Wrong Turns In Korea

Miscalculations and blunders by world leaders precipitated the Korean War 60 years ago

On its 60th anniversary, the Korean War looks much like Vietnam, a pointless conflict that gained nothing for those who began it: North Korea’s Kim Il-sung and South Korea’s Syngman Rhee, with the consent of the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin and China’s Mao Zedong. Yet it was far worse than that: The bloodletting in that corner of northeast Asia was an exercise in human folly that cost all sides in the fighting nearly 4 million lives lost, missing, and wounded, not to mention the devastation of the peninsula from Pusan in the south to the Yalu River in the north. Not a single northern or southern Korean city escaped the ravages wrought by modern warfare. Public buildings and private homes were turned into piles of rubble, while thousands of refugees fled from the scenes of battle.

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“How Would You Like To Be Attached To The Red Army?”

A cameraman at Yalta tells what it was like to spend a few days in claustrophobic luxury with Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt— and to be offered a job by Joseph Stalin

 

Robert Hopkins was 15 years old when he first met Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the inauguration of New York’s Triborough Bridge in 1936. His father, Harry Hopkins, ran the WPA, which had built the bridge. Of course Hopkins remained FDR ‘s close lieutenant throughout the war, and once, as a newly minted GI, Robert was able to return late to Fort Dix bearing this note:

November 30,1941

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN :

From World War To Cold War

In an exchange of letters, a man who had an immeasurable impact on how the great struggle of our times was waged looks back on how it began

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The Man of the Century

Of all the Allied leaders, argues FDR s biographer, only Roosevelt saw clearly the shape of the new world they were fighting to create

AFTER HALF A CENTURY IT IS HARD TO APPROACH FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT EXCEPT through a minefield of clichés. Theories of FDR, running the gamut from artlessness to mystification, have long paraded before our eyes. There is his famous response to the newspaperman who asked him for his philosophy: “Philosophy? I am a Christian and a Democrat—that’s all”; there is Robert E. Sherwood’s equally famous warning about “Roosevelt’s heavily forested interior”; and we weakly conclude that both things were probably true. Read more »

Groping Toward Democracy

The Russians claim they want to be more like us— but do they have any idea who we are?

The Russian road to democracy is not going to be easy. In the forty-five-volume edition of Vladimir Lenin’s collected works, the index shows no entry for Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, John Adams, or James Madison. George Washington gets three mentions, but they all relate to well-wishers suggesting that Lenin is the George Washington of Russia. Monroe is listed four times—each time for the Monroe Doctrine, with nothing about the debates over the U.S. Constitution. Read more »

Two Cheers For Optimism

One man measures his life-span against the length of recorded history and finds tidings of comfort and hope

At the risk of being sneered at as a NeoVictorian, I hereby admit to a nineteenth-century belief that, allowing for daