795.00/6–2550: Telegram

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


928. For the Department’s information I quote below text of memorandum of conversation which I had with President Rhee this morning:

“I called on the President by appointment at 11:35 at his residence.

[Page 130]

“The President appeared under considerable emotional tension, but was nonetheless composed. I opened the conversation by saying that I had just visited Korean Army headquarters, where I had found both the Korean military establishment and the American advisors moving quickly and efficiently to cope with the emergency. I had found that SCAP had been notified at 10 a. m. today of the situation. I had found that the city of Seoul appeared calm and normal.

“The President said that Korea needed ‘more arms and ammunition’. He subsequently made specific mention of ‘more rifles’. I told him that the Korean Army was far better trained than it had been last year (when the North Koreans had made several strong raids along the 38th parallel). I said that there was a sufficient supply of artillery ammunition to last for the time being. President Rhee, apparently implying he hoped for support in that quarter, said he had not notified General MacArthur because his government had no code.

“The President mentioned the various points under attack—Ongjin, Kaesong (where he said the post office had been occupied; actually it had fallen to the North Korean forces); Chunchon and the east coast where a landing had been effected from boats. The President said that the patrol craft currently at Honolulu were urgently needed, and that they had sent word to the Korean Consul at Honolulu to have the ships leave immediately; the crews had been expected to stay there a week. He said that the PC already acquired by the Korean Navy had been a tremendous boost to morale. At last they had a ship which could make some speed whereas their other craft could proceed only at a snail’s pace.1

“I informed the President that American advisors were on duty with all Korean divisions along the parallel including the Ongjin peninsula; and that their presence would help Korean Army morale. I pointed out that he would be under pressure from various civilian groups along the parallel to despatch reinforcements but the Korean Army must act as a coordinated unit despite local situations and that there would be temptation to interfere with military decisions which should be avoided. I commented that it was important for everyone to maintain calm.

“The President said that there would be a cabinet meeting at 2 p. m. to discuss the situation. He said that he was considering proclaiming martial law in Seoul and that the people must be told the facts. He remarked that the situation came as no surprise to anybody; that he had been warning the people about it a long time and calling upon every man, woman and child to come out and fight with sticks and stones if necessary. He seemed to feel that the people would support him in this way. He said that if it were certain that enough arms and [Page 131] ammunition would be available, this word would be passed from mouth to mouth and thus boost public morale. He stated that he had been trying to avoid making Korea a second Sarajevo; but perhaps the present crisis presented the best opportunity for settling the Korean problem once and for all. He commented that American public opinion seemed to be growing stronger day by day vis-à-vis Communist aggression. He hoped that the US would take action to ‘maintain the present situation in Formosa’, because he would ‘like to see the Chinese Communists kept occupied for a while’.

“I concluded the conversation by assuring the President that I would be available all day and that I had confidence that the situation was being competently met.”

Repeated info CINCFE Tokyo.

  1. The Republic of Korea, from its own foreign exchange funds, had purchased from the United States one PC which arrived in Korea in February 1950 and the hulls and main engines of three others, repair and refitting expenses for which were borne by the United States. These were en route to Korea at the time of the outbreak of hostilities (Sawyer, Military Advisors in Korea, p. 92).