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Antecedents

Before penetrating in the discussion of the circumstances tightly tied up to the historical events that usually go under the name of War of Korea, it is to do a flashback to delineate which are the antecedents that have conducted the United States and with them many nations of the UN, to actively participate in the conflict. Since the 1944 Casablanca Conference, American President Roosevelt had traced the confinements of that it would have had to be the world after the defeat of the Nazism. The guidelines of the new world order would have been mainly two. Primarily, in political field the governments would have had to inspire to the principle of democracy in American style and in economic circle the form of liberistic and capitalist market owed to be broadly supported by the nations as means of help for the political liberty (this would have brought to the agreements of Bretton Woods on the golden conversion of the dollar). We won't deepen here which were the leading errors of such formulation neither the unniable merits that it had been, but we will confine to notice that for the conclusion of the Roosevelt's Grand Deseign remained an only obstacle: the Soviet Union. The great Eurasian nation had shown itself an irreplaceable allied during the War World II and in the vision of the American political leader it would have had to participate in the world reorganization. The relationships entertained with Stalin had leaned on such basis either in Casablanca either in Yalta and Potsdam. After all, the Soviet giant, harshly tried by the fights against the Germans, was forced to accept American friendship postponing to the leading ideological differences. Winston Churchill, contrarily to the American president, was always mistrustful towards the oriental ally, considering it an uncomfortable neighbor ready to stab to the back at the first occasion. Unfortunately for Churchill, the defeat in the national political elections did not allow him to put his own wise suggestion to the service of the western world.

It is difficult to foresee what would have happened in the course of the history if the death of Roosevelt had not arrived to change the relationships between the two dawning superpowers. Still more serious it is to trace an exhaustive picture of the political scenery of those years without his successor: Harry S. Truman. He, unexpectedly arrived to become vice-president during the third presidential mandate of Roosevelt, could be identified as the American stereotype of the self-made man. Ex-judge of the county of Jackson (Missouri), ex failed merchant and ex -captain of artillery during World War I, Truman represented that class of American traditionalists that grazed fundamentalism. In his simple politics of base they could not exist any compromises, everything was or white or black. Of him David E. Lilienthal, exponent of the Democratic Party, wrote so: "The country and the world are not deserved to have been abandoned in his hands, with Truman to the head of the United States in a similar moment". Germy had already been defeat, but Japan still withstood. To defeat the proud nation of the Pacific, the new President accepted a last favor from the Russian ally, that is the declaration of war against the country of the rising sun (denunciation of the Russian-Japanese treaty of neutrality in the April 1945). Since that moment ahead, the relationships between the two countries would not have done anything else other than to worsen.

The new behavior of the American politics toward the Soviet Union was strongly influenced by the correspondence from Moscow of George F. Kennan, important exponent of the Department of State, who in his relationship on the Soviet union summarily trace the points on which it will be based the politics of the Truman's administration. Kennan was set in an alternative between the favorable Congress men (all of the stream of the New Deal) and anti-Soviet witches' hunters (the Maccartism was on the point to be born), defining the Russians as a people psychologically brought to the expansionism, the only remedy to the leading insecurity of that nation. Following such preconception, he articulated two precise directives known as theory of the containment (or balance of power) and of the domino. With the first one the United States would have had to handle to create around the communist country a safety belt mainly constituted by the democratic nations of Western Europe and the Far East, while with the second they wod have had to activate their military force for limiting the chain reactions of the revolutionary communist at their first happening without attending the expansion of the so-called "Red Danger “. Parallel to these two conceptions was developed the "aggression piece by piece", where it was hypothesized a series of Soviet attacks each against friend states through the inside communist parties of such nations or with directed military aggressions.

However, To maintain the United States in a position of advantage remained the exclusive possession of nuclear armament. On it, the whole foreign politics was founded up to 1949. In that year the nuclear monopoly had end, with an advance of many years in comparison to how much was estimated by the National Security Agency. Being with an adversary of equal power again, it was enough astonishing for the American public opinion. The Soviets had not lost their own aggressive tendencies and now they could support them with atomic armaments. Lost the technological advantage, the American military command was grasped to the following postulation: more powerful weapons = sure victory. The hydrogen bombs were so tested. They were well more destructive than those of Hiroshima were and the atomic arsenal of the two parts started to grow at a dizzy speed. It had arrived to the well-known phenomenon of the overkill that is to say possessing (and eventually using) weapons more powerful than it was necessary to destroy thearget for which they had been built. To let fall the situation on the Asian bank of the Peaceful, it arrived the change of regime in China, always in 1949.

