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The Korean War: The West Confronts Communism [NOOK Book]

Overview

"The Korean War provides a comprehensive picture of the war . . . and riveting tales of heroics." (The Washington Post Book World)

"Hickey has written a quite brisk, succinct, and useful general history of the war." (The Chicago Sun-Times)

Set in the early days of the Cold War, amid fears of an enlarging conflagration, the Korean War at its height involved rapid, ...
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The Korean War: The West Confronts Communism

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Overview

"The Korean War provides a comprehensive picture of the war . . . and riveting tales of heroics." (The Washington Post Book World)

"Hickey has written a quite brisk, succinct, and useful general history of the war." (The Chicago Sun-Times)

Set in the early days of the Cold War, amid fears of an enlarging conflagration, the Korean War at its height involved rapid, large-scale movements over long distances as each side experienced both outstanding success and disaster. Korean War veteran and military historian Michael Hickey tells the full story of the first test by the Communist bloc of Western resolve.

In addition to covering the dominant American involvement, Michael Hickey also sets in context the significant contributions of the other nations that answered the U.N. call. Alongside American soldiers, troops from Britain, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Turkey and elsewhere joined the effort. The Korean War recounts such masterstrokes as MacArthur's landing behind enemy lines at Inchon, the drama of the "glorious Glosters" episode, and both collaboration and mutiny in the prisoner-of-war camps on both sides.

Drawing on a wide range of previously unused sources from several countries, including recently declassified documents, regimental archives, diaries, and interviews, Michael Hickey adds extensively to our knowledge of one of the most significant conflicts of modern times.

Author Biography: Michael Hickey, a graduate of the Staff College, Camberley, fought in Korea. He has been a Defense Fellow at King's College, London, and was later Director of the Museum of Army Flying. He is the author of thecritically acclaimed The Unforgettable Army and Gallipoli.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"The Forgotten War" is chronicled here as the first violent conflict of the cold war. More than just an American war, Korea brought together the newly-formed UN allies of England, India, Canada, Turkey, and a dozen other nations to challenge the threat of communism in South East Asia and Hickey examines the international component of the war as it affected the military successes and failures.
KLIATT
The "police action" that raged on the Korean peninsula 50 years ago was an infantry war. General MacArthur's audacious and brilliant landing at Inchon brought in the Navy and the Marines, and Air Force F-86s gallantly rose to battle the MiGs over the Yalu River, miles away. Essentially, though, these were colorful sidelights. Most of the war took place in muddy foxholes and frozen hilltops, fought by filthy and tired men who existed in mortal danger. Hickey's impressive history of the Korean War is told from this viewpoint. He keeps the commanders, the high strategies and the "big picture" in focus, but essentially his is a tale of small combat units fighting endless, intricate actions in places that are hard to find on any map. Yet his narrative never bogs down, and the reader remains interested in each struggle for an unnamed hillside. This is not an adventure-oriented "guts 'n glory" tale, but rather a mature study of the entire war, focused at the company and platoon level. Hickey fought in an Australian unit and brings out an interesting dimension of the war—the role played by numerous small Allied combat units: British, Australian, and New Zealand. Unlike Vietnam, the Korean affair produced only a trickle of books, and even fewer in the half-century that has followed. Fortunately, most of them have been good ones; this title stands in their ranks. It is aimed at adult readers, especially for those who already have some knowledge of the Korean War and understand its era. Although there is a nice section on MacArthur's firing by President Truman, it is essentially for readers who are prepared to understand the Korean War strictly on its own terms. Recommended for public collections.KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students and adults. 1999, Overlook Press, 397p. illus. bibliog. index.,
Library Journal
Hickey (Out of the Sky: A History of Airborne Warfare), an active-duty colonel in the British Army and former defense fellow at King's College, London, was also a veteran of the Korean War. Using firsthand accounts and his own experiences, he has compiled a massive study of that conflict. This is a scholarly analysis of both the military and political factors that caused the war and the conduct on all sides. Hickey concentrates on the involvement of Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries but also offers considerable coverage of the Unites States and other nations, including careful discussions of the North Korean, Chinese, and Russian sides of the war. The author does not mince words when criticizing General MacArthur and other UN commanders. Using declassified documents as well as regimental and personal diaries, he wades through political intrigue and military disasters and triumphs to give us a memorable account. Not easy reading, this is still an important contribution to the literature. Recommended for scholars and serious readers of military and political history at larger public and academic libraries and for special collections.--David Alperstein, Queens Borough P.L., Jamaica, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Booknews
Drawing from recently declassified documents, regimental archives, diaries, and interviews, Hickey (Korean war veteran and former director of the Museum of Army Flying) tells the story of the first military conflict between Communist bloc countries and the West. In addition to covering the dominant American involvement, he describes the contributions of the other nations that sent troops and details difficulties concerning language, culture, and logistics. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A British officer's history of the events of "The Forgotten War" in Korea. Hickey (The Unforgettable Army, not reviewed), a Korean War veteran, reports on the main events of a war fought amid the extremes of sub-zero cold and exhausting heat. The US Army was taken by surprise when the North Korean Army crossed the 38th parallel in 1950, and it lacked combat readiness after five undemanding years of garrison duty in postwar Japan. Together with unreliable Republic of Korea troops they were thrown into the bloody cauldron of combat against a prepared, ruthless enemy—and almost driven into the sea after a panic-filled retreat, until a reinforced defensive line finally held at the Pusan Perimeter in southernmost Korea. MacArthur's brilliant landing at Inchon, plus a renewed UN allied offensive saved the day. But, as everyone knows, MacArthur ignored the orders of President Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, driving relentlessly to the Yalu River at the Manchurian frontier. Truman, fearing another world war with China and the Soviet Union, replaced MacArthur with General Ridgway after massive Chinese armies entered the war and forced UN forces to retreat. Hickey notes the heroic performance of the US Marines, their engineers, and the US Air Force at the Chosen Reservoir. Ridgway rallied his troops after the famous "bug out" of US and Allied troops before the huge numbers of Chinese, and he stiffened the UN lines before the long stalemate during the peace talks and the bloodletting at Pork Chop Hill. Hickey dwells at length on the experiences of the British and Australians, although the US contributed most of the manpower, supplies, and air and navalpowerthat decided the war's end. Hickey's viewpoint is that of the commanders and has little to relate about the grunts on the firing lines who suffered and died, so the reader does not get the tragic sense of the terror, heroics, and high emotion of combat. His approach suggests the reporting of a staff officer in the rear—out of harm's way. Hickey's text is clear and concise but falls short of a definitive history of the Korean War—too much is left out to justify the title.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781468305579
  • Publisher: Overlook
  • Publication date: 10/24/2001
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 397
  • Sales rank: 853,766
  • File size: 10 MB

