Over this past year I took a look at how our US military went from world beaters in 1945, defeating two highly industrialized countries with ferocious, dedicated military, to its unsuccessful fight with piss ant North Vietnamese 1965/1975.
Started where I never imagined.
Which led to Korea 1950 and Vietnam 1960.
The Korean War was significant among events that led to Vietnam. Early on I came across that famous speech of MacArthur on 23 August 1950 in the conference room of his Hqs in the Dai Ichi building downtown Tokyo. To relieve the pressure on the 8th Army at the Pusan perimeter in the south, MacArthur wanted to invade Korea at Inchon, despite the advice against that by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Marines and the US Navy. No one thought the harbor at Inchon was a realistic landing site… with its limited beaches, high docks, enormously shifting tides and narrow approach channel that may have been mined. The US invasion force would be massive; the Inchon landing place tiny and hard to access.
The best military minds in our country – save MacArthur – said no. Not just no, but hell No. General Collins, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and Admiral Sherman, the Chief of Naval Operations, went to Tokyo for the express purpose of persuading MacArthur against this operation.
At that 23 August 1950 meeting with Collins and Sherman, MacArthur said their thinking got at one of the reasons Inchon would work, because the communist knew the U.S. military brass wouldn’t consider Inchon, and we’d catch them by surprise.
Impressive with his commanding presence and his persuasive, eloquent-phrased arguments, he carried the day.
Invasion at Inchon 15 September 1950 it would be.
And against all odds it was an enormous success. In fact, most military scholars consider the battle one of the most decisive military operations in modern warfare; describing the Inchon “Chromite operation” as “an example of brilliant generalship and military genius.”
The general plan and the decision to land at Inchon were entirely MacArthur’s. He had made several significant battle plans throughout his military career, but none more momentous, none more fraught with danger, none that promised to be more decisive if successful.
Inchon was more than merely a name for a battle which changed the balance of power in Korea, more than just a great strategic victory; it was also an intensely personal victory for MacArthur. Inchon had vindicated his judgment. He had – despite all opposition – come, planned, and conquered. He had assumed that the harbor approaches to Inchon would not be heavily guarded or mined ; that the difficulties of tide and terrain could be surmounted; that the North Korean reserves stationed near the port would be slender; that the enemy’s morale would be quickly broken; and that Japan, stripped of its occupation troops, would remain quiet and orderly. Because he had assumed correctly on 23 August 1950, the Inchon invasion will go down in infamy as genus generalship.
MacArthur bent the US military to his will with his determined, persuasive arguments because he must have known that Inchon was absolutely doable, right?
Must have had the intelligence that he could bring in 60-80 thousand US GIs on maybe 250 ships through a very narrow channel and put them on shore against whatever the North Korean had set up in the way of defensives. Shallow bottom. Tides shifting up to 30 foot twice a day. Mud flats. Mines. Reinforced enemy positions with commanding fields of fire across the harbor.
Whole world watching. Certainly the future of South Korea in the balance.
Like Daniel Boone said way back in his day, “Make sure you’re right and then go ahead.”
That was my thought about MacArthur.
Well, here’s the thing, MacArthur didn’t have good current intelligence on Inchon. Had no friggin’ idea what was really out there when he convinced the US military to go along with his plans, and it was like three weeks before the invasion.
You read your history. MacArthur’s G-2 Charles Willoughby only had dated ideas on the layout of the harbor’s defenses… and really no information on whether the channel was mined or not.
And like I said, it was three weeks before D-Day.
From the following books – Battle Report, The Landing at Inchon, MacArthur, Inchon Landing, Korea and Korea, The Untold Story – came reports of a mission organized right after the 23 August 1950 conference in which US Navy Lt Commander Eugene Clark, with a couple of ROK officers and some young South Korean partisans, evaded North Koreans for 15 days operating from one of the out-laying islands (Yonghung-do) near the approach to the Flying Fish Channel. Despite the danger, despite the fact he operated as a singleton American using local resources and partisans… he got the necessary information on which MacArthur could make his final invasion plans. Of particular interest to me was the locally scrounged single piston, putt-putt sampan on which he mounted a .50 caliber machine gun he had brought on the mission… that he used to destroy a small fleet of North Koreans who were intent on killing Clark. He described the captain as an almost toothless old South Korean fisherman, who would – often at critical moments – have to restart the one piston engine to get out of harm’s way. Makes for a great visual.
The whole Inchon invasion hinged on the work of one American; racing the clock, behind the lines, out witting the North Koreans who found out he was there. Ending when he lit the harbor lighthouse to lead the invasion force in.
Military historians maybe haven’t given Clark his due for what he did… against almost impossible odds. Someone suggested he had something like 500-1 chances of coming out alive.
