Sunday, May 15, 2005

Remembering General McArthur the true warrior

Given the grave danger of a complete collapse of morale and fighting spirit among the South Korean people, General MacArthur felt that only a dramatic move would stiffen their resolve to resist. He decided to visit the country as immediate, symbolic proof of American backing. According to General Almond, MacArthur's chief of staff, the visit was also a search for firsthand knowledge of what the Korean Army was doing, what it intended to do next, and what President Rhee and Ambassador Muccio had to say.
Against the advice of his staff officers, who were apprehensive over extremely poor flying conditions and the threat of enemy air attack, General MacArthur flew to Korea. He landed at Suwon Airfield at 1115, 29 June 1950. Five members of his staff and four newsmen were with him.

Although two YAK fighter planes of the North Korean Air Force appeared over Suwon and one dropped a bomb at one end of the runway, MacArthur and his party landed safely. They went to a small schoolhouse where General Church and the American officers of ADCOM awaited them. President Syngman Rhee, Mr. Muccio, and General Chae were also there. At General MacArthur's request, the meeting opened with a resume of the current military situation by General Church, who said he had been able to locate only 8,000 of the ROK Army's original 100,000 men. While he was speaking, he received a report that 8,000 more had been gathered and that Korean officers hoped to have another 8,000 by evening.
After a few brief remarks from Muccio, General MacArthur stated, "Well, I have heard a good deal theoretically, and now I want to go and see these troops...." MacArthur and his group, in "three old, broken-down cars," drove thirty miles north to the south bank of the Han below Seoul, where they could see the enemy firing from the city at targets near them. By mid-afternoon, MacArthur had seen all he needed to and returned to Suwon Airfield, then departed about 1600.

General MacArthur had not waited for this JCS directive to order operations in North Korea. On the flight to Korea, according to Colonel Storey, his pilot, MacArthur had issued orders via his plane radio at 0800 (Korean time), 29 July 1950, saying to FEAF headquarters back in Tokyo, "Partridge from Stratemeyer, Take out North Korean airfields immediately. No publicity. MacArthur approves." This action took place twenty-four hours before the JCS authorized such action in accordance with the Presidential approval. Col. John Chiles, then SGS GHQ, UNC, told the author (September 1955) that he heard MacArthur give this order, dictating it to General Stratemeyer. And one of the newspapermen who was present on the plane, Roy McCartney, recounts the following narrative contained in Norman Bartell, ed., With the Australians in Korea (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1954), pages 165-79: "On the way to Korea, MacArthur resumed pacing, while weighing out loud how he could 'take out' the airfields from which North Korean Yak fighters were operating. 'Where's the President's directive?' he asked his intelligence chief, Major General Charles A. Willoughby. 'How can I bomb north of the 38th Parallel without Washington hanging me?' Willoughby, it turned out, had left Truman's directive in Tokyo. A half hour later MacArthur emerged from his private cabin and remarked almost casually, 'I've decided to bomb north of the 38th Parallel. The B-29s will be out tomorrow. The order has gone to Okinawa.'" General Whitney describes this incident in his book on General MacArthur and concludes, "Here was no timid delay while authorization was obtained from Washington; here was the capacity for command decision and the readiness to assume responsibility which had always been MacArthur's forte."

General MacArthur quite clearly had tipped the balance in favor of troop commitment. The risks had not changed or lessened, but the nation's leaders became convinced that communist seizure of Korea could not be tolerated. MacArthur's personal appeal, in fact, received even wider recognition on 30 June when he was told, "Restriction on use of Army Forces ... are hereby removed and authority granted to utilize Army Forces available to you."


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