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This Week in History
October 11-17, 2015

From Inchon to the Yalu - The Case of the Purloined Intelligence:

MacArthur vs. the British Empire’s World War Threat, Part II (October 15, 1950)

By Gerald Belsky

Wake Island Ambush

Generals Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower in Japan, 1946. Their leadership in World War II, under President Franklin Roosevelt, was a triumph of strategic thinking.

On October 15, 1950, a month after MacArthur’s brilliantly successful amphibious landing at Inchon, which changed the entire course of the Korean War, General MacArthur met with President Harry Truman and scores of high level Truman military and civilian officials at the infamous Wake Island conference. “Infamous”, because while nothing of significance was actually discussed, and the purpose of the conference seemed to be a political stunt to identify the Truman Administration with the great military victory at Inchon in order to win votes for Democratic candidates in congressional elections a little more than two weeks away, it turned out to be much more a “political ambush” of MacArthur, which provided a clear “illustration of the devious workings of the Washington-London team.” This was the evaluation of MacArthur's confidante and chief aide, Maj. General Courtney Whitney, in his book prepared under MacArthur’s direction, using research reports written by MacArthur’s staff. [1]

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Whitney ironically recounts MacArthur’s thinking about the purpose of the conference, after he was informed on October 12 that Truman wanted to meet with him:

“…MacArthur wondered at the purpose of it. Was the United States government planning some momentous diplomatic or military move in connection with the Korean war, a move so important that the President felt that he had to make so long and arduous a journey?… Certainly the President was not going to such drastic lengths simply to discuss routine details in connection with either Japan or Korea; he already had MacArthur’s views in fullest detail on all matters affecting the Supreme Commander’s responsibility… It must then be some new move of great importance, perhaps an attempt to capitalize upon the recent success of the Inchon landings by corollary diplomatic action to exploit that military victory, and thus restore the peace.”

But there was no dramatic new military or diplomatic initiative, and MacArthur would later insist that nothing that was discussed at the conference with the President which could not have been discussed over a secure telecom, or in person with an Administration official, and that his views on all topics mentioned were already known to officials in Washington. However, the one issue which has made the Wake Island conference famous or “infamous”, depending on one’s point of view, was the single question – rather low on the list posed by Truman to MacArthur--of the possibility of Chinese intervention in the Korean War.

Truman would later claim that MacArthur had misled him by categorically denying any possibility of the Chinese intervening, but this is a deliberate lie, spread by not only Truman, but his British-linked controllers, in a brazen attempt to discredit MacArthur; and in the case of Truman’s controllers, to cover up their own actions, in collaboration with the British, to actually cause the Chinese to intervene, as we shall demonstrate.

In his memoirs published in 1956, Truman charged that “MacArthur had been the one who had said there was no danger of Chinese intervention. At Wake Island he had told me categorically that he had no evidence that a massed intervention was threatening. More important still, he had told me that he could easily cope with the Chinese Communists if they actually came in. He said that if the Communists from China tried to retake Pyongyang, they would be inviting slaughter.” [2]

In MacArthur’s Reminscences, the General gives a much fuller, and undoubtedly more truthful, account of his answer to Truman’s question about the possibility of Chinese intervention in Korea. It differs in the beginning in a very significant way, in that he insisted it was the responsibility of the State Department, and the CIA, to provide the political analysis of the likelihood of another nation to go to war, not the role of a theatre commander:

“Near the end of the conference, the possibility of Chinese intervention was brought up almost casually. It was the general consensus of all present that Red China had no intention of intervening. This opinion had previously been advanced by the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department. General Bradley went so far as to bring up the question of transferring troops in the Far East to Europe, and he said he would like to have two divisions from Korea home by Christmas for this purpose.

