Home Front

Close this window

In the Magazines

Contents Magazine*
- If you have to fight a war, what do you need? Senior Scholastic
- Why is My Son in Korea? U.S. News and World Report
- Who Cares About Asia? Life
- Why Are We Fighting in Korea? The New Republic
- We Haven’t Been Getting the Facts About Korea http://www.rd.com/
- No Whistles, No Cheers, No Dancing Life
- Season of Sorrow in 13 Homes Life

* hyperlink is to Magazine home page as a courtesy and is not a link to the actual article

If you have to fight a war, what do you need?

Senior Scholastic
Dayton, Ohio
September 20, 1950
pp. 12-14

You need men, materials, money, and morale—the knowledge that citizens at home are staunchly supporting the men at the front. What have we done, since June 25, to carry out our part of the United Nations mission in Korea?

When the Communists attacked in Korea, Uncle Sam had 1,500,000 men in uniform, the smallest number since the beginning of World War II. The Army had only ten divisions of fighting troops. These divisions did not have their full quota of men. In wartime a division is 17,000 men. In peacetime it may be much smaller.

Men to Man Guns

Our first task was to get troops to Korea quickly. Troops were moved from occupation duty in Japan and from Okinawa, a strategic Pacific island held by the U.S. since World War II. Marines and infantrymen were rushed by ship from the Pacific Coast. But this was only a beginning. To bring other Army divisions up to full strength and to man ships and planes, Uncle Sam called men from civilian life in four ways:

  1. The Draft. At the time of the Korean attack, Congress was debating whether or not to extend the draft. The outbreak of war decided the matter. Congress passed a law extending the draft to July 9, 1951. Within a few weeks the call went out for 150,000 young men to be taken into the armed forces during September, October, and November.
    For boys in senior high school the draft will soon be important. Under the selective service system (as the draft is called), every boy must register with his local draft board within five days after his eighteenth birthday. There his name is kept in readiness, although no 18-year-olds are being called to service now. In recent months, draft boards first called those who are 25 years old, then 24, and so on, to make up the number of draftees required. There are severe penalties for neglecting to register or failing to appear for physical examinations by draft boards.
    Many young men are rejected for military service because they are not physically or mentally fit. Many others obtain deferments and have their service delayed. For the present this applies to college students if they are in the top half of their classes, veterans of World War II, those in certain important technical jobs, and those with families dependent on them. These deferments may be eliminated or made more strict if the need for draftees becomes much greater.
  2. The National Guard. In each state there are National Guard units. National Guardsmen meet regularly for training during the year and are subject to call in all kinds of emergencies. In case of war the Army calls upon National Guard units to become part of the regular Army. By the middle of August, four National Guard divisions and two smaller Guard units had been called into active service from widely separated states. More and more will be called as time goes on.
  3. The Reserves. Each branch of the armed services has reserves. These are men who have been in the armed forces before and have agreed to keep up some training in peacetime. Some of these men are in the organized reserves—units trained to fight together in some special task. Others are in the unorganized reserve. For all services, there were more than two million men in the reserves on June 25.
    The Marine Corps is calling all of its reserves (125,000 men and 2,000 women) to duty. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are calling up large numbers of their organized and unorganized reserves.
  4. Volunteers. All services have opened their ranks to volunteers. The Navy especially takes great pride in filling its ranks with volunteers rather than with draftees. Young women are also encouraged to volunteer for service in the WACs (Women’s Army Corps), WAVES (Navy) and other groups. As in World War II, it is not expected that women will be drafted for service (except a few veterans now in the reserves).

In addition, the President extended the enlistments of men already in the armed services.

Last month military planners were aiming to put 650,000 men in uniform, to bring our armed forces well over the two-million mark. This number will probably be expanded. The number will depend upon the difficulty of our task in Korea. It will also depend upon how much help our United Nations allies can provide in the near future.

Materials - The Sinews of War

Men alone cannot fight a war. They must have guns, tanks, bazookas, ships, planes, food, clothing, and thousands of other vital items. They must have training bases, air fields, command posts, and so on. To pay for all these President Truman asked Congress to appropriate 11 billion dollars. This is in addition to the 14.7 billion dollars which had previously been approved for national defense for this year.

It is hard to realize the gigantic size of 11 billion dollars. It is one fourth as much as Uncle Sam had expected to spend for the present fiscal year for all his expenses. It is about $73 for every man, woman, and child in the United States.

In July Congress passed a bill appropriating more than one billion dollars for the second year of our Military Assistance Program. Under this program the U.S. supplies arms and technical military assistance to the democratic nations of Western Europe and to the Philippines, China, Iran, and (of course) Korea. Because of the Korean situation Congress has been asked for an additional four billion dollars to help our allies resist Communist aggression—wherever it may erupt. Here, too, American military equipment is needed quickly.

