China Protecting its Teeth in 1950 Korea – Part 8/9

March 1, 2011

When you read what happened to the UN POW’s, keep in mind that from 1949 to 1976, Revolutionary Maoist doctrine ruled China with an iron fist.

Most of the powerful Communist generals and politicians that fought with Mao to win the Civil War from 1925 to 1949 spoke out against his harsh actions as the leader of China.

Those men, with few exceptions, were killed or went to prison. A few survived by learning to stay out of sight and shutting up. Deng Xiaoping was one of the few that protested and survived.

After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping reappeared, gained the leadership and embarked on a campaign to convert China to an open-market economy mixing socialism with capitalism creating a hybrid form of government never seen before.

The reeducation camps that existed for much of Mao’s rule and the labor camps that appeared during the Cultural Revolution do not exist in China today.  In fact, I know of a cousin of my father-in-law that spent decades in these camps but today, in his 80s, he is free and lives with his son and daughter-in-law in Shanghai.

When the current central government of China came to power after the 1982 Constitution was written, many of the political prisoners that survived were released and received a small pension. This cousin was one of them.

Do we blame today’s Americans for slavery in the US in the 18th and 19th century until the end of the Civil War?

Do we blame them for discrimination that ended with the Civil Right era of the 1960s?

Do we blame them for all the American natives that were killed during the Indian Wars of the 19th century?

Do we blame them for the concentrations camps that locked up Japanese-Americans during World War II?

Do we blame them for the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—the only act of its kind in US history?

In Korea, the UN POWs that survived shared horror stories of the torture, brainwashing and severe hunger they suffered. They told of terrifying campaigns to reeducate them and turn them against the cause of democracy.

The POWs reported that they were forced at gunpoint to speak out against America on the radio.

Many of the POWs went crazy and starved to death.

The UN POW camps in South Korea had problems too. The Chinese POWs split into two factions. One was anticommunist and the other procommunist.

Like rival street gangs in US prisons, the Chinese POWs turned against each other and there was violence.

The peace negotiations were tense and difficult and dragged on.

The fighting continued. The last two years of the war were a series of skirmishes. However, there were also hours without combat when the troops waited to see what happened next.

The armies fought repeatedly for the same hills. The most famous was called Old Baldy.  After nine months of fierce battles as the hill changed hands often, Old Baldy finally stayed in UN hands.

To force a compromise at the peace negotiations, the UN turned to air power. The one area where the UN held an advantage over China was air power and UN air forces ruled the skies over Korea. In 1952, the US air force had about 1500 planes flying missions and more from the Navy, Marines and other UN nations.

Korea was the hot button issue of the 1952 American presidential election. Legendary five-star General Dwight Eisenhower promised he would end the war, while his opponent, Adlai Stephenson said he would not withdraw from Korea.

Return to China Protecting its Teeth in 1950 Korea – Part 7

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


POW Deaths During the Korean War

February 28, 2011

I planned another post for this spot but decided to write about UN POW deaths during the Korean War since that topic came up at the end of Part 7 of this documentary summarizing the Korean War.

It mentions how 87% of POW’s captured by the People’s Liberation Army and/or North Korean troops during the war died in captivity.  It doesn’t explain how.

The lack of context may provide Sinophobes with ammunition to criticize China for the behavior of its troops during the Korean War.

In fact, while there was strong evidence that North Korean Troops executed UN POWs, “the Chinese rarely executed prisoners like their Korean counterparts (since) mass starvation and diseases swept through the Chinese POW camps during the winter of 1950-51. About 43 percent of all US POWs died during this period. The Chinese defended their actions by stating that all Chinese soldiers during this period were also suffering mass starvation and diseases due to the lack of competent logistics system.” Source: Wikipedia

Surviving UN POWs, however, dispute this claim. Click on the link to see what the POWs had to say but know that Mao ruled China from 1949 to 1976. Revolutionary Maoism died with him.

