permission to go into North Korea.

The US and Great Britain promised to leave the country when the fighting ended. On October 8, the day US forces crossed the 38th Parallel, Mao Zedong ordered Chinese "volunteers" to cross the Korean border. On October 10, South Korean troops captured Wonsan.

On October 16, Chinese troops crossed the Yalu and entered Korea. On October 19, UN forces captured Pyongyang, capital of North Korea. Chinese forces began their offensive maneuvers in Korea on October 25, two days before the official date of China's entry to the Korean War. On October 27, Chinese and North Korean forces attacked in mass.

Chinese forces began a massive offensive on November 1. MacArthur informed the UN on November 5 that China was fighting in Korea in force. On November 22, Chinese Forces in North Korea said: "Chinese do not want to fight Americans" when they turned 27 wounded US prisoners over to UN forces near Yongbon on the central front. US Army intelligence dismissed China's intentions behind the release.

China's strategy in Korea aimed to transmit two messages: First, China would not permit US occupation of North Korea, and second, China's main concern continued to be Taiwan, and like the US, China wanted to limit the fighting in Korea. The second message was reinforced by Beijing's acceptance of an invitation to go to the UN to discuss the Taiwan situation and, hopefully, the Korean War and to cease hostility temporarily.

Historian Stephen E Ambrose wrote that MacArthur planned to sabotage the peace negotiations by launching a surprise ground offensive on November 15, 1950, which would have coincided with the announced arrival date of the Chinese delegates at the UN. The Chinese delegates, however, were delayed. On November 11, MacArthur learned of the delay, and later that the Chinese delegation would arrive at the UN on November 24. MacArthur put off his offensive, finally beginning it on the morning of November 24. Thus the headlines that greeted the Chinese delegates when they arrived at the UN declared that MacArthur again promised to have the boys "home by Christmas", after they had all been to the Yalu. The Americans were once again marching to the Chinese border, this time in greater force.

The Europeans were incensed. The French government charged that MacArthur had "launched his offensive at this time to wreck the negotiations" and the British New Statesman declared that MacArthur had "acted in defiance of all common sense, and in such a way as to provoke the most peace-loving nation." The Chinese delegation returned to Beijing, convinced of US duplicity.

The failure of the negotiations did not upset Truman, but the failure of MacArthur's offensive did. MacArthur had advanced on two widely separated routes, with his middle wide open. How he could have done so, given the earlier Chinese intervention, remains a mystery to military analysts. The Chinese command poured tens of thousands of troops into the gap and soon sent MacArthur's divided troops fleeing for their lives. In two weeks, Chinese forces cleared much of North Korea, isolated MacArthur's units into three bridgeheads, and completely reversed the military situation.

The real beneficiary was Japan. In response to Korea, Truman pushed through a peace treaty with Japan, signed in September 1951, which excluded the USSR and established US military bases, allowed for Japanese rearmament and unrestricted industrialization. It also encouraged a Japanese boom by dismissing British, Australian, Chinese, Southeast Asian and other demands for reparations. Truman extended American bases around the world, hemming in both the USSR and China. By March 1951, the two sides were again at the 38th Parallel where China did not want to venture further south. The Truman administration, having been burned once, was ready to negotiate. MacArthur sabotaged the efforts to obtain a cease-fire by crossing the 38th Parallel and demanding an unconditional surrender from Chinese forces. Truman decided to remove the general at the first opportunity.

Korean War truce talks did not begin until July 10, 1951. Although the talks started slowly, on November 27, 1951, the two sides agreed on the 38th Parallel as the line of demarcation and almost immediately military operations slowed down. When general Mark Clark assumed command of UN forces in Korea, on May 12, 1952, he was confronted with a military deadlock on the front lines, stalled armistice negotiations, and a violent prisoner of war situation on the island of Koje-do, off the southern coast of South Korea. Believing that the communists only understood force, Clark stepped up military pressure on the enemy to break the stalemate at Panmunjom. Consistent with the defensive nature of Chinese intervention, Chinese forces never ventured more than 50 miles south of the 38th Parallel, beyond strategic battles for Seoul.