Everyone Helps Pay for It

Where do we get the money to pay for all this? The answer is: More taxes, and more borrowing through issuance of more Government bonds.

Up to June 25 Congress was working on a bill to reduce some taxes. It seemed certain that World War II excise taxes (on transportation, jewelry, etc) would be cut down. With the billion-dollar demands for new military spending, these reductions were thrown out the window. In their place came moves to raise more money. National leaders agree that we should take care of these new expenses on a "pay-as-we-go" basis, as far as possible. That is, we should increase tax rates enough to absorb much of the cost now, so that Government borrowing of funds can be kept to a minimum.

To do this President Truman asked Congress to raise an additional five billion dollars in taxes this year. He said that this was just a temporary program—and that even higher taxes might be expected next January. Congress plans to raise the additional five billion dollars in three ways:

1. Higher personal income taxes. Nearly half of Uncle Sam’s revenue comes from taxes on individual incomes. To raise an added three billion dollars Congress has made personal income taxes 20 percent higher than they are now. This new tax rate begins October 1, and will be in effect for only the last quarter of 1950. Here is an example of how it will work: A married man with two children, having an income of $3,000, has been paying about $100 a year in income tax. Under the new law he will pay $104 for 1950, and $120 for 1951.

2. Higher corporation taxes. Congress also approved increases in taxes for most corporations. The major share of this increase will be paid by the larger corporations earning more than $70,000 profit a year. Small corporations, earning less than $30,000, will also pay higher taxes. The new corporation tax rate began July 1, 1950. This change is expected to bring an additional $1,500,000,000 to the Treasury.

3. Plugging loopholes. Another half billion dollars will be raised by eliminating "loopholes" in our tax laws. These loopholes have allowed a few individuals and corporations to escape taxes on certain types of income.

More Powers for the President

We already know that sacrifices will have to come from every American family to support the war effort. Many of these sacrifices are reflected in new economic controls imposed by the Government. Soon after U.S. forces entered Korea, President Truman used a few of his executive powers to help support the war on the home front. For instance, he issued orders curbing Government loans on new homes and apartments. Purchasers of homes are now required to pay more cash as a down payment. The purpose of this is to cut down dangerous expansion of credit. The President also asked his Cabinet Departments to see if they could not reduce or eliminate expensive projects which they are about to undertake.

For other economic control powers, Mr. Truman went to Congress. He said, in effect, that this is not an "all-out" war. He suggested that we need not, for the present at least, go back to such broad World War II controls as price ceilings and rationing.

Many people did not agree with Mr. Truman. One of them was Bernard M. Baruch, 80-year-old adviser to Presidents since World War I. He said that we cannot do things in piecemeal fashion, and that we must adopt rigorous controls over materials, wages, profits, and prices right now. In that way we would avoid serious inflationary trouble which cannot be repaired.

Congress is usually reluctant to give the President all the powers he may request. But in this case many Congressmen felt that the President had not gone far enough in asking for war powers for himself. As a result, Congress fashioned a bill somewhat stronger than the President requested. Mr. Truman indicated that he was happy to go along with it.

The Defense Production Act

Here are the highlights of the Defense Production Act of 1950, covering most of these economic controls.

  1. Priorities and allocations. The President is given power to see that our defense industries get the materials they need. Priorities, for instance, give first call on wool to manufacturers making Army uniforms. Those making women’s coats or men’s suits would have to wait their turn. Allocations divide up supplies of materials which are even more scarce, such as steel, rubber, and oil. The Government might have to decide, for instance, how much steel shall go to the makers of tanks and how much to the makers of airplanes.
  2. Production loans. The Government may grant loans to manufacturers to help them expand their plants to take care of military orders. These loans may total as much as two billion dollars. Eventually they would be repaid.
  3. Credit controls. Many of the things we buy, such as houses, autos, or washing machines, are bought on the installment plan. We pay so much "down," and the rest in regular weekly or monthly payments. When the down payment is small and installment payments are stretched over a long period, many people are tempted to buy expensive items they cannot immediately afford. This puts a lot of people in debt and creates a heavy demand for civilian goods. Under the new law, the President may curb installment buying, by requiring higher down payments and shorter periods for complete payments. This is similar to restrictions in effect during World War II.
  4. Rationing, price control, wage control. The President has been given "stand-by" powers to put controls over the goods we buy. As in World War II, he may put price ceilings on food, clothing, autos—or whatever becomes scarce or wherever prices tend to get too high. At the same time, he may start a system of rationing to limit the amount of goods we may buy. If price ceilings go into effect, he must impose wage ceilings at the same time. Thus, if the prices Mrs. Housewife has to pay are held down, her husband’s wages would also e held at their current level. Mr. Truman indicated, however, that he hoped it would not be necessary to use these emergency powers.
    Earlier Congress had extended Federal rent controls until December 31. Communities requesting it may have Federal rent control continued until next June 30.
  5. Hoarding. During July and August many people rushed to buy large quantities of sugar, tires, nylon stockings—anything they thought would become scarce. They remembered the early days of World War II when such goods disappeared from store counters. They bought the things that became scarce in1 942, not bothering to think whether they would be scarce in 1950. Sugar, for example, was scarce in 1942 because many sources of supply in the Far East were cut off from us. But today we have more sugar in stock than ever before.
    The hoarder (the person who buys far more than he needs) is a bad citizen. He deprives others of things they really need, and may help to cause an artificial shortage by his greed.
    Congress took a close look at hoarding and put into the new Defense Production Act a provision making hoarding a crime. For buying excessive amounts of food, clothing, or other necessities, a person may be fined $10,000 and sent to jail for a year.
    If we buy more things than we really need, we can start the ball of inflation rolling. When there is a sudden demand for goods the price usually goes up along with the cost of living. If the cost of living goes up, workers demand higher wages. Higher wages give people still more money to spend. With more money to spend and good still scarce, prices go up again, like the "Third Man" in the cartoon [credit goes to the Cincinnati Enquirer] on this page. This kind of economic leapfrog can go on and on unless there are controls. (In a future issue we shall discuss the problem of inflation in detail.)
    Prices of most goods, especially food, have already risen. In a number of cases, labor unions are asking for wage increases to keep up with the increased cost of living. Strict price controls, rationing, and wage controls may be required to support our military effort in Korea. If the war spreads beyond Korea, the home front will have to go on a full war footing.

