CRITIQUE OF BRUCE CUMINGS "ROARING OF THE CATARACT"

CRITIQUE OF BRUCE CUMINGS "THE ROARING OF THE CATARACT"

 

In Chapter 18 at the top of page 614 the author wrote "At the Pentagon, an aide said privately that the United States expected the attack and had made all the preparations that could be made."  'The aide said in particular that ships had been readied to evacuate Americans'  (This was in the context that U.S. officials knew in advance about the impending attack on South Korea by North Korea).

     FACT:  The author's end-note #118 for Chapter 18 refers to the New York Times June 26, 1950 with the comment that Whitney's dateline was June 25.  The author's book was copyrighted in 1990.  The files documenting the evacuation of Americans from South Korea had been declassified for over 20 years at that point.  One only has to look at the actual events of the evacuation.  On June 26, the Norwegian freighter "Reinholt" had just unloaded its cargo of fertilizer at Inchon.  676 persons were loaded onto this freighter, which had facilities for a crew of only 10 or 11.  One of those persons loaded on the ship was a woman who was expecting a baby on July 1.  Had any pre-planning and pre-positioning actually been involved, I am sure that a ship with more adequate facilities would have been available.  The only pre-planning was a contingency plan, code name "Sassafrass" which laid out procedures to be followed to evacuate civilians from South Korea.  It was completed and approved in June 1949, a full year before the actual attack.  It was implemented on June 26, 1959.   By June 29th a total of 2,174 people had been evacuated to Japan.  Approximately half of those were airlifted by military aircraft flying to Kimpo and Suwon and back to Japan.  In the process several of them were strafed and destroyed by North Korean fighters while on the  ground.  See 24th Infantry Division G-1 Journal National Archives, College Park Maryland, Records Group (RG) 407, Stack 270, Area 67, Row 24, shelf 06, Box 5465.     

     At the end of the second full paragraph on page 614 the author continues his theory  by writing that in reference to Senator Morse questioning whether anyone knew about the attack in advance.  He writes:  "There are three other pieces of evidence indicating that Morse was on to something: first, about five days before the war began, General Ridgeway requested information on Naval aircraft 'Hellcats', small gunboats and other military aid items destined for Indochina which might be diverted to Korea."  He even has an end-note #119.

        FACT:  When you go to his end-note, the comment is G-3 Operations, Box 121, Bolte to Ridgeway, June 20, 1950.  The author does not mention the archive location as he does in other end-notes, so the reader had no way of knowing where the source document might be.  A specific archive would be most helpful.  The author states that he was unable to find the document.  In any event, unless we were sending Hellcats, complete with pilots and ground crews, (and that is not very likely) qualified pilots and ground crews would have to be found by the French.  At that time, the Corsair was the standard fighter for the Navy and Marines so it is highly unlikely that Navy or Marine crews could be found.  Therefore, diverting those aircraft to Korea would serve no purpose.

     At the bottom of page 615, Chapter 18, the author quotes a William Corson as follows:  "The movement of war materiel was detected and traced as moving in ever increasing quantities from the Soviet Union via Manchuria into North Korea." 

     FACT:  Why would materiel have to be sent from the Soviet Union via Manchuria in order to get to North Korea.  The main rail line south from Vladivostok, Russia goes south, crossed the Tumen River (which forms the border between Russia and North Korea) and then turns south into northeastern North Korea.

     In the first full paragraph on page 659 the author wrote: "The KPA march threatened a full envelopment as early as July 26, when General Walker ordered a military withdrawal from Taegu.  But the next day MacArthur flew over to Korea and demanded that further withdrawals cease, and shortly thereafter the 2d Infantry Division landed at Pusan and was rushed to the line at Chinju."

     FACT:  First: General Walker NEVER ordered a withdrawal, at that time, all withdrawals occurred because of enemy pressure.  Second:  Our troops were NEVER withdrawn from Taegu.  Third: The author could not have meant Taejon because the last American troops were forced out of Taejon by July 22d.  Fourth: None of the War Diaries of the 2d Infantry Division or its three regiments, the 9th, 23d and 38th mention Chinju.  However, the War Diary for the 24th Infantry Division mentions that on July 25th, the last of the 29th Infantry Regiment arrived from Okinawa, was attached to the 24th Division and went to Chinju and actually beyond while the First Battalion of the 19th Infantry Regiment arrived in Chinju by 5 PM on the 27th of July. 

