Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Oral History Interview with
John J. Muccio

Special Representative of the President to Korea, 1948-49; Ambassador to Korea, 1949-52;
Envoy Extraordinary to Iceland, 1954.

Washington, D. C.
February 18, 1971
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Muccio Oral History Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed]

This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview..

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened January, 1972
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[ Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Muccio Oral History Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed ]

Oral History Interview with
Ambassador John J. Muccio

Washington, D. C.
February 18, 1971
by Jerry N. Hess


HESS: To begin this morning, Mr. Ambassador, in the latter part of July General MacArthur took a trip to Formosa to speak to Chiang Kai-Shek, and shortly thereafter Averell Harriman paid a visit to Japan and Korea. What do you recall about those episodes?

MUCCIO: Well, at that time I was in Taegu, and Harriman came there and he talked to President Rhee and talked to me and to General [Walton H.] Walker, U.S. Commander of the Eighth Army and also United Nations Commander for the forces operating--UN forces in Korea.

HESS: This was after he had spoken with General MacArthur in Tokyo, did he tell you what his mission was about and perhaps what General MacArthur had said to him in Tokyo?

MUCCIO: No, he never got into the subject of the substance of his message to General MacArthur.

HESS: What did you at this time know about General MacArthur's visit to Taiwan, why did you think he had gone to Taiwan? Did you have any views on that?

MUCCIO: We got very little on that in Korea at the time.


It wasn't until later that that unfolded publicly. General MacArthur came to Taegu in person on the 29th of July and spent a day there. I had an hour with him alone.

And during this visit, MacArthur in great detail outlined to me the situation he faced in South Korea. That there were no additional forces, ground forces, available at that time in the Far East and would take four or five more weeks to get them out from the Hawaiian Islands and from the United States, and that we were going to have a very difficult five or six weeks. And it wouldn't be until the end of that period that he could do anything about "easing the situation," as he put it.

As he was about to leave I suggested that he drop in--that we drop in on the United Nations Commission that was using the building next to the one I was using in the Presbyterian Compound. And without batting an eye he went in there and greeted the secretary of the commission and one or two of the members that happened to be in there at the time. We stayed about ten minutes. That's the picture of MacArthur leaving the United Nations compound.* As you know, MacArthur was not an enthusiastic admirer of the United Nations.

*[Indicating a framed photograph on the wall.]


HESS: Did he express any sentiments of that nature to you?

MUCCIO: No, it's just generally--it's hard to explain just what convinced me that he was not enthusiastic about the whole concept of the United Nations, but I certainly had that feeling right along.

HESS: Did you feel that the senior military officer felt "uncomfortable," working through the United Nations in Korea, rather than working as straight United States military officers?

MUCCIO: Well, this was discussed a great deal among our military. Even the top echelons of the U.S. military reflected the idea--the lack of understanding as to why we should have the United Nations flag flying over headquarters in Taegu, the U.S. headquarters at Taegu. Secretary General Trygve Lie sent Colonel [Alfred G.] Katzin to Tokyo with the UN flag, and from there came over to Taegu to Eighth Army headquarters. General Walker accepted this flag and put it up over his headquarters in Taegu, alongside the U.S. flag and the Korean flag. Up to that time the U.S. flag had been flying alone over the headquarters. Propriety of this


was talked about at length by our military.

And there's a great deal of feeling that I heard directly from officers as to why should we be fighting under the emblem of the United Nations, we're fighting here for the United States.

HESS: Do you know what General Walker's view was, did his parallel General MacArthur's?

MUCCIO: General Walker had the--in a very nice way, a very firm consistent attitude of discipline, and he followed all orders strictly. For instance he never to my knowledge, saw President Rhee on any matter except in my presence. He was most careful in talking to his--the Korean officers . . .

HESS: Counterpart officers.

MUCCIO: Well not counterpart, because they were under his command. Earlier President Rhee had placed all Korean military forces and paramilitary, including the police and the youth corps, under the operational control of General MacArthur, the United States Commander before the UN came into the picture. Rhee felt that the United Nations was quite a nuisance. He preferred to deal directly with the U.S. and U.S. authorities than through the United Nations. That he had made


very evident to the representatives on the United Nations Commission for Korea.

HESS: Now this was a subject that President Rhee and General MacArthur agreed upon.

MUCCIO: Very much so.

HESS: Since they play such an important role in our story, how did those two gentlemen usually get along?

MUCCIO: Rhee, General MacArthur and Chiang Kai-Shek (the latter I hardly know), but from my contacts with Foreign Service colleagues who have served in China and my own experience on the China coast, these three had much in common. Ego was a predominant trait in each. As they grew older each became more and more isolated. Chiang Kai-Shek, for instance, felt certain pressures from the so-called Wam poa cadets. From 1926 on they formed a hierarchy around him and sheltered him and gradually closed in on him. I think General MacArthur was closed in by the operations of two of his intimates, General [Charles A.] Willoughby and General [Courtney] Whitney, two key men vying for MacArthur's favors. And the two of them prevented MacArthur from getting the intelligence that he had to have in order to make the right decisions. This


is one of the basic weaknesses that MacArthur faced in his latter days in Korea.