Plus Clark himself knew the date of the invasion, so for him capture was not an option. He supposedly carried a grenade around for a sure suicide in case capture seemed imminent.
I found that Eugene Clark had written a book on his mission, so I ordered a used copy from amazon.com and went back with my main research about the corrosion of US military effectiveness during the middle of the 20th century. But I sure liked Clark.
I finally came to some conclusion on “What Happened?” to the US military and published an article on my web site mid May 2016. I then re-worded the core of that research into a new introduction of my The Vietnam War Its Ownself… that will be out 1st of September 2016. [Stayed tuned to amazon.com]
But all the time when I’m writing up the decline of our winning military ways… I kept expanding my reading and research about Clark, and his pre-invasion reconnaissance there behind lines, a whole invasion force waiting completion of his work.
The operation was called Trudy Jackson and Clark’s book, the Secrets of Inchon, was an interesting read… though some of it – to my great disappointment – didn’t ring true… like for example his Chapter 7 Taemuui-Do Raid, was just too hokey, too much like a bar-room sounding war story… and the raid wasn’t mentioned in any of the other books on Inchon I had read.
Also Clark’s mission was a joint operation with the CIA, as most books/articles pointed out, but Clark, other than saying up front it was a joint ops, never had anything to say about the CIA; who went, what the CIA did, or didn’t do. And you gotta remember MacArthur didn’t allow the OSS into his Pacific theater during WW II… and the CIA had just been created, so this would have been the first joint ops with the CIA MacArthur ever authorized, so how it was managed was of interest to me.
Not a word in Clark’s book.
Through the help of a friend, we went through the gentleman who did the introduction to his book to get the name of Clark’s daughter (Clark himself has died), who supposedly had the manuscript daddy Clark had written in 1951 on the mission. We made contact over the telephone and had lunch together 26 December 2915 near her home in Reno. She gave me the information on how the book came to be published from a manuscript she had kept “laying around the house” and some personal background on her Dad.
Her story had holes in it. The chain of acquisition on the text/narrative of the book was not provable back to her Dad… in fact that the daughter dealt with professional writer/historian Thomas Fleming and Fleming’s agent to get it published – and received a $125,000 advance – seemed to add to the appearance of impropriety about its authenticity.
To find out last week that the publishing house, when the book was catalogued with the Library of Congress, had listed the book as “fiction.” I got in contact with the Library of Congress to double check this… to find the Library of Congress wants to change the classification to “non-fiction” based almost entirely on the number of times the book is referenced in other books/articles on the Inchon invasion. On Friday the 5th I sent the Library of Congress an email explaining my many areas of doubt about the veracity of the book… their final determination is goin’ be interesting.
But anyway in digging into Clark’s account of the invasion, up jumped Operation Racketeer, maybe a joint operation with the CIA that Clark led up the west coast of North Korea the last two week of October 1950, the month after the Inchon Invasion. The mother ship in this very, very dangerous operation, far behind enemy lines, was PC 703, the same ROK sub chaser used to put the Trudy Jackson team on that island near the mouth of the Inchon channel early September.
Operation Racketeer got Clark to the mouth of the Yalu River, where he reported – in 6 of the 43 intel reports he sent out during the mission – that 300,000 Red Chinese had crossed the Yalu and were in northern North Korea.
At the time MacArthur’s G-2, General Charles Willoughby, carried only 60 to 80 thousand Red Chinese in the mountains of northern North Korea. So now with Clark’s information you’d expect Willoughby to up the estimated number of enemy in front of the two prongs of the US military advancing towards the Yalu.
Willoughby’s G-2 shop did not disseminate Clark’s information to the field or to the intelligence community back in Washington. Six times Clark said 300,000 Chinese soldiers have crossed the Yalu and were laying in wait of MacArthur’s army. In the last of the 6 messages Clark said he was sure of his information. And this is the same Clark who played such a significant intelligence role in sending accurate, critical reports back prior the Inchon invasion.
Not a word from Willoughby. No change to the projected number of Chinese soldiers in North Korea by MacArthur’s headquarters . And consequently no changes to the CIA estimates on Chinese military in North Korea. Which contributed to the greatest ambush of US military forces in America’s history.
Understand Clark’s information went directly to Willoughby. The receiving radio station for Clark’s one time pad reports was near Willoughby’s desk.
In 1987 Clark gave an interview to historian John Toland (author of In Mortal Combat among many other classics), in which 1) he never mentioned having written a book about his mission… in fact was unsure of some of the facts Toland asked about, that were spelled out in the book he had supposedly written. 2) He said that his intels were not disseminated to the intelligence community by either Willoughby or MacArthur, to which Toland said that he had talked with others and the blame fael clearly at the feet of Willoughby, who was trying to give MacArthur the intelligence he wanted to hear and 3) He did go into considerable discussion about the CIA participation in Trudy Jackson and its lack of participation in the Yalu River part of Racketeer.
