Memorandum for the Record, by the Director of the Office of Northeast Asian Affairs (Young)
- Ambassador Ellis O. Briggs 1
- Kenneth T. Young, Jr., Director, Office of Northeast Asian Affairs
- Matters Relating to Korea.
On Monday, November 3, Ambassador Briggs and I met with various officials in the Department of Defense to discuss practically all aspects of the Korean situation. The following paragraphs summarize the highlights of these individual conversations.
Secretary of Defense Lovett
After a considerable exchange on the situation in Czechoslovakia, Mr. Lovett turned to the Korean problem, with the remark that it [Page 573] seemed to him to be nearly insoluble. He listed the many issues that seem so difficult to settle: inflation, armistice negotiations, military requirements, and difficulties with the Rhee Government. The Secretary did not discuss any of these in detail. He did tell the Ambassador that he was particularly concerned over the problem of speed and efficiency of communications. The Secretary said that he has always been concerned in countries where there is political instability and military operations that United States diplomatic and military officials can communicate with each other rapidly. He appeared to be particularly concerned over this problem in Korea and hoped that the Ambassador would be able always to get in touch with General Van Fleet or General Clark in a matter of minutes. Ambassador Briggs said that he would look into this situation and thanked the Secretary for pointing up such an essential matter. Secretary Lovett said one encouraging factor in the Korean situation is the excellent relations between United States diplomatic and United States military officials in Korea. Ambassador Briggs assured the Secretary that he hoped this relationship would continue when he takes over his duties in Korea.
Chief of Staff [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Bradley
General Bradley made the following points in his discussion with Ambassador Briggs.
- With respect to the armistice negotiations, General Bradley was convinced last fall that the Communists wanted an armistice in order to get through the winter, which is particularly hard on their forces. The armistice was not concluded, and the Communists appear to have weathered the winter without serious effect or the outbreak of major epidemics. So, in the spring, General Bradley felt that there might not be any conclusion in the negotiations, until after the American elections. Just what effect the campaign has had on the Communists’ attitude towards the negotiations is hard to tell, but it may be that the campaign will have delayed things through another winter.
- General Bradley believes that our position on the repatriation of prisoners of war is entirely correct for two reasons: first, it reflects our basic principles on individual rights which we could not compromise; and secondly, it may discourage the Communists from engaging in future “Koreas”. General Bradley thinks that we have not capitalized enough on this argument. As he put it, if we get away with our stand on the POW issue, the Communists may think twice before sending Chinese soldiers into battle where they might surrender in large numbers, knowing that they would not be sent back to Communist China.
- He said that the military authorities thought the POW situation was well in hand. General MacArthur 2 told him that the POWs were the happiest group in Korea because they were well cared for and well fed. Then, with Van Fleet carrying on the war from Seoul and with General Ridgway in Tokyo, the handling of the POWs on the islands [Page 574] off the coast was left to the rear echelons. It would have been better to have established more responsible control over the POW administration, but for a long while it was assumed that the armistice negotiations would be concluded and the prisoners returned. It was clear that the prisoner outbreaks came as a great surprise to our top military authorities. Thereafter, General Clark established a communications zone under General Herren in order to relieve General Van Fleet of civil affairs matters. General Bradley believes that the POW camps are under complete control and that the communications zone was a sensible move.
- General Bradley mentioned that President Rhee and his government are trying in every possible way to return their capital to Seoul. General Bradley believes that General Van Fleet is right in opposing this move until an armistice is concluded. General Bradley wondered if there was some other place than Seoul for the Korean capital to move to, such as Taegu. Ambassador Briggs replied that he would look into that.
Secretary of the Air Force Finletter and Secretary of the Army Pace
These two officials combined their individual appointments with the Ambassador. Their discussion of the Korean situation developed a number of important points.
- Both Secretaries affirmed in strong terms the amazing progress made in the development of ROK ground forces.
