Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) to the United States Representative at the United Nations (Lodge)1



  • Military Assistance of UN Members to Collective Action in Korea.

I. General

Support of Security Council resolutions of June 25 and 27, 1950, was expressed by fifty-three members of the United Nations shortly after the beginning of the Korean hostilities. In order better to utilize the various offers of assistance and to unify operations in defense of the Republic of Korea, the Security Council requested Member States to provide military forces and other assistance to a Unified Command under the United States.

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The following memorandum gives a factual account of the military contributions which have been made by member nations to the United Nations collective effort and includes a classified list of the present status of UN offers of military assistance in Korea. (copy attached) The memorandum also gives a brief analysis of the factors which have tended to limit the extent and number of military contributions. These include: (a) the general development of the military campaign; (b) the prior commitments of UN Members for regional defense; (c) technical problems of integration and coordination of forces from different countries; (d) the inability of certain countries to reimburse the United States for logistic support rendered and their inability to assume the heavy economic burden involved in making armed forces available; (e) our inability to utilize volunteers in an international army; and (f) the political insularity of a number of countries whose public opinions would not support the sacrifice of their manpower in an action not directly affecting their national security.

II. Contributions Made by UN Members

In total, forty-two member nations and five non-members have made offers of a military or non-military nature, or both in a number of cases in support of the military and relief operations in Korea. Contributions include ground troops, naval units, air units, medical supplies, hospital units, shipping, food and money.

In addition to the United States and the Republic of Korea, the following fifteen nations have fighting forces in Korea: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the Union of South Africa. Five other countries have contributed hospital units: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, India and Italy.

III. Why Have There Not Been More Contributions of Armed Forces by Other UN Members for Korea?


Influence of the General Development of the Military Campaign

The general development of the military campaign in Korea had an important effect on efforts to obtain commitments of military assistance from members of the United Nations. In early November, 1950, the improved military situation was given as the primary reason by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concurred in by the Secretary of Defense, for recommending a general reduction of forces of UN member nations deployed in Korea. Efforts to obtain additional troops were suspended for six weeks as a result of the above recommendation.

With the extensive intervention of the Chinese Communists in Korea having been confirmed by late November, 1950, the efforts to obtain additional forces were renewed. The Department of State made diplomatic [Page 762] approaches to all other UN members that appeared to be in a position to make initial contributions or to increase existing contributions. Such efforts have been maintained on a continuing basis to the present day.

During the first half of 1951, due to the need to move ahead rapidly in the defensive preparations for the NATO area, the Department of State at the request of the Department of Defense withheld making further representations to the NATO countries for additional manpower contributions for Korea. This limitation was lifted (except for France) on August 16, 1951, to the extent that the Department of Defense felt further contributions for Korea would be desirable from the NATO countries if this could be accomplished without interfering with NATO schedules.

On July 10, 1951 the truce negotiations between the United Nations and the Communist authorities were initiated. The Department of State continued its negotiations to get more troops for Korea on the assumption that a strong military position would have to be maintained for an indefinite period, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations. However, we found that because truce negotiations were being conducted the sense of urgency among other UN members had been blunted. Therefore, the Department’s bilateral efforts, its initiation of a public Secretary General appeal for troops in June, 1951, on behalf of the Unified Command, and our frequent references to the need for more assistance during the debates at the General Assembly were successful in getting only small increases in certain contingents, and more important, in preventing premature withdrawals among some of the present participants in Korea.


Commitments to Other Regional Areas

The question of collective military action against aggression is global in nature. The Communist aggression in Korea is one part of the worldwide strategy of the USSR to dominate the world. Korea is one of the many fronts where we must be strong. To withdraw troops from certain areas of the world in order to send them to Korea might well be an invitation to the Kremlin to embark on an aggressive venture elsewhere.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Since the North Atlantic community has been called upon to achieve a level of military preparation greater than that which existed, it was recognized by the United States Government that the North Atlantic community could take on only limited additional commitments in support of the Korean action. Nevertheless, of the 17 fighting nations in Korea, 11 are members of NATO or the British Commonwealth. It was further recognized that a number of members of the North Atlantic community have forces elsewhere. Specifically, Great Britain has troops on the European continent, in Africa, the Middle East, in Hong Kong and in Malaya. In addition to its commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, [Page 763] France has the bulk of its army fighting in Indochina. Belgium and the Netherlands have only small armies, most of which are needed for the implementation of the North Atlantic Treaty.
Latin American States. In general, two factors are operative within the Latin American states which have limited contributions from this area. First, since a number of Latin American states lacked equipment with which to make an offer, economic assistance was needed in order to purchase equipment and to defray the expense of training units to the required minimum before committing them for United Nations action. Secondly, the preoccupation of the Latin American Republics with regional commitments of hemispheric defense has made for some Latin American reluctance to become involved in the security problems and actions of the United Nations.
Middle East. Existing tension in the area makes the states in the area reluctant to spare forces for the Korean effort. Secondly, the few troops available in Arab countries are needed in support of internal law and order.
Far East. In the Far East the need of troops for maintenance of internal order against dissident groups at home and for strengthening the defense of the area as a whole has been one of the factors tending to limit contributions to Korea. Other factors are: (a) the limited adaptability of troops from tropical or semi-tropical regions for service under rigorous climatic conditions in Korea; (b) the necessity for the US to train and equip for conditions of formal warfare, troops whose chief training and equipment has been for guerrilla type activities in tropical or semi-tropical climates; (c) the economic drain on resources of new countries with fragile economies; and (d) the political consequences for unstable governments in new countries whose public desires an “independent” policy with respect to the Korean conflict.