CIA answered my FOIA request with something that they could find no records on CIA involvement in Trudy Jackson or Racketeer.
But other information is accumulating and I’m near a point to publish what I know about those two operations… with the significance of Trudy Jackson being the way the CIA and MacArthur’s people worked together, and Clark’s absolutely incredible contributions (despite what I’m considering a fanciful account credited to him 50 years after the fact, written by who knows who).
The significance of the Racketeer operation is Willoughby’s (or MacArthur’s) decision not to disseminate Clark’s behind-the-lines patrol reports.
But all this has led me to the question: How did the Chinese communist come to be in Manchuria in such numbers that they could send at least 300,000 of their forces into North Korea?
This just 5 years after the end of WW II, when the Nationalist Army of Chiang Kai-shek was around 3 million strong, and Mao’s communist troops considerably less, 1.5 or 2 million. This though the Nationalist had suffered the most casualties fighting the Japanese during the war. Mao more or less sitting off to the side, hunkering down, waiting the war out, in northwest China, near the terminus of Soviet railroads.
US supported Chiang Kai-Shek.
USSR supported Mao Zedung.
How did Mao turn things around in 5 years?
Well, it doesn’t take much looking to see that the Russian invasion of Manchuria on the day after the US dropped Little Boy on top of Hiroshima, and the Soviet subsequent occupation of Manchuria and Port Arthur, played a big, big role in changing the history and the destiny of the Far East.
Here’s what Stalin did:
First he used many or most of his “Penal” Divisions in the assault… these are front line outfits made up of riff-raff from other divisions. Soldiers were assigned there rather than face execution or jail for violation of Soviet Army rules. While some Penal units acquitted themselves well in combat, others acted just like a bunch of thugs. They were regarded, understandably, as dregs of the Soviet military… throwaways.
These Penal divisions met light resistance from the Japanese in their invasion of Manchuria, because the Japanese troops here had been depleted to fill out replacement quotes for the Japanese Army out in the Pacific.
Then the more elite Soviet Army units moved in and took control of all the ports, including the strategic Port Arthur.
Behind them came the third wave of… Soviet engineers, who stripped the Japanese factories throughout Manchuria and sent the heavy equipment back to Russia. Mukden, Manchuria, for example, was a thriving city of 2 million with Japanese factories galore when the Soviets attacked. All factories, one after the other were stripped clean of machinery by the Soviets. OSS teams that entered the country soon after the Soviet occupation began, found factory after factory after factory, little more than building shells. Nothing inside.
And the Soviets took over all the banks and transferred the gold, other precious metals and international currency back to the Soviet Union, exchanging them for worthless “Occupation Yen.”
And at the ports? Soviets did not allow the Nationalist troops to come into Manchuria… giving Mao time to move his army up north. And keep in mind that before the Soviet invasion, the Japanese kept Manchuria commie-free.
And in the insuring Chinese civil war 1945 to 1949, Manchuria became critical terrain. Lower China would go to whatever army controlled Manchuria.
Surely you say the US saw this coming. Right?
General Stilwell who worked with Chiang Kai-shek didn’t like him. Check the record. And one of the reasons it seems to me, is that Stilwell didn’t consider Chiang Kai-shek an equal. Chiang didn’t speak English. Didn’t kowtow to the westerner or his ways. Stilwell resented this.
And the “ol’ China hands” in the US State Department were predominately sons of missionaries who had been born in China, spoke the language fluently, and – because of the religious nature of their upbringing – believed the Mao propaganda about a “people’s” army. State Department for the most part didn’t look on Mao as a communist that was getting great help from the Soviets and falling in line with their attitudes and policies, so much as Mao was a man of the people.
Then there was General George Marshall, who came over as the China civil war was just getting started and said, hey hold on a minute, let’s all take a minute here, catch our breaths and figure this thing out… like let’s have a cease fire… you, Chiang, and over there, you, Mao… let’s see if we can find a way to have a joint gov’t.
He kept to this cease fire thing and “let’s talk” attitude, even though Mao boldly told him one time that his tactic in waging a long contested war was “Talk-Fight, Fight-Talk” (“Da-Da, Tan-Tan”).
Because the U.S. was providing the Nationalist with weapons and equipment, Chiang had to “cease fire.”
Did Mao? Of course not. He used the Marshall-imposed halt to Chiang’s maneuvering, to take great advantage. Certainly to move up at the Soviet’s invitation into Manchuria.
And Marshall is on record as saying he didn’t like Chiang. Again like Stilwell he never treated him as an equal and long-time ally of the U.S., the leader of western oriented forces in China. Marshall it seems regarded Chiang pretty much as the union leader of buck-tooth Asian laundry men, not at all comparable to say, European leaders.
