Please send your information, story or pictures for this time in history. http://lc-vans.lintcenter.org/submit-your-story/
Great YouTube Videos
Aug 25, 2016
James E. Parker
Over this past summer I took a look at how our US military went from world-beaters in 1945, defeating two highly industrialized countries with ferocious, dedicated military, to its unsuccessful fight with the sub-par North Vietnamese 1965/1975.
Ended up where I never imagined.
Allow me to explain.
The Korean War was significant among events that led to Vietnam. Early on I came across that famous speech of MacArthur on 23 August 1950 in the conference room of his Hqs in the Dai Ichi building downtown Tokyo. To relieve the pressure on the 8th Army at the Pusan perimeter in the south, MacArthur wanted to invade Korea at Inchon, despite the advice against that by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Marines and the US Navy. No one thought the harbor at Inchon was a realistic landing site… with its limited beaches, high docks, enormously shifting tides and narrow approach channel that may have been mined. The US invasion force would be massive; the Inchon landing place tiny and hard to access.
The best military minds in our country – save MacArthur – said no. Not just no, but hell No. General Collins, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and Admiral Sherman, the Chief of Naval Operations, went to Tokyo for the express purpose of persuading MacArthur against this operation.
At that 23 August 1950 meeting with Collins and Sherman, MacArthur said their thinking got at one of the reasons Inchon would work, because the communist knew the U.S. military brass wouldn’t consider Inchon, and we’d catch them by surprise.
Impressive with his commanding presence and his persuasive, eloquent-phrased arguments, he carried the day.
Invasion at Inchon 15 September 1950 it would be.
And against all odds it was an enormous success. In fact, most military scholars consider the battle one of the most decisive military operations in modern warfare; describing the Inchon “Chromite operation” as “an example of brilliant generalship and military genius.”
The general plan and the decision to land at Inchon were entirely MacArthur’s. He had made several significant battle plans throughout his military career, but none more momentous, none more fraught with danger, none that promised to be more decisive if successful.
Inchon was more than merely a name for a battle that changed the balance of power in Korea, more than just a great strategic victory; it was also an intensely personal victory for MacArthur. Inchon had vindicated his judgment. He had – despite all opposition – come, planned, and conquered. He had assumed that the harbor approaches to Inchon would not be heavily guarded or mined; that the difficulties of tide and terrain could be surmounted; that the North Korean reserves stationed near the port would be slender; that the enemy’s morale would be quickly broken; and that Japan, stripped of its occupation troops, would remain quiet and orderly. Because he had assumed correctly on 23 August 1950, the Inchon invasion will go down in infamy as genus generalship.
MacArthur bent the US military to his will with his determined, persuasive arguments because he must have known that Inchon was absolutely doable, right?
Must have had the intelligence that he could bring in 60-80 thousand US GIs on maybe 250 ships through a very narrow channel and put them on shore against whatever the North Korean had set up in the way of defensives. Shallow bottom. Tides shifting up to 30 foot twice a day. Mud flats. Mines. Reinforced enemy positions with commanding fields of fire across the harbor.
Whole world watching. Certainly the future of South Korea in the balance.
Like Daniel Boone said way back in his day, “Make sure you’re right and then go ahead.”
That was my thought about MacArthur.
Well, here’s the thing, MacArthur didn’t have good current intelligence on Inchon. Had no friggin’ idea what was really out there when he convinced the US military to go along with his plans, and it was like three weeks before the invasion.
You read your history. MacArthur’s G-2 Charles Willoughby only had dated ideas on the layout of the harbor’s defenses… and really no information on whether the channel was mined or not.
And like I said, it was three weeks before D-Day.
From the following books – Battle Report, The Landing at Inchon, MacArthur, Inchon Landing, Korea and Korea, The Untold Story – came reports of a mission organized right after the 23 August 1950 conference in which US Navy Lt Commander Eugene Clark, with a couple of ROK officers and some young South Korean partisans, evaded North Koreans for 15 days operating from one of the out-laying islands (Yonghung-do) near the approach to the Flying Fish Channel. Despite the danger, despite the fact he operated as a singleton American using local resources and partisans… he got the necessary information on which MacArthur could make his final invasion plans. Of particular interest to me was the locally scrounged single piston, putt-putt sampan on which he mounted a .50 caliber machine gun he had brought on the mission… that he used to destroy a small fleet of North Koreans who were intent on killing Clark. He described the captain as an almost toothless old South Korean fisherman, who would – often at critical moments – have to restart the one piston engine to get out of harm’s way. Makes for a great visual.
The whole Inchon invasion hinged on the work of one American; racing the clock, behind the lines, out witting the North Koreans who found out he was there. Ending when he lit the harbor lighthouse to lead the invasion force in.
Military historians maybe haven’t given Clark his due for what he did… against almost impossible odds. Someone suggested he had something like 500-1 chances of coming out alive.
Plus Clark himself knew the date of the invasion, so for him capture was not an option. He supposedly carried a grenade around for a sure suicide in case capture seemed imminent.
I found that Eugene Clark had written a book on his mission, so I ordered a used copy from amazon.com and went back with my main research about the corrosion of US military effectiveness during the middle of the 20th century. But I sure liked Clark.
I finally came to some conclusion on what happened to the US military and published an article on my web site mid May 2016. I then re-worded the core of that research into a new introduction of my The Vietnam War Its Ownself… that will be out 1st of September 2016. [Stayed tuned to amazon.com]
But all the time when I’m writing up the decline of our winning military ways… I kept expanding my reading and research about Clark, and his pre-invasion reconnaissance there behind lines, a whole invasion force waiting completion of his work.
The operation was called Trudy Jackson and Clark’s book, the Secrets of Inchon, was an interesting read… though some of it – to my great disappointment – didn’t ring true… like for example his Chapter 7 Taemuui-Do Raid, was just too hokey, too much like a bar-room sounding war story… and the raid wasn’t mentioned in any of the other books on Inchon I had read.
Also Clark’s mission was a joint operation with the CIA, as most books/articles pointed out, but Clark, other than saying up front it was a joint ops, never had anything to say about the CIA; who went, what the CIA did, or didn’t do. And you gotta remember MacArthur didn’t allow the OSS into his Pacific theater during WW II… and the CIA had just been created, so this would have been the first joint ops with the CIA MacArthur ever authorized, so how it was managed was of interest to me.
Not a word in Clark’s book.
Through the help of a friend, we went through the gentleman who did the introduction to his book to get the name of Clark’s daughter (Clark himself has died), who supposedly had the manuscript daddy Clark had written in 1951 on the mission. We made contact over the telephone and had lunch together 26 December 2015 near her home in Reno. She gave me the information on how the book came to be published from a manuscript she had kept “laying around the house” and some personal background on her Dad.
Her story had holes in it. The chain of acquisition on the text/narrative of the book was not provable back to her Dad… in fact that the daughter dealt with professional writer/historian Thomas Fleming and Fleming’s agent to get it published – and received a $125,000 advance – seemed to add to the appearance of impropriety about its authenticity.
To find out last week that the publishing house, when the book was catalogued with the Library of Congress, had listed the book as “fiction.” I got in contact with the Library of Congress to double check this… to find the Library of Congress wants to change the classification to “non-fiction” based almost entirely on the number of times the book is referenced in other books/articles on the Inchon invasion. On Friday the 5th I sent the Library of Congress an email explaining my many areas of doubt about the veracity of the book… their final determination is goin’ be interesting.
But anyway in digging into Clark’s account of the invasion, up jumped Operation Racketeer, maybe a joint operation with the CIA that Clark led up the west coast of North Korea the last two week of October 1950, the month after the Inchon Invasion. The mother ship in this very, very dangerous operation, far behind enemy lines, was PC 703, the same ROK sub chaser used to put the Trudy Jackson team on that island near the mouth of the Inchon channel early September.