Back on December 7, 1950, Stalin and Mao had agreed to present at the UN conditions for a cease-fire. On January 8, 1951, in a cable announcing the further advance of Chinese troops, Stalin wrote: "From all my heart I congratulate Chinese comrades on the capture of Seoul. This is a great victory of popular patriotic forces over forces of reaction." On January 19, marshal Peng Dehuai, commander of China's "volunteers, reported to Mao that Pyongyang accepted Mao's plan of a rest and thorough preparation for the final assault, though Pak Hon-yong, an early rival to Kim Il-sung, tried to hurry things up. It was also agreed that the North Koreans could not advance alone; Chinese participation was needed.

On April 21 1951, less than three months before the start of truce talks on Korea, the US Defense Department announced the appointment of a Military Assistance Advisory Group for Taiwan, on whose recommendation the U.S. resumed direct military aid to the Nationalists. On May 18, Dean Rusk, then assistant secretary of state for far eastern affairs, set the course for US-China policy for the next two decades when he stated: "The regime in Peiping [Beijing] ... is not the government of China. . .We recognize the national government of the Republic of China, [which will] ... continue to receive important aid and assistance from the United States." On May 18, the UN unanimously adopted a US-sponsored resolution calling for "every state" in the world to withhold arms or strategic materials from communist China. The diplomatic cost of Korea for China was enormous.

By June 1951, the question of an armistice was raised by North Korea and China. A prominent feature of this period was constant bargaining between Stalin and Mao about Soviet military supplies and Soviet air cover. Mao kept pressing Stalin to honor Soviet promises, Stalin continued to rebuff Mao, sometimes with visible irritation. In June 1951, Kim Il-sung and Gao Gang went to Moscow, where they convinced Stalin, short of all-out Soviet armament and air support, of the necessity of an armistice-seeking policy.

It was also decided to insist on restoration of the border line along the 38th Parallel and on a small neutral zone on both sides. Mao suggested raising the issue of Taiwan but did not receive support from Stalin. Simultaneously, China requested from the USSR armaments for 60 divisions. Stalin agreed to 20 divisions, though explaining that it was "physically impossible and totally unthinkable" to provide it within one year. Disagreements over Korea became one of the major causes of the later Sino-Soviet split. A month later, on July 10, 1951, truce talks began between a US-led delegation and North Korean-Chinese representatives.

In 1960, Michigan University Professor Allen S Whiting published his landmark study, China Crosses the Yalu, which has strongly influenced a whole generation of Western scholars. Using Western intelligence sources and Chinese journal and newspaper information, Whiting argued that unlike the Soviet Union, China had not directly participated in the planning for the North Korean invasion of the South. After the outbreak of the Korean War, Whiting believed, Beijing tried to terminate the conflict through political settlement, and only after the attempts for a political solution failed in late August 1950 did Beijing begin necessary military preparations in early September.

Whiting emphasized that after the Inchon landing in mid-September, Beijing tried through both public and private channels to prevent UN forces from crossing the 38th Parallel. Beijing entered the war only after all warnings had been ignored by Washington and general Douglas MacArthur and, therefore, in the Beijing leadership's view, the safety of the Chinese-Korean border was in severe jeopordy. Whiting thus concluded that Beijing's management of the Korean crisis was based primarily on the Chinese perception of America's threat to China's national security.

At a press conference on November 30, 1950, president Truman confirmed that he had been actively considering using atomic bombs in Korea since the beginning of the war. Truman called for a worldwide mobilization against communism and, in response to a question, declared that if military action against China was authorized by the UN, MacArthur might be empowered to use the atomic bomb at his discretion. Truman casually added that there had always been active consideration of the bomb's use, for after all it was one of America's military weapons. The comments provoked worldwide reaction and British prime minister Clement Attlee rushed to Washington to express his concern. Truman reluctantly reassured him that the US had "no intention" of using atomic weapons in Korea except to prevent a "major military disaster", meaning a US defeat.

