Records of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, Lot 52–M45

Draft Memorandum to the Joint Chiefs of Staff 48

[SWNCC 176 Series]

Reference is made to SM 3005, dated August 22, 1945 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff47 communicating a message from the Commander in [Page 1038]Chief, Army Forces, Pacific, with regard to international agreements relating to the occupation of Korea.

The initial clause of the message from the Commander in Chief reading “in as much as the occupation of Korea is to be on a quadri-partite basis”, is not understood to be correct. An oral understanding was reached at the Conference of the Three Major Allies at Yalta that the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and China should establish a temporary international trusteeship over Korea. So far as can be ascertained the understanding referred to above is the only international agreement which relates to Korea, and that agreement would relate to a period and to a condition subsequent to the period of occupation of Korea.

The following is for the information of the JCS only:

Although there is no agreed United States view as to the character of administration of civil affairs in Korea, the Department of State believes that it would be politically advisable that, as soon as practicable after the surrender of the Japanese forces is completed, up to which time the administration of civil affairs will be the responsibility of the respective Commanders of the two zones in Korea,48 the administration of civil affairs should be combined, so that the whole of Korea would constitute a centralized administrative area. The civil administration might be placed under the control of a council made up of the Commanding Officers of the United States, Soviet, and other forces participating in the occupation of Korea.

Present provisional plans for the setting-up, in accordance with the oral understanding above mentioned reached at Yalta of an international authority in Korea, would provide for the establishment of a temporary trusteeship for Korea by the Four Major Allies, under the supervision of the General Assembly of the United Nations, such trusteeship to become effective as soon as possible.49

[Page 1039]

[In a memorandum dated July 12, 1950 (740.00117 Control-(Korea)/7–1250), the then Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, Dean Rusk, answered an inquiry from the Chief of the Division of Historical Policy Research, G. Bernard Noble, in regard to the 38th parallel in Korea as follows:

“Since I was an ‘eye witness’ to the birth of the 38th parallel perhaps I can add a little more detail:

The suddenness of the Japanese surrender forced emergency consideration by the Department of State and the armed services of the necessary orders to General MacArthur and the necessary arrangements with other allied governments about the Japanese surrender. For this purpose, SWNCC (Mr. Dunn for State, Mr. McCloy for Army, and Mr. Ralph Bard for Navy) held several long sessions during the period August 10–15. Dunn, McCloy and Bard held a meeting in Mr. McCloy’s office in the Pentagon on, I believe, the night of August 10–11, a meeting which lasted throughout most of the night. The subject was arrangements for the receipt of the Japanese surrender. The Department of State had suggested (through Mr. Byrnes) that U.S. forces receive the surrender as far north as practicable. The military was faced with the scarcity of U.S. forces immediately available and time and space factors which would make it difficult to reach very far north before Soviet troops could enter the area.

The military view was that if our proposals for receiving the surrender greatly over-reached our probable military capabilities, there would be little likelihood of Soviet acceptance—and speed was the essence of the problem. Mr. McCloy asked Col. C. H. Bonesteel, III, and me (then a Colonel on the War Department General Staff) to retire to an adjoining room and come up with a proposal which would harmonize the political desire to have U.S. forces receive the surrender as far north as possible and the obvious limitations on the ability of the U.S. forces to reach the area.

We recommended the 38th parallel even though it was further north than could be realistically reached by U. S. forces in the event of Soviet disagreement, but we did so because we felt it important to include the capital of Korea in the area of responsibility of American troops. The 38th parallel became a part of the Army’s recommendation to the Department of State and that line was subsequently agreed internationally. I remember at the time that I was somewhat surprised that the Soviet accepted the 38th parallel since I thought they might insist upon a line further south in view of our respective military positions in the area.

The above is based on memory and not on documents, but might help to throw some additional light on the point.”]

  1. Prepared by the Assistant Secretary of State (Dunn) as a proposed reply to a message of August 22 from General of the Army Douglas MacArthur to the Joint Chiefs of Staff; circulated by the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee on August 22. General MacArthur’s message stated: “Inasmuch as the occupation of Korea is to be on a quadripartite basis, it is requested that this headquarters be furnished at earliest with agreements reached with Allied Powers, especially with Russia, regarding direct contact between commanders of occupational forces in contiguous and overlapping areas together with any pertinent instructions thereon pertaining to Korea. Information is urgently require for incorporation in letter of instructions to commanding General United States Army Forces in Korea (Commanding General XXIV Corps).” Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge was Commanding General.
  2. To the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, not printed.
  3. In General Order No. 1, issued by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (MacArthur), it was stated that in Korea surrender of Japanese forces north of the 38th parallel would be accepted by the military forces of the Soviet Union and south of that line by the military forces of the United States. The text of General Order No. 1 is printed in Report of Government Section, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers: Political Reorientation of Japan, September 1945 to September 1948 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1949), Appendix B, p. 442.
  4. In an undated memorandum to the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, the Assistant Secretary of War (McCloy) stated that the draft memorandum “is not believed to be an answer to General MacArthur’s message, which appears to pertain only to the operational aspects of the occupation of Korea” and submitted his version of a draft message to General MacArthur. This draft, as amended by the addition of the words “In the absence of declared intentions by the United Kingdom, China or other United Nation” at the request of the Department of State on August 24, was approved the same day by the Committee; for text, see p. 1040.