The Ambassador in Korea (Muccio) to the Secretary of State

No. 272–bis

Ref: Embtel 318, Mar. 10, 1950;1 Embdes 777, Dec. 7, 1949,2 and previous [communications?]

Subject: Request from President Rhee for Excess FEAF Aircraft

The Embassy refers to its telegram no. 318 of March 10, 1950, and to communications cited therein, and encloses, for the Department’s information and records a copy of the request from President Rhee, dated March 6, 1950, for the shipment to Korea of FEAF aircraft now reportedly obsolescent.3

Upon receipt of this request from President Rhee, the advice of the Chief, KMAG, was sought concerning advisability of procurement of such planes for the Korean Air Force, and there are quoted below pertinent excerpts from the memorandum received from General Roberts under date of 8 March:

“It is obvious that immediate measures must be taken to provide Korea with effective air means of countering the growing air threat from the North. This has consistently been the attitude of KMAG.…

“In view of the foregoing, KMAG has sent messages to Washington (ROB 380, 21 Sept 49; ROB 449, 6 Oct 494) and has assisted in the preparation of numerous Embtels requesting that measures be taken to assist the Korean air force with advisory personnel and air materiel. It is understood that this matter has been under discussion in the Department of Defense since last October.…

“… In order to present the whole problem in one bundle, together with a proposed solution, reference should be made, in forwarding the request, to our numerous proposals for air advisors to insure that if and when air materiel is turned over to Korea it is used efficiently. Further, reference should also be made to FMACC D–6 Revision 1, dated 23 January 1950,1 subject “Policy with reference to training foreign nationals under MDA Act of 1949.” Since one of our proposals contained in ROB 380 of 21 Sept 49 was to train Korean pilot instructors in FEAF installations, and since such training would seem to be contemplated under the MDAA, the present is a logical and propitious time to bring the subject up.

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“I am not in a position to comment on the availability or proposed use of obsolescent aircraft now in Japan. It is known that F–84’s and F–86’s are now being sent to Japan to replace some or all of the F–51’s now in FEAF. I feel that aircraft rendered excess by this substitution will, if excess to the needs of the Air Force on a world-wide basis, be used to supply MDAP countries having an air force recognized by the N.S.C. I doubt that they will be “discarded” or “junked” as President Rhee presumes. In any event, I feel that if the planes are to be efficiently and properly used by Korea or any any other country either trained indigenous personnel must be presently available or an advice and training program must be undertaken by the U.S. to produce suitably trained indigenous personnel prior to delivery or use of the aircraft.

“To sum up: I feel that the President’s request should be forwarded with a strong statement as to the urgent necessity for a well equipped Korean Air Force; I feel that reference should be made to all our previous requests; and I feel that we should also refer to the language of the FMACC paper referred to above which contemplates training of MDAP country nationals in U.S. installations, either in the ZI or overseas.”

The Embassy has reviewed the recommendations set forth in its Despatch No. 777, December 7, 1949, and remains of the view that they are still appropriate with respect to the Republic of Korea’s current air needs. If it is a fact that air equipment in Japan is being rendered obsolescent and declared surplus, it is earnestly hoped that such of this equipment as will meet the requirements of the Republic of Korea will be allocated to this country. This is particularly true of fighter, transport and trainer aircraft.

Action Requested: It would be appreciated if the Department would inform the Embassy of the action taken, or of such action as is proposed to be taken, with respect to President Rhee’s request for United States air assistance, transmitted under cover of the Embassy’s Despatch No. 777.

For the Ambassador:
Everett F. Drumright

Counselor of Embassy
  1. Not printed.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vii, Part 2, p. 1105.
  3. In his letter to Ambassador Muccio, not printed, President Rhee noted that the Republic of Korea’s intelligence sources had stated that the Soviet Union had supplied North Korea with between 70 and 100 fighters and bombers. He went on to say that there would obviously be a disastrous effect on South Korean civilian morale as well as on the military situation north of Seoul if enemy planes could bomb and strafe without any fear of retaliation.
  4. Neither printed, but their content is summarized in telegram 1376, November 8, 1949, from Seoul, in Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vii, Part 2, p. 1094.
  5. Not printed.