And Marshall went on to be Secretary of Defense and then, God save the Queen, he became the U.S. Secretary of State.
Chiang was toast.
The Chinese communist army would force the Nationalist Kuomintang out the back door to Taiwan and in October 1949, Mao assumed control of all China…. and a year later sent his troops across the Yalu to attack American forces…
So how did Stalin get such a good deal of occupying Manchuria ostensibly to help the US with its war on Japan… that eventually, surely, led to Mao’s victory in China?
Read the two attachments below: excerpts from Spanning the Century and Special Envoy.
Come to your own conclusions. Decide who’s to blame for aiding and abetting the communist in Manchuria, and Korea, and then subsequently in Vietnam?
“…. hurried to install an emergency power station and lay transmission lines to the conference sites. To Kathleen and Eddie Page fell the responsibility of assigning quarters.
The Czar’s bedroom suite, the only one with a private bath, was reserved for the President. Private bed rooms nearby were set aside for Stettinius, who had succeeded Hull as secretary of state, Hopkins, Harriman, Bohlen, and James F. Byrnes, director of the Office of War Mobilization. General Marshall and Admiral King were put on the second floor, the latter in a suite that had once been the Czarina’s boudoir. The others were less fortunate. Major generals were billeted four to a room, colonels sixteen. Thirty-five officers were assigned to a single bath and forced to shave at water buckets beside their cots.
After two days, Harriman boarded the President’s plane, the Sacred Cow, which had been ferried from Washington to Sevastopol, and flew off to meet Roosevelt nearly 1,400 miles away at Malta, while Kathleen was left behind to complete preparations at the palace.
Churchill was already there when he arrived, as were the American and British military chiefs, who had been in a day-long debate over General Eisenhower’s strategy for crossing the Rhine. Hopkins had also joined the party, arriving from Paris, where he had gone to see de Gaulle. Worn out from his trip, he dragged himself off to bed early, leaving Harriman and Churchill to play bezique for several hours and to hash over what they expected from Stalin.
The following morning, Roosevelt arrived aboard the cruiser USS Quincy after ten days at sea. It had been the kind of interlude that ordinarily rejuvenated him physically and spiritually, but this one obviously had not. Harriman was shaken by his “worn, wasted” appearance, alarmingly deteriorated since November. But haggard as he was, Roosevelt was alert and clearly excited about meeting Stalin with the end of the war in sight. He had only one short night to rest before jumping off on the last leg of his journey.
The flight across the Mediterranean, over Greece, the Macedonian peninsula, and the Black Sea to the Crimea was the most hazardous part of the journey because there were still Nazi-controlled airfields along the route. To take advantage of darkness, they took off at three o’clock in the morning, under escort by half a dozen heavily armed P-38s. Churchill followed ten minutes later. Aside from the fighters, they entrusted their security to the darkness, radio silence, and a course carefully charted to take them around the enemy-held island of Crete.
The precautions were now especially serious, for American intelligence had learned that the Germans had discovered the location of the conference. And just the day before, an American plane taking equipment to Yalta had carelessly flown so close to Crete that German antiaircraft guns had attacked and damaged it before it got out of range.
Seven hours after leaving Malta, they arrived at Saki Airfield at Sevastopol. In a huge tent, the Russians had laid out the inevitable refreshments- tables laden with cold cuts, eggs, curd cakes, wine, champagne, and Crimean brandy. Roosevelt skipped all of it, staying just long enough to join Churchill in inspecting the honor guard before leaving on the ninety-mile drive to Yalta.
By the time the party reached the palace, Hopkins was so spent that Admiral Ross Mcintire, the President’s physician, seriously considered putting him aboard the Catoctin so he could have intense medical care. Hopkins would have none of that, but he stayed in his room throughout the conference, convening a few bedside meetings and, with obvious effort, taking the few steps down the hall for each day’s plenary meeting. Harriman stepped into his friend’s customary role. He was, therefore, at Roosevelt’s side through much of the day; and on several evenings, he and Kathleen shared a quiet dinner in the President’s suite with Roosevelt and his daughter Anna.
The President immediately went to work where he had left off at Teheran, trying to promote a civil relationship with the Russians after the war, but Stalin was as obstreperous as ever. To Averell’s consternation, the President made little effort at coordination with Churchill, allowing five days to pass without a private talk with the Prime Minister. Although Yalta would be ridiculed as a capitulation by an exhausted President, its political agenda had been thoroughly explored at Teheran and in the intervening fourteen months had dominated Harriman’s contacts with the Kremlin. Particularly in the case of the Far East, Yalta confirmed what had already been worked out through Harriman during the fall.
The Pacific had been one of his urgent priorities from the day he arrived in Moscow. He had dogged the Russians for permission to use Soviet airfields in the bombing of Japan’s home islands, and since the Teheran conference, he had pressed Stalin to name his conditions for a Soviet declaration of war in the Pacific.