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


The Doomed Peninsula


The people of Korea have long dwelt between rival cultures, pulled this way and that between China, historically the `Elder Brother', Japan, and increasingly in the nineteenth century, Imperial Russia. A Japanese invasion force was routed at sea in the sixteenth century by the great Korean admiral Yi, who used a revolutionary turtle-backed galley to sink the enemy's warships. As a result, Korea, under the enduring Yi dynasty, remained a Chinese tributary state, whilst retaining its own unique cultural identity, until further Japanese interference in 1895. Five centuries of the Yi dynasty's rule were finally ended as the result of Japan's decisive defeat of the Russians in the war of 1904-5.

    From 1910 to 1945, when the country was no more than a Japanese colonial territory, Korea's national culture and language were all but erased. After 1910 all higher education, law, commerce and administration were conducted in Japanese. Old Korean place names were transliterated into Japanese and the national identity of an ancient people was deliberately suppressed.

    As the Japanese tightened their grip on Korea they discovered that there were two strands of resistance to their rule. Christian evangelicals, converted by western missionaries in the latter part of the nineteenth century, counselled a policy of non-violence. Many of their leaders had attracted the attentions of the Japanese secret police, and they feared for the lives and safety of their supporters. On the other hand, the communist resistance, steadily gainingstrength in the years between the two world wars, fomented industrial and terrorist action in order to discomfit the Japanese overlords. Both these resistance movements might have been working towards a self-governing Korea but their methods and ultimate objectives were far apart. The Christians, probably with tacit Japanese approval based on the principle of `divide and rule', identified with the administrative, landowning and commercial élites. This marked them indelibly as collaborators with the hated Japanese and thus as targets for the communists.

    During the Second World War Korea was used by Japan as a ricebowl and as provider of many essential minerals for the imperial war effort. Its economy, though stretched to the limit, prospered, and with it many individuals in the mercantile, landowning and industrial sectors. Thousands of Koreans were, however, forcibly recruited into Japan's armed forces or used as industrial slave labour. Many worked on the Pacific islands where the Japanese required airfields and fortifications. The 40,000 or so Koreans drafted into the imperial army seldom served in its front-line combat units, but were to be found as often brutal guards in the notorious Japanese prisoner-of-war camps in which thousands of British and Empire troops laboured and died. Thousands of Korean women were forcibly conscripted to be `comfort girls' in Japanese military brothels. Many Koreans, in order to evade military service under the Japanese, fled to China where they enlisted with either Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang or Mao Tse-tung's 8th Route Army. Other Korean exiles migrated to the Soviet Union and served with Stalin's armies. Here, like their comrades in Mao's forces, they were thoroughly indoctrinated politically as they picked up a sound, if arduous, military education.

