(MISTAKES: WAR in KOREA – continued)
(War in Korea, continued)
With Russian tanks, North Korea rolled southward across the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950. Atrocities were to be committed by both sides – the common occurance of a lack of measure by some of the war's participants. As the North Koreans pushed south they rounded up and killed people who had been civil servants, and rather than trouble themselves with the maintenance of prisoners of war, the North Koreans were killing their prisoners.
About 100 miles south of Seoul the North Koreans rolled over an American force, the 24th Infantry Brigade and took Major-General William F. Dean prisoner.
U.S and British airpower from aircraft carriers USS Vally force and HMS Triumph, plus eighteen B-26 bombers struck against North Korea's airfields – legitimate targets. On August 22, North Korean radio claimed that air raids on Pyongyang and five other cities between July 2 and August 3 had killed 11,582 civilians. B-29 aircraft were bombing targets in North Korea, The U.S. Air Force had rejected the use of incendiary bombs in its continuing effort to avoid civilian casualties. Meanwhile, U.S. warships were shelling targets in the North Korea's coast, the Navy claiming to have destroyed 137 locomotives.
The gains that the North made were wiped out in September when the United Nations force landed at Inchon – first the British and then a much larger force led by MacArthur, who was over-all commander of the UN forces.
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. MacArthur favored moving his armies into North Korea and Truman agreed to it, 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 U.S. energies – that the Communists might be planning a bigger assault elsewhere. And there was little enthusiasm for helping people in far-off Korea – people North and South being called gooks by many U.S. soldiers.
The UN force pursuing and defeating the force they were fighting was a decision I cannot fault with as a step too far. The regime in North Korea was a Soviet creation that never should have happened, and it was a regime that had been acting criminally.
I don't fault the move into North Korea. As I see it, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea did not deserve the respect that should be offered legitimate governments. It was a criminal regime and the UN should have continued to pursue its policy that the regime seated in Seoul, South Korea, was the only lawfully constituted government in Korea.
But errors were made in trying to measure whether China would enter the war on the side of North Korea. Confident people in the U.S. State Department believed that the Chinese would not dare attack U.S. forces in Korea. Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, agreed, and a report by the Central Intelligence Agency, dated September 28, claimed that China was not about to intervene following the successful drive by the UN forces, that if the Chinese were to join the war it would have been when the North was close to defeating the South.
United Nation forces entered the North's capital, Pyongyang, on October 15. Mao and his associates worried that the UN forces would soon be at the Yalu River, and they decided to start sending their armies across the Yalu River into North Korea – invited there by the North Koreans. Mao and his associates wanted a buffer between them and the U.S. forces. They viewed the U.S. as hostile, as inclined toward aggression and wanting to crush their young revolution. As the UN forces pushed into the North they would have been served well by a little more calculation, caution and measure.
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 the 400-mile wide border between China and Korea. 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. And MacArthur was sending what he thought were spare supplies and ammunition back to Japan.
Copyright © 2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.