(The KOREAN WAR – continued)
President Truman responded to Kim Il Sung's invasion of South Korea by giving additional support to the French in Vietnam and by sending the Seventh Fleet to defend Taiwan. Mao Zedong and his associates in Beijing, China, were concerned. Their regime was less than a year old, and they were concerned that the new aggressiveness by the U.S. would encourage Chinese "reactionaries." Concerning Taiwan, they saw what they called U.S. imperialism interfering in China's internal affairs. They wanted to demonstrate to China's masses that they were able to protect China's prestige and interests, but they decided to put on hold their plans to "liberate" Taiwan.
After the Inchon landings and North Korea's reversals, two high-ranking representatives from North Korea arrived in Beijing and asked China to send troops to Korea. And, after the Inchon landing, debate erupted in the U.S. over whether the UN forces should move north of the 38th parallel. George Kennan thought this too risky, but others in the State Department disagreed, John Foster Dulles arguing, correctly, that the 38th parallel was never intended as a permanent political boundary. The Pentagon agreed and argued that stopping at the 38th Parallel would leave military instability on the Korean peninsula. MacArthur wanted to cross the 38th parallel, and Rhee was ecstatic over the opportunity to unite Korea.
Truman agreed to the UN forces moving into North Korea, despite his worry that it might bring the Soviet Union or China into the war. Some others were worried that the war in Korea was just a feint by Moscow to divert energies – that the Communists might be planning a bigger assault elsewhere.
Entering the Korean war and facing up to the military might of the United Nations forces was an issue over which Mao and the Chinese Communist leadership agonized. They were leaning toward intervention, and on October 3, through India's ambassador to Beijing, K.M. Panikkar, China informed the world-at-large that if the United States crossed the 38th parallel China would intervene. Confident people in the U.S. State Department, Dean Rusk among them, believed that the Chinese would not dare attack U.S. forces in Korea. Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, believed it was a bluff and was concerned that a greater risk would arise if the U.S. showed any "hesitation or timidity." A report by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), dated September 28, held that China had missed its opportunity to intervene. That opportunity was described as when UN forces were almost defeated and within the Pusan Perimeter. The report claimed that China was not about to intervene now. In a report on October 12, the CIA argued further that intervention by China was unlikely because it would jeopardize China's domestic program and economy, encourage China's anti-Communists and endanger the Communist regime. Acheson agreed, saying it would be "sheer madness" for Beijing to enter the Korean war when they had numerous other problems.
By October 9, 1950, China had massed four armies and three artillery divisions on the Yalu River – the force's commander, Peng Dehuai, complaining that he could use 700 more trucks and 600 more drivers. On October 10, in Moscow, Stalin and representatives from China met and discussed Korea. The purpose of the Chinese was to get as much help from the Soviet Union as possible. Stalin complained that North Korea was about to be defeated. The Chinese pretended hesitation about intervening, but Stalin encouraged them, countering that the U.S. was a menace to China's security and would be especially so if UN forces reached the Yalu River. Stalin said that the Soviet Union could not send troops because the Soviet Union had already committed to withdrawal from North Korea. Besides, he claimed, his border with Korea was too small. But, he said, the Soviet Union would provide the Chinese sufficient military equipment and war material – weapons and ammunition left over from World War II. The People's Republic of China was, however, to pay the Soviet Union for all military supplies, which created some bitterness among the Chinese Communist leadership that was to last for years to come.
Asked about the Soviet Union supplying air cover for the Chinese, Stalin held that the Soviet Union was not ready for this. [note] Mao had been expecting the Soviet Union to supply air cover for China's forces, and after receiving a telegram from Moscow informing him of developments there, Mao sent an urgent telegram of his own, ordering that his armies on the Yalu river put their operations on hold and concentrate on training. And when the commander of China's forces, Peng, learned that the Soviet Union would not be supplying air cover he threatened to resign.
U.S. Military intelligence was aware of the Chinese troops across the Yalu River and described them as five divisions probably intending to protect China's hydroelectric generating plants. On October 15, 1950, MacArthur met President Truman on Wake Island. He assured Truman that victory was won in Korea and that the Chinese would not intervene. The Chinese, he said, have 300,000 men in Manchuria, "but only 50 to 60 thousand could be gotten across the Yalu River." They have no air force, he said, "and if they tried to get down to Pyongyang there would be the greatest slaughter." And from Truman, MacArthur received his fifth Distinguished Service Medal.
United Nation forces entered Pyongyang on October 15. Mao and his associates worried that the UN forces would soon be at the Yalu River, and they decided to send their armies across the river, near the Chinese city of Dandong and a hundred miles upriver, near Manpo. It was a hush-hush operation, with the first of the Chinese troops dressed in North Korean uniforms.
MacArthur could have halted his troops at Korea's narrow neck – around 100 miles wide – which would have left the UN forces with 90 percent of the Korean population and Pyongyang. This is what Winston Churchill would have liked MacArthur to do. A demilitarized zone could have been proposed between this line and the Yalu River. But MacArthur was in no such cautious frame of mind. He headed for a 400-mile wide border. He split his forces, sending U.S. troops up the west side of the peninsula and other U.S. troops up the east side, with mountains between them. The Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon had ordered that only Korean forces be sent to the Yalu. MacArthur was doing it his way. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were acquiescing, and MacArthur was sending what he thought were spare supplies and ammunition back to Japan.
Copyright © 2001-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.