    Although many of the Koreans exiled in the United States offered their good offices to help in the war against Japan, the American government rebuffed them. One of the leading lights was a certain Yi Sung-man. After several brushes with the Korean authorities at the start of the century, including spells of imprisonment and torture, he had gone into exile in the United States where he westernized his name to that of Syngman Rhee. Returning to Korea in 1910 he had been forced to flee back to America in 1919 after a failed rising against the Japanese. There he pursued a successful academic career, headed a self-styled Korean government-in-exile, married a formidably gifted Austrian lady, and bided his time until circumstances might permit his return to the country for which he had a fiercely patriotic love.

    In a Washington preoccupied with the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific and the formidable problems of invading their home islands, there were few with time to spare for Syngman Rhee and his band of supporters. American efforts, as far as mainland Asia was concerned, were concentrated on supporting the campaign of Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist Kuomintang forces, with their headquarters in Chungking, in their fight against the Japanese who had invaded China in 1937. As for the British, their policy since the turn of the century had been to accept Japanese hegemony over Korea, which in any case lay far beyond the British sphere of interest.

    The first inklings of Korea's destiny in the second half of the century surfaced at the Cairo summit conference of 1943 when the Allies started to ponder the shape of the post-war world, and began seriously to allot the possible spoils of a still uncertain victory. Even now, British interest in Korea remained marginal, although Anthony Eden, as Foreign Secretary in 1943, drew the attention of the US State Department, and of President Roosevelt, to the problem of dealing with the outlying fragments of the Japanese empire, including Korea and Indo-China, once the war was over. He vaguely suggested an international trusteeship for these territories but made no mention of the United Kingdom being one of the trustees, proposing instead that these should be the Soviet Union, the United States and China (where it was assumed that Chiang Kaishek's Kuomintang would remain in power indefinitely). The Koreans in exile were unimpressed by the Cairo communiqué, as it seemed that the Allies were about to dispose of their country without consultation.

    The Korean patriots were even less pleased with the outcome of the Teheran conference later in the same year when Stalin was formally invited by his American and British allies to join in the war against Japan three months after the defeat of Germany; in accepting, he demanded certain political compensations: Roosevelt hinted that Russia might be granted a Pacific warm-water port and also mentioned in passing to Stalin that Korea would need up to forty years' `apprenticeship' before achieving full independence. At this time Roosevelt placed total trust in Stalin and entertained grand designs for postwar co-operation with the Soviet Union. He felt that since the Soviets had the military strength to obtain any of their territorial designs, whether overt or secret, there was no point in seeking confrontation when the immediate American aim was to wind down their war machine as quickly as possible and `get the boys home' once Japan had been defeated.

    By the beginning of 1944, with a clearer prospect of victory, Stalin's demands were more specific. He demanded the Kurile Island chain, the lower Sakhalin peninsula, long leases on the warm-water ports of Port Arthur and Dairen, control of the trunk railway systems in eastern China and south Manchuria, and international recognition of the independence from China of Outer Mongolia. There was as yet no mention of any intention by the Soviet Union to occupy any part of Korea. Stalin was in a strong moral position for hard bargaining with his allies; they had failed to invade northern Europe as promised in 1943. But by this time, the United States government was convinced of the need for a military occupation of Korea on the fall Of Japan. Alarming signs of the surge of communism in China, combined with increasing disenchantment about Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's corrupt nationalist regime, were beginning to affect American Far Eastern policies. The insertion of an occupying force and the establishment of military government in Korea after the defeat of Japan appeared a suitable way of establishing a toehold on the Asiatic land mass even though little attention had hitherto been paid in Washington to the strategic significance of the Korean peninsula.