Operation Racketeer got Clark to the mouth of the Yalu River, where he reported – in 6 of the 43 Intel reports he sent out during the mission – that 300,000 Red Chinese had crossed the Yalu and were in northern North Korea.
At the time MacArthur’s G-2, General Charles Willoughby, carried only 60 to 80 thousand Red Chinese in the mountains of northern North Korea. So now with Clark’s information you’d expect Willoughby would have upped the estimated number of enemy in front of the two prongs of the US military 8th Army and the X Corps advancing towards the Yalu.
Willoughby must disseminate Clark’s information to the intelligence community and back to Washington. Six times Clark said 300,000 Chinese soldiers have crossed the Yalu and were waiting for MacArthur’s army.
Yet, not a word from Willoughby. No change to the projected number of Chinese soldiers in North Korea MacArthur’s headquarters. And consequently no change to the CIA estimates on Chinese military in North Korea.
Understand Clark’s information went directly to Willoughby. The receiving radio station for Clark’s one-time pad reports was near Willoughby’s desk.
In 1987 Clark gave an interview to historian John Toland (author of In Mortal Combat among many other classics), in which 1) he never mentioned having written a book about his mission… in fact was unsure of some of the facts Toland asked about, that were spelled out in the book he had supposedly written. 2) He did go into considerable discussion about the CIA participation in Trudy Jackson and its lack of participation in the Yalu River part of Racketeer.
CIA answered my FOIA request with something that they could find no records on CIA involvement in Trudy Jackson or Racketeer.
But other information is accumulating and I’m near a point to publish what I know about those two operations… with the significance of Trudy Jackson being the way the CIA and MacArthur’s people worked together, and Clark’s absolutely incredible contributions (despite what I’m considering a fanciful account credited to him 50 years after the fact, written by who knows who).
The significance of the Racketeer operation is Willoughby’s (or MacArthur’s) decision not to disseminate Clark’s behind-the-lines patrol reports.
But all this has led me to the question: How did the Chinese communist come to be in Manchuria in such numbers that they could send at least 300,000 of their forces into North Korea?
This just 5 years after the end of WW II, when the Nationalist Army of Chiang Kai-shek was around 3 million strong, and Mao’s communist troops considerably less, 1.5 or 2 million. This though the Nationalist had suffered the most casualties fighting the Japanese during the war. Mao more or less sitting off to the side, hunkering down, waiting the war out, in northwest China, near the terminus of Soviet railroads.
US supported Chiang Kai-Shek.
USSR supported Mao Zedung.
How did Mao turn things around in 5 years?
Well, it doesn’t take much looking to see that the Russian invasion of Manchuria on the day after the US dropped Little Boy on top of Hiroshima, and the Soviet subsequent occupation of Manchuria and Port Arthur, played a big, big role in changing the history and the destiny of the Far East.
Here’s what Russia – Stalin – did:
First he used many or most of his “Penal” Divisions in the assault… these are front line outfits made up of riff-raff from other divisions. Soldiers were assigned there rather than face execution or jail for violation of Soviet Army rules. While some Penal units acquitted themselves well in combat, others acted just like a bunch of thugs. They were regarded, understandably, as dregs of the Soviet military… throwaways.
These Penal divisions met light resistance from the Japanese in their invasion of Manchuria, because the Japanese troops here had been depleted to fill out replacement quotes for the Japanese Army out in the Pacific.
Then the more elite Soviet Army units moved in and took control of all the ports, including the strategic Port Arthur.
Behind them came the third wave of… Soviet engineers, who stripped the Japanese factories throughout Manchuria and sent the heavy equipment back to Russia. Mukden, Manchuria, for example, was a thriving city of 2 million with Japanese factories galore when the Soviets attacked. All factories, one after the other, were stripped clean of machinery by the Soviets. OSS teams that entered the country soon after the Soviet occupation began, found factory after factory after factory, little more than building shells. Nothing inside.
And the Soviets took over all the banks and transferred the gold, other precious metals and international currency back to the Soviet Union, exchanging them for worthless “Occupation Yen.”
And at the ports? Soviets did not allow the Nationalist troops to come into Manchuria… giving Mao time to move his army up north. And keep in mind that before the Soviet invasion, the Japanese kept Manchuria commie-free.
And in the insuring Chinese civil war 1945 to 1949, Manchuria became critical terrain. Lower China would go to whatever army controlled Manchuria.
Surely you say the US saw this coming. Right?
General Stilwell who worked with Chiang Kai-shek didn’t like him. Check the record. And one of the reasons it seems to me, is that Stilwell didn’t consider Chiang Kai-shek an equal. Chiang didn’t speak English. Didn’t kowtow to the westerner or his ways. Stilwell resented this.
And the “ol’ China hands” in the US State Department were predominately sons of missionaries who had been born in China, spoke the language fluently, and – because of the religious nature of their upbringing – believed the Mao propaganda about a “people’s” army. State Department for the most part didn’t look on Mao as a communist that was getting great help from the Soviets and falling in line with their attitudes and policies, so much as Mao was a man of the people.
Then there was General George Marshall, who came over as the China civil war was just getting started and said, hey hold on a minute, let’s all take a minute here, catch our breaths and figure this thing out… like let’s have a cease fire… you, Chiang, and over there, you, Mao… let’s see if we can find a way to have a joint gov’t.
He kept to this cease-fire thing and “let’s talk” attitude, even though Mao boldly told him one time that his tactic in waging a long contested war was “Talk-Fight, Fight-Talk” (“Da-Da, Tan-Tan”).
Because the U.S. was providing the Nationalist with weapons and equipment, Chiang had to “cease fire.”
Did Mao? Of course not. He used the Marshall-imposed halt to Chiang’s maneuvering, to take great advantage. Certainly to move up at the Soviet’s invitation into Manchuria.
And Marshall is on record as saying he didn’t like Chiang. Again like Stilwell he never treated him as an equal and long-time ally of the U.S., the leader of western oriented forces in China. Marshall it seems regarded Chiang pretty much as the union leader of bucktooth Asian laundry men, not at all comparable to say, European leaders.
And Marshall went on to be Secretary of Defense and then, God Save the Queen, he became the U.S. Secretary of State.
Chiang was toast.
The Chinese communist army would force the Nationalist Kuomintang out the back door to Taiwan and in October 1949, Mao assumed control of all China…. and a year later sent his troops across the Yalu to attack American forces…
So how did Stalin get such a good deal of occupying Manchuria ostensibly to help the US with its war on Japan… that eventually, surely, led to Mao’s victory in China?
Read the two attachments below: excerpts from Spanning the Century and Special Envoy.
Come to your own conclusions. Decide who’s to blame for aiding and abetting the communist in Manchuria, and Korea, and then subsequently in Vietnam?
“…. hurried to install an emergency power station and lay transmission lines to the conference sites. To Kathleen and Eddie Page fell the responsibility of assigning quarters.
The Czar’s bedroom suite, the only one with a private bath, was reserved for the President. Private bed rooms nearby were set aside for Stettinius, who had succeeded Hull as secretary of state, Hopkins, Harriman, Bohlen, and James F. Byrnes, director of the Office of War Mobilization. General Marshall and Admiral King were put on the second floor, the latter in a suite that had once been the Czarina’s boudoir. The others were less fortunate. Major generals were billeted four to a room, colonels sixteen. Thirty-five officers were assigned to a single bath and forced to shave at water buckets beside their cots.
After two days, Harriman boarded the President’s plane, the Sacred Cow, which had been ferried from Washington to Sevastopol, and flew off to meet Roosevelt nearly 1,400 miles away at Malta, while Kathleen was left behind to complete preparations at the palace.
