Introduction: Ancient Historical Origins of Korean Culture
Though this introductory section ostensibly has little to do with the contemporary situation in Korea, in fact it is very important for understanding the rich history and unity of the Korean culture. For as we are beginning to realize more and more, the presence of the past is always here. Everything is related to everything. We can only ignore this principle at our own peril, which in turn robs us of the incredibly profound input of a vast sea of indispensable wisdom. It helps explain how deep is the passion for the reunification of a people who share a long, evolved history with one another. There are no regions in the Western world that possess a million-plus year history of human activity as does the Korean Peninsula. And the Korean culture possesses a 5,000 year distinct, unified homogenous history devoid of ethnic minorities. Never was Korea divided until the 38th Parallel was cruelly imposed upon it in 1945 by the United States. Korea has never been an aggressor nation. Instead, it has suffered a long history of being aggressed upon by other outside nations, both Asian and Western.
In contrast, the earliest record of human activity in the Western Hemisphere according to carbon dating is no more than 45,000 years, but most evidence makes a more comfortable estimate of 30,000 years or less. And since there were no Eurocentric or New World societies until after the Conquest of the original Indigenous societies that occurred from the late 1400s through the 1700s, the longest period of organized society we in the West possess is no more than 500 years old. The Republic of the United States of America, and its Europeon antecedent communities, only go back 400 years. There is evidence that some of the Indigenous stock in the Western hemisphere originated in portions of Asia, including the Korean Peninsula.
Chinese and Japanese influences have been strong throughout Korean history but the Koreans descended as a distinct racial and cultural group from Tungusic (Siberian ethnic groups) tribal peoples from central Asia and Manchuria. It is important to understand Korea’s strategic geographic position. A peninsula 600 miles long, north-south, with an average width of 150 miles, it is separated from China by as little as 130 miles on the west by the Yellow Sea (and Korean Bay, a northern section of the Yellow Sea) while sharing a 500 mile northern boundary with China marked by the great Yalu River. It also shares an 11 mile northeast boundary with Russia marked by the Tumen River. It is separated from Japan on the east by the Sea of Japan. On the south it is bounded by the Korean Strait (connecting the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan) which separates Korea and Japan by only 120 miles. The large volcanic Cheju Island, a part of Korea 70 miles south of the mainland, lies between the Korean Strait to its north and the East China Sea to its south. Korea has some 3,000 islands and islets, mostly in the south and west. The total area of the Peninsula is about 85,000 square miles, about equal in size to Great Britain or New York State. This geography helps explain why Japan historically considered the Korean Peninsula as its “natural bridge” to the heart of the Asian continent.
Traces of the earliest ancestors of modern humans have been discovered in tropical eastern sub-Sahara Africa as early as 5 million years ago. By 1.8 millions years ago early hominids (walking bipedal) began spreading out from these original homelands, migrating into temperate regions as distant as East Asia. Homo Erectus grade hominids were present in the Peninsula of Korea, eastern portions of China, southern Asia, and central India more than one million years ago. During the Neolithic (New Stone) Age period beginning about 10,000 B.C.-8,000 B.C., paleo (ancient)-Asiatics scattered throughout Siberia began migrating to the Korean Peninsula through northeast provinces of China and Russian areas around Vladivostock. There is evidence of occupation through hunter-gatherer and burial sites from this period, such as at Tongsamdong (in southeastern Korea near present day Pusan), along with pottery, stone agricultural tools, and cereal cultivation of millet.
Around 4,000 B.C.-3,000 B.C. there is evidence of the first permanent farming settlements, such as at Hunamni (in central Korea not far from present day Seoul). Some scholars identify this period as the beginning of a continuous evolution of a distinct culture, meaning that by 2,000 A.D., Korea has been developing as a distinct people for 5,000-6,000 years. The spread of rice farming reached northern areas of the Peninsula by 1500 B.C., southern areas by 1000 B.C. By 1,000 B.C., during the Bronze Age (ores of copper, tin, and zinc), new immigrants had assimilated Indigenous neolithic peoples in small hamlets on foothills near rivers. Distinct Korean style tools first began appearing in “Wae” (Japan), when Korean weapons (Dagger culture) emerged. Iron Age culture became widespread in southern Korea by the second century B.C. as did glass production. Chariot fittings have been found near Pyongyang and the Taedong River basin (that flows from northeast to southeast through Pyongyang).
Confucianism, a learning and social philosophy rooted in a series of particular relationships among and between family, friends, and rulers, became prominent from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. through much of China, the Korean Peninsula, and southern Japan. After the schism in the Buddhist religion in northeast India in the first century A.D., the Mahayana Buddhism that offered universal salvation (versus the more conservative Theravada Buddhism) arrived in China and Korea where it began to be shared with Confucianism and Daoism.
The majority of historians document Korea’s history to the 12th century B.C. when a Chinese scholar (Kija) founded a colony at Pyongyang. By about the fourth century B.C., the Korean tribal kingdom of Ancient Choson had emerged in the area between the Taedong River in present day western North Korea and the Liao River in Manchuria 250 miles to the northwest. Ancient Choson (“land of the morning calm”) possessed relatively advanced iron technology for tools and weapons. From c.109 B.C. to 6 B.C., Korea (except in the southeast area around present day Pusan) came under the domination of the Chinese Han empire. After 100 B.C. the Chinese colony of Lolang was established near Pyongyang. The Kingdom of Koguryo established the first native Korean state near the Yalu River (separating present day China from northern Korea) in the north in 37 B.C. by the Maek Tribe, even while still in the Han empire. In 313 A.D. Koguryo conquered Lolang. By 427 A.D. the capital city was established at Pyongyang. Koguryo expanded its territory well into eastern Manchuria (present day northeast China) in the north, as far south near the Han River (flows through present day Seoul) in proximity of where the other two major kingdoms emerged, Paekche (c. 250 A.D.) in the in the southwestern portion of the Peninsula, and the more powerful Silla (c. 350 A.D.) in the southeastern portion in and around the Naktong River valley. Many sites have been found of lavishly furnished tombs for the elite in Koguryo society, adorned with exquisite paintings. Among the grave offerings were elaborate gold crowns and other jewelry of gold and wire. A fourth kingdom of Kaya in the far southeast (west of the Naktong River and present day Pusan) exported fine stoneware pottery to Japan. Iron was exported from the lower Naktong River in southeastern Korea to Wae (Japan) and Lolang. Kaya tribes were soon incorporated into Silla. Cultural elements from China, northern nomadic tribes, Lolang, and the Buddhist religion were incorporated during this period of Koguryo dominance. Iron technology in this period became stronger and sharper as it was incorporated into weapons and agricultural tools. Korean literary tradition adopted the Chinese language and its ideograph
(written system representing an idea or object directly rather than a particular word) system.
With Chinese support the Silla dynasty conquered Koguryo and Paekche in 668 A.D., and a feudal society emerged which began the modern unification of the Korean Peninsula along Confucian lines. Korea prospered as each king was surrounded by a warrior aristocracy and a skillful bureaucracy that ruled over a peasantry class which provided the manpower for military, agricultural, and technical industry. The arts flourished and Buddhism became the dominant religion. In 935 the Silla dynasty was overthrown relatively peacefully by the Koryo dynasty at which time literature was cultivated and Confucianism (from China) controlled the pattern of government even though Buddhism remained the state religion. Pottery manufacure flourished. The first Korean histories were published, using movable type, which led to the world’s first casting of metal type in 1403. In 1231 Mongol forces invaded from China and eventually the Koryo kings accepted Mongol rule. In 1392, Yi Songgye, with the aid of the Ming dynasty (which had replaced the Mongols in China), seized power. The Yi dynasty created a new capital at Seoul, established Confucianism as the official religion, and developed a Korean phoenetical alphabet.
Japanese warrior Toyotomi Hideyoshi won control of most of geographically close-by Japan in 1590, and two years later invaded Korea with 160,000 men seeking to conquer China after subduing Korea. His forces were thwarted after the Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin cut their nautical supply lines. Further Japanese incursions into Korea were confronted by counterattacks by combined Ming Chinese and Korean forces, and Hideyoshi was killed in 1597 while attacking Korea. Later, Korea attempted to protect itself from outside threats by closing its borders and thereby became known as the Hermit Kingdom. Japan was becoming ever more powerful, and with secret U.S. help (see below, “Early Western and U.S. Intervention”) was able to effectively conquer and occupy the Korean Peninsula in 1905. The Yi dynasty lasted 519 years from 1392 until its formal annexation by Japan on August 22, 1910.
The Phenomenon of “Haan” Being Released in Korea
In May 2000, while visiting several villages in South Korea about 80 miles southeast of the Yongdong/Nogun Ri area, I listened to dozens of horror stories of emotionally and physically wounded survivors of civilian massacres committed in 1950 by U.S. ground and air forces, as well as by South Korean forces under U.S. command. Then in August 2000, as a representative of the newly formed Korea Truth Commission (KTC), our delegation visited the Kumjung Cave massacre site in Ilsan, Kyonggi Province north of Seoul, and the massacre at twin bridges viaduct near infamous Nogun Ri, 100 miles south of Seoul near Yongdong in North Chungchong Province. I heard even more of similar horror stories about what happened during the summer of 1950. After having kept silent for all these fifty years, their tales were intensely emotional. I came to understand that until two years or so ago, there remained so much fear among the people that they kept their stories inner dark secrets. If they were publicly identified in any way with those who had been shot or bombed, they, too, would be suspected of being “red,” or “pro-north,” i.e., “communist.” Even today, since some of the then Korean police who were working under orders of their U.S. military commanders still live in the same communities as these survivors, there remains fear of reprisals. Until very recently South Korea has maintained a repressive, right-wing police state, conveniently suppressing most dissent by citing their National Security Law. This draconian instrument, instituted by U.S. puppet Syngman Rhee in 1948, in effect prohibited any discussion of the north, especially about reconciliation. It was routinely enforced by quick arrest, intense “interrogation,” long prison terms, and even imposition of a death sentence with little due process.
Koreans have a word, “haan,” that helps explain this phenomenon of delayed emotional “coming out” that is now happening for people throughout South Korea. “Haan” means deep, unresolved, suppressed grief and rage. I can personally relate, because for twelve years after witnessing horrors of the bombing of villages in Vietnam, my own grief and rage remained deeply submerged in my soul. I was not able to talk about my experiences, not because I feared state persecution, but because I didn’t think anyone would understand that the U.S. had deliberately committed war crimes, and further, I feared no one would care. I found myself weeping as the South Koreans told their stories about what happened to them and their families fifty years ago, and how this pain has remained deeply within them.
I searched for the source of this deep, mostly unexpressed rage, and one must understand both the ancient and more recent history of the Korean people. The Koreans have never been an aggressor against other lands, yet they have continually been aggressed against by outside forces. It is ironic then that they are the only Asian nation that was involuntarily divided and remains so to the present day. That this is a deep and historic egregious crime against the Korean people is an extraordinary understatement.
Early Western and U.S. Intervention
Beginning in the nineteenth century, Western powers began to show interest in the Korean Peninsula. Seeking access to Korean markets and raw materials, the British sent warships in 1832 and 1845, the French in 1846, the Russians in 1854, the U.S. and Germans in 1866, and the U.S. again in 1871. All non-Chinese influences were excluded in an attempt to secure protection until 1876, when Japan coerced a commercial treaty with Korea. Korea had been known even prior to the nineteenth century as a country that distrusted foreigners, even from the East, but especially those from the West. For this policy it came to be known as the “Hermit Kingdom.”
Japan had begun to emerge as a restive power in the 1800s. Japan had been forced by the United States to sign a commercial treaty on March, 31, 1854, a year after U.S. Admiral Mathew C. Perry had arrived in 1853 with four warships in Tokyo Bay pursuing U.S. President Millard Fillmore’s orders to penetrate the perceived isolationist Japan. The Japanese emperor acceded to U.S. requests and opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to trade. Perry was awarded $20,000 by Congress for his bold expedition. Sentiment in Japan wisely became concerned that it was dangerously vulnerable to becoming a colony of western powers. The Japanese elite responded with the Meiji Restoration of 1868 which restored power to its emperor formerly held by the Tokugawa military house. The new Meiji government moved quickly to discard the old feudal system and succeeded in transforming Japan into a regionally aggressive industrializing nation.
The history of U.S. nineteenth century military intervention in Korea included the first American Korean War in 1871, a war noted by its belligerance. Five years earlier, in July 1866, a U.S. Merchant Marine ship, the General Sherman, a heavily armed ship with a mixed crew of U.S., British, and Chinese/Malay, including a U.S. Protestant missionary, Robert Thomas, attempted to penetrate Korean waterways in pursuit of trade discussions and Christian evangelization. Denied permission to sail up the Taedong River leading to Pyongyang, the ship defied Korean authorities. Consequently, after four days of fighting, the ship was burned, and the twenty persons aboard killed.
In retaliation, the U.S. Navy and Marines invaded Korea in June 1871 with the warships Monocacy and Palos, three steam launchers, and about twenty support boats, with total crew of mo
re than 1,000 mostly Civil War veterans. The U.S. Minister to China, Frederick Low, was on board. The expedition, commanded by Admiral John Rodgers who had previous Far Eastern experience, landed nearly 700 men at the Kanghwa beaches (25 miles north of present day Inchon in west central Korea), partly to resume attempts at trade talks with the “last outstanding scoffer at western civilization,” but also to “avenge the insult to the American flag,” and the earlier loss of the General Sherman and her passengers. [William Elliot Griffis, "American Relations With the Far East," The New England Magazine, November 1894, pp. 269, 270]. The Koreans again resisted. But the U.S. forces insisted on vengeance and, in two days of heavy fighting, destroyed five forts and inflicted as many as 650 casualties on the defending Koreans, while suffering only three casualties of their own. The U.S. forces then quickly departed, obviously not having succeeded in establishing any trade with Korea. In all of the Nineteenth Century, this was the largest U.S. military force to land on foreign soil outside of Mexico and Canada until the “Spanish American” War in 1898. This intervention created heightened anxieties among the Japanese about aggressive U.S. intentions in Asia.
After Japan “opened” Korea by coercing the 1876 commercial treaty with her, the latter attempted to ameliorate this heavy Japanese influence by finally establishing trade relations with the U.S. in 1882. The Korean-U.S. Treaty of Commerce, resulting in official U.S. recognition of and promise to protect Korea’s independence, created a small “diplomatic” legation to represent U.S. interests there. The U.S. Marines were first dispatched in 1888 “to protect American interests” from threats by local residents not happy with the U.S. presence there. Competition for Korea’s strategic land area and potential resources heated up between nearby powers of Japan and Russia.
The First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) saw conflict between China and Japan for control of Korea. This war marked Japan’s clear emergence as an imperial power. Japan acquired Formosa and the Pescadores (64 small islands) off the west coast of Formosa, and initially the Liaotung peninsula (just west of northern Korea) in Manchuria, China’s most resource-rich province with its valuable farmlands, timber, coal, and future industrial potential. During this war Japanese troops had begun a quasi-regular presence in Korea. The pressure of this war again brought in a contingent of U.S. Marines to “protect American interests” who remained there for a number of months.
The rival designs of Russia and Japan for Manchuria and Korea led to the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Russian failure to withdraw from Manchuria and its associated penetration into northern Korea was met by Japanese attempts to negotiate a division of the area into respective spheres of influence and control. The Russians resisted. On January 27, 1904, Japanese destroyers torpedoed three Russian battleships in Port Arthur at the tip of the Liaotung (Kwangtung) Peninsula. Japan broke off diplomatic relations on February 6, 1904, and two days later attacked Port Arthur and for awhile contained the Russian fleet there. Japanese troops in large numbers had moved through Korea when they attacked Manchuria. These war pressures again created conditions that led to another intervention by U.S. Marines to, you guessed it, “protect American interests” in Korea. However, during these series of interventions by U.S. Marines the longest they remained in Korea at any one time was twenty-two months.
Japan’s prestige peaked after a series of spectacular Japanese military victories over humiliated Russian naval forces at its great base at Port Arthur (January 1905); over smashed Russian armies at the inland city of Mukden, 220 miles northeast of Port Arthur (February-March); and in the Tsushima Island Port, 50 miles south of Pusan, Korea, in the Tsushima Strait (May 27, 1905) where virtually the entire Russian Baltic fleet of thirty-seven ships was destroyed and nearly 5,000 men drowned. This was the first time a major European power had been defeated in a major battle by a nonwhite nation. Western mystique took a hit. Though the Japanese had lost only three small boats and suffered a mere 110 men killed, she was reaching the limit of her strength. On May 31, only four days after their spectacular naval victory over the Russian fleet, Japan asked U.S. President and Harvard educated Theodore Roosevelt to mediate a formal end to the war. Both England and the U.S., the only two countries powerful enough to block Japan’s advances in Korea, favored Japanese colonization of Korea in order to selfishly protect their own respective regional imperialistic designs from threatened Japanese competition.
What Koreans did not know at the time of Roosevelt’s willing “diplomatic” intervention to end the war over who would control Korea, however, was the fact that U.S. Secretary of War, lawyer and Yale educated William H. Taft, on instructions from Roosevelt, had since February been secretly discussing with Japan for its absorption of Korea. This led to a concluded secret agreement with Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Katsura on July 31, 1905. Known as the Taft-Katsura Agreement, the U.S. recognized Japanese rights in Korea, in exchange for Japanese recognition of the recent U.S. military conquering and subsequent possession of the Philippines (after U.S. military intervention in the 1898 Philippine revolution against Spain, termed in the U.S. as the “Spanish American” War) and Hawaii (after the U.S. Marines landed in 1893 to “protect American life and property,” more specifically protection of sugar interests). The Taft-Katsura Agreement directly, and shamelessly, violated the earlier 1882 treaty in which the U.S. promised to protect Korea’s independence, despite the legal and Ivy League education of its U.S. authors.
To comprehend just what Roosevelt thought of the Koreans it is instructive to examine his own words as written in his autobiography when he describes a rationale for the violations of the 1882 Treaty perpetrated by the 1905 Taft-Katsura Agreement: “To be sure, by treaty it was solemnly covenanted that Korea should remain independent. But Korea itself was helpless to enforce the treaty, and it was out of the question to suppose that any other nation, with no interests of its own at stake, would do for the Koreans what they were utterly unable to do for themselves…Korea has shown its utter inability to stand by itself.”
Less than two years earlier, Roosevelt had uttered similar comments about Colombia, justifying his “taking” of a section from that country called Panama. It is important to understand the depth of arrogance that manifested at that time, and has only grown more intense since. In his December 7, 1903 remarks to Congress, Roosevelt stated: “The experience of over half a century has shown Colombia to be utterly incapable of keeping order on the Isthmus. Only the active interference of the United States has enabled her to preserve so much as a semblance of sovereignty. Had it not been for the exercise by the United States of the police power in her interest, her connection with the Isthmus would have been severed long ago…In 1856, in 1860, in 1873, in 1885, in 1901, and again in 1902, sailors and marines from United States warships were forced to land in order to patrol the Isthmus, to protect life and property, and to see that the transit across the Isthmus was kept open…Every effort has been made by the government of the United States to persuade Columbia to follow a course which was essentially not only to our interests and to the interests of the world, but to the interests of Colombia itself. These efforts have failed; and Colombia by her persistence in replacing the advances that have been made, has forced us, for the sake of our own honor, and of the interests and well-being, not merely of our own people, but of the people of the Isthmus of Panama and the people of the civilized countries of the world, to take decisive steps to bring to an end a condition of affairs which has become intolerable. The New Republic of Panama immediately offered to negotiate a treaty with us. This treaty I herewith submit.”
The United States had articulated an open-door concept seeking commercial success in Asia as early as President John Tyler’s Presidency when the first American-Chinese treaty was signed in 1844 that included most-favored-nation language. But the U.S. was interested in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Africa, as well as Asia. Market expansion grew ever more aggressive after the U.S. Indian wars of 1880-1890 had assured the final conquering of the Continent to its westward limits at the Pacific Ocean. Overseas market areas were looming ever more important for the U.S. economy. Political-commercial interventions had recently occurred: in Samoa in the southern Pacific (1878) under Harvard educated President Rutherford B. Hayes; in African Morocco in association with other European nations (1880), also under Hayes; through the opening of Korea in 1882 under lawyer President Chester A. Arthur with the signing of the Commerce Treaty mentioned above; by accessing free markets in the African Congo (1883-84), also under Arthur, as the U.S. was the first country to recognize King Leopold’s exploitative claim there; by claiming rights to Pearl Harbor (1887), then completing seizure of Hawaii (1893) under lawyer President Grover Cleveland; interventions in Venezuela (1893) and Brazil (1894-96), also under Cleveland; formal annexation of Hawaii in 1898 under lawyer President William McKinley; and assuring control over Cuba and the Philippines after preempting their revolutions for independence (1898-99), also under McKinley. The U.S. was on a roll!
The Treaty of Portsmouth ending the Russo-Japanese War was signed formally at the U.S. Naval base at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on September 5, 1905, acknowledging Japan as a world power, more than a month after the secret agreement between the U.S. and Japan relating to Korea. However, the peace discussions had been conducted all summer long at President Roosevelt’s private summer home at Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, prior to the formal signing in Portsmouth, and during and after the secret negotiations leading to the signing of the Taft-Katsura Agreement.. The Treaty recognized Japan’s paramount interest in Korea and ceded to her the leasehold of the Liaotung Peninsula in Manchuria (the site of the strategic Russian port on the Chinese coast), and the southern half of Sakhalin Island (just north of Japan and separated from Russia by the Gulf of Tartary). Russia took a hit for which it would not forget easily.
In addition, Roosevelt demanded that Japan follow the Open Door policy in Manchuria and return the region to Chinese administration. The “Open Door” policy had been formalized and presented to the world in a series of Open Door Notes (1898 – 1901) by U.S. Secretary of State John Hay, under President William McKinley, to assure “perfect equality of treatment for commerce” in the Chinese marketplace, including spheres of influence claimed by other Western nations and Japan. The U.S. was experiencing the integration of two important themes which were in effect formalized in the Open Door Notes: (1) export of “civilization, order, and security” as representing the American Way Of Life (AWOL) seriously believed as being good for the advancement of everybody in the world, and (2) export of products such as cotton, canned fruit, milk, and beef, good for prosperity and profits of commercial interests in the United States.
At the end of the Nineteenth Century, it had become clear to the business and political powers of the United States that expansion was indispensable in order to acquire necessary markets for the increasing surplus of manufactured goods, agricultural products, and venture capital. In addition, acquiring reliable access to cheap raw materials was becoming important in order to continue the profitable growth of the U.S. American industrial production system. It was becoming clear that U.S. prosperity and preservation of the American Way Of Life (AWOL), and its myths, were dependent upon, in fact demanding, an expansionist, increasingly imperial foreign policy.
Extensive Chinese unrest against foreigners exploded in June 1900, known as The Boxer Rebellion, provoked a deepening of concern in the U.S. (and other nations’) over the ability to begin exploitive designs there. From May 24 – September 28, about five thousand U.S. troops joined soldiers from Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and Japan, dispatched to quell 140,000 “Boxers” who had occupied Beijing and were seriously “harassing” Westerners as well as Chinese Christians. “Boxers” was the English name given to an antiforeign secret society in China called “I Ho Ch’uan,” which in Chinese literally means “righteous, harmonious fists,” i.e., boxers. This scare produced a strengthening of the U.S. Open Door language on July 3, 1900, promising “uttermost accountability” for anyone causing “wrong” to be committed against U.S. citizens, while intending to guarantee a free and open marketplace for all interested U.S. Americans in “all parts of the Chinese Empire,” on an equal basis with competing nations of Germany, Russia, England, and Japan. Of course, the “Open Door” was intended to be a diplomatic cover for the ability of the U.S. to protect its “welfare” by pushing and holding doors open throughout the world using strategies ranging from polite to impolite coercion, and the use of military means as necessary. It was a cute term for U.S. imperialism.