And Rhee also was an isolated man. He had been a guerrilla for 45 years, a guerrilla and revolutionary leader, and independence aspirant for 45 years. By the time he became President after quite an honest election and recognized by thirty odd countries of the Western World, Rhee was too old to appreciate and keep in mind the difference between a revolutionary independence warrior and a head of a duly recognized state. And Rhee also was closed in by a coterie. I think the weaknesses of those three men, to me personally, came to the fore by age and by losing contact, the common touch, if you want to use that term, as they got older, by groups about them closing in on them.

I think MacArthur is one of the biggest brains I've ever come in contact with, but he had gotten to the age where he was no longer in touch with the situation. And I think that was very, very evident in the developments in November and December, in northern Korea.

There was a failure of intelligence more than anything else for the mess that we got into.


HESS: General Willoughby was in charge of his intelligence, is that correct?

MUCCIO: You're right. General Willoughby had a disdain of the capability of the Chinese, of all classes, and his appraisal of Chinese capabilities was based on the little that he knew about China years prior to the advent of the Communists.

HESS: Since we have mentioned General Willoughby and General Whitney, what was the relationship between you and those gentlemen?

MUCCIO: I found that the occasions when I had direct access to MacArthur to have gotten the greatest backing and support. When we--I personally--or the American Mission in Korea--tried to deal through the hierarchy, it was quite different.

HESS: When you tried to deal through Willoughby and Whitney.


HESS: You mentioned the developments in November and December, but we will get to those in due course.

What comes to mind, what stands out in your mind between the time when we were discussing, early August, and the Inchon invasion, which is, as I see it, one


of the major milestones in the story of Korea? Where were you during that August?

MUCCIO: During August I spent most of my time in Taegu and Pusan, mainly in Taegu. You might recall that as the enemy closed in and forced us into that small perimeter area, it was a holding operation, and quite a desperate holding operation, because MacArthur was holding as much as he could for the big spectacular action and the brilliant operation at Inchon.

HESS: And there for a time it looked like we might have an American Dunkirk, is that correct?

MUCCIO: Well, it was, quite desperate. We were fortunate to have as capable leadership as we got from General Walker and General [Earl E.] Partridge. I don't think General Walker got the credit he deserved for the brilliant operation that he and General Partridge gave in South Korea at that time. They were inspiring leaders and very, very dedicated.

The thing that impressed me most about the whole U.S. operation, the U.S.-U.N. operation in Korea, was that the U.S. military leadership, that is General [Matthew B.] Ridgway, General [James] Van Fleet and General MacArthur, General Walker, General Church,


and General [William F.] Dean, were men who were still in their physical and mental prime, who had come to the fore during World War II. And it was really a tremendous satisfaction to have dealings, direct dealings, with men of that caliber. I think that we should be very proud of the leadership that we had available at that time, right in the prime of their physical and mental vigor, it was a tremendous experience.

HESS: Does anything stand out in your memory about your duties or difficulties or things that were occupying your time during August and the first half of September, any high points?

MUCCIO: I mentioned at our last meeting of the concern I had for the sanitation and health of our boys in that area. I mentioned earlier the superb medical record.

The thing that surprised all of us was the performance of the Korean fighting men. Up until July 1949 it was called a constabulary, not an army. Very little had been done towards organizing and training the Korean constabulary from 1945 to 1949. It wasn't until the final U.S. fighting unit, the 31st Regiment, left in June of 1949 that we really seriously started to train the Korean military forces, and to organize



And KMAG, 500 officers and men, left behind to train, had one year between June 1949 and June 1950. This was enough time, of course, to train squads and companies, but they did not have time to get the leadership personnel organized and trained for large-scale operations. But in spite of that, there wasn't a single Korean unit that gave up as a unit. There wasn't--they held on desperately, they gave us time, and for awhile, several months, the U.S. and other UN forces were so desperately pressed that we didn't have the time to train and refurbish and reorganize the Korean forces. But once we got them underway, first by picking up Koreans under the so-called KATUSA [Koreans Attached to the United States Army] program, this, I think helped our own units a great deal in working through the desperate perimeter days until forces could come out from continental U.S.A.--and the unusual qualities of the few Korean units that were still intact when the fighting centered above Taegu. And once we had the time and the resources to start reorganizing, and retraining, the Koreans fitted in beautifully and did an excellent job.


It's a very long involved story and I don't know that we have the time, but I did want to mention that the Korean forces really proved themselves, started to prove themselves, and in no time at all really did an excellent job at the front.

HESS: And the invasion of Inchon came on September the 15th of 1950. Were you aware that the plans for invasion were underway, or that there were plans for such a movement?

MUCCIO: It was a matter that I purposely kept my mouth-dealing with the United Nations, and dealing with so many different groups in there, I thought that it was not for me to discuss it at any time. And what little I did get I knew in a general way the nature of the preparations underway.

