Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. James W. Barco, Special Assistant to the Ambassador at Large (Jessup)

top secret

Subject: United States Courses of Action in Korea

Participants: G—Mr. Matthews
Mr. Rusk
Mr. Merchant
Mr. Emmerson
Mr. Hickerson
Mr. Sandifer
S/P—Mr. Butler
Mr. Jessup
Mr. McConaughy
Mr. Barco

At a meeting this morning to consider the Department’s position on courses of action in Korea for guidance in NSC discussions the following questions were considered and recommendations agreed upon:

Limitation on Military Action—The question was raised whether any restrictions should be placed on the unified command on ground operations north of the 38th parallel.
It was agreed that under present directives General MacArthur has authority to make operational amphibious landings behind the North Korean lines, north of the 38th parallel. It was also agreed that if there was any doubt of this authority we would have no objection to such landings being made, our concern being that the UN forces should keep well clear of the Russian frontier. In this connection, it was recalled that the Defense Department has not regarded bombings within seventeen miles of the Russian frontier as being too close. On the East Coast it was agreed that UN forces might occupy the neck reaching into the mountain area up to the 39th parallel if it were strategically desirable in order to insure operational control of the area but that ground operations should not go beyond the neck into the mountain area at the 39th parallel.
Should operational plans, including amphibious landings north of the 38th parallel, be executed if Chinese Communists or Soviet forces have entered the war. A paper approved as a working paper for NSC 73 takes the position that if Chinese Communist forces have entered the fighting we continue our operations as if we were still fighting North Koreans and it was agreed that under these circumstances amphibious landings north of the 38th parallel in the eastern neck could be undertaken. The Joint Chiefs have taken the position in NSC 76 that if major Soviet units are engaged the US should minimize its commitments and execute war plans. To go beyond the 38th parallel would be to maximize our commitments, and it was agreed that we would approve the JCS position.
IF UN forces are successful in pushing North Korean troops back to the 38th parallel should UN forces stop at that point. It was agreed that in the absence of Chinese Communist or Soviet participation we should not stop. It was recognized that it might be desirable for South Korean troops to pursue North Korean troops beyond the 38th parallel but that American unit participation should be minimized. In other words it would be politically desirable, if militarily feasible, for the South Korean forces to follow-up, and it was agreed that this might be indicated to General MacArthur, but that a blood bath by South Koreans against North Koreans should be guarded against. It was agreed that our desire should be to put brakes on full military occupation of North Korea by US troops without putting any limitation on the total destruction of North Korean troops. It was also agreed that it would be desirable to begin consultation at an appropriate time with countries contributing forces to the UN Army to insure that they would continue under General MacArthur’s orders if and when UN forces have reached the 38th parallel, and that this became practical as other countries began active participation. The British should be the first to be consulted. It was also agreed that, while not an NSC matter, consideration of a deputy for General MacArthur should be taken up with the Defense Department.
If Russian troops are observed to be Moving into North Korea could UN forces bomb them north of the 38th parallel? It was agreed that in the absence of an announcement by Russia of its intentions of moving into North Korea we would bomb Russian troops as if they were North Korean troops. If the Soviet Union announces its intention to re-occupy North Korea we should take the case immediately to the Security Council as a matter for all of the Security Council to consider. It was agreed that we could not make a war issue with Russia out of their announced intention to re-occupy North Korea, but that [Page 648] we should continue to destroy North Korean troops south of the 38th parallel and demand assurances that they would be disarmed north of the 38th parallel. Our course of action would be based on the assumption that Russia would undertake to withdraw North Korean forces to the 38th parallel and that Russia could not, by its action, place an umbrella over the supply lines to North Koreans fighting south of the 38th parallel.
What should our course of action be for the ultimate solution of the Korean problem?
The first draft of the NSC paper on Korea1 has taken the position that questions of ultimate solution should not be decided until the military situation has cleared up. The British and French apparently adopt this view. It was agreed that we should announce at an appropriate time that we have no unilateral desire to occupy Korea but that we will contribute as far as we are able what the UN feels necessary. We have no desire for permanent military occupation and are willing to withdraw but will not weaken in our support of UN measures. We should also announce that being willing to contribute our fair share, we would be happy to see US forces replaced by the troops of other countries.
Should we favor demilitarization and neutralization of a united Korea? It was agreed that we should favor neutralization but that demilitarization presented certain dangers, the principal danger being that we would in effect be in the position of guaranteeing demilitarization without having indigenous forces to assist in action against aggression. It was agreed that we should favor neutralization of a united Korea with political undertakings by the Koreans and others not to engage in aggression, with Korea being free to have the necessary forces to protect its territory. It was suggested that a UN resolution in this sense might be adopted with provision for Korea and its neighbors, plus the United States and the United Kingdom as signatories.
Further steps to be taken for liquidation of the war. It was agreed that while leaving open the question of our war aims we should announce what we wish ultimately to accomplish. This would include provision for UNCOK to have free access to North Korea for supervising the demobilization of the North Koreans and the supervision of elections. Paragraph 28 of the NSC working paper on Korea should be amended to strike out the phrase “once aggression is brought to an end”. It was agreed that we should not defer the announcement of our program for Korea.

  1. See the memorandum dated August 21, by Messrs. Allison and Emmerson, p. 617, and footnote 1 thereto.