Churchill was already there when he arrived, as were the American and British military chiefs, who had been in a day-long debate over General Eisenhower’s strategy for crossing the Rhine. Hopkins had also joined the party, arriving from Paris, where he had gone to see de Gaulle. Worn out from his trip, he dragged himself off to bed early, leaving Harriman and Churchill to play bezique for several hours and to hash over what they expected from Stalin.
The following morning, Roosevelt arrived aboard the cruiser USS Quincy after ten days at sea. It had been the kind of interlude that ordinarily rejuvenated him physically and spiritually, but this one obviously had not. Harriman was shaken by his “worn, wasted” appearance, alarmingly deteriorated since November. But haggard as he was, Roosevelt was alert and clearly excited about meeting Stalin with the end of the war in sight. He had only one short night to rest before jumping off on the last leg of his journey.
The flight across the Mediterranean, over Greece, the Macedonian peninsula, and the Black Sea to the Crimea was the most hazardous part of the journey because there were still Nazi-controlled airfields along the route. To take advantage of darkness, they took off at three o’clock in the morning, under escort by half a dozen heavily armed P-38s. Churchill followed ten minutes later. Aside from the fighters, they entrusted their security to the darkness, radio silence, and a course carefully charted to take them around the enemy-held island of Crete.
The precautions were now especially serious, for American intelligence had learned that the Germans had discovered the location of the conference. And just the day before, an American plane taking equipment to Yalta had carelessly flown so close to Crete that German antiaircraft guns had attacked and damaged it before it got out of range.
Seven hours after leaving Malta, they arrived at Saki Airfield at Sevastopol. In a huge tent, the Russians had laid out the inevitable refreshments- tables laden with cold cuts, eggs, curd cakes, wine, champagne, and Crimean brandy. Roosevelt skipped all of it, staying just long enough to join Churchill in inspecting the honor guard before leaving on the ninety-mile drive to Yalta.
By the time the party reached the palace, Hopkins was so spent that Admiral Ross Mcintire, the President’s physician, seriously considered putting him aboard the Catoctin so he could have intense medical care. Hopkins would have none of that, but he stayed in his room throughout the conference, convening a few bedside meetings and, with obvious effort, taking the few steps down the hall for each day’s plenary meeting. Harriman stepped into his friend’s customary role. He was, therefore, at Roosevelt’s side through much of the day; and on several evenings, he and Kathleen shared a quiet dinner in the President’s suite with Roosevelt and his daughter Anna.
The President immediately went to work where he had left off at Teheran, trying to promote a civil relationship with the Russians after the war, but Stalin was as obstreperous as ever. To Averell’s consternation, the President made little effort at coordination with Churchill, allowing five days to pass without a private talk with the Prime Minister. Although Yalta would be ridiculed as a capitulation by an exhausted President, its political agenda had been thoroughly explored at Teheran and in the intervening fourteen months had dominated Harriman’s contacts with the Kremlin. Particularly in the case of the Far East, Yalta confirmed what had already been worked out through Harriman during the fall.
The Pacific had been one of his urgent priorities from the day he arrived in Moscow. He had dogged the Russians for permission to use Soviet airfields in the bombing of Japan’s home islands, and since the Teheran conference, he had pressed Stalin to name his conditions for a Soviet declaration of war in the Pacific.
As far back as the Moscow foreign ministers’ meeting in October 1943, Stalin had voluntarily assured Hull that the Soviets would help defeat Japan after Hitler was finished. Although he had extended his personal assurances to the President at Teheran, he had been reluctant to lay out his conditions.
While Churchill was in Moscow in October 1944, Stalin had told Averell that the Red Army could mount an offensive against Japanese forces in Manchuria three months after the capitulation of Germany. He had thirty divisions in the Far East, and he would move about thirty more from Europe after Hitler’s surrender. In preparation, he wanted the United States to stockpile supplies for two or three months’ fighting. He did not think the war would go on much longer.
But aside from the American arms and ammunition, he continued, “political considerations” had to be taken into account. The Russian people had to know what they were fighting for. They fought against the Germans because they had been invaded. They would have to understand why they were fighting against the Japanese.
Two days later, Stalin handed Harriman the long list of supplies he wanted and promised to let him know in two weeks when the United States could begin delivering the four-engine bombers it was providing the Red Air Force.
Clearly, the Soviet dictator now wanted to play a larger part than the Americans had in mind. In Washington, strategists envisioned the Soviet role as one of securing the railroads and taking control of Manchuria. But Stalin’s plan sketched for Averell was to drive south across the Mongolian desert into China, all the way south to Peking.
With that, Harriman had flown home to give Roosevelt a full account of Churchill’s Moscow visit and his own talks with the Premier. The President was pleased with Stalin’s new forthrightness and not particularly disturbed that references to “political considerations” indicated that territorial demands were coming. But Stalin’s comments about driving all the way to Peking caused him to wonder aloud, “If the Russians go in, will they ever go out?”40
With the second Big Three summit delayed by quibbling over the site, the Soviets’ political demands in the Far East were finally spelled out to Harriman when he met Stalin at the Kremlin on December 14.
In brief, Stalin wanted the Kuril Islands, an archipelago stretching from the northern tip of Japan to the Kamchatka Peninsula, plus the southern half of Sakhalin Island, which the Japanese had got in the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth. With control of the Kurils and all of Sakhalin, the Soviet Navy would have unimpeded access to the Pacific. He also wanted leases on the Manchurian ports of Dairen and Port Arthur, as well as on the Chinese Eastern and South Manchuria railroads. The rails would link Dairen and Port Arthur with the port at Vladivostok.
Harriman was skeptical of Stalin’s assurance that the Soviets would do nothing to interfere with China’s sovereignty in Manchuria, but Washington indicated neither disapproval nor acceptance of Stalin’s claims, and there the matter still stood when the leaders gathered at Yalta.
It seemed as urgent as ever to bring the Soviets into the Pacific war. During their stopover at Malta, the combined military chiefs had reconfirmed their judgment that it would take eighteen months after Germany’s surrender to defeat Japan. Estimates suggested that as many as 200,000 American casualties could be prevented by prompt Soviet entry into the conflict.
At Livadiya Palace, Harriman sat with Roosevelt and Stalin as the Marshal went over his demands again. Despite their profound implications, President accepted them almost casually, and Harriman raised no question. The agreement had to be protected with extraordinary secrecy because it would take time to move the Soviet divisions across Siberia and into position for the offensive. If it was revealed to the Chinese, both Stalin and Roosevelt feared, the Japanese would promptly learn about it and might even attempt a preemptive attack on the port of Vladivostok to prevent the buildup of stockpiles.
Even Roosevelt’s secretary of state was kept in the dark. When Stettinius inquired whether his department should not be involved in the Far East discussions, the President politely told him that it was a military matter. Asia was never mentioned in the plenary meetings, nor in the sessions of the foreign ministers. When the conference ended, the only American copy of the agreement was taken back to the White House and locked in a safe by Admiral Leahy. Not even Chiang Kai-shek learned of the concessions until after the President’s death.
While he raised no objection to Stalin’s demand for the islands, Roosevelt balked at the proposed lease arrangement for the ports and the rail lines. He preferred to see Dairen operated as a free port controlled by an international commission instead of being leased to the USSR. The Manchurian railroad, he insisted, should be jointly operated by a Soviet Chinese commission. After one meeting on the subject, drafting was turned over to Harriman and Molotov. As Harriman shuttled the various versions back to Livadiya, the President insisted upon keeping his amendments on both the railroads and the port at Dairen. Besides finally accepting the American position, the Soviets also bowed to Roosevelt’s insistence that the ten-paragraph agreement require the approval of Chiang. The President reciprocated by dropping his demand that Port Arthur be put under international control, accepting Stalin’s contention that a lease was necessary, since the port would become a Soviet naval base.