“My views were asked as to the chance of Red China’s intervention. I replied that the answer could only be speculative; that neither the State Department through its diplomatic listening posts abroad, nor the Central Intelligence Agency to whom a field commander must look for guidance as to a foreign nation’s intention to move from peace to war, reported any evidence of intent by the Peiping government to intervene with major forces; that my own local intelligence, which I regarded as unsurpassed anywhere, reported heavy concentrations near the Yalu border in Manchuria whose movements were indeterminate; that my own military estimate was that with our largely unopposed air forces, with their potential capable of destroying, at will, bases of attack and lines of supply north as well as south of the Yalu, no Chinese military commander would hazard the commitment of large forces upon the devastated Korean peninsula. The risk of their utter destruction through lack of supply would be too great. There was no disagreement from anyone. This episode was later completely misrepresented to the public through an alleged but spurious report in an effort to pervert the position taken by me. It was an ingeniously fostered implication that I flatly and unequivocally predicted that under no circumstances would the Chinese Communists enter the Korean War. This is prevarication.” [3]

Conference Room “Bugged”

National Archives
President Harry Truman with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Potsdam, Germany, July 1945. When Truman came to power after President Poosevelt’s death, the United States underwent a shift from FDR’s anti-colonialist policy, to a pro-Churchill, pro-colonialist policy. The world has still not recovered.

This lie was “fostered” by the unprecedented way the supposed record of the conference was later released to the press, by Truman himself: The secretary of the State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large Philip Jessup, Vernice Anderson, sitting behind a partially opened door, supposedly decided on her own to take down stenographic notes of the conversation, because it “seemed like the thing to do.” Truman himself would later insist in his memoirs that nobody told Miss Anderson to take notes, but he and other members of his administration, such as Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Dean Rusk, insisted that there was nothing at all “unusual” about this procedure. This secret recording of the conference is all the more outrageous, however, because when General MacArthur’s aide-de-camp Col. Larry Bunker started to pick up a pencil at the beginning of the conference to take notes, he was told by Truman’s Press Secretary Charles Ross that there was to be no record made of the conference! This supposed secret stenographic record of the conference, however, which did not include MacArthur’s qualification of the speculative nature of his military assessment of Chinese intervention, was later released after MacArthur’s dismissal on Truman’s orders to Anthony Leviero of the New York Times in a pathetic attempt to discredit MacArthur. [4]

MacArthur biographer William Manchester, despite his attempt to adopt a newspaperman’s “middle of the road objective” position vis-à-vis the Truman-MacArthur controversy, had to admit that this whole story didn’t add up, but what it did indicate he never attempted to discover. Here is how Manchester describes the highly unusual method of recording the conference:

“…There was also an eavesdropper in the building, and her presence will always be inexplicable. She was Vernice Anderson, Jessup’s secretary. Afterward the White House would tell reporters that Miss Anderson found herself sitting in a tiny anteroom, the door to which had inadvertently been left ajar. Instead of closing it, she told newsmen several months later that she ‘automatically’ started writing. “I was under no one’s instruction,’ she said. ‘I hadn’t even gone there with a regular notebook. I just happened to have a pad of lined paper and I just began notes. It seemed the thing to do.’ In effect, the room was bugged. When the Administration subsequently distributed her transcript to the press, MacArthur was deeply offended. Acheson dismissed his protests as ‘a proverbial tempest in a teapot.’ To this day, Rusk insists that her taking notes was ‘an entirely proper thing for her to do.’ That to suggest otherwise is ‘grossly unfair.’ Somehow one is unconvinced. When the President of the United States sits down with his most illustrious General, there are no chance witnesses… `In retrospect’, [General] Gavin Long says of the concealed stenographer, ‘this seemed to be playing politics at about its lowest level.’ ” [5]

Another MacArthur biographer, Dr. D. Clayton James, in a speech at a Naval Academy symposium in which he debunked several myths about MacArthur and the Korean War, points out that MacArthur’s notes about the Wake Island conference and those of his staff, written on the return flight, confirm MacArthur’s account of the purely “speculative” nature of his remarks regarding Chinese intervention. Dr. James states that Truman in his questioning of MacArthur was not interested in a serious discussion of strategy, but “fishing” for a quote that he could later use against him:

