Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Merchant) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews)


This morning Captain Murdaugh and General Duff1 came over to see me (with representatives of NEA, WE and G present) to inform us unofficially that at their meeting yesterday the JCS had taken certain decisions from a military point of view relative to present and forthcoming national ground force units in Korea. Secretary Marshall is expected to sign a letter to the Secretary concurring in the JCS views today or tomorrow.2

In recognition of the rapid change in the military situation in Korea, the JCS would like to accomplish the following:

Turkey, Australia

Retain in Korea the Turkish and Australian units.

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Great Britain

Return to Hong Kong the present British brigade when the reinforcement brigade from England arrives.


Send back to the Philippines to fight the Huks, the Philippine battalion.


Allow the Thais to come forward.


Allow the Greeks to come forward, but in battalion and not in brigade strength.


Allow the Canadians to come forward but in battalion and not brigade strength.

The Netherlands, Belgium, France, New Zealand, Australia

Cancel the sailings, or actually turn around on the water, the Netherlands battalion, the Belgian battalion, the New Zealand battalion and the second Australian battalion.

India, Sweden

Retain the Swedish and Indian hospitals.

Iran, Italy

Cancel the Iranian and Italian hospital units, neither of which is in an advanced stage of preparation.

Latin America

They also would like us to cease and desist any further efforts to obtain any military units, particularly in Latin America.

The Defense representatives recognize that political considerations might make it inadvisable to execute, part or all, of their wishes on this matter.

We pointed out to them that not only did we have to consider the individual political consequences which would take place in each of these countries, but also the overall UN reaction. We stated that the Department would urgently consider this matter with a view to providing the Department of Defense with a definitive expression of its views as promptly as possible after receiving General Marshall’s letter.

A further meeting was held this afternoon with representatives of EUR, UNA, NEA, and ARA present. At this meeting it was agreed that:

The military situation in Korea has changed radically in recent weeks and some redeployment or revision of past plans seems called for.
The overriding political consideration is still to maximize the number of flags flying in Korea under the UN.
There would be no political objection to cutting down the size of the large units, assuming that the countries in question were anxious or willing to do so.
There would be no objection to cancelling or transferring troops from Korea if there were more urgent military duties for them to perform elsewhere (i.e., possibly the Filipinos to fight the Huks).
Pressure should be removed in soliciting troops from countries where the organization and training of a unit was so distant in the future as to make it improbable that there would be any need for any UN troops in Korea at the earliest date the unit would arrive.

On the basis of the foregoing it is recommended that the Department of Defense be informed in answer to General Marshall’s letter when received that:

We are prepared to discuss with both the Canadians and the Greeks a reduction in their troop contribution from brigade to battalion strength.
We are prepared to ascertain from the Philippine Government its views as to the desirability of returning the present battalion to the Philippines and to accede to any request from the Philippine Government that this be done.
We are prepared to inform the Australians that we are prepared to release them from their commitment to send forward a second battalion.3
We are prepared to tell the British that we are prepared to permit the withdrawal of their troops currently in Korea upon the arrival of the brigade from the UK.
We are strongly of the opinion that the Belgian, Netherlands, New Zealand, French and Colombian units should be permitted to go forward to Korea without change in present arrangements.
We are prepared to inform the Iranians and the Italians that the need is no longer foreseen for their hospital units.

All of the foregoing would be done in the name of the Unified Command (USG). Careful attention will have to be paid to the political aspects, including the following steps:

Arranging for General MacArthur in his next semimonthly report to the Security Council to include a statement to the effect that the rapid change in the military situation in Korea permitted the Unified Command to reconsider its requirements for military units.
The UN, through the Secretary General, should be informed of the decisions of the Unified Command in this regard after the decisions have been reached and communicated to the individual governments concerned.
No reduction in the present naval and air units contributed by other nations to the campaign in Korea would take place at the present time.
In the case of those Latin American and other countries (other than the Colombians, which are furthest advanced) on whom we have been putting pressure to organize and come forward with units, we would attempt to maintain their interest in such a program but transfer the frame of references from the Korean operation to the United States proposals for peace which include the designation of national units for future UN purposes.

Finally, it is recommended that the Secretary consider discussing the Department’s views, when finally formulated, with the President in light of his continuing interest in this subject of UN military contribution.4

  1. Maj. Gen. Robinson E. Duff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, U.S. Army.
  2. See the letter from Marshall to Acheson, November 2, p. 1027.
  3. In a memorandum, not printed, dated October 27, the Deputy Director of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs (Satter-thwaite) pointed out to Mr. Matthews that Australia had not made a commitment to send a second battalion (795.00/10–2650).
  4. A manuscript notation by Mr. Matthews indicated his approval of this memorandum.