There were two dangers in the approach of MacArthur’s troops to the Manchurian frontiers. One was military, the other political. The military danger was the possibility of a clash on the frontier between troops of the great powers. The political danger—for some people—was that no such clash would occur. The liquidation of the Korean War, which had been unsettling the Far East, would end military operations and clear the way for political decisions. In an atmosphere of peace, it would be difficult to keep Communist China out of the United Nations and prevent its recovery of Formosa. And MacArthur after Wake Island held “unalterably” to the view that Formosa must not be allowed to “fall into the hands of a potential enemy.”
Here Chiang Kai-shek and MacArthur had a common outlook, while Rhee for the first time threatened to diverge from them. The intervention of Communist China in Korea could be utilized in the United States to raise Chiang from an inconvenient dependent to a full ally, while the need to hold Formosa as an American base would be made undeniable by the logic of war. For Rhee, on the contrary, intervention would mean the loss of Korea again. And when the Chinese—as we shall see—did intervene, “some South Korean officials were suggesting,” the New York Times noted cryptically on November 5 in its weekly news summary, “a deal with Peiping —withdrawal of Chinese troops in return for a guarantee of continued power” from the Yalu dams.
Only those with some knowledge of American advertising and publicity methods can fully appreciate the Korean War. It was a war fought with one eye on the headlines. Tokyo Headquarters had something to “sell.” What it was trying to “sell” was the idea that the Korean War was not and could not be “localized.” In accord with this strategy, every bit of evidence which might show, or be made to show, Chinese or Russian intervention was highlighted and exaggerated except during one short period. In that period, the three weeks after the Wake Island meeting, when Chinese military intervention actually began, every effort was made by Tokyo Headquarters to discount and disparage reports of this intervention, as if to avoid new directives from Washington to prevent a large-scale clash.
The sequence of events is most revealing. On October 20 MacArthur’s troops captured the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. MacArthur, personally directing a sensational paratroop jump to cut off the escape route of its fleeing defenders, declared the Korean War was “definitely” coming to an end. At the same time, on the other side of the peninsula, the First Marine Division had moved into the port of Wonsan and MacArthur had “ordered the South Korean divisions under his command to push for the Manchurian border as fast as they could go.”
It did indeed look as if the Korean War was over. On October 21 Hanson Baldwin reported from Wonsan: “There are increasing evidences that the Russians have cut their losses in Korea and are pulling out altogether. The flow of traffic down the east coast highway from Vladivostok apparently has been halted altogether and the Russian advisers and technicians, who were present in fairly large numbers here at Wonsan and elsewhere, apparently have fled over the border after attempts to destroy or conceal the supplies and material they could not evacuate.”
The Chinese Reds also appeared to be ready to accept the North Korean defeat in Korea and to concentrate on their main interest, Formosa. On October 24 a Peking radio broadcast said Chinese Premier Chou En-lai had asked Trygve Lie to make arrangements for a Peking delegation to attend Security Council talks on Formosa. “This,” the United Press reported from Tokyo, “was a complete about-face for General Chou.” A week earlier the Peking radio said the Premier had rejected an invitation to take part in that discussion. It looked as if peace might be about to break out.
That there were increased concentrations of Chinese troops in Manchuria near the Korean frontier was well known. Movements toward that frontier had been reported, as we have seen, from Hong Kong and elsewhere. Hanson Baldwin’s dispatch from Wonsan on the 21st, from which we have just quoted, said there were believed to be 250,000 Chinese Communist troops massed near the frontier, with another 200,000 elsewhere in Manchuria, and that while the number of planes at their disposal was unknown it might, including Russian planes at Port Arthur and Dairen, amount to more than 3000.
“The increased concentration of some of these planes and troops near Korea,” Baldwin cabled, “although it is being carefully watched, is not viewed too seriously.… With South Korean troops moving steadily northward up the east coast and with Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in United Nations hands, it is considered natural for the Chinese Communists to strengthen the frontier.”