For instance, I knew of the pullout of the so-called fire brigade, the U.S. Marine reinforced battalion that operated in the perimeter. They were sent out to Tongnay where they gathered all the Korean marines and gave them training in the use of mortars and machine guns and then they were all embarked. And the operations that I saw were quite well-known by the American personnel in that area, but we made it a point of not


discussing it. I certainly cautioned the few on my staff who were aware of unusual operations underway, to avoid and not to discuss the matter at any time.

HESS: What do you recall of the retaking of Seoul and the movement north?

MUCCIO: Well, the return to Seoul for the ceremony that you can see in a couple of pictures of when General MacArthur came over with all of his military hierarchy and formally returned Seoul, the capitol of South Korea, to President Rhee. He went back to Tokyo right after that ceremony. That night I spent in what we called the Finance House, which was in one of the AMIK compounds mainly used for ECA personnel prior to the outbreak of the fight. There was mortar and machine gun firing very clearly audible, during the whole night. We weren't too sure as to how secure Seoul was.

HESS: Thought you might have moved back a little too soon.

All right, and in the middle of October there was a very important conference held at Wake Island between General MacArthur and President Truman. When did you first become aware that there was to be a


meeting between the President and General MacArthur?

MUCCIO: The night of the 14th, about 8:30, I received a message from State with an enigmatic, "If invited, take the trip." I couldn't fathom that out. About two hours later I received a message direct from General MacArthur saying, "I have been instructed to invite you, and if at Haneda before 11:00 in the morning, should be glad to have your company." I was still baffled as to what it was all about. Soon General Partridge came in and said he had received instructions from CINCFE to facilitate MY arrival at Haneda by 11: 00. This was about midnight. I boarded his plane at 4:30 a.m. Neither General Partridge nor anyone on that plane knew what was up. On arrival at Haneda, Colonel Story, MacArthur's . . .

HESS: Pilot.

MUCCIO: . . . pilot, met and sat around with me for about 45 minutes. He threw no light on destination, or why. General MacArthur came on board a few minutes later and took off exactly at 11:00. About fifteen minutes later General MacArthur sat down beside me and very clearly reflected his disgust of "being


summoned for political reasons" when the front and active military operations had so many calls on his time. And that's the first time I--it was then that I first knew that a meeting was to be held at Wake Island between General MacArthur and President Truman.

HESS: He thought he had been summoned there for political reasons?

MUCCIO: Yes. Very, very--he was mad as hell.

HESS: Did he expand upon that to say what political benefit that he thought the President might have gained from such a meeting?


HESS: He just used the word more or less that it was for political reasons?


HESS: Courtney Whitney in his book on MacArthur, MacArthur, Rendezvous with History, mentions that the President wanted to meet with the General after his invasion at Inchon for possible political gain, in other words attaching himself by means of a meeting with a successful general just before the off-year election, the congressional election, that was


coming up in the following month. Did you ever hear any talk of that nature in the Far East, that this was the reason for the meeting?

MUCCIO: Well, MacArthur was always very open with me, but he did not get into it and I didn't feel it was up to me to query him in any way on that plane. The only ones on the plane were the crew and General MacArthur, myself, and General Whitney and General MacArthur's personal physician.

HESS: Did General MacArthur say anything else on the trip down?

MUCCIO: Well, we discussed the question of rehabilitation of Korea at length. It was more of an exposition on his part of his thinking, than a real discussion. He told me he was thinking in terms of a quarter of a billion dollars annually for a period of ten years. And I recalled that following Paul Hoffman's first visit to Korea in November of 1948, ECA with the concurrence of the other government agencies concerned, came up with a program for a hundred and ninety-three million dollars for the first year. The Congress actually appropriated some hundred and twenty-five million dollars. And only some ninety million of


that was in the pipeline, or had arrived in South Korea, prior to the outbreak on June 25.

In addition, of course, a great deal of material brought in by the military under the GARIOA program was still there in Korea unused. In other words the big question on rehabilitation was how much the Koreans themselves could handle, could absorb. And without any further discussion when this matter came up at Wake Island, MacArthur said that he recommended a program of a hundred and fifty million dollars a year. The General came down, cut off a hundred million dollars from the plan he had been thinking about.

HESS: But in this thinking he seemed to think that the situation in Korea was going to stabilize and . . .

MUCCIO: Oh, very, very definitely. He impressed that at the meeting to such an extent that Dean Rusk came to me after the meeting and he said, "John, I think you'd better come home with us to discuss the post-hostility setup in Korea."

And after explaining the situation I was in, I returned to Korea with the understanding that I would be summoned just as soon as thinking had been clarified somewhat in Washington.


And I was summoned back there before the end of October. I spent five days in Washington and five days at Lake Success. But by that time, Washington in particular, was more interested in the significance of the appearance of Chinese soldiers in North Korea, and what that meant. And I had at least two and a half to three hours with General MacArthur on my way to Washington. He was very much interested in my dealings, particularly with the United Nations, because he was very sensitive to the fact that General Romulo, Carlos Romulo, who at that time . . .