The Chinese government up to that year had firmly remained in the hands of Chiang Kai Schek, leader of the Chinese Nationalistic Party and faithful ally of the Americans. The United States had helped China since the 1934 Japanese aggression, arriving up to the point to allow its entrance in the Safety Council of the United Nations. The victory of the communists of Mao was as a bolt from the blue. (Same situation would have repeated in 1958 for the Castro's rebels) Through an investigation published by the Department of American State immediately after the expulsion of Chiang, we can understand as the American political vertexes had notably underestimated the corruption and the despotism of the nationalistic regime, allowing that the popular malcontent was radicalized on communist extremist positions. In the same document, the necessity of more timely interventions in the foreign affairs is declared to avoid being in front of the fait accompli. The Chinese revolution had an upsetting impact on the American eltorate. It had confirmed Truman as president in reason for his politics of resistance to the communist expansion and now it found as enemy a country that for long decades had been considered, with reason, as a basis of the American ideas in Asia. To make up for the debacle, in the political hierarchies it was immediately handled to strike harshly every form of inside communist expression. In the first months of 1950 the senator of Wisconsin Taylor McCarthy began that period of Terror worthy of the French revolution that would have characterized the following lustrum (under his arrows they would be even ended unexceptionable patriots as Marshall and Acheson). The times were mature for a direct clash on the field between Democracy and Communism and the occasion it was found in June 1950 in the half-ignored Korea.

The beginning

"Action of aggression begun without warning and without provocation in execution of a carefully prepared plan" so it recites the Document S/1507 of the United Nations of June 26th 1950. It was naturally reported to the action begun the preceding day by the armed strengths of North Korea that had invaded Korea of the South crossing the 38° Parallel. The Korean affaire was anything else other than unexpected. The zone was of high risk since 1910 when Korea had been taken with the strength by Japan. The Asian peninsula had been transformed in a colony of Japanese exploitation, springboard of starting (through the puppet state of Manciukuò) toward the conquest of China. During World War II, the allies, in consequence of the defeat of Japan, had already foreseen to make it independent and this had happened without traumas if a division of the country, analogous to that done in Germany, would have not intervened. The Russians had taken possession of the North of the country, while to the South the order was guaraned by American troops. At the moment of the withdrawal of the occupying strengths, rather than to handle a reunification that had to reenter in the state of the things for a nation that had a millennial common history, two separated and antagonists states were created: Korea of the North with the communist regime of Kim Il Sung and Korea of the South of the nationalist Sygman Rhee.

The communist attack to Korea of the South seemed the confirmation of the theory of the aggression piece by piece. In Washington, they were certain of it. A relationship of the National Security Council, known as NSC 68, proposed as answer to similar interventions, a suitable and ready intervention on the military plan and this was what it happened. Although Korea didn't reenter in that safety area (from the Aleutian islands crossing Japan up to the Philippines) that had been delineated as external safety zone from the United States, the abandonment after China of another nation considered friend would not have been tolerated by the public opinion. The American intervention needed the investiture of the legality to respect those same principles of justice and constitutionality that the government of Washington had wanted at the base of the new world order. Such investiture had absolutely to originate from the United Nations. Unusual, it's to notice that the Soviet Union as permanent member of the Safety Counl would have been able to set the veto to a resolution of intervention, but just in June 1950 the Russian representative was absent in protest against the Americans that were obstinately refusing to replace the member of Nationalistic China with one of the new Chinese communist government. It cannot be said how much political calculation there was in this programmed absence; however, the Americans got the approval that they needed.

