The Korean War - Essay Example

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Korea had been occupied by Japanese troops in 1905, then annexed by Japan in 1910. During World War II, it was considered enemy territory. At the Cairo Summit in November 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt endorsed a policy of a free and independent Korea in due course…
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Download file to see previous pages That policy was reiterated in 1945 at the Yalta Summit. It was further agreed that until Korea became independent, it would be under the joint trusteeship of the United States, China, and the Soviet Union. 1

The world's first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan on 6 August 1945; Russia entered the war on 8 August; and the Japanese surrendered on 14 August. With the sudden and unexpected Japanese surrender, there was great haste to cobble together plans to accept the surrender of Japanese field forces and to disarm them. The opportunistic Soviet declaration of war on Japan, coming two days after the first atomic bomb was dropped, made it necessary to agree on a line of demarcation between the zones within which the United States and the Soviets would accept the Japanese surrender. The U.S. State Department wanted the American zone to be as far north on the mainland of China as possible, including key points in Manchuria. The Army did not want to go into an area where few other forces were close at hand. In the planning for the surrender, two young American colonels, Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel, from the War Department's Operations and Plans Division (OPD), were assigned the task of finding a line. Neither was particularly knowledgeable about Korea or the Far East, although Rusk had served briefly with Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell in China during the war. They retired to an office and pondered over a National Geographic map. The Army wanted to have two ports, Inchon in the north and Pusan in the south. North of Inchon, there did not seem to be any natural geographic division. They settled on the thirty-eighth parallel. The Soviets agreed. Later Rusk learned that in the early 1900s, the Russians and japanese had, initially, proposed the thirty-eighth parallel as the dividing line between their respective spheres of influence. There has since been suspicion that the Soviets took agreement on the thirty-eighth parallel to be an acknowledgment of their historic sphere of influence.2
The U.S. XXIV Corps came ashore at Inchon to carry out the U.S. occupation mission. The Soviet Army moved down from the north, closed on the thirty-eighth parallel, and sealed the border. All subsequent attempts to proceed with a coordinated policy toward Korea failed. The occupation was not a happy task. Lieutenant General John R. Hodges, the XXIV Corps commander, called it the worst job he ever had. The troops disliked it intensely. In Japan, one commander addressed his incoming troops, warning them to behave and saying that they had only three things to fear -- diarrhea, gonorrhea, and Korea. In the south, the Koreans were not willing to wait for "due course" to achieve freedom and independence. They wanted it right away. And there were competing groups of all political stripes ready to take on the job. 3
The wisdom of maintaining American troops in Korea was questioned almost from the very start. To the Joint Chiefs, the troops were needed elsewhere. In the years that followed, with the Cold War becoming more frosty, force levels dropping, and other needs increasing, the question became more urgent. It was not a decision easily made. An ongoing discussion of the subject continued from 1947 to 1949. It revolved around the strategic value of Korea, its political importance, and its importance in contributing to U.S. prestige. In April 1947, the joint Strategic Survey Committee noted, "This is one country within which we alone have for almost two years carried on ideological warfare in direct contact with our ideological opponents so that to lose this battle would be gravely detrimental to the United States prestige and therefore security." 4The State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (prior to the formation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) concluded: ". . . the U.S. cannot ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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