     My review of the War Diaries leads me to the conclusion that General MacArthur actually went to personally reassure General Walker about the additional reinforcements he would be receiving:  The 5th Regimental Combat Team was on its way from Hawaii and which was scheduled to arrive in the Masan area west of Pusan by late in the day on August 1st.  The First Provisional Marine Brigade was on its way from San Francisco, scheduled to be in the Naktong Bulge area by August 8th and the 2d Infantry Division was on its way from Seattle with its 9 Infantry Regiment also scheduled to begin operations in the Naktong Bulge area by August 8th. 

Professor Cumings first insisted that he meant Taegu, not Taejon, because Taejon had fallen several weeks earlier. (In fact it had fallen on July 22d, only four days earlier). When presented with the actual facts, he had two comments. The first was that he wished he had had that information 25 years ago. The second was that he was not doing military history.

     In the first paragraph on page 661, Chapter 19 the author writes that by September 8, he (General MacArthur) had been sent all available combat trained Army units except the 82d Airborne. (He must have meant all units in the Continental U.S.)

     FACT:  The 11th Airborne Division was also at  full strength at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, yet it remained intact in the U.S.  It was not until early October 1950 that the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment of that division was sent to Korea.

     In Chapter 21 on page 720 in the first full paragraph the author writes that "in one documented instance, in the town of  Sunchon, the Americans replaced marauding South Korean forces with American 1st Cavalry elements.  His endnote # 44 cites Manchester Guardian, December 4, 1950;  RG338, KMAG file , Box 5418, KMAG Journal , entries for November 5, 24, 25, 30, 1950.

     FACT:  On 5 November, 1st Cavalry elements were moving south as a result of pounding of the 8th Cavalry Regiment and the 5th Cavalry Regiment in the vicinity of Unsan.  They were located variously at Yongbong-ni, Sapyong-ni, Sang-ni, Kunu-ri.  By 6 November most units had moved to the Kunu-ri area to relieve the 5th Regimental Combat Team.  On 25 November the 5th Cavalry Regiment moved to Sunchon to secure the Main Supply Route (MSR) from Sunchon to Kunu-ri.  The 1st Cavalry Division War Diary for 26 November 1950 states "1st Cavalry Division will move to assembly areas vicinity Sunchon, Sinchang-ni, Kachang-ni and be prepared to deny movement of enemy forces south and southwest of the east-west line running through Tokchon.  The War Diary for the First Cavalry Division for 26 November 1950 states that the Thialanders were to replace First Cavalry units in Sinanju, Sukchon and Kunu-ri.  THERE IS NO MENTION IN ANY OF THE WAR DIARIES ABOUT REPLACING ANY ROK UNITS.

     Beginning with the first full paragraph on page 751, Professor Cumings writes that in 1950 atomic bombs were heavy and unwieldy, requiring big sand loading pits and time consuming assembly. 

     FACT:  Atomic bombs have not gotten much smaller or lighter since the original ones dropped on Japan.  Aircraft bomb bays got bigger.  I asked Professor Cumings about his source for "sand loading pits".  He said that he could not remember.  As for time consuming assembly, either type bomb could be readied for loading in less than two hours.  See photo below showing a gun type bomb being loaded onto a B-29.  NOTE THE LACK OF SAND.  B-29'S were towed backward until the bomb bay was over the pit.  The bomb was loaded and the plane was towed away from the pit.  The most commonly used bomb is the "fat man" or implosion bomb as it used only about 18 pounds of fissionable material compared the the "gun type" which needed about 180 pounds of fissionable material.  Later aircraft such as the B-47 medium bomber and the B-36 and B-52 heavy bombers had longer landing gear so that need for loading pits was eliminated. 

     In the first paragraph on page 752, Professor Cumings mentions "Operation Hudson Harbor".  In the second paragraph, he writes that the project called for actual functioning of all activities which would be involved in an atomic strike, including weapons assembly and testing, leading (I think he meant LOADING), ground control of bomb aiming, and the like.

     FACT:  FIRST:  If there ever was such an operation, it had nothing to do with simulating an atomic strike.  Atomic bombs were always handled by men who went through eight weeks of training in the assembly, testing and loading of those weapons.  Therefore there was no need for an operation like "Hudson Harbor" since the testing and loading crews had plenty of experience handling the real thing.

SECOND:  There was NO ground control of bomb aiming, standard WW II bombsights were used.