    At the Yalta conference in February 1945, Stalin, sensing the drift of American policy towards Korea, proposed the setting up of a joint trusteeship for Korea by the United States, the USSR, China and the United Kingdom. Roosevelt was now paying little attention to the proceedings; he was tired and sick, but continued to delude himself that he had a special understanding with Stalin, putting it to him in private that any arrangement for Korea should exclude the United Kingdom. Instead, he proposed a Soviet—Chinese—American trusteeship which would prepare Korea for full self-government in anything up to twenty or thirty years. Stalin, on the other hand, favoured the inclusion of the United Kingdom, and a far shorter trusteeship. Nothing was committed to writing, and Churchill was certainly never informed of these discussions. The Foreign Office in London, not wishing to become embroiled in the politics of a remote country in which British interests were minimal, made no attempt to plumb these secrets. Nor was anyone in the State Department aware of what had transpired between the two men. Not even Vice-President Harry Truman, who succeeded to the presidency on Roosevelt's death in April 1945, was informed of the scheme. It was not an auspicious basis on which to lay the foundations of Korea's future.

    In an effort to find out what Roosevelt had promised Stalin at Yalta Truman decided to despatch the experienced Harry Hopkins to Moscow to probe and confirm the private Yalta arrangements, and in particular to sound out the Russians on the trusteeship plan for Korea. Hopkins questioned Stalin on the date of Russia's proposed entry into the war against Japan and obtained the promise that it would be on 8 August. Stalin also told Hopkins that he endorsed the idea of a four-power trusteeship for Korea.

    In July 1945 the Allied leaders met at Potsdam amid the ruins of Nazi Germany to discuss the way forward against Japan. Only Stalin remained of the old triumvirate. A Labour government had come to power in Britain, now represented by Prime Minister Clement Attlee. If Truman approached his first summit with trepidation he showed little sign of it. The Americans had successfully detonated a nuclear device and were well advanced with manufacture of the first atomic bombs, for use against Japan. Stalin showed curiously little interest when Truman, in strictest confidence, told him of this. He had almost certainly been briefed already by his own intelligence chiefs, informed by a highly placed Soviet agent in Washington, Alger Hiss.

    With Stalin now aware of the atomic bomb, any idea of using it to destroy Japan's will to fight before the Russians could join in the war against them was stillborn. There was a real fear in the Pentagon and White House that an Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands would prove a bloodbath unless the bomb was dropped; and if such an invasion involved the use of Soviet troops, they would have to be accorded an occupation zone, as had been the case in Germany and Austria. Since this would effectively neutralize plans for the American occupation prior to the completion of a Japanese peace treaty favourable to Washington, it was not an acceptable option. Truman also knew that there were still intact Japanese combat formations in Manchuria and northern Korea and intended that the job of defeating and disarming these should fall to the Russians.

    Truman therefore supported the idea of a Korean trusteeship. He had a brief before him, prepared-by the State Department, for a three-stage plan: military occupation by the Allies, international administration under UN auspices, and finally full sovereignty. This was not put to the Potsdam meeting, however, for the Allies were already at odds over other issues such as plans for the dismemberment of the former Italian colonies in Africa. Later in the conference there was talk by the Russians of unspecified military operations across the Manchurian border and into northern Korea, in concert with American amphibious landings in the south of the peninsula; all this came to nothing. One thing, however, was becoming all too clear to the Americans: there was a distinct chance of a race against the Russians for possession of all Korea once Japan had been defeated. They began hurriedly, if belatedly, to plan the occupation of the southern half of the country.

    On 6 August 1945, only four days after the end of the Potsdam conference, the first of two atomic bombs fell on Japan, at Hiroshima. A second followed days later at Nagasaki. Early on 9 August the Red Army struck at the Japanese army in Manchuria. Japan, with her fleet gone, cities wasted by American strategic bombers, her armies defeated in the field, scattered and out of supplies, was in no condition to fight on and surrendered at the Emperor's behest on 14 August; it is questionable whether the bombs actually accelerated the end, as secret overtures for a negotiated peace had been going on between Moscow and Tokyo for some time. All the old dreams of Far Eastern power which had eluded first the tsars, then the commissars of the early revolutionary period, Stalin now saw within his grasp.

    In Washington, an emergency strategy had to be evolved rapidly by the State Department, where there was still a very strong `China lobby' which believed that the USA had an important role to play in a post-war China ruled by Chiang Kai-shek. Here were huge untapped markets for America's industrial strength, galvanized by its stupendous war efforts since Pearl Harbor. State Department officials had felt themselves snubbed by Roosevelt in his last months, and they were now obsessed with the need to checkmate Soviet plans for outward expansion — above all, to avoid Soviet predominance in Korean affairs through the establishment of a pro-Moscow government in Seoul.