“It is astounding that this single question by Truman, and MacArthur's brief response, constituted the entire extent of the Wake conferees' probe into the enormous implications that the current U.N. offensive in North Korea might have on Peking or Moscow. Months later, however, Truman and several of his officials spoke publicly and frequently about how misleading and erroneous MacArthur had been, portraying his remarks about China as if they were the focus of a crucial strategy session… It is difficult for me to escape the conclusion that Truman, who did not need MacArthur to give him the latest intelligence on Red China, was fishing for a MacArthur quote that could help nail him later as a scapegoat as well as garner votes for Democrats running in the off-year congressional races....” [6]

Chinese Intervention A Set-Up?

When the Chinese did, in fact, intervene, MacArthur would later insist that they never would have done so unless they had been given assurances that the United States would not bomb their supply lines in Manchuria, and would limit the war to Korea, which he did not imagine would happen when he made his military assessment at Wake Island. His aide, General Whitney, would later write regarding the Chinese decision to enter the Korean War:

“Someone must have told them what even MacArthur was not informed of before the Chinese intervened in Korea…

“Only with the knowledge that, by some quirk that verged on international poltroonery, the United States would continue to protect the enemy’s bases and supply lines, would a Communist commander decide to throw the full weight of the Chinese armies into Korea…” [7]

The logic that MacArthur expressed at Wake,--that the Chinese would not intervene out of fear that the U.S. would attack their supply lines and industrial bases, in going to war against them--is reflected in a CIA analysis that Truman requested on October 10, five days before the Wake Island meeting. According to the official CIA history of CIA Director General Walter Bedell Smith’s tenure in office, on the second day of his tenure on October 10, 1950 Truman requested “six estimates to take with him to his meeting with General MacArthur at Wake Island. The six subjects were: (1) the threat of full-scale Chinese Communist intervention in Korea, (2) the threat of direct Soviet intervention in Korea, (3) the threat of a Chinese Communist invasion of Formosa, (4) the threat of a Chinese Communist invasion of Indochina, (5) Communist capabilities and threat in the Philippines, and (6) general Soviet and Chinese capabilities in the Far East. The President would be leaving for Wake Island within twenty hours.”

As the CIA history states regarding the answers given to Truman, “The conclusions were negative in every case. The estimate of greatest historical interest held that, although the Chinese could intervene in Korea with massive ground forces, they would be unlikely to do so for fear of U.S. retaliation against China,” which is, of course, what MacArthur said. [8]

However, after MacArthur at the Wake Island meeting had qualified his remarks regarding the Chinese, by stating that he looked to the State Department and CIA for guidance in the question of whether a foreign nation intended to go to war, Truman never mentioned the CIA analysis, even though it was written for the meeting. Had he said, “Yes, General, the CIA backs up your analysis,” that would have ruined the later use of Miss Anderson’s very suspect “record” as a weapon with which to attack MacArthur.

Dean Rusk, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs.

Dean Rusk, the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, who was present at the meeting, never spoke up about the question of Chinese intervention, even though he clearly had intelligence that they intended to intervene, and had said this ten days earlier at a meeting with the New York Times foreign correspondent C.L. Sulzberger. In Sulzberger’s memoirs, he recounts a meeting on October 5, where Rusk told him nonchalantly that “China has already intervened strongly in Korea, not only with supplies but with troops. The extent of this intervention will probably increase considerably now. China is extremely irritated by the success of the United States in blocking her entry into the United Nations.” [9]

Rusk never expressed these views at the Wake Island meeting, although MacArthur, who had said that he looked to the State Department and the CIA for guidance, would certainly have been interested to hear them. Instead, Rusk at the Wake Island meeting, according to historian David McCullough, “concerned that the discussion was moving too fast, passed Truman a note suggesting he slow down the pace. Too brief a meeting, Rusk felt, would only fuel the cynicism of a press already dubious about the meeting. Truman scribbled a reply: ‘Hell, no! I want to get out of here before we get into trouble.” [10]

Now, why would Truman be worried about “getting into trouble," unless, besides the obvious purpose of providing favorable publicity for the upcoming congressional elections, he had another “sinister” ulterior motive, i.e. to entrap MacArthur? In fact, Truman's questions to MacArthur seemed aimed at getting MacArthur into trouble!