     Beginning on page 753 he writes about the U.S. napalming everything ahead of the advancing Chinese and KPA forces and behind retreating UN Forces in order to create a "wilderness of scorched earth".  To support his point, beginning at the top of page 753, he quotes part  of an article by New York Times reporter George Barrett.  Barrett called the article "a macabre tribute to the totality of modern war." in a village North of Anyang.  The part quoted by Professor Cumings appears below:  

"Soon George Barrett of the New York Times found 'a macabre tribute to the totality of modern war' in a village north of Anyang"

"The inhabitants throughout the village and in the fields were caught and killed and kept in the exact postures they held when the napalm struck - a man about to get on his bicycle, fifty boys and girls playing in an orphanage, a housewife, strangely unmarked, holding in her had a page torn from a Sears-Roebuck catalogue crayoned at Mail Order No. 3,811,294 for a $2.98 "bewitching bed jacket - coral".

Here is the complete story as published in the New York Times on February 9 as a secondary article headed "Radio Hams in U.S. Discuss Girls, So Shelling of Seoul is Held Up"..  The ninth through eleventh paragraphs are quoted below:
"This armored column today took a little hamlet north of Anyang that will go down as a macabre tribute to the totality of modern war. A napalm raid hit the village three or four days ago when the Chinese were holding up the advance, and nowhere in the village have they buried the dead because there is nobody left to do so.                                                                                                                                    
This correspondent came across one old woman, the only one left who seemed to be alive, dazedly hanging up some clothes in a blackened courtyard filled with the bodies of four members of her family.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
The inhabitants throughout the village and in the fields were caught and killed and kept in the exact postures they had held when the napalm struck - a man about to get on his bicycle, fifty boys and girls playing in an orphanage, a housewife, strangely unmarked, holding in her hand a page torn from a Sears-Roebuck catalogue crayoned at Mail Order No, 3,811,294 for a $2.98 'bewitching bed jacket - coral'. There must be almost two hundred dead in the tiny hamlet."

     Both Stone and the obituary specify that Barrett was with an armored column (the obituary mentions specifically that it was an American commanded column) which took a village north of Anyang and found what Barrett described as "a macabre tribute to the totality of modern war."

     Most of the story has to be a fabrication by George Barrett.  See the eight points listed below.  The one grain of truth was the armored column.  In fact there were two armored columns working in tandem. They were named Task Force Barrett and Task Force Dolvin (named for their Commanders.  Barrett was assigned to "Task Force Dolvin".  A review of the New York Times archives reveals that, starting in June 1950 through late summer of 1953, George Barrett filed 150 stories related to Korea. Upon closer scrutiny, there were more than 150 stories filed. There were two stories filed on February 9. One was headed "Radio Hams in U.S. Discuss Girls, So Shelling of Seoul is Held Up".   When I accessed that story, I found that a second story, the "Napalm" one was attached to that story.  I still believe the entire story was fabricated by Barrett because the effects he described are not possible with napalm.  Additionally, see points TWO through EIGHT.

     FIRST:  Napalm kills primarily by inflicting third degree burns and no one hit by flaming jellied gasoline is going to remain in the exact position held when killed.  There is one other effect in which death is by asphyxiation due to the rapid depletion of oxygen and its replacement by carbon monoxide in the immediate area of the initial ignition of the napalm.  Even then there are serious burns due to the very close proximity of the flaming napalm.  Sterno used to heat foods when camping is a form of napalm.  (see "SURGERY FOR VICTIMS OF WAR", ISBN2-88145-010-5, Third Edition, October 1998.  Chapter 17 "Burn Injuries" and subsection on "Napalm Injuries".) 

     SECOND:  Sears-Roebuck has an on line archive of every catalog they have ever printed.  A review of the four catalogs issued in 1949 and 1950 reveals two things.  It took me several hours to review all of them.  None of them listed a bed jacket - coral.  Two examples of items listed in the Fall, 1949 catalog (There are 1368 pages in it) are shown below:

Beautiful Kerrybrooke Housecoats make leisure glamorous.  (Shown on page 248)   Warm Quilted Cotton Print and Solid Color  O27 K 7735 Royal Blue with print.                                                          $5.95                                                                                             

Modern Secretary-desk  Cabinet   (Shown on page 542)   Sleek, modern design in the best of taste.  It's an extremely handsome writing desk when not used for sewing.   20 KM 30655 - with Model 55 Sewing Head shown on next page, left side.  Shipping weight 133 pounds.                                                                $174.95 

     THIRD:  The Anyang River flows north past Anyang, past the village of Tokson-ni which is about six and a half miles north of Anyang and then into the Han River which flows to the northwest along the southern edge of Seoul, past the port of Inchon and then into the Yellow Sea.  About five miles north of Anyang, the river valley widens significantly so that there no significant elevations near Tokson-ni.  For about a mile in any direction, the village is surrounded by rice paddies.  Both napalm and concentrated artillery fire are used to take down strong defensive areas which had underground bunkers and trenches.  Any excavations in the area would quickly fill with water, making them unusable for defensive positions.  (See Army Map Series Map NJ 52-9, published 1950, which shows the topography of the area around Anyang and Tokson-ni. 

     FOURTH:  According to Brigadier General George Barth, the commander of the 25th Infantry Division Artillery, enemy strong points were taken down by use of the massed fire by as many as 108 field artillery pieces.  As a testimony to their effectiveness, General Barth recounts the following.  One night the 15th ROK Regiment was driven off a hill early in the night.  Afterwards, a total of 72 artillery pieces fired on that hill.  The next morning the 15th ROK took the hill with NO opposition.  A total of 308 Chinese dead were counted.  Records show that there were two armored columns operating in tandem with accompanying artillery and infantry units.  The two task forces, named Dolvin and Bartlett, were formed on February 5th with Dolvin proceeding on the East side of the main road leading through Anyang and Bartlett proceeding along the West side of the road.  There was no point in using napalm or even massed artillery fire on Tokson-ni as the terrain did not permit the construction of underground bunkers.  Information about the topography of the area comes from Army Map Series L552, NJ-52-9, which I obtained at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland for $20.00.  The map was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1950. 

     FIFTH:  Why would a woman whose village had been controlled for the Chinese for the previous six to nine weeks have even filled out a catalog form, assuming that she actually had a catalog.  Professor Cumings insists that mail order catalogs were common in Japan.  He  says they were called"moose"manuals.  (Moose is slang for musame or girlfriend in Japan).  In my entire two and a half years in Japan from about May 1947 thru November 1949 I never even heard of anyone having a mail order catalog.  In addition to the small Post Exchanges at all military posts in Japan, there were large Exchanges in all the large cities in Japan such as Sendai, Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka.  Any serviceman could buy items from those exchanges and even order some items sent from the States to the Exchange.  The one in Tokyo was in the Ernie Pyle building, which also had a large library, two movie theaters and a snack bar where we could get REAL milk, not the powdered reconstituted milk served in our mess halls.  Professor Cumings insists that since the first troops in Korea came from Japan, they brought mail order catalogs with them.  (THE AVERAGE SEARS CATALOG AT THAT TIME HAD ALMOST 1,400 PAGES-THAT IS A LOT OF EXTRA WEIGHT, NOT TO MENTION THE SPACE THAT ONE WOULD TAKE.)  Those men had enough absolute essentials to carry without carrying something that was absolutely NOT neccessary for saving life and limb.  Even if they had, the first troops in the area around Anyang were members of the 7th Infantry Division who landed at Inchon in mid September 1950.  They linked up with members of the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the First Cavalry Division during the latter part of September.  Within a few days, the men of the 7th Division left to prepare for the landings on the East coast of Korea.  The men of the First Cavalry Division units passed through on the way to Pyongyang, spending less than a week in the area.  The next U.S soldiers in the area passed through while retreating during the Chinese Communist offensive which began in late November 1950.  The next were the men of the 25th Infantry Division, passing through beginning on February 5th, 1951.  Thus there were NO U.S. troops in the area long enough to form any relationships with local women, especially since at all of those times the men were participants in combat. 

     SIXTH:  How would payment be made in U.S. dollars?  During that time, there were no   facilities for changing Korean WON into U.S. Dollars.  Beginning with the initial occupation in Japan and continuing on through the 1960's all military and civilians in the Far East were paid in Military Scrip.  With the ebb and flow in the fighting, it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible to get a money order. 

     SEVENTH:  If the village had a population of only about two hundred, how would fifty of those be children in an orphanage?  That would mean that twenty-five per cent of the village were orphans.  Not very likely!

     EIGHTH:  When we left the States to go to Japan, all of our possessions had to be in one duffle bag.  Believe me, it was really full and heavy.  Adding a 1,300 to 1,400 page catalog would have taken too much space and added unnecessary weight.          

     As an aside, the story about the shelling of Seoul had to be a fabrication also.  In it, he writes about the tanks of the armored column being lined up to shell Seoul, seven miles away.  The guns on the tanks had a maximum range of FIVE AND A HALF MILES!  The 105mm howitzers in the accompanying Artillery Battalions only had a range of seven miles.