HESS: Carlos P., from the Philippines.

MUCCIO: . . . was the Philippine representative to the United Nations. MacArthur had used him from the time he arrived in the Philippines in 1937 until the Missouri signing. And I understand from other sources that Romulo insisted on signing on behalf of the Philippines, and MacArthur more or less brushed him aside. From this, the relations between the two men were a little sensitive from then on. And here MacArthur finds that Romulo was the chairman of the Political Committee at the United Nations, set up by the General Assembly to handle policy and UN policy regarding operations in Korea.


HESS: Now let's move back in time just a little bit to the conference at Wake. Would you tell me what you recall about the conference, perhaps starting with the arrival at Wake?

MUCCIO: Well, we arrived at Wake at about 6:00 in the evening. General MacArthur and I were put up in the manager's bungalow, Pan Am manager's bungalow at Wake Island. There were very few buildings or facilities at Wake Island at that time, we spent the evening by taking an automobile trip around the islands. Of special interest was the various remnants of the Japanese presence there during the war.

And the next morning, of course, the--Whitney by the way, was outraged at the fact that I was put in the same bungalow with MacArthur and there were two bedrooms in this with only one shower between. That bothered General Whitney, but it never got to me, I just . . .

HESS: He didn't think you should be there?

MUCCIO: The next morning we went to the air terminal for President Truman's arrival. President Truman and General MacArthur immediately retired to have breakfast together. About an hour later all of us got together


at the main meeting place.

HESS: What do you recall about that meeting, and we should mention at this point that we have a copy of what General Bradley later had made from notes kept by certain of the conferees. This is "Substance of Statements Made at Wake Island Conference on October 15th of 1950." [See Appendix]. I left a copy of this with you last week. Does the little eight-page booklet, as worked up by General Bradley and the others, does this parallel, is this close to what you recall being discussed at the conference?

MUCCIO: I think it's a very exact account of what happened at the conference. I noted that several at the table took notes assiduously. And of course, those notes taken by some of the officers from Washington was supplemented by the notes taken by Vernice Anderson who was in the neighboring room.

HESS: Had you met her prior to this time?

MUCCIO: Yes, Ambassador-at-Large [Philip] Jessup and Mrs. Jessup, and Vernice Anderson, stayed with me when they visited Seoul the previous November. He was then Ambassador-at-Large on an official trip around the world.


HESS: Do you recall seeing Miss Anderson at the meeting?

MUCCIO: Yes. There was very, very little mystery about her presence because the door was wide open and all--at least all on one side of the conference table could see her at all times.

HESS: Do you think that General MacArthur knew that she was there taking notes?

MUCCIO: I was trying to recall exactly where General MacArthur sat at the table. Whitney did not sit at the table, and he roamed around there for quite a bit, so I don't see that it could have been in any way an underhanded maneuver or tactic.

HESS: I'd like to read just a couple of excerpts from the statement. On page 2, Secretary Frank Pace says, "In the period of rehabilitation General Walker can assess the leadership qualities of the ROK men to take over civilian leadership." And General MacArthur said that you knew more about this than he did and that the Embassy had a thorough knowledge of the Koreans.

And then you said, "The Koreans are very obstinate.


They have been pushed around so long they don't like it. They are convinced that we do not want Korea." What did you mean by that?

MUCCIO: Well, that was an important factor in Korea because when the United States forces, the 24th Army landed at Inchon, for a long time the Koreans felt that the Japanese overlords were being replaced by American overlords. And that was a very important fact as to why we had a hell of a time getting any cooperation whatsoever from the Koreans. In '45, '46, '47 we got very little cooperation. And then '48, '49, President Rhee was more interested in keeping us there, keeping our presence there as prominent as possible, than in giving more attention to leadership and the administration of his own people.

That's what I had in mind. And then historically in the peninsula of Korea the Chinese had tremendous influence there for centuries. The Russians were moving in in the late 19th century. The Japanese knocked the hell out of the Chinese in 1895 and of the Russians in 1904 when the Japanese moved in themselves. That's sort of the Belgium of the Far East.

HESS: And then page 5 of the statement, President Truman


asked the General, "What are the chances for Chinese or Soviet interference." And then General MacArthur started by saying, "Very little," and then going on. But this became a bone of contention later on.

MUCCIO: On this point about Chinese-Soviet intervention, I mentioned earlier that on my way to Washington I stopped off to discuss certain matters with General MacArthur.

On my return I spent the whole afternoon with him bringing him information on what I'd encountered in Washington and also at Lake Success, the United Nations. And at the end of this he said, "John, I want you to know that I am now moving my forces up in time for a sweep to clean up the rest of North Korea." He said, 'There are no organized armed enemy units in that area, it's merely a mopup operation." He said, "My intelligence has established that there are some twenty-five to thirty thousand Chinese in that area," he said, "but not more than that could have crossed the Yalu or my intelligence would know about it." He said, "It's taken me a little bit longer to get everything up in line. It may not be able to take off on the 20th, but it certainly shall take off within a few days thereafter."


