The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

Note: This is a work in progress, and one I am not likely to finish (short of receiving a grant or an offer from a larger publisher) for some time. Everything posted here should be considered a draft. [Main Page, U.S. War Against Asia]


Notes from Memoirs by Harry S. Truman

[Truman 1] Memoirs, Volume One, Year of Decisions by Harry S. Truman. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City N.Y. 1955. Copyright 1955.

p. 316-317. In May 1945 Chinese Foreign Minister Soong, negotiating with Joseph Stalin, learned that Korea was to be a four-power (U.S., USSR, China, Great Britain) trusteeship. “Stalin stated there should be no foreign troops or foreign policy in Korea. Soong understands that the Russians have 2 Korean divisions trained in Siberia. He believes that these troops will be left in Korea and that there will be Soviet trained political personnel who will also be brought into the country.

433-433. Ambassador Pauley, from Moscow in mid-August wrote, “lead me to the belief that our forces should occupy quickly as much of the industrial areas of Korea and Manchuria as we can, starting at the southerly tip and progressing northward.” Harriman urged Truman that “landings be made to accept surrender of the Japanese troops at least on the Kwantung Peninsula and in Korea.

440. August 13th, General Order 1 transmitted, the 38th parallel would divide Japanese troops in Korea. To its north they were to surrender to the USSR; to its south, to General MacArthur.

444-445. Arbitrariness of 38th parallel except it gave U.S. Seoul. U.S. troops not able to occupy that far north, Russian troops could have occupied further south.

521. In October 1945 Truman became concerned about the Russian occupation of northern Korea, comparing it to other areas of Russian occupation such as eastern Europe.

[Truman 2] Memoirs, Volume Two, Years of Trial and Hope by Harry S. Truman. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City N.Y. 1955. Copyright 1955.

p. 317. Korea was not discussed at Potsdam, but “The Potsdam Declaration clearly implied that Japan would not be allowed to retain Korea.” “It was agreed that following Russia’s entry into the Pacific war there should be a line of demarcation in the general area of Korea.” “The 38th parallel as a dividing line in Korea was never the subject of international discussions. It was proposed by us as a practicable solution when the sudden collapse of the Japanese war machine created a vacuum in Korea.” “We expected that the division of the country would be solely for the purpose of accepting the Japanese surrender and that joint control would then extend throughout the peninsula. The Russians, however, began at once to treat the 38th parallel as a permanent dividing line.” “Our commander in Korea, Lieutenant General John R. Hodge, tried to open talks with his Russian counterpart, but his efforts were regularly rebuffed.”

318. Hodge reported that [quoting Truman] “In South Korea the United States was being blamed for the partition, and resentment was growing against Americans in the area.” Koreans wanted independence, but Hodge did not believe they were ready for it. They did not like the idea of a trusteeship and he feared they would revolt. Yet Hodge recommended that “we give serious consideration to an agreement with Russia that both the U.S. and Russia withdraw forces from Korea simultaneously and leave Korea to its own devices.”

318-319. In December 1945 Secretary of State Byrnes went to Moscow for talks with Molotov, and Korea was part of the agenda. U.S. proposed a united Korea under a four-power trustee ship (3 capitalist powers, 1 communist) which of course was not acceptable to Molotov. Instead he proposed a unified Korean administration by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. The U.S. accepted this proposal [Moscow Agreement] and the U.S. and Russian military commanders in Korea met on January 16, 1946.

320. little came of the military talks or of the Joint Commission which started meeting in Seoul on March 20, 1946, then ended with little accomplished on May 8.

320-322. June 22, 1946 report by Edwin W. Pauley. He noted that the soviets sought to control north Korea, and that the Japanese “owned all of the railroads, all of the public utilities including power and light, as wall as all of the major industries and natural resources.” Turning those over to the Korean government, rather than to private interests, would be bad for the Korean people. He admitted the Soviets were not removing Korean assets and “are devoting considerable effort to rejuvenate economic activity.”

322. 1946, “That fall the Russians conducted elections in their zone for local “People’s Committees.”” But, “There was only one slate.”

322. Claims “Our military government allowed fullest freedom of speech.” “There were disorders and demonstrations in our zone in the fall of 1946, and in a few instances our troops had to fire on threatening mobs.” “Syngman Rhee, the veteran fighter for Korean independence, actually accused General Hodge and the military government of “trying to build up and foster the Korean Communist Party.”

322-323. In February 1947 Hodge reported on the economic distress in south Korea. Another agreement was reached with Moscow, but Syngman Rhee and other Koreans opposed the new Joint Commission.

323-324. U.S. proposed general elections (U.S. style) but Russia insisted on Moscow Agreement. Then in September Russia proposed both nations withdraw all troops.

325-326 The U.S. and Russia put competing proposals to the U.N. (US for elections, USSR for troop withdrawals) and each refused to support the others.

327. The U.N. adopted the U.S. proposal (the U.S. block had more votes, and it was not something that could be vetoed by Russia).  On May 10, 1948 the U.N. held elections in south Korea only. The National Assembly met on May 31, 1948 and elected Syngman Rhee as chairman, then later as President of the Republic of Korea.
328. The U.S. transferred power from its military occupation government to the Republic of Korea government on August 15, 1948. In the north the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was “proclaimed” on September 9. The soviets set a deadline of December 31, 1948 for withdrawal of non-Korean troops.

328-329. Truman was reluctant to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea. However, under the advice of General MacArthur and others, except for military advisors U.S. troops were out of Korea by June 29, 1949.

329. A defense agreement between the Republic of Korea and the United States was signed on January 26, 1950. Truman states he did not like Syngman Rhee, who was too undemocratic and right-wing. “I did not care for the methods used by Rhee’s police to break up political meetings and control political enemies … Yet we had no choice but to support Rhee.”

332. Learns North Korea invaded South Korea, June 24, 1950.

336-337. South Korea at a disadvantage because of north’s tanks and fighter planes, but also no “will to fight.” Truman gave MacArthur permission to use force to support the south. “I also approved recommendations for the strengthening of our forces in the Philippines and for increased aid to the French in Indo-China.”

341. Truman wanted to be alerted if the Soviets participated in the Korean fighting.

343. Consideration of Chiang’s offer to send Nationalist Chinese troops to Korea.

347. U.N. Resolution for united command approved July 11, U.S. troops still retreating, Truman says were fighting well [contradicted by other writers].

348-353, Harriman memorandum of August 1950: MacArthur believed “The Russians had organized and equipped the North Koreans, and had supplied some of the trained personnel from racial Koreans of the Soviet Union who had fought in the Red Army forces. The Chinese Communists had cooperated in the transfer of soldiers who had fought with the Chinese Communist forces in Manchuria… Their leadership was vigorous.

359. Truman approved a policy statement on September 11, 1950 that gave permission to invade North Korea. Inchon was invaded by the 1st Marine Division and Army 7th Infantry Division on September 15.

361. October 2, 1950: “Republic of Korea Army units were operating north of the 38th parallel.”

375. MacArthur on November 6, 1950 informed Truman that large Chinese units had entered Korea. He wanted to bomb the bridges.

377. MacArthur is concerned with Chinese planes attacking his troops.

385. Due to Chinese intervention, by November 28 “the bad news from Korea had changed from rumors of resistance into the certainty of defeat.”

386. Because of commitments in Europe, the U.S. had little in the way of further troops to send to Korea.

388-389. Truman November 30, 1950 statement: “because of the historic friendship between the people of the United States and China, it is particularly shocking to us to think that Chinese are being forced into battle against our troops.”

400-401. Truman memo offering cease fire at 38th parallel.

400-413 long discussion of general strategy for dealing with Russia, China, Korea and U.S. allies.

417. December 14, 1950. U.N. resolution for a cease fire. Chinese “were unwilling to consider truce talks except on their own terms.”

424-425. Discussion of recruiting Indian and Japanese soldiers to fight in Korea.

436-437. January 1951, Chinese advance ground to a halt in Korea.

440-443. MacArthur’s public threat against China and insubordination results in Truman firing him.

455. Ridgway (MacArthur’s replacement), in response to Rhee’s request for more weapons: “… since the beginning of the Korean campaign equipment losses in ROK Army have exceeded that necessary to equip 10 divisions; this without inflicting commensurate losses on the enemy and in some cases without the semblance of a battle…”

355-360 Discussion of armistice, with Chinese agreeing to talks on July 1, 1951.

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