In the past I was invited to speak and give a slide show covering the Korean
War of 1950 to large groups of professional engineers. During one of my
talks I briefly mentioned that the U.S. came dangerously close to dropping
multiple A-Bombs on N. Korea during the 1950 war. After each one of my talks
I always allowed questions. Several in the audience expressed surprise that
the A-Bomb was even considered and most had never heard of our plan. No
one knew how close we actually came to using it. I was surprised that it
was basically unknown to most of our population. Not only was this war "the
forgotten war" but one that most didn't know about, or maybe just
didn't care about.
CONTROVERSY BETWEEN TRUMAN AND MacARTHUR
To set the stage for this story we will start with our finest General,
Douglas MacArthur, who eventually took most of the blame. I find it ironical
that the ideas that got him fired were also considered by President Truman
and virtually all of our military brass. In this story I will attempt
to stick with events and plans covering the proposed usage of the A-Bomb.
DOUGLAS MacARTHUR, 5 STAR GENERAL
MacARTHUR TAKES OVER
MacArthur was designated Commander in Chief Far East Command in 1947.
Upon the North Korean invasion of South Korea he was designated Commander,
UN Command in the Far East, July, 1950. He had arrived in Japan in 1945
and operated out of the top floor of the Dai Ichi building where he ruled
the reconstruction of bombed out Japan, an almost impossible job.
Japanese crowds lined the streets to get a glimpse of him as he arrived
at his office. Showing great humility, they were in awe of him since he
arrived in 1945 as Viceroy. The Japanese press loved him, and life was
good. He liked the preferential treatment and God like respect he received.
It was inconceivable that another war was about to start in Korea, of
all places. There had been skirmishes along the 38th parallel. MacArthur
miscalculated the capability of another countries military. The Korean
peninsular was divided, with a Russian-Allied communist government in
the North, and a pro-Western government in the South. On June 24, 1950,
the South was viciously attacked as North Korean armies swarmed across
the dividing line. General MacArthur, in charge of the Allied occupation
of Japan, assumed command of the United Nations troops.
U.S. ENTERS WAR WITH NORTH KOREA
The U.S. became embroiled in a war we did not want, and a war for which
we were not prepared. General MacArthur was our most famous General, the
biggest hero of WWII, West Point graduate, holder of The Medal of Honor.
He immediately took complete control of every aspect of the war, including
tactical planning. The U.S. had insufficient military to quickly repel
the fast advancing N. Korean army. MacArthur was successful in stopping
the complete overthrow of South Korea, with American troops proceeding
North toward the Yalu River, which separated N. Korea from China, and
MacARTHUR DURING INCHON INVASION, KOREA
MARCH TO THE YALU
MacArthur began talking of "marching to the Yalu". He did not
know he was in a war he would not be allowed to win. The first dark clouds
were beginning to appear on the horizon. Truman reminded him that operations
North of the 38th had to be authorized by the U.S. MacArthur's military
plan was to proceed with all deliberate speed in advancing to the Yalu.
Again, he was warned not to provoke the Chinese, as it could not only
draw China but Russia into a third World War. There were repeated warnings
that the Chinese were already preparing to cross the Yalu and attack the
U.S. forces. Truman scheduled a showdown meeting with MacArthur on Wake
Island. MacArthur was extremely displeased over the proposed meeting,
which went on exactly as predicted. Truman expressed his growing concern
over Chinese intervention. It was here that MacArthur made his biggest
mistake. He announced that the war "would be terminated by Thanksgiving-they
are thoroughly whipped, North Korea has no possibility of success".
What an arrogant and unfortunate statement. "There would be the greatest
slaughter if China tried to put ground troops across the Yalu. They would
be destroyed". Little did he know that even as he spoke tens of thousands
of Chinese were swarming across the Yalu. MacArthur would soon have to
eat his eloquent words.
TRUMAN AND MacARTHUR AT WAKE ISLAND
CHINESE ENTER THE WAR
MacArthur believed the North Korean Military had fled into Manchuria.
How wrong he was. Four infantry armies, three artillery divisions and
an anti-aircraft regiment, 260,000 men, crossed the Yalu into North Korea.
MacArthur downplayed the escalation, proposing to attack the new Chinese
armies. He was again urging greater escalation. Tensions and tempers were
rising over the proposed handling of the Chinese intervention, and his
continued controversies with virtually all of the U.S. military leaders.
THE WAR DETERIATES
MacArthur wanted to give an ultimatum to China which would have provoked
Russia. He wanted to bomb Manchuria. His aggressive plans were upsetting
both the British and U.S. Governments who feared WWIII if MacArthur was
allowed to proceed. His misjudgments had a potential for catastrophe.
His plan was called "insane". After announcing "tell the
troops when we get to the Yalu they can all go home. You will be home
by Christmas". Such announcements as this caused many enemies. Matthew
Ridgeway objected vigorously to every one of his plans. The situation
in Korea was now becoming precarious. Chinese troops were surrounding
and overpowering many of our marine units, especially around the Chosen
Reservoir. Weather at 20 below zero was taking it's toll. Soon the Eighth
Army was in full retreat with a real catastrophe in the making. MacArthur's
requests were rejected as being unwise.