And it was shocking to me after this statement to hear that a quarter of a million Chinese were in that area alone, not counting the Chinese that were over there in the reservoir and east coast areas.

HESS: What time was this, what's the date?

MUCCIO: This was, oh, I'd have to check my records, but I was in Tokyo about the 16th of November.

HESS: Do you have any personal observations as to why you think General Willoughby's information was so incorrect?

MUCCIO: I think he just had a disdain of Chinese generally. This was a factor, also, he was working very assiduously on the history of MacArthur in the Far East, the Pacific campaigns which was dearer to his heart than in keeping in touch with what was going on in Korea.

HESS: Back to the events at Wake Island, does anything else come to mind, anything else that we should mention before your flight home, anything else between? Now after the conference you spoke with Dean Rusk, did you speak with some of the others, with Philip Jessup perhaps?

MUCCIO: Well, there was so much going on there, other than that suggestion from Dean Rusk, there's nothing of


substance that came up as far as I was concerned.

HESS: And then the General left in fairly short order, is that correct, after the meeting?

MUCCIO: Well, there was a long period, maybe an hour or an hour and a half between the end of the conference while the communiqué was being drafted. And this was passed around to General MacArthur, and others gathered outside and that's when President Truman (that's there on the wall) . . .

HESS: That's when you were presented with the Medal of Merit.


HESS: That's right, and I believe General MacArthur . . .

MUCCIO: General MacArthur got his fourth or fifth or sixth . . .

HESS: One of his Oak Leaf Clusters anyway.

On the trip home, on the airplane back to Japan, what did General MacArthur say, and did he have any idea, make any observations, at that time as to why he thought the conference had been called? At first he thought it was political, he may have still thought so, but anyway, after the conference was over and he was flying home, what did he have to say?


MUCCIO: I don't recall any thing of significance.

HESS: All right, then after you returned to Japan then you flew back to Korea, correct?

MUCCIO: Correct.

HESS: And this period of time was in Seoul. And then the trip back to Washington and to Lake Success.


HESS: Is there anything . . .

MUCCIO: And then I stopped in Tokyo again on the way back.

HESS: That's right, on the way back.


HESS: When did you first learn that the Chinese Communists were building up north of the Yalu, and that they might be moving south?

MUCCIO: Well, during that whole period (I'm talking about the perimeter days), my office was a little nook here, there and elsewhere. In other words . . .

HESS: You were mobile.

MUCCIO: I seldom missed a briefing at Eighth Army headquarters, first General Walker then General Ridgway and finally General Van Fleet. And before I left for Washington (I forget the exact date, but about the 25th


of October), we already had reports of individual Chinese having been taken prisoner, having been picked up here and there. And this was presented in the briefings of the Eighth Army, but nothing came out of the presence of any organized Communist military units prior to my departure.

And by the time I got to Washington, of course, the question of Chinese presence was the prime concern of the whole Government of the United States.

HESS: But still after your return from Washington to Tokyo . . .

MUCCIO: That was ten or eleven days later. Altogether that trip took about eleven days. I spent roughly five days in Washington and more or less the same time at Lake Success.

HESS: And after this time when you spoke to General MacArthur he was still not concerned about the incursion, is that right?

MUCCIO: Well, he was . . .

HESS: He was still thinking more of a mopup operation?

MUCCIO: A mopup operation, and his exact words as I remember them were, "There may have been twenty-five thousand Chinese cross the Yalu, but there cannot be


more than thirty thousand, otherwise my intelligence would know about it."

I can still picture him "posturing" with his corncob pipe. The two of us were alone at the time. MacArthur was a very theatrical personality. I think that John and Lionel Barrymore were theatrical amateurs compared to MacArthur.

HESS: They could take lessons, huh?

MUCCIO: I don't think MacArthur even blinked his eyes without considering whether it was to his advantage to have his eye blink or not. Everything was thought through, but it became so a part of his nature, and his personality, that it seemed to be automatic.

HESS: What do you recall of the events of when it became quite obvious that there was a major push on from the North, and again you had to leave Seoul?

MUCCIO: We left Seoul the third day of January 1951.

HESS: Now before that time, when it was obvious that the Chinese Communists had moved in in force, that was on November the 30th, 1950, in a press conference held here in Washington, President Truman implied that the atomic bomb might be used against the Chinese, and that the decision to use it would be left up to the


commander in the field. Do you recall anything in particular about Mr. Truman's statement in his press conference?

MUCCIO: No, I never heard. I don't recall a thing about that.

HESS: All right, was your second evacuation of Seoul any different than the first time?

MUCCIO: Well, the first time it was very precipitous. Very few residents of Seoul, I mean relatively few, had time to get out. And the second time we had Christmas, we had New Years, the situation became progressively worse, and I was kept informed. And I went to the briefing of the Eighth Army and I was told then that the situation was becoming very tight, and just an hour and a half later I had a visit from Colonel Collier saying that the General would like to have me and the members of my staff and of the United Nations Commission and other diplomatic representatives, leave that afternoon in a plane that would be available. And we did leave.