    However, on 10 August the Russian 25th Army under Colonel-General Ivan Christyakov entered Korea and quickly occupied the northern provinces down as far as Pyongyang. The Americans had been spectacularly wrong-footed; they had no significant body of troops closer than Okinawa, where a bloody campaign to exterminate the Japanese garrison had only just ended. It was now essential to agree the limits of the respective occupation zones as a prerequisite for the disarming of the large Japanese garrisons in Korea. Colonel Dean Rusk, a staff officer in the US Army's Strategy and Planning branch, later to make his mark as Kennedy's Secretary of State at the time of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 — already present in Korea as part of a US military mission — came to an agreement with officers of the Red Army that the demarcation line should be the 38th parallel of latitude, which runs east—west across the Korean peninsula from the coast north of the Han river estuary. In the afterglow of victory it was not anticipated that there would ever be any need to control movement between the two zones, so it seemed irrelevant that the line was totally indefensible from a military point of view. A strong China, as one of the allies victorious over Japan, might have exercised its influence over the arbitrary partitioning of Korea; but China now lay ravaged by its eight-year struggle with Japan, by the civil wars that had preceded it, and by ominous signs that the uneasy wartime alliance between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung was coming apart.


As outriders of the US occupying forces the American XXIV Corps arrived by sea at Inchon, the port serving Korea's capital at Seoul, from Okinawa on 8 September 1945. Its commander, Lieutenant-General John R. Hodge, was immediately appointed commanding general, US Forces Korea by General Douglas MacArthur, Allied Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific theatre, now installed in Tokyo. Hodge, a competent fighting soldier who had worked his way up from the ranks, was a hard worker, tough and decisive but deficient in the political, intellectual and diplomatic skills needed for the thankless task ahead. He made his way directly to Seoul where he accepted the surrender of the Japanese garrison and established his military government as though taking over a defeated hostile territory.

    From the outset, Hodge was adrift, openly branding the Koreans as `the same breed of cats as the Japs'. He failed to sense or respect the extreme feelings of the people for their newly liberated country and their loathing for the Japanese. Matters got worse when Hodge proscribed as illegal the `Korean People's Republic', formed more or less spontaneously on the Japanese surrender and before the arrival of the Americans. The KPR was a nationalist coalition of widely differing political factions which at least shared a common will to unite the country and included many of the former exiles who had returned to Korea from Russia, China, America and several countries of Europe. The KPR nursed hopes that it would be recognized by the new occupying power, and had already set up its own regional governments. Paradoxically, those in North Korea were dominated by the centrist parties, whilst those in the south came mainly from the extreme left. Within a month, all were declared illegal by Hodge (whose political leanings were far to the right). Immediately, strong opposition came from the communist party in the south. And when Washington sacked the Japanese governor-general without consulting Hodge, Hodge promptly lost face in the eyes of the Korean people. If one thing united the peoples of Korea at this time, it was frustration at the way in which the dream of unification had been snatched from their hands by their supposed liberators at the moment of Japan's defeat.

    Within days of the Japanese surrender the American Chiefs of Staff asked their British counterparts for their views on Korea and received a very lukewarm response, drafted undoubtedly by the Far Eastern section of the Foreign Office which had little or no interest in Korean affairs. Indeed, one official saw fit to scrawl on the flyleaf of a file that `Korea is not worth the bones of a single British grenadier'. There were no British commercial interests there and the presence of a Commonwealth occupation force — for which Whitehall felt the Americans were trawling — would serve no useful purpose. The British presence in Korea, limited to a handful of commercial firms and the Anglican bishopric, was served by a small consulate-general in Seoul. Even the provision of a token occupation force was distasteful to the Foreign Office.

    It slowly dawned on Washington officials that the British were genuinely unaware of what had transpired between Roosevelt and Stalin, and they were obliged to spell it out as well as they could to Lord Halifax, the British ambassador in Washington, who broke the news to London that a four-power trusteeship was intended. The British Cabinet now had to consider what to do. In the circumstances, with HM Forces already everywhere overstretched, it seemed a good idea to let the Australians represent the UK and the Commonwealth in the Korean arena. Plans were already in hand for Australian and New Zealand troops to assume occupation duties in Japan, together with a British-Indian division, and in view of increasing Australian interest in the Far East it seemed logical to extend their occupation duties to Korea.