Years later, the secret accord would become an exhibit for Yalta critics contending that the President had been fleeced by the Soviet dictator. Bohlen, who interpreted all of the conversations between the President and Stalin, thought that where the Far East was concerned, the United States had indeed been caught napping.
Being the American most involved, Harriman shared the blame, but he did not readily accept it. In his memoire, Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin, published in 1975, he insisted that he himself had been unhappy with parts of the agreement. He did not, he said, like the railroad and ports section, which stated that the Soviet Union’s “pre-eminent interests” would be protected at the international port of Dairen. Nor did he like the pledge that the Soviet claims would be “unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.” He had told the President as much, but the President “was not disposed to fuss over words.” Harriman said he had hoped that the military chiefs would complain and give him an excuse to go back to Roosevelt, but they raised no objection.
In demanding the Kurils and southern Sakhalin, Stalin insisted that he merely wanted a return to the situation that existed before the Russo Japanese War forty years earlier. The well-known truth was that Japan had gotten only the portion of the island below fifty degrees north latitude at the end of the conflict. The Kurils had been acquired from Russia by treaty in 1875. If Roosevelt had forgotten that, the State Department had not, and neither had Harriman. A memorandum describing the issue in detail was prepared before the President left Washington, but apparently he never saw it. When Harriman mentioned the history of the island chain, Roosevelt casually dismissed it. The Kurils seemed to him “a minor matter.“
The agreement was not accompanied by a map or list of the islands. Consequently, decades later, Russo-Japanese relations remained soured by Japan’s insistence that four of the islands ceded to Stalin at Yalta were, in fact, a part of the Japanese homeland, not the Kuril chain.
Harriman saw Franklin Roosevelt for the last time on the day after the conference ended.
Following a jovial luncheon to celebrate the signing ceremony at Livadiya, the President drove eighty miles down the coast to board the Catoctin, still anchored off Sevastopol. At the suggestion of his naval aide, Vice-Admiral Wilson Brown, Roosevelt agreed to spend the night aboard the ship as a gesture of thanks to the crew that had supported America’s Yalta contingent around the clock.
Having watched the President at close range for nine days, Harriman had become truly alarmed over his physical condition. Now, following the strenuous conference, Roosevelt faced a trip home that would be as taxing as his journey to Yalta. From the Crimea, he would fly to Egypt, where he would re-board the Quincy. Before sailing, he was to meet with King Farouk, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, lbn Saud of Saudi Arabia, and Churchill.
Under the circumstances, Harriman thought the President should rest another night at Yalta. He was furious at Brown’s insensitivity in suggesting that he go through the rigor of boarding ship and spending the night in cramped quarters. Nevertheless, the party went aboard in the late afternoon and passed what Harriman called a “ghastly night” in stifling heat.
They departed at daybreak, and back at Saki Airfield, Harriman said good-bye. After Roosevelt had been lifted into his plane in a marrow chilling rain, the giant C-54 lumbered down the runway and climbed slowly into the sky over the Black Sea.”
“…agree that any action of the Big Three powers should be submitted to the judgment of the little ones. Churchill challenged this remark. There was no question of the small powers dictating to the great ones. he said, but greatness carried with it a moral responsibility to exercise power with moderation and respect for the rights of weaker nations. “The eagle,” Churchill said, “should permit the small birds to sing an’ care not where for they sang.”
When the Prime Minister offered a toast to the proletarian masses of the world, possibly by way of placating Stalin, the talk turned to the rights of people to govern themselves and get rid of leaders who no longer enjoyed their support. Churchill made the point that although he was constantly being “beaten up” as a reactionary, he happened to be the only leader present who could be thrown out of office at any time by his people, adding that he personally gloried in that danger. Stalin remarked that Churchill seemed to be afraid of election. Not at all, the Prime Minister replied. Far from fearing them, he was proud of the right enjoyed by the British people to change governments whenever they saw fit.
A great cloud of myth and misinformation has obscured the true shape of the Yalta decisions for three decades. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, certain right-wing critics have traced back to Yalta many of America’s postwar difficulties with the Soviet Union, the origins of the Cold War itself, and even the victory of Mao Tse-tung’s Communist armies in China. Harriman, who was at Roosevelt’s side during most: the crucial Yalta negotiations, stands by his 1951 testimony:
The discussions at Yalta and the understandings reached there were an integral part of our negotiations with the Soviet Union throughout the war to bring the desperate struggle to a victorious and early conclusion and to find a way in which the United States, Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. could live together in peace. The postwar problems have resulted not from the understandings reached at Yalta but from the fact that Stalin failed to carry out those understandings and from aggressive actions by the Kremlin.
The Yalta discussions covered a wide range of topics: final plans for concerting the defeat and occupation of Germany, and the terms and circumstances for Soviet participation in the war against Japan. These essentially military decisions are best understood in light of the actual battlefield situation that first week of February 1945. Although General MacArthur had just entered Manila, the bloody battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were yet to be fought. It would be more than five months before the first experimental explosion of the atomic bomb at Alamagordo, New Mexico. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had not taken the bomb into account in their calculations of the military pressures needed to break Japan’s resistance. (Harriman recalls that even five months later, at Potsdam, Admiral Leahy was offering bets that the bomb would not work.) The Chiefs of Staff, just before Yalta, had estimated that it would take eighteen months after the German surrender to defeat Japan. Far from visualizing Japan’s quick collapse, they were planning to invade the home islands in the winter of 1945-46. And in the event that the European war was prolonged, necessarily postponing the redeployment of troops to the Pacific, they contemplated postponing that invasion until “well into 1946.”
Anxious to reduce American casualties from what General Marshall conceived as a bitter-end campaign to invade and occupy the industrial heart of Japan through the Tokyo Plain, the Joint Chiefs looked to the Russians for help. In a memorandum to the President, dated January 2 3, 1945, they declared:
Russia’s entry at as early a date as possible consistent with her ability to engage in offensive operations is necessary to provide maximum assistance to our Pacific operations. The United States will provide maximum support possible without interfering with our main effort against Japan. The objectives of Russia ‘s military effort against Japan in the Far East should be the defeat of the Japanese forces in Manchuria, air operations against Japan proper in collaboration with United States Air Forces based in eastern Siberia, and maximum interference with Japanese sea traffic between Japan and the mainland of Asia.
Stalin, understandably, had his own set of objectives in the Far East. He had outlined his terms to Harriman in December, claiming the return to Russia of the lower half of Sakhalin Island and the Kuriles. He wanted leases on the ports of Dairen and Port Arthur as well as the railroads in Manchuria built and operated by the Russians in Czarist times under contract with the Chinese. He also had asked for recognition of the status quo in Outer Mongolia, promising that the Soviet Union would not interfere with China’s sovereignty over Manchuria. On February 8, at Yalta, Stalin took up his demands with Roosevelt. Secretary of State Stettinius had no part in these discussions. The President asked Harriman alone to join him, Bohlen sitting in as the interpreter. Stalin, who brought Molotov and his own interpreter, V. N. Pavlov, to the meeting, said he would like to discuss the political conditions under which the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan, as he had explained them to Harriman earlier. Roosevelt saw no difficulty about the return of South Sakhalin or the transfer of the Kurile Islands. As for Dairen, he had suggested at Teheran that the Soviet Union ought to have access to a warm-water port at the end of the South Manchurian Railroad. But he could not speak for Chiang Kai-shek. Perhaps, rather than ask the Chinese for an outright lease, Dairen could become a free port under an international commission. That was the method he preferred, Roosevelt said, not only in Dairen but also in Hong Kong. As for the Manchurian railroads, instead of leasing them he would like to see them operated jointly by the Russians and the Chinese.