HESS: Where did you go?

MUCCIO: Went right straight to Pusan, we didn't . . .

HESS: You didn't stop in Taegu this time?


MUCCIO: Well, the first time we stopped at Suwon then Taejon then Taegu and then Pusan. We never gave up Taegu.

HESS: And then later in the year General Walker was killed.

MUCCIO: That was . . .

HESS: Was that January?

MUCCIO: No, it was just before Christmas.

HESS: Just before Christmas?


HESS: And then General Ridgway took over from him. And then the line again moved north, slowly?

MUCCIO: Well, between January and April we got quite a ways down, down to Wonju for instance and south of Suwon, but just as soon as we got set and we started this push back, and by April we were back in Seoul again.

HESS: One of the political matters that came up at that time, after Seoul was retaken, President Truman issued a statement to the effect that with the aggressors out of the Republic of Korea, the United Nations would be receptive to the idea of a cease fire and peace negotiations. A copy of that statement was sent to General


MacArthur, and four days later General MacArthur issued his own warning, issued his own offer to negotiate, correct?

MUCCIO: Pace was out there at the time, Secretary of the Army, Frank Pace, and the first thing I knew about MacArthur's dismissal was a telegram sent to me "Eyes Only to be delivered to Pace personally." He was to go over and tell General MacArthur about his dismissal. And Pace was up on the front, visiting the front. And I had just gotten through and told him I had a message to be delivered to him in person which called for his return to Tokyo right away, when a second message saying that in view of the leaks in Washington it had been decided to send instructions direct and to ignore all this.

HESS: Did you know what the messages contained?


HESS: You did?

MUCCIO: When it is "Eyes Only" we don't keep a copy of that sort of thing.

HESS: What is your personal opinion? Do you think that the dismissal of General MacArthur was necessary. Do you think that it was handled correctly, could it


have been handled differently? To begin, do you think that he should have been dismissed?

MUCCIO: Let me give you a little on that. Truman was so absorbed by the Korean action that every time I got home and I went in to see him, or just to pay my respects, he invariably asked me innumerable questions. When I finally got home in May of 1952 he asked practically nothing about Korea, but got on the subject of MacArthur. And ended, "I should have fired him a year earlier." I certainly agree with President Truman a hundred percent, for any officer of the United States doing what he did, complete disregard of directions from the Commander in Chief, he should have been removed long--much earlier.

HESS: At what point would you have removed him? That's an academic question, but .... before Inchon?

MUCCIO: Events moved so fast and there was so many, don't know just where to pinpoint it, but certainly the . . .

HESS: One question about your role in transmitting the message to Frank Pace. And I would like to read a little bit from Dean Acheson's book, Present at the Creation. This is on page 522 and 523, the first


paragraph under the heading, "The Communications Mixup":

    The orders and other necessary papers were given to me by the President on Tuesday afternoon to be sent through our code to Ambassador Muccio in Pusan for delivery to Secretary of the Army Pace, who was at the front. Pace was instructed to fly at once to Tokyo and present them to General MacArthur. We had discussed the method of delivery and concluded that the one just described would save the General the embarrassment of direct transmission through Army communications, with the inevitable leaks of such interesting news. The trouble was that something went wrong with the commercial cable line through which the Department had to transmit. By midnight, although the cable company insisted that delivery had been made in Pusan we had heard nothing from Muccio, who had been instructed to reply in clear "cable received" upon receipt. Thereupon the President and General Bradley having heard rumors of press inquiries, dispatched the orders direct through the Army's own system. In Tokyo this was believed, quite mistakenly, to have been an unnecessary affront.
Was this the message that you had received?

MUCCIO: That's the message.

HESS: Did you reply "Cable received?"

MUCCIO: I don't recall. This would be done automatically by the code room. I've never checked in on that.

HESS: Well, I wanted to bring this point up. . .

MUCCIO: Since I read the book itself I noted that.

HESS: I wanted to bring this point up, because it looked like the State Department was waiting for a confirmation from you to find out if the communication was going


all right in that manner.

All right, and what comes to mind concerning Korea from the period of the dismissal of MacArthur until the time that you left?

MUCCIO: Well, the first big matter after the dismissal of MacArthur was the question of negotiating a cease fire. And General Ridgway, who had become CINCFE and CINCUNC (Commander in Chief, Far East and Commander in Chief United Nations Command), came over to inform me and get President Rhee's concurrence. We met with President Rhee in one of the quonset huts at Kimpo airport. We spent the whole afternoon briefing President Rhee and explaining to him why the Government of the United States decided to go ahead with talking to the Communists. And . . .

HESS: What did you think about that?

MUCCIO: When we finished and were leaving, President Rhee grasped General Ridgway's arm and said, "General, you're a very persuasive talker, but you have not convinced me that you cannot go to the Yalu if you want to."

As soon as President Rhee left , Ridgway turned to me and said, "I think I'll have to do a little more


homework and come back in four or five days and take another shot at selling him the idea." President Rhee didn't like anything about it.