In Korea, the Japanese since 1905 had assumed police responsibility in Seoul, had placed their own police inspectors in all Korean provinces, and placed a resident general in the country. Japanese troops were never withdrawn, and only ten weeks after the conclusion of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan forced Korea to formally sign the Protectorate Treaty. Japan exercised broad control over both Korea’s domestic and international affairs. Japan renamed Korea Chosen, and the wealthy Korean aristocracy began changing their names to Japanese. Later, after the formal Annexation in 1910, all Koreans had to speak Japanese, not Korean, take Japanese names, and conform to Japanese dress and religious customs.
Ironically, Teddy Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize for his “mediation,” having been credited with bringing peace between Russia and Japan. Little did anyone understand at the time that the secret agreement made prior to the Treaty at Portsmouth had aimed an early fatal dagger cutting the heart out of an independent, sovereign Korean Peninsula which to this day it has not recovered.
The Treaty of Portsmouth marked the corresponding temporary decline of Russian power in the Far East. The expensive railway lines constructed by Russia in southern Manchuria were ceded to Japan without payment. All Russian troops were removed. This humiliating defeat of Russian efforts to control the eastern corner of the dying Chinese empire was a shock to the Tsar. It must be remembered that the Tsar was already in trouble. Disgruntled Russians had secretly formed the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party at Minsk in 1898 based on principles of Marxism. At the second party congress held at Brussels and London in 1903, Lenin’s faction gained a majority, calling themselves Bolsheviks (meaning “majority”).
When the Russo-Japanese war first broke out in February 1904, historic Russian racism that despised the “inferior” Japanese, augmented with cocky patriotic fervor, seemed to bolster the Tsar’s power. But continued Russian defeats disillusioned moderate Russians and spurred the unsuccessful first Russian revolution that erupted in January 1905. Though it failed, it came to be understood as a great rehearsal for the two subsequent revolutions that erupted twelve years later in 1917. The second revolution occurred in February 1917 as a result of the costly, vastly unpopular First World War. The Tsar was toppled by moderate Mensheviks (meaning “minority”) and the Socialist Revolutionaries, leading to establishment of a Provisional government. As chaos spread throughout the disintegrating Russian empire, self-elected councils (soviets) of workers’ and soldiers’ groups sprang up all over the country just as they had done during the first revolution in 1905. Lenin and the Bolsheviks established rule in Petrograd on October 1917, the third revolution, which is the date generally attributed to the Russian Revolution. Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in 1924 but later recovered its original name of Saint Petersburg as it is known today.
The Russian Bolshevik Revolution was not acceptable to the Allied and Japanese world. The U.S. and other Allied nation’s belligerent response to the Bolsheviks has had dramatic implications for the world, and Korea, as will be discussed in the section below, “U.S. Cultural Context, U.S. Occupation and the Cold War.”
After 1905, Japan’s assertion of power was accomplished substantially at Korea’s (and after 1931, at China’s) expense. Nonetheless, popular Korean resistance to Japanese colonialism grew strong. The Japanese estimated that there were almost 70,000 Korean guerrillas in 1908 engaging Japanese forces in nearly 1,500 separate confrontations. Between 1905 and 1910, Korean people’s resistance to Japanese occupation led to the killings of at least 18,000 protesting Koreans, 12,000 of them from 1908 to 1910 alone.
Nonetheless, on August 22, 1910, after more than a thousand years as an independent and distinct geographic unit, Korea formally capitulated to Japan, when the Yi Dynasty was forced to sign the Annexation Treaty. Korea thus became annexed as a province of Japan with the full support of the United States. This capitulation was due primarily to the Korean ruling class’s fears of losing their privilege to organized, aggrieved peasants, more than fears of being ruled by foreign powers. After formal annexation, many of the guerrillas regrouped in Manchuria or in Russian maritime territory as they continued to wage war against the Japanese.
The Yi Dynasty had ruled since 1392 but was unable to defend itself from the formidable Japanese imperial colonization supported secretly by the United States. Though Korea had formally been an independent nation, it had long survived under a kind of Chinese suzerainty (overlord) which had provided it military protection. However, the Chinese had become significantly weakened due to aggressive Japanese diplomatic and military maneuverings following its Meiji Restoration in 1868, as noted above.
Nogun Ri: Tip of the Iceberg
Nogun Ri, the July 1950 massacre committed by U.S. forces, was revealed in the fall of 1999 thanks to a rare tenacity exhibited by a few members of the U.S. press. As shocking as the Nogun Ri story was, it is only the “tip of the iceberg.” The telling of that story has triggered many more. Now, many villages are creating their own local massacre investigation commissions, with formation of a national commission imminent. There is already a Korea Truth Commission (KTC) On U.S. Military Massacres of Civilians, created in 2000 at a meeting in Beijing, China. Hearings are planned for locations in both South and North Korea, as well as in the United States. The KTC has set up its international office in Washington, D.C. and has already conducted preliminary hearings in the United States on the commission of U.S. war crimes in Korea. Furthermore, now that Kim Dae Jung, the President of South Korea, and Kim Jong Il, his counterpart in the North, successfully completed their historic first meeting in June 2000, domestic political changes in Korea are likely to escalate dramatically toward reunification of their historically undivided nation. A unity of remarkably unique culture, ethnicity, and linguistics is held so deeply in the hearts and minds of most Koreans, that its power transcends the relatively recent Cold War ideological schism that was involuntarily imposed upon them by the United States.
U.S. Intentions and Actions Dividing Korea, 1943-1945
Within months of Pearl Harbor, in early 1942, U.S. State Department planners began to express concern in the event there was to be Soviet involvement in the war against the Japanese in Manchuria and Korea. They feared that the Russians would bring with them the fearless Korean guerrillas who had been passionately fighting the Japanese in Manchura in their efforts to recover their homeland. The first formal international statement supporting Korean independence was proclaimed in November 1943 when the U.S. (Franklin D. Roosevelt)., Great Britain (Winston Churchill), and China (Chiang Kai-shek) issued the Cairo (Egypt) Declaration, in which Korea was to receive independence “in due course” following the expected ultimate unconditional surrender of the Japanese. This arrogance over Korea’s future existed despite the fact that Korea was the oldest victim of Japanese expansion. Fearing a Russian puppet regime in Korea once the Japanese were defeated, something confidentially presumed, this “conclusion” became the critical factor in planning for Korea. In March 1944, the U.S. State Department recommended “the employment of technically qualified Japanese in Korean economic life … during the period of military government.” (emphasis added) Given the extent of nearly forty years of Japanese domination and the humiliating subservient role forced on the Koreans, this secretly planned postwar U.S. military government in Korea amounted to preservation of Japanese imperialism and an unlawful, cruel violation of Korean sovereignty.
At the February 4-11, 1945 Yalta “Big Three” Conference, held at Yalta, a city in southern Ukraine on the Black Sea, President Roosevelt, without consulting the Koreans, suggested to Stalin and Churchill that Korea be placed under joint trusteeship prior to being granted its independence at the conclusion of World War II, once Japan surrendered. However, the most important agreement achieved at Yalta was the Soviet’s promise to enter the Pacific war theatre three months after the anticipated surrender of Germany, thereby relieving the U.S. of further casualties in defeating the Japanese in Manchuria, China, Korea, and Japan itself. This secret agreement by the USSR to enter the war against Japan was promised in return for possession of S. Sakhalin (island off the east coast of USSR just north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido), the Kurile Islands (extending northeast from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the USSR peninsula of Kamchatka between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean), and an occupation zone in Korea if the U.S. insisted on joint trusteeship.
Harry Truman had only succeeded to the Presidency on April 12, 1945, upon the death of President Roosevelt, only 2 months after the Yalta conference. Germany surrendered on May 7, starting the 3 month clock to the promised entrance of the Soviet Army to hopefully finish off the Japanese in Asia. The strategic decision to wait for resolution of the Manhattan Project (development of the top secret Atomic bomb) came to dominate much of secret U.S. policy making beginning in mid-May. Truman, only having been briefed of the existence of the new weapon project once taking the Presidency in April, and as a newcomer to international diplomacy, was believed to have dreaded his upcoming meeting with Stalin and Churchill at Potsdam, near Berlin, in northeastern Germany. The advance agenda of Potsdam was to discuss challenges arising out of the collapse of Nazi Germany and the disposition of eastern Europe vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. Not surprisingly he delayed the conference. However, it is significant to note that Truman finally scheduled the confernece to immediately follow the critical test of the secret Bomb, to occur July 16 at Alamogordo, 120 miles southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The test’s success exceeded expectations and immediately provided the U.S. with unprecedented confidence in all of its post-test negotiations. Potsdam began on July 17 and concluded on August 2. Previoiusly, the U.S. had virtually accepted the fact that once the Japanese were defeated with Soviet assistance, the Soviets would occupy and control the future of the Korean Peninsula. However, with the success of the new, most powerful, weapon ever developed, U.S. diplomacy was radically altered, and U.S. arrogance could prevail with minimal need to compromise.
On August 8, exactly three months after the German surrender, Russian troops entered Manchuria, as they had earlier promised, overwhelming Japanese forces there. On August 12 they entered northern Korea, further ousting Japanese forces, thereby assuring no more U.S. casualties. This significant Soviet involvement now made it impossible for the U.S. to exclude the USSR in a post-war Korean settlement. On August 11 (three days after the entrance of the Soviet troops in the Japanese arena and, as it turned out, only four days before the imminent surrender of Japan), President Truman ordered two colonels in his Department of War to hurriedly identify a supposedly temporary line dividing Korea into two zones. The 37th and 38th parallels were discussed in a quick 30-minute meeting by two young colonels, one being Oxford-educated Dean Rusk (later to be Secretary of State under President’s Kennedy and Johnson during the early Vietnam War years), at the newly constructed headquarters of the then U.S. War Department, the 34 acre Pentagon building in Arlington, VA. The decision on the 38th parallel, no surprise, created a division that placed approximately 21 million rural people, sixty-five percent of the country’s population, and the historic capital city of Seoul in the United States zone. Nine million people and the more industrial sectors, with fifty-five percent of the land base, were to be in the Soviet zone. The question was whether Stalin would accept the 38th parallel rather than the 37th, the latter of which would have included the historic capital of Seoul in the anticipated Soviet zone.
This decision establishing the 38th parallel, publicly proclaimed on August 15 as “General Order No. One,” occurred without prior consultation with other countries, including the Soviet Union. This public proclamation occurred on the same day that Japan announced its intentions to surrender. No one was sure how Stalin would respond to this limit on the August Soviet military advances in Korea. To everyone’s surprise, Stalin accepted the division without comment or challenge. The division of Korea had begun, even before Japan announced its surrender. Later, Dean G. Acheson, Secretary of State (1949-53), a lawyer trained at both Yale and Harvard, described the 38th Parallel as no more than “a surveyor’s line.” But to the koreans it was the equivalent of an egregious assault on their historic soul and aspirations for genuine independence. Order Number One determined that the Japanese were to transfer power immediately from their authority to specified occupation forces, and to prevent local “Left” populations from taking control.
The U.S. was to take the southern zone; the already present Soviet troops were to remain temporarily in the northern one, with the aim of repatriating all Japanese in their respective sectors. The U.S. immediately created the United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK), which was the sole legal authority south of the 38th Parallel, and it remained so until the Republic of Korea was formally established on August 15, 1948, exactly three years later. Tragically, Western plans for a post-war division of Korea were proceeding without the prior knowledge or consent of the Korean people.
Ironically, on the very same day of the Japanese surrender and U.S proclamation of General Order Number One, August 15, 1945, the Korean people, the majority seriously impoverished, openly celebrated their liberation after forty years of miserable Japanese occupation. The Koreans immediately formed The Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence (CKPI). By August 28, all Korean provinces on the entire Peninsula had established local peoples’ democratic committees and, on September 6, delegates from throughout Korea, north and south, gathered in Seoul to create the Korean People’s Republic (KPR). The people of Korea were confident they would now be able to build their own society, resuming control over their sovereignty which had been effectively suspended since the Japanese had taken over their foreign and military affairs in 1905 prior to formal full annexation in 1910. At that exciting moment in their lives on September 6, 1945, the Korean people could not have imagined that they were about to become victims of an even more tragic and cruel injustice, this time inflicted upon them by a Western nation, the United States of America, rather than by one of their historic Asian nemesises.
Japan presented its formal surrender on September 2 to five-star (a newly established rank at the time) General Douglas MacArthur aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay. MacArthur was named commander of the Allied powers in Japan and directed the subsequent occupation that included Korea as well.
On September 7, the very next day after the excited creation of the KPR, General Douglas MacArthur, as commander of the victorious Allied powers in the Pacific, formally issued a proclamation addressed “To the People of Korea,” announcing that forces under his command “will today occupy the territory of Korea south of 38 degrees north latitude.” The very first advance party of U.S. units, the 17th Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division, actually began arriving at Inchon on September 5th, two days before MacArthur’s occupation declaration. The bulk of the U.S. occupation forces began unloading from twenty-one Navy ships (including five destroyers) on September 8 through the port at Inchon under the command of Lieutenant General John Reed Hodge. Hundreds of black-coated armed Japanese police on horseback, still under the direction of Japanese Governor-General Abe Nobuyuki, kept Korean crowds away from the disembarking U.S. soldiers. On the morning of September 9, the U.S. troops marched into Seoul, again protected by Japanese troops lining the streets, ushering the high-ranking officers into their new quarters at the Choson Hotel. And on September 9, General Hodge announced that Abe, the Japanese Governor-General would continue to function with all his Japanese and Korean personnel.
Hodge had become known for his aggressive warfare in battles at Guadalcanal, Leyte, Bougainville, and the “last battle” at Okinawa, earning him the reputation as “the Patton of the Pacific.” Patton had been nicknamed “old blood and guts” for his tank actions in World War I, and his later exploits during War II in Italy, North Africa, and France and Germany.
Within a few weeks there were 25,000 troops and members of “civil service teams” in country. Ultimately the number of U.S. troops in southern Korea reached 72,000. Though the Koreans were officially characterized as a “semi-friendly, liberated” people, General Hodge, nonetheless, regrettably instructed his own officers that Korea “was an enemy of the United States…subject to the provisions and the terms of the surrender.” Quickly, tragically, and ironically, the Korean people, citizens of the victim-nation, had become enemies, while the defeated Japanese, who had been the illegal aggressors, served as occupiers with and friends of the United States. Korea was inflicted with the very occupation originally intended for Japan. Japan was subsequently built up by the U.S. in the post-war period, while Korea was subjected to brutal occupation. Japan remains to this day the U.S. forward military base affording protection and intelligence for its “interests” in the Asia-Pacific region.
This was due to strategic evaluations made by the U.S. of projected post-war plans of its wartime Soviet ally but who in fact were held with fear and mistrust by the West since the Bolshevik revolution first articulated its socialist philosophies in 1917. The provisions of such occupation, including ordinances issued by the Military Governor of Korea, were to be enforced by a “Military Occupation Court.” On September 12, West Point Graduate and artillery expert Major General Archibald V. Arnold, was named U.S. Military Governor to replace Japanese Governor-General Abe, though most of the existing administrative and police personnel were retained.
Arnold was later replaced as U.S. Military Governor by Major General William F. Dean, a highly decorated World War II veteran of battles in France, Germany and Austria. Interestingly, when the ‘hot’ war started in June 1950, Dean became the commander of the U.S. 24th Division and was captured on August 25 in Taejon, being the highest ranking U.S.officer ever captured by the North Koreans and imprisoned as a POW for 37 and-a-half months
From that fateful day on September 8, 1945, to the present, a period of now 56 years — a long, painful 660 months — U.S. military forces (currently numbering 37,000 positioned at 100 installations), have maintained a continuous occupation in the south, supporting de facto U.S. domination of the political, rhetorical, economic and military life of a needlessly divided Korea. This overwhelming U.S. role, often brutal in nature and, until recently, supporting repressive policies of dictatorial puppets, continues to be the single greatest obstacle to peace, because of its interference with inevitable reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Until 1994, all of the hundreds of thousands of South Korean defense forces operated legally under direct U.S. command. Even today, although integrated into the Combined Forces Command (CFC), when the U.S. military commander in Korea deems there is a war situation, these forces automatically revert to direct U.S. control.
U.S. Cultural Context, U.S. Occupation and the Cold War
The well documented but little publicly known historical record of the United States in Korea is nothing short of demonic and shameless: from the brutal U.S. formal occupation (1945-48); to steadfast support of the tyrannical rule of U.S. puppet, Syngman Rhee, before, during, and after the hot Korean War (1948-1960), under the rhetorical propaganda of a Korean “democracy”; to U.S. dominance in Korea from 1960 to the present, most of the time during which the Korean people have been forced to labor under iron fist military dictators while the U.S. State Department often reported to the U.S. population the existence of “democratic reforms” there.
As one observes the chronic historic pattern of U.S. interventions all over the world, its consistent imperial behavior can only be properly understood by examining the interplay of five deeply ingrained features of its culture in addition to two factors relating to its geographical position.
- Deep-seated Eurocentric racism. The fallacy of race is human’s most dangerous myth (Ashley Montagu).
- A powerful religious, arrogant ethnocentrism, that believes certain White “Americans” are divinely endowed agents carrying out God’s plan. This chronic self-deception of superiority (believed to be a protective “defense” mechanism compensating for deep psychological and social insecurities) in fact produces the rationale for denying the validity of others’ rights and sovereignty. This trait has often ironically manifested in violent attitudes and actions against certain “aliens,” strange because virtually all inhabitants of the American continent other than the native Indigenous have been and remain relatively recent aliens.
- Deep-seated psychological repression of visceral feelings and instincts, i.e., a corruption of the senses, and the unhealthy fragmentation of sensations from the intellect, leading to resentment which manifests in certain self-righteous moral indignation and expressions of violence directed against those in the “out-group.” This theme has been greatly nourished by “Christian” values. Psychologists have uniformly described the correlation between repression and violence.
- Fundamental origins and subsequent governing patterns based on secretive plutocracy (class), not democracy, and a strong national government designed to assert empire as a way of life through colonialism/expansionism. This imperial demeanor thrives on projections (i.e., a kind of paranoia) that define problems as being caused by external evils, precluding honest self-examination and responsibility.
- Expansionism, an imperial global reach, often manifesting in violent, covert or overt, sabotage of self-determination processes wherever found at home or abroad. Self-determination, i.e., democracy, generally threatens to “interfere” with U.S. capabilities for selfish plunder at will to feed the insatiable appetites of the American Way Of Life (AWOL) and the profits of the transborder corporations (in cahoots with the governing plutocrats) derived from nourishing those appetites.
- The vast size of the northern hemispheric continent, i.e., the “New” World, inhabited “only by red savages,” rather than by other European looking people, and whom the Europeans did not consider human, meant that frontier expansion facilitated by a national “white” army proceeded methodically for a century, providing an affirmation to the European settlers of their god-endowed superiority. It was as if the huge amount of space provided the settlers with a new playground for what seemed like endless exploitation.
- This land mass surrounded by vast oceans provided substantial protection from outside intruders. To the south additional vast lands inhabited by the Indigenous had been conquered by the Spanish and Portuguese, who had difficulty hanging on to their new territory as the British and French were vying for Indigenous lands in the north. As the “American” colonies emerged into the new U.S.of A. Republic in the northern part of the hemisphere, areas to the south (mexico and below) were to remain “safe” due to contained domination by Spain and Portugal, areas to further to the north (Canada) were to become similarly safe as the Indigenous were dominated by other Europeans (French and British) who looked and acted very much like the “American” settlers. Thus the “American” system was able to expand westward without threat of outside invasions from either east (Atlantic Ocean) or west (Pacific Ocean), or from the south (Spanish Mexico) or north (European Canada). Virtually all of the original inhabitants in the entire hemisphere had been eliminated or assimilated. The Columbus Enterprise was in command having confidently carved up all of the “New World,” though not without various squabbles among European powers, but with the “American civilization” securely establishing itself in a substantial portion of the northern part of the Western Hemisphere.
The fifth cultural factor, i.e., our imperial reach, has led to incomprehensibly violent behaviors during the history of our Republic that have maimed and murdered countless millions through more than 550 overt and anywheres from 6,000 to 10,000 covert interventions in more than 100 nations, primarily directed against the poor as they have struggled, and continue to struggle, for justice and genuine local sovereignty. The United States and the Western nations combined, comprising about twenty-five percent of the world’s population, to this day have not tolerated genuine self-determination (democracy) processes, because if they did so it would seriously undermine their ability to continue to consume eighty-five percent of the world’s resources. In other words, it is essential to our way of life to be able to continue to rob and pillage at will the global pool of labor and natural resources, no matter how much hurt and misery it causes, and whether people like it or not.
This pattern of U.S. behavior pre-dates the Cold War interventions that used the pretext of fighting the “evils” posed by post-World War I Bolshevism/Communism. In fact, the 1917 Russian Bolshevik revolution was a threat because its proclamation of socialism represented a radical, indigenous nationalism responsive to popular local pressures that required independence from Western capitalism, a definite no-no. However, the U.S. intervention pattern originated in the late 1700s with the westward expansion on the North American continent of “deserving,” god-fearing European settlers, and the establishment of a strong national U.S. government that could use force to assure success of that expansion into “hostile” territory inhabited by “undeserving savages.” The U.S. has relied on terror, massacres, and genocide throughout its history to assure continued hegemonic success. During the Revolutionary War, in 1779, George Washington, General of the Continental Army, ordered General John Sullivan, along with General James Clinton and Colonel Daniel Brodhead, and their nearly 5,000 troops, to instill “terror” in the Iroquois and “to lay waste all their settlements” in New York State, that their country “may not be merely overrun but destroyed.” The Iroquois Confederacy with their sophisticated cooperative agriculture was considered the most advanced Indigenous federation in the New World. Sullivan’s troops with their 120 boats, 1,200 pack horses, and 700 cattle, loyally carried out the instructions from Washington and employed a scorched earth policy no less ruthless than General Sherman’s march to the sea during the American Civil War, General Curtis LeMay’s incendiary wasteland bombings of North Korea, 1950-53, or search and destroy missions of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. In little more than a month (September 1779) the Iroquois were wiped out. This early “manifest destiny” behavior was psychically facilitated by the combination of a “white” ethnocentrism (ethnic superiority) accompanied by a deep racism (fear manifested as hatred) held toward people of “color,” or those who otherwise looked “different” from white Europeans.
To be fair, this kind of brutality emanating from minds that can so easily rationalize such superiority and the consequent bestiality directed toward others is not unique to Europeans. But nonetheless, it was applied with such a ruthlessness in North America (and in the remainder of the Americas, as well) as to be on the order of our own first holocaust. Let us examine the context. It is now believed that there were as many as 125 million Indigenous living in thousands of communities speaking numerous native languages throughout the Western Hemisphere at the time of the Columbus’ invasion in 1492. In 400 years of Conquest this native population was reduced by numbers exceeding 95 percent! The Europeans, my own genetic ancestors, knew know limits in their marauding of the people they found living in the Americas: they hacked Indigenous to death, burned them alive, hunted them as game, fed them to dogs, trampled them under horses, scalped them for bounty, stabbed and threw them over the sides of ships, worked them to death as slaves, intentionally starved or froze them to death during forced marches and internments, and intentionally infected them with epidemic diseases leading to massive numbers of deaths. This is the truthful history, the legacy of “development” of our Western and, yes, U.S. American civilization.
Of the 125 million Indigenous, it is now believed that 10 to 15 million lived north of the Rio Grande, the river that is today’s legal boundary separating the United States from Mexico. By the end of the Nineteenth Century, the U.S. Census Bureau counted less than 238,000 Indigenous, a 400 year population decline of 98 percent. The dispossession of Native Americans, along with the second holocaust committed against African people, are the defining and enabling experiences of the Republic of the United States. And the U.S. experience with its Indigenous “problem” became an example partially motivating the Twentieth Centuries most infamous holocaust. Historian John Toland, in his biography of Adolph Hitler, describes how the concept of the Third Reich’s concentration camps and the practicality of genocide derived from its study of Boer camps in South Africa and the methods used to exterminate American Indians by the U.S. government. Hitler often praised to his inner circle about the “efficiency of America’s extermination – by starvation and uneven combat – of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.”