Since the beginning, it appeared clear that the American interventionism did not have foundations only in a prudent foreign politics of containment of the Soviet enemy, but also in purely inside necessity. Truman would not have been able to do nothing else in front of the continuous republican attacks at the Congress and through the press. Particularly, the senator Robert Taft attacked with vigor against the presumed presidential immobility that had, according to his detractor, guiltily ignored some relationships of CIA that signaled with clarity the rearmament and the preparation of the North Korean army. The determination of the communist action put in great straits the American military vertexes that could not do anything else other than declaring the intervention in strengths. It's to underline how on the juridical point of view, the conflict that was developing in Korea had not ever technically qualified as war, but as police's action under the aegis of the United Nations. Now, although this diction is rrect, it is clear that the progressive escalation of the fights and the extremely limited employment of the contingent of others 16 Nations (with exclusion of the English armed strengths that immediately were to the side of their powerful overseas ally) we cannot do other than qualifying that adventure as an American war. The people of the United States also felt it as such. After the anticommunist excesses of 1949 and of the first months of 1950, the desire to give a lesson to the " Reds " was largely diffused. It was felt the necessity of a Crusade against the obscurantism and the despotism, only qualities that were recognized to the Soviet regime. If it had not been in Korea, it would have happened in Germany, but in every case, the clash between the two super powers was already too much mature.

The bitter awakening and the Iron General

The excitement of the first hours put it few to diminish. The North Korean attack had been planned with minute precision keeping track of the weakness of the South Korean army and of the slowness of the American military machine. For the whole month of July 1950 the communist troops progressed in theirs enthusiastically advance in the South of the country, overwhelming in sequence Seoul, Incheon, Chung-chu, An Dong. The nationalistic resistance was least indeed and even the support of the American marines arriving from Japan did not serve. These men, accustomed for years to the life of rear and the calm of Tokyo, could not halt the advancing tide. In the first days of August, 90% of the South Korean territory had fallen in communist hand and only the large port of Pusan with its hinterland remained under the control of the Americans and the United Nations. In front of a military situation that grazed the defeat, whatever military commander would have opted for the evacuation of the Korean peninsula. Whateverommander except Douglas McArthur. Descending from a family of soldiers since long time, he already distinguished himself in his service of first nomination, happened in 1903. He tied his fortunes to those of the Philippine people. Following his father (commander of the American troops of occupation) in the islands few after these passed under the American jurisdiction, he showed either tactical genius either courage during the whole campaign for the pacification of the archipelago. He was the youngest director of the Military Academy of West Point and the youngest Chief of Staff.

Unfortunately, among his qualities there was not the diplomacy that, indeed it was required to remain so high in the military hierarchy. This way in his moment of maximum splendor before World War II, he accepted to conduct the Philippine army waiting the independence promised for 1946. His good job had tragically interrupted because of the Japanese invasion. Already reinstated by Marshall in the American army he had the assignment halt the advance of the enemy using the few Philippine trained troops and the few American units that were located in the principal island of Luzon. His star was mantled of legend when, forced by the adverse events of the war, he was forced to abandon Corregidor (the defensive fortress declared impregnable that soon would have fallen in Japanese hands) with a motor torpedo-boat, taking the risk of being captured together with his own family. He solemnly promised that he would have spent his own life to return as liberator in that earth and this was what it really happened. He acted in such way that the American Command for the Pacific ratified his strategy of approach to Japan with jumps from island to island allowing the liberation of Manila, happened on March 3rd 1945.

With the surrender of Japan, McArthur became commander of the troops of occupation of the archipelago of the Rising Sun and so, at the beginning of the hostilities in Korea, he had to face again a serious situation, practically alone. From a man who spent years of his life and sacrificed resources of a whole nation to maintain a promise we could not expect other than an obstinate and sometimes foolish resistance on the continental positions, which were still maintained by the Americans. He would ever have given in to a second escape. What could seem a useless waste of energies to safeguard the American honor, it was transformed in the springboard for a powerful counteroffensive, once the reinforcements came from the homeland. With a nearly uncontested dominion of the air and the seas, McArthur planned a model attack. Disembarking his own men near Incheon and Wonsan, he cut in two the North Korean lines of supply, proceeding to the raking of troops that had remained trapped in the enormous sack. In the arc ofime that has gone since on September 15th to October 26th 1950, the troops of the UN recrossed the whole Korean peninsula in inverse sense, conquering the communist capital city Pyongyang up to reach the Ya-Lu, at few kilometers from the Chinese border. Final victory seemed within reach.