Stalin pressed harder. Unless his conditions were met, he said, it would be difficult for the Soviet peoples to understand why Russia was going to war with Japan. They clearly understood the war against Germany, which had threatened the very existence of the Soviet Union, but they would not understand why Russia should attack the Japanese. If his political conditions were met, however, the matter could be more easily explained to the people – and the Supreme Soviet – in terms of “the national interest involved.”
Roosevelt stressed that he had not had an opportunity to discuss the matter with Chiang. It was difficult to speak frankly with the Chinese, he said, because anything said to them in confidence was known round the world, Tokyo included, in twenty-four hours.
There was no rush about talking to the Chinese, Stalin said, but he did want his proposals put in writing and agreed to by Roosevelt and Churchill before the conference ended. Turning then to internal conditions in China, Stalin said he could not understand why the united front against the Japanese invaders had broken down. The time had come, he said, for Chiang to take the leadership, uniting his Kuomintang forces with Mao’s Communists in a common front against Japan.
On February 10, at Molotov’s request, Harriman called at the Villa Koreis to receive and discuss the first draft in English of Stalin’ political conditions for entering the war against Japan. He explained to the Soviet Foreign Minister that Roosevelt would have to ask for three amendments. Stalin had agreed two days earlier, Harriman pointed out, that Port Arthur and Dairen should be free ports and that the Manchurian railroads should be operated by a joint Russian-Chinese commission. He also felt certain that the President would not wish to settle these matters without Chiang’s concurrence. All three changes would have to be incorporated in the Russian draft.
Returning to Livadia, Harriman showed the President Molotov’ draft together with the amendments he was suggesting. Roosevelt promptly approved the changes and Harriman resubmitted them to Molotov. The matter was settled after the formal conference session later that day. Stalin told Roosevelt that he agreed it would be more appropriate for the Manchurian railroads to be operated by a joint commission. He accepted the requirement for Chiang’s concurrence adding that he wanted Chinese concurrence also on the status quo in Outer Mongolia. He was entirely willing to have Dairen a free port under international control, Stalin added, but Port Arthur was going to be used as a Soviet naval base, and for this a lease arrangement would be required. Roosevelt accepted this change, taking upon himself the responsibility for consulting Chiang Kai-shek as soon as Stalin notified him that the time was ripe.
Harriman was unhappy with the final Soviet text, submitted for signing by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin on February 11. Without prior discussion, the Russians had written into the sections concerning Manchurian ports and railroads a provision that “the pre-eminent interests of the Soviet Union shall be safeguarded.” Harriman disliked the term “pre-eminent interests” and said as much to Roosevelt. But the President was not disposed to fuss over words. They meant nothing more, he said, than that the Russians had a larger interest in the area than the British or the Americans. This seemed to him true, and he was not disposed to argue over two words. Harriman also questioned a paragraph stipulating that the territorial claims of the Soviet Union in the Far East “shall be unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.” It was just language, Roosevelt replied. Here again he was not going to quarrel with Stalin.
Roosevelt felt other matters were more important, the establishment of the United Nations, for example. “He was trying like the dickens,” Harriman recalled, “to get Stalin to be more cooperative in other areas that he cared about, the United Nations and Poland. He didn’t want to use up whatever trading positions he had and he may have been trying to save his strength. Perhaps it was a combination of the two. Roosevelt never was much of a stickler for language. Even at Teheran, when his health was better, he didn’t haggle with Stalin over language. It was my impression that as long as he could put his own interpretation on the language, he didn’t much care what interpretations other people put on it.”
Nor did the Joint Chiefs of Staff raise the slightest objection when Harriman showed each of them the draft agreement. He hoped that they would question one detail or another so that be could take it back to Roosevelt and persuade him to get the language changed. But Marshall, King and Leahy all approved the draft. Even Admiral Leahy, who later wrote that he believed Japan could be defeated without Russian participation, remarked to Harriman, “This makes the trip worth while.” In his memoirs Leahy wrote: “No one was more surprised than I to see these conditions agreed to at Yalta labeled as some horrendous concessions made by Roosevelt to an enemy.”
The admiral carried the signed agreement back to Washington and locked it in the President’s personal safe. It was not mentioned in the protocol of the Yalta Conference. When Stettinius in a private conversation at Yalta asked the President whether there was some aspect of the Far East negotiations that the State Department ought to know about, the reply was that Harriman alone had handled the matter, which was primarily military in any case, and that it had best remain that way.
Roosevelt, it would seem, had not a great deal more confidence in the State Department than in the Chiang Kai-shek entourage at Chungking, when it came to keeping secrets. The most important reason for secrecy, of course, was the plain fact that Russia remained at peace with Japan and ostensibly neutral. Stalin had promised Roosevelt he would shift some twenty-five divisions to the Far East as soon as they could be spared from the European front, and he had reason to fear a pre-emptive attack by the Japanese against this thinly defended area if word of his intention to declare war leaked out before those divisions were in place.
The crucial agreement, so far as the Joint Chiefs were concerned, was Stalin’s commitment to join the war against Japan within two or three months after the German surrender. The Soviet Union also undertook to conclude an alliance with Chiang Kai-shek, to assist the Chinese in driving out the Japanese invaders and to respect China’s “full sovereignty” in Manchuria. Stalin contended that he was asking, in return, little more than the restoration of rights and territories wrested from Imperial Russia by the Japanese in 1904. This was not strictly true of the Kurile Islands, which in fact had been peaceably transferred to Japan in 1875 by the terms of a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Russia. But Roosevelt dismissed Harriman’s reservations on this point before signing the agreement. The Kuriles seemed to him a minor matter, measured against the larger benefits of a Russian helping hand against Japan.
Harriman, in spite of his reservations, felt the Far Eastern agreement was undermined less by Stalin’s duplicity than by Chiang’s weakness. “The agreement in no way weakened him,” Harriman said. “Stalin recognized Chiang as the head of the government of China. The formal agreement negotiated with Stalin by Foreign Minister T.V. Soong in July of 1945 promised to respect continuing Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria. If Chiang had been strong enough at home to hold up his end, the outcome might well have been different. In my judgment it was Chiang’s inherent weakness that gave the Chinese Communists their opportunity.“
For Churchill the problems of winning the war in the Far East were “remote and secondary.”13 Although he signed the agreement, he had taken no part in the negotiations. His chief concern was to prevent the domination of Europe by the Soviet Union. He fought Stalin hard (Roosevelt as well, at times) to ensure a respectable postwar role for France, to block the dismemberment of Germany and to guarantee the right to govern themselves.”
Final historical report before redesignation from ASA
by James T. Faust, COL (Ret,), USA
Captain Richard Fulton is interviewed by John Thomas Wiseman.
- How would you define National Security and in what capacity have you been involved with United States National Security. How did you get involved? (Approximate dates and job titles if possible).
My federal career started with enlistment in the USAF in 1962. When the Cuban Missile Crisis hit, I was in Air Police School at Lackland. In December that year I arrived at Wheelus Air Base in Libya for an 18-month assignment. This was followed by time at a SAC base in Arkansas, then assignment to Korea for 13 months, and to Vietnam for 23 months.
I left the service as a SSgt holding the Bronze Star and the USAF Commendation Medal for work in the information career field during my second enlistment. My work had been in public affairs and included duty as a wing historian and also an assistant to the 7th AF historian. My first enlistment I had been an Air Police sentry dog handler. I went to the university world and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in History. During this time I was active with reserve components of the US Army. In 1977 I was hired to be a GS-7 Army civilian and to serve as managing editor of the Fort Leavenworth LAMP. I then worked in Public Affairs at Fort Hood, in Korea, in St. Louis, at Dugway Proving Ground, back in Korea, in Chicago and at Fort Jackson. I am a graduate of the Department of Defense Information Specialist Course, the DINFOS Public Affairs Officer course, and the Army Advanced Public Affairs Course. I reached GS-12/Step 8, was cut back by Army downsizing to GS-11/Step 10 due to downsizing, and wound up as a USACE YA-02 when recalled for Katrina duties. Along the way I met some great people, and really liked my job. The Army awarded me the civilian equivalent medal to the Legion of Merit, for duty as a speechwriter in Korea. As a retiree I am most interested in helping to inform concerning our Nation’s involvement in Libya for the 20 years after World War II.