U.S Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

This raises some very interesting questions. If Rusk expected the Chinese to intervene, and Truman was searching for a quote with which to later “nail” MacArthur, were the notes which Truman was reading from drafted by the State Department and designed to entrap MacArthur? The question of Chinese intervention, like the question a clever lawyer ( like Wall Street lawyer Dean Acheson) would ask a witness to entrap him, was introduced almost casually after numerous seemingly innocuous questions were asked. And how could MacArthur be entrapped about the question of Chinese intervention, unless it was expected and even desired that they intervene? If Truman was operating off such a script, maybe he was nervous at being caught and wanted to end the meeting as quickly as possible.

Since Truman was not exactly a great thinker about foreign policy or really anything else, what he had to say on these matters, would have to have been designed by his controllers, who were chiefly his Secretary of State, the British-loving Dean Acheson, and his National Security Advisor, the British imperial agent Averell Harriman, the man who employed Prescott Bush and collaborated with Montagu Norman of the Bank of England to install Hitler into power.

William Averell Harriman.

While Acheson, whose public animosity toward MacArthur was well-known,--as was MacArthur’s contempt for him,--refused to attend the Wake Island conference, his good friend Averell Harriman seemed to act as the hidden controller on the scene. He not only was one of two officials who informed MacArthur of the meeting, (the other being the newly appointed Secretary of Defense General George Marshall), he accompanied him to the landing strip at Wake to greet the President when the President’s plane landed, assuring MacArthur in response to his queries about the purpose of the meeting, that the President fully wanted to hear his views. He also told MacArthur that Truman had taken an enormous risk in fully supporting the enormously successful Inchon landing.

In fact, according to Truman biographer David McCullough, Harriman, as Truman’s Special Assistant for National Security, had pushed Truman to support the Inchon landing plan of MacArthur against the opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, despite the fact that he hated MacArthur, and would later claim in 1951 at the time of MacArthur’s dismissal that he should have been fired four years earlier. Harriman worked closely with Acheson, coordinating plans for the NATO military buildup against the Soviet Union, and was a regular attendee at Acheson’s daily 9 am State Department meetings, so we can assume that whatever role he played in coordinating the Wake Island conference was done in some consultation with Acheson. [11]

Marshall Lets the Cat Out of the Bag

So, the big question remains: Why would Harriman, Acheson and other leaders of the Anglo-American establishment expect and, indeed want, the Chinese to intervene in the Korean War at this point, when MacArthur expected the war against North Korea, following the Inchon landing, to be over soon? One preliminary answer is provided by Harriman’s later observation that “the Korean War provided the O in NATO”. Since negotiations around the “militarization” of NATO were still ongoing both among the European allies, and within the U.S. Senate,--where the permanent stationing of U.S. troops in Europe for NATO had not even been voted up, (and would not be until just before MacArthur’s dismissal in April 1951),--the continuation of the Korean War, which could only occur through Chinese intervention, would provide a means to use a “limited” war to provide the rationale for a continued and escalating NATO buildup.

General George Catlett Marshall.

General George Marshall, who was now in poor health but had reluctantly agreed to serve as Secretary of Defense for one year in order to oversee this military buildup, provides support for this logic in his response to Army Secretary Frank Pace’s remarks about MacArthur’s forecast of the imminent end of the Korean War after the Wake Island meeting. Pace, who had attended the meeting, while Marshall stayed back in Washington, was very happy about MacArthur’s forecast, and was excited to report to Marshall what MacArthur had said at Wake. In a later oral history interview, Pace recounts the rather remarkable conversation, in which the response from Marshall was hardly what he expected, and seems to “let the cat out of the bag”:

PACE. General Marshall, General MacArthur says the war will be over by Thanksgiving and the troops hope by Christmas.