    In contrast to Hodge's XXIV Corps, the Russian 25th Army in the north had brought its own highly trained political staff, overseen by that of the next formation up, the 1st Far Eastern Front of the Red Army. The Russians also possessed a high-powered public relations and propaganda machine. They claimed to have entered North Korea to disarm the Japanese garrison and facilitate a `democratic revolution', presenting the Russian army as liberators, not enforcers of an alien political system. After some initial looting and isolated atrocities, the Soviet troops were brought under control and held up as exemplars of socialist behaviour and correctness. Apart from known Japanese collaborationists, who rapidly `disappeared', the Russians went out of their way to encourage political activity of all shades. This quickly identified likely dissidents; by mid-October, Chistyakov had made it clear that only those who toed his prescribed political line could hope to have a hand in government.

    The Russians brought others in their wake; during the Japanese occupation many potential communists had been helped to escape to the Soviet Union for a thorough political education; those who displayed martial ability were received into Red Army training establishments and served with distinction in the armies of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War. The most promising of these were hand-picked by the Russians as their surrogates for the occupation of Korea north of the 38th parallel.

    Among these was one Kim Sung-ju. Born in 1912 when Korea was already under Japanese rule, his family were ardent patriots and his father was imprisoned in 1919 for anti-Japanese activity. By 1930 the young Kim had joined the Chinese communist party in Manchuria, where he was trained as an anti-Japanese partisan for operations on the Korea—Manchuria border, after the Japanese seized power in Manchuria in 1931. He adopted, as a nom de guerre, that of Kim Il-sung, a legendary Korean hero in the Robin Hood mould, said to be a champion of the common people against the hated landlord class. Kim was sent to Moscow in 1941 for military and political training, returning to his fatherland in August 1945 as an officer in the Red Army. The Russians had carefully groomed him and he was appointed in February 1946 to chair the Interim People's Committee nominated by the occupying power as their instrument of civil government and administration.

    Major-General Archibald Arnold, commanding the 7th US Division, was appointed by Hodge to be the executive officer of the American military government. Like Hodge, he lacked the experience that might have helped to avert some of the cardinal errors perpetrated, albeit in good faith, by the Americans in the following months. For two generations the Koreans had been denied advancement in a civil service run by several thousand imported Japanese officials, who conducted all business in Japanese. Koreans were permitted to serve in only the lowliest of posts. In order to retain at least a degree of order amidst the prevailing anarchy, Arnold decided to keep the Japanese civil and police officials in post whilst the Japanese Imperial Army in Korea was disarmed and until such time as the Koreans achieved a measure of political maturity.

    There was an instant protest, but when qualified Koreans were appointed to middle-rank posts in the police and civil administration it was quickly found that they were tainted by association with the hated Japanese, and they had to be removed. By the time Hodge realized the degree of passion aroused by the retention of Japanese officials and had asked for the urgent posting in of experienced administrators from the USA, it was too late. The Japanese were replaced by hundreds of well-meaning American civil servants, few of whom managed to master even the basics of the Korean language; their presence did little to endear the American administration to the frustrated population. North of the 38th parallel the Russians, who had thoroughly trained a body of Korean administrators to run their zone as they wished, experienced none of the travails encountered by General Hodge in the south.

    Arnold appointed the Provost Marshal of XXIV Corps, Brigadier-General Schick, to head the civil Police Bureau. As only a third of the national police force in 1945 were Korean nationals, an immediate manning crisis arose. Schick reopened the former Japanese Police Academy in Seoul in October 1945 for a series of crash courses for new recruits. In the following month the new Korean National Police Force, or KNP, was formed. From the start it faced an alarming internal security situation; political splinter groups were setting up paramilitary military private armies, and there was a resurgence of banditry throughout the southern provinces, traditional home of bloody-minded opposition to whatever government was in power. A further force was clearly required and Schick recommended the setting up of a Korean national defence force of 45,000 men. There was no lack of manpower. At that time the population south of the 38th parallel was 15 million. Schick could afford to be highly selective; only recruits of the highest mental and physical quality were to be accepted and their equipment was to come from surplus American war stocks. Hodge approved this plan and referred it to General MacArthur in Tokyo, who in turn passed it to Washington for consideration.

    Pending approval from on high, the energetic Schick set about the major problem besetting his command; few American personnel could speak Korean and very few of the Koreans could manage even the basic English required for their training. A language school was therefore established in Seoul, to instruct potential Korean officers.

    Many paramilitary organizations — with the notable exception of two politically militant bodies, the Korean Volunteer Corps and the Manchurian communist guerrillas, who concentrated at Pyongyang — began to move on Seoul with the aim of enrolling in the national defence force. The officer cadre was formed round a body of English-speaking young officers who had been trained by the Japanese and were thus politically suspect to the older patriots. Many of the aspiring groups had to be disarmed and abolished at once. By now the bewildered American authorities were wallowing amidst the conflicting claims to legitimacy of a mass of leftist and rightist splinter groups, many with their own private armies, which were formally outlawed in January 1946.

