Arthur Gottlieb


In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea.

Prior to the invasion the entire concept of warfare had changed.  Limited warfare rather than seeking all out victory was the new model.  This meant more of a holding situation or moderating events rather than crushing an enemy.

WWII had thrown strange bedfellows together.  Russia and China were on the same side as the U.S. and Great Britain.  But elements of the cold war had already started prior to the end of the war that stressed these alliances. That situation did not keep the U.S. from mothballing most of its military might as soon as possible when the war ended.  

Notwithstanding the war’s end the big three continued to meet, but now Stalin was facing Truman and thought that Truman was weak and could be dominated in the face of Stalin’s policy of seizing or dominating as much post-war territory as possible.  To aid in the land grab the Soviet Union declared war on Japan four days before Japan surrendered.  This was followed by Soviet troops marching south and occupying a lot of Asia including North Korea. The first test of Truman’s resolve  came with the Berlin blockade and Truman’s airlift countermove.

But the Pacific War was regarded as wholly American so Japan was not subdivided in the same manner as Germany and much of Europe. Nevertheless, post-war conferences divided up areas of influence in Asia with North Korea to be administered by the Soviets and South Korea by the Americans.  The Koreans were to hold their own elections under these administrative umbrellas.  The Asian territories were further complicated by the British decision to leave their traditional holdings in countries like Greece and Turkey.  Truman decided to fill these vacuums before the Soviets could move in to further expand its territory.

During this time NATO was formed, which Stalin considered a threat to the Soviet Empire.  Its further expansion stymied in Europe, the Soviets turned to Asia.  China had turned communist as had North Korea with each adopting a harder line of Communism than the Soviets, but still regarding the Soviet Union as a natural ally.  America then announced an Asian defense line, which did not include Korea in the protected area.  

North Korea immediately invaded South Korea.  Truman decided to defend South Korea and obtained U.N. backing when the Soviets walked out of the U.N. in protest over Communist China not being recognized as a sovereign country.  General MacArthur was given command of the U.S. troops.  He didn’t buy into the new concept of limited warfare and wanted to obtain victory over the North Koreans.  He managed to push the North Koreans back over the 38th parallel ignoring the Chinese threat to come into the conflict if any non-Korean passed that marker.  The Chinese swept down reinforcing the North Koreans and pushing the Americans and South Koreans back.  MacArthur wanted to  expand the war by having the Nationalist Chinese on Formosa invade China and use nuclear weapons against the Chinese.  This was in direct conflict with Truman’s wishes and he ended up firing MacArthur.  Finally an armistice is signed.


Q.  Did you know that MacArthur lived in Rowayton after being relieved?

A.  No I didn’t know that.

Q.  Wasn’t the South Korean dictator at the time of the war hated?

A.  Yes.  We backed a lot of unsavory characters who were supposed to help stop communism.

Q.  What will happen in Korea?

A.  I don’t know, but we seem to follow a pattern where they do something wrong.  We ask them not to and give them something to make them agree and then they do something wrong again.  

Q.  Why weren’t the recent missile tests by North Korea shot down?

A.  They didn’t have war heads and we knew they weren’t aimed at anything.

Q.  Should South Korea develop an atomic bomb?

A.  No!