“However,” Baldwin added, “it is possible that the Communists’ concept of defense might include an advance south of the Korean frontier for a limited distance to set up a buffer zone between Manchuria and Korea.… The Chinese Communists and perhaps the Russians too may be sensitive about the Yalu River power complex, which supplies not only North Korea but parts of Manchuria, including Port Arthur and Dairen, with power. The grids and distribution system are believed to be on the North Korean side of the frontier.”
The 38th Parallel had been crossed on the 7th of October by non-Korean forces without provoking Chinese intervention. It appeared that Peking had abandoned North Korea and decided to reverse itself and take part in United Nations discussions on Formosa but had massed troops to protect its frontier. Its vital interests in the power facilities of the Yalu border were well understood, and the American government seemed to be doing all in its power, too, to avoid a clash. On October 24 a spokesman for the United States First Corps in Korea announced that “foreign troops,” that is, non-South-Korean troops in the peninsula, “would halt forty miles south of the Manchurian border in their pursuit of the shattered North Korean Communist army.”
United States and British troops were then still about sixty miles from the border, while South Koreans were already within thirty miles of it. The “directive,” said a cable from the New York Times correspondent in Tokyo, would not cover the South Koreans but meant that “United States, British, and other non-Korean forces will refrain from invading the strip of ‘buffer territory’ between the international boundary and the lands wrested from Communist control.” The same dispatch also announced the establishment of a new “bomb line” to protect advancing South Koreans. But this did not mean that there would be bombing “directly along the Yalu River where a series of power plants provide electric current both for Manchuria and North Korea, and might be considered vital to the interest of the Chinese Communist government, the Air Force spokesman emphasized.”
Something else had happened in North Korea, which was not made known until later—when its significance was distorted. When the forty-mile buffer zone was announced by the United States First Corps in Korea, troops had already been sent southward across the border by the Chinese Reds to protect the dams. These are the facts: On October 16 “the 370th Regiment of the 124th Division of the Chinese Communist Forty-Second Army, consisting of approximately 2500 troops,” crossed the Yalu River, the frontier between China and Korea, “and proceeded to the area of Chosan (Changjin) and Fusan (Pujon) dams in North Korea.”
On October 20 “a Chinese Communist task force known as the ‘Fifty-sixth’ unit consisting of approximately 5000 troops” crossed the Yalu frontier “and deployed to positions in Korea south of the Suiho dam.” These troop dispositions showed the intention of the Chinese Reds to protect the dams. They also showed the danger of a clash if UN troops, especially American or British troops, were sent into the area.
The buffer zone order was announced by the spokesman for the United States First Corps in Korea on October 24. Two days later President Truman told his press conference in Washington that “it was his understanding that only South Korean troops would occupy the north frontier of Korea in the final drive of the war there.” In reply to questions he announced that this “would apply to the entire northern border.”
That same day, October 26, the South Koreans finally reached the Yalu frontier. And, that same day, the New York Times man cabled from Tokyo: “General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters for the first time formally denied repeated reports that United Nations forces would halt south of the Chinese Communist line and establish ‘buffer territory’ along the Yalu River in an attempt to avoid possible international incidents. A spokesman told correspondents, ‘The mission of the United Nations is to clear Korea.’ This, a spokesman asserted, he had been ‘authorized to state’—presumably by General MacArthur.”
I believe that this was a clear act of insubordination on MacArthur’s part. Perhaps MacArthur gambled on the hope that with the Congressional elections less than two weeks away on November 7 the President would hesitate to make an issue of it. If so, the gamble proved correct. MacArthur got away with it. If MacArthur was also gambling that penetration of the buffer zone by non-Korean troops would be sure to provoke Chinese intervention, he won that gamble, too.