    On 1 May 1946, the language school closed down, to be replaced by the Korean Constabulary Training Centre. Graduates from this establishment were sent to serve in the military government as trainee administrators, filling the gap left by the departed Japanese. Washington was still shying at the idea of forming a full military organization, which it was feared might inhibit agreement with the USSR over the joint occupation of Korea. Further reason for delay was provided by the activities of Syngman Rhee, who had been permitted to return from exile in the hope that he would be able to impose a degree of order on the chaotic political scene in Seoul.

    In the autumn of 1945 the only coherent political grouping had been the so-called People's Committees. As a counter to their evidently strong power base and popularity Hodge had invited the provisional government and Syngman Rhee (whom at first he greatly admired) back to Seoul in mid-October, where he presented the old man to the people at a huge rally in the national stadium. From the moment of his arrival Rhee began to rail against both the Americans and Russians, calling for immediate unification of Korea and the establishment of a national government; this was hardly in accordance with the vague principles agreed by the Allies at Teheran, Cairo, Yalta and Potsdam. As the American army worldwide began to run down, the 40th Division — part of Hodge's XXIV Corps in Korea — disbanded; many of its officers were seconded to the constabulary, which was recruiting beyond all expectation, and told to raise new units in the provinces. At the end of 1946, these officers formed the cadre of the Korean Military Advisory Group or KMAG, destined to play a key role in the evolution of the Republic of Korea's armed forces during the next four years.

    Koreans on both sides of the 38th parallel realized that their hopes of unification were evaporating. At a meeting in Seoul in November 1945 at which all parties, including the communists, were represented, there had been calls for immediate reunification. Appeals were made to the Russians as well as to the Americans, whose officials on the ground were now inclined to reject the whole idea of a UN trusteeship. Hodge, desperate for a solution, proposed to the Russians that they agreed to the abolition of the 38th parallel as a frontier, obtained huge reparations from the Japanese for the reconstruction of Korea's infrastructure, and worked with the Americans towards early independence for a democratic Korea. The Russians spurned Hodge's proposals out of hand. In an attempt to free the log-jam the western allies pressed for a high-level meeting, which took place in Moscow on 16 December 1945. When the final communiqué was issued, it merely confirmed the old idea of an open-ended trusteeship for Korea. There was outrage in Seoul among all parties of the left and right. All had expected immediate national independence and the very idea of submitting to external political tutelage was nothing less than gross loss of face.

    There was an unexpected development in January 1946, however, when the South Korean communist party, formerly vociferous in its condemnation of the Moscow agreement, changed tack and announced its satisfaction with the idea of trusteeship. It soon became apparent that they had done so on the Kremlin's command, in order to isolate the centre-right parties in South Korea when the Russians refused to deal with parties unsympathetic to trusteeship. The Soviets showed that they had no intention of proceeding other than on their own terms.

    Despite the confabulations of a joint US/USSR commission, headed by Generals Hodge and Chistyakov, it was clear to the Americans by May 1946 that there was no alternative for them but to go ahead with their own programme for the establishment of a self-governing, sovereign Korea as soon as possible, even if only in the south of the peninsula. In the meantime, 435,000 Japanese civilians and nearly 180,000 military personnel had been repatriated; but as late as 1947, Japanese refugees were still pouring south across the 38th parallel. Another migration went on at the same time, as two million Koreans returned from abroad, many from Japan, others from north to south and vice-versa. The task of feeding and administering these was undertaken with remarkable efficiency by the American military government.

    In December 1946 South Korea's interim legislative assembly was inaugurated in Seoul as a form of training mechanism for further democratic advance. It comprised 90 members, of whom 45 were elected, the others nominated by Hodge. The re-education of the nation posed enormous problems. By 1945 the national literacy rate had fallen to between 25 and 45 per cent. There was a chronic lack of trained teachers, adequate school buildings and teaching materials. Undeterred, Hodge's staff set up a scheme based on the Korean language, restoring the Hanggul literation in place of Japanese characters, and began to reintroduce the teaching of ancient Korean history and culture. Any adults showing signs of ability were encouraged to run their own show and accept increasing responsibility for local and regional education and administration.