As one who spent decades in the world of Military Public Affairs, the way I have come to think about a definition of National Security is the same manner in which I think about responsibilities with regard to command information, public information and community relations. In Public Affairs, we old timers came to think about the process as akin to safety and security, meaning it is everyone’s task, everyone’s responsibility. In a much greater sense, National Security is the same way. In and out of government service, every citizen has the personal obligation and the personal responsibility to be aware of, to be involved with, and to in all ways promote National Security. That is because the bedrock of our society is the United States Constitution.
Everything about us as a Nation depends upon this document, in terms of interpretation, and in terms of application. As a person reads the document, and sees the task of application by the executive branch and the legislative branch, and in terms of safeguarding proper applications of authority, the judicial branch, it is crystal clear that Freedom cannot endure without the sanctions, protections and the authorities of government at large. To be Free, Americans must always be made aware of, and understand, the costs. They must also comprehend the challenges, and then, in a variety of ways, provide the wherewithal to meet them.
To somewhat narrow the focus of this discussion, please permit a consideration of all who serve; civilians employed in all offices of government, uniformed personnel in the various entities, including the Department of Defense, but also some other departments in peacetime, in which abide coastal defense, and operations of health and transportation. These are not singular tasks and groups. Instead, it is all part of a large and very complicated circle, the outer perimeter of which constitutes the entity called National Security, a complex and intricate interlinked network, which has so many different kinds of ways and means to constitute the whole.
Differences aside, there is a commonality—the oath taken by all of the Federal Government to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Now, most of what follows involves words and paragraphs devoted to personal military experiences; but the foundation of such discussion for me—and for every veteran of government, especially the military—is that the act of discharge and retirement does not mean release from the oath. We who served followed unique and courageous traditions; we took that oath clearly and distinctly, and in lifetime it always remains with us. Without a Constitution there is no United States; a Nation rests on the sum of the parts of its Constitution, and not on this or that interpretation or debate of individual points. This is what I have come to understand in a lifetime spent with various attachments and relationships of service.
I was raised in a single parent childhood by an employee of a TB hospital operated by the Administration of Veterans Affairs. My mother worked in house cleaning and as I grew up, would hear stories told to her by patients—men who had fought in the Spanish American War, World War One, World War Two and Korea. When I was 16, an explorer scout, the Air Force Reserve gave us aerial navigation course, along the way telling many stories about life in the service. I was hooked, and shortly after turning 17 visited the local Air Force recruiter. He told me I first had to finish high school (which I hated and didn’t do all that well in) before I could go to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. Six days after graduation I made that journey. From the very first day I liked being in the Air Force, which decided I should become an Air Policeman. That is the technical school I was sent to, and in the Air Force I began to grow up. Aside from training, the first real world event to surface which made me do some intensive thinking about who I was and what I was doing was the Cold War Cuban Missile Crisis. My flight was pulled from the classroom and we took over as the Lackland Base Police while those having the duty were forward deployed to bases in Florida. When they came home, they assumed the base police role and we returned to the classroom, only now with a much more precise knowledge about what it meant to be a cop and to protect an installation.
My first duty assignment was at Wheelus Air Base, about six miles east of Tripoli, Libya. I spent 18 months at Wheelus, in the 7272nd Air Police Squadron, first in regular law enforcement flight operations for a few months, serving as a BAR gunner in base alerts, and then mostly as a sentry dog handler, guarding remote locations. North Africa is always a cauldron, as true in the early 1960s as it is today. What I gained in Libya provided a crisp foundation for the stresses faced in later Asian locations; all a cumulative process. In Libya I spent a week on a bodyguard detail for the Monarch and his wife, when they came to the base hospital for some medical treatment. That was King Idris. I was handed an M-2 carbine and locked into an open bay, right next to the King’s suite. He honored me by insisting I was the youngest present during the first night of the annual Ramadan, and should be fed first. Other Libyan experiences I remember include spending the night on the beach with dog and M-2 (normally we carried side arms and occasionally shotguns) right after President Kennedy was killed; going to Cyrenia, landing at the Bennina Air Port at Benghazi, and going as part of a field hospital up the escarpment to the earthquake destroyed town of Barce (Al Marj); being at the bomb dump with three other handlers and a regular Air Policeman in the spring of 1964 when a group of Libyans flooded across the stone wall into the five square mile facility. In that early morning hour experience we were ordered to release all four dogs and then to fall back to the strong point in the middle where we set us an M-1919A6 .30 caliber machine gun and spent a long night until relieved at daylight. It was a long night. A lot was then going on throughout Tripoli. All of our dogs were bloody but unhurt.
In June of 1964 I returned to the United States and was assigned to a Strategic Air Command Base in Arkansas, where I served the rest of the enlistment as a sentry dog handler. The Vietnam War was building so I decided to re-enlist, but I cross-trained into the Information field, today called Public Affairs. As I trained I served as the sports reporter, an assistant in public information, and learned photojournalism. After I passed the necessary tests to be rated a five level, I was given the necessary security level and assigned for nine months as the wing historian. I volunteered for Vietnam but was sent to Korea in the early fall of 1966. Instead of being a military journalist I was put back to work in the Air Police. I was offered a dog but declined, so was assigned to Air Police Investigations for a few months, then when the pipeline produced an access of cops was sent to the Air Forces Korea newspaper, The DEFENDER, to be a features writer. It was an interesting job that let me see all of the Republic of Korea as it was 13 years after the signing of the armistice (very different than what it now is).
In 1967 I deployed to Saigon from Seoul, specifically Kimpo Airfield to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, and was assigned as a photojournalist within 7th Air Force Directorate of Information Combat News Branch. There were several different kinds of jobs in that 23 months before the 1969 discharge, but primarily I wrote features and did the necessary photography, mostly on bases but sometimes in the field. I was also put on non-crew member flying status to do the required coverage, and flew a variety of mission types aboard cargo planes and helicopters, and also aboard Shadow and Spooky gunships. I returned to the USA in early fall 1969 to honorable discharge and to enrollment in the Kansas State College of Pittsburg, later renamed Pittsburg State University. When I came home from Vietnam I was a staff sergeant who had a Bronze Star (M) for work during Tet, and a USAF Commendation Medal for having helped establish a base level Office of Information at Tan Son Nhut in 1969. I was the NCOIC of that operation, experience that would be very valuable in the years ahead.
To help pay for college I tried some jobs in civilian journalism but eventually went back to law enforcement, as a Campus cop. I also paid for college expenses by membership in US Army reserve components, the Kansas National Guard for several years where I was an Infantryman, and then in the compression program of USAR ROTC at the university. As a reserve soldier I eventually worked my way to captain. I did both undergraduate and graduate level studies at PSU. In 1977, the US Army offered me a GS-7 level job as post newspaper editor at Fort Leavenworth. My goal had been to become a community college instructor so I took the Leavenworth job, thinking it would be income while I searched for an opening. It wasn’t long though before I realized I really liked Public Affairs management, so I quit my teaching job hunt and applied myself to the DAC job.
My civilian career gave me a lot of opportunity; I attended and graduated from the Department of Defense Information School’s Information Specialist Course and the Public Affairs Officer Course, a PME course in Korea, and the Army Advanced Public Affairs Course at the College of Journalism University of South Carolina. It was all great training, with some wonderful colleagues as fellow students and PA practitioners. What I had learned as an NCO in the USAF and in the Army reserve components directly applied to the earliest jobs at Forts Leavenworth and Hood, being accountable for young troops and for senior folks as well in the various daily tasks of Public Affairs.