Unity for Victory

Except for American Communists and their dwindling group of sympathizers, the American people stand four-square behind the efforts of the United Nations in Korea. In Congress, Democrats and Republicans have banded together to work out the necessary action which Uncle Sam should take.

Of course, there are honest disagreements, but these are the usual disagreements between Republicans and Democrats. Secretary of State Dean Acheson is accused of following a policy that led to Communist aggression in Asia. To meet these criticisms, he is defended for his increasingly firm stand against Russia since he became Secretary of State last year. Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson is criticized for cutting our armed forces to the point of weakness, in his drive to economize on defense expenditures. He, too, is defended. Of the $50-billion appropriated for armed services from 1946 to 1950, only one dollar is seven went for new weapons and equipment. The rest went for higher army pay and non-military supplies.

And, war or no war, this is a Congressional election year. All 435 Representatives and one third of our Senators (plus a few serving unexpired terms) will be elected on November 7. The Administration’s conduct of the war, and the events leading to the Korean crisis, will undoubtedly be an issue in campaigning by Republicans and Democrats alike. Many people believe that this type of criticism hurts our war effort. But it is part of the American tradition to take every issue to the voters. They, by secret ballot, set the future course of the nation. That is the American way.

Why is My Son in Korea?

By David Lawrence
U.S. News and World Report, Vol. 30, No. 64
March 16, 1951

The mother of a boy twice wounded in Korea asks this writer: "Why is my son fighting in Korea?" The question was not a protest but an earnest search for a definition.