As far back as the Moscow foreign ministers’ meeting in October 1943, Stalin had voluntarily assured Hull that the Soviets would help defeat Japan after Hitler was finished. Although he had extended his personal assurances to the President at Teheran, he had been reluctant to lay out his conditions.
While Churchill was in Moscow in October 1944, Stalin had told Averell that the Red Army could mount an offensive against Japanese forces in Manchuria three months after the capitulation of Germany. He had thirty divisions in the Far East, and he would move about thirty more from Europe after Hitler’s surrender. In preparation, he wanted the United States to stockpile supplies for two or three months’ fighting. He did not think the war would go on much longer.
But aside from the American arms and ammunition, he continued, “political considerations” had to be taken into account. The Russian people had to know what they were fighting for. They fought against the Germans because they had been invaded. They would have to understand why they were fighting against the Japanese. 39
Two days later, Stalin handed Harriman the long list of supplies he wanted and promised to let him know in two weeks when the United States could begin delivering the four-engine bombers it was providing the Red Air Force.
Clearly, the Soviet dictator now wanted to play a larger part than the Americans had in mind. In Washington, strategists envisioned the Soviet role as one of securing the railroads and taking control of Manchuria. But Stalin’s plan sketched for Averell was to drive south across the Mongolian desert into China, all the way south to Peking.
With that, Harriman had flown home to give Roosevelt a full account of Churchill’s Moscow visit and his own talks with the Premier. The President was pleased with Stalin’s new forthrightness and not particularly disturbed that references to “political considerations” indicated that territorial demands were coming. But Stalin’s comments about driving all the way to Peking caused him to wonder aloud, “If the Russians go in, will they ever go out?”40
With the second Big Three summit delayed by quibbling over the site, the Soviets’ political demands in the Far East were finally spelled out to Harriman when he met Stalin at the Kremlin on December 14.
In brief, Stalin wanted the Kuril Islands, an archipelago stretching from the northern tip of Japan to the Kamchatka Peninsula, plus the southern half of Sakhalin Island, which the Japanese had got in the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth. With control of the Kurils and all of Sakhalin, the Soviet Navy would have unimpeded access to the Pacific. He also wanted leases on the Manchurian ports of Dairen and Port Arthur, as well as on the Chinese Eastern and South Manchuria railroads. The rails would link Dairen and Port Arthur with the port at Vladivostok.
Harriman was skeptical of Stalin’s assurance that the Soviets would do nothing to interfere with China’s sovereignty in Manchuria, but Washington indicated neither disapproval nor acceptance of Stalin’s claims, and there the matter still stood when the leaders gathered at Yalta.
It seemed as urgent as ever to bring the Soviets into the Pacific war. During their stopover at Malta, the combined military chiefs had reconfirmed their judgment that it would take eighteen months after Germany’s surrender to defeat Japan. Estimates suggested that as many as 200,000 American casualties could be prevented by prompt Soviet entry into the conflict.
At Livadiya Palace, Harriman sat with Roosevelt and Stalin as the Marshal went over his demands again. Despite their profound implications, President accepted them almost casually, and Harriman raised
no question.The agreement had to be protected with extraordinary secrecy because it would take time to move the Soviet divisions across Siberia and into position for the offensive. If it was revealed to the Chinese, both Stalin and Roosevelt feared, the Japanese would promptly learn about it and might even attempt a preemptive attack on the port of Vladivostok to prevent the buildup of stockpiles.
Even Roosevelt’s secretary of state was kept in the dark. When Stettinius inquired whether his department should not be involved in the Far East discussions, the President politely told him that it was a military matter. Asia was never mentioned in the plenary meetings, nor in the sessions of the foreign ministers .When the conference ended, the only American copy of the agreement was taken back to the White House and locked in a safe by Admiral Leahy. Not even Chiang Kai-shek learned of the concessions until after the President’s death.
While he raised no objection to Stalin’s demand for the islands, Roosevelt balked at the proposed lease arrangement for the ports and the rail lines. He preferred to see Dairen operated as a free port controlled by an international commission instead of being leased to the USSR. The Manchurian railroad, he insisted, should be jointly operated by a Soviet Chinese commission. After one meeting on the subject, drafting was turned over to Harriman and Molotov. As Harriman shuttled the various versions back to Livadiya, the President insisted upon keeping his amendments on both the railroads and the port at Dairen. Besides finally accepting the American position, the Soviets also bowed to Roosevelt’s insistence that the ten-paragraph agreement require the approval of Chiang. The President reciprocated by dropping his demand that Port Arthur be put under international control, accepting Stalin’s contention that a lease was necessary, since the port would become a Soviet naval base.