The day after MacArthur Headquarters made clear its intention to defy the President, the news from the battlefield was that “enemy resistance for the first time in several days included large organized bodies of troops, artillery, and mortar fire.” “The most dangerous situation came around Onjong, where the South Koreans had been thrusting in that area toward the Yalu River’s great Supung dam that provides electric power not only for North Korea but for Mukden and Dairen—a matter of considerable importance to both Manchurian and Soviet industry.”
Were these the Chinese Communist troops deployed to protect the dams? A radio message from the Second Regiment of the South Korean Sixth Division on October 26 said it had been surrounded by three Chinese Communist battalions near Onjong, but a spokesman for the United States Eighth Army “ridiculed” these reports in a briefing on October 28.
“The Eighth Army spokesman,” said a cable datelined “With U.S. Forces, Korea” in the New York Times that day, “said investigation showed the report was based on the stories of two prisoners of war ‘each of whom told six different stories, adding up to twelve stories, which added up to nothing.’”
Were these prisoners Koreans or Chinese? The dispatch did not say, but it did go on to report that the Eighth Army spokesman “pointed out that individual Chinese were in the North Korean Army and occasional ones had been taken prisoner as far south as the Pusan front two months ago.” A few weeks earlier MacArthur Headquarters would not have allowed the possibility of “individual” Chinese in the North Korean forces to be dismissed so lightly.
Were there only “individual” Chinese fighting in North Korea at that time? Then the dispatch quietly made an amazing statement: “The Army concedes the possibility that a token force of Chinese Communists, perhaps a regiment, may be somewhere in North Korea but discounts the possibility that any large force from across the Manchurian border is now in action.” Why was the possibility of “a token force … perhaps a regiment” conceded?
This raises two further questions, which we shall consider seriatim. The first is, was this fact “conceded” because Army intelligence already knew of those crossings? The second is, if military intelligence already knew of those crossings, why did it say nothing about them, choosing instead to ridicule reports of Chinese intervention?
The authority for the statement on the border crossings of October 16 and October 20 is General MacArthur himself. The source is the special report he sent the Security Council on November 6, 1950, the text of which was published in the New York Times of November 7, 1950.
The report does not say when this information became known to American military intelligence—much less why it was held back until November 6. But the wording of the paragraph on the first crossing, that of October 16, would seem to indicate that it became known immediately. This is how it reads: “The 370th Regiment of the 124th Division of the Chinese Communist Forty-second Army, consisting of approximately 2500 troops … proceeded to the area of Chosen (Changjin) and Fusan (Pujon) dams in North Korea … [and] came in contact with United Nations forces approximately forty miles north of Hamhung.” It does not say they clashed. It merely says they “came in contact.” If United Nations forces came in contact with Chinese Communist troops in the area of these dams, they must have notified Headquarters at once. Apparently they were not ordered to advance and fight, to repel the invaders or capture the dam area. Why not? Was there a kind of truce at the point in pursuance of earlier directives?
In any case that first crossing was on the 16th. Ten days later MacArthur made it clear that, despite the President’s views and earlier announcement of a “buffer zone,” he intended to send not only South Korean but other troops all the way to the Yalu frontier. Was he still ignorant of the fact that his troops were already “in contact” with Chinese Communist troops who had crossed the Yalu ten days earlier and proceeded to the area of the Changjin and Pujon dams? Was he still ignorant of the fact that four days later another Chinese Communist task force had crossed the Yalu and been “deployed” (the word is his) south of the Suiho dam?
The MacArthur report of November 6 to the Security Council is also significantly silent as to when he learned about the border crossing of the 20th. Beyond what we have already quoted, all it said about this task force was that “a captured Chinese Communist soldier of this task force states that his group was organized out of the regular Chinese Communist Fortieth Army stationed at Antung, Manchuria.” When was he captured? How was he captured? The report does not say there was any clash between this task force and MacArthur’s forces, yet they must have been pretty close to take a prisoner from the Chinese Communists. Was he a scout? Was there an unofficial truce at that point, too?