- Secretary Finletter said that he was concerned most with the question of how to get the armistice concluded and what were the best steps for the United States Defense Department to take thereafter in Korea. He said that the United States air strength in Korea is taken from somewhere else and could be used somewhere else in the world. He would like to get it out of Korea for that reason. Both Secretaries favor token forces of various nations in critical areas. They do not see the sense in “parking” a large United States army, navy and air force in Korea after the armistice. They would prefer a token United States force. Secretary Finletter believes that the large force would be uneconomic, and that it might not be able to hold back aggression in any case. He is concerned that there is too much thinking going on, including the Department of State, of maintaining large forces in Korea for some time. He said that there were some papers circulating on this subject. He suggested that the State Department should do some real analysis about this matter. Speaking for the air force, he does not want our air strength pinned down in Korea indefinitely.
- Secretary Finletter then turned to the problem of the Korean air force. He said that there was no reason why the Korean air force could not be built up to as much as two or three wings in conventional type fighter bombers. According to his observations and information, the Korean air force has done an excellent job. It seems to have a facility for doing the difficult and often nasty chores that only F–51’s can do in close support and low speed tactical operations. He says that there is no reason why the Korean air force could not have some jets, too. Secretary Pace disagreed on the jets, but stated that he was in full accord with Secretary Finletter on the development of a conventional type Korean air force. Both Secretaries conceded that the Koreans could not [Page 575] support either air or ground forces, since their economy will be a deficit one for a long time to come, but they strongly approve the concept of developing Korean forces to the greatest extent possible to maintain the defense of the ROK.
- Secretary Finletter raised the subject of developing more publicity on Soviet participation in Korean hostilities. Secretary Pace agreed that more should be done along this line. Both Secretaries indicated that they had tried but had been rebuffed, apparently by the Department of State, on the grounds that such revelations would “offend” the Russians. They were not talking about the logistical support or tactical advice which the Russians are providing the Chinese Communists and the North Koreans. Secretary Finletter specifically mentioned that he was thinking of actual combat participation of certain types of Soviet units such as anti-aircraft. He thought the American public and the world in general should know that Soviet personnel are fighting against us in one way or another. He suggested that the Ambassador look into this matter in the Department of State.
- Secretary Pace briefly mentioned the “infinite” difficulties in carrying out relief and rehabilitation in Korea in view of the multiplicity of organizations working in this field.
Under Secretary of the Navy Whitehair; Admiral Fechteler; and Admiral Callaghan
They discussed the specific subject of Japanese technicians in Korea. They wanted the Ambassador to know the acute problem which President Rhee’s opposition in this regard would cause the “Military Shipping Transport Service”. If Rhee insists on the removal of the Japanese, together with the barges and the ships operated by the Japanese, a severe blow will be dealt our operation facilities in Korea. Admiral Callaghan showed the Ambassador a telegram of October 20 in which CINCFE requested measures be studied to replace the Japanese with American military or civilian technicians.3 The naval authorities emphasized the seriousness of this situation for the Ambassador. In response to the Ambassador’s statement that the one encouraging factor of the Korean situation appears to be their remarkable progress in developing fighting forces, Admiral Fechteler stated that the Korean navy was doing an excellent job. He said that Admiral Sohn, Korean Chief of Naval Operations, is coming to the United States in December at which time he, Admiral Fechteler, would try to get Admiral Sohn “out of the Rhee atmosphere” on such questions as the sea defense zone and the use of Japanese technicians for essential military requirements.
General Lemnitzer , Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Research
General Lemnitzer spent over an hour with the Ambassador at lunch in his office and talked in detail about many aspects of the Korean situation.[Page 576]
On the economic situation, General Lemnitzer stated in most positive terms that the United States should have quickly paid the $35 million under the Meyer Agreement and then should have paid the $4 million each month. On the basis of living up to our end of the bargain we can then press the Koreans for adequate measures of stabilization. However, General Lemnitzer believes we should not insist on too high standards of performance because the Korean Government does not have experienced personnel. In fact, he thinks it is probably one of the most inexperienced in the world. They just don’t know how to operate in the modern world. The difficulty is that American officials, both military and diplomatic, usually show one of two attitudes towards the Koreans: either an attitude of expecting far too much capability, understanding and initiative on the part of the Koreans, or an attitude of writing off the Koreans entirely with contempt and antagonism. General Lemnitzer indicated that the latter attitude was particularly evident in Tokyo.