In 1951, the Western rules of war did not apply to China or North Korea. China wouldn’t join the United Nations until October 25, 1971 — twenty years later.  North Korea would become a member of the UN September 1991.

If you were to study the International Treaties on the Laws of War, you would discover that most were written in Geneva and the Hague. Source: Wikipedia

What I found interesting in this list was the 1938 League of Nations declaration for the “Protection of Civilian Populations Against Bombing from the Air in Case of War.”

During World War II, the US air forces killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in Germany and Japan. Many of the bombs dropped were napalm (jellied gasoline) and the innocent were roasted including the elderly, women and children.

The Geneva Convention for the treatment of Prisoners of War was written in 1949, the year the Chinese Communists won the Civil War in China.

There is an old saying — the friend of my enemy is my enemy.

The United States has been an ally of the Nationalist Chinese since well before World War II and protected Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists in Taiwan after 1949.

However, Chiang Kai-shek was a brutal dictator that ruled Taiwan with martial law and is responsible for the deaths of more than thirty thousand civilians there. Learn of the 2/28 Massacre in Taiwan.

Chinese history shows that since the time of Qin Shi Huangdi, China’s first emperor (221 – 207 B.C.), the standard practice in war was to execute POWs because they were a burden that might lead to defeat.  An army that doesn’t’ have to feed and/or guard POWs is more effective at fighting and winning.  Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan knew this too.

While the behavior of PLA and North Korean troops when it came to POW’s was unacceptable by Western humanitarian standards, US forces are just as guilty when it came to killing innocent civilians. There are estimates that the US killed about two million civilians in Vietnam and left behind a horrible legacy due to the use of Agent Orange.

When it comes to war, both combatants are usually guilty of atrocities against POWs and/or civilians. However, the victor decides who is guilty of those crimes and the punishment.

The rules of war to use are Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


China Protecting its Teeth in 1950 Korea – Part 7/9

February 28, 2011

Morale for UN troops was high. By March 1951, UN forces were within striking distance of the 38th parallel.

Behind the lines, famous Western actors, singers and comedians arrived with USO shows to entertain the troops. Marilyn Monroe and Bob Hope were two examples. In fact, Bob Hope entertained troops in USO shows every year from 1948 to 1990.

Once UN forces reached the 38th parallel, the politicians debated if they should cross the line into North Korea again.

US President Harry Truman (an officer and combat veteran of World War I) wanted a settlement. As he saw it, the first attempt at reunifying Korea had been a mistake and a second attempt would cost more American lives.

However, General MacArthur disagreed. He wanted the war expanded. He wanted to blockade China’s coast and bomb its cities.

Truman fired MacArthur. The president said the cause of world peace was more important than an individual.

General Ridgway replaced MacArthur as supreme commander. General James Van Fleet became the field commander.

Van Fleet had been a colonel at the Normandy Invasion of Europe in World War II, and he hated Communists.

Intelligence reported the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was massing for a spring attack.

Ridgway, having learned the PLA’s tactics, planned to move forward in stages building defensive lines on the way.

On April 22, a second major PLA assault was launched against UN forces. The heaviest attacks were against the weakest section of the UN defensive line.

Ridgway’s strategy of building a series of defensive lines worked. When one line appeared to be in danger of collapse, he ordered troops to fall back to the next fortified line.

Within a week, the PLA ran low of supplies and suffered massive casualties for small gains. Two weeks later, resupplied, the PLA attacked again.  Van Fleet broke combat records for firing artillery shells into the advancing PLA troops killing 35,000 while only losing 900.

Ridgway wired Truman in Washington D.C.saying the time to talk peace had arrived.  The Chinese agreed to meet in July to negotiate an end to the war.

The negotiations were not easy. Both sides treated the other as the loser.

The UN wanted to keep all occupied North Korean territory. The Chinese wanted to return the border to the 38th parallel and have all Chinese prisoners of war returned. Most UN troops taken prisoner had been killed. Of about 100,000 only 13,000 survived.