We do not know. What we do know from the MacArthur report is that there was almost immediate “contact” with the first force and that a soldier had been taken prisoner from the second. We also know MacArthur did not lack aerial reconnaissance in the area; unlike the bombing flights, reconnaissance flights were officially permitted all the way to the border. It is almost impossible to believe that by October 26 MacArthur Headquarters did not know of the second border crossing six days before. That MacArthur’s intelligence knew would explain why the Eighth Army spokesman on October 28 gratuitously “conceded” the possibility of “a token force … perhaps a regiment” of Chinese Communists below the border.
If military intelligence already knew of these crossings, why would it keep silent and allow a military spokesman instead to “ridicule” reports of intervention? The answer may be that if the crossing of the border by Chinese Communist troops to defend the dam areas had been publicized, public opinion would have been alerted to the danger of permitting the buffer zone to be invaded even by South Korean troops—a danger still greater if the troops were American and British.
The day the Eighth Army spokesman ridiculed reports that Chinese Communist troops were in Korea, the day’s war roundup from Tokyo said that United States Marines on the east coast, after landing behind South Korean lines, were preparing to move forward. “Their first destination,” the dispatch said, “was understood to be the Hamhung-Hungnam area, from where they could strike up the coast toward the Soviet border or through the mountains to the headwaters of the Yalu River.” The Marines, in other words, were headed straight for trouble, either on the Soviet or the Chinese border.
At the same time there was evidence of some squirming at MacArthur Headquarters, perhaps under the impact of alarmed protests from Washington on the buffer zone question. The confusion and equivocation were apparent when Parrott cabled the New York Times that day from Tokyo that “Meanwhile, a somewhat complex situation has arisen over President Truman’s declaration that the Yalu frontier would be occupied by South Koreans, not Americans, coupled with statements by responsible officers here that the mission of the United Nations is to clear North Korea, and United States divisions are free to advance wherever the tactical situation demands.”
This reference to “tactical” considerations, as an excuse for strategic decisions with basic political implications, was typical of MacArthur Headquarters whenever the 38th Parallel or any other line on which to halt short of the frontiers was suggested. The possible “tactical” need to repulse an enemy foray became an excuse for large-scale advances in contravention of political decisions.
The kind of rearguard excuses which were passing over the “telecon” from Tokyo Headquarters to the Pentagon may also have been reflected in what Parrott added. “Speculation is,” he cabled, “that the plan was to permit the South Koreans and other United Nations troops to advance to the border by themselves, supported only by United States planes, guns, and armor, if they proved able to do so.” (Italics added.) That sounded as if Tokyo Headquarters was hedging by admitting that the South Koreans were supposed to advance while the American troops held back but insisting that a loophole had been left for aid by American ground forces “if necessary.” Unlike the camel and the needle’s eye, whole American divisions seemed to thread with ease through loopholes of this kind under MacArthur’s expert hand.
“In any case,” Parrott concluded, “it was indicated the border zone would be ‘occupied’ by South Koreans after hostilities end.” Was this Tokyo Headquarters’ concession to the Pentagon? It slyly dodged the one main point, which was not who would occupy the border zone but how to avoid clashes between the troops of the great powers in the closing days of the war.
While the argument went on, the advance of American, British, and Australian forces into the border area continued. MacArthur Headquarters on October 29 “continued to minimize reports from the South Korean Army that 40,000 Chinese Communist troops had crossed the border to join in the defense of the perimeter along the Yalu River, with its important hydroelectric plants serving both North Korea and the Sino-Soviet Mukden-Dairen industrial complex.”
That day, however, MacArthur Headquarters started to change its tune a bit. “A spokesman for the intelligence section of General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters asserted,” the same dispatch went on, “that the United Nations Command’s G-2 was not in a position either to confirm or deny the presence on the front of some Chinese soldiers.” Were the facts in the front lines becoming too obvious?