At Fort Hood as a GS-9 I provided daily leadership for a platoon strength of military journalists. In my mind I just remembered what some great NCOs – SMSgt Marcus Grant, SSgt Clarence Stokes, MSgt Harvey Inouye, and TSgt Joe Covolo – had taught me about duty performance and accountability. It worked like a charm, yet the higher up the ladder I climbed, fewer and fewer came the opportunities for daily contact with the people who were really making the Public Affairs process work. I missed that contact, and highly valued it when it briefly happened. At Fort Hood I was promoted to GS-11 and assigned as III Corps Public Information Officer, a job that allowed a lot of daily contact with some truly excellent Soldiers.
As an Army civilian, I served twice in the Republic of Korea as a speechwriter for the generals and others of senior leadership, simultaneously as a writer in the US Army Aviation Systems Command and in the US Army Troop Support Command in St. Louis, as the installation Public Affairs Officer for Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, as deputy PAO in North Central Division US Army Corps of Engineers then at the Fort Jackson PAO. I reached GS-12, Step 8, and had extra duties that were interesting such as being the career program manager on the side for the -22 program at the MACOM in Korea, and was also given additional tasking of command interest.
We returned to the United States in 1990 and almost immediately heard about Army Downsizing and Corps of Engineers consolidation. My job in Chicago was eliminated, and I was offered a GS-12 job with HUD. My life had been spent in the Department of Defense so I looked around a bit, talked to some folks, and was then offered a GS-11 deputy PAO slot that was open in TRADOC at Fort Jackson. It was GS-11, Step 10, a pay cut of several thousand dollars, but I took it, thinking I could find a GS-12 job on down the road. Instead, Fort Jackson experienced another round of downsizing and my position was eliminated. I was offered a GS-7 job in supply but decided instead to take early retirement, something I really hated to do.
We moved back to Kansas and I found a job in television news, and then a job working as an adjunct instructor at a community college. When Katrina came in, the US Army Corps of Engineers offered me a job in Mississippi as a rehired annuitant. I went to southern Mississippi expecting to be assigned way out on the fringe of the operation, but instead, within a month, I was the USACE Recovery Field Office PAO at Keesler Air Force Base, with responsibility for four field offices. The reason for the selection was previous disaster experience (the Underground Flood Fight in Chicago). At that time most of the USACE PA resources were assigned overseas and manpower was at a premium. I was in Mississippi for a total of five months, and then was kept on stand-by, unpaid another year and a half in case another major hurricane came in.
In retirement I have worked as a volunteer with the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War. It is a very special program. Information about this congressionally funded DOD program can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com. These days I am again retired, read a lot (as I have always done) and continue to be as knowledgeable as possible about world affairs and US National Security affairs and events. In that regard, the Internet is a wonderful device!
The last point in response to this question concerns a philosophy that was branded in my heart and mind and soul by a SAC colonel named Paul Handy. Early in the assignment of being a bomb wing historian, he saw the job was weighing heavily on my then E-4 Airman First Class shoulders. The officer was known as a typical gruff SAC leader, but he took the time to sit down with me and talk about the situation. My first enlistment had mostly involved time spent in the enlisted community. Now, all of a sudden, I was around a lot of officers and even some colonels. It was scary. What Colonel Handy did was to point to a model of a B-52 aircraft and to explain how every nut and bolt was important in order for the aircraft to fly and protect peace. We talked some about the SAC motto, “Peace is our profession,” and then he gave me a linkage of a few words – his own motto– which have been with me ever since. The colonel taught me to believe in PRIDE as an acronym with each letter standing for this: Professional Results In Daily Effort.
In all the days and years since that talk, I have always used the colonel’s words as an anchor point, and it has always worked, regardless of circumstances, even directly working for four-star generals!
- Was there a particularly funny or comedic experience?
Ahhhh, Libya, and life in the barracks. It was towards the end of the month, our dog flight was on break, and none of us had any money—not even the quarter necessary to buy a movie ticket. It was a Saturday. We lived two blocks from the Med but had spent month after month of going to the beach. We were tired of shooting pool with broom handles, and of playing hand after hand of penny ante poker—there had to be something to do. Somebody spoke up. The base service club (a place we all religiously avoided, for some unknown reason) had a bus trip set up to go to Leptus Magna, the ruins of an ancient Roman city located roughly in the same area that ISIS now controls.
We decided to go and collected our water bottles. “I do have a new kind of pop”, Troy said, “I bought it payday but haven’t tried it yet; I’ll stick it in my camera bag”. So off we all trooped to the service club, boarded the primitive and shaky GI bus (think “old school bus”) and set off for an hour and a half or so trip to Magnus. There were a bunch of us doing this 1963 trip—Ted Baldwin, Russ Clark, Terry Seats, Ken Ward, Troy Lyons and myself. We drank our canteens dry, and then discovered there was no water supply on the bus, nor was their water available at the site.
Well, we trooped the city, walked the old tile roads, explored the coliseum, checked out all the eight-foot tall headless statues that someone over the ages had vandalized, and we stripped to our undies and went for a swim, trying to see what lay under the water. It was a neat day, except for the fact we had no water. Most of us had seen this city before, in a 1950s movie with John Wayne and Sophia Loren. We all took many photos, then trooped off to the bus to start the long ride home, back to Wheelus Air Base. The wheels were moving and we were on the Homs Road headed west. “Troy”, someone said, break out the pop, “We’ll share. We’re thirsty”. So our non-drinking friend did. He had bought a six-pack—of quinine water, to make gin and tonics with. It was a long thirsty trip home, and Troy couldn’t understand why we threw the empty cans at him.
Ahhhhh, Korea, and life in the Namsan Foreigners Village, a complex of two large concrete towers near the Hyatt Hotel, up on Namsan Mountain. This was home for international families, and once counted as representing over 40 separate Nations. A few service members lived there but most of the Americans were civilian employees down at Yongsan Garrison, at the bottom of the mountain. Most of the American families were long-term residents. We lived there during both of the speechwriter assignments. We even drew the same apartment, 1212-A Dong. On that second tour, my neighbor across the hall was a retired US Army chaplain (Major) who now worked at 8th Army’s recreation services. Bob had spent a lot of time in Vietnam and then in VA hospitals, before retirement. He taught himself a lot of magic tricks, involving playing cards, and making animals out of long tubular balloons. Bob was bored, so he started a clown troop of himself as the boss clown and the rest of us, five or six others, as his minions.
We all went whole hog with clown suits, face paint, floppy shoes, even red noses. We went to many organizational events and unit parties, and became—in a Yongsan sort of way—quite famous. It was the time of high school graduation, and the US Ambassador and his wife threw a yard party at the residence for the graduates. Bob was contacted and asked to provide a clown troupe. Now at the time there were a lot of street demonstrations going on, and the ROK riot police had their Black Maria paddy wagons out, along with many stick carrying troops, and a lot of pepper fog.