The Chinese intervention

In the first days of November, the allied lines were run over by thirty divisions of Chinese voluntary who came in help of the Korean communist brothers. The Chinese intervention in the conflict had been more times ventilated in the preceding months, but McArthur had always diminished the importance of this eventuality. In the moment in which it concretely happened, the enormous mass of soldiers that overwhelmed the representative of the UN darkened the more famous historical defeats. Helped by the inclement winter that didn't allow a suitable air tactical support, the chino-Koreans started a victorious march freeing the whole northern part of the country up to overcome the 38th parallel again and to come for half January 1951 on the line of Chung-chu, where the Americans succeeded to halting the advance. The Chinese attack had as primary result the loss of estimation for the American soldiers. In fact, the long withdrawal from the Chinese border was transformed in more than a moment in a real rout, causing ormous human and material losses. McArthur who in precedence had very denigrated the consistence of the Chinese army, demanded that the atomic weapons were used for halting its advance. Fortunately, Truman had the good sense not to listen him fearing, for the first time in the history, to cause a real world nuclear conflict. What the magazine Times defined "the worse defeat ever suffered by the Americans" it was not only due to the Chinese intervention, but also to some strategic errors of McArthur who had left too exposed the rear lines of communication widening the front excessively. Seen darkening its own notoriety as invincible general, McArthur started to venture in too hazardous declarations in political field. After having required an intervention with nuclear weapons without having gotten it, he proposed to strike the heart of China with conventional bombardments on the harbors and on the coastal cities that were leaned out on the Chinese Sea. This would have involved an inevitable widening of the colict with consequence at that moment not known. Exactly the contrary than Truman preached.

He preferred to localize the conflict rather than to widen it. This new way to think perfectly corresponded to the will to reduce the American military engagement to the least. It was hypothesized (and it was also a world novelty) the possibility of a war that did not owe to have necessarily won. It was wanted a light tactical advantage with which forcing the counterpart to separate political negotiations. McArthur was publicly contrary to a similar conception of the war, arriving to affirm that the evacuation of Korea would have been inevitable if it had not proceeded to the widening of the conflict. Although the thought of the general had denied from the course of the clashes that brought to a stabilization of the front already in the March 1951, his criticisms found a fertile ground where catching on either in the public opinion either in the Republican opposition to Truman.
The political opponents not only saw in the new course of the president a softening towards the Soviet Union with the consequence of a possible resumption of its ideological offensive in Europe. Truman was used for a long time for denying the accusations, arriving to name Eisenhower, his more famous general, commander of the European scenario. Despite this action of dissuasion, the Congress was deeply shaken so much to give origin to a long discussion in hall known as the "Great Debate ".

The Great Debate

The republican voices, first among them that of Taft, were contradictory. There was someone who spoke in favor of a return to the pre-war isolationism, painting the idea of a " fortress America " as solution of all the evil, but all the antagonists of Truman were assembled on the amplification of the military helps to Europe, damaging Asia (exactly the contrary of what was blamed to him in precedence). The reasons that founded these criticisms can be recovered in the diffused sense of abandonment of those same zones (southeastern Asia and China) for which thousand of American young people had lost life during World War II. The conflict against Japan, fought in maximum part by the United States only, had created a kind of favorite bond with such nations that the strengths of minority in the country saw, few to few, falling. Tightly close to these reasons of the heart, there were also some real diatribes on a military conception that had gone spreading immediately after the success against Germany and that is say "having the dominion of the air is enough to guarantee victory in every occasion". Although this affirmation found comparisons in the operations in Europe during 1944 and 1945, on the practical plan exquisitely, the groundlessness of the theory was already shown before the attainment of the atomic parity from the Soviet Union. The war of Korea did not do anything else other than reaffirming this evident truth. The also powerful American airplanes had to encounter with the dawning Soviet technology (represented by the airplanes Mig-15 furnished to the communist brothers) that had made giant footsteps in comparison to only five years before. The following supremacy of the air in Korea was conquered in maximum part for the better training of the American pilots in comparison to the North Korean. To counter to the accusations of abandonment and defeatism that had turned to him, Truman brought a large number of experts who confirmed to the Congress the impossibility to sustain a war effort without a suitableonventional military apparatus in Europe.