American boys are fighting in Korea -

  1. Because the sacrifice being made in Korea can save millions of young men now at home—the 18-year-olds, the 16-year-olds, the 12-year-olds, sparing them the necessity of fighting another world war.
  2. Because from those who fought at the Marne and Chateau-Thierry, in Tunisia and at Anzio, in the Battle of the Bulge, at Midway, on New Guinea, Guadalcanal, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa—from those brave men, there has been passed down the responsibility to preserve the American tradition for which so many of them died. This generation now is demonstrating in Korea that a great nation, untainted by the materialism of territorial ambition or the greed of conquest—having twice fought for principle and laid down its arms without a single act of selfishness toward its allies or a single act of dishonor toward its enemies—still will fight for principle and the cause of humanity.
  3. Because America sees in the Korean war a challenge to freedom everywhere. Korea—the small, helpless nation trampled under the heel of the Red invader—is the Cuba of Spain’s cruelty in 1898, the Belgium of the Kaiser’s invasion of 1914, and the Britain, the France, the Holland and the Belgium, the Poland and the Norway of Hitler’s aggression of a decade ago.
  4. Because an attack against free men anywhere is a menace to democracy everywhere. A readiness to meet the aggressor in Korea can deter the master of that same aggressor from precipitating a larger-scale war elsewhere.
  5. Because America cannot allow the aggressor to come by sea or air or land to our shores. If aggression were to be successful in Korea, the Russian-Chinese alliance could then invade Japan and its northern islands and secure air bases for attack on nearby Alaska. If Northwest territory were threatened, so would our own Pacific Coast cities soon be threatened, too.
  6. Because America must mobilize her strength and not risk the defeat that can come if the whole free world is conquered and the total resources of our present allies are then appropriated by our enemy and its satellites for a final strike against us.
  7. Because misguided minds among our own allies are ready to yield to the aggressor and run away, little realizing that by their defeatism they are encouraging another dictator, even as they unwittingly did in the Rhineland episode of 1936 and at Munich in 1938.
  8. Because today statesmanship is lacking, leadership is lacking, moral scruple is lacking, and the need is for sacrifice to raise aloft the banner of great ideals—so that once more the souls of men may be saved through the power of heroic example.
  9. Because it is essential to the peace of the world that an international organization, such as the United Nations, stimulate a will to peace, and this means also a will to fight against aggression. Unhappily among our allies it has been questioned whether a shell-shocked populace can regain the will to fight. What we do in Korea can revive the fighting spirit of European peoples and demonstrate to peoples everywhere that the American will to fight for a just cause has not perished.
  10. Because the American boys who fought and came home and the boys who never came back from World War I and World War II will have fought in vain if there now is a disintegration of spirit, a dissolution of the great moral purpose that guides brave men to give their lives in a noble cause.
  11. Because, just as Christianity does not condone the suicide of the individual, Christianity rejects the suicide of the State—the basic fallacy of pacifism.
  12. Because we are our brother’s keepers and because as we see a drowning man struggling to reach the shore, the instinct is to go to his rescue. What that instinct means to the individual, it means to a nation whose greatness today, as in the past, is still sublimated by an unselfish effort to relieve human suffering and to emancipate men, women and children from slavery. On the battlefields of Korea our youth is saving our own democracy from its sins of materialism and its indulgences and making it strong again. And it must be strong to insure the survival of the forces of good in the world and their triumph over the age-old forces of evil.
  13. Because the troops in Korea and the airmen and sailors nearby are the crusaders for the rights of free men to live in this world free from fear, free from the perennial terror imposed upon us by evil men.
  14. Because the brave youth in Korea are putting to shame those thoughtless brethren in Britain and France and even in America who begrudge the dollars and pounds they now must forego, who worship the false gods of creature comfort even as the battalions in Korea, despising such weakness, lift their faces to the next ridge with the immortal courage that makes them worthy of man’s finest accolade.

Who Cares About Asia?

Volume 31, No. 27, pp. 12-13
December 31, 1951

Responsive subtitle: Men in Korea and their families do—and this issue deals with stake Americans have in a not-so remote continent.

[Note from the Korean War Educator: photos mentioned in this text were unavailable for inclusion in this posting on the KWE.]

When the war began in June 1950, the corner of Asia called Korea was almost unknown to Americans. By last week Korea had become sadly familiar to every American. But even more than this, Americans generally had begun to understand that the vexing, costly problem of Korea was only one of the many gravely pressing problems of American relations in Asia.

For decades this vast, remote and complex continent seemed to lie beyond the farthest horizon of any average American interest or comprehension. It was known only hazily as the land of rajas and the white man’s burden, of Confucius and Mahatma Gandhi. Day in and day out, the only things most Americans could feel sure they had in common with Asians were the sun, which lights up both their worlds, and the moon, which controls the tides and inspires the poets of all lands impartially.

For the Americans on these pages Korea and its continent are an immediately personal concern. The soldiers above center are prisoners of the Communists—some of the 3,198 names which were listed as American prisoners of war last week by Chinese and Korean negotiators at the Panmunjom truce tables. The civilians are the relatives of some of those named. They wept with joy and offered prayers of thanks as the names of sons and husbands were given to the nation in an urgent, steady, 26 ½-hour flow of newspaper, radio and television bulletins. There were other next-of-kin whose hope was blighted by the news; the names of some 8,000 missing Americans were not on the lists.

While the nation hoped that the prisoners in Korea might soon be freed, they knew that Americans would never again be able simply to bring their prisoners home and forget Asia. More than half a century has passed since the U.S. rashly reached across the Pacific to take the Philippines from Spain and thus opened the era of American political and military involvement in Asia. This era came to its greatest crisis 10 years ago at Pearl Harbor, and in the troubles of each new hour it is often forgotten how well America met that crisis. Now the U.S. is inextricably involved in Asia—both as the chief force of the free world defending itself against the new aggressive force of Communism, and as a global good neighbor.

Asia’s troubles are told in daily headlines, but the opportunities which the continent presents are not always apparent. For the West, the opportunity is no longer purely selfish exploitation. It is the chance to improve, as a matter of intelligent self-interest, both the lot of Asians and the West’s reputation on the continent. This will require moral strength and a better understanding of Asia and Asians than Americans have yet acquired.

This special issue of LIFE is devoted to Asia and to the increasing of America’s understanding of that mighty continent. The first thing to understand about it is that the old Western habits in Asia are dead—as Life Magazine’s David Douglas Duncan reports on the next two pages.

Why Are We Fighting in Korea?