Problems of Integration and Coordination

The collective military action in Korea is without precedent. The problem of integration and coordination of the various military forces offered perhaps constituted, particularly during the first year of the campaign, another factor in limiting contributions. In order to deal with such problems as logistics, it was necessary to integrate the forces of other UN members into the US pipeline. This meant that, to be of any use militarily, units had to meet certain criteria established by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These criteria include: the military desirability of having contingents not smaller than regimental combat teams or brigades (smaller contingents were accepted by the Unified Command primarily on the ground of political considerations rather than their military feasibility); and specific previous training before being sent to Korea in order to avoid jeopardizing the security of our forces.


Economic Incapacity

The economic burden involved in making armed forces available to Korea has prevented a number of the smaller countries from making military contributions. Countries are expected to reimburse the US in full for the logistic support, assistance, and equipment furnished to them. The US was asked to train, equip, transport, and maintain forces [Page 764] at our expense in a limited number of instances, a responsibility the US did not assume.


Problem of Utilizing Volunteers

Early in the Korean operation, there was a source of manpower which was available and which was not utilized, namely, volunteers willing to serve either in the United States Army or in an international army on behalf of the United Nations. Our records show that a total of approximately 10,000 men individually came to our embassies in Latin America at the outbreak of the Korean aggression to volunteer their services in the United States Army or in a possible Inter-American Volunteer Legion. The position taken by the United States Government was: (a) Non-American citizens living in the United States might volunteer for enlistment in the United States Army, but non-American citizens living abroad could not; (b) That there was no suitable or practical method whereby the services of many individuals who had volunteered for action in Korea might be utilized. The latter position was taken by the Department of Defense in response to a suggestion by the Department of State that there should be developed a plan for the creation of a Latin American Force in which volunteers from any Latin American country could enlist. It is an open question whether such volunteers are available today for such a plan.


Political Insularity of Certain Nations

The political insularity of a number of countries has prevented more extensive contributions of manpower. Countries in Latin America, for example, look upon the United States as a shield against possible aggression in the same fashion as we looked upon Great Britain and its fleet as a shield from European quarrels during the 19th century. For the past two years, the Department of State has been the prime mover behind the progressive development of the Uniting for Peace program with a view to broadening the horizons of most of the countries of the world. Our purpose has been to get countries to assume greater responsibility and to look beyond their own regional commitments. Such educative devices are, unfortunately, all too slow in the light of the fact that we are carrying the disproportionate share of the sacrifices in Korea.

IV. Organization of the Department of State to Secure Additional Assistance

The Department of State has had in operation since the beginning of the Korean action a Committee on the Coordination of Military Assistance in Korea whose task it has been to apply continuing and steady pressure on nations with a view to getting them to increase the size of their units in Korea or to make initial military contributions. All members of the United Nations were sent a communique by the Secretary General on behalf of the Unified Command, which included an appeal [Page 765] for troops, in June of 1950. A second appeal was made pursuant to our suggestion in June, 1951. In addition, all members of the United Nations have been asked at least once, and in many cases, frequently to make contributions. The details of the negotiations conducted by the Department are far too detailed to include in this memorandum. It is our view that these efforts should be continued.