Years later, the secret accord would become an exhibit for Yalta critics contending that the President had been fleeced by the Soviet dictator. Bohlen, who interpreted all of the conversations between the President and Stalin, thought that where the Far East was concerned, the United States had indeed been caught napping .41
Being the American most involved, Harriman shared the blame, but he did not readily accept it. In his memoire, Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin, published in 1975, he insisted that he himself had been unhappy with parts of the agreement. He did not, he said, like the railroad and ports section, which stated that the Soviet Union’s “pre-eminent interests” would be protected at the international port of Dairen. Nor did he like the pledge that the Soviet claims would be “unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.” He had told the President as much, but the President “was not disposed to fuss over words.”42 Harriman said he had hoped that the military chiefs would complain and give him an excuse to go back to Roosevelt, but they raised no objection.
In demanding the Kurils and southern Sakhalin, Stalin insisted that he merely wanted a return to the situation that existed before the Russo Japanese War forty years earlier. The well-known truth was that Japan had gotten only the portion of the island below fifty degrees north latitude at the end of the conflict. The Kurils had been acquired from Russia by treaty in 1875. If Roosevelt had forgotten that, the State Department had not, and neither had Harriman. A memorandum describing the issue in detail was prepared before the President left Washington, but apparently he never saw it. When Harriman mentioned the history of the island chain, Roosevelt casually dismissed it. The Kurils seemed to him “a minor matter.“
The agreement was not accompanied by a map or list of the islands. Consequently, decades later, Russo-Japanese relations remained soured by Japan’s insistence that four of the islands ceded to Stalin at Yalta were, in fact, a part of the Japanese homeland, not the Kuril chain.
Harriman saw Franklin Roosevelt for the last time on the day after the conference ended.
Following a jovial luncheon to celebrate the signing ceremony at Livadiya, the President drove eighty miles down the coast to board the Catoctin, still anchored off Sevastopol. At the suggestion of his naval aide, Vice-Admiral Wilson Brown, Roosevelt agreed to spend the night aboard the ship as a gesture of thanks to the crew that had supported America’s Yalta contingent around the clock.
Having watched the President at close range for nine days, Harriman had become truly alarmed over his physical condition. Now, following the strenuous conference, Roosevelt faced a trip home that would be as taxing as his journey to Yalta . From the Crimea, he would fly to Egypt, where he would re-board the Quincy. Before sailing, he was to meet with King Farouk, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, lbn Saud of Saudi Arabia, and Churchill.
Under the circumstances, Harriman thought the President should rest another night at Yalta. He was furious at Brown’s insensitivity in suggesting that he go through the rigor of boarding ship and spending the night in cramped quarters. Nevertheless, the party went aboard in the late afternoon and passed what Harriman called a “ghastly night” in stifling heat.
They departed at daybreak, and back at Saki Airfield, Harriman said good-bye. After Roosevelt had been lifted into his plane in a marrow chilling rain, the giant C-54 lumbered down the runway and climbed slowly into the sky over the Black Sea.”
“…agree that any action of the Big Three powers should be submitted to the judgment of the little ones. Churchill challenged this remark. There was no question of the small powers dictating to the great ones. he said, but greatness carried with it a moral responsibility to exercise power with moderation and respect for the rights of weaker nations. “The eagle,” Churchill said, “should permit the small birds to sing an’ care not where for they sang.”
When the Prime Minister offered a toast to the proletarian masses of the world, possibly by way of placating Stalin, the talk turned to the rights of people to govern themselves and get rid of leaders who no longer enjoyed their support. Churchill made the point that although he was constantly being “beaten up” as a reactionary, he happened to be the only leader present who could be thrown out of office at any time by his people, adding that he personally gloried in that danger. Stalin remarked that Churchill seemed to be afraid of election. Not at all, the Prime Minister replied. Far from fearing them, he was proud of the right enjoyed by the British people to change governments whenever they saw fit.
A great cloud of myth and misinformation has obscured the true shape of the Yalta decisions for three decades. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, certain right-wing critics have traced back to Yalta many of America’s postwar difficulties with the Soviet Union, the origins of the Cold War itself, and even the victory of Mao Tse-tung’s Communist armies in China. Harriman, who was at Roosevelt’s side during most: the crucial Yalta negotiations, stands by his 1951 testimony:
The discussions at Yalta and the understandings reached there were an integral part of our negotiations with the Soviet Union throughout the war to bring the desperate struggle to a victorious and early conclusion and to find a way in which the United States, Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. could live together in peace. The postwar problems have resulted not from the understandings reached at Yalta but from the fact that Stalin failed to carry out those understandings and from aggressive actions by the Kremlin.