The New Republic
August 11, 1952

Why are we fighting in Korea? Our soldiers in the front lines, whose combat morale is high, stumble on the answer. Civilians, five thousand miles away, know still less as they learn from General Van Fleet, Commander of our 8th Army, that after two years at war the Communists "still have the capability of striking at any point" and that after one year of truce talks "recent trends indicate less of a chance for an armistice than ever before."

Why are we fighting? If you go to the Pentagon and read through the three thick volumes of official releases on the truce talks, you will come away aware only of a grey blur. You learn much of the flights of helicopters and the journeys of jeeps to the meeting places; little of our purpose, and not much more if you turn to the occasional rhetoric of Secretary Acheson and President Truman. The lack of public reaction to Van Fleet’s depressing statement is a sign of the nation’s apathy, as well as a real tribute to its patience and its trust.

Our mood was different on June 23, 1951, when Jacob Malik’s broadcast opened a road to the tents at Kaesong. MacArthur was calling then for all ot war against china; our troops were advancing slowly against positions that were not yet fortified. The will to reach a truce seemed apparent on both sides. The talks in Kaesong were marred by trouble with flood waters, continuous "incidents," difficulty with communications, and extreme tension on both sides. None the less progress was made. By July 26 the Communists gave up their insistence that the negotiations consider the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Korea. An agenda was adopted. Point one was the agenda itself; point two was the establishment of a permanent truce line; point three was the provision of inspection and enforcement machinery; point four was prisoner reparation. Point five was the arrangement of a subsequent political conference. The UN briefing officer, Major Nuckols, reported that Admiral Joy and General Nam Il "had their elbows on the table." However the elbows were forced off the table by a series of "incidents" and disagreement on the 38th parallel, politically indispensable for the Communists, militarily indefensible for us. The talks collapsed.

For the Communists, obviously, all lines went back to Moscow. In Moscow on October 5, Admiral Kirk and Andre Vishinsky discussed the resumption of negotiations. When they began again on October 22, the Communist troops were down to 60 percent strength in the front lines. North Korean and Chinese soldiers captured by raiding parties, reported lack of ammunition, poor equipment, bad food and low morale. To make things worse for the Communists the UN Air Force started "Operation Strangle" one of the greatest air interdiction campaigns ever attempted. But the Communists evidently had plans of their own. When "Operation Strangle" ended in early 1952, the Communist forces were up to full strength, with new weapons, and good clothing and provisions. Their railroads were operating.

The initial weakness of the Communists in the autumn contributed to their willingness to retreat in negotiations from their former insistence on the 38th parallel. The UN in turn agreed to narrow the demilitarized zone from 20 to 2 ½ miles. Then the talks progressed rapidly. Point one on the agenda was accepted. Point two was agreed. Point three became progressively less important as the UN withdrew from its first demands. Point five was advanced by the little word "etc." The State Department instructed the UN delegation to accept with only one reservation the Communist proposal to fulfill point five by having the negotiations "recommend" to their governments a "high level" conference after the armistice, "to settle the questions of withdrawal of all foreign troops from Korea, the peaceful settlement of the Korean question, etc." The Communists agreed, arguing that "etc." included Formosa and UN membership for Communist China. The UN reservation specified that "we wish it clearly understood that we do not construct the word "et cetera" to relate to matters outside Korea." This was agreed on February 17. Further agreement on point three, the inspection issue, seemed possible on March 20, when the Communists ceased to insist that Russia should be one of the "neutral" members of the supervisory team. Basically, by March 1952, the prisoner issue alone remained.

Talks on the prisoner issue had actually started in December. It was in a subcommittee then that the two sides exchanged prisoner lists. The UN list contained 132,000 names; 16,000 South Koreans, 20,000 Chinese Communist soldiers, and 96,000 North Koreans. The Communist list included only 11,599 names, including 3,198 Americans and 7,142 South Koreans.

The exchange of these lists led to immediate protests. The UN demanded to know why the Communists had not listed 50,000 South Koreans which they had claimed to have captured. The Communists demanded inclusion in the lists of an additional 37,000 troops captured by the UN. These men were South Koreans, impressed into the Red Armies, and therefore reclassified as civilians, not as prisoners of war.

When the full delegations discussed in executive session the exchange of these prisoners, the communists implied that they would forget the 37,000 South Koreans. They proposed a "recheck" of the prisoners of war, implicitly approving the UN screening process. So the screening in the compounds at Koje began.

Had the UN command known in July, 1951, that the war would still be raging 12 months later, it might have moved at once to regroup the prisoners into small and manageable groups. However it was believed then, that an armistice would be quickly reached. The UN command followed the traditional, dangerous course of leaving the prisoners in large compounds, under their own officers, subject to their own internal discipline, and with only skeleton UN troops to stand guard.