Let us look at slavery, the second holocaust enabling development of “America.” There were some 50,000 separate voyages of slave ships that took the six to ten week passage to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th Century. They transported as many as 15 million slaves, the majority young males, from western African countries to a number of European colonies in the Caribbean, West Indies, and in North, Central and South America. The 4,000 mile long slave coast of West Africa lay betwen the Senegal River in the north that separates today’s Mauritania from Senegal, to the Cunene River in the south that separates today’s Angola from Namibia. It is roughly estimated that Africa lost 50 million human beings to death and slavery in the centuries when Western civilization was being constructed. Of those 50 million identified for capture, probably less than a third, 10 to15 million, survived apprehension and the barbaric conditions of the “Middle Passage” to be sold as slaves somewhere in the Western Hemisphere. Slavery was a huge business for the investors, brokers, shippers, smugglers, auctioneers, and the planters, miners, and other commercial interests that could profit from this abundant supply of “free” labor.
The incredibly difficult labor required to prepare land for profitable large farms and plantations from tangled thickets of mangroves and palmettos could be done only under duress. Freemen with any options whatever would not agree to suffer the brutalities of such labor. Only chattel slaves, under involuntary physical duress could be made to perform this miserable work. And agriculture, once the land was prepared, was only profitable when it became a slave plantation, requiring the work of varying numbers of slaves. This enabled the plantation owner to afford the various buildings and equipment, including lavish living quarters, that made for a successful, profitable life. Somewheres between one and two million of those slaves came to the colonies that became the United States of America. The United States developed “fair and square” on the land stolen from the Indigenous and the labor stolen from the Africans.
This, too, is part of an honest history of “development” of the U.S. American civilization. And from the beginning, U.S. policymakers, civic and religious leaders, historians and other academicians have systematically perpetuated a grotesque distortion of history which presents U.S. intentions and behavior as noble triumphs over ever-lurking evil forces. It is as if we have been taught, and proudly learned, a fabrication of history to the extent of it being sheer fantasy. Honest confrontation of this distortion is virtually always greeted with severe criticism and contempt, virtually assuring that the critic is quickly marginalized and not taken seriously.
Now, just for a moment, let us look at the broad historical context of what happened between about 1500 and 1900. The six primary imperialist powers of Europe at the time (France, Spain, Italy, British Isles, Portugal, and Netherlands) comprising about 40 million people combined, possessed less than 10 percent, probably less than 8 percent, of the world’s population in 1500. These powers in their pursuit of riches proceeded to (1) decimate African society by enslaving the millions of people who survived their apprehension and transportation process, and (2) eliminate American Indigenous cultures in the Western Hemisphere who refused to be enslaved by or assimilated into European values. These two aggrieved populations combined totalled about 200 million at the time, or between 30 and 40 percent of the world’s population. Thus, European societies with probably one-twelth the world’s people, virtually eliminated societies comprising a third or more of the global population. To accomplish that, to perpetuate and rationalize that kind of superiority and carelessness over others, requires an arrogance that clearly knows no limits. It is this legacy that we in the West must address, because its character is still with us, still determining contemporary policies that grow from historic values of greed and power that in turn emanate from a consciousness of superiority, rather than one that recognizes respect, justice, and a sacred interconnectedness with all life. It is instructive to remember that the presence of the past is always here!, always operating just below the surface.
The casualties inflicted upon Europe by the Black Death begining in the mid-1300s and extending into the Fifteenth Century were exceeded by those caused by the plague brought to the Western hemisphere by Europeans that devastated its Indigenous cultures.
The American Revolutionary War was not initiated by the poor, but by an upper class of successful business people and plantation owners who wanted to be free of irritating British rules and taxation. In effect, it was a revolt of Brits against Brits. Only 56 selected White men signed the 1776 Declaration of Independence, 48 men the 1778 Articles of Confederation. Of the original 65 White men selected (but not elected) as state delegates to convene on May 14,1787 for the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, only 55 attended, and of those, only 39 signed the final document on September 17, many with reservations. None of these men, virtually all learned and/or wealthy, were typical representatives of the colonial population.
James Madison, the framer usually acknowledged as the “Father” of the Constitution, a Princeton educated lawyer from an established landed Virginia family, who at one time possessed more than 100 slaves, greatly feared that the majority of people with little or no property would threaten to take away the property of the few. The constitutional system in the new United states of America would, according to Madison (The Federalist No. 10), prevent “an equal division of property or any other improper or wicked object.” The new government would have the capacity to conrtrol class conflict which arises from “the various and unequal distribution of property.”
The creation of the republic, the United States of America, was conducted in secrecy, primarily by the educated and wealthy elite of white European land-owning males (the plutocrats), comprising but a tiny percentage of the colonial population. The people were not privy to the proceedings at the founding Constitutional convention, nor to the ratification process in the various state legislatures. If the people, i.e., the ninety-five percent of the population not part of the well-to-do commercial and agricultural elite, had been given a voting franchise, many historians believe the Constitution and its creation of a strong central government would have been soundly defeated.
Shortly after the new central government was inaugurated in April 1789, there were reminders of the need for strong action to ward off any threats to its designs for an expanded economy and territory. The July-August 1789 popular revolt in France (the French Revolution) created anxiety among the new ruling class in “America.” Shays Rebellion in 1786-87 of debt-ridden Massachusetts farmers just prior to the Constitutional Convention had suggested a lack of popular support for the emerging principles of centralization of the “American” Republic. The Founding Fathers were fearful a genuine popular revolt might emanate from disgruntled citizens living in the separate states if not united under a strong national government. The successful August 1791 rebellion of African slaves in the nearby French colony of Haiti, prompted by promises growing out of the French Revolution, was a frightening reminder to the new governing Fathers that their slave-based economy was precariously based on continued submission of its “free” labor force. There had been a number of earlier slave revolts in the colonies and the new elite knew the importance of keeping the lid on this potentially explosive population that could devastate the new economy once its members revolted.
During its first few years the new government was busy signing treaties with various Indigenous nations in New York State, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, rapidly expanding its land base for a growing restive, White population. Early on, Indigenous became suspicious that the U.S. government was using deceit in preparing the treaty language, then noting the consistent pattern of refusing to keep its promises. The Shawnee Nation rejected “peace” offers made by the national government and continued to battle U.S. forces throughout the Ohio Valley. Thus, the importance of the new national army was critical from the beginning. Internally expressed opposition, especially by editors and printers, to issues such as continued slavery, violence against Native Americans, and the emerging militaristic foreign policy considered belligerent by some critics (e.g., the dangerous undeclared naval war with France, see below; and the growing tensions with the Arab states of Morocco, Tunis, Algeria, and Tripoli in northern Africa over their interference through the Barbary pirates of U.S. maritime operations in the Mediterranean Sea), was of growing concern to the new government. The latter adopted the very anti-democratic 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts under its second President, John Adams (1797-1801), which were aimed at repressing unwanted popular dissent, especially as expressed by the press.
The first of what were to be hundreds of subsequent foreign military interventions was initiated during the term of President John Adams over a crisis in relations with France. On July 11, 1798, Congress established the Marine Corps. Almost immediately, the U.S. Marines committed their first foreign intervention when they landed at the city of Puerta Plata on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and captured a French privateer, one of 85 French vessels captured by the new U.S. Navy and marines. This occurred during the undeclared Naval War with France (1798-1801) in the Caribbean, which resulted partially from the continuation of anti-French sentiment in the U.S. that had been inflamed by the provocative 1789 French Revolution. Thus, the new strong central government designed to assert empire as a way of life was rapidly validating itself.
Once the “American” Republic was established, its political, economic, and military resources were violently and ruthlessly utilized for a solid century to eliminate self-determination capacities within and among all the various Indigenous nations. Most Indigenous, not exterminated through murder, European disease and military repression, were forced to assimilate into the “white” culture as a price for continuing to exist. Tragically, this existence was conditioned on obliteration of their language, customs, and collective way of land stewardship and political decision-making. Indigenous culture was essentially deraced. The U.S. government breached each one of the more than 400 treaties made with the various Indigenous nations. It was by consistently employing overwhelming violence and vicious deceit that the Europeans were able to “safely” expand their initial territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. When Indigenous have described the “White Man” as having “forked tongue,” they know from tragic experiences what they are talking about.
A major expansion of the United States occurred under President James Knox Polk (1845-1849), who provoked a “war” in May 1846 with Mexico, a large country which at the time included the territory that is now all or part of ten U.S. states – Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, and California. The illegally negotiated Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in February 1848 in which Mexico ceded nearly half of its existing territory (i.e., the above identified land now comprising much of the west and southwestern U.S.) to the United States. But it was the period in the 1890s that saw the actual beginnings of the U.S. as an imperial power, formulating a formal “open door” policy as a diplomatic cover for hegemonic designs. Domestic agricultural and industrial production was then consistently exceeding capacity for domestic consumption. This meant that domestic U.S. prosperity increasingly became dependent upon a global reach beyond the already greatly expanded original boundaries of the the United States. The anti-imperialists were opposed to outright colonization, but they did agree on empire based on expansion of markets, versus expansion of territory. There was an overwhelming consensus, even among radicals, of the need for commercial expansion.
Nonetheless, the debate raged as to how this expansion could be accomplished while furthering “American” values of “freedom.” Would it be through costly outright imperialism followed by “altruistic, civilizing reeducation” of the “savage” Indigenous who inhabited the new territory in the world, or through control of markets and resources without formal annexation of land and the consequent requirements of political administration? Access to and control of the Hawaiian Islands began to define the tricky process of unraveling Democratic-Republican differences over the manner of commercial expansion. The early missionary families who had been busy bringing Christianity to the Island’s natives soon branched out to be prosperous sugar and pineapple plantation owners. In 1875 the U.S. signed a commercial treaty with Hawaii, enabling sugar and pineapple to enter the U.S. without duty. This developing prosperity led to creation in 1887 of a naval base at Pearl Harbor that served our expanding Pacific fleet as a coaling and docking station. The 1890 McKinley Tariff wiped out the earlier advantage for Hawaiian sugar growers, and Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani was resisting the increasing U.S. interest in and control over Indigenous life. Thus, by January 1893 the U.S. sugar and pineapple planters (e.g., Sanford B. Dole) were anxious for formal annexation by the United States. In January they staged a successful revolt and applied to the U.S. for legal annexation. From January 16 to April 1, U.S. Marines were dispatched to “protect American lives and property.” Under Democratic President Grover Cleveland, however, whose administration took office March 4, 1893, this effort was disfavored, the Marines were soon recalled, and annexation was for the moment dropped, only to be revived under Republican President William Mckinley. In 1898 Hawaii was finally annexed.
The same year, at the conclusion of the “Spanish-American” War of 1898, the United States assumed control over Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Phillipines and Guam. This “victory” was a prelude to the U.S.’s striving in the Twentieth Century to triumph in the contest for world dominance. The outcome of the War gave the U.S. much added capability to control sea lanes in the Caribbean and the Atlantic, enabling more secure access to Latin America and the building of the Isthmus Canal, as well as in the Pacific, enabling freer access to Asian markets. Hesitant to possess outright new colonies, the U.S., nonetheless, concluded that it did require physical occupation and administration of a second secure base, the Philippines, in the Pacific Ocean for access to east Asia, especially China.
During U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s administrations (1913-1921) the U.S. intervened in Latin America more frequently than at any other time in its history. This despite Wison’s reputation as a progressive, and for his famous Fourteen Points speech of January 8, 1918, in which he promised the adjustment of colonial claims with concern for the wishes and interests of the inhabitants, a representation that encouraged the colonized that they might finally be freed. Ho Chi Minh was one who had taken Wilson’s words very seriously in his efforts to achieve Vietnamese independence from all outside nations, especially France, China, and the United States. Wilson militarily intervened into Mexico in 1913, 1914, again in1916, and several times in 1918-19; Haiti in 1915 and where U.S. Marines remained until 1934; the Dominican Republic in 1916; Cuba in 1917; and Panama in 1918. Throughout his two administrations he maintained effective military and political control over Nicaragua with the stationing of thousands of Marines. So it must be understood that when a U.S. President is thought to be “progressive” while rhetorically speaking of self-determination for colonized peoples, it must be taken with a grain of salt. Everything that the U.S. policy makers believe and rhetorically proclaim must be understood from the racist and arrogant ethnocentric mind set that has permeated the ethos of its civilization from its very origins. It comprises the “American” character. Beware!
Korea, like so many other countries around the world, has been a victim of this historic matrix of U.S. cultural forces, but it was the first one where the intervention was couched in the language and ideology of the Cold War. The U.S. chose to eliminate the passionate Korean self-determination forces that rightfully sought an end to its repressive colonial legacies. Instead, the U.S. intervened on behalf of the smallest group in Korea (private, elite capitalists) and helped to perpetuate their privilege at the expense of the well-being of the vast majority of Korean citizens. This is the plight of so many peoples around the world and yet the people of the U.S. find it difficult to understand because they have not yet had their own socio-economic revolution. I pray that this important void is increasingly understood, i.e., that the U.S. civilization has yet to endure an ideological revolution addressing its historical injustices based on oligarchy and class.
These identifiable culturally defining factors of U.S. civilization provide a broader context in which to understand development of U.S. “containment” policies following World War II in the earliest stages of the Cold War. On March 12, 1947, President Truman addressed a joint session of Congress to request authorization for a program of economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey because “the free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms” from “attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures.” This containment speech, expressing fear of the international “communist threat,” officially launched the first of thousands of U.S. covert and overt interventions around the world.
A military mission was quickly created on May 20 in Turkey as a bulwark against foreign aggression. Then, on May 23, only three days later, the U.S. intervened in the bloody Greek Civil War (1946-49) on the side of the neo-fascists against the Greek left who had fought so courageously against the Nazis. U.S. advisors headed by General James Van Fleet were immediately dispatched to Athens and by 1949 the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, with a contingent of 450 men, was virtually directing the war for the Greek army. In the last five months of 1947 alone, the U.S. sent 74,000 tons of military equipment to the right-wing government in Athens, including artillery, bombers, and napalm. The fascist Greek army finally won, but not before there were an estimated 100,000 casualties and 700,000 refugees.
Initially called the Truman Doctrine, Truman’s March 12, 1947 speech is often described as the formal declaration of the Cold War between the “Free World” and the forces of communism. The doctrine had its effects domestically as well. On March 25, Truman issued Executive Order #9835, initiating a domestic search for any “infiltration of disloyal persons” working in the U.S. government. This EO became a repressive and sinister destructive force in postwar U.S. America, poisoning broad areas of its work, educational, and cultural life.
The United States direct involvement in Korea beginning in August 1945 provides us the earliest example of U.S. Cold War behavior. When examined carefully, it reveals a great deal about the nature of her national psyche as it is expressed in corresponding misguided political and vicious military policies, as well as the kind of unrestrained terror that was to be in store for its victims. Fear of communism — a national, and Western, mental illness of paranoia — caused a ferocious fury of violence to be directed at undeserving “Third World” peoples, as the monolithic spread of communism, itself grossly exaggerated, was regularly confused with genuine national self-determination (democratic) movements striving for independence from Western, colonial forces.
The proof of chronic distortions relating to allegations of Soviet-led “monolithic communism” is found in an honest perusal of the record, not in a blind belief in the constant rhetoric of U.S. public relations campaigns.
The Soviet Union had fought with the Allies in World War I, having suffered 20 percent of all the casualties in that War. The October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution was not acceptable to the Allied and Japanese world. Even before the terrible First World War ended, the U.S. and other Western countries, along with Japan, had invaded the Soviet Union threatening her new sovereignty in order “to strangle [the Bolshevik Revolution] at its birth” (Churchill). This resulted in millions more horrible Russian deaths, some from the alleged first use ever of gas bombs from warplanes — as many as had died in World War I.
After the November 1918 Armistice ending World War I, the new but weakened Soviets made persistent efforts to make peace with the threatening Allies, on amost any terms. From November 1918 to February 1919, alone, the Soviet, Bolshevik government presented seven peace proposals to the Entente powers of France and Great Britain and the United States. Blatantly ignoring these proposals for peace, the military intervention of fourteen outside nations proceeded: [Canada; France (140,000 troops); Great Britain (140,000); Germany; Italy (40,000); Greece (200,000); Serbia (140,000); Romania (190,000); newly created nations of Czechoslovakia and Poland, Finland, Latvia, Japan, and the United States]. From May 1918-April 1920 a combined total of more than 900,000 troops supported the “White” side of the Russian civil war in efforts to overthrow the Revolution. This decision was to have extraordinary implications for the world during the rest of the Twentiety Century and this still little known “hot war” some argue was the actual beginning of the Cold War.
Launching a series of campaigns in (1) the north along borders with Baltic nations and Finland, with landings at Murmansk (May 1918) and Archangel (August 1918); (2) various regions of Siberia, and on the Pacific Coast, with a major landing at Vladivostock (July 1918), and (3) the Ukraine and other southern regions around the Black and Caspian Seas (April 1919), the Allied forces intended to surround, contain, then defeat the Bolsheviks while at the same time arming and equipping the “White” Russian forces. The Allied Supreme War Council maintained a hostile naval blockade of the new Soviet nation until January 16, 1920. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson, consistent with his intervention philosophy in Latin America, had begun sending secret money to aid the White Russians, then in 1918 authorized support of the naval blockade while sending U.S. expeditionary military units comprising collectively 14,500 soldiers, first with 5,500 troops to Murmansk (May) and Archangel (August) in northern Russia on the White Sea, then 9,000 troops to Vladivostock (August) in eastern Russia on the Sea of Japan for penetration into Siberia as far as Lake Baikal. In March 1919 he sent additional forces to Murmansk in northern Russia near its border with Finland on the Barents Sea. U.S. casualties in the northern occupation approached 2,900. The U.S. forces in Vladivostock were joined by Japanese military (in violation of their earlier pledges to the U.S.) and moved westward nearly 2,000 miles to the Lake Baikal region to support Czech and White Russian forces which had declared an anti-Bolshevik government at Omsk more than a thousand miles further west. All U.S. troops had been removed by April 1, 1920 but Japanese forces remained until 1922.
Though the Bolsheviks were ultimately successful by mid-1920 in fending off the major Allied campaigns that attempted to destroy them, the intervention had severe effects. The Russians had already withstood the invasion of their lands in 1914 by Germany and the Hapsburg empire, experiencing enormous devastation and 7 million casualties throughout World War I. They experienced a serious invasion from Poland in 1920 near the end of their Civil War. The Allied interventions from 1918-1920 tragically prolonged a bloody Civil War costing thousands of additional lives. Some say that 25 million died from combat, terror and assassinations on both sides, and war-related deaths due to famine and disease, mostly typhus, smallpox, and exposure. This weakened an already devastated nation that extended from Poland to the Pacific, from the Arctic to the Caucasus. The long-range implications fueled the Cold war. The Bolshevik leaders had clear proof that Western powers intended to destroy their new Soviet government and such awareness entrenched a Soviet regime, contributing to more totalitarian methods for survival and ruling. The U.S. suffered nearly 3,000 total military causalties, dead and wounded, during its 18 months of intervention activities in the Russian territory.
In 1939 the Soviets were forced into signing the Soviet-Nazi nonaggression pact due to the incessant refusal, especially of the U.S. and Great Britain, to unite with the Soviets to stand firmly against Hitler’s advances. When Nazi Germany nonetheless invaded Russia in June 1941, neither this threat nor the increasing plight of the European Jews provoked the U.S. to join in the fight against Germany. And the major factor in the Nazis’ defeat wasn’t Normandy (June 6, 1944) or other scenes of U.S. battles, but the Eastern Front. Most historians date the war’s turning point eighteen months before D-Day when, at Stalingrad (September 13, 1942-February 2, 1943), the Soviet military trounced 50 Axis divisions, and in July 1943 when, at Kursk, it destroyed 3,000 German tanks, the bulk of its tank force. And it was the Soviet army that liberated Auschwitz in January 1945. Furthermore, Soviet losses during World War II were staggering! She suffered more than half of all the aggregate dead from that gruesome war, losing as many as 28 million citizens, or over 17 percent of her entire population. The Nazis had demolished 15 large Soviet cities, over 1,700 villages, and enough factories, railroads, bridges, power stations and farms to cut the nation’s material output in half. By comparison, the U.S. suffered the loss of about 400,000 battle and other deaths, or only .3 percent of its population, and none of its infrastructure, with the exception of the Pearl Harbor facility on its illegally acquired Hawaiian colony.
Despite the critical role the Soviet Union played in defeating the Nazis, and the staggering losses she suffered in manpower and infrastructure as a result, the U.S., nonetheless, insisted on all out “economic, political, and psychological warfare” to bring about the “collapse” of the Soviet Union. The U.S. Marshall Plan (adopted in 1948) gave $13 billion to 18 western European nations for various investment projects toward recovery from the devastating war, though most of that money was required to be spent on U.S. made goods. Japan also became dependent upon the U.S. for reconstruction. The Soviet Union received only sabotage designed to cause her more suffering.
In light of this tragic historic reality, the Soviet people experience scars burned deeply into their soul, never to be forgotten. Insecurities and fears inevitably effected the Soviet character. They had every reason to fear further threats to their security, especially from other Western forces. By 1945, the Soviets were eager, not for additional military confrontation, but to achieve some accommodation with the Western powers, and to initiate a process of world disarmament that would allow them to rebuild their shattered society. They were exhausted! This contributed critically to the Soviet’s policy of pragmatic, defensive security, not an ideology of domination. Despite popular myth to the contrary, the intellectual architects of U.S. Cold War policy clearly understood this Soviet reality. The U.S. Secretary of War at the time, Henry Stimson, in April 1945, told a conference of U.S. leaders that the Soviet Union’s demands in Eastern Europe were motivated by concerns for Russia’s security, not by goals of world conquest. A January 1946 U.S. Naval Intelligence report acknowledged this exhaustion factor and concluded that USSR’s policies were defensive in nature and that she was not expected to initiate “hostilities with Anglo-Americans” for the foreseeable future. Even hawkish John Foster Dulles, later to become Secretary of State, had agreed that security and survival, not ieology, dictated Soviet policy.
Nonetheless, in Korea, as in dozens of other nations, the U.S. insisted on rationalizing draconian measures to destroy “monolithic communism” in robot fashion wherever and whenever our leaders claimed it appeared, refusing any credence to genuine peoples’ aspirations for justice, security and independence. The U.S. helped create, then support repressive measures, rather than nourish democratic, popular movements. Circumstances elsewhere in Asia fed the frenzy of anti-communism. The successful communist revolution in neighboring China in 1949 was extremely troubling to the West, even though China, like Vietnam, had greatly aided the Allies in the fight against the Japanese. The people’s triumph in China greatly contributed to Truman’s decision to not only continue his support of the tyrannical Rhee in Korea, but significantly escalate aid to the French military forces in their colonial war against Vietnamese self-determination efforts (considered part of monolithic “communism”) further south. The advancement of “communism” had to be stopped!
The United States’ ability to crush the popular movement (of “communists” as they were incorrectly labeled by U.S./Rhee political and military leaders) in Korea was an important test of the success or failure of the “containment” policy articulated in 1948 by George Kennan, director of the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff (PPS). Publishing a then top-secret document (PPS 23, February 24, 1948), Kennan laid out an honest assessment of the need for a successful U.S. imperial policy:
“…we have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population…In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task…is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security…We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction…We should cease to talk about vague and — for the Far East — unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
Three-and-a-half months after Truman’s 1947 “containment” speech, the July 26, 1947 National Security Act established the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the latter which was to operate under the NSC. The CIA mandate to manage much of the Cold War was initiated at the very first meeting of the NSC on December 19, 1947, directing the CIA in National Security Council Document 4/A (NSC 4/A) to undertake covert psychological and other operations to prevent a feared popular (democratic) Communist victory in the scheduled 1948 Italian elections. The U.S. through the OSS (CIA’s predecessor) had already established operational connections with the Mafia in Italy in 1943 in order to aid Allied invasion strategies in Sicily and Italy proper. It is believed that a number of these connections continued to serve as “assets” in Italy. On December 22, 1947, a Special Procedures Group (SPG) was created to direct that effort. The stakes were considered high. George Kennan cabled U.S. diplomatic representatives in Europe: “As far as Europe is concerned, Italy is obviously key…If Communists were to win election there our whole position in Mediterranean, and possibly in Europe as well, would probably be undermined.” Kennan was so alarmed that he advocated outright U.S. military intervention in the event that the Communists win through the election process.