While Truman tried in vain to use his atomic supremacy to US advantage in North Korea, it was not clear that tactical atomic warfare against the people's liberation army would produce decisive results militarily. If the US had used tactical nuclear bombs and Chinese forces kept on coming, it would demonstrate the bomb's ineffectiveness as a last resort weapon and reduce its deterrent effect in strategic arenas. It was a test US military planners were unwilling to face, since the gain would be minor and the loss would be colossal. After all, the need to drop the second atomic bomb on Japan was proof enough that the US had realized that the first bomb did not work as intended as a strategic wonder weapon to end a war immeditately.

Little Boy was the first nuclear weapon used in warfare. It exploded approximately 1,800 feet over Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945, with a force equal to 13 kilotons of TNT. Immediate deaths were officially estimated to be between 70,000 to 140,000, with 90 percent of the city's 750 square kilometers leveled. According to a new local government survey released in October 1999, 541,817 people were killed by the bomb. Of this figure, 372,705 people are considered to have suffered from direct exposure to radiation from the 13-kiloton uranium bomb.

Fat Man was the second nuclear weapon used in warfare. Dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, Fat Man devastated more than two square miles of the city and caused approximately 70,000 deaths because it was dropped on an industrial plant, not in the center of the city. While Little Boy was a uranium gun-type device, Fat Man was a more sophisticated and powerful plutonium implosion weapon that exploded with a force equal to 20 kilotons of TNT. Total immediate casualties from the two bombs exceeded 200,000 with innumerable long-term devastation.

Five days after the second bomb, on August 14, Japan surrendered unconditionally, but only after obtaining tacit acknowledgement of the condition on the retention of the Emperor, a condition that Japan had presented, and the US rejected, two months earlier in peace exploration efforts through third-party diplomatic channels.

Elements of MacArthur's command actually reached the Yalu River marking the border between China and Korea by late October 1950. But these forces were divided into two commands, X Corps and Eighth Army, which had practically no communication with each other and which seemed to invite an enemy offensive to destroy them separately. On November 24, Chinese forces struck hard, and MacArthur's divided troops were pushed back across the 38th Parallel in a matter of weeks.

MacArthur called for an extension of the war into China that he claimed would pave the way to victory in Korea and an end to communism in Asia. He openly called for the bombing of Chinese bases in Manchuria, the blockading of the Chinese coast, and the introduction of Nationalist Chinese forces from Taiwan into the war. On December 8, 1950, the US Commerce Department announced a total economic embargo on China. It remained in place for 21 years.

Truman, five days into the South Korean collapse (Handwritten Note, June 30, 1950, Papers of Harry S. Truman: President's Secretary's Files ):

"Was briefed . . . [on the Pentagon teleconference with general Douglas MacArthur] at seven o'clock. Called [secretary of the army Frank] Pace and [secretary of defense Louis] Johnson and told them to consider giving MacArthur the two divisions he asked for and also to consider the advisability of accepting the two divisions offered by the Chinese Nationalist Government . . . What that will do to Mau Tze Tung [Mao Zedong] we don't know. Must be careful not to cause a general Asiatic war. Russia is figuring on an attack in the Black Sea and toward the Persian Gulf. Both prizes Moscow has wanted since Ivan the Terrible who is now their hero with Stalin & Lenin."

Geopolitics seemed to be all Truman was thinking about - not anti-communism.

MacArthur's racist attitude toward Asians was well known. Vernice Anderson, personal secretary to the ambassador at large, Philip C Jessup, who later served as judge and president of the International Court of Justice, told Oral History interview, February 2, 1971:

"While in Tokyo we were guests of General Douglas M. MacArthur in his guest apartments in the Embassy compound. The Jessups had one apartment, I had an adjoining one, in a building separate from the Embassy residence. During our stay we saw some of the General, of course, and a good deal of his staff. One night about 10 p.m., when returning from dinner, my Army chauffeur by mistake went to the General's personal residence. When our car pulled-up, the M.P.'s at the front door came to attention, clanking their guns on the doorstep. I hurriedly explained to the chauffeur that this was not my residence, but that I lived in the next building. I was horrified for fear of awakening the General, who religiously retired at 9 p.m. after an early dinner and a nightly movie. We understood from the local staff that the General never deviated from this routine, that he never dined with guests or stateside visitors, despite their rank, and that he had never broken bread with an Oriental. What is more, they told us that the General knew the name of every movie he had seen in the last five years!"

At the beginning of the Korea War, MacArthur was appointed commander of UN military forces in South Korea, while retaining his command of Allied forces in Japan. After driving the North Korean forces back over the 38th Parallel, MacArthur received president Truman's permission to press into North Korea and advance all the way to the Yalu River-the border between North Korea and communist China-despite warnings that this might provoke Chinese intervention.

When China did intervene, causing the UN forces to fall back in disarray, MacArthur criticized the strategy of "limited war" and pressed for permission to bomb Chinese bases in Manchuria with nuclear bombs and to use Nationalist Chinese troops against Chinese communist troops. Truman refused such permission and finally (after MacArthur had made the dispute public) removed him from command in April 1951. On his return to the US, MacArthur was given a hero's welcome and invited to address a joint session of Congress with his "old soldiers never die" speech. An attempt to nominate MacArthur for the presidency was unsuccessful in 1952.

MacArthur conceived of the Korean war as a holy war; he kept talking about "unleashing Chiang Kai-shek," then holed up in his island fortress on Taiwan, and launching atomic strikes, all of which made Truman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the other UN countries involved very nervous. For Harry Truman and the Joint Chiefs, Korea was an exercise in containment, but that made it a very frustrating war for the military. It meant that in this war the US was not aiming for total military victory, but for limited military and ambiguous political results.

There is a tradition in American government that the military is subordinate to the civilian leaders. Generals do not make statements about foreign or even military policy without first clearing them with their political superiors. But MacArthur, used to ruling as proconsul in Japan, ignored the chain of command, and began writing public letters about what the US should do in Korea. He sent a letter to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), saying that Formosa [Taiwan] would be a logical place to launch an offensive campaign against China and that the US should keep Taiwan as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" to protect US interests in the Pacific.

After China entered the war - something MacArthur had assured Truman would never happen and if it did, he could handle it with ease - MacArthur in reply to a letter from house of representatives speaker Joseph W Martin wrote that the US could only win in Korea by an all-out war, and this meant bombing the Chinese bases in Manchuria, going nuclear and invading the Chinese mainland.

The General wanted to reunify Korea, unleash Chiang for an attack on the mainland, and fight communism in Asia rather than in Europe. "Here in Asia," he wrote, "is where the communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest. Here we fight Europe's war with arms while the diplomats there still fight it with words, that if we lose the war to communism in Asia, the fall of Europe is inevitable."

Aside from the problem of a soldier challenging presidential supremacy by trying to change foreign policy set by the president, the debate centered on Europe-first vs Asia-first. The US establishment, which has always been Euro-centric, abandoned MacArthur. Truman promptly relieved MacArthur of all his commands, which evoked a firestorm of protest from conservatives who believed Truman to be soft on communism.

The US Constitution commits control of foreign policy to the president and not to the military. As Truman explained, avoidance of World War III, while containing communist expansion was a subtle line to walk, but that was the policy the US had decided upon, for better or worse. No soldier, not even a five-star general who had spent most of his life in the far reaches of the empire, could challenge that policy without disturbing an essential element of the US system. Truman resisted MacArthur's attempt to defy the Constitution and in the process paid a political price of letting the Republicans control the government subsequently for eight years.