Under these conditions the screening took place. The UN, contrary to Communist propaganda, stacked the results heavily in favor of the Communists. It retreated from its original insistence on "voluntary repatriation" to "non-forcible repatriation." That is, instead of asking North Koreans and Chinese, "Do you want to return?" it asked them, "Would you forcibly resist return?" To further stack the results, the UN command proposed to the Chinese Communists that they issue a general amnesty, promising to disregard anti-Communist mottos tattooed on the prisoners, and other signs of anti-Communism. This the communists did, and the amnesty was publicized throughout the compounds. Yet the interrogation of 106,000 prisoners in two weeks demonstrated unsuspected hatred for Communism. The South Koreans of course wanted to remain in their homes. The Chinese showed a higher percentage who would "forcibly resist" repatriation than the North Koreans. It has since become clear that the original "screening operation" was poorly executed. UN interrogators, unable to enter many compounds, had to make rough guesses. Their calculations were slipshod and the UN command now admits the figure closer to 80,000. The Communists however did not cavil about minor discrepancies. The UN estimated that 70,000 prisoners might be repatriated. This figure, far below the previous guesses of the UN, caused the Communists to rise in fury.

Since then General Harrison, the new chief negotiator, has tried many variations of the formula. The Communists have replied that they are interested in numbers of prisoners, not in words. Meanwhile according to General Van Fleet the Communists have prepared themselves for a deadlock of indefinite duration.

One year ago, the Communist weakness lay in the lack of fortified positions. Now their lines are fortified, making ground advances by the UN extremely costly. Later their weakness was lack of air defense. Now they have the world’s second or third strongest air force, one sixth of Russia’s front line strength. Given these defenses, the UN hopes turned to amphibious landings behind the Communist lines. Now General Van Fleet reveals that the Reds have built up their defenses on both coasts. He adds that the Communists have "finally come to their senses" thinning out their troops in the front lines where they were exposed to continuous UN artillery fire. Their one million troops are now in positions where they can be kept indefinitely on the assumption that there will be no armistice, and no UN ground attack.

If the Communists are ready for a stalemate in Korea, are we? What principle makes worthwhile our continued losses and our major efforts there?

On the exchange of prisoners, an issue of principle has been raised. The Communists have taken a position in accordance with their fundamental beliefs. For them the individual is integrated in the state; the maintenance of absolute power forbids the recognition of any legal escape road; every citizen must know that if he goes over to the enemy in time of war, the long arm of the state will get him back.

On our side, nations which defend the right of political asylum in peacetime can hardly abandon it in war. How basic is this principle, which applies today chiefly to 14,000 of the 20,000 Chinese prisoners?

The principle at stake is important, and it is politically related to the significance which the Korean war has come to assume in Asia. Many Asians have long believed that the United States dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the inhabitants of these cities were not white. They suspect America and the European nations who play a major role in the United Nations of an unconscious contempt for non-whites. This dangerous misconception will be strengthened if the UN goes back on its word and turns over unwilling Asians to Communist rule in order to regain the freedom of a much smaller group of American prisoners. Whether or not the truce is finally reached, the United Nations, and many allied divisions are committed to guard Korea against another attack. For us the principal difference between a truce and a stalemate is the return of 11,000 Communist-held prisoners and the ending of the continuing but fortunately short casualty lists. The difference is not great, in contrast with the dangers of world war. If patience is needed to move from a stalemate to a truce, then patience is worth it for peace.

We Haven’t Been Getting the Facts About Korea

By Robert C. Miller*
United Press roving correspondent
Reader’s Digest
December 1952

Condensed from Nieman Reports

From time to time American newspapers have been accused of not "printing the truth" about the Korean War. The critics are right: we newsmen are not giving the true facts about Korea; we haven’t been for more than a year and a half; and there will be little improvement in the war coverage until the military censorship policy is radically changed. Much of the truth about the war and the peace talks has been red-penciled.

The press is regarded with suspicion by most military minds, who consider us a necessary evil, and it would be difficult to convince them that the evil is really necessary.

Every member of the press—reporters, cameramen, radiomen and television personnel—appreciates the necessity of military censorship in time of conflicts to maintain military security and prevent valuable information from being given the enemy. But the censorship code imposed on us by the Far East Command early in 1951 was a riveted set of rules. No interpretation or deviation was allowed. No members of the press were consulted when the code was drafted. No man with any previous newspaper experience was allowed to hold a censor’s job.

The code contains two sections which we believe to be exceedingly dangerous. One prohibits publication of anything which might "give aid and comfort" to the enemy, and the other stops any stories which criticize or bring discredit upon any branch of the armed services. These rules have killed numerous stories which were newsworthy without violating military security or jeopardizing the life of one U.N. soldier.