Truman ordered “Leftists” ousted from the Italian cabinet while he was providing weapons, supplies, and technical advice to the Italian military. And the CIA had organized a secret paramilitary army, with hidden stockpiles of weapons and explosives at various locations. Called Operation Gladio, 15,000 guerrillas were trained to be ready to overthrow the Italian government should it go “Communist.” The SPG provided secret funds to the centrist Italian political parties in efforts to guarantee a Communist Party defeat. The CIA by its own declaration gave $1 million to Italian “center” parties, though other reports place the amount at $10 million. Using fear rhetoric, the SPG officers on the ground in Italy waged an intense propaganda campaign using posters, pamphlets, planted newspaper stories, etc. More sordid disinformation devices were used such as the forging of documents and letters misrepresented as being written by the Communist Party.
In fact, the Communists were defeated in the April 1948 elections. No military coup was necessary. A propaganda coup had been executed with successful plausible deniability. This U.S. “victory” produced a surge of enthusiasm for covert operations as the device of choice in the behind-the-scenes struggles of the Cold War. The next month, Kennan recommended creation of a permanent organization to carry out in the world what the SPG under authority of NSC 4/A had done in Italy. NSC 10/2 superseded NSC 4/A on June 18, 1948, establishing the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) as the covert action arm of the CIA, and broadly chartered it to conduct an endless list of secret activities, including sabotage and overthrow of governments, in response to the “vicious covert activities of the USSR, its satellite countries and Communist groups.” NSC 10/2 stipulated that OPC covert actions be “so planned and conducted that any U.S. government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the U.S.Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them.” And NSC 10/2 defined covert actions as any activity related to “propaganda; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.” The whole world was now open to U.S. intervention. The device of being able to use plausible deniability (lying) has enabled, only in the arrogance of imperial fiction, of course, the U.S. to avoid taking responsibility for millions of murders and maimings of innocent human beings, destruction of civilian infrastructure such as schools, health clinics, and entire villages, and destroying the sovereignty and autonomy of entire Indigenous groups and nations.
In Korea’s neighbor China, the OSS during the War had established a base for its Asian activities. The U.S. signed a secret agreement with the tenuous Nationalist Chinese government that set up a joint secret service known as the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO). SACO was to provide training for guerrillas, conduct sabotage and espionage, and intercept Japanese communications. Following defeat of the Japanese, any cooperation between the Nationalists and Communists broke down. Truman aligned himself with Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist forces in the Civil War that raged after 1945. This despite the fact that the Nationalist Party under Chiang, and its army and government which was forced to flee the mainland, had taken over Taiwan upon the defeat of Japan and were known for their corruption and extraordinarily repressive measures. A reign of terror on Taiwan began on February 28, 1947, called the 1947 Massacre, lasting for many months, in which tens of thousands of Taiwan’s best and brightest were disappeared, tortured, and murdered by Chiang’s security forces. To the present day survivors and descendants of victims often do not know when their relatives were kidnapped nor where their bodies were dumped. This terror was similar to what the Koreans were experiencing at the same time under the U.S./Rhee forces. It is not surprising that Rhee and Chiang were friends sharing a similar philosophy of dictatorial rule while being supported by the United States under pretexts of being “democratic.”
A private airline, Civil Air Transport (CAT), created in 1946 by Chiang Kai-shek’s friend, General Claire Chenault, conducted paramilitary operations for the Nationalist forces, flying troops, supplies and dignitaries in the Civil War. After victory of the Communists over the Nationalists in late 1949, the United States became terrified. The CIA adopted the CAT, moved its base facilities to the Nationalist stronghold on Taiwan, and began officially covert flight operations on October 10, 1949. The Far East Division of the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) masterminded the operations against Communist China. A CIA paramilitary training base was created in November 1949 at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and front organizations with training and operational bases were set up in southern Taiwan. Raids against the mainland began in early 1950. The Nationalists claimed to have more than a million guerrillas active on the mainland but U.S. intelligence indicated about half that number. The Peoples’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Chinese Premier Chou En-lai claimed to have mobilized more than a million men for operations in central and southern China where the Nationalist’s wielded their major threat.
The Korean War was the first time the CIA, created in 1947, operated in a hot war. The NSC 10/2 provided the “authority” for carrying out destabilizing, plausibly deniable, clandestine operations against China and Korea. By April 1950, President Truman approved the massive National Security Council study known as NSC 68, which became the most fundamental U.S. Cold War document. It was being implemented as the Korean hot war was to begin. NSC 68 concluded that “the assault on free institutions is world-wide” and “imposes on us, in our own interests, the responsibility of world leadership” such that we must seek “to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish.”
Office of Strategic Services (OSS) veterans John “Jack” Singlaub and Danish-American Hans Tofte headed up CIA operations in Korea. OSS had operated during WWII and was CIA’s precedent organization. When Tofte first arrived in Tokyo to begin planning for his Korea mission in 1950, there were only six CIA operatives present. Creating a secure fifty-acre compound serving as a headquarters at Atsugi Air Force Base, forty-seven miles south of Tokyo, Tofte quickly worked to recruit more than 1,000 operatives. He created six other training stations in Japan and Korea, including a large guerrilla training base on Yong-do, a small island in the Bay of Pusan on Korea’s southern tip. Two islands off the east and west coasts, respectively, above the 38th parallel, manned by CIA agents and communications personnel, served as locations for retrieving downed flyers. There were two CIA-controlled indigenous “fishing fleets” patrolling the coasts while actively involved in black market operations. More than 1,200 guerrillas were trained on Yong-do for covert actions in the North to rescue downed pilots, commit acts of sabotage, and incite insurrectionary activities among hoped-for disgruntled North Koreans. From April to December 1951 alone, the CIA sent forty-four teams into North Korea to operate near the Yalu River. Their mission was to gather intelligence, ambush truck convoys and disrupt supply lines. Tofte inherited the forty strong aircraft of the nearly bankrupt Civil Air Transport (CAT) that had earlier fought on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists in their long guerrilla war against the Chinese Communists. The beefed up CIA office was responsible for covert actions over a wide swath of Asia far beyond Korea: eastern Siberia as far inland as Lake Baikal; all of Mongolia and North China to include Manchuria, and the Kurile Islands northeast of Japan and the Ryukyu Islands southwest of Japan.
When the Korean hot war began in June 1950, the Far East Division of the CIA’s OPC rapidly expanded. Demand for covert operations against North Korea and China became a major focus. Both CIA and Military covert operations utilizing thousands of Koreans and hundreds of Chinese were constant throughout the war, but with limited success. A secret advanced training base was created on the Mid-Pacific Island of Saipan, part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, technically a United Nations dependency. By the U.S. using this island for a secret military base it was breaking international law, but this violation was unfortunately part of a long pattern of lawless behavior carried out with total impunity. The CIA kept a large weapons depot on Okinawa. During the Korean War, the U.S. constantly trained and armed Nationalist Chinese troops hiding illegally in Burma and Thailand for their launching of regular invasions into the Yunnan region of China, hoping to distract Communist Chinese troops away from their military support of the North Koreans. In order to facilitate regular arms flow to the Nationalists in Burma, Thailand and Taiwan, the CIA became complicit in Chiang’s forces selling of large amounts of drugs (opium) to finance their operations.
The Korean War was the experience that catavaulted the CIA into a large operation. In 1949, the agency’s OPC had 302 personnel, operating on a $4.7 million budget located at seven foreign stations. By 1952, during the Korean War, the OPC had grown to 2,812 direct employees with an additional 3,142 “overseas contract personnel,” with a budget of $82 million operating out of forty-seven stations.
It is instructive to note, however, that the U.S. security and intelligence infrastructure that was to become so entrenched and ubiquitous during the Cold War was actually created at the beginning of World War II under President Roosevelt. After the Nazis had taken Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Roosevelt created the Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference (IIC) comprised of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Army’s Military Intelligence Division (MID/G-2), and the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). On September 1, 1939, the ante was heightened when Germany invaded Poland, marking the formal begining of WW II. There was still plenty of resistance in the United States to entering the war which created a political dilemma for Roosevelt. In July 1940, then from December 6, 1940 to March 18, 1941, Roosevelt quietly dispatched private citizen, Wall Street lawyer, and World War I hero, William J. Donovan, to England, then to Portugal, Gibraltar, Madrid, Malta, Cairo and Alexandria, the Libyan desert, Athens, Sofia in Bulgaria, Belgrade, Albania, Turkey, Cyprus, Palestine, Baghdad, Ireland, and Jerusalem to size up the effectiveness of the German “Fifth Column” and the extent of counter-sentiments thereto.
As a result of Donovan’s secret intelligence mission, Roosevelt created on July 11, 1941, the Office of Coordinator of (War) Information (COI), the first U.S. agency ever whose function was to gather and interpret intelligence. Donovan was named director. The amount of work being generated led to dividing the functions of the COI into two new organizations on June 13, 1942: the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), headed by Donovan, but technically under the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Office of War Information (OWI), headed by Elmer Davis. The OSS became the first genuine foreign intelligence agency in U.S. history, and had trained agents, both military and civilian, located throughout the world conducting numerous clandestine activities. In April 1945, one month before defeat of the Germans, Allen Dulles, the OSS’s Chief of Mission in Berne, Switzerland, asked Eastern European OSS officer Frank Wisner to begin secret talks with General Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s notorious eastern front espionage chief. The U.S. was concerned about its post-War relations with its temporary ally, but long-term enemy, the USSR. Gehlen possessed voluminous files on Soviet activities, agents, suspected agents, government officials, and military capacity. Gehlen had microfilmed his intelligence files and buried this information throughout the Austrian Alps. Two weeks after the German army surrendered, Gehlen turned himself in on May 22, 1945, and was later flown to Washington, D.C. to meet with OSS founder Donovan and chief European OSS contact Allen Dulles. Before the end of 1945, Gehlen and much of his command structure with their entire network of thousands of spies and double agents were freed from POW camps with annonymity and impunity, then provided with several million dollars to continue to develop Russian and Eastern European intelligence information for the United States. This became known as the “Gehlen Org” and it began working immediately to destroy the existing anti-fascist, popular resistance movements, restoring oligarchic traditions of power, in effect destroying any possibility of a genuine democratic process.
After Roosevelt’s death in April of 1945, new President Truman indicated a dislike for Donovan and was distrustful of the OSS. Less than two months after Japan surrendered, on October 1, 1945, Truman summarily disbanded the OSS and temporarily replaced some aspects of it with the Strategic Services Unit (SSU) in the Department of War. On January 22, 1946, Truman created something called the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), which immediately started gathering intelligence in Latin America while the Gehlen Org was busy doing the same in Eastern Europe, and while under deep cover in the Soviet Union. By August 1946, the anxious U.S. government renamed the SSU the Office of Special Operations (OSO). Note that the word “Special” generally is a code word for “secret.” The OSO initially had a staff of a thousand, including six hundred dispatched to seven field stations around the world. Its Foreign Division (FDM) Chief was Richard Helms, responsible for intelligence in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, in which he worked closely with Gehlen’s organization. Helms who had been voted most likely to succeed in his 1935 graduating class at prestigous Williams College in Massachusetts, would later become the director of the CIA during the Vietnam War years.
In September 1946 President Truman secretly authorized “Project Paperclip” circulated as State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) 257/22, that authorized ultimately thousands of German scientists, doctors, as well as intelligence operators to emigrate to the United States with complete immunity from prosecution for war crimes. Much of the U.S. rocket and space program, much of its secret warfare against “Communists” in the U.S., in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and much of U.S. Special Warfare doctrine, drew considerably from this supply of German talent and philosophy. Much of the counterinsurgency literature of the U.S. military is based on an analysis of Nazi experience in Europe, especially as to which techniques worked for controlling resistance, particularly the use of mass terror.
On December 11, 1946, the Secretary of War created a special subcommittee of SWNCC to creat guidelines for covert action operations. After the subcommittee began planning for specific operations in April 1947, it soon took even another name in June, the Special Studies and Evaluations Subcommittee. But on July 24, the infamous National Security Act mentionned above became law, creating the National Security Council, an independent Army, Navy, and Air Force with a Joint Chief of Staff under a new Department of Defense (rather than the War Department), and a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). That is the structure that remains today, and has orchestrated countless crimes in blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations Charter, many other international laws, while threatening the sovereignty of more than 100 nations, killing and maiming millions in the process. The U.S. has waged (and continues to wage) various covert campaigns, perhaps as many as 10,000, in these countries, in its efforts to prevent any kind of serious alternative economic and political discussion and system from competing with the immense private profits of Western style capitalism. Increasingly we know that such obsession possesses the emotional passion of a religion that knows no limits in its tyrannical, often forcefully imposed tentacles to be spread wherever U.S.-driven selfish economic interests dictate. Their U.S. oligarchic political representatives systematically respond to assure promotion and necessary protection for such exploits, whether of the covert or overt variety, no matter the costs.
All of this activity has been rationalized, and made “lawful” by the imperial legal system of the United States. The most illuminating and coherent Cold War statement came out of the 1949-50 study by the National Security Council, with issuance of NSC-68, mentionned above, “United States Objectives for National Security.” An ultimate declaration of U.S. “Manifest Destiny,” NSC-68 formulated a worldview of polarization between two opposing ideologies where the leaders of the United States asserted the unique right and responsibility to impose their chosen “order among nations” so that “our free society can flourish.” NSC-68 declared that U.S. policy and action must “foster a fundamental change in the nature of the Soviet system.” A global imperial policy was seen as indispensable to protect “our belief in ourselves and our way of life.” Ideologically speaking, this document articulates well our historical addiction to an imperial psychology that continues to this day. It became clear that following World War II, the United States considered all political and economic sectors or regions of influence that it did not control as being a threat to its global objectives of an integrated political-economic capitalism, i.e., promotion of the grotesquely consumptive American Way Of Life (AWOL).
In early 1951, the policy directives NSC-101 and NSC-118 established further “authority” for a variety of covert operations in North Korea and China. Of course, the U.S. had already been previously conducting operations in Korea and China, as well as elsewhere, but as the Korean War gave great impetus to the CIA, U.S. hegemony through clandestine activities merely intensified.
The U.S./Puppet Rhee Repression Machinery Created
The U.S. understood that if it was to assert Western-style, capitalist control in Korea it had to defeat, then eliminate, the broad-based popular, democratic KPR. Instead of repatriating Japanese as mandated, the U.S. military government (USAMGIK), manned by nearly 2,000 U.S. officers, most of whom were unable to speak or understand the Korean language, quickly recruited them and their Korean collaborators to continue administrative functions. More important, and egregiously, the U.S. military government revived the feared Japanese colonial police force, the Korean National Police (KNP). About 85 percent of the Koreans who had served in the Japanese colonial police force were quickly employed by the U.S. to man the KNP. Other collaborators were recruited into the Korean Constabulary created in December 1945 by the commander of the U.S. forces in Korea, General John R. Hodge. Secret protocols, later revealed, gave the U.S. operational control of the South Korean police and all of its armed forces from August 15, 1945 to June 30, 1949. Additionally, many Japanese and Korean collaborators who had been correspondingly purged, often brutally as well, by Russian forces and the new popular Korean committees in the north, became core members of powerful paramilitary groups like the Korean National Youth (KNY) and the Northwest Youth League (NWY) in the south which would work in concert with the “official” U.S./Rhee security forces.
This was happening despite the fact that the U.S. government knew full well of Korean desires in 1945 for independence. General John Reed Hodge, commander of the XXIV Corps of the United States Tenth Army, became Commanding General of the US Armed Forces in Korea because his forces could be moved quickly to Korea after Japan’s August 15 surrender. While in Okinawa, Japan, the XXIV Corps possessed a thorough study entitled, “Joint Army-Navy Intelligence Study of Korea.” This report described the strong desires of the Koreans for their independence, and that they preferred a cumbersome autonomous transition to the danger and dread of continued control by “some successor to Japan.” The study described the extent of the 40 year Japanese rule and its collusion with an aristocratic Korean minority, reiterating that the majority of tenant-farmers were terribly oppressed. Nonetheless, the U.S. had no intention to grant the Koreans their historical legal and cultural rights to independence. And a subsequent U.S. survey of Korean attitudes disclosed that nearly three quarters of the population clearly wanted a socialist, rather than a capitalist, system. Furthermore, early reports revealed that their socialist leanings were quite independent of any directives from the Soviet Union, and were cooperative with but not under the thumb of northern Korea communists.
The U.S. hurriedly organized wealthy conservative Koreans representing the traditional land-owning elite and, on September 16, convened the Korean Democratic Party (KDP). According to XXIV Corps intelligence, the U.S. had quickly identified “several hundered conservatives” among the older and more educated Koreans who had served the Japanese who could serve as the nucleus for the rapidly convened KDP. These were the Koreans who had grown wealthy as a result of years of collaboration with their Japanese colonizers. Preston Goodfellow, former Deputy Director of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) who had a background in U.S. Army intelligence and clandestine warfare, was an acquaintance with Syngman Rhee living in the United States, and quickly made arrangements to import the seventy-year-old expatriate politician to Korea. Apparently Rhee had in some way cooperated with OSS in Washington, D.C. during World War II. On October 16, 1945, Rhee was flown to Korea from the U.S. on General Douglas MacArthur’s personal plane.
At the conclusion of World War II, Goodfellow was director of a mysterious “Overseas Reconstruction Corporation” which probably served as an intelligence front. In that capacity he became involved in Asian tungsten deals with the World Commerce Corporation, a postwar company established by heads of Allied intelligence operations, including William J. (“Wild Bill”) Donovan, the founding director of the OSS and Goodfellow’s immediate boss when he was gathering intelligence during the war. Tungsten was and is one of the most treasured strategic metals used in making hardened tank armor and anti-tank shells tipped with tungsten carbide. Only the more recent discovery of depleted uranium (DU 238) as an even more effective, but extraordinarily dangerous, armor plating and piercing shell has tungsten been replaced in this function. By early 1949 Goodfellow had become Syngman Rhee’s principal U.S. advisor and was a key agent for Korean-American business deals, and likely intelligence operations, involving both the U.S. and Nationalist China prior to the success of the Communists over the Nationalists. In 1954 Goodfellow was working with the former head of propaganda operations for the OSS in importing tungsten for the U.S. which at the time was desperate to maintain its military stockpile.
Rhee had been born in 1876 in Hwanghae Province, south of Pyonyang, into a struggling, though upper class family in the Yi dynasty. While attending a Methodist middle school in Seoul he repudiated Buddhism and Confucianism in favor of Christianity. However, he was vigorously opposed to the Japanese presence in Korea. He was arrested by Japanese police authorities and was sent to prison for several years. After release he had left for the United States in 1905, and was apparently able to arrange a meeting with outgoing Secretary of State John Hay in urging Theodore Roosevelt to protect Korean independence as the President was mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War. He apparently was also able to meet with Roosevelt at his summer home at Oyster Bay, Long Island, at the very same time that Roosevelt’s Secretary of War Taft was meeting with Japan’s Katsura to consummate an agreement to Japan’s control over Korea if Japan honored the U.S. control over the Philippines. Rhee was rudely rebuffed. Rhee remained in the United States and received degrees from George Washington University (1907), an M.A. from Harvard (1908), and an alleged Ph.D. from Princeton (1910) where he claimed to have studied under Professor Woodrow Wilson. He is credited to being the first Korean to receive a doctorate from a U.S. university, even though it is not at all certain that he received such degree. He returned briefly to Korea in 1910 to work for the Seoul YMCA as a teacher and evangelist, but returned to the U.S. in 1912 where he remained, part of the time in Hawaii, other times in Washington and New York, until Goodfellow brought him back to Korea on MacArthur’s plane thirty-three years later with his wealthy Austrian wife whom he had met on a 1932 trip to Europe. To his credit an anti-Japanese colonialist, he had at one point been the leader of a Korean Provisional Government in exile, but was expelled in 1925 for embezzlement. Now Rhee, a Methodist, would quickly become
the U.S. puppet leader in Buddhist and Confucianist Korea, just as Diem, a Catholic who had been temporarily living in New Jersey, was to be in Buddhist Vietnam nearly ten years later in the continuation of a tragic Asian policy in which the U.S. continued to confuse national movements for self-determination with monolithic communism. When he returned to Korea in 1945 few Koreans or U.S. Americans knew much about him since he had been in exile in the U.S. for a total of nearly forty years.
Now, with its Korean police state forces beefed up and a Korean political puppet it could herald as the new democratic leader of a South Korea, the U.S. Military Government could begin its systematic purge of all opposition forces. On October 20, at the Welcoming Ceremony for the Occupation, Rhee made it clear he was not intending to unify the country. Rhee denounced Russia and the North and refused to work with the KPR that had been democratically created on September 6. Rhee quickly embraced the pro-Japanese Koreans already working with the U.S. military government, while denouncing the more numerous anti-Japanese advocates on the Left. On December 12, 1945, the USAMGIK, working closely with Syngman Rhee, outlawed the KPR and all its related local, provincial and national democratic peoples’ organizations and activities. The various unions had joined forces in November under the National Council of Korean Labor Unions (NCKLU), affiliated with the KPR, but their activities were soon prohibited. All labor strikes were forbidden; most union activities were considered traitorous. Women’s organizations, youth groups, and other elements of the popular movement were targeted as well. In September 1946, disgruntled workers declared a daring strike that by October spread throughout South Korea. The USAMGIK declared martial law. By December, the combination of KNP forces, the Constabulary (called the National Defence Forces by Koreans, later to become the Republic of Korea Army or ROKA), and right-wing paramilitary units, supplemented by U.S. military forces and intelligence as needed, had forcefully contained the insurrection in all provinces. More than 1,000 Koreans had been killed with more than 30,000 jailed. Regional and local leaders of the popular movement were either dead, in prison, or had gone underground.
Cheju Uprising in Response to Rhee’s Plans for Separate Elections Leads to Cheju Massacre
Rhee, with total U.S. support, was busily preparing for a political division of Korea involuntarily imposed on the vast majority of the Korean people. Following suppression of the October-December 1946 insurrection, in 1947 Koreans began to form small guerrilla units that conducted sporadic activities for a year or so. On March 1, 1948, a large nonviolent demonstration on Korea’s Cheju Island took place to celebrate the anniversary of the Korean people’s 1919 mass demonstrations against Japanese occupation. Using the occasion to protest Rhee’s planned separate elections scheduled for May 1948, the crowd was fired upon by the KNP. The police arrested 2,500, a number were injured, and several Koreans were tortured, then killed. Cheju, Korea’s largest island located 70 miles south of the mainland, had been governed by popular local peoples’ committees since August 1945, and had been left relatively alone up to that point. The vast majority of its inhabitants were poor farmers and fisherpeople living a marginal existence. General Hodge even acknowledged that Cheju was a “truly communal area that is peacefully controlled by the people’s committee without much Comintern influence.” But Cheju’s democratic period was brutally terminated. The March 1 incident provoked a larger people’s rebellion that erupted on the island on April 3.