MARSHALL. Pace, that’s troublesome.

PACE. Sir, you must not have heard me. I said, “The war will be over by Thanksgiving and the troops home by Christmas.”

MARSHALL. I heard you, but too precipitate an end to the war would not permit us to have a full understanding of the problems that we face ahead of us.

PACE. Do you mean by that that the American people would not have fully had an opportunity to grasp the implications of the Cold War?

MARSHALL. I certainly do.

PACE. General Marshall, this has been a very difficult and extensive war from the American people’s point of view.

MARSHALL. Yes, I know, Pace, but you didn’t live through the end of World War Two the way I did, and watch people rush back to their civilian jobs and leave the tanks to rot in the Pacific and the military strength that was built up to fade away.

PACE. I know, General Marshall, but a great deal of water has passed under the bridge since then. Would you say that I was naïve if I said that the American people had learned their lesson?

MARSHALL. No, Pace. I wouldn’t say that you were naïve. I’d say that you were incredibly naïve. [12]

General Marshall, of course, as Army Chief of Staff had been FDR’s “Organizer of Victory” during World War II, and had overseen the war mobilization and military strategy that won the war. During the difficult World War military alliance with the British, under FDR’s leadership, he had notably stood up to Churchill and other British military leaders to insist on the necessity of the second front invasion of Europe, which the British constantly wanted postponed, in order to end the war as quickly as possible in accordance with FDR’s intentions of creating a new anti-colonial world order.

However, after World War II, as the Cold War launched by the British intensified, Marshall , as did many officers, "pragmatically" adapted to the British policy of building the NATO military alliance, not recognizing, as did FDR and MacArthur, that the real enemy of the United States was the British Empire. Marshall, of course, was a very competent officer, and as a loyal member of the institution of the Presidency, could be counted on to carry out a NATO military buildup without unnecessarily starting World War III.

The same could not be said of some other figures involved in the military buildup, such as nuclear war fanatic Paul Nitze, who served under Acheson as head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff. But the policy itself could lead to world war, and although Marshall has been defended by patriotic circles as the kind of sober “realistic” policymaker America needs, in opposition to the later neo-con fanatics and “chickenhawks” such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, for whom Nitze served as the godfather, what these circles don’t recognize is that Marshall served a British imperial policy which deliberately risked World War III, whereas MacArthur opposed such a policy.

For example, military, intelligence, and foreign policy analyst Mark Perry, who has written a dual biography of Marshall and Eisenhower, documents how Marshall, as Secretary of State during Truman’s first term, bought the idea of a NATO military alliance, sold to him by the British, hook, line and sinker, and worked for years to bring it about. In his Partners In Command, Perry describes this process:

“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization found its inception in a discussion that George Marshall had with British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin in London in November 1947, in the aftermath of yet another disappointing round of meetings with the Russians… Bevin asked Marshall a number of blunt questions: What are we going to do? What comes next? Can the Russians be stopped? Before Marshall could answer, Bevin proposed the creation of an alliance of Western democracies to oppose the Soviets. The alliance would include the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy. “It would be a sort of spiritual federation of the West,’ he said. Marshall was intrigued by Bevin’s idea and taken by his language. Over the next several months, Marshall discussed Bevin’s ideas with the American policymaking establishment. When a group of European nations signed a mutual security pact in Brussels in March 1948, Truman not only endorsed it, he engaged the U.S. in secret talks with Canada and Great Britain to expand it.