Headquarters was still anxious to soft-pedal talk of Chinese intervention. “It was the headquarters belief,” the cable continued, “that these will prove to be more Manchurian-bred Koreans, like the men of the two Korean divisions of the Chinese Communist Army, which were transferred to the North Korean Red regime after the Chinese Civil War. The situation, the spokesman said, was ‘not alarming.’”
The reader will note how flexibly these two Korean divisions of the Chinese Communist Army were “deployed” by MacArthur Headquarters. Not many weeks earlier, as we have seen, they were marched out as evidence of Chinese Communist intervention. Now they are used in a quick flanking action against reports of such intervention. This may not be in accord with Clausewitz, but it was smart by Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn standards. It was slick “public relations.”
When front-line dispatches reported that “Chinese and North Korean elements” were trying to block the advance of the Eighth Army’s First Division to the border, Lieutenant General Walton Walker, the Army’s commander, “declined comment but he appeared inclined to doubt that the capture of a few Chinese soldiers in the border area had great significance.”
Never were Army officers so anxious to deny what only a few weeks earlier they had been striving to prove. “Officers of the United States Eighth Army in Korea,” a cable from Tokyo reported, “said that as far as verified information was concerned, the United Nations forces were still in contact only with the North Korean army. A few allegedly Chinese prisoners, who were taken near Unsan last week, the spokesman said, told several conflicting stories regarding their presence in Korea, and there certainly has been ‘no great influx’ of Chinese soldiers across the Yalu River.”
The term Chinese was even put in quotation marks in reports emanating from these briefings, as if to indicate its dubious worth. “The tendency,” the cable went on, “was to regard the ‘Chinese’ captured on the front as Koreans from the border zone where—on both sides of the river—the Korean-Chinese population is strongly intermixed and often bilingual.”
While the Peking radio on October 29 termed the MacArthur advance to the frontiers a threat to Manchuria and called on the Chinese people to support the Korean people against “American imperialism,” Headquarters still insisted on the 30th that “hardening resistance” and the appearance of “Soviet-made armor, in somewhat larger numbers than a week ago” merely indicated that the North Koreans had pulled together their remaining weapons for “a last stand,” not that “any large-scale reinforcements had been received from Communist China.” By that time the contrast between what the front lines knew and what Headquarters admitted must have been so wide that if MacArthur had been a New Dealer instead of a right-wing darling, he would have been suspected of covering up for the Reds.
On October 31, MacArthur Headquarters began at last to concede that Chinese Communists were fighting in Korea. A spokesman for the Tenth Army Corps in Tokyo that day identified as soldiers of the Chinese Red Army a force which had cut the communications of South Korean Capital Division advance guards “pushing in from the east coast toward Pujon reservoir.” He said unofficial reports indicated that the Chinese Communists “were at least in regimental strength and possibly numbered as much as one division.”
This first tentative admission followed “repeated assertions by South Korean Army leaders that their men for several days had been facing elements of the Chinese Fortieth Corps, which supposedly had been concentrated along the Yalu River.”
Correspondents in Tokyo began to notice offstage rumblings which sounded remarkably like preparations to exploit this intervention. From Tokyo that day the New York Times correspondent reported, “Some sources here believed that this stiffening resistance and the reports of a Chinese counteroffensive indicated a breakdown in the plan to permit South Koreans and possibly other non-American United Nations troops to drive to the Manchurian border while United States forces remained outside some ‘buffer area’ south of the Yalu.”
In Washington, the State Department’s press spokesman, Michael McDermott, said with premature clairvoyance that if the reports of Chinese units in Korea should be proved “the matter would be one for the United Nations,” and “probably would result in a report from General Douglas MacArthur to the world organization.” McDermott was a little ahead of schedule.