Return to China Protecting its Teeth in 1950 Korea – Part 6

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


China Protecting its Teeth in 1950 Korea – Part 6/9

February 27, 2011

There are two sides to every story and as I said in Part 5, there are two reasons for the Korean War.

After more than a century of rebellions, wars, and civil war, China was tired of being bullied by Western Imperial powers and Japan. It wasn’t about to make the same mistakes the Qing Dynasty and the Nationalists had made.

After all, the Japanese had invaded Manchuria through Korea. Why not the US?

Since UN forces were driven back from the Chinese border, we will never know if China’s fears were justified. Would the South Korean army (ROK) have invaded Manchuria taking the UN forces with them?

After all, it was the ROK army that earlier led the charge into North Korea while the UN held back waiting for the politicians thousands of miles away to decide what to do.

After losing South Korea’s capital of Seoul to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the UN’s troops found themselves 35 miles south of the city well below the Han River.

This segment introduces the first use of Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH), which helped keep wounded UN and US troops alive.

MASH units were first used in Korea. They were life saving systems that operated close to the front lines and could quickly relocate.

Each unit was equipped with a helicopter fleet for air rescue, paramedics and cutting-edge medical technology.

The MASH units saved 25% more wounded than in World War II.

By January 1951, the PLA’s supply lines were overextended, which may explain the mystery behind why the Chinese forces started to moved north instead of south about this time.

Since the Chinese were retreating, General Ridgway decided to launch a full-scale offensive called Operation Thunderbolt.

By February, UN troops were overlooking Seoul from across the Han River.

With February came bad weather that turned the earth to mud making it difficult to move and limiting the PLA’s ability to receive much needed supplies to feed and arm their troops. The Chinese were starving.

However, the UN had the US Air force’s huge air transport fleet to deliver food. The winds of war had shifted again and this time it was the PLA that was suffering.

Return to China Protecting its Teeth in 1950 Korea – Part 5

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


China Protecting its Teeth in 1950 Korea – Part 5/9

February 26, 2011

During war, it is the job of a nation’s media to stir up nationalism and support the troops. When this happens, often the enemy is demonized on both sides, which stirs paranoia and hate, but the truth is more complicated.

Considering China’s history since the First Opium War in the early 19th century to 1949 (a century of war, rebellions and civil war), when UN forces neared China’s border, China’s leaders feared an invasion and reacted.

It’s possible if the UN had not moved beyond the Chongchon River and allowed North Korea’s communist government to survive in the area between that river and the Yalu River, China might not have attacked. It also didn’t help that the US moved forward to attack the Chinese positions after both sides had retreated after China’s first assault.

Meanwhile, at the Chosin Reservoir, the troops of the US 10 Corps celebrated Thanksgiving and dealt with the cold and harsh conditions. An offensive was planned for November 27. Having heard what was happening to the UN forces to the West, the Marines got ready for the worst possible combat situation. The objective of the operation was to take the city of Kanggye where the North Korean government had fled.

The offensive stalled against stiff Chinese resistance and the 10th Corps fell back. Then the Chinese attacked with six divisions.

Soon the 10th Corps was surrounded. The commanding General Oliver P. Smith said, “Gentlemen, we are not retreating. We are merely attacking in another direction.”

The situation was dire. On December 1, elements of the 10th Corps moved from the Chosin taking the wounded with them. The Chinese attacked from all sides.

After thirteen days of fighting while moving toward the ocean and the waiting US Navy, the first of the 10th Corps reached safety.

McArthur wasn’t near the combat as the UN forces retreated from North Korea with great losses. To make matters worse, the UN field commander General Walker was killed in a jeep accident.

Walker was replaced with General Matthew B. Ridgway. His levelheaded wisdom and experience brought a vital balance to the battlefield. He quickly discovered that the moral and confidence of UN troops was poor.

Ridgway attempted to hold the line at Seoul but on January 3, 1951, Seoul fell for a second time.

Return to China Protecting its Teeth in 1950 Korea – Part 4

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.