As matters seemed to be getting out of hand, a number of leaders from throughout Korea attempted one last effort at peaceful reunification. An emergency national conference was convened on April 19-23, 1948, in Pyongyang, attended by most political leaders on the right as well as the left, except for Rhee. Conferees opposed Rhee’s scheduled plans for separate elections in the south on May 10, about to be sanctioned by the U.S./U.N. However, the convention was unable to dislodge the U.S./Rhee position, and the elections proceeded as scheduled. This was a further depressing development for most Koreans, closing any space for democratic participation that might lead to a reunified Korea. This was the last time representatives from organizations both south and north of the 38th Parallel were to meet in Korea to discuss reunification until the historic summit between the two respective leaders nearly fifty-two years later, June 13-15, 2000. But dramatic escalation of armed resistance to the US/Rhee regime was about to begin.
The U.S. military commander in Cheju, Colonel Rothwell Brown, ordered an indiscriminate scorched earth campaign as the Cheju uprising escalated. The U.S. Navy blockaded the island with eighteen warships, while bombarding it with 37mm cannons. U.S. planes conducted regular reconnaissance missions and dropped grenades and small bombs. U.S. mortars, machine guns, rockets, and M-1 rifles were provided to the NKP, the Constabulary/military, and right-wing paramilitary units. U.S. advisers conducted daily counterinsurgency briefings, interrogated and tortured prisoners, brought Japanese officers and soldiers to aid in the suppression efforts, and contributed U.S. combat troops at critical moments. All this suppression effort was applied despite the fact that officials of the USAMGIK had acknowledged prior to the uprising that the Cheju islanders had been treated cruelly by the NKP and Rhee’s right-wing units.
While the Cheju insurgency and the responding U.S./Rhee “suppression” campaign were raging, on October 19, 1948, elements of the 14th and 16th Regiments of the ROK Army in the southern port city of Yosu refused orders to head for Cheju to suppress the guerrillas there. This mutinous rebellion quickly spread to other areas in the southern part of the mainland. The cities of Yosu and Sunchon, among others, were taken over by the guerrillas, and local peoples’ committees were immediately restored in a number of other villages, including on some of the smaller islands off Korea’s southern coast. However, within two weeks this mutiny was contained by a brutal campaign coordinated by U.S. military adviser Captain James Hausman and intelligence officer Captain John Reed, and carried out by young Korean colonels with the aid of U.S. reconnaissance and transport aircraft, firepower, and ground troops as necessary. The numbers of civilians massacred dramatically escalated. All Koreans suspected of those thought sympathetic with the uprising were executed. The only rebels spared were those who agreed to collaborate with the U.S. officers to aid in identifying and hunting other participants in the rebellion. One of the collaborators apparently was Park Chun Hee, later to become dictatorial ruler of South Korea, who escaped execution by helping in the identification of his former associates, including his own brother. More than 1,000 Yosu rebels fled into the Chiri mountains in November where they joined with other guerrillas. At the time, the CIA estimated there were 3,500 to 6,000 guerrillas in the southern part of the mainland, not counting rebel activity on the Island of Cheju.
It is important to note that most of Cheju’s residents, like the vast majority of mainland Koreans, experienced a marginal existence under the thumb of a traditional tiny elite who owned most of the land and businesses. The Japanese occupation had strictly maintained this disparity. It is within this socio-economic context in which the majority expressed their unhappiness with the status quo, often leading to desperate guerrilla activity as the only alternative available to them.
The success of the Yosu suppression gave the state security forces more confidence as they stepped up their repression efforts. Rhee quickly pushed a National Security Law through the National Assembly. The law included ambiguous language, “disturbing the tranquility of the nation,” to define crimes against the state. Any reference by citizens in the south to or about their neighbors in the north, including desires for reunification, was interpreted as threatening the tranquility of the new nation of the Republic of Korea headed by the dictatorial Rhee. The U.S./Rhee police state went into full force throughout South Korea, regularly guided by U.S. military advisors, and often supported by U.S. military firepower, intelligence, and occasional ground troops. Using the new security law, Rhee’s forces had more than 90,000 people arrested. On the Island of Cheju alone, within a year, as many as 60,000 of its 300,000 residents were murdered, while another 40,000 fled by sea to nearby Japan. Over 230 of the Island’s 400 villages were totally scorched with 40,000 homes burned to the ground. As many as 100,000 inhabitants were herded into government compounds, while the remainder apparently became collaborators in order to survive. The repression grew in its sadistic dimensions. Suspects were often stripped naked, tortured, forced to have sex before being beheaded while loved ones were forced, first to watch while clapping with their hands, then to parade in front of their torturers carrying the severed heads of family members. U.S. Captain James Hausman, who had earlier advised in the regions of Ch’unch’on and Seoul, called himself “the father of the South Korean Army,” and was officially recognized for his successful leadership in the “suppression” campaigns in both the Cheju and Yosu uprisings.
Korean Division Becomes “Legal”
Seventy-three-year-old Rhee was elected President on May 10, 1948, an election boycotted by virtually all Koreans except the conservative, elite KDP and Rhee’s own right-wing political groups. Rhee legally took office as President on August 15, and the Republic Of Korea (ROK) was formally declared. In response, three-and-a-half weeks later (on September 9, 1948), the people of the north begrudgingly created their own separate government, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), with Kim Il Sung as its Premier. Korea was now clearly, and tragically, split in two. Kim Il Sung had survived being a guerrilla fighter against the Japanese occupation in both China and Korea since 1932 when he was twenty years old. Kim was thirty-three when he returned to Pyongyang in October 1945 to begin the hoped-for era of rebuilding Korea free of foreign domination, and thirty-six when he became North Korea’s first premier on September 9, 1948.
Meanwhile, the Russian forces that had occupied the north since August 1945 withdrew on schedule in December 1948, leaving only a small number of advisors behind. After the ROK was offically proclaimed in August 1948, the U.S. State Department argued to delay the expected withdrawal of U.S. combat troops until June 30, 1949. This provided Rhee with additional benefits from U.S. combat support against his civilian and guerrilla opposition. These forces were finally withdrawn at the end of June 1949, replaced by a 500-man Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG), headed by Brigadier General William L. Roberts.
Meanwhile, in September 1949, following the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. troops, Rhee’s anxiety increased about the lingering guerrilla war and the growing strength of the DPRK’s air forces, even though the Russian military had withdrawn from the North in 1948. He wanted to begin building his own air force, alleviating his nervous dependency upon the United States air forces. U.S. military and political leaders were opposed to granting aircraft to Rhee whose eagerness to invade the North they believed could cause a needless provocation with the North. Also secretary of State Acheson had denied the same request from Chiang Kai-Shek for his Nationalist forces fighting the Chinese Communists. Pastor Goodfellow was supporting his friend Rhee’s request for air forces for the ROK. Rhee found additional sympathetic support from Goodfellow’s friend, General Claire Chennault, who founded the Civil Air Transport (CAT) after World War II, the “Flying Tiger” air force, subsequently controlled by the CIA. CAT had been flying mercenaries and supplies for China’s Kuomintang (KMT) forces who by late 1949 were sequestered in Burma in the wake of the Communist victory. All of the CAT planes had by then been safely moved to Formosa. In August 1949 Chiang Kai-Shek visited Rhee seeking an airbase in Korea that could assist the Nationalists in their continued campaign against the Chinese communists. Rhee in turn invited Chennault to Korea in November 1949 to present plans for developing a Korean air force along with the necessary secure bases. However, not until the Korean hot war started did the U.S. brass authorize the forty CAT planes relocated to six CIA training stations in Japan and Korea to fly transport, bombing and intelligence missions against Chinese installations along the coast, as well as serving the U.S./ United Nations campaigns against North Koreans. The nearly bankrupt airline, despite CIA funds, had a new lease on life, and was given the job of running the Korean National Airline as well.
The Systematic Elimination of Civilian Dissent
Both U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson and George Kennan, Asian specialist at the U.S. State Department, made it clear in 1949 that the ability of the “democratically elected” Syngman Rhee to suppress the internal threats to his regime was very important for the success of our containment (of “communism”) policy. The “guerrillas” had to be quickly eliminated so that the world could clearly witness Korea’s successful handling of the “communist threat.” The stakes were high in Korea for the U.S., and the West in general, and the U.S. wanted to make sure that their puppet Rhee would prevail, no matter the cost to the Korean people or to their aspirations for a reunified country. Goodfellow had briefed Rhee at the end of 1948, referencing his conversations with Acheson about Korea, that the guerrillas had to be “cleaned out quickly…everyone is watching how Korea handles the communist threat.” This helps explain the large role the U.S. military played in suppressing any and all resistance to the Rhee regime: advisers with all Korean army and police units, use of spotter planes to ferret out guerrillas, daily briefings of counterinsurgency units, interrogation and torture of prisoners, regular intelligence briefings, use of transport planes carrying armed troops and supplies, and even the occasional use of U.S. combat forces.
The Rhee/U.S. forces escalated their ruthless campaign of cleansing the south of dissidents, identifying as a suspected “communist” anyone who opposed the Rhee regime, whether openly or quietly. In fact, most participants or believers in the popular movement in the south were socialists and unaffiliated with outside “communist” organizations. As the repression intensified, however, alliances with popular movements in the north, including communist organizations, increased. The Cheju insurgency was crushed by August 1949, but on the mainland, guerrilla warfare continued in most provinces until 1950-51. In the eyes of the commander of U.S. military forces in Korea, General Hodge, and new “President” Syngman Rhee, virtually any Korean not a publicly professed rightist was considered a “communist” traitor. Therefore massive numbers of farmers, villagers and urban residents were systematically rounded up in rural areas, villages and cities from throughout South Korea. Captives were regularly tortured to extract names of others. Thousands were imprisoned, and even more thousands forced to dig mass graves before being ordered into them and shot by fellow Koreans, often under the watch of U.S. officers. Estimates of civilians murdered under the pretext of killing “communists” during the era of legal U.S. occupation (August 15, 1945-August 15, 1948) and the succeeding extended period until June 30, 1949 when U.S. combat troops were finally withdrawn, often are in the 500,000 range, with the lowest figure being 100,000, the highest being 800,000.
Political prisoners under U.S. occupation increased from 17,000 in southern Korea at the time Rhee was brought from the United States in October 1945, to over 21,000 by December 1947. By mid-1949, there were 30,000 alleged “commiunists” in Rhee’s jails, and an estimated 70,000 in so-called “guidance camps” used as overflow prisons. By December 1949 as many as 1,000 people a day were being rounded up, tortured, and imprisoned. Meanwhile numerous others were being murdered summarily after torture, not even having the “privilege” of being thrown in prison. Agents had penetrated every organization, every student group, every cafe, and every workplace seeking any evidence of publicly expressed dissent and contempt for the Rhee regime. And even though the bulk of U.S. troops had departed, officials from the U.S. embassy and with the remaining 500 man U.S. Military Advisory Group knew and was complicit in this reign of terror.
A 1948 CIA personality profile analysis of Rhee, apparently the first ever prepared on a foreign leader by the relatively new CIA, concluded: “The danger exists…that Rhee’s inflated ego may lead him into action disastrous or at least highly embarrassing to the new Korean Government and to the interests of the U.S.” It is certainly true that the U.S. was worried about Rhee provoking a military attack against the North across the 17th Parallel. But a bloodbath within the South, exterminating or imprisoning virtually the entire popular movement, which at one time clearly represented the vast majority of Korean citizens, was of no concern to the U.S. In fact, it supported and directed much of it! Though at times the U.S. government privately censured Rhee and his military and Korean National Police units, U.S. officials consistently publicly praised the “free and democratic” Republic of Korea (ROK).
This sordid record of U.S. policy and its consequent behavior in Korea between 1945-50 served as a “training” model to be subsequently emulated, “refined” and at times varied to suit the situation. For example, following the 1965 CIA coup in Indonesia replacing the unacceptable (to the U.S. government) “Neutralist” President Sukarno with military strongman Suharto, systematic identification and elimination for several years of those perceived as sympathetic with Sukarno or who were thought to be “communist” led to the murders of anywhere from 500,000 to one million. The Phoenix program in South Vietnam sought to eliminate the Viet Cong civilian infrastructure from 1967-72, with estimates of those killed and/or captured reaching nearly 70,000. U.S. support for the counterrevolutionary government in El Salvador and its associated death squads from 1980 to 1994 led to the murders of 75,000 people, and displacement of more than a million. In revolutionary Nicaragua, U.S. created counterrevolutionary terrorists called Contras that marauded from 1982-90 through the countryside, destroying villages and assassinating those identified as supportive of the revolutionary government. More than 75,000 Nicaraguas were murdered or severely maimed.
There are many other examples, as well, perhaps six or seven dozen, where the use of military and security forces have used (and continue to use) terrorism under the aegis of fighting terrorism, more than not with U.S. support and direction, to preserve an ideology that supports the way of life for the elite and privileged at the expense of the poor majority. But with the possible exception of the barbaric purge in Indonesia from 1965-1967, which murdered anywhere from 500,000 to one million, the systematic elimination of the popular movement in Korea directed by the U.S./Rhee regime from 1945-50 continues to rank as the most aggrieved of all victim-nations during the so-called Cold War.
Meanwhile, and ironically, the period 1945-50 was experienced by most U.S. Americans as being among the most pleasant in their history. Basking in military victory from World War II, feeling invincible with possession and further development of the most powerful and technologically sophisticated military weaponry ever known to humankind, the people of the United States through their plutocratic government and capitalist economics were to rule the world. They would perceive as a threat virtually any alternative political-economic idea and prevent it from taking hold. “Manifest Destiny” began its truly global march to everywhere.
U.S. Decides To Announce Beginning of Hot War
The hot war apparently began at Ongjin very near the 38th Parallel in western Korea about 3 or 4 a.m. on June 25 (Korean time), 1950. This was in the same general area where heavy fighting had erupted at Kaesong in early May 1949, when battles, apparently started by six infantry companies from the south, lasted four days, taking the lives of 400 North Korean and 22 South Korean soldiers. According to U.S. and South Korean officials, nearly 100 civilians were also killed in Kaesong. Subsequent heavy fighting occurred in June on the remote Onjin Peninsula on the west coast above Seoul, and in August when forces from the north attacked the ROKA occupying a small mountain north of the 38th Parallel. Rhee had constantly threatened attacks on North Korea, creating anxiety among U.S. advisers. Just how the fighting started and by whom on that particular day, June 25, 1950, depends on one’s source of information. The North’s official version claims that South Korean forces had been shelling with howitzers and mortars the Unpa-san area on the Ongjin Peninsula on June 23-24. Then the ROKA’s 17th Regiment attacked a northern unit at Turak Mountain on the Onjin Peninsula on June 25 which was repelled by the northern forces. The South claimed, on the contrary, that elements of ROKA’s 17th Regiment counterattacked and were in possession of Haeju city, the only location north of the 38th Parallel claimed to have been taken by the South’s forces. This was announced on the morning of June 26. The details are irrelevant, however, since a civil and revolutionary war had been raging for nearly two years with military incursions moving routinely back and forth across the 38th Parallel. The war was announced to the world as a premeditated, belligerent attack of communist forces from the north against a sovereign democratic society in the south. The quick introduction of U.S./U.N. military forces beginning on June 26 occurred with no understanding by the West (except by a few astute observors such as journalist I.F. Stone) that in fact they were entering an active revolutionary, civil war in progress explicitly against five years of U.S. interference with the passionate effort of indigenous Koreans to achieve genuine independence. These additional outside forces simply fueled Korean passions even more, while creating further divisions among them.
This tragic paranoid misunderstanding by the U.S., and the West in general, accompanied by deeply held racism, helps to explain, but not in any way excuse, the massive numbers of civilians (“gooks”) massacred by U.S./U.N. forces, including, of course, by the ROK army itself, and the incredible devastation of civilian targets and murder of millions of civilians from the tenacious aerial bombing campaigns conducted throughout the war. Many of the bombing missions were carried out by the 1,008 bomber crews of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) under direction of its young and reckless commanding General, Curtis LeMay, who had recently directed the firebombings that destroyed all or parts of sixty-six Japanese cities in 1945. The extent of the hatred felt by U.S. forces toward Koreans was sometimes reported by shocked news people. The derogatory term “gooks” was as commonly applied to Koreans by U.S. military personnel as it was to Vietnamese later, during the Vietnam War. The Rhee forces, mostly made up of Koreans collaborating with their former Japanese occupiers, were also merciless in their killing of fellow Korean civilians in both southern and northern areas of Korea.
Continuing Threat of Use of Atomic Weapons on Northern Korea and China
Due to the early military successes of the northern forces pushing the ROK army and U.S. forces far south of Seoul, General MacArthur, on July 9, 1950, requested the use of Atomic bombs to protect his retreating forces. After some deliberation in Washington, this request was denied. This was the first of at least nine separate circumstances when the U.S. seriously considered using Atomic/Nuclear bombs against northern Korea and adjacent regions of China during the Korean War. A second “active consideration” of use of the Bomb occurred on November 30, 1950, following entrance into the war in late October of the Chinese military “hordes,” when President Truman publicly suggested General MacArthur might be given authority to use the Atomic bomb at his discretion to stop the Chinese. This created a tremendous furor in Europe which initially dampened the idea. Nonetheless, Truman ordered SAC to “dispatch…bomb groups” to Asia to “include Atomic capabilities” and had non-assembled Atomic bombs moved to aircraft carriers off Korean coasts.
Seven subsequent known serious considerations of using the Bomb occurred.
- In December 1950, only a short time after Truman’s public suggestion elicited negative responses from Europe, the Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) supported General MacArthur requested discretionary use of over thirty Atomic bombs to be dropped on “retardation targets” and “invasion forces” if necessary to avoid defeat.
- In March and April 1951, the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested use of Atomic bombs against Chinese bases in Korea and China, a plan supported in principle by President Truman who ordered the transfer (of completely assembled Atomic weapons) “to military custody” in Asia (Guam and Okinawa, Japan) for use against Chinese and North Korean targets if the Soviets and Chinese in any way escalated the war that spring.
- In June and July 1951, the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested use of Atomic weapons in tactical operations, five months after the first U.S. tests of tactical Nuclear weapons, in case of “unacceptable” deadlocks in the peace talks that had begun in July.
- In October 1951, three Army colonels traveled from Washington, D.C. to Japan and Korea for a top secret meeting with General Ridgeway, commander of the U.N. forces, and other officers, in part to initiate plans and preparations for “the employment of atomic weapons in support of ground operations” in Asia. In September and October 1951, U.S. bombers flew simulated Atomic bombing runs over northern Korea, even dropping dummy Atomic bombs, in preparation for using the real thing if peace talks were unacceptably stalled.
- In May 1952, when General Mark Clark replaced General Mathew Ridgeway as Commander of the U.N. forces, he proposed a number of new steps, including deployment of Atomic bombs.
- In February 1953, shortly after President Eisenhower was elected to office, he directly threatened China with Atomic bombs. The U.S. Air Force transferred fresh Atomic bombs to Okinawa, and its chief of staff, Hoyt Vandenberg, publicly suggested that an area in northeastern China, Mukden (Shenyang, 150 miles north of the border with Korea containing a large air base), would be an appropriate strategic target. This crisis was averted by diplomacy of Soviet leaders who immediately succeeded Stalin after his death on March 5.
- On May 20, 1953, the National Security Council seriously discussed the “extensive” use of atomic bombs against China, including much of manchuria, if the Communists did not accept “reasonable” peace terms. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles transmitted a message through Premier Nehru of India to the Chinese and North Koreans, that the U.S. was prepared to use the Bomb during another adjournment of the peace talks. It should be noted that just one year later Dulles also offered two Atomic bombs to aid the French besieged at Dien Bien Phu in northwest Vietnam. Fortunately, Georges Bidault, Dulles’ counterpart as French foreign minister, turned down the offer due to his wise realization that the French forces would be wiped out as well if Atomic weapons were used.
On at least two other occasions the U.S. has seriously considered using nuclear weapons against North Korea. The first was in 1969, within a few months after Nixon became President, when the North Koreans apparently shot down a U.S. plane, killing thirty-one persons. Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, recommended dropping a Nuclear bomb, but were subsequently persuaded to nix the plan. The second time was in June 1994, when President Bill Clinton was on the verge of bombing North Korea’s nuclear program in Yongbyon. Though it wasn’t clear whether Clinton intended to use low-level nuclear bombs, it was clear that bombing of nuclear facilities risked substantial radiation over a wide-area. Only the personal interventions of South Korean President Kim Young Sam and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on an emergency diplomatic mission averted the crisis within hours of the planned bombing.
Incredible Record of Bombings and Massacres, Murdering Millions of Civilians
Introduction: Long Record of U.S. War Crimes
To this day, some of the heaviest sustained bombing in the Twentieth Century was rained on Korea, especially in the north, during the three years of the Korean War. This bombardment occurred from naval ships offshore as well as from the air. As described above, the U.S./U.N. forces were intervening in a country experiencing an active civil, revolutionary war where the majority of the people were opposed and hostile to any continued occupation by outside powers. The combination of grotesque Western racism, divinely inspired ethnocentrism, fear and confusion in Western minds unwilling to distinguish between “Third World” peoples’ self-determination struggles and the “First World’s” paranoid obsession with exaggerated and hated monolithic “communism,” and a hostile local Korean population, were all factors contributing to the U.S./U.N./Rhee forces showing almost total disregard for human life of Korean civilians.
The history of U.S. behavior in military conflicts reveals a long pattern of contempt for civilians. The U.S. government has rationalized, usually by ignoring, murders of civilians due to the fact that, in the minds of our policy makers and their military forces, either civilians are not considered fully human, or there is often little distinction made between civilians and combatants, especially where our intervention is unpopular with the majority of the victim-nation’s citizenry. The very foundation of U.S. civilization was built on genocide of millions of Indigenous people, termed “savages” and “vermine,” who for multiple generations had resided on lands in the Western Hemisphere that were forcefully taken from them by European invaders. The very Declaration of Independence that was adopted by the U.S. Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, referenced the Indigenous Americans as “merciless Indian Savages.” In 1779, during the “Revolutionary” War, General George Washington of the Continental Army referred to the Indigenous Americans as “beasts of prey,” ordering destruction of them and their settlements and “chastizing” the survivors with “terror.” The U.S. Constitution did not recognize Indigenous Americans as citizens (and by implication considered them as non-persons).
Genocide number two occurred with the forceful ravaging of numerous African communities, killing the majority in the violent process of capturing millions to become “free” chattel slaves to build the early agricultural and industrial base of the U.S. The U.S. Constitution explicitly denied African-American slaves the status of people or citizens by treating them only as property (three-fifths of a person) for purposes of establishing a state’s representation in the national House of Representatives.
During the Twentieth Century, hundreds of military and thousands of covert interventions in more than one hundred nations have enabled the U.S. to acquire lucrative markets and cheap resources and labor, murdering millions of innocent poor in the process, to assure success, at virtually any cost, of the American Way Of Life (AWOL). This latter record amounts to genocide number three. All three genocides have enabled the U.S. civilization to be what it is today. Our historical, selfish addiction to money and material goods requires violent, deceitful control of virtually everything in our path. This behavior causes incalculable destruction to people and the environment wherever it is applied. Our attitude seems to be that other people, especially those of “color,” are worth less, often nothing, and that we are worth more, or everything. Our heavy karma is likely to return to haunt us in unimaginable ways.
During and after the “Spanish American War, the behavior of the U.S. military forces in repressing the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) matched and exceeded the use of official terror as earlier applied against U.S. Indigenous from the Revolutionary War period through the Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota in December 1890.
Following the quick defeat of the Spanish fleet in the Battle of Manila Bay, Philippines (May 1, 1898), Commodore George Dewey brought out of exile the historic Filipino guerrilla leader Emilio Aguinaldo and his fighters to campaign against the Spaniards. When the original hostilities ended in August 1898, the Filipinos expected nothing less than full independence. Instead the Treaty of Paris signed on December 10, 1898, ceded the Philippines to the United States. The disillusioned and furious insurgents declared their own independent republic. The U.S. refused to acknowledge the new Republic with Aguinaldo as its President. Two Filipinos were killed by a U.S. soldier on February 4, 1899, and two days later on February 6 the U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Paris. Thus was ignited the Philippine-American War waged by the Indigenous to rid their country of their new colonializers. They mounted a rebel army of 40,000 that began a series of guerrilla actions against 70,000 U.S. Army and Marine forces. It was the largest Marine military campaign in U.S. history up to that time. The violent counterinsurgent campaign waged by U.S. forces against indigenous Filipinos foreshadowed the U.S. war against the Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians sixty-years later: a jungle war against fierce local fighters defending their independence.