General MacArthur still seemed reluctant to acknowledge the fact of Chinese intervention. The longer the fighting continued, the harder it would be to order him to disengage his troops and withdraw. A United States or United Nations order to disengage and withdraw would have set the stage for peace negotiations. On the other hand, a gallant military order by MacArthur himself for his troops to withdraw before this new onslaught would set the stage for a demand that China be labeled the aggressor.
On November 1 the battle report from Tokyo based on that day’s military briefing said: “The Communists were fighting with the assistance of Russian-made weapons and Chinese troops to force the United Nations to wage a costly, difficult campaign in the unmapped snow-covered hills.” But the Headquarters spokesman insisted it “always” had been known that North Koreans “throughout the war” had received from Manchuria “men trained in the Chinese Communist forces” and “General MacArthur’s intelligence section frankly [sic] does not know whether or not actual Chinese Army units—as such [sic]—have been committed to the Korean War, the spokesman continued.”
The spokesman insisted that the evidence was still “insufficient to confirm that Chinese Communist forces in Chinese Army organizations under the direction either of Chinese or North Korean general headquarters were taking part in the conflict.” Ten Chinese soldiers had been captured in combat two days before, and some had already been flown back to Seoul for questioning. “An intelligence officer insisted there was no deliberate attempt to withhold information on this touchy political subject but he said he did not know,” the same dispatch reported, “in what language the prisoners were being interrogated.” Why was the presence of Chinese soldiers in Korea suddenly a “touchy” subject at Tokyo Headquarters?
The evaluation of the extent of Chinese intervention, Tokyo Headquarters insisted on November 1, must come from the commander in the field. But while MacArthur Headquarters was being so coy on the subject, a delayed dispatch dated two days earlier but published the same day in New York from the New York Times man at Tenth Corps Headquarters reported “the first official confirmation that a large force of Chinese as such was fighting against the UN forces in Korea.” Confirmation, it said, came from Major General Edward M. Almond’s Headquarters after a day filled with reports of heavy Red Chinese movements into Korea, and concluded, “Cheerful hopes that the war was virtually over were squelched here this evening.” It would be interesting to know why this dispatch was delayed two days in transmission, and whether MacArthur Headquarters on November 1 was still as ignorant as it claimed to be of a fact which Tenth Corps Headquarters had officially confirmed two days earlier.
On November 1, as heavy fighting spread in the border regions, jet-propelled fighter planes made their first appearance in the air on the Communist side, as did a new type of heavy rocket fired from launchers on the ground. There were grave indications of a readiness on the Chinese and Soviet side for a showdown as MacArthur’s forces approached the frontiers.
But on November 2, while a corps spokesman during the daily Tokyo briefing officially admitted that “Chinese troops” were in action, he added, “We don’t know whether they represent the Chinese government.”
Such delicacy was unusual. Perhaps one reason for it was alarm in Washington. There were indications that a halt might be ordered. The only United Nations gains on the ground November 1 were made by the Twenty-Fourth Division. But it halted, and “reports from the front said orders to suspend the advance had come from Headquarters of the United States Eighth Army, a statement that was not confirmed there, however.” On November 2 there were “unconfirmed reports” again in Tokyo “that the United Nations forces would not thrust to the Chinese border, but would leave a ‘buffer’ territory between them and the sensitive international frontier.”
Whatever might have been brewing over the “telecon” between Washington and Tokyo on November 2, an attack on a particularly sensitive spot was launched next day. A Tenth Corps spokesman said United States Marines started a general attack November 3 “toward the Changjin reservoir.” It was the Tenth Corps Headquarters which had first officially confirmed the entrance of Chinese forces into the Korean War. The day before the attack opened “toward the Changjin reservoir,” Major General Edward M. Almond, the Corps commander, denied to correspondents that any limit had been put on the United Nations forces, and said they would “fight their way all the way to the frontier.”