Stories of enemy guerrilla activity were considered comforting to the Reds and banned, despite the fact that they were printed prominently in the South Korean press and broadcast by the Seoul and Pusan radio stations. This explains why you never were told of the uprising in the provinces of North and South Cholla, where crops were 40 percent below normal, because of guerrilla activity, or of the appeal by the South Korean government to General Van Fleet to release a South Korean division from front-line duty to fight the guerrillas. Nor were we allowed to mention the South Korean police who blackmailed innocent farmers, threatening to arrest them as Reds unless they paid off. Hundreds joined guerrilla units in the mountains because of police blackmailing, but stories concerning this were killed.

Stories even hinting at incompetency in high places were stopped because they brought "discredit" upon a branch of the service. We were not allowed to write of the American colonel so bitterly hated by his men that they collectively offered a $700 reward to the man who would shoot him. Nor was anything ever passed about the thousands of words of testimony given the Inspector General’s office by his junior officers who claimed him incompetent.

The censors refused to pass what I thought was a cute little story about this colonel, who came under fire while touring the front and reported it to his headquarters by radio jeep. The headquarters voice receiving the message politely inquired as to whether it was "friendly or enemy fire, sir?"

In the fall of 1951, the Eighth Army received reports of heavy rioting in three North Korean cities, including the capital, Pyongyang. Intelligence reports also told of increasing dissension between North Korean and Chinese officers. G-2 of the Eighth Army gave the reports a high evaluation, yet the news was withheld from the press because of "security reasons."

Even after a junior officer made copies of the reports available to the United Press, Eighth Army intelligence heads repeatedly denied any knowledge of them. Nor could any of these officers see the slightest value of this news as a morale booster for the United Nations or as propaganda against the Reds.

Censorship stopped publication of a Defense Department report on close air support in Korea. In this report, made by a Johns Hopkins team, were statements that the Air Force had exaggerated its claims of effectiveness, was improperly trained to carry out close air support assignments, and was doing a far poorer job than the Marine Corps, which developed close air-support. These findings were important to Americans who are paying for the most efficient military machine possible.

I urge you to be particularly suspicious of casualty estimates from Korea, both those suffered by us and those inflicted by us. General Van Fleet brought up the subject last fall at a conference of his corps commanders. If he had believed the casualty estimates made by them, he said bluntly, "there wouldn’t be a live Chinese or North Korean opposing us."

The General explained that he had released a weekly casualty figure of 12,500 enemy dead, wounded or captured. "That figure was an exaggeration," he told his commanders. "But this estimate for the entire Eighth Army was less than any made for the same period by any one corps commander of the enemy casualties suffered in his area."

Were you to tabulate the number of enemy trucks allegedly destroyed or damaged by our night intruder planes during the past year, you would find it far in excess of the number of vehicles known to be in all of the Orient.

I flew with a Marine night fighter on one of these missions last fall. Our plane was high scorer for the night with three trucks burned and eight damaged. The squadron, which operates at low altitude beneath flare planes and has more identified "kills" than any other squadron in Korea, accounted for 54 destroyed or damaged trucks that night. Yet the Fifth Air Force communiqué claimed 673 enemy vehicles destroyed or damaged. The other 619 trucks were allegedly hit by high-flying medium bombers.

If these nightly claims of between six and seven hundred vehicles were accurate, there would have been a complete throttling of enemy transport with decreasing artillery and mortar fire. However, when I left Korea, there were no indications of an acute Red shortage of either ammunition or supplies.

Previous criticism of the Army brought the charge that I was "unfriendly" toward the military. But unfriendliness is a luxury no good reporter can enjoy. I confess to a critical attitude toward the Army, Navy, State Department, school board or any other department of government I am assigned to cover. That’s part of my job, and no reporter would work for me who didn’t incorporate it in his personality. To do the job expected of him, every newsman should maintain a "prove it" attitude.

We are fighting a desperate, costly battle against Communism which we call the Cold War. Our most devastating weapon in this fight is truth. With it we can build the strength of the democracies, and undermine that of our enemies. We, the press, are the big guns in this fight, and when censorship prevents us from obtaining and broadcasting the truth, we are being denied our most explosive ammunition.

It is my firm belief that the strongest girder in the structure of American democracy is its free and unshackled press. Within the bounds of security we should be as free to criticize as to praise, as unfettered to expose as to commend. Only thus can the people know and remedy.

*Robert C. Miller at 37 is a veteran war correspondent. In World War II he hit the Guadalcanal beaches with the first Marines, was on a PT boat torpedoed in the English Channel, was with American forces in France until at Verdun a shrapnel wound put him in hospitals for two years. After that he reported Greek guerrilla campaigns and the French campaign in Indo-China before being assigned to the Korean war front in 1950.

