In 1950, despite the prediction of an easy victory without Chinese intervention given at their Wake Island Conference, U.S. President Harry S. Truman rejected General Douglas MacArthur's brilliant but reckless plans for a conclusive invasion of North Korea.
Wide AwakeThe stunning success of the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter had turned into a rout and very soon UN Forces had reached the 38th paralell, effectively liberating South Korea. Truman now faced a ruthless executive decision. His calculations were based on opinion polls which revealed that 65 percent of Americans favoured US intervention and yet 57 percent also believed that World War Three had begun.
To avoid an escalation in the Far East, Truman had wisely described the intervention as a "police action" in stark contrast to South Korean President Rhee's pre-war belligerent ambition to "march north" and unify the Koreas by force of arms.
"I'll handle the political affairs" ~ Harry TrumanHis doctrine of containment policy in fact required Truman to halt the invasion at the 38th paralell. Hawks seized on this order as a strategic setback pointing to the President's other failures notably "losing China" and "allowing" Soviet spies to steal atomic secrets. MacArthur did not need much support to fuel a firestorm of criticism from anti-communists who saw containment policy as a formula for defeat. A cartoon (pictured) by John Chase caricatured him as commander-in-chief, not qualified to wear MacArthur's hat.
Within two years, Truman would be out of office and asian perimeter defence was no longer his concern. But his adversaries Stalin, Mao and Kim were, and they absolutely refused to accept the existence of a garrisoned client state. Their thoughts now turned to Mao's original idea, to force Chiang Kai-shek out of Taiwan before forcing a decision in Korea.