V. Suggestions

UNA has reviewed recently the entire question of military assistance for Korea with a view to determining any additional steps which might be taken to increase contributions of troops for Korea. We concluded that perhaps the following two steps may be feasible at the present time which might result in slight increases of armed forces from other UN members. However, in light of the limiting factors which have been discussed in this memorandum, substantial increases from other UN members are not to be expected. I should like to discuss with you the following:

The Department could reinitiate the question of a UN Legion with a view to determining whether the volunteers which were present in 1950 are still available for possible formation of an Inter-American Volunteer unit. Before such a project could be undertaken, however, there would have to be a re-evaluation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of its position with regard to the military feasibility of organizing such a unit.
The United States might adopt a policy of training, equipping, and maintaining the forces of the other UN members who may be willing to contribute such forces on this basis. Under the present policy, all countries are obligated to pay in full for the logistic support rendered to them by the United States. This policy could be changed in a number of ways, including: (a) A State–Defense memorandum to the President requesting presidential authorization for individual exceptions to payment in full for logistic support in cases where certain countries could not otherwise provide forces for the Korean operation. Such an arrangement might possibly help to induce contributions from countries in Latin America or in the Middle East which heretofore have not provided military assistance, without proclaiming a principle of “free-ride” tending to compromise in entirety our reimbursement negotiations with present participants in Korea who may be able to pay their own way. The present policy that countries are required to pay in full for logistic support is incorporated in the directive of the Department of Defense, dated September 1, 1950, concurred in by the Departments of State and Treasury. A presidential authorization would permit the Department of Defense to train, equip, and maintain forces at United States expense; (b) An amendment to the Mutual Security Act for purposes of providing grant funds to train, equip, and maintain forces of offering countries in Korea; and (c) Alternatively, an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act which would be directed toward the same objective.

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I would like to make clear that the above two suggestions emanate from UNA, and while other Bureaus in the Department have been apprised of UNA’s views informally, thorough discussions would be necessary with them and with representatives from the Department of Defense in order to determine the political and military feasibility of the suggestions made.2

John D. Hickerson


Status of Offers of Military Assistance to the Unified Command for Korea

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Country Offer Status
1. Australia Naval Vessels Inaction
1 RAAF Squadron In action
1 Battalion from Australian Infantry Forces in Japan In action
Additional Battalion of Troops In action
2. Belgium Air transport Available
Infantry Battalion In action
Reinforcements In action
3. Bolivia 30 Officers Acceptance deferred
4. Canada 3 Naval Vessels Inaction
1 RCAF Squadron In action
Brigade Group In action
Canadian-Pacific Airlines (Commerical Facilities) In action
10,000-ton Dry Cargo Vessels Inaction
5. China 3 Infantry Divisions and 20 C–47s Acceptance deferred
6. Colombia 1 Frigate In operation
1 Infantry Battalion In action
7. Costa Rica Sea and air Bases Accepted
Volunteers Acceptance deferred
8. Cuba 1 Infantry Company Accepted
9. Denmark Hospital Ship Jutlandia In Korea
Motorship Bella Dan Acceptance deferred
10. El Salvador Volunteers if US will train and equip Acceptance deferred
11. Ethopia 1069 Ground Forces Inaction
12. France 1 Patrol Gunboat Withdrawn
Infantry Battalion In action
13. Greece 7 RHAF Dakota Transport Aircraft In action
Ground Forces In action
Additional Unit of Land Forces Pending
14. India Field Ambulance Unit In action
15. Luxembourg Infantry Company (Integrated into Belgian Forces) In action
16. Netherlands 1 Destroyer In action
Infantry Battalion In action
17. New Zealand 2 Frigates In action
Combat Unit In action
18. Norway Merchant Ship Tonnage In action
Surgical Hospital Unit In Korea
19. Panama Contingent Volunteers; Bases for Training Acceptance deferred
Use of Merchant Marine Accepted
Free Use of Highways Accepted
Farmhands to Supply Troops Pending
20. Philippines 17 Sherman Tanks Inaction
1 Tank Destroyer In action
Regimental Combat Team In action
21. Sweden Field Hospital Unit In action
22. Thailand 1 Infantry Combat Team In action
2 Corvettes and Navy Transport In action (one Corvette destroyed after grounding)
Air Transport In operation
23. Turkey 1 Infantry Combat Team In action
24. Union of South Africa 1 Fighter Squadron In action
25. United Kingdom Ground Troops; 2 Brigades In action
Naval Forces; 1 Aircraft Carrier; 2 Cruisers; 8 Destroyers; 1 Hospital ship; 1 Survey Ship; 7 Supply Vessels In action
Air Elements In action
26. United States Ground Forces; 3 Army Corps and 1 Marine Division with supporting elements In action
Naval Forces: Carrier Task Group with Blockade and Escort Forces; Amphibious Force; Reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare Units; Supporting Ships In action
Air Force: 1 Tactical Air Force; 1 Bombardment Command; 1 Combat Cargo Command; all with supporting elements in action In action
27. Italy Hospital Unit In operation
  1. This memorandum was drafted by Sisco and cleared by Wainhouse.
  2. The following note was written by Allison at the bottom of the source text: “The J.C.S. are adamantly opposed to the whole idea of a UN Legion. I do not agree with them but have not been able to shake their opposition. JMA”