No Whistles, No Cheers, No Dancing

Volume 35, No. 5, pp. 15-19
August 3, 1953

As the world waited expectantly for the guns to cease fire in Korea, the guns boomed out at Quantico, Virginia, where the Commander in Chief stood at attention for the presidential salute. At the Marine base in an informal council of state, President Eisenhower had gathered virtually all of his principal civilian advisers together with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Like millions of other Americans this high council spent the weekend impatiently awaiting the conclusion of the tortured and protracted negotiations at Panmunjom. The details and the agenda of their discussions were closely guarded but the main subject was an open secret—the massive problems raised by the imminent truce. For it was plain that the end of fighting in Korea, at this moment in history, did not promise either surcease from anxiety or lasting peace. If in American hearts there was momentary relief and thanksgiving because of respite from blood-shed, in many minds doubts remained about the truce and the policy that led to it. Even those shocked by President Syngman Rhee’s continuing and seemingly irresponsible efforts to block the truce negotiations gave only reluctant assent to the course to which the U.N. was committed. Since there was no real victory, there was no occasion for celebration—no whistles, no cheering, no dancing in the streets.

In Korea, during the last hours, the war waned in a bloody but irrational pattern of senseless attacks by the Communist armies. As the Reds wasted blood in futile fighting, so they wasted time in drawn-out bickering over truce terms. They even tried a final sly propaganda trick. Over the doorway of the hut which they had erected to house the formal ceremonies for signing the truce they had affixed Picasso’s peace dove—that deceitful symbol of the phony Communist peace offensive. But when U.N. officers announced that they would not enter the hall under such a misleading sign, the dove fluttered down quickly. The document to be signed in the hut was long and complicated. It committed both armies to withdraw from their battle lines and establish a neutral zone, to accept supervision of their lines by a commission of four nations, to exchange prisoners of war under supervision of still another commission. Then, within 90 days, a political conference will discuss the outstanding problems raised by the war. But even if a settlement is reached, the war itself will be long remembered for its cruelty, horror, pity, frustrations and desperate bravery—some of which is recorded in the following four pages of memorable photographs taken during the three years of bitter fighting by LIFE’s photographers on the Korean battle lines.

[Note from the Korean War Educator: Photos on pages 16-19 of this issue of LIFE magazine are not available.]

Season of Sorrow in 13 Homes

Vol. 37, No. 23, pp. 35-39
December 6, 1954

As the season of thanks lay upon the land, 13 families—among many millions—prepared for it with hope but little thanks in their hearts. Their sons or fathers were in Red china prisons, captured and held endless months. Hope was the persistent word that one kinsman, Captain Elmer F. Llewellyn, had sent from prison only last September: "I was hoping I would be home in time to play some football this fall," he wrote, "but guess it’s too late now. Hope to get there to see some, though…."

Then, some 18 hours before their Thanksgiving dinners, the shocking news came in a bulletin from the Chinese Red radio. Thirteen American prisoners had been condemned for "espionage" to prison sentences ranging from four years to life. It was the first time Red china had tried and convicted U.S. military men as spies. Eleven of the prisoners were Air Force men downed on a B-29 leaflet-dropping flight near the Yalu on January 12, 1953; two were civilians downed on a flight from Seoul to Tokyo on November 29, 1952. The sorrow of their fellow countrymen and sympathetic telegrams they got from President Eisenhower did little to ease the hearts of the 13 families as they sat down to break their bitter Thanksgiving bread.

"I don’t know how I can wait another six years," murmured the wife of Eugene Vaadi on the eve of Thanksgiving. But she, like the other relatives of the imprisoned men shown above [Note: photos not available for posting on the Korean War Educator] gallantly bore up under the numbing news. Some clasped hope to themselves like an old friend. "At first," said the wife of Wallace Brown, "I was stunned—five years! But then, how can they hold him on such false charges?"

The wife of Captain Llewellyn, who had expected her husband home by Christmas and might now have to wait until Christmas 1959, clung to her belief as she heard the news. "When we found out he was still alive," she said, "I knew he’d be home soon, and I still think he will. That’s the way you have to feel about it. If you let yourself look on the dark side of a thing like this, you go crazy."

While the families had their bleak Thanksgiving, blistering protests rolled on Peking from Washington and London. The Chinese had taken two years to fabricate their case against the 13 Americans. To support charges they were U.S. spies and agents the Reds introduced "confessions" and released photographs of transmitters and weapons allegedly seized.

But the U.S. damned the charges as "utterly false" and even Great Britain, which hasn’t hiterto seen eye to eye with the U.S. on China, now vigorously joined in calling the Communist action "outrageous." In some of the strongest diplomatic language it has used to address a Communist power, their note warned that the "restraint" hitherto shown by the American people toward "Communist outrages" was not inexhaustible.


Close this window

© 2002-2016 Korean War Educator. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of material is prohibited.

- Contact Webmaster with questions or comments related to web site layout.
- Contact Lynnita for Korean War questions or similar informational issues.
- Website address: www.koreanwar-educator.org

Hit Counter