HESS: Did he ever become convinced?

MUCCIO: No. Remember he released prisoners of war and he twisted our tail mercilessly.

HESS: We had a good deal of trouble during that period of time with North Korean prisoners in the compounds did we not? Did you become involved in any of that?

MUCCIO: Well, this was a matter that disturbed me a great deal. We took all these North Koreans, and the United States of America didn't have the right kind of expertise to handle those Koreans. We had to give the actual control and discipline, regulation, of those prisoner of war camps to Syngman Rhee and to the Korean military. What went on within those compounds was never known or understood by the U.S. military.

Then we had Chinese prisoners of war and that was even worse. Willoughby sent down to Taipei and got some seventy-five camp guards, or whatever terms you want to use. There's no doubt in my mind that those men were all, what's the name of the Chiang Kai-sheik's Gestapos? (Now I'll think of the term in a minute.) And we had


headaches from that camp operations right from the beginning. Each one of those cages became a free-for-all between Chinese Nationalists and Chinese Communists.

I had on my staff Philip W. Manhard, a Chinese language officer and a Chinese specialist. Several times he made very disturbing reports of horrors perpetuated in the prisoners camps.

(By the way, he's in Vietnam and he was taken at Hue at the time of the Tet uprising, and I personally have not had a word on his whereabouts since.)

And Phil came to me several times about how horrible the situation in those Chinese cages were. And you remember General [Francis T.] Dodd was taken prisoner in the Chinese cages and held hostage for quite some time. This was just at the time of the turnover from General Ridgway to General Mark Clark.

And what went on within those camps I don't think would stand very much--I don't know just how to put it, but there was a terrific ideological struggle in those cages that we were responsible for, but we were not aware what was going on in there.

HESS: Any other duties, reflections, concerning Korea


before you left, any other problems or difficulties that arose? Tons of them, huh?

MUCCIO: It was a problem area.

HESS: No shortage of problems.

MUCCIO: I don't think it's quite as messy as Vietnam is today.

HESS: And you left in 1952, right?

MUCCIO: September, towards the end of September '52.

HESS: And then you were the U.S. delegate to the UN Trusteeship Council?

MUCCIO: I was never able to take that appointment over. I got caught on what is known as the Jessup Amendment.

HESS: What amendment is that?

MUCCIO: Well, President Truman appointed Jessup, or sent his name up to the Senate for the U.S. Delegation to the General Assembly. The Senate confirmed all of them except Jessup, and then the Senate adjourned. And President Truman appointed Jessup to the delegation ad interim. The Senate in the next State Department appropriation bill put in a clause that the President could not fill any position to the United Nations that had been open and unfilled more than 30 days prior


to the adjournment of Congress. And I got caught on that, my appointment to the Trusteeship Council.

HESS: All right, your duty to Iceland started in 1954, is that right?

MUCCIO: '54 yes.

HESS: What were your duties between . . .

MUCCIO: Between '52 when I left Korea, I had long leave. I was assigned to the Department, and sometime later to the negotiations about to get underway with Panama. This led to the treaty between the United States and Panama of 1955. And in September of '54 President Eisenhower sent my name up to the Senate for Minister to Iceland.

HESS: And then in 1960 you were Ambassador to Guatemala, which is a different story and the people from the Kennedy oral history project will be out to speak to you about that particular episode.

All right, one general question: After General Eisenhower was elected President there was a settlement made in Korea. Do you think that Mr. Truman could have made the same settlement earlier, politically speaking?

MUCCIO: Politically speaking, I doubt whether the Senate


would have ratified it with the atmosphere that was existent at the time. In other words, I think in hindsight Truman could possibly have gotten a better deal than Eisenhower, but still would have had trouble up on the Hill. Might have been--I mean hindsight is . . .

HESS: It's a dime a dozen isn't it?

Do you have anything else to add, any other thoughts and reflections come to mind on your duties and your service in Korea? Anything that we have not covered?

MUCCIO: Oh, there's lot that has not been covered, but I've tried to limit myself to what might lead to a better understanding of the relationship between President Truman and President MacArthur, which I feel is uppermost in your mind. We could continue here for a week.

I imagine the Korean incident, episode, or war, whatever term you want to use, will be something that will be debated for as long as there's a United States of America.

A lot of our military just could not understand this question of where we fitted in with the United


Nations vis-a-vis Korea. And I've thought of the possibility of having a study made of the advantages accruing to the United States of having gotten the United Nations as an "umbrella" for what went on in Korea as compared to the situation we face in Vietnam where the UN was pushed aside, or kept aside, by the French.

And we have not been able to get the United Nations to pick up any facet of the Vietnamese situation. At the same time study the advantages accruing to the United States on the way that we managed to keep from getting bogged down in the Congo in July of 1960. We were about as close to getting our feet immersed in muck in the Congo as we've had them in Vietnam now since '64, '65. How is it that we have managed to avoid that in the Congo when we have not been able to avoid it in Vietnam.