I didn’t hide fast enough, so Bob picked me to go with him, primarily because my son was one of the graduates and was taken to the residence in an escorted bus. Bob and I donned our makeup, dressed up, put on our noses, and called for a PX taxi. When it showed up, and the driver learned where we wanted to go, he didn’t want to take us. We paid double and off we went, down through a lot of clouds, horns honking, people yelling, and then we got caught in a traffic jam, right next to city bus full of students who were all scowling and carrying signs. Uh-oh. Bob thought fast and told me to start blowing up balloons. He made weenie dawgs and started handing them up through the window to the young people on the bus. Then he started doing card tricks. We sat there about half an hour, and finally decided to walk because it was only about six blocks. One of the students spoke English. We told him why we out and about, and where we needed to go. He got off the bus with about 15 or so friends, and they escorted us to our gig. I will never forget the Marine’s face when we showed up at the residence, dressed as clowns. It took some persuading to get in, but once inside we went on with the program—although most of the balloons were now gone. I thought that was the end of it, the ambassador didn’t seem mad, and I did have all that face paint on. How could anyone really tell who I was? Well, it was interesting who all said something to us the following week, and I am not telling who. Looking back, no harm, no fowl or foul or whatever, yet in retrospect we both should have known better. Just a couple of old Vietnam vets, having fun.
I grew up in a steel town in western Pennsylvania. Many of the workmen were from West Virginia and Kentucky. They were very opinionated about issues of race. My uncle was of those ranks, so when I enlisted in the Air Force I took with me a prejudice against people of other cultures and skin color. Eight years in the barracks mostly cured me of such foolishness, but what did the job the best was a friend I had in Vietnam. He was older than me and had been in close to twenty years, but I was an NCO and he was an airman so it took a bit for the walls to come down. Carl was a photographer, one of the best I have ever met. Now and then there would be things happening away from the air bases, out in what was called in Vietnam simply “the field.” This was a place you carried weapons and wore helmets and flak jackets. The 7AF Director of Information would ask for coverage of air force support activities, and off a small group of us would go. Our band usually included motion picture and still photography folks from the 600 Photo Squadron, and writers and radio tape folk from our combat news organization. We worked together. We helped each other carry tripods and so forth. We went to nasty places and learned what it was like to get shot at and to be mortared. Once my friend and I were on a Huey that had a mortar round explode right underneath us. That was an attention getter. Once we landed in what was supposedly a secure location, and started talking about what had just happened, doing this on a tape recorder, we looked way off into the distance and saw a man waving at us. We waved back. He waved again. We waved back. Then he stopped. We kept talking. When we got back to Tan Son Nhut and put the tape on a reel-to-reel machine with an amplifier, you could hear bullets snapping past us. We couldn’t hear them because we were wearing helmets.
So it is towards the end of Carl’s Vietnam tour. I had convinced his boss to assign him to the Office of Information at the base level, the same place I had been assigned to. Life was good. We were both short as was said and kicking back. Then the phone rang. It was a Vietnamese Air Force NCO we both knew, and had a good friendship with. He was in a panic. The Republic of Vietnam Vice President Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, a resident of the air base, needed a box of 8 x 10 portraits to be used as press handouts at the Paris Peace Talks. Our friend did not trust his photographers with such an assignment. Being young (or youngish) GIs I looked at Carl, who nodded, I grinned, and we said yes. Our captain was never around, so he didn’t know that an hour later a VNAF blue painted jeep showed up at the office door, we climbed in, and went downtown to the Presidential Palace where the Vice President had his office. As Vietnam’s top airman, he was a hard worker. His desk was a mess, papers all over the place. The Air Marshal came into the room, stood to his desk, sat down and fiercely scowled at our tripod-mounted camera. Carl asked that some of the piles of paper be moved a bit. There was a scowl but the papers were moved. Then Carl said, “Mr. Vice President, would you please smile?” Ky snapped “NO”! And Carl’s eyes got big. He looked at me, and being Mr. Cool, I said “Sorry sir”. Then Ky laughed. He had been toying with us. He did everything we asked, and Carl shot some wonderful portraits. We popped to attention but Ky was not done with us, and told us to come around to the other side of his desk where he showed us his submachine gun, laying on the shelf of a credenza behind him. And yes, he had on his revolver.
Now for the rest of the story. We went back to Tan Son Nhut and Carl went to the lab where he souped the film and started making prints. Some master sergeant wandered by, saw the pictures and went and got a lieutenant, who went to get a captain, who went to get some colonels—yes, more than one. “What’s this all about”, they asked. Carl had them call me. I explained how we were supporting VNAF. Very soon, Information Colonels were also involved. Our captain was still out there somewhere. Carl and I stood quiet and said “yes sir” a lot. However, one of the colonels had a sense of humor and he also liked Carl’s work, so we slid…but were told the next time the Vice President wanted something to be sure and mention it.
Well, that was Vietnam; to this very day I miss my friend. We lost track of one another. I think Carl moved back to Baltimore but I’m just not sure. I do know this. As skilled as he was with a camera I bet he made a fortune taking pictures at weddings! More weddings than Vice Presidents! Air Marshal Ky became American citizen Ky, and lived in Orange, California after the war. I still have a fond memory of the time he shared with us. A really neat gent!!
The first autumn I was an Army civilian employee, I was a GS-7 at Fort Leavenworth, a place where most people were majors. Second lieutenants were scarcer than hen’s teeth, and the one I found had just months before been a staff sergeant, the same stripes I wore on weekends in a Kansas National Guard unit. My wife and I became good friends with this couple. Mac was the officer in charge of a shop in a wing of the same building where the Public Affairs was located. He worked for a full colonel who decided to throw a Halloween Costume Party in his quarters. We were all invited. My wife sewed costumes for us that were supposed to be gray bats. When we got to the party we found Mac in Klu Klux Klan regalia, complete with mask and pointed hood. His wife was dressed in regular clothing, and told us, unlike her husband; she was dressed as a human being.
Mac and I immediately found the bar and did some drinking. Then the colonel announced that the fun and games of the evening would be a scavenger hunt. Most folks at the party were majors and formed teams together. Our wives ignored us, so we took the list, which included such things as a bloody Band-Aid and a B-B and a plastic clothespin and started wandering around in the late October evening of what was field grade housing. The routine was this. Go up to the door, knock, ask for an item, and then held out a shot glass. House after house. In the darkness, our costumes began to look alike.
Somebody called the M-Ps. It was a little old lady who told the desk that the Klan had invaded Fort Leavenworth. A young troop showed up and asked what we were doing. We told him. He started laughing, but then said to watch out for his NCOIC who was also headed in to take the call. Just then, another MP car showed up. This no nonsense NCO asked what we were doing. We showed him our list. He said, “Well, I must check this out, you two get in the back of the car”, and he drove to the senior colonel’s quarters where the party was located. He got out and started into the quarters. Our wives got big eyes when they saw us—still in costume—in the back of the patrol car. Some shrill voices erupted. The MP had everyone go into the quarters. Mac and I were left in the patrol car back seat. He had not taken our ID information. I looked at Mac. Mac looked at me. Staff sergeant-like smiles came out of nowhere. The sergeant had not locked the car. Quietly we escaped, I guess you could say, went around the quarters to the back door, shed our costumes, and then tiptoed into the back of the crowd to listen to the stern NCO trying to be stern with the crowd, most of whom had been in the sauce. We mixed in well. The NCO went back out to the car to get his prize subjects – and the car was open! The back door was open! Well, he left…and Mac and I did not win the costume contest nor the scavenger hunt, but we did make an impression, perhaps of the type no GS-7 or second lieutenant should ever do.
And about the KKK outfit, did I mention my friend was Black?
We had another adventure together, later. There was a community carnival my friend was in charge of. It was in November I think, and chilly. The boss of the carnival had ridden with Pancho Villa a long, long time back. Mac and I helped him empty a rum bottle and we learned a lot about the Texas border, back in the day. Being around Mac was always quite an education—and I loved every minute of it. My Army brother and his family moved on to a Pacific assignment and my wife, son and I went south to Fort Hood. After a few years of exchanging Christmas Cards, as in the military world only close friends do, we just lost track, but I have never forgotten him.
Oh, I should also say both the military police gents were Black also, but because we left our masks on, I don’t think he ever figured it out. Being a former military cop myself, the next day I did feel a little bit bad, but he really should have asked for our ID cards.