Besides, they guaranteed that the loss of the European industrial potential in favor of the Soviets would have let hang the needle of the balance in favor of the communists. Through this skilled movement of conviction, the president had almost reached his own purpose to reassure the environment around the American appointment in Europe, when the declarations of McArthur had intervened. If they had been pronounced by anybody else, they would have been able to be considered as nothing more than personal opinions, but coming out of the mouth of whom was reputed the winner of the war in the Pacific, they assumed the aspect of a warning. It was evident that McArthur had some political aspirations and in proximity of 1952 elections the answer of Truman to these very injurious declarations for his politics it could not be different: the general had been replaced on April 11th 1951.
His successor, General Matthew Ridgway, acted with promptness succeeding in denying all the dark forecasts of McArthur. A last American counteroffensive allowed returning near the 38th parallel, in practice on the border preceding the beginning of the clashes. However U.S.A., the action of Ridgway was completely darkened by the clamor provoked by the leaving of McArthur. He returned at home after 14 years (it is to be remembered that he had missed since 1937 when he had accepted the charge with the Philippine government). He was welcomed as a true triumphant victor. Not making the occasion escaped, he was present in many public speeches, riding the wave of the fame that seemed pushing him up to the presidency. The popular rising that followed, it stroke the figure of Truman very heavily. McCarthy in a hard "J'accuse" kept during a speech in Milwaukee arrived to define him with textual words "a whore's son". These personal attacks that often fell off into bad taste if not into open offense, they made lever onn increasing popular feeling of support to the armed strengths. Indeed, it is in this period that the first skirmishes of an increasing power of the soldiers were shown, certainly an extraneous event for the American history and the culture. It would have flowed in the election as president of Dwight Eisenhower, but we have to see why McArthur ran out of the game.

The liking of the public and the support of the more extreme political men started to diminish with the discourse held by the general at the opening of the Republican Convention. It was clear that the last goal of McArthur was to candidate and not, as instead he continued to declare in his interventions, a disinterested and patriotic interest for the good of the Nation. The public opinion that had not in itself that plebiscitary sense that would have returned comfortable to the hero of war began abandoning him. In front of this sudden turnaround, McArthur unsheathed once more his healthy pragmatism that had always characterized him. He abandoned every political velleity to become president of the board of directors of the Sperry Rand. As himself had said recalling the refrain of an ancient military song "Old Soldiers never die, they just fade away".

In the meantime the fights in Korea had not stopped. What had been a war of extreme movement had transformed in a fight of wearing out, where the attainment of military victories mattered only to political level. The negotiations that initiated in the summer of 1951 would have woven with the 1952 presidential campaign, arriving, as it often happens, to fix the confinements there where the troops were found at the moment of the cease-fire. Eisenhower had hocked to set term to the Korean conflict and this punctually happened in 1953, once gotten full powers. The consequences of the war of Korea were not limited to an increase of the military expenses (that they also passed from 13 to 44 billion dollars in a two-year period), but they were also reflected on the American society itself. The renewed war engagement allowed to increase the industrial production, making up, at least partly, for the lost inside demand, consequent to the reconversion of the industries at the end of World War II. It began so a time of mfort that would have continued up to the crises of the seventies and eighties. The new economic power of the Pentagon (that was represented in contracts of inestimable value for the enterprises that produced armaments) it was at the base of a revolutionary conception of the economy, where to the side of the free enterprise (untouchable dogma of the American liberism) it was born a public intervention that, unlike that of the New Deal, didn't have finality of maintenance of the economy anymore, but it intended to maintain to level of maximum efficiency the apparatus of ready intervention of the United States. Such change would also have involved a widening of the interested fields. Not only those tightly military, but also the telecommunications and the technologies of vanguard would have been protected and developed according to government directive.

The results got in the containment of the Soviet expansion in Asia, would have had to be seen how a victory according to the canons of the doctrine Truman, but to the eyes of the Americans that went out neither winning neither won from the war, they assumed an opposite meaning. The myth of the invincibility of the United States had fallen, demolished by communist soldiers (that however had suffered losses a lot of times superior in comparison to the Americans). That climate of terror of the communist enemy was creating and fomented by the extremist ideas of McCarthy cementing so that period of our modern history known as Cold War.

Sources: "History of the United States since 1945 until Today" by Giuseppe Mammarrella, "Foreign Politics of the United States since 1945 until today" by Giampaolo Valdevit, "World War II" by Raymond Cartier.

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