Matthews files, lot 53 D 413: Telegram

The Commander in Chief, United Nations Command (Clark) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff

top secret

CX 60821. 1. AmEmb Tokyo passed to this hqs for info a copy of telegram number 177, 25 Dec 52, sent by AmEmb Pusan to Dept of State with notation that AmEmb Tokyo “has not been rqstd to comment on the inclosed telegram, but would appreciate receiving any views CINCUNC might care to express”. Text of telegram No 177 fols:

[Here follows the text of telegram 177, printed as telegram 792 from Pusan, page 717.]

2. While I have expressed my views clearly on this subject in CX 52443, CX 53582 and CX 59981,1 I believe, in view of Amb Briggs statements, certain additional points should be considered:

I recognize that trial of Communist prisoners can be exploited by Communist propaganda agencies. However, by careful control of the method of holding trials, and by using every means at our disposal to insure that such trials are conducted in a dignified manner, we can counter most of the enemy attacks.
I agree that the threat of capital punishment may not deter professional agitators from fomenting trouble. A review of previous incidents clearly indicates that professional or fanatical Communist agitators represent only a small portion of the total number of personnel involved in any given incident. The fact that we intend to try prisoners for defiance of legal regulations will, I believe, have a very definite effect on the mass of the population at each of the UNC camps.
While the opinions contained in the last 3 paragraphs of AmEmb Pusan msg may be valid, I do not believe they are pertinent to the subject of appointment of a military commission. For our own immediate purposes, recurring incidents of violence presents a continuing problem and a constant threat to the reputation of the UNC and our government. Long range political and strategic concepts can be undertaken without being affected by what amounts, in this case, to a limited objective.

3. The POW sitreps submitted to DeptAr during the past several months establish beyond doubt that the problem of controlling strong [Page 723] Communist elements necessitates using every legal means at our disposal. Without authority for proper juridical action and with only limited disciplinary punishments aval to each camp commander, it is almost impossible for camp authorities to impose standard punishment effectively. The pro-Communist prisoners know this and as have previously stated, I believe it stimulates their enthusiasms to incite incidents.

4. According to the latest report received from CGKCOMZ, there are about 35 cases ready for trial. 27 of these cases involve charges of murder, 1 involves mutiny, 2 involve riot, and 5 involve aggravated assault. The 35 cases concern approx 289 accused, incl both Communists and anti-Communists. A number of other cases involving similar offenses are now under investigation. As you know, substantive and procedural rules were promulgated by this commander over a year ago and the commanders in Korea of 10 combatant nations have informally advised me of their readiness to provide members for the commission. It is believed that the first commission could be convened approximately 30 days from the receipt of your approval of my recommendation. This period includes the required 3 weeks notification to the delegate of the ICRC.

5. In summary, I firmly believe that while the trial of post-capture POW and CI offenders may be considered a limited objective in the long range political and strategic aims which our government and our allies have in Korea, it represents a concrete aid to us, and a strong weapon which we can use now to combat the vicious and unprincipled Communist activity that continues to stand as a real source of trouble and an irritant to the UNC.

6. I again urgently recommend that favorable consideration be given to my recommendation for the appointment of a military commission as soon as possible to try post-capture POW and civilian internee offenders.

  1. In these three telegrams, dated July 24, Aug. 18, and Dec. 11, 1952, respectively, Clark argued that violence in the POW camps was encouraged by the UNC’s lack of judicial machinery to try and discipline offenders (copies attached to memorandum by the JCS to Lovett, Jan. 9, 1953, enclosed in a letter from Lovett to Acheson, Jan. 19, 1953, 695A.0024/1–1953).