The commander of US forces in Asia was let out to pasture to be the titular chairman of a defense contractor, to "fade away" in the luxurious penthouse of the Waldorf Tower in New York, while the retired supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe, Dwight D Eisenhower, became president. The British House of Commons cheered when they heard MacArthur had been relieved. Governments all across Europe applauded Truman's actions. Taiwan saw it as a setback to getting US backing for an invasion of mainland China.

The Korean war ended up being a see-saw affair that saw UN forces retreat from North Korea to the Pusan perimeter in southeastern Korean and then forge forward again across the 38th Parallel, only to be driven south once more by the Chinese forces. On July 10, 1951, after 13 months of intensive fighting, the two sides began armistice talks, which dragged on for more than two years as the fighting raged on for the purpose of strengthening negotiation positions. The cease-fire was ultimately signed on July 27, 1953, after president Eisenhower ended the "neutralization" of the Formosa Strait on February 2, in his State of the Union message, announcing that he was "issuing instructions that the Seventh Fleet no longer be employed to shield Communist China" from possible attack by Nationalist forces, adding that "we certainly have no obligation to protect a nation fighting us in Korea."

The human cost of the Korean War was catastrophic. In the first month of their operation alone, the US Strategic Air Command groups dropped 4,000 tons of bombs, albeit with disappointing effect in halting the North Korean advance. Besides high explosives, the bombers used napalm extensively. In retirement, general Curtis LeMay of the US Air Force described the devastation with militaristic gusto: "We eventually burned down every town in North Korea. . .and some in South Korea too. We even burned down [the South Korean city of] Pusan -- an accident, but we burned it down anyway."

Estimates of the casualties vary widely, but there is reason to believe that besides the three and a half million military dead, wounded and missing on both sides, more than two million civilians died in Korea. In the end, the border dividing the two countries remained exactly where it had been before the war started.

The war began as a "fatherland liberation and unification" struggle and was transformed to a "patriotic war against foreign aggressors. " In his 1952 book, The Hidden History of the Korean War, I.F. Stone, using publicly available reports, showed that the official US version of the origin of the Korean War was false. Rather than the war having been the result of a surprise attack by North Korea, Syngman Rhee had engaged in continuous conflict with US assistance that eventually provoked a counterattack from the North and this turned into a surprised rout for South Korean forces. But the book was dismissed as biased propaganda until substantiated by declassified documents decades later.

The major decisions that shaped US response in Korea and continued to influence its responses to alleged communist aggression during the two decades that followed were taken by a small group during the first days of the Korean fighting and these decisions solidified into a Cold War policy. The basic decisions were taken unilaterally, for Truman had not consulted his European or Asian allies before acting and had not sought approval from Congress beyond a select few Congressional leaders. The US found itself at war without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.

Everett Drumright, counsellor of the US Embassy in Korea, wrote in a report on July 5, 1950 (Papers of Harry S Truman: Selected Records Relating to the Korean War):

"During and after the initial North Korean breakthrough there was much confusion, a great deal of straggling, and the ROK forces lost or abandoned most of their heavy equipment, including anti-tank guns, howitzers, mortars, machine guns, etc. By the time the ROK forces lined up on the south bank of the Han [River]. . .they had from 20,000 to 25,000 poorly organized and ill-equipped forces to face a formidable enemy with tanks, heavy artillery, airplanes and the Seoul victory. One grievous error was the premature blowing of the Han River pedestrian bridge. This was done early on the morning of the 28th [of June]. It could have been postponed several hours without harm and the Koreans could have evacuated a lot of personnel and equipment ..."

The shock was not so much that the North counterattacked so suddenly, but that the South had collapsed so quickly.

From the perspective of the US, the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 with an "unprovoked" attack from the North. Within seventy-two hours, faced with the imminent collapse of South Korean forces, the US decided to intervene on the side of South Korea. President Truman announced on June 27 that the US would come to the rescue of South Korea and send the 7th Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to "neutralize" the area.

