253. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, United Nations Command (Decker) to the Department of the Army1

UK 977475. References: A. UK 977291;2 B. State 229, 16 Sep 57;3 C. Defense 930475;4 D. Defense 929966;5 E. UK 977172.6 This is joint Ambassador–CINCUNC message.

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Meeting held 5 November with ROK Minister of Defense in connection ROK forces reduction. Following is verbatim ROK reply to US proposals:

“5 November 1957 memo for: The United States Ambassador to Korea, Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command. Subject: Reorganization of the ROK armed forces.

1. Based on the letters of the President of the United States, dated 19 July7 and 23 August 1957,8 subsequent US-ROK meetings, and the official memo of 4 October 19579 signed jointly by the United States Ambassador to Korea and Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations Command. The ROK Minister of Defense, under the approval of the President of the Republic of Korea, states the opinion of the Republic of Korea Government and proposes the following actions in connection with the reduction of ROK ground forces.

2. In view of the fact that the North Korean and Chinese Communist forces in North Korea have shown no intention to reduce their strength, the Republic of Korea is determined to prepare herself against any recurrence of the tragedy of June 1950 and to take a vital part in the Free World defense, disregarding the economical burden imposed upon her by maintaining a big armed force.

3. Although the proposed reduction of ROK ground forces is expected to bring unfavorable effect on the ROK defense set-up, the Republic of Korea Government is willing to reduce the strength of ROK forces by 60,000 men considering the actions the United States Government would take in connection therewith as set out in the US memorandum of 4 October 1957. The ROK Government strongly urges that the US Government take action subsequently to provide the matériel as indicated in paragraph 5 below, wishing to cooperate with the United States to readjust the entire defense structure of the free world.

4. The Republic of Korea Government favors the pentomic reorganization of the 7th and 24th US divisions and wishes the displacement of the 100 and 663 field artillery battalions into Korea be expedited.

5. The Republic of Korea Government wishes that the United States Government consent [to?] the following ROK proposals, in addition to the provisions for the improvement of transportation and communication equipment for ROK army and one jet fighter-bomber wing for the ROK air force.

For ROK Army: (1) Tanks—present M4A3 and M36 tanks be replaced with M41 and M46 tanks. (2) Artillery— present divisional 105-mm howitzer battalions and non-divisional 155-mm howitzer battalions be reorganized so as to expand the present 4-piece-per-battery system to 6-piece-per-battery system. (3) AAA fire power—1 additional AAA brigade of 3 modern AAA gun groups be activated. (4) Airborne unit. (5) The small arms made excess by the reduction should either be turned over to the reserve divisions or stocked for use in case of emergency. [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] (7) Ordnance and vehicle rebuild capabilities of the ROK armed forces be expanded.
For ROK Navy: (1) Two destroyers (DD) be added. (2) Two destroyers (DE) be added. (3) Exchange superannuated vessels with new ones.
For ROK Air Force: (1) One all-weather fighter squadron. (2) Activation of AIJ engineer battalion.

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6. It is proposed that rearrangement of personnel within the ROK armed forces will be executed in the following manner:

a. Scope. Read in 3 columns:

Present Strength Scope of Adjustment Strength After Reduction
Army 658,460 -61,500 596,960
Marine 27,500 -3,500 24,000
Navy 15,000 + 1,600 16,600
Air 19,040 +3,400 22,440
Balance 720,000 -60,000 660,000

b. In the reduction of the Army, two (2) infantry divisions and other units or spaces will be reduced.

c. In the reduction of Marines, one (1) battalion and other spaces will be reduced.

d. Convenient time for the deactivation of two (2) Army divisions will be between 1 February and 31 May 1958.”

Signed “Kim Chung Yul V T Kim Chung Yul” Typed “Kim, Chung Yul Minister of Defense Republic of Korea”

Ambassador and CINCUNC comments as follows: Re para 4: the ROK does not intend to publicize reduction at this time. However, MND is concerned over public reaction when facts become known. Consequently, he requests early arrival 100 and 663 FA bns to provide tangible evidence to public that ROK combat capability has not been reduced. Re para 5: (a) The major matériel for all ROK forces is a shopping list of items desired by ROK. Each will be considered individually in development of future programs, (b) Re para 5a (4): The airborne unit is a special forces type organization for UW organization. This unit now under consideration jointly by CINCPAC, CINCUNC and ROK. (c) Re para 5a (5): It is assumed here that all equipment made excess by inactivations will be available to ROK for filling shortages in T/E’s of active units, or equipping reserve units, (d) Re para 5a [20 lines of source text not declassified]

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Ambassador and CINCUNC recommend acceptance of reduction as outlined in para 6 of ROK MND memo since this appears to be as far as we can get ROK to go at this time.10

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/11–657. Secret. Sent through the Department of the Army as the Executive Agent to the Department of State and to OSD/ISA and repeated to CINCPAC, CINCUSARPAC, CINCPACAF, and the Embassy in Seoul. The source text is the Department of State copy.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 250.
  3. Document 247.
  4. Telegram 930475 from the Department of Defense to CINCUNC, October 1, indicated that the proposed reorganization of the 7th and 24th Divisions into pentomic divisions meant that the divisions would be authorized to organize Honest John missile batteries. The movement of atomic-capable units into Korea was timed to begin as soon as the Republic of Korea agreed to the proposed reduction of ROK ground forces. (Department of Defense Files)
  5. In telegram 929966 from the Department of Defense to CINCUNC, September 21, General Decker was instructed to modify the proposal outlined in telegram 229 to Seoul to indicate that “US Air Force units with greater capability than that possessed by the 58th wing will be rotated into Korea on a continuing basis.” (Ibid.)
  6. In telegram UK 977172 CC to the Department of the Army, August 25, a joint Embassy–CINCUNC message, General Decker and Ambassador Dowling suggested that the reduction of South Korean ground forces should be accomplished by selective reduction within the framework of existing military units rather than by the elimination of four active divisions. Such a reduction, they argued, would reduce the loss of combat forces, would retain a framework for rapid expansion in an emergency, and would be more acceptable to President Rhee. (Ibid.)
  7. See Document 231.
  8. See Document 243.
  9. Not found in Department of State files; an apparent reference to a memorandum used to convey to President Rhee the message outlined in Document 247.
  10. In telegram 386 from Seoul, November 6, Ambassador Dowling reported that the Defense Minister told him privately that it had been difficult to obtain President Rhee’s approval of the proposal detailed in telegram UK 977475. Dowling noted that it was important to move the reinforced U.S. artillery battalions into Korea before knowledge of the Korean force reductions became public, and he repeated his recommendation that the South Korean proposal be accepted as the “best we can do.” (Department of State, Central Files, 795.00/11–657)