    The factories of South Korea had been used for years to support the Japanese war effort. Few Koreans had the technical and management expertise required to convert them to peacetime use. North and South were actually interdependent; hydro-electric and heavy industrial centres were nearly all in North Korea, thus making the Americans in the south dependent on the Russians for much of their power. The agricultural and textiles industries were, however, in the south. The former prosperity of rice farmers nationwide had vanished, for the Japanese had withheld fertilizers, needed to augment the malodorous use of human and animal excrement. The railroad network, laid out by the Japanese to serve their economy, was on the verge of collapse. Out of 474 locomotives in South Korea, only 182 were serviceable at the beginning of 1946. A complete rebuilding of the system — track, signalling, rolling stock, workshops — was needed, as well as the provision of skilled fitters. There were still fewer than 100 miles of metalled road in the south.

    Attempts to get any movement from the Russians remained futile. At last, Washington re-entered the lists with a note to Molotov on 8 April 1947, drawing attention to the lack of progress and complaining that as the Soviet commander had now forbidden free movement and economic exchange between the two Koreas it was impossible to advance politically. Molotov declined to co-operate, stating that whilst the Americans were still talking with 17 groups opposed to Moscow, they were excluding such `truly democratic' groups as the All-Korea Labour Confederation and the All-Korea Peasant and Youth Unions. As these were front organizations of the communist party, it is hardly surprising that they were under close scrutiny by Hodge and his staff. The 38th parallel was no longer a notional line on the map. By mid-1947 it had become a de facto frontier between two mutually hostile states.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations vii
Preface ix
Acknowledgments xi
Maps xiii
Prelude: November 1950 1
Part 1 Into the Fray
1. The Doomed Peninsula 5
2. Confrontation, Frustration 16
3. Assault and Battery 29
4. Bilko Goes to War 45
5. Forming Freedom's Team 54
6. In the Perimeter 65
7. MacArthur's Master-Stroke 72
8. The Road North 83
9. Reinforcements 92
10. High Hopes, Fearful Discoveries 99
Part 2 The Alliance in Crisis
11. Enter the People's Volunteers 111
12. The Dragon Strikes 121
13. Advance to the Sea 130
14. The Great Bug-Out 142
15. Winter of Discontent 158
16. Road to Recovery 166
17. Confidence Returns 177
Part 3 On the Offensive
18. Change of Management 191
19. The Fifth Phase 210
20. Back to Back 220
21. Marshal Peng's Last Throw 234
22. The Commonwealth Division 244
23. On to the Heights 250
24. Time for Reflection 268
Part 4 Final Confrontations
25. Tests of Strength 279
26. The Secret War 289
27. Naval Operations 300
28. A New Air War 308
29. The Last Battles 317
30. The Waters of Babylon 337
31. The Great Prison Mutinies 347
Postscript 358
Glossary 363
Appendix I. Casualty Figures 366
Appendix II. Outline Order of Battle 367
Appendix III. The Republic of Korea Army 375
Appendix IV. The North Korean People's Army 376
Bibliography 378
Index 386
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2004

    Useful account of US war of aggression against Korea

    Michael Hickey, a Colonel in the British Army, has written a revealing military, but not political, history of the Korean War. From the start, the US government had larger aims than its stated one of `defending South Korea from aggression¿. As early as 28 June 1950, its planes bombed roads, railways, industries and troops in the Democratic People¿s Republic of Korea. In September 1950, they bombed towns and cities in the People¿s Republic of China and in the Soviet Union. Later on, President Eisenhower ordered the bombing of all the hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the DPRK major war crimes. In spring 1953, he threatened to drop nuclear bombs, but the PRC and DPRK did not allow this to affect the peace talks. As in World War Two, the US leaders thought strategic bombing would make ground fighting unnecessary, but as usual, bombing was damaging not decisive. The US and British governments had the gall to accuse the Communists of respecting no language but force, of having no respect for human life and of committing the most appalling atrocities. But these were all projections: whenever the Soviet Union and the PRC made diplomatic efforts to end the war, the western governments called this `Communist trickery¿. US and South Korean soldiers slaughtered prisoners of war - 177 in one POW camp alone in 1952. They committed the most dreadful mass murders: after they entered the North, South Korean forces massacred 150,000 people. By contrast the Chinese forces behaved humanely, for example, as Hickey writes, ¿the Chinese never knowingly fired on the Red Cross flag, nor did they interfere with the work of the medical orderlies and bearers.¿ As it became increasingly obvious that the US government could not win this war, it became more and more isolated. The American historian Burton Kaufman wrote that the US government finally ¿changed its stand on the armistice talks¿ and signed the Armistice in July 1953, only under the `unrelenting¿ pressure of its allies to end the war, backed by the `worldwide demand for compromise and peace in Korea¿.

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