Truce And Stalemate of the Unforgettable War
70 years ago, about this time in 1951, the Korean War entered a new era.
The Supreme Commander of Far East General Douglas MacArthur returned to Washington, DC, on April 19th, and between May2 and June 27, he defended himself against President Truman's dismissal and stripping of his title before the US Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee. It was an occasion for the senators to exam whether Truman's bold action of firing the Supreme Commander (on April 11, 1951) was justified, and also, they wanted to hear the war situation and the U.S. troops activities from the General himself.
MacArthur spoke about 60 hours during those two-months, explaining why he had ordered the UN troops to advance farther beyond the 38th Parallel after successful Inchon Landing, an amphibian landing on an enemy occupied port city, which eventually caused the Chinese Volunteer Corps to invite themselves to help North Koreans and ambush the UN troops, which is known as Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
This hearing took place after MacArthur's "Farewell Address" on April 19th before the Congress which he concluded with "Old Soldiers Never Die. They simply fade away."
At the end of the two-months-long Hearing, to the general's disappointment, the congress accepted Truman's dismissal of him from Supreme Commander of Far East as a just decision, considering that MacArthur could have expanded the Korean War into an atomic war against China, igniting the flame of Third World War.
Within weeks of the Senate Hearing, the Chinese leaders initiated a Peace Talk, having lost so many of its troops with no gain, and on July 8st, 1951, the representatives of both China and the UN met at Panmunjom, a town on the 38th Parallel, for the first time.
This did not please then South Korea's president Syngman Rhee, a Princeton graduate the CIA had recommended to MacArthur shortly after Korea was divided in August 1945. (This was shortly after Russians moved into northern park of the 38th Parallel, violating the Yalta Conference Agreement in February 1945; that Korea would be under a four-power trusteeship, consisting of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China.)
Rhee, 76, first sent school kids to the town squares or main streets to protest against the Peace Talk, but as Talk continued he ordered the labor Union, religious groups, teachers union, neighborhood association to demonstrate against the Peace Talk.
Our parents openly criticized Rhee's defiance against the truce. They questioned: why does he not want the war to end? Why does he send thousands of people to demonstrate day after day, stopping everything they were doing? They also talked about Rhee's selfish fantasy; that once the war ended and the communists were expelled out of the Peninsula by the power of MaArthur, he'd be ruling the reunited Korea, the reason he had called the general in Daichi Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, on June 25, 1950, after he heard the news of North Korea's invasion of the South.
According to book "MacArthur's War" by Stanley Weintraup, Rhee demanded to know what MacArthur would do now that the Communists actually invaded South Korea, which Rheel had warned the General several times but paid no attention. But that morning, the General promised Rhee he would immediately send fighter planes, airlift howitzers, and bazookas to halt the Communist tanks, though he had no such authority. Believing the General's words, Rhee issued his presidential order through the radio to the citizens not to panic, not to hastily leave their homes, but stay put because the help was on the way. But no such help came.
On June 28, the third day of North Koreans Surprise Attack, the citizens of Seoul were shocked at the news that the Communists troops had entered Seoul but their president had fled in an unmarked vehicle, ordering the South Korean military demolition squad to destroy the Han Bridge (4,491 ft long) as soon as he crossed it. When this happened, at least 1,ooo refugees running for their lives and military trucks transporting injured soldiers to the safety landed on the fast moving current and and perished. Rhee was never impeached for this grave crime against his people; instead, a Korean army chief engineer was blamed for "prematurely destroying the Bridge" and loss of lives and was executed.
About this time in 1951, our parents often used the proverb, "Upper Streams must be clear to expect the same in lower streams" and said that our president was not a good example for the future leaders.
The following year, in December, 1952, the U.S. president-elect General Eisenhower visited South Korea, whose campaign slogan had been "I shall go to Korea (to end the war.)" The fact that we school-children in Busan saw the fleeting image of Eisenhower next to Rhee in a black limousine, while we stood on the streets to greet them, isn't important. What's important is that President Eisenhower fulfilled his promise to the world, by ending the war, despite Rhee's efforts to wreck the Truce. On July 27, 1953, a "Cease-Fire agreement between the Chinese delegates and U.N. representatives on July 27, 1953, was signed, without a Peace Treaty. The Rhee Administration received an undisclosed amount of U.S. dollars from USA. Seven years later, in April 1960, Rhee was kicked out of his presidential seat after millions of students nationwide protested against his corrupt government, particularly after he won the presidential seat for the fourth term by rigged votes. Tragically, more than 200 students were killed by the bullets fired by the policemen who followed Rhee's order to shoot the demonstrators. Rhee narrowly escaped death by the generosity of President Eisenhower who ordered CIA to help Rhee to exile in Hawaii. Rhee died of stroke five years later.