Frustrated with the continued Indigenous resistance, native Filipinos that the U.S. Americans referred to as “goo-goos,” Army Brigadier General Jacob H. (“Hell-Raising”) Smith gave orders to Marine Major Littleton W.T. Waller on Christmas Eve 1901: “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better you will please me.” General Smith declared that “the interior of mountainous Samar must be made a howling wilderness” and he wanted all persons killed who were capable of bearing arms and engaging in combat against the forces of the United States. In other words virtually all healthy male citizens were targets for murder.
New President Theodore Roosevelt sent a letter to General J. Franklin Bell, in charge of conquering Batangas Province in southern Luzon (south of Manila), congratulating him for his scorched earth campaign that had killed, according to an earlier estimate of the secretary of the province, one-third of the population through shootings, starvation, and war-induced disease.
In July 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt selected Major General Adna Romanza Chaffee to replace Brigadier General Arthur MacArthur as military governor of the Philippines, and William Howard Taft as civil governor. MacArthur had successfully subdued the Filipino rebellion on Luzon by late 1899. Interestingly, MacArthur’s son Douglas, first in his 1903 graduating class at West Point, later became the famous General of U.S. forces in the Philippines, in the South Pacific, who accepted the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, and who oversaw the occupation of Korea and later commanded the U.S./U.N. forces for the first part of the Korean War. Chaffee had been a decorated officer in his campaigns against American Indians, had served in the Santiago campaign in Cuba in 1898, and in quelling the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. As the new Military Governor of the Philippines he supervised the final mop-up operations against the insurgent guerrillas. Taft had been U.S. Solicitor General, and was later to be Teddy Roosevelt’s Secretary of War prior to his being elected twenty-seventh President of the U.S. (1909-1913). By the time the last of the guerrilla bands had surrendered or been killed in June 1902, nearly 5,000 U.S. military had been killed. But the estimates of Filipinos killed in the nearly three-and-a-half year campaign of U.S. “scorched earth” policy ranged from 200,000 to 600,000, many buried in mass graves.
Secretary of War Elihu Root (1899-1904) under President’s Mckinley and during Teddy Roosevelt’s first term, had justified the ruthless U.S. military conduct in the Philippines by describing the “history and conditions of the warfare with the cruel and treacherous savages who inhabited the island,” citing two “precedents of the highest authority”: (1) General George Washington’s orders to General John Sullivan in 1779 to use “terror” to “destroy” and “lay waste” the Six Nations of the Iroquis Confederacy; and (2) General William Tecumseh Sherman’s December 28,1866 request to General Ulysses S. Grant to “act with vindictive earnestness, even to their extermination, men, women, and children” against the Sioux Indians as punishment for their having trapped and defeated an 80 man detachment of the 27th U.S. infantry based at Fort Phil Kearny, Nebraska, the unit that had defied orders by straying across Lodge Pole Creek as they chased what they believed were panic-stricken warriors. This came to be known by the U.S.military as “the Fort Phil Kearny massacre.”
Thus was established an official United States policy of murdering civilians and caring little about distinguishing them from combatants.
Once air power was introduced after the beginning of the Twentiety Century, percentages of civilian casualties dramatically escalated. Bombings tend to cause indiscriminate casualties no matter how careful the bombardiers are, or how precise the technology. Often we have been told that the first instance of bombing of civilian populations was committed by German planes in April 1937 as they destroyed insurgent Guernica and surrounding villages in the Basque region of northern Spain during the Spanish Civil War. But when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935-36 with the cover of 7,500 air missions it bombed and burned hundreds of villages committing systematic terror against and extermination of countless thousands of civilians. The British are believed to have used gas and incendiary bombs from warplanes indiscriminately killing massive numbers of Russian civilians and troops during the 1919-20 intervention against the new Soviet Union, and against rebellious Kurds and Arabs in British-controlled Palestine and Iraq from 1920-24 (as part of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire created by the newly formed League of Nations), attempting to control a vast area without use of ground troops.
But the very first example of aerial bombing is believed to have been committed by the Italians in 1911 against Tripoli, Libya, and surrounding populations in Turkish North Africa, using live grenades thrown from open cockpits. Noncombatants were murdered ruthlessly, including destruction of a funeral parlor and a hospital. And it just escalates from there where countless civilian casualties became routine: Spanish shrapnel bombs against Moroccan villages in 1913, using exploding steel balls, perhaps an early version of today’s cluster bumbs; British bombing of Pathans in India (1915), Egyptians and West Sadanese (1916), British bombing of the Mashuds in India (1917); systematic British air attacks against German cities during Worlfd War I in 1917-18, designed to “weaken the morale of civilian inhabitants;” British bombing of rebellious populations in Somaliland, Afghanistan and Egypt (1919); British bomb Enzeli in Iran and Arabs in Trans-Jordan (1920); the South Africans bombed the Hottentots (Khoikhoi natives) in Southwest Africa (1922, 1925, 1930, 1932, etc.); the Spanish bombed Moroccan villages near Tetuan (1924); joint French and Spanish forces in 1925 drop thousands of tons of high explosive bombs on the villages of Rifis and Jibala in Morocco, including the use of gas, and on the totally undefended holy town of Sheshuan where countless women and children were massacred; and French bombing of Damascus, Syria and surrounding towns in the Druze region (1925-26).
The 1925 bombing of Sheshuan was an act of revenge for a dreadful defeat Spanish ground forces suffered there in late 1924 at the hands of Moroccan guerrillas. General Francisco Franco, who had founded the Spanish Foreign Legion in 1920, had conducted a ruthless occupation against Moroccans until the German air force moved his forces to Spain at the beginning of the civil war in 1936. The earlier defeat of the Spanish military at Seshuan was nothing that Franco would forget. Seshuan was bombed to ruins with most of its inhabitants murdered from the air with remaining survivors mostly maimed and blinded. And this massacre was assisted by a squadron of volunteer U.S. American fliers who had joined The French Flying Corps, who in turn planned the the bombing with the Spanish. Franco would use the brutal occupation of Morocco, and the total destruction through bombing of Seshuan, as the model that would guide his forth-year occupation of Spain (1936-1975). Seshuan in effect laid the foundation for the relentless bombing committed during the Spanish Civil War, symbolized by the destruction of the Basque capital at Guernica in 1937 (see above).
And this record of increased dependency upon bombings with virtually no consideration for civilian life was to lay the foundation for the unprecedented bombings that were to occur during World War II, especially by the Allies and the United States in Europe and Japan. Though the United States was not the first country to use indiscriminate bombings as can be seen from the above record, it subsequently became by far the master of future relentless bombings where millions of civilians were to be murdered in World War II, Korea, Southeast Asia, Iraq, and Serbia-Kosovo.
The first use of U.S. military aircraft in combat and aerial photography occurred when Navy planes supported Marines in operations in Vera Cruz, Mexico in April 1914. It is not known how many civilians were killed during this example of U.S. aerial combat.
But the United States did use aerial bombings against civilian populations in Haiti as early as 1919. U.S. warships sailed into Haitian harbors at least twelve times prior to 1889, and nearly every year after, landing Marines on at least three of those occasions. In 1915 the United States military again intervened in Haiti, “to protect U.S. investments and property.” However, this time the U.S. forces remained there until 1934. In the period 1919-20, Haitian Indigenous armed resistance was met by the first application of U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine. Facing hostile civilian communities opposed to U.S. intervention, and the presence of some armed resisters called cacos under the direction of charismatic Charlemagne Peralte, the U.S. Marines, using air bombings and strafings for support, killed Peralte and rousted the cacos by March 1920. This is the first known use of military bombings where civilians were readily present on the ground. The Marine Corps reported “hundreds of casualties” in their successful counterinsurgency campaign, bragging about their defeat of local opposition forces. In contrast, survivors remembered large numbers of civilians massacred in these air bombings. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as part of a campaign to liberate Haitians from U.S. occupation, investigated conditions in Haiti in 1920 and learned that 3,000 Haitians had been murdered by U.S. Marines and that torture had become a regular practice.
The second known incidence of civilian bombings by the U.S. occurred in Nicaragua in 1927. The U.S. had militarily intervened in Nicaragua on numerous occasions, the most recent being an occupation that lasted from 1912 to1925. The Marines returned almost immediately in 1926 to “protect U.S. interests” and “restore democratic processes,” and remained there until 1933. In 1927, however, the Marines were confronted by an armed Nicaraguan Indigenous resistance, a ragtag campesino army organized under the leadership of Augusto Sandino. The Marines were regularly frustrated as they chased Sandino’s people’s army through the mountains of northern Nicaragua. In July 1927, as the Marines engaged Sandino’s army in battle in the mountain city of Ocotal, they were supported by several planes dropping fragmentation bombs while strafing the city with machine gun fire. This was the first known example of organized dive bombing by U.S. air forces. The Marines reported that their “miracle of Marine air” produced “streets…strewn with the dead and dying.” Again, memories of local survivors described hundreds of dead civilians as a result of the bombings. Though forcing Sandino back to the mountains in that bombing action, the Marines were never able to definitively defeat his army, and finally withdrew in 1933 when a peace agreement was reached.
During World War II, of course, there were devastating, indiscriminate bombings of cities in Germany and Japan with virtually no regard for civilian casualties. The Germans had bombed Rotterdam in Holland, Coventry in England, and other cities as well. However, these German bombings were minor when compared with British and U.S. bombing of German cities. Saturation bombings of cities such as Cologne (killing at least 20,000 civilians), Magdeburg (15,000), Wurzberg (4,000), towns along the Ruhr River (87,000), Hamburg and Berlin (50,000), Essen, and Frankfort, often at night, made no pretense of striking only military targets. In a relatively short period of time at least 600,000 German civilians were killed in these bombings, and another 800,000 injured. The incredible terror bombing of Dresden alone, with phosphorous and other high explosive bombs, by more than 1,200 allied bombers on February 13, 1945, murdered in a single night as many as 200,000 civilians!
While the Pacific theatre was witnessing the last battles on various islands, the Allies emulated the German carnage when they relentlessly targeted Japanese cities with saturations of incendiary bombs. U.S. air power in the Pacific was placed under the direction of 38-year-old Major General Cutis LeMay, who later bec
ame the architect of the unrestrained air war in Korea. From the safety of his Quonset hut headquarters on Guam 2,000 miles away, the island the U.S. military had taken from Spain in 1898 during the Spanish American War, LeMay directed the 21st Bomber Command in its firebombing of Japan that lasted from March 9 to the very day Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945. U.S. and other Allied air forces totally or partially burned sixty-six Japanese cities to the ground through intensive, unprecedented incendiary bombing, murdering or maiming upwards of a million Japanese civilians while destroying over two and a half million homes, displacing millions. LeMay’s proudest moment came on the very day when he launched the 160 day incendiary campaign. On the very first night, March 9, during just one six-hour period, the firebombing by 325 U.S. planes dropped jellied-gasoline bomb clusters over seventeen square miles of Tokyo, destroying nearly 270,000 buildings, burning alive at least 100,000 civilians while injuring many thousands more.
This Japan campaign was initiated only three and a half weeks after the devastating February 13 bombing of Dresden. By mid-June, bombings of Japan’s five other large industrial centers – Nagoya, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kawasaki – produced more than 260,000 additional persons murdered, 2 million buildings destroyed, and 13 million homeless. Through all this period of saturation bombings LeMay’s air forces suffered the deaths of 243 airmen and only minor losses of aircraft. The urban incendiary bombings were more lethal than the combined dropping of the indiscriminate 15-kiloton Atomic bomb by the B-29 bomber, Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Tibbets, flown from the Pacific Atoll Island of Tinian, August 6 on Hiroshima, and the Plutonium-core 20-kiloton bomb by the B-29 bomber, Bock’s Car, piloted by Major Sweeney (filling in for the usual pilot, Frederick Bock), August 9 on Nagasaki, which immediately killed at least 100,000 and 75,000 civilians, respectively.
The very manner in which these so-called constitutional democracies during World War II chose to overwhelm fascism, in effect, institutionalized abandonment of any moral standards and laws applied to war conduct. There was now clearly no difference between “civilized” nations and fascist or other “evil” incarnations. The practice of indiscriminately exterminating civilian populations by conventional bombing established the breakdown of morality which in turn “justified” use of the Atom bomb, providing a “cheaper” means for accomplishing the same result. Terror was now official policy.
The pattern of murdering civilians has continued. Subsequent U.S. military operations, both on the ground and from the air, in Southeast Asia (1954-1975), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989-90), and the Persian Gulf massacre (1991), cumulatively took upwards of six million lives, the overwhelming majority knowingly or deliberately being civilians, while maiming millions more. Defenseless bombings of Libya (1986), Iraq (1993), Afghanistan and Sudan (1998), Iraq (1998-present), and Kosovo and Serbia (1999), murdered countless numbers of additional civilians as well, where civilian population and infrastructure were deliberate targets. Furthermore, various formulas of U.S. sponsorship, such as provision of weapons and/or training and funding, directly or indirectly, for counterinsurgency forces and contra terrorists, and death squads, in dozens of countries such as Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Chiapas, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, East Timor, El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Turkey have produced upwards of six million additional civilian murders, with millions of others maimed for life.
Evidence from documents prepared by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), among the most secret offices of the U.S. national security apparatus, reveals that the U.S., and its dupe Allies in the U.N., deliberately destroyed Iraq public water supplies during the Persian Gulf massacre in 1991. Since the end of the war in February 1991, the U.S. has made sure that any attempts to restore a healthy water system have been thwarted, stating that spare parts and water purifying chemicals possess a dual use that could be used by the Iraqi military as well. During the January-February 1991 bombing, Iraq’s eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit, wrecking flood control, four of seven major pumping stations were destroyed, as were 31 municipal water and sewerage facilities, resulting in sewage pouring into the Tigris. Water purification plants were destroyed throughout Iraq. Municipal and industrial water storage, hydroelectric plants and distribution lines, and irrigations systems were systematically destroyed. The DIA report suggests that Iraq had developed an elaborate pure water system for its population, heavily dependent upon imported specialized equipment and purification chemicals. A shortage of pure drinking water, the document discloses, could “lead to increased incidents, if not epidemics, of disease and certain pure-water dependent industries becoming incapacitated.” The subsequent blockade of Iraq has assured that the destroyed water system not be corrected, which, as a consequence, has directly contributed to the deaths of perhaps an addtional one million or more Iraqi civilians, the majority young children.
In light of this history, the fact that as many as three, possibly as many as four million civilians were killed during the Korean War should come as no surprise. The documented, historical record powerfully reveals that U.S. policies have never been concerned with respecting civilians or the international laws that are in force to protect them in times of war and military conflict. Despite official U.S. rhetoric to the contrary, the facts in the record strongly suggest that the U.S. deliberately and intentionally terrorizes civilians living in “enemy” territory as a way of coercing surrender, capitulation, or assimilation to the Western way of life. In fact, USA Today (October 1, 1999) reported that declassified U.S. Air Force reports from the mid-1950s disclose that pilots sometimes “deliberately attacked people in white,” apparently suspecting them of being disguised North Korean soldiers. The New York Times (December 29, 1999) similarly reported that U.S. Air Force planes bombed and strafed Korean civilians deliberately under direction of spotter planes. Now let us look at the record of the U.S./U.N./Rhee forces at the beginning and duration of the Korean War itself.
The Record of War Crimes by U.S./Rhee Forces During the Hot Korean War
A number of years ago I read I.F. Stone’s The Hidden History of the Korean War 1950-1951 (Monthly Review Press, 1952; republished by Little, Brown and Co., 1988), in which my suspicions were confirmed about the lack of veracity of the official propaganda about how the Korean War started and how it was maintained. It isn’t that I had been provided with any inside information about Korea, but simply that, after my personal Vietnam experiences, I no longer trusted what my own government reported to the people about any of its foreign policy excursions, especially its numerous wars, only five of which have been “declared,” as our Constituion absolutely requires. The first casualty in war is the truth, and Korea was certainly no exception.
My visit to Korea in May 2000 was my fifth journey there. On one of my earlier trips I spent ten days in North Korea. My interest in seeking a truthful account of history has become important to my own integrity as a natural born U.S. American citizen. On this visit I listened to more than a one hundred humble Korean citizens in six different communities: Kyung San near Taegu City, about 150 miles southeast of Seoul; and Yuhcho Ri near Chang Rung, Ham Ahn, Ma-san, Sa-Chun and Eui Ryung, all in South Kyongsang Province, locations caught inside the defensive Pusan Perimeter about 200 miles southeast of Seoul, the line delineated by Lt. General Walton Harris Walker of the U.S. Eighth Army in the panic of July 1950. I was in tears as I listened to what happened to them, their families, and villages nearly fifty years ago. These people were all survivors of grotesque massacres committed in their presence. Reporting with excruciating details, they described their shock as they stood in the very locations where they were shot at by U.S. soldiers, and/or bombed from low-flying U.S. warplanes, often with napalm. The terror frequently lasted for several days. They emotionally described events that led to the death, maiming, and disappearances of intimate loved ones and village friends. When I calculated the cumulative casualties from five of these six villages, the numbers added up to nearly 450 killed, with another 230 or so wounded. Many of these survivors revealed evidence of permanent injuries on their bodies – bomb shrapnel and bullet wounds, and napalm burn scars.
The sixth community I visited was near the city of Taegu. Relatives of the victims escorted us to an abandoned Japanese cobalt mine. When the Japanese were defeated in August 1945, they, of course, abandoned their various enterprises, as was the case with this mine. It had both a vertical shaft of perhaps sixty to eighty feet, and a horizontal shaft of perhaps one hundred yards. We slowly trekked into the tight horizontal shaft for about forty yards, walking through standing water and mud, crouching to avoid hitting our heads on its low ceiling. As it was pitch black, we moved with flashlights. Then, all of a sudden, we could not move any further as the collapsed mine walls prevented any forward movement. It was at this point that the vertical shaft had at one time met the horizontal shaft. There, in plain view of the light from our flashlights, were piles of skeletal remains. Local people describe how in the late days of July and very early August 1950, crowded truckloads of tied prisoners were taken to the top of the vertical shaft, some shot in the head, and all pushed down the opening while the horizontal shaft was blocked by South Korean soldiers under the command of U.S. military officers. It was a convenient mass grave that required no new digging. Their attempts at reconstructing the number of bodies dumped into this one massive grave are derived from estimating the numbers of dump-trucks driven over the course of several days to the site from various local communities where these survivors had witnessed numerous arrests, disappearances, and multiple shootings. They believe that 3,000 to 3,500 bodies were deposited at this one site alone.
One U.S. military name kept repeating itself among the Korean survivors – that of U.S. Major General William B. Kean. Commander of the 25th Infantry Division at the beginning of the Korean War, Kean had served under General Omar Bradley as a chief of staff during World War II and had experienced fighting in North Africa and Europe. But despite being a graduate of the 1919 class of the U.S. Army Military Academy at West Point, and having served for thirty-one years as a commissioned officer, the 25th was Kean’s first ever experience in command of a combat unit. Kean had been ordered to rush his division to the defense of Taegu and its surrounding areas on July 20 in efforts to withstand the continued rapid southward thrust of the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA). “A pattern of planned, deliberate attacks against the civilians by the forces under the command of General Kean,” was heard from these survivors over and over again. According to declassified documents found in the U.S. national archives by Sung Yong Park, a Korean Methodist minister and researcher at Temple University, Kean had issued standing orders that civilians located in the combat zone be considered enemy.
It should be noted that the other major U.S. military division in the region at the time was the 24th Infantry, commanded by Major General William F. Dean, momentarily headquartered at Taejon, about 80 miles to the northwest of Taegu, and nearly 100 miles south of Seoul. By July 20, Dean was separated from his unit near Taejon, and for 36 days wandered on foot through the hills south of Taejon until he was captured August 25, the highest ranking U.S. POW in the War. Dean, a career military officer since 1923, had assumed command of the 24th Infantry Division in June 1950, and had served as military governor of South Korea since October 1947, though he spoke no Korean.
My sixth trip to Korea in August 2000 took me to two more sites where serious massacres occurred. One was at the Kumjung cave in Ilsan/Koyang City northwest of Seoul in Kyunggi Province. To date 170 skeletal remains have been excavated in a ten feet deep, elongated cavern. People were dragged from their homes, tortured for several days, then on or about September 28, 1950, according to ten family member survivors who escorted us to the site, murdered and dropped into this cavern by a combination of U.S. and South Korean military augmented by an anti-communist paramilitary group.
The other site was at the now infamous Nogun ri railroad viaduct in North Chungchong Province nearly 100 miles to the south of Seoul. Virtually the entire unarmed population from the small villages of Imgae ri and Joo Gok ri, about 600-700 people in all, were rounded up on or about July 25, 1950, and forcefully moved through an open field to railroad tracks. First surveillance planes flew overhead, only to be followed up a short time later with several planes dropping numerous bombs. People were in shock. A dozen or so survivors that accompanied us to the site estimated that perhaps 100 people were killed from the unexplained bombing as the remaining members scrambled for cover under the protection of the nearby Nogun ri twin viaduct. Heavy small arms and machinegun fire from U.S. ground forces began on the evening of July 26 and continued until July 29. Most were murdered on the first night of the strafing, several hundred in all. I personally counted well over 300 bullet holes still imbedded in the concrete approaches on either side of the viaduct. Again General William B. Kean’s name was mentionned as the commander of the troops involved at Nogun ri. The 7th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division, part of the 25th Infantry Division commanded by Kean, were the elements identified as being perpetrators of the massacre.
This testimony provides merely a taste of the incredible repressive attitudes and behaviors operating at the beginning of the war. The massacre at Nogun Ri, first revealed to the U.S. public only on September 30, 1999 by conscientious journalists, is merely the tip of the iceberg. Local committees investigating fifty-year-old massacres are springing up throughout South Korea, creating a national citizen’ s investigating committee. Representatives of the Congress for Korean Reunification (CKR) and from the National Alliance for Democracy and Reunification in Korea (NADRK) have identified dozens of cases of multiple murders of noncombatant civilians in southern Korea, committed by either U.S. forces directly, or forces working for Rhee but operating under U.S. command. And a Korea Truth Commission has been established with an office in Washington, D.C., planning hearings in the United States as well as in both North and South Korea. Additionally Koreans have initially identified dozens of similar sites north of the 38th Parallel.
It is important to understand these local massacres in the context of the broader attitudes and policies held by leaders of the U.S./Rhee war machine. A recently unearthed Fifth Air Force headquarters memo from Colonel Turner C. Rodgers to General Timberlake, dated July 25, 1950, states: “The army has requested that we strafe all civilian refugee parties…To date, we have complied with the army request.” This is just as the USA Today and The New York Times reported (as noted above). Many of the people providing testimony at our May meetings were describing just such behavior in their villages in July and August 1950. Other recently declassified documents indicate that Major General William Kean (as mentionned above) gave the order to consider civilians “in the combat zone” as the enemy. When the United States/UN forces had securely re-taken Seoul and restored Syngman Rhee to power in September 1950, U.S. Embassy reports indicate that Rhee directed a massive vindictive campaign that led to the rounding up and execution of more than 100,000 people alone in just a short period after his return to power. This figure is larger than the total number of people the U.S. government claimed were killed by northern and southern communists during the entire war.