He then spoke at some length of the problem of the conversion rate. He described his experiences with the Meyer Mission on this problem, and stated that it was unfair for the American troops to have to pay the conversion rate of 6,000 to 1.
- General Lemnitzer said that he had no patience with Rhee’s attitude on the use of Japanese technicians in Korea. He understands the political and psychological background of hostility toward the Japanese but he thinks that Rhee ought to realize the military necessity involved. General Lemnitzer spoke of Rhee as a shrewd, astute, hard-bargaining, old patriot, who knows how to get what he wants and usually does.
- With respect to the political crisis of last May and June, General Lemnitzer said that General Van Fleet and President Rhee had one or two serious and explosive meetings over Rhee’s demand that two Korean divisions be moved south to execute martial law in the Pusan area. General Van Fleet refused the request for two divisions, but authorized the release of one company of ROK army troops. Apparently, this company was moved to Pusan during the period of martial law, although General Lemnitzer did not believe there was any need for it whatsoever. In this connection, he told us of the difficulties of top Korean military leaders who were caught in the crossfire between General Van Fleet on the one hand and President Rhee on the other.
- General Lemnitzer described at some length the training program for developing ROK ground forces. He believes that the Korean divisions have made amazing progress and can now hold their own, as they have shown, against the Chinese Communists on the line. He went into the problems of organizing artillery and tank companies for each Korean division and in developing divisional and corps leadership. Both of these requirements take time, particularly the latter. He cogently pointed out the difficulties in creating an army from nothing in a country like Korea, and expressed a great deal of amazement that so much has been accomplished in such a short time.
- With respect to the Command’s proposals of last spring for a civil affairs agreement, General Lemnitzer indicated that they were out of order, unrealistic and unnecessary. He said that General Van Fleet could get anything he wanted from the Koreans, which was more than any written agreement would provide.
- Finally, he reviewed the operational situation across the line in Korea, and showed the Ambassador his corps front. General Lemnitzer stated that in his opinion the Chinese Communists could not break through without excessive casualties.
After lunch, and the G–2 briefing, Assistant Secretary of the Army Shackleford and General Marquat, of Civil Affairs and Military Government in the Army, met with the Ambassador. Mr. Shackleford said that he had reluctantly concurred in the payment of some $18 million to the Korean Government under the exchange of notes for the $4 million monthly payments, plus about $2 million for individual troop drawings of won. He emphasized over and over again his concern and unhappiness in this decision. His point was that in the future he, as the “banker” for the United States in this matter, might wish to give President Rhee “an alert” that the monthly payment might not be forthcoming because Korean performance under the Economic Coordination Agreement fell short. Mr. Shackleford said that he and the Ambassador were the two officers of the United States Government principally concerned in future decisions regarding the monthly payments. Mr. Shackleford believes that in the future each payment should be made when due if possible, but that it may be necessary to alert President Rhee as indicated above. General Marquat told the Ambassador that the Department of the Army is standardizing the procedures for this payment. There was some discussion of the Economic Coordination Agreement and exchange of notes.
Mr. Shackleford discussed the problem of the changing of the conversion rate, but did not indicate that the Army had made any decisions in this regard.
Mr. Shackleford told the Ambassador that he was greatly concerned over the activities of UNCURK and hoped that steps might be taken to do away with this body. Colonel Herriott, of Mr. Shackleford’s office, referred to the “anomalous” status of UNCURK and complained that it was the only agency in Korea that had not been fully coordinated with the United Nations Command. He expressed the hope that it could be merged with UNKRA. There was no discussion of this point. Mr. Henry Carter of the Counselor’s office of the State Department and Admiral Austin, OP 35, Navy, were also present at this meeting.
Following this meeting, there was some discussion with General Marquat and Colonel Hensey, of G–5, [FEC] Tokyo, on the repayment of $80 million by the United States to the ROK for won advances in 1950 and 1951.
- Before being commissioned Ambassador to the Republic of Korea on Aug. 25, 1952, during a recess of the Senate, Briggs was Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.↩
- General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, USA (retired), former CINCUNC and CINCFE.↩
- For a fuller account of this problem, see Clark, From the Danube to the Yalu, pp. 148–150 and Hermes, Truce Tent and Fighting Front, p. 348.↩