It was this same front-line dispatch dated November 2 which first disclosed the October 16 crossing. The dispatch cited General Almond himself as authority for saying that a regiment had crossed the Yalu at that time, but said his Headquarters “still does not choose to name the unit or either confirm or deny that there are more Chinese in the area.” “Korean officers and United States advisers who are considered to be in a position to know,” the dispatch continued, “say that the Chinese are of the 370th Regiment of the 124th Division of the 42nd Corps of the Chinese Communist Eighth Route Army. The South Koreans feel certain that the whole corps has been assigned to duty in Northern Korea.”
Under the circumstances, the launching of a general attack by American forces on Changjin reservoir on November 3 can only be regarded as a deliberate invitation to a fight with the Chinese Communists. The meagerness of the information squeezed out of Headquarters would seem to indicate that the General did not want the brazenness of his challenge understood by public opinion at home. If the Chinese had sent troops in to guard the reservoirs, that was a good reason for staying away from those areas; control of them was not necessary to complete the victory in Korea.
The effort to hide the dangerous potentialities in the situation reached its climax in the attitude of an Air Force spokesman who was questioned on November 3 about the jet fighters which had suddenly made their appearance. The spokesman insisted there were still air strips left on the Korean side which could handle fighter aircraft “possibly even jets.” Although the existence of neighboring air strips on the Manchurian side was well known, “Headquarters stuck to the thesis that ‘the war exists in Korea’ and an Air Force spokesman declined to discuss the Manchurian air strips.”
Fighting increased in intensity, but MacArthur Headquarters was still reluctant to admit Chinese intervention. Of all the weird statistics emanating from MacArthur Headquarters none was stranger than its estimate of November 4 as to the size of the North Korean forces. Six days earlier, on October 30, “a spokesman for General MacArthur” said in Tokyo that the North Korean Army had suffered 460,000 casualties in dead, wounded, and captured, and had only 37,000 men left, including guerrillas. On November 4, a spokesman at MacArthur Headquarters said the North Koreans “now had at least elements of twelve divisions and five independent brigades in the northern area.” The New York Times correspondent noted that at the peak of North Korea’s war effort it had only thirteen divisions in the field, and added that the enemy “apparently had an almost equal number of organizations again available for action, although some of the present ‘divisions’ probably numbered only a few thousand men.”
MacArthur Headquarters was still speaking only of “North Koreans.” It acknowledged that a major battle was under way in the western area and that the UN position was “uncomfortable” but denied that the situation was “critical.” The official spokesman “insisted that the United States and South Korean forces still were on the strategical offensive with the enemy making tactical counterattacks.”
MacArthur might be “recruiting” his North Koreans rather rapidly—to avoid a direct admission of Chinese intervention—but his friend Chiang on Formosa was not deceived. “Whatever Chinese Communist involvement in Korea may mean to the rest of the world,” said a cable from Formosa on November 4, “to Nationalist China it is held to mean new hope and restored confidence.… Prices disastrously high during the summer because of doubts over Formosa’s status, have swung downward sharply in the last four days. Currency is moving upward against gold.… Many persons feel there is hardly any doubt that Nationalist China now will be admitted as a full partner with the democracies opposing Communism.”
At Lake Success on November 4 it became known that the United States was considering the possibility of “accusing Communist China of participation in the Korean War.” In London the Foreign Office was reported alarmed over the extent of the intervention. On November 5 the Associated Press from Seoul was estimating the number of Chinese troops in Korea at 75,000, and the New York Times from Tokyo was talking of estimates of 50,000.
Behind a kind of smoke screen of denials, evasions, and underestimates from Tokyo, full-scale fighting was under way. On November 5 the American government was “reported tonight to be considering telling Communist China that power plants on the North Korean-Manchurian border would be attacked and destroyed if more Red troops were sent against the United Nations forces in Korea.”
And the next morning, November 6, General Douglas MacArthur finally let loose with his celebrated special communiqué accusing the Communists of committing “one of the most offensive acts of international lawlessness of historic record” by intervening in Korea from their “privileged sanctuary” across the border. The fat was in the fire.