The Yalta discussions covered a wide range of topics: final plans for concerting the defeat and occupation of Germany, and the terms and circumstances for Soviet participation in the war against Japan. These essentially military decisions are best understood in light of the actual battlefield situation that first week of February 1945. Although General MacArthur had just entered Manila, the bloody battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were yet to be fought. It would be more than five months before the first experimental explosion of the atomic bomb at Alamagordo, New Mexico. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had not taken the
bomb into account in their calculations of the military pressures needed to break Japan’s resistance. (Harriman recalls that even five months later, at Potsdam, Admiral Leahy was offering bets that the bomb would not work.) The Chiefs of Staff, just before Yalta, had estimated that it would take eighteen months after the German surrender to defeat Japan. Far from visualizing Japan’s quick collapse, they were planning to invade the home islands in the winter of 1945-46. And in the event that the European war was prolonged, necessarily postponing the redeployment of troops to the Pacific, they contemplated postponing that invasion until “well into 1946.”8
Anxious to reduce American casualties from what General Marshall conceived as a bitter-end campaign to invade and occupy the industrial heart of Japan through the Tokyo Plain, the Joint Chiefs looked to the Russians for help. In a memorandum to the President, dated January 2 3, 1945, they declared:
Russia’s entry at as early a date as possible consistent with her ability to engage in offensive operations is necessary to provide maximum assistance to our Pacific operations. The United States will provide maximum support possible without interfering with our main effort against Japan. The objectives of Russia ‘s military eff ort against Japan in the Far East should be the defeat of the Japanese forces in Manchuria, air operations against Japan proper in collaboration with United States Air Forces based in eastern Siberia, and maximum interference with Japanese sea traffic between Japan and the mainland of Asia.9
Stalin, understandably, had his own set of objectives in the Far East. He had outlined his terms to Harriman in December, claiming the return to Russia of the lower half of Sakhalin Island and the Kuriles. He wanted leases on the ports of Dairen and Port Arthur as well as the railroads in Manchuria built and operated by the Russians in Czarist times under contract with the Chinese. He also had asked for recognition of the status quo in Outer Mongolia, promising that the Soviet Union would not interfere with China’s sovereignty over Manchuria. On February 8, at Yalta, Stalin took up his demands with Roosevelt. Secretary of State Stettinius had no part in these discussions. The President asked Harriman alone to join him, Bohlen sitting in as the interpreter. Stalin, who brought Molotov and his own interpreter, V. N. Pavlov, to the meeting, said he would like to discuss the political conditions under which the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan, as he had explained them to Harriman earlier. Roosevelt saw no difficulty about the return of South Sakhalin or the transfer of the Kurile Islands. As for Dairen, he had suggested at
Teheran that the Soviet Union ought to have access to a warm-water port at the end of the South Manchurian Railroad. But he could not speak for Chiang Kai-shek. Perhaps, rather than ask the Chinese for an outright lease, Dairen could become a free port under an international commission. That was the method he preferred, Roosevelt said, not only in Dairen but also in Hong Kong. As for the Manchurian railroads, instead of leasing them he would like to see them operated jointly by the Russians and the Chinese.
Stalin pressed harder. Unless his conditions were met, he said, it would be difficult for the Soviet peoples to understand why Russia was going to war with Japan. They clearly understood the war against Germany, which had threatened the very existence of the Soviet Union, but they would not understand why Russia should attack the Japanese. If his political conditions were met, however, the matter could be more easily explained to the people – and the Supreme Soviet – in terms of “the national interest involved.”10
Roosevelt stressed that he had not had an opportunity to discuss the matter with Chiang. It was difficult to speak frankly with the Chinese, he said, because anything said to them in confidence was known round the world, Tokyo included, in twenty-four hours.
There was no rush about talking to the Chinese, Stalin said, but he did want his proposals put in writing and agreed to by Roosevelt and Churchill before the conference ended. Turning then to internal conditions in China, Stalin said he could not understand why the united front against the Japanese invaders had broken down. The time had come, he said, for Chiang to take the leadership, uniting his Kuomintang forces with Mao’s Communists in a common front against Japan.
On February 10, at Molotov’s request, Harriman called at the Villa Koreis to receive and discuss the first draft in English of Stalin’ political conditions for entering the war against Japan. He explained to the Soviet Foreign Minister that Roosevelt would have to ask for three amendments. Stalin had agreed two days earlier, Harriman pointed out, that Port Arthur and Dairen should be free ports and that the Manchurian railroads should be operated by a joint Russian-Chinese commission. He also felt certain that the President would not wish to settle these matters without Chiang’s concurrence. All three changes would have to be incorporated in the Russian draft.