The Korean civil war quickly changed into an international crisis. The Soviet reply on June 29, 1950, to an aide-memoire from the US government delivered to the Soviet deputy foreign minister by the US ambassador (Alan Kirk) on June 27, 1950, that "the United States Government asks assurance that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics disavows responsibility for this unprovoked and unwarranted attack," reads as follows:

"1. In accordance with facts verified by the Soviet Government, the events taking place in Korea were provoked by an attack by forces of the South Korean authorities on border regions of North Korea. Therefore the responsibility for these events rests upon the South Korean authorities and upon those who stand behind their back.

"2. As is known, the Soviet Government withdrew its troops from Korea earlier than the Government of the United States and thereby confirmed its traditional principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other states. And now as well the Soviet Government adheres to the principle of the impermissibility of interference of foreign powers in the internal affairs of Korea.

"3. It is not true that the Soviet Government refused to participate in meetings of the Security Council. In spite of its full willingness, the Soviet Government has not been able to take part in the meetings of the Security Council inasmuch as, because of the position of the Government of the United States, China, a permanent member of the Security Council, has not been admitted to the Council, which has made it impossible for the Security Council to take decisions having legal force."

Administrative assistant to the president, George Elsey, wrote in Memorandums for the Rrecord in Secretary of State's Briefing Book: "At 1 o'clock in the afternoon the Department of State received a report from the Ambassasor Kirk of his interview with [Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei A.] Gromyko, [who declined to elaborate on the above statement,] which the Department interpreted as making it appear unlikely that the Soviet Union intended to commit its forces to Korea."

Counselor George Kennan, whose idea of containment formed the core of NSC Report No 68, stated ("Princeton Seminar" comment from contemporaneous note, February 13, 1954 Papers of Dean Acheson):

"My record on [the Soviet response to the US diplomatic note delivered by Ambassador Alan Kirk] . . . is this- . . . It was unprovocative, and appeared to be dictated primarily by a resolve to keep Moscow's responsibility in the affair entirely disengaged in the formal sense. At the same time we got word of a highly bellicose and inflammatory statement issued by [Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister] Chou En-lai, constituting the nearest thing in communist practice (the communist governments never declare war) to a declaration of war against us and calling on the peoples of the East to rise up against us.

"While it seemed to me that this statement must have bent the bow of [Soviet-Chinese] . . . relations pretty far and might turn out to be something of a blunder on the part of the Chinese communists, it indicated - when taken together with the Moscow reply - a pretty clear pattern of Soviet intentions: namely, to keep out of this business themselves in every way but to embroil us to the maximum with their Korean and Chinese satellites."

Declassified documents have since shown that Kennan's interpretation of China's intention and role had no factual basis.

Elsey continues:

"At five in the afternoon a meeting was held of the National Security Council . . . As a result of the decisions reached, the JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] at 7:00 in the evening dispatched a directive to General Douglas MacArthur authorizing him - a. to use his air and naval forces to support the ROK (South Korean) units and against targets in North Korea; b. to use army service and communication units in Korea only, except that combat units could be used in order to retain a port and an air field in the Pusan area. . .General MacArthur was informed that this commitment of U>S. forces did not involve a decision to engage in war with the USSR if Soviet forces intervened in Korea. If Soviet forces intervened, he was to defend himself, take no action to aggravate situation, and report to Washington."

Stephen Ambrose, in his Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938, Chapter 7, Korea, writes:

"Much of this was wishful thinking. It was partly based on the American Air Force's strategic doctrine and its misreading of the lessons of air power in World War II, partly on the racist attitude that Asians could not stand up to Western guns, and partly on the widespread notion that Communist governments had no genuine support. Lacking popularity, the Communists would be afraid to commit their troops to battle, and if they did, the troops would not fight.

