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795.00/6–2650: Telegram

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

secret
niact

940. President Rhee telephoned at ten tonight and asked me to come and see him. Acting Prime Minister Sihn who was at Embassy accompanied [Page 142]me. Ex-Prime Minister Lee Bum Suk was at President’s residence when I arrived. Following is memo covering our ensuing conversation.

President was under great strain. His face was working and his statements were repetitious, half-formed and disconnected. He mentioned situation at Uijongbu, where he said many tanks were rapidly advancing toward Seoul, beyond power of Korean Army to resist them. He then addressed his Acting Prime Minister in both Korean and English, with occasional asides to Lee Bum Suk in Korean. He stated that Cabinet had decided to move government to Taejon tonight. This decision, he repeatedly asserted, was not reached for any considerations of personal safety, but because government must continue, and because if he himself were lost to Communists, it would be serious blow for his country’s cause. He incoherently directed Acting Prime Minister to call together “several capable men” with military knowledge to discuss situation and decide upon appropriate action. He said he knew that if Prime Minister were satisfied that another man could handle military situation better, he would not hesitate to resign in that man’s favor. He stated that Korea could not count on much aid from US, remarking “we had hoped that ten million dollars would help…1 we understand that a wealthy man, Pak Heung Sik (owner of the Hwashin business enterprises) has offered million dollars to buy arms, but I suppose that now it is too late”.

Acting Prime Minister repeatedly said “yes sir”, “I will sir” to President’s instructions in best manner of his Merchant Marine experience; but it was obvious that he was very disgusted at President’s decision and orders. He finally excused himself, announcing that he would telephone for latest news of fighting at Uijongbu.

I endeavored to persuade President to keep government in Seoul pointing out that armament and troops were available and should be thrown into fight to stop tanks with bazookas, anti-tank guns, and land mines. Prime Minister said that 57 millimeter anti-tank guns had failed to penetrate North Korean tanks armor whereupon I stressed the land mines. (Prime Minister’s allegation seems doubtful; Korean roads and bridges would not support extremely heavy tanks). I said that if government left Seoul, much of battle would be lost; that if Korean situation ever became disorganized, it would be impossible to pull it together again. None of these arguments appeared to make any impression on President, who repeatedly affirmed his disregard of personal safety and his conviction that government must not run risk of capture.

[Page 143]

When it became evident that nothing would change President’s mind, I rose and said that he might go to Taejon but that I would remain in Seoul. I said that American women and children would be evacuated early next morning, and that during evacuation there would be air cover over Seoul. President agreed that women and children must go. I said that men of American mission, however would remain.

As I was leaving conference, Lee Bum Suk, in halting English, told me that he thought original North Korean strategy had been to feint toward Seoul, meanwhile landing guerrillas along east coast; but that when it was discovered that progress toward Seoul was so easy, more effort had been put on that sector. He said they must fight strongly against thrust toward Seoul. When I left conference room, Lee stayed behind, saying that he would remain and have some words with President.

Outside residence Prime Minister Sihn took me aside and told me that President had reached his decision to move government without consulting him.

Repeated info CINCFE.

Muccio
  1. Omission indicated in the source text.