Returning to Livadia, Harriman showed the President Molotov’ draft together with the amendments he was suggesting. Roosevelt promptly approved the changes and Harriman resubmitted them to Molotov. The matter was settled after the formal conference session later that day. Stalin told Roosevelt that he agreed it would be more appropriate for the Manchurian railroads to be operated by a joint commission. He accepted the requirement for Chiang’s concurrence
adding that he wanted Chinese concurrence also on the status quo in Outer Mongolia. He was entirely willing to have Dairen a free port under international control, Stalin added, but Port Arthur was going to be used as a Soviet naval base, and for this a lease arrangement would be required. Roosevelt accepted this change, taking upon himself the responsibility for consulting Chiang Kai-shek as soon as Stalin notified him that the time was ripe.
Harriman was unhappy with the final Soviet text, submitted for signing by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin on February 11. Without prior discussion, the Russians had written into the sections concerning Manchurian ports and railroads a provision that “the pre-eminent interests of the Soviet Union shall be safeguarded.” Harriman disliked the term “pre-eminent interests” and said as much to Roosevelt. But the President was not disposed to fuss over words. They meant nothing more, he said, than that the Russians had a larger interest in the area than the British or the Americans. This seemed to him true, and he was not disposed to argue over two words. Harriman also questioned a paragraph stipulating that the territorial claims of the Soviet Union in the Far East “shall be unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.” It was just language, Roosevelt replied. Here again he was not going to quarrel with Stalin.
Roosevelt felt other matters were more important, the establishment of the United Nations, for example. “He was trying like the dickens,” Harriman recalled, “to get Stalin to be more cooperative in other areas that he cared about, the United Nations and Poland. He didn’t want to use up whatever trading positions he had and he may have been trying to save his strength. Perhaps it was a combination of the two. Roosevelt never was much of a stickler for language. Even at Teheran, when his health was better, he didn’t haggle with Stalin over language. It was my impression that as long as he could put his own interpretation on the language, he didn’t much care what interpretations other people put on it.”
Nor did the Joint Chiefs of Staff raise the slightest objection when Harriman showed each of them the draft agreement. He hoped that they would question one detail or another so that be could take it back to Roosevelt and persuade him to get the language changed. But Marshall, King and Leahy all approved the draft. Even Admiral Leahy, who later wrote that he believed Japan could be defeated without Russian participation, remarked to Harriman, “This makes the trip worth while.” In his memoirs Leahy wrote: “No one was more surprised than I to see these conditions agreed to at Yalta labeled as some horrendous concessions made by Roosevelt to an enemy.”11
The admiral carried the signed agreement back to Washington and locked it in the President’s personal safe. It was not mentioned in
the protocol of the Yalta Conference. When Stettinius in a private conversation at Yalta asked the President whether there was some aspect of the Far East negotiations that the State Department ought to know about, the reply was that Harriman alone had handled the matter, which was primarily military in any case, and that it had best remain that way.12
Roosevelt, it would seem, had not a great deal more confidence in the State Department than in the Chiang Kai-shek entourage at Chungking, when it came to keeping secrets. The most important reason for secrecy, of course, was the plain fact that Russia remained at peace with Japan and ostensibly neutral. Stalin had promised Roosevelt he would shift some twenty-five divisions to the Far East as soon as they could be spared from the European front, and he had reason to fear a pre-emptive attack by the Japanese against this thinly defended area if word of his intention to declare war leaked out before those divisions were in place.
The crucial agreement, so far as the Joint Chiefs were concerned, was Stalin’s commitment to join the war against Japan within two or three months after the German surrender. The Soviet Union also undertook to conclude an alliance with Chiang Kai-shek, to assist the Chinese in driving out the Japanese invaders and to respect China’s “full sovereignty” in Manchuria. Stalin contended that he was asking, in return, little more than the restoration of rights and territories wrested from Imperial Russia by the Japanese in 1904. This was not strictly true of the Kurile Islands, which in fact had been peaceably transferred to Japan in 1875 by the terms of a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Russia. But Roosevelt dismissed Harriman’s reservations on this point before signing the agreement. The Kuriles seemed to him a minor matter, measured against the larger benefits of a Russian helping hand against Japan.
Harriman, in spite of his reservations, felt the Far Eastern agreement was undermined less by Stalin’s duplicity than by Chiang’s weakness. “The agreement in no way weakened him,” Harriman said. “Stalin recognized Chiang as the head of the government of China. The formal agreement negotiated with Stalin by Foreign Minister T.V. Soong in July of 1945 promised to respect continuing Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria. If Chiang had been strong enough at home to hold up his end, the outcome might well have been different. In my judgment it was Chiang’s inherent weakness that gave the Chinese Communists their opportunity.“
For Churchill the problems of winning the war in the Far East were “remote and secondary.”13 Although he signed the agreement, he had taken no part in the negotiations. His chief concern was to prevent the domination of Europe by the Soviet Union. He fought Stalin hard (Roosevelt as well, at times) to ensure a respectable postwar role for France, to block the dismemberment of Germany and to guarantee the right to govern themselves.”