(The KOREAN WAR – continued)

home | 1945-21st century

The KOREAN WAR (7 of 8)

previous | next

MacArthur versus Truman

In the United States, 50 percent of those surveyed believed that World War III was imminent. In the Mediterranean, the US Sixth Fleet had put to sea. A total embargo had been put on trade with China and China's assets in the US frozen. Congress had loosened its purse strings and voted more money for defense. An economic boom was beginning in the US and Japan. The US was sending more troops to Europe, along with Dwight Eisenhower, who had been appointed Supreme Commander of NATO.

Republicans were criticizing the Democrats and President Truman. Among the Republicans was a mix of isolationism and more revulsion for Communism. The party's senior member, former US President Herbert Hoover, now seventy-six, claimed that it would be best for the nation to withdraw to Fortress America and become the "Gibraltar of Western Civilization."

In the Congressional elections of 1950 the Republicans had campaigned against inflation and Truman having lost China. They had supported Truman's war policy regarding Korea, but they criticized him for having made numerous mistakes. In November, the Republicans had gained eight seats in the Senate and fifty-two seats in the House of Representatives, leaving the Democrats with only a two-seat advantage in the Senate and an advantage of thirty-six seats in the House of Representatives – a drop from the gains the Democrats had made in 1948. Senator Eugene Millikin of Colorado, who had been charging that Americans were dying in Korea because of spies in the State Department, won his election. The Senator who had been leading the fight against hysteria and wild charges, Millard Tydings of Maryland, lost his re-election bid. A Republican from Illinois, Everett Dirkson, who had called the Marshall Plan "Operation Rathole," won a Senate Seat. Congressman Richard Nixon, running for a California Senate seat, defeated his incumbent opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas, a Cold War liberal who had supported Truman against Henry Wallace. During the campaign, Douglas was portrayed as a communist sympathizer.

Senator Robert Taft of Ohio won his re-election by a wide margin, and conservatives were looking forward to running him for President in 1952. Taft began the new session of Congress in January, 1951, by criticizing President Truman for sending troops to Korea without the approval of Congress. Communists in Korea, he declared, can be stopped by air and navel forces instead of ground forces. Taft wanted to take the Republican Party away from Eastern establishment internationalists – men like Dewey. He declared against US troops fighting in Europe. The NATO alliance, he said, was a mistake. And Russia, he said, should either be kicked out of the UN or the UN should be dissolved and reorganized without Russia.

From his command post in Tokyo, MacArthur was opposed to a negotiated settlement of the war in Korea. MacArthur wanted to bring Chiang's Kai-shek's troops to Korea from Taiwan, to blockade China's ports, to bomb China's military installations and to use atomic bombs if necessary. He spoke of a blindness to "history's clear lesson and of the appeasement at Munich in 1938. MacArthur declared that there was "no substitute for victory." Many in the United States agreed with him. The concept of limited war was winning few adherents. MacArthur's position was easier to understand. Many people saw the US not as limiting its goal to defending South Korea but as trying to fight with one arm tied behind its back. And demoralized American troops were writing home and wondering what they were fighting for.

Turn Around and MacArthur versus Truman

In Korea, across a front from the west to east coasts, the Chinese in January pushed to more than fifty miles south of Seoul. Then in February the communist advance collapsed. The new commander of UN forces in Korea was General Matthew Ridgway, an energetic and determined man. He talked his troops into standing their ground and attacking. He began employing the UN's superior firepower, using heavy artillery ten miles from the Chinese and then lighter weapons closer in, while aircraft swooped down on the Chinese, firing rockets and dropping napalm.

In Tokyo, Ridgway's commander, MacArthur, still favoring complete victory, wanted to bomb bases in China. He would not refrain from making public statements about the war, and on April 10th Truman fired him for insubordination.

Two days later, Senator Taft attacked what he called Truman's "appeasement of the Chinese." This appeasement, he said, "makes a larger war more likely in the future." Taft spoke in favor of bombing China and helping Chiang Kai-shek's forces invade the mainland.

MacArthur got a hero's welcome in the United States, and telegrams poured into Congress demanding Truman's impeachment. MacArthur made an emotional farewell address to Congress, which the public liked and Truman, in private, denounced. Polls described Truman's popularity as having dropped to around 35 percent of those polled, and his popularity would stay there for the remainder of his term in office.


Copyright © 2001-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.