The question of who would fight and who would not was quickly answered. The North Koreans drove the South Koreans down the peninsula in a headlong retreat. American bombing missions slowed the aggressors not at all. The South Koreans fell back in such a panic that two days after Truman sent in the Air Force he was faced with another major decision: He would either have to send in American troops to save the position, which meant accepting a much higher cost for the war than he had bargained for, or else face the loss of all Korea, at a time when the Republicans were screaming: Who lost China?"

Elsey then writes:

"President Truman in his press conference on June 29, 1950: 'We are not at war. . . The Republic of Korea was set up with the United Nations' help. It is a recognized government by the members of the United Nations. It was unlawfully attacked by a bunch of bandits. . .The United Nations Security Council held a meeting and passed on the situation and asked the members to go to the relief of the Korean republic. And the members of the United Nations are going to the relief of the Korean Republic to suppress a bandit raid on the Republic of Korea."

The press conference was interesting, naturally, because there were many Korean questions. One question which had later significance ran as follows: "Mr. President, would it be correct, against your explanation, to call this a police action under the United Nations?" The President replied: "Yes. That is exactly what it amounts to."

On August 11, 1954, Zhou Enlai again urged liberation of Taiwan, warning that "foreign aggressors" who intervene will face "grave consequences." On September 3, Chinese communists began shelling the small Nationalist-held offshore island of Jinmen (Quemoy) in the Taiwan Strait, and the Nationalists returned fire. The next day, secretary of state John Foster Dulles ordered the US 7th Fleet back to the Strait. Four days later, the Nationalists begin large-scale air strikes against the Chinese mainland.

On September 8, the US joined seven other countries in signing a regional defense treaty, establishing the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). On December 2, the US entered into a mutual defense treaty with the Republic of China (ROC), pledging "their common determination to defend themselves against external armed attack, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone in the West Pacific Area", and the ROC in turn made clear that it would not attack mainland China without first consulting the US.

On December 8, Zhou Enlai warned that the US would face "grave consequences" if it did not withdraw all military forces from Taiwan, adding that Chinese liberation of Taiwan was entirely in the purview of China's sovereignty and purely a internal affair of China. The Defense Treaty was not abrogated until 1979 when the US recognized the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the sole legal government of China.

In the spring of 1955, president Eisenhower sent a mission to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to withdraw from Quemoy and Matsu because these island were exposed militarily to mainland invsaion. Chiang Kai-shek refused to withdraw. Subsequently Eisenhower provided the Nationalists with air-to-air missiles that provided Taiwan with air superiority over the Taiwan Straits, and sent to Quemoy and Matsu 8-inch howitzers capable of firing nuclear shells. The resulting military situation in the strait began to look more favorable for the Republic of China (ROC) in 1956 and 1957 with the 1957 decision to place Matador missiles on Taiwan. These surface-to-surface weapons were capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads up to 600 miles.

Such developments, when combined with the US reduction of its representation to the US-PRC Geneva talks from ambassador to charge d'affaires in early 1958, led China to believe that the situation in the strait was menacing.

The renewed threat to the islands came after Soviet ICBM developments had changed the world's balance of forces decisively in favor of the communist bloc, but it came when the reliability of the Soviet deterrent on behalf of China was being questioned within the Chinese defense establishment. At the Moscow Conference of Communist Parties in November 1957, Mao clashed with Khrushchev on Soviet nuclear policy. The dispute was not centered on whether a nuclear war could be won, as reported in the West, but on the deterrent effectiveness of nuclear weapons that Mao thought favored nations with large populations, such as China. This view is still held also by a large segment of the US nuclear establishment.

In 1958 the Chinese domestic politics around the Great Leap Forward affected Chinese foreign policy. Militancy on the domestic front was echoed in external policies. The "soft" foreign policy based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence to which China had subscribed in the mid-1950s gave way to a hard line in 1958. From August 23 through October of 1958, the communist government resumed a massive artillery bombardment of Quemoy and Matsu, and threatened invasion. Chinese patrol boats blockaded Quemoy and Matsu against Chinese Nationalist supply efforts. This was accompanied by a renewed declaration of intent to liberate Taiwan. Quemoy, which lies about 10 kilometres from the mainland, had repeatedly been used by the Nationalists to mount raids on mainland China.

Recently published Chinese documents suggest that Mao launched the attack in part to show his independence from the USSR. Khrushchev visited Beijing between July 31 and August 3, 1958, and the shelling of Quemoy began shortly after Khrushchev left Beijing. Not until Beijing signaled its intention to limit the level of military commitment to the strait did the USSR make an unambiguous statement in support of China. In a letter to president Eisenhower, Khrushchev wrote that an American attack on China would be viewed as an attack on the USSR. On October 5, 958, Khrushchev reiterated this position in a Tass interview.

As commitments by the US to defend Quemoy and Matsu, the Eisenhower administration deployed a large naval contingent in the Taiwan Strait. Senior US officials, including the president and secretary of state Dulles, publicly affirmed the US commitment to defend Taiwan and to counter threats in the Taiwan Strait. American naval aircraft also helped the Nationalist air force establish control of the region's airspace.

As tension mounted between the US and China, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff developed plans for nuclear strikes at the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanjing. These plans were consistent with the public statements by Dulles, who on January 12, 1954, had threatened "massive retaliation" against Communist aggression and expressed willingness to go "to the brink" of war to stop such aggression. The Joint Chiefs of Staff war plans for defense of the islands moved automatically into proposed nuclear strikes on Shanghai and Canton (Guangdong), among other mainland China targets, which would have resulted in millions of non-combatant casualties.

The bombardment abated, then virtually ceased and on September 6, 1958, Zhou Enlai proposed a resumption of ambassadorial-level talks with the US in order to arrange a conclusion to the crisis. The crisis ended on October 6, 1958, when China's minister of national defense, marshal Peng Dehuai, offered to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Nationalists and announced that the PRC would suspend the bombardment for one week. Chinese leaders were careful throughout the crisis to avoid a direct confrontation with US forces. China, however, continued to declare its ultimate intention to extend their sovereignty over Taiwan and the offshore islands.

Beijing saw two messages from this second crisis in the strait. One was that the USSR could probably serve as a deterrent to US nuclear attack on the mainland, but not as a nuclear shield for PRC confrontation with the US over Taiwan. The second was that as long as the PRC relied on the Soviet nuclear umbrella, the USSR would limit Chinese military actions against US interests to only those that suited Soviet goals and objectives. Such dependence provided a strong argument that China needed its own independent nuclear forces. The Chinese were criticizing Khrushchev's "peaceful coexistence" policies toward the US, which included a permanent separation of Taiwan from China.

Disagreements and uncertainties over Taiwan led to the unilateral abrogation by the Soviets of the October 1957 agreement by which the USSR was to supply China with a nuclear bomb and technical assistance in the production of nuclear weapons. After June 20, 1959, the PRC had to continue its strategic weapons program without direct assistance from the USSR. And five years later, on October 15, 1964, China carried out its first successful nuclear test, a 22 kiloton device.

During three of the presidential debates, held for the first time in 1960, Republican candiate Richard M Nixon assailed Democratic candidate John F Kennedy for his lack of willingness to defend Quemoy and Matsu. The extensive discussion of the Quemoy-Matsu issue led directly to a controversial dispute between the candidates over policy toward Cuba. The Kennedy staff, seeking to take the offensive after his allegedly soft position on Quemoy and Matsu, put out a provocative statement about strengthening the Cuban fighters for freedom that eventually led the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

In 1974, after the Nixon visit to China, the US removed the two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms that were stationed on Taiwan, as well as the U2 spy planes and all nuclear weapons. This reduced the US military presence to communications and logistics. The US stopped providing material military aid to Taiwan in June 1973, though it continued a program of military sales which Nixon promised to wind down. Under following administrations, military sales to Taiwan have continued.

Next: The crisis over Taiwan independence