“Bevin supported the Truman initiative, but he wanted the adminstration to go further. A statement of American support was not enough, … This time, Bevin said, Europe wanted America on its side from the beginning of a war – not only if it was attacked. What Bevin was aiming for was a coalition of like-minded states that could act together toward a common goal and, if attacked, could fight together. Marshall knew exactly what Bevin wanted and agreed with him… Marshall feared that an open discussion of engaging the U.S. in a military pact with Europe might spark strong reaction by Republican isolationists and by Stalin. Marshall wanted to move slowly, without provoking the Russians or solidifying Republican opposition…” [13]

The Purloined Letter Principle

In order to discover what is behind the actions of an adversary, and how they will act in the future, one must get into the mind of the adversary and discover how they think. This is the principle made famous by American author and anti-British Empire patriotic intelligence operative Edgar Allan Poe, as elaborated especially in his short story “The Purloined Letter”. [14] In this story, he attacks the formulaic methods of the mathematicians, and insists that to discover the solution to a mystery, when one is dealing with the unusual, what seems “odd” to the usual ordinary popular way of thinking, one can only succeed by employing this method, both to discover the solution, and to devise a counter strategy to defeat the adversary who has committed a crime.

In the case of Poe’s story, written in 1844, he was not just referring to an interesting mystery, but referencing a real-life operation of British-connected networks building for a civil war to split apart the Union. The story refers directly to the “Queen’s Necklace Affair”, which preceded the French Revolution, in which British and other oligarchical networks prepared the propaganda for overthrowing the French monarchy which had backed the American Revolution, and destroying pro-American Republican networks in France, by discrediting the Queen Marie Antoinette. Poe in his story at the end has his protagonist who thinks like Poe and discovered the purloined letter, C. August Dupin, mention that he is a political enemy of the Minister D-, who had stolen the letter in question from the Queen. Dupin writes him a note in the fake letter with which he replaces the purloined letter, in which he states that, loosely translated from the French, that “Such an evil plan, while not worthy of Atreus, is worthy of Thyeste.” Poe is referring to the murderous revenge of Atreus against his twin brother Thyeste, who had seduced his wife, a revenge which unleashes generations of murder, as Poe knew the British were planning to unleash in the U.S., pitting brother against brother. [15]

This method of getting inside the mind of one’s enemy is exactly the same method which General Douglas MacArthur employed in devising his various flanks in World War II against the Japanese, and for devising the Inchon landing against the North Korean army during the Korean War. It is also the same method which MacArthur would employ in discovering what the British and their U.S. networks were doing against him in Korea. This is how MacArthur will discover how the British used “purloined intelligence” from him to virtually force the Chinese to intervene in the Korean War.

To be continued


[1] Major General Courtney Whitney, MacArthur: His Rendezvous With History, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1956, pp. 384-395

[2] Harry S Truman, Memoirs, Volume Two: Years of Trial and Hope, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, N.Y., 1956, pp.383-384

[3] General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1964, p. 362

[4] The New York Times, the “newspaper of record” of the Anglo-American establishment in the U.S., worked closely with the Truman administration in the NATO war buildup, later serialized Truman’s memoirs, and more recently has published numerous books attacking MacArthur and defending Truman.

[5] William Manchester, American Caesar, Dell Publishing Co., Inc., New York, 1983, p. 706

[6] Dr. D. Clayton James, “MacArthur and the Chinese Communist Intervention in the Korean War, September-December 1950”, Naval Historical Center home page

[7] Whitney, op. cit., p. 394

[8] Ludwell Lee Montague, General Walter Bedell Smith As Director of Central Intelligence: October 1950-February 1953, The Pennsylvania State University press, University park, Pennsylvania, 1992, pp. 65-66

[9] C.L. Sulzberger, A Long Row of Candles: Memoirs and Diaries [1934-1954], The Macmillan Company, New York, 1969, pp. 579-580

[10] David McCullough, Truman, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1992, p. 805

[11] McCullough, op. cit., pp. 795 and 802

[12]Joseph C. Goulden, Korea: The Untold Story of the War, Times Books, New York, 1982, p.273

[13] Mark Perry, Partners in Command: George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War and Peace, The Penguin Press, New York, 2007, pp. 397-398

[14] Edgar Allan Poe, “The Purloined Letter”

[15] For a description of the “Queen’s Necklace Affair”, see the review by Harley Schlanger of Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro”,