I think a thorough study of the advantages of the United States of America's one, two, three episodes of dealing through, or with, the United Nations as compared to going it alone, or trying to influence other nations without dealing through the United Nations, I'd


like to see some of our better brains tackle those three.

HESS: All right, shall we call it a day?

MUCCIO: Thank you.

HESS: Thank you very much, sir.

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Muccio Oral History Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed]

List of Subjects Discussed

    Acheson, Dean, and “perimeter speech”, 15-16
    Almond, General Edward M., 46
    Anderson, Vernice, 23, 85, 86

    Biddle, Eric, 17, 23
    Bunce, Arthur, 25
    Byrne, Bishop Patrick J., 42
    Byrnes, James F., 3-4

    Chiang Kai-shek, 65, 67
    Church, Major General John, 44, 45

    Drumright, Everett Francis, 30, 40
    Dulles, John Foster, and visit to Korea, 28-30

    Economic Cooperation Administration, and Korea, 17-18, 21, 23, 24-28, 81

    “Four Kims” meeting, 24-25

    Hodge, General John R., and Rhee, Syngman, 21-22
    Hoffman, Paul, 23
    Holland, Major James D., 41, 43, 46

    James, Bill, 31
    Jessup amendment, 102
    Jessup, Phillip, 28, 85, 102
    Jones, Owen, 25

    Korean Conflict:

      cease-fire negotiations, 99
      Chinese intervention, 91-93
      evacuation of diplomatic personnel, 40-42
      evacuation of Seoul, second, 94
      health conditions in, 56-57
      Inchon landing, 73-74, 77-78
      Nationalist Chinese troops, controversy concerning, 63-65, 67
      prisoner of war camps in South Korea, troubles concerning, 100-101
      Republic of Korea (ROK) Army units, performance of, 75-77
      spies and saboteaurs, 58, 59
      United Nations intervention in, 54
      U.S. intervention in, 50, 53
    Korean Military Advisory Group, 11, 40, 76-78

    Loren, Al, 25

    MacArthur, General Douglas:

      and Chinese intervention in Korean conflict, 92-93
      dismissal from command, 96-99
      and Rhee, Syngman, 70-72
      and South Korea, invasion of, 37, 45-47, 49, 52, 68
      and Tiawan visit, 67
      and United Nations, attitude toward, 68-69
      and Wake island conference, 78-82, 84-90
    MacDonald, Donald, 44
    Manhard, Philip W., 101
    Mo, Shin Sung, 33, 41
    Muccio, John J.:
      appointment, as Ambassador to Korea, 7
      background, 1-2
      and evacuation from Seoul, 41-50
      and invasion of South Korea, 30-42
      and Korean Conflict, reflection on, 104-106
      and MacArthur, General Douglas, 47, 49, 51-52, 68, 73, 92-93
      and military leadership in Korean Conflict, estimate of, 74-75
      and Rhee, Wyngman, 33-36, 49-50, 61-63
      as Special Representative of the President to Korea, 5-7, 17
      and Truman, Harry S., 2, 3, 97
      and U.N. Trusteeship Council, 102-103
      at Wake Island conference, 78-82, 84-90
    Murphy, Robert, 4

    Partridge, General Earl E., 74
    Potsdam Conference, 2-3

    Rhee, Syngman, 6, 10, 11-15, 17, 20, 21-22, 32-36, 49-50, 61-63, 70-72, 78, 99

      and MacArthur, Douglas, 70-72, 78
    Rhee, Mrs. Syngman, 14-15
    Ridgway, Lt., General Matthew B., 99-100
    Roberts, Brigadier General Lynn, 38
    Romulo, Carlos P. 83
    Royall, Secretary of the Army Kenneth, 10
    Rusk, Dean, 8, 9

    Son, Kim Tai, 58
    South Korea:

      and Economic Cooperation Administration, 17-18, 21, 23, 24-28
      and incidents on 38th parallel, prior to June 1950, 17, 18
      invasion of, 20, 30-38
      and rice crop in 1949, 23
      and U.S. military position in, prior to 1950, 6-8, 10, 19
      and U.S. sphere of strategic concern, 15-16
      U.S. troops withdrawn from, in 1949, 11-12
    Story, Colonel Anthony, 49
    Suk, Lee Baum, 18

    Truman, Harry S,:

      and MacArthur, General Douglas, dismissal of , 97-98
      and Muccio, John J., 2, 3, 97
      and Potsdam Conference, 2-3
      and Wake Island Conference, 80, 84-90

    United Nations, and Korea, 8, 68

    Vietnam War, and comparison with Korean Conflict, 59, 60

    Wake Island Conference, 78-82, 84-90

      and Senate committee’s report, “Substance of Statements made at Wake Island Conference…”, Appendix
    Walker, General Walton S., 70, 74
    Wedemeyer, General Albert C., 10
    Willoughby, General Charles A., 37, 71, 73. 89
    Whitney, General Courtney, 71, 73, 81, 84
    Wolfe, Glenn, 24
    Wright, Colonel Sterling, 38

[ Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Muccio Oral History Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed ]