Memorandum for the Record, by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Johnson)

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  • Meeting with JCS, May 14, 1952.

The following were present at the meeting with the JCS on this date: Mr. Matthews, Mr. Bohlen, Mr. Hickerson, Mr. Allison, Mr. Nitze, and [Page 195] Mr. Johnson for State; General Bradley, General Bolte, Admiral Fechteler, and General Twining for the JCS.

First, a telegram to General Clark recommending approval of a request for USIS and news correspondents to film and record broadcasts of interviews of POWs who have been screened out as violent objectors to repatriation was discussed. It was the general view that USIS should not be permitted to undertake such an operation unless news correspondents were also given substantially the same privileges. It was felt that we have general free world support on our position on non-forcible repatriation and that such activities were not necessary to contribute to that support. In view of the explosive potentialities of the whole POW situation, it was the general view that requests of both USIS and news reporters should be denied. Mr. Johnson and General Bolte were instructed to prepare a reply along those lines.1

The desirability of General Clark’s issuing a further clarifying statement with regard to the Koje Do incident involving Generals Dodd and Colson2 was discussed. There was general agreement on the text of such a statement to be made by General Clark and it was decided that it would be recommended that the Secretaries of State and Defense discuss the matter with the President.

There was then a general discussion of the reply to Admiral Joy’s and General Clark’s messages recommending a unilateral suspension of the armistice talks.3 There was general agreement that now was an entirely inopportune time for such a unilateral suspension and that the UNC Delegation at Panmunjom should take greater advantage of the meetings to engage in a propaganda and psychological offensive against the Communists. There was also general agreement that consideration should be given to proposing at some stage during the present meetings of the Delegations an examination by an impartial body, including Communist observers, of the POWs violently objecting to repatriation in order completely to undermine the Communist contention that these POWs were being coerced and restrained by the UNC. General Bolte [Page 196] and Mr. Johnson were instructed to prepare a telegram along the foregoing lines to General Clark.4

There was also general discussion of the desirability, at some time soon, of having Ambassador Kennan at Moscow make an approach of some kind to the Soviets on the question of the armistice negotiations with the view of making the UNC position on the negotiations completely clear to the Soviets. However, no decisions were reached on this.

There was also an inconclusive discussion of the necessity, at such time as decision might be reached unilaterally to suspend the armistice negotiations, of informing and obtaining support from our Allies for whatever military courses of action we intended to adopt under these circumstances. This discussion included mention of the possibility of “de facto” armistice conditions without an armistice agreement, as well as the possibilities of obtaining a de facto exchange of POWs prior to an armistice and eliminating from the armistice agreement the entire question of POWs.

  1. The reply was transmitted as DA 908803 to Clark, May 14, 1952, not printed (795.00/5–3152).
  2. On May 7, 1952, pro-Communist POWs of Compound 76 captured Brigadier General Dodd, the commandant of Koje-do Island prison camp, and demanded permission to organize and operate a vast POW organization as the price of Dodd’s release. The prisoners later escalated their demands by insisting on a statement by the acting commandant, Brigadier General Colson, that UNC prison authorities would not undertake alleged force screening and inhumane treatment of prisoners in the future. To win Dodd’s release Colson signed the statement late in the evening of May 10. Communist Delegates at Panmunjom made enormous propaganda advantage of this confession of supposed guilt. Extensive accounts of this incident and its important repercussions can be found in Hermes, Truce Tent and Fighting Front, pp. 243–254 and Clark, From the Danube to the Yalu, pp. 36–49. A contemporary narrative of the seizure is in telegram GX 5777 TAC KCG, Ridgway to JCS, May 8, 1952, not printed (795.00/5–3152).
  3. This reply was transmitted to Clark as JCS 908998, May 16, p. 203.
  4. Telegram JCS 908998, p. 203.