And in the autumn of 1950 when U.S. forces were in retreat in North Korea, General Douglas MacArthur ordered all air forces under his command to destroy “every means of communication, every installation, factory, city, and village” from the Yalu River, forming the border between North Korea and China, south to the battle line. Massive saturation bombings throughout the war using napalm, incendiary, and fragmentation bombs left scorched cities and villages in total ruins. Just as in World War II, the U.S. employed mass destruction through strategic bombing to include civilian populations. This despite the Nuremberg Charter that emerged after that War, largely due to pressure from the U.S., which declared as a war crime “the wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages,” and as a crime against humanity “inhumane acts against any civilian population.” The U.S. military also operated under its own Field Manual 27-10: Rules of Land Warfare, which prohibited aerial bombing of civilian targets. However, as the Indigenous Americans continually reminded us, “White Man speaks with forked tongue,” having violated every one of the more than 400 treaties signed with various Indigenous nations. Such deception has been a chronic pattern in the history of the “American civilization.” This fact cannot be ignored forever!
At the time the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, many of the thousands of prisoners languishing in Rhee’s prison system were simply slaughtered. U.S. Colonel Donald Nichols, a personal friend of Rhee and a secret operative for the U.S. Air Force Technical Intelligence Service, reported witnessing in Suwon, south of Seoul, the massacre of 1,800 political prisoners in late June 1950. He described the work of two bulldozers, one gouging a series of trenches, the other filling in dirt over the shot bodies after they had been dumped into the fresh graves. Gregory Henderson, who served as a U.S. diplomat in Korea during the late 1940s and early 1950s, estimated that “probably over 100,000 were killed without any trial whatsoever” by Rhee’s forces during the war.
President Truman, supporting General MacArthur’s orders for massive bombings of North Korea, authorized General Curtis LeMay, commander (1948-1951) of the Strategic Air Command, to unleash his 1,008 bomber crews to burn cities, destroy agricultural dams, and eliminate entire peasant villages and systems of rice paddies. After more than three years of bombings, LeMay remarked, “We killed off — what — twenty percent of the population of North Korea.” In truth, as many as thirty to forty percent of the population of North Korea was killed during the war, perhaps the greatest percentage of a society’s population ever killed through war in all of history.
The truth is that the war in Korea, though primarily confined to the Korean Peninsula with some dangerous overlap in neighboring China, was an almost unlimited war of incredible mass destruction. In addition to perhaps the heaviest and most sustained saturation bombing ever recorded, over a period of thirty-seven months (including the intense forty-three days of bombings of Iraq in January-February 1991 and the seventy-eight days of bombings of Serbia and Kosovo in former Yugoslavia in March-June 1999), U.S. war planners regularly considered using Atomic weapons, as discussed above, and seriously considered use of chemical weapons (gas). In December 1950, General Mathew B. Ridgeway, after being appointed commander of the Eighth Army in Korea, is believed to have asked General MacArthur for use of gas. Ridgeway’s request for the “clandestine introduction of weapons of mass destruction and unconventional warfare,” apparently included gas. Though his request was initially denied by MacArthur, sufficient quantities of gas were requested to be shipped in the event its use was subsequently approved. The U.S. inventory of poisonous gases at the time included mustard, phosgene, and sarin. The unprecedented use of incendiary bombs, including napalm, became a dominant inhumane weapon used throughout the war. Major General Egbert F. Bullene, then head of the Chemical Corps of the U.S. Army, bragged that napalm had proved to be “a top all-purpose weapon” in Korea employing a daily average of 70,000 gallons against personnel and supply lines. Improvement in flame throwers, white phosphorous and smoke bombs also were noted during the war.
The secret use of germ warfare in Korea and portions of China in late 1951 and throughout 1952 is described in detail in a twenty-year study by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman published in 1998, The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets From the Early Cold War and Korea (Indiana University Press). Endicott and Hagerman thoroughly research the best kept military secret of the large biological warfare (BW) program developed on a crash basis between 1951 and 1953. In December 1951, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert A. Lovett, ordered that “actual readiness be achieved in the earliest practicable time” for offensive use of biological weapons. Two months earlier, in October, after some large U.S./U.N. defeats, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had hand-delivered a secret order to General Mathew B. Ridgeway, then commander of all U.N. forces, to start germ warfare on a limited experimental scale in Korea. A later JCS directive on February 25, 1952 authorized a larger field test. The First Marine Air Wing operating under the direction of the Fifth Air Force carried out the secret missions. The U.S. had a number of CIA officers in North Korea and China collecting data on the effectiveness of the germ warfare program. If uncovered, the U.S. was to fall back on the fact that it had not signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol on biological warfare and had not participated in the 1907 Hague Convention that outlawed chemical weapons.
Advanced biological warfare (BW) was developed in Japan (Unit 731) in occupied China during the 1930s and 1940s under the leadership of Lt. General Shiro Ishii. Following the Japanese defeat in World War II, the U.S. granted immunity to a number of Japanese scientists who were war criminals having conducted extensive biological warfare experiments both on Chinese cities, as well as having murdered more than 3,000 prisoners of war, including some U.S. POWs, in the course of carrying out scientific germ war tests. This immunity was granted in return for their cooperation in sharing their advanced knowledge of biological warfare with the U.S., and explicitly not with the Soviet Union. The U.S. Biological Warfare Laboratories, first established in 1943 at Camp Detrick in Frederick, MD, escalated their research and development of biological warfare using the knowledge from the Japanese researchers. By 1949, the U.S. JCS had biological warfare built into emergency war plans. In fact, the U.S. had an operational biological weapons system when the war started, and it was utilized at the very end of 1951 and throughout much of 1952 in both North Korea and portions of China. By 1952 the U.S. was spending nearly half a billion dollars on its BW program. The U.S. military lied to Congress and the U.S. public in declaring that their biological warfare program was purely defensive and only for retaliation.
This program was similar to Operation Paperclip wherein the U.S. freed thousands of German POWs
who had been scientists, doctors, and intelligence agents, granting them annonymity and immunity in return for becoming “employees” for the U.S. during the Cold War against “Communism.”
However, it is important to remember that Lord Jeffrey Amherst introduced the use of biological warfare in North America against Indigenous Americans in 1763 during the final battles of what became known in “American” textbooks as the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Amherst, commanding general of the British forces in North America, won victories against the French to acquire Canada for England, making the latter nation the world’s chief colonizer at the time. During the summer of 1763, Pontiac, an Ottawa chief who had sided with the French, led an uprising against British forces after the French surrender. Pontiac and his men destroyed a number of British forts. Amherst discussed with several of his officers the use of smallpox-infected blankets and handkerchiefs to intentionally infect and “extirpate” the rebellious Indigenous near Fort Pitt, east of present day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Historian Frances Parkman, in his book The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War after the Conquest of Canada (Boston: Little, Brown, 1886), reported a resident among the Ottawa Indigenous at Fort Pitt who witnessed that during the following spring “small pox had been raging for some time among them.” Other historians reported that the disease spread like wildfire among a number of tribes in addition to the Ottawas, and that the toll was over 100,000 dead. In the nineteenth century, the U.S. Army continued the use of contaminated blankets to control, then eliminate Indigenous Americans, especially those living in the Plains. [See Stearn, E. Wagner, and Allen E. Stearn, The Effects of Smallpox on the Destiny of the American Indian (Boston: Bruce Humphries, 1945)].
It is important to note that the U.S. pattern of using chemical and biological warfare has continued throughout the Twentieth Century. In Vietnam, under President’s Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, the U.S. used globally unprecedented amounts of chemical warfare when it sprayed from the air 20 million gallons of various herbicides in concentrations far beyond that even recommended by their seven major manufacturers. Agent Orange pesticide alone destroyed 14 percent of South Vietnam’s forests. An area the size of the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, (6 million acres/9400 square miles/24,400 square kilometers/2.4 million hectares) was decimated with chemicals that today remain in the Vietnamese food chain, causing a continuing tragedy of elevated cancers and birth defects. And subsequent documents reveal that the chemical companies knew no later than 1965, and that the U.S. government knew as early as 1967, and perhaps earlier, of the long-term health risks and sought to keep that information from the public, and from its own troops.
When President Nixon was in office (1969-1974) the U.S. waged bacteriological warfare against Cuba. First Nixon directed that clouds be seeded over non-agricultural areas to induce torrential downpours causing flooding, while attempting to prevent rains over cane and other agricultural areas to induce draught. Then the CIA introduced African Swine Fever which decimated Cuban pig herds, a major source of protein in Cuba. The Cubans were forced to slaughter 500,000 pigs. This was the first outbreak of this disease in the Western hemisphere in the Twentieth Century. Under President Reagan and Vice President Bush, there were new outbreaks of African Swine Fever, and two outbreaks of hemorrhagic dengue. It was the first eruption of hemorrhagic dengue in generations in Latin America.
Thus the notion of disease as a weapon, an example of biological and/or chemical warfare, is historically rooted in the policies of the U.S. government through its military and CIA.
Examples of War Crimes From the Air and On the Ground in Korea
The list of aerial bombings and ground shootings of civilians is almost endless.
Examples of war crimes from the air:
- Late June-early July 1950, U.S. bombs Pyongyang; over 700 civilians killed, over 100 injured.
- July 2, 1950, U.S. bombs Chang-Yun; one civilian killed, 17 injured.
- July 5, 1950, U.S. bombs Sok-Cho; 3 civilians killed.
- July 11-12, 1950, U.S. bombs Iri train station and adjacent market; hundreds of civilians killed and wounded.
- July 14, 1950, U.S. bombs Tong-Chun; 68 civilians killed.
- July 19, 1950, U.S. ground forces herd 2,000 civilians into a mountain pass near Youngdong then order bombing by U.S. planes; all civilians believed to have been slaughtered.
- July 22, 1950, U.S. bombs Nanam; 227 civilians killed, 177 injured.
- July 26, 1950, U.S. bombs Chul-Won; 54 civilians killed.
- July 26, 1950, U.S. bombs Sariwon; 107 civilians killed.
- July 29, 1950, U.S. bombs Chojang Ri in Konmyong region; 64 civilians killed, 43 injured.
- July 1950, U.S. bombs Nampo; 448 civilians killed.
- July 1950, U.S. bombs Hwang Hapdo; 48 civilians killed, 27 injured.
- July 1950, U.S. bombs Wonsan; 1,847 civilians killed, 2,367 injured.
- July 1950, U.S. bombs Hamhung; 297 civilians killed, 446 injured.
- August 20, 1950, U.S. bombs Jangji in Kunbuk-myon region; 100 civilians killed, 100 injured.
- November 8, 1950, seventy B-29s drop 550 tons of incendiary bombs on Sinuiju along the border with China; Sinuiju virtually eliminated as an inhabitable city.
- November 15, 1950, U.S. napalms Hoeryong; virtually total city burned.
- By November 25, 1950, a vast amount of territory of the northwest region of North Korea between the Yalu River and southwards toward enemy lines was a “wilderness of scorched earth.”
- December 14-15, 1950, U.S. drops on Pyongyang 700 (500-lb) bombs, napalm, and 175 tons of delayed-fuse demolition bombs.
- January 3-5, General Ridgeway orders the Air Force to burn Pyongyang to the ground with incendiary bombs. U.S. B-29s drop new “Tarzon” bombs on Kanggye. These bombs were 21 feet high and weighed 12,000 pounds. Inflicting enormous damage, they were very inaccurate, and were discontinued.
- January 19, 1951, U.S. bombs Sansung Ri and Jinpyong Ri in Bobuk-myon region; 49 civilians killed, 90 injured.
- January 20, 1951, U.S. bombs with napalm a 150 yard-long cavern in Youngchoon, 90 miles southeast of Seoul, incinerating 300 civilians who had taken refuge there.
- Lunar New Year, 1951, U.S. bombs Cheo Ri in Kumsung-myon region; 17 killed, 21 injured.
- Beginning in February 1951, U.S./U.N. warships begin sustained bombardment of the coastal cities of Wonsan, Songjin, and Chongjin that lasting 861 conscutive days, creating a “mass of cluttered ruins,” stopping only one minute before the ceasefire hour of 10 p.m. on July 27, 1953.
- July-August 1951, more than 10,000 U.S. sorties conduct sustained bombing raids over Pyongyang where the pre-war population of half a million is now reduced to less than 50,000 due to casualties from bombing and attempted emigration to rural areas. Cities such as Hamhung, Chongjin, and Wonsan along the eastern coast on the Sea of Japan, and Sinuiju on the Yalu River bordering with China, are hit as well. Rural villages and surrounding areas carpet bombed as well.
- August 15, 1951, Korean Liberation Day, U.S. initiates “Operation Strangle,” a relentless bombing campaign intended to sever the Peninsula at the Yalu and Tumen Rivers, and to exhaust the population. From August 1951 to April 1952, the U.S. air forces (Marines, Navy, and Fifth and Twentieth Air Forces) fly more than 90,000 sorties against hundreds of rail lines with their locomotives and trains, bridges, and highways (claiming destruction of nearly 35,000 trucks). Napalm, fragmentation, and incendiary bombs are dropped on virtually anything that moves, including horse and push carts, as well as all buildings and shelters that might
function as storage depots. Note: By early 1952, virtually everything in northern and central Korea has been levelled.
- June 23, 1952, U.S. bombs 11 hydroelectric plants along the Yalu bordering China, including the 4 most vital dams and power systems in North Korea, for example the huge Suping dam that supplied most of North Korea’s power and some of China’s as well, depriving North Korea of much of their electrical power for the remainder of the war. Simultaneously, the U.S. attacks numerous factories and mines.
- Beginning July 11-12, 1952, continuing through August, U.S. bombers are joined by war planes from Australia, South Africa, and South Korea in carrying out new sustained saturation bombings and burning campaigns on Pyongyang and 77 other North Korean cities and towns; thousands killed. The civilian population of Pyongyang is substantially reduced further to about 40,000. On August 29, 1,403 sorties are involved, dropping 2,700 gallons of napalm “with excellent results” and 697 tons of bombs, with 62,000 rounds of ammunition expended to strafe at low levels.
- September 1952, U.S. bombs oil refineries at Rashin near the border with Russia.
- May 13-16, 1953, U.S. bombs 5 irrigation dams that supply water for most of the country’s rice affecting the cities of Pyongyang, Chasan, and Toksan. Subsequent flooding significantly damages Pyongyang as well as the nation’s rice production. Countless numbers of civilians killed from the flooding (number unknown). This is precisely the kind of war crime for which the Allies had condemned the Germans when they bombed the dikes in Holland in 1945. Many of the bombs dropped in Korea were of the delayed-action variety, timed to detonate anywhere from one to forty-eight hours after impact. Thus, repair crews operated not knowing when they, too, would be killed or injured from these delayed explosions.
Examples of war crimes on the ground (sometimes supported by aerial bombings):
- July 11, 1950, Euisan; 54 civilians killed, 300 injured.
- July 26-29, 1950, Nogun Ri; several hundred civilians killed. (In August 2000, I personally took testimony from survivors in this village).
- August 2, 1950, Sa-Chun; 54 civilians killed, 57 injured. (In May 2000, I personally took testimony from survivors in this village.)
- August 3, 1950, Yeh-Kwan-Kyo; several hundred civilians killed and injured.
- August 3, 1950, Go-Ryung; several hundred civilians killed and injured.
- August 3, 1950, U.S. forces detonate the Tuksong and Waegwan bridges crossing the Naktong River, twenty-five miles apart, hundreds of civilians fleeing on the bridges at the time are killed.
- August 10-11, 1950, Ma-San; 83 civilians killed. (In May 2000, I personally took testimony from survivors in this village.)
- August 21, 1950, Life Magazine reports that U.S. officers ordered soldiers to shoot at clusters of civilians.
- August 20-22, 1950, Eui-Ryung; 73 civilians killed, 50 injured. (In May 2000, I personally took testimony from survivors in this village.)
- August 1950, 15 days of ground shooting supported by bombings, Chung Gi Ri in Ham-Ahn county; 170 civilians killed, 200 injured. (In May 2000, I personally took testimony from survivors in this village.)
- August 25, 1950, Chang Ryung; 60 civilians killed, 20 injured. (In May 2000, I personally took testimony from survivors in this village.)
- September 28, 1950, Kumjung Cave in Ilsan, 170 skeletal remains to date. (In August 2000, I personally took testimony from survivors in this village).
- September 1950, General MacArthur re-imposes the Rhee regime. A U.S. Embassy official estimated that “probably more than 100,000 civilians were killed by Rhee officials in the South” after September, often with the direct knowledge or assistance of U.S. military. One day in February 1951 in Kochang a massacre took place with some 600 civilians herded into a ditch and murdered with machine guns.
- October 17 – December 7, 1950, for 52 days U.S. forces occupy the city of Sinchon, 50 miles southwest of Pyongyang. Over 35,000 civilians are systematically slaughtered, several thousand are burned to death when herded into enclosed shelters and ignited with gasoline.
- January 19, 1951, Yeh-Chun; 49 civilians killed, 90 injured.
- January 20, 1951, Dan-Yang; 300 civilians killed.
[Note: This list is to be continued with the receipt of further information from research and new revelations.]
Rhee’s Turbulent Regime Until Overthrown in April 1960
Rhee continued to rule as a tyrant after the war, and continued to be increasingly unpopular with both his U.S. protectors and a majority of his Korean subjects until he was run out of the country by massive demonstrations in April 1960, when Rhee was eighty-five years old. Rhee and his Austrian wife Francesca hurriedly went into exile in Hawaii.
Convinced of his own messianic importance, Rhee was labeled by the CIA at the beginning of the hot Korean War as “senile.” Though perhaps Rhee was more unpredictable and cantankerous than senile, the CIA also concluded that Rhee had “not hesitated to use such totalitarian tactics as stringent censorship…police terrorism, and …extra-governmental agencies such as youth corps and armed patriotic’ societies to terrorize and destroy non-Communist opposition groups and parties.” (italics added)
For a brief time after Rhee’s exit, South Korea enjoyed its first real democratic government. Though the presidency was intentionally weakened, a bicameral parliamentary system was established with a cabinet responsible to it. A new National Assembly elected at the end of July 1960 represented diverse views. The press was finally free, and reunification with the North was being openly discussed. In the early months of 1961, there remained an optimism about the future of Korea’s democracy.
It is interesting to note that in December 1960, during this open period, the surviving people from the now famous July 1950 massacre at the village of No Gun Ri, first took their grievances and request for compensation to the U.S. and Korean governments. The U.S. government shunned the request. As the reader may remember, a September 29, 1999 Associated press story first made public the U.S. massacre at No Gun Ri, which has opened a floodgate from many other locations of similar massacre accounts.
However, the elite land owners and the right-wing became terrified with this drift to the “left.” The Korean economy was still relatively poor, and it retained a dependency on the United States. The Korean military and the right-wing were quickly running out of patience. They wanted to be in charge. The military coup of May 16, 1961, tragically concluded this short experiment with Korean democracy and hoped-for reunification with the North.
Repressive Military Dictator, Pro-American “President,”
General Park Chung Hee, 1961-1979
The regime of repressive military dictator, pro-American “President,” General Park Chung Hee, former Lieutenant in the imperial Japanese forces, began with his military coup on May 16, 1961. He oversaw a “miracle of economic development” and prosperity for a middle class, and the expansion of octupus-like corporations known as Chaebols. These were, and are, generally family-owned and managed groups of commercial enterprises that operate monopolies and oligopolies in particular product lines and industries. Usually they originated in landed families with direct lineage.
However, this “progress” occurred at a tremendous cost to liberties and justice for a majority of the Korean people. Park’s administrations reeked with corruption throughout. Nonetheless, he was sufficiently pleasing to his U.S. protectors who referred to Korea as a one party “democracy.” He quickly established the Republic of Korean (ROK) CIA shortly after his 1961 coup, and by 1964, this secret agency had 370,000 officers and staff.
Park’s cousin, Colonel Kim Chong Pil, who became a close associate of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church, was the first director of the ROK CIA. Ironically, Park’s reign abruptly ended with assassination on October 26, 1979 by his then Korean CIA chief, Kim Chae-gyu.
Rev. Moon, who many U.S. Americans have heard so much of, considers himself the new Messiah, and his wealthy organization, working with assistance from Kim Chong Pil, purchased substantial influence inside the U.S. government, as well as with Japan. In 1982 Moon was the main financial backer for creation of The Washington Times, a staunch supporter for the Reagan-Bush terrorist policies in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Moon’s paper became a big supporter of the Bush presidency and after Bush Sr. left office in 1993 Moon’s organization continued to finance some of his speeches around the world. In the 1980s Kim Chong Pil received money from Moon for his unsuccessful 1987 bid for the Korean presidency. Interestingly, Moon also became a strong financial supporter of Kim Dae Jung, the longtime dissident supporting reunification, who became South Korea’s President in 1998. Kim Phong Pil served as Korean Prime Minister under Kim Dae Jung in 1998-99. And perhaps even more strangely, Moon apparently has also secretly contributed more recently to North Korea’s top officials, while supporting the new Bush presidency. Seeing that the source of Moon’s money remains mysterious, his simultaneous connections to the Bush family, Kim Dae Jung in South Korea, and Kim Jong Il in North Korea, will provide an interesting side scenario in the early 2000s.
The U.S. CIA assisted in recruiting cadres for the KCIA, using similar methods being used to staff the Vietnamese Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) under Diem, which was the early beginnings of the later Phoenix assassination program. The CIA sent its top psychologist to Seoul to assist in the inital selection of the nucleus for the KCIA. Tests were given to a number of Korean police and military personnel to assess candidates strengths and weaknesses using a “Personality Assessment System.” The CIA also immediately dispatched interrogators (cf., torturers) to Korea, initially working at the newly created joint KCIA-USCIA interrogation center in Yon Don Tho outside Seoul.
Repression of dissidents, i.e., those who advocated reunification of the Peninsula or were critical of Park’s policies, was a regular feature during this period. Those who publicly discussed the Korean dream of reunification were charged with spying under the draconian National Security Law, introduced during Rhee’s tenure, making it a capital offense to disturb the tranquility of the nation, i.e., to advocate discussions about reunification with the North. By the early 1960s there were more than 700 of these political prisoners housed for life in a separate compound at the big prison at Taejon, a facility that had no heat, allowed no visitors, and provided no bedding. An ex-guard at the prison described how the men kept warm in the winter by rubbing quickly with their hands on their skin, over and over, day and night. Each of these prisoners were promised immediate release if they signed a statement refuting their advocation of reunification of the two Koreas. Most of these men who survived their cruel incapacitation served more than 30 years before beginning to be released in the mid-to-late 1990s. Of the nearly 100 ex-prisoners still alive in August 2000, more than half chose in early September to return to North Korea and resume their passion for reunifying their homeland.
Park sent 312,000 military soldiers to aid the U.S. war against the self-determination forces in Vietnam during the period September 1965 to March 1973. The U.S. paid the bill for these forces, who were known for their brutality, making this one of the largest mercenary operations in history. General Chae Myong-shin served as the Commander-in Chief of the South Korean troops in Vietnam from 1965-1969. Korean primary area of operations was in II Corps along the central Vietnam coast from Phan Rang, south of Cam Ranh Bay, to Qui Nhom, further north. The ROK Marine Corps 2nd Blue Dragon Brigade landed in Vietnam in September 1965 and operated in northern areas until February 1972. The Capital Tiger Division also arrived in September 1965 in Qui Nhon. The ROK 9th White Horse Division landed at Ninh Hoa near Cam Ranh Bay in September 1966 in the more southern area of their area of operations. At any one time, there were about 50,000 Korean troops present there. Future Korean military dictators, Chun Doo-hwan (1980-1988) and Roe Tae Woo (1988-1993), served under Chae as Korean military officers in Vietnam, receiving much of their “leadership” preparation. A total of 5,083 Korean soldiers were killed during the Vietnam War.
In the year 2000, Kim Ki-tae, a former Korean Marine officer in Vietnam, confirmed massacres of civilians by his forces in 1966 in Quang Ngai Province in Vietnam. Korean troops massacred at least 1,000 plus civilians (out of a population of 6,000) in Binh An (January – February 1966) and another 600-700 in neighboring Quang Ngai and Phu Yen Provinces in early 1966. How many other civilians were killed is not yet known. And Kim Yeong Man, a ROK Marine veteran of the war in Vietnam, is the only known member of the 312,000 Korean troops who served there who has returned his war medals to the Korean government and publicly apologized for his role in the murder of civilian populations.
“President” Park utilized a Korean wheeler-dealer, Tongsun Park, a man close to the KCIA and a key narcotics smugglers in Asia, as his most notorious political agent in the United States. Utilizing “recycled” money, some from the drug trade, Park was able to continue to offer substantial bribes to Congress for continued support, despite his repressive domestic policies. In addition, U.S. corporations such as Gulf Oil and Caltrex Petroleum made millions of dollars of secret payments to Park as a price for doing business in Korea. Park threatened Korean businesses with confiscation if they did not provide millions for his regime. Despite this, Park’s favorable relations with the U.S. Congress and the Johnson and Nixon administrations, enabled the continued flow of large amounts of U.S. aid, including subsidized rice to Korea, often carefully concealed from accountability. Hundreds of millions of dollars kept Park solvent and politically “stable,” which in turn high-financed his powerful lobby in the U.S., while enabling maintenance of incredible covert intelligence operations against Korean dissidents living and studying in the U.S. with the assistance of the FBI, and most likely the CIA as well.
Dictatorial Regimes of Major General Chun Doo-Hwan, 1980-1988, and General Roh Tae Woo, 1988-1993
The October 26, 1979 assassination of President Park created a brief void in the South Korea power structure. U.S. President Jimmy Carter became anxious about political stability and possible threats from North Korea and sent an aircraft carrier to near Korean shores. The U.S. relied on the predictable Korean military for assuring security. On December 12, 1979, Major general Chun Doo Hwan, chief of the Defense Security Command (DSC), and General Roh Tae Woo, commander of the ROK’s Ninth Division stationed in Seoul, both nominally under U.S. military control, executed a coup with thirty-six other Korean military officers. This coup brought to power the 1955 graduating class of the Korean Military Academy, arresting a number of other ROK officers who fled to the U.S. Eighth Army headquarters in Seoul for protection.
Nonetheless, in the early months of 1980 there was some political space throughout the country under an interim government that restored some of the political rights that had been forbidden unde
r Park. In late April some miners took over a small town in eastern Korea, and Chun Doo Hwan used this “threat” to Korean security by annointing himself as the new head of the KCIA while retaining his post with the DSC. The U.S. military commander in Korea at the time, General John Wickham, had earlier given his okay to the Korean military to be vigilant about any potential “de-stabilizing” political activities, including that they be empowered to independently assess the reliability of Korean political candidates.
After Chun took over as head of the KCIA, demonstrations erupted all over the country, and by mid-May thousands of students and regular citizens were in the streets of virtually every city. m On May 17, Chun declared martial law, closed the universities, dissolved the legislature, banned all political activity, and arrested thousands of political leaders and demonstrators in the late night hours of May 17-18. In effect, Chun completed the coup begun on December 12. In the process, the Kwangju rebellion was ignited. See account and chronology in section below.
Chun was President Reagan’s first visiting head of state in Janaury 1981, shortly after a trial of Kim Dae Jung’s “treason” had sentenced the long time advocate of reunification to death. The U.S. actually intervened with Chun to show leniency to Kim, which led to Chun commuting the sentence to life in prison. The invitation from Reagan was a prize for Chun’s show of “leniency.” Chun received a further boost when the Reagan administration sold South Korea thirty-six jet fighters and added several thousand more U.S. troops to be stationed there. Shortly after his Washington visit, in February, Chun arranged for his own inauguration as President of South Korea. His tenure was full of repression for thousands of dissidents, along with rampant corruption. In 1981 alone, he had arrested over 37,000 civic, labor, and student leaders for their political views and imprisoned them in remote areas. By the end of his Presidency in 1988 he had amassed $900 million through various illegal schemes. Understandably his repressive presidency was extremely unpopular.
After another student had been tortured to death in 1987, the ruling party nominated Chun’s good friend, Roh Tae Woo, to succeed Chun. Because the now released Kim Dae Jung, and Kim Young Sam of the New Democratic Party split the vote in the December 1987 elections, Roh Tae Woo was elected as Chun’s successor. Roh continued the repressive and corrupt practices of Chun, having amassed an illegal fortune of $650 million for himself. The election of Kim Young Sam in 1993 finally removed the Korean military from their explicit rule from within the presidency itself, though retaining plenty of power over Korean political policy.
In 1996, Chun and Roh were tried for their role in the December 1979 coup, in the 1980 Kwangju massacre, and for outrageous corruption. On August 22, 1996 they were convicted, Chun sentenced to death but commuted to life, Roh receiving 22 years in prison.
Kwangju Massacre, May 1980
To help understand the U.S. role in this May 1980 massacre, it is instructive to describe the political context in the critical year 1979, and the thinking that derived therefrom in the minds of the so-called human-rights-oriented Carter administration officials in Washington, D.C.
The January 1, 1959 Cuban people’s Revolution continued (and continues to this day) to be experienced by U.S. political and business leaders as an example that threatens their ability to preserve unfettered hegemony over “Third World” peoples and nations. It remains like a thorn in U.S. insistence on each country in the world “crying uncle” when demanded to do so. The humiliating defeat of the April 17-19, 1961, CIA-directed invasion of Cuba as directed by both Presidents Eisenhower and his successor Kennedy, using anti-Castro Cubans, drove the thorn deeper into the U.S., insulting its sense of arrogant invincibility. Thousands of examples of sabotage actions, including numerous bombings rarely reported in the Western press, dozens (perhaps hundreds) of assassination attempts on Castro’s life, and by 1979, a nineteen-year harsh economic embargo, had terribly hurt but not destroyed the Cuban revolution, and it is almost beyond belief in U.S. American political minds that Cuba remains independent of the United States and its savage capitalist model.
The U.S. final defeat in Southeast Asia (Vietnam) on April 30, 1975, was still deeply stinging U.S. politics. It also stung the Korean leadership. Korean “President” Park had expressed feeling threatened by the 1975 U.S. pullout in Vietnam and increasingly considered the U.S. as an unreliable ally.
In January 1979, Vietnamese troops marched into Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Kampuchea) and ousted the ruthless Khmer Rouge regime, “forcing” the U.S. to choose to support Pol Pot at the U.N. against the continued U.S. enemy Vietnam which now was backing the new government in Cambodia.
In January 1979, the western-friendly Shah of Iran (who was placed in power in the first place by a CIA coup in 1953) was deposed, and forced to flee the country. The western-unfriendly Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile on February 1, 1979 and quickly proclaimed an Islamic Republic.
On July 19, 1979, the Sandinistas, accused by the U.S. of being “communist Marxist-Leninists,” were successful in a Nicaraguan revolution that ousted long-time U.S. puppet dictator Anastasio Samoza. The Sandinistas immediately introduced a mixture of socialist and capitalist reforms helping the poor majority who had been kept in misery during the 46 years of the Samoza dynasty. This revolution inspired self-determination movements all over the world, as had the Cuban revolution, and was seen by the U.S. as a serious threat to the kinds of “stability” necessary to assure “safety” for Western capitalist interests around the globe. When President Reagan came into power in January 1981, the U.S. very quickly started planning ways to thwart the Sandinista government, leading to an all out effort utilizing U.S. trained and armed terrorist forces and an economic blockade aimed at overthrowing the government.
In neighboring El Salvador, serious strikes and widespread dissent broke out from March through May 1979. An anticipated military coup occurred on October 15, 1979, launching a civil war that lasted until a U.N.-brokered peace accord was signed in 1991. In 1980 the U.S. started pouring in the first of what became billions of dollars to support a series of corrupt, death-squad supporting governments to contain and defeat the “communist” guerrillas and the popular movement working for democratic changes throughout the society.
On October 26, 1979, Korean “President” Park was shockingly assassinated by his KCIA chief, Kim Chae-gyu. U.S. was worried about disruption of “stability” in Korea.
On November 4, 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran was seized by Islamic militants, and 62 U.S. Embassy staff were taken hostage. This was another serious blow to U.S. prestige and hegemony.
On November 6, 1979, President Carter created a secret policy-making crisis team to monitor the evolving situation in Korea (“Operation Cherokee”), declaring as a priority the prevention of “another Iran” in South Korea. The crisis team was comprised of: Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State; Warren Christopher, Under Secretary of State; Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific; William J. Gleystein, U.S. Ambassador to Korea; and Donald Gregg, intelligence staff of the National Security Council and previously CIA station chief in Korea (1973-1975).
On December 12, 1979, Chun and Roh seized control of the South Korean military.
On December 25, 1979, 85,000 Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan at the “invitation” of Babrak Karmal, joining a large number of So
viet troops already present there. Carter had begun to send covert aid to murky Marxist but anti-Soviet elements in July 1979, contributing to fears by a pro-Soviet government that it would be covertly overthrown by the U.S.
In February 1980, U.S. military intelligence knew that Korean Special Forces were being used by Chun to assure stability in domestic affairs.
On May 7, 1980, U.S. Ambassador Gleystein cabled that he was aware of Korean movement of two Special Forces brigades to Seoul for “contingency” actions against student demonstrators.
On May 8, 1980, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) cabled the Joint Chiefs of Staff detailed information about the deployment of Korean Special Forces [13th Special Warfare Command (SWC) Brigade, 11th Brigade and 7th Brigade] to Seoul and Kwangju. The cable included information about the extensive training of these units in the use of CS gas for riot control purposes. Conversation with a former Korean military official who was a member of the Fiftieth Division supply office at Taegu at the time of the Kwangju massacre, indicated that U.S. military experts in chemical weapons briefed Korean military personnel on using those weapons to have a paralyzing effect on the rioters at Kwangju. (CS is a virulent form of tear gas banned in some countries as a form of chemical warfare.)
On May 8, 1980, Ambassador Gleystein, with the advance approval of Warren Christopher and Richard Holbrooke, assured Chun that the U.S. would not oppose contingency plans to use military troops to maintain order.
On May 17, 1980, Chun declared martial law provoking massive ecalations of street protests, seriously threatening Korea’s “stability.” U.S. Embassy was alarmed.
On May 18, elite Special Forces paratroopers of the 7th Brigade (“black berets”) landed in Kwangju and began the indiscriminate murder of students, women and children — basically anyone on sight. Some students were burned alive with flamethrowers. The 7th Brigade of Korea’s Special Forces had a reputation for brutality stemming from their actions in Vietnam. In sixteen other municipalities of South Cholla whole populations rose in rebellion. The 11th SWC Brigade, at some point, joined the 7th Brigade.
On May 19, a U.S. Embassy information officer present in Kwangju communicated to Ambassador Gleystein who in turn cabled Washington reporting “Special Forces used fixed bayonets and inflicted many casualties on students.”
On May 21, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators drove the soldiers from Kwangju city. The city was immediately administered by citizen’s councils which desperately appealed to the U.S. Embassy for intervention to stop the brutality of the Korean military. However, U.S. General John Wickham had already released from his “U.N.” command the frontline troops from the 20th Division at the Combined Forces Command (CFC) located in Seoul and at the DMZ that Chun’s martial law forces requested to retake the city. About 500 people were already dead with nearly 1,000 missing.
On May 22 (in the afternoon in Washington but in the daylight morning hours of May 23 in Korea), Carter convened a high-level White House meeting to discuss the crisis in Korea. According to minutes of the National Security Council (NSC), participants included: Edmund Muskie, the new Secretary of State; Warren Christopher; Richard Holbrooke; Zbigniew Brezinski, Carter’s National Security Adviser; Stansfield Turner, Director of Central Intelligence; Harold Brown, Secretary of Defense; and Donald Gregg of the NSC. After a full discussion of the crisis, “there was general agreement that the first priority is the restoration of order in Kwangju by the Korean authorities.”
On May 23, Ambassador Gleystein told acting Korean President Choi Hyuh Ha that “firm anti-riot measures were necessary.”
On the evening of May 26 loudspeakers from helicopters warned Kwangju’s citizens that the 20th Division would enter the city at dawn on May 27 and that all citizens should disarm and return to their homes.
On May 27, at 3 a.m., the 20th Division entered Kwangju, killing anyone on the streets who did not lay down his or her weapons, whether sticks, stones, or more serious weapons, many of which had been seized from local armories. The final death toll has never been definitively determined, but estimates run as high as 2,500, with 15,000 injured, and 2,000 armed dissidents going into hiding in the nearby mountains.
Conclusions about the Role of the U.S. in South Korea, 1945 to Present
The United States has essentially been continuously present in and the dominator of Korean society and politics since its military forces first landed at Inchon on September 8, 1945, following defeat of the Japanese in World War II. Korea had been earlier occupied since 1905 by the imperial Japanese. The U.S. quickly imported a Korean puppet from the United States, Syngman Rhee, to be the front man. The U.S. oversaw a systematic cleansing between 1945-50 of the popular movement of Koreans who desperately desired their independence from any outside forces. Obviously, the popular movement was vehemently opposed to the U.S. occupation. A civil war developed between the wealthy Koreans and their police/military apparatus, bolstered by the U.S., who supported continuation of an oligarchy, and those Koreans (the vast majority) who wanted genuine independence and democracy.
It was the brutal repression of Korean dialogue and aspirations for independence that directly led to the hot war. Following the end of the hot war, from 1953 to the present, the U.S. has continued with its occupation. Korea has received over the years huge amounts of U.S. aid, and until the late 1980s, was the third largest cumulative recipient of post-World War II foreign aid behind Israel and Egypt.
From 1968-1971, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. oversaw the spraying of nearly 60,000 gallons of chemical poisoning (Agent Orange) in the area of the Korean DMZ, effecting the health of 30,000 Korean troops stationed there while at the same time contaminating the food chain.
The United States maintains an elaborate system of military bases and locations, large and small, throughout South Korea. Currently there are 37,000 U.S. troops at 100 military installations. There are four major Air Force bases: Osan (7th Air Force), Kwangju, Kunsan, and Taegu; and two naval bases: Kunsan, and Chunhae near Masan. There are a number of U.S. Army camps clustered in several locations: eg., at Uijongbu, Tongduchon, Chunchon, Taejon, and Munsan. The headquarters base for the U.S.-ROK combined forces, and the 8th U.S. Army, is at Yongsan in downtown Seoul. The U.S.-ROK combined forces command is headed by a four star general, currently General Thomas Schwartz. The 8th Army is commanded by a three star general.
From the Korean War until 1991, the U.S. had hundreds of nuclear weapons in the South, with more than 150 nuclear warheads stored at Kunsan. There were nuclear units at ten locations throughout South Korea. Though the U.S. now claims it has no nuclear weapons on the land base of Korea, it is believed almost certainly that it possesses them on ships offshore.
The U.S. operates two bombing ranges, one called Koon ni at the village of Maehyang Ri on the west side of the Peninsula, the other near Mt. Taebak on the east side. Popular Korean opposition to the range at Maehyang Ri has led to its being called the Vieques of Korea, because of similarities to the struggle of Puerto Ricans to rid itself of the Navy bombing range at their island of Vieques. The U.S. now acknowledges the presence of Depleted Uranuim (DU) munitions in Korea, and admitted there were two inadvertant uses of DU weapons in 1997. Koon ni was termed the “nightmare range” when during the 1980s it served as the site for nuclear air-to-surface bombing practice runs.
Except at the DMZ area around Panmunjom where U.S./U.N. forces are present, the DMZ is occupied by three defense lines of ROK units. Most U.S. forces remain at U.S. camps at different locations in the South.
As recently as June 13, 2001, General Thomas Schwartz of the U.S.-ROK combined forces declared to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that his units and equipment were prepared for any North Korean attack against the South. He identified 1,500 strike aircraft capable of launching 1,000 daily sorties, 5,000 tracked vehicles, 3,000 tanks, and over 250 combat ships. U.S. Pacific military commander Admiral Dennis Blair reminded the world in a March 2001 interview that North Korea remains for the U.S. the “number one enemy in the Pacific region.”
North Korea has multitudes of military installations and locations buried deep underground. The U.S. has been concerned about enemies being able to wage wars from undergound bunkers and protected weapons sites. The San Francisco Bay area Western States Legal Foundation acquired February 2000 DOD plans, “Defense Science and Technology and Strategy and Plans,” identifying active research in developing lowyield nuclear weapons in its National Ignition Facility (NIF) that can be effective against underground targets. The identified goal for 2001: “Demonstrate the effectiveness of nuclear weapons capabilities in defeating deep structures using precise, lowyield attacks by High Explosives (HE) simulation.” This is a clear plan to expand the use of nuclear weapons in definace of existing treaties and agreements. It is believed that Iraq’s underground bunker system, along with North Korea’s, are stimulating this DOD research to conquer the last challenge in order to possess overwhelming military capabilities on and under the ground.
From the end of the war in 1953 to the present, U.S. troops have committed over 100,000 crimes against the Korean citizenry, including brutal rapes and murders. Because of an historically weak Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Korean officials and its judicial system has had little jusisdiction over prosecution and punishment. Similar to local rage in Okinawa, Japan, for crimes committed against Okinawans by U.S. troops, Koreans regularly demonstrate for removal of all U.S. military from its territory as well.
On February 9, 2001, the whole world was made aware of a tragic accident in waters off Honolulu, Hawaii, when the U.S. nuclear submarine, USS Greenville, collided with a Japanese fishing vessel, Ehime Maru, killing nine of its 35 passengers. What is not known, however, is that a similar accident occurred in Korean waters three years earlier. On February 11, 1998, a fishing vessel out of Pusan, the 27 ton Youngchang-Ho, was hit by the 7,000 ton U.S. nuclear submarine, Lajolla. Even the Korean government hushed this accident for fear of alienating itself from the U.S. The Captain of the Korean fishing vessel, Mr. Jung Chang-soo and his crew of four, were saved in the accident, though originally they were arrested and denied access to the press to tell of the collision. Only now is the news of that accident beginning to be made public.
Despite the election in 1998 of popular Kim Dae Jung as President of South Korea, it is questionable just how much Kim is in charge of the political economy. The IMF has mandated severe economic restructuring, virtually destroying the unique Korean chaebol-based economy. Though the chaebols were monopolistic and oligarchic, they were distinctly Korean for the most part. Continued demonstrations by students and labor for better working conditions and social services, and for removal of the U.S. military from Korea, are regularly met with overwhelming force by riot police and the ROK forces as needed. Now that Korea has been forced to incorporate its economy into the international globalized absentee investor world, there is ever more pressure for Korea to contain dissent and maintain the status quo of a society rapidly losing its historic sovereignty to globalization.
There are real forces that call the bottom line shots in Korea, muting much of Kim’s power and influence. On the U.S. side, there is first the U.S. commander of the U.S.-ROK combined forces, a four star general. Then there is the 8th Army commander, a three star general, the U.S. Ambassador, and the CIA station chief, as always.
On the Korean side there is the vice-commander of the U.S.-ROK combined forces, always a Korean general. Then there is the commander of the feared Korean National Police, the director of the Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS), formerly the KCIA, and the still strong network of right-wing Korean politicians who never lost their positions through forty years of Japanese, and now fifty-six years of U.S. occupation.
Important, Relatively Little-Known Facts and Ironies Relating to the Korean War
- Korea has never attacked any other country. It has, however, been the victim of repeated attacks and interference throughout history.
- At the end of World War II, Korea was the only state not responsible for aggression that became divided (like Germany). Japan, which had occupied Korea for forty years and attacked many of its neighbors, was not split up. In fact its economy and sovereignty were enhanced by the Korean War due to a choice of U.S. policy to build up Japan. So Japan gained tremendously from the Korean War. Its strategic military and geopolitical significance was illustrated by the manner in which it served as the vital rear base and sanctuary for U.S. operations throughout the Korean War, and later for the Vietnam War. The war substantially boosted Japan’s economic recovery, while destroying Korea. Vietnam, however, also became divided at a later date as a direct result of the War. The French had stubbornly insisted on restoring its pre-war colony following Japan’s defeat. The Vietnamese fought a fierce war of liberation for her independence from France, militarily defeating the French forces in May 1954. The July 20, 1954 Geneva Agreement created a “temporary” provisional demarcation line at approximately the 17th latitude to be in effect only until mandated unifying elections were to be held in July 1956. Tragically, however, due to illegal United States belligerance in preventing the mandated unifying elections, the 17th latitude remained in effect for twenty-one years until the Vietnamese militarily defeated the U.S. in April 1975, similarly to what they had done to the French in 1954.
- Syngman Rhee, the very unpopular and unpredictable U.S. puppet leader for the South, was a big, big winner in the war. The U.S. intervention saved his political career by entrenching him as South Korea’s leader even though he had little popular support.
- In February-March 1952, officials from China and North Korea accused the U.S. of dropping germs from the air, including plague, anthrax, cholera, and encephalitis, which was vehemently denied by the U.S. Subsequent elaborate research has disclosed the truth of these accusations. See Endicott and Hagerman’s excellent twenty-year study (1998) listed in the bibliography below.
- The total number of Koreans, North and South, killed during the war now seems to exceed 5 million people, or about 17 percent of a total 30 million population at the beginning of the war. Nine million people lived north of the 38th Parallel at the beginning of the war, and as many as 3 to 3.5 million of them were killed. This kill ratio of one in three may be the heaviest losses due to war any nation has ever endured in history.
- The Armistice signed at Panmunjom on July 27, 1953, was signed by representatives of North Korea, China, and the U.S. Rhee refused to sign but agreed that for ninety days he would not disturb it, after which he claimed he would be free to start the war with a military invasion of the North. To contain Rhee, U.S. acquired direct control over the ROKA, which in turn contributed to the tragic long-term U
.S. occupation of Korea.
- The Geneva Conference where resolution of Korea was discussed following the cease-fire, April 26-June 15, 1954, was a unique occasion when the foreign ministers of all five leading world countries met at one place (U.S., U.S.S.R., France, China, and the United Kingdom, among others nations represented at the conference).
- Geneva was the only international conference of its kind ever attended by North Korea.
- According to representatives of delegations from Canada, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom at Geneva, the U.S./Rhee representatives were intent on preventing any acceptable peace settlement from being realized, despite allegations to the opposite by U.S. diplomats.
- Though some prisoners of war on both sides were badly treated, the documented evidence discloses that the U.S./U.N. forces were responsible for more deaths of prisoners, and more violence, than the North Koreans and Chinese were with their U.S./U.N./South Korean prisoners. Only the U.N. side applied violence to prevent repatriation.
- The U.S. was shocked by the fact that an estimated 70 percent of its POWs had collaborated in some way with their captors. Many had made confessions, including the to the use of germ warfare. Very few North Korean and Chinese prisoners collaborated with their U.N. captors, even though they were subjected to more brutality and violence. Many of the U.S. POWs recanted, of course, once released, but many, surprisingly, did not.
- Despite Japanese and U.S. denials, the Chinese and North Koreans were aware that the U.S. government protected from World War II war crimes prosecutions, the top Japanese germ-warfare scientists and technicians who had experimented on Chinese and Korean (and some 300 U.S.) prisoners a few years before. The reason: So that the United States could utilize their technological and scientific knowledge for its own military and intelligence purposes, similar to the program the U.S. secretly implemented for the Nazis. Some of this imparted knowledge was believed used against Chinese and North Koreans in the Korean War.
- After the war, South Korea had one of the largest military forces in the world with approximately 600,000 soldiers. The numbers in the North were uncertain but not thought at the time to be much at variance with numbers of Rhee’s forces in the South.
- Since the war, the South Korean military has been the only foreign armed force in the world under direct U.S. control. This was literally true until 1994, and remains de facto to this day. There currently are 37,000 U.S. troops at 100 installations in South Korea.
- There are no foreign troops in North Korea and have not been since the Russian military departed in 1948.
- From shortly after the end of the war to the early 1990s, South Korea was the only place in the world where nuclear weapons were pointed at a non-nuclear nation. Until the 1990s, North Korea had no nuclear program. The status of their nuclear program is unclear, but they seem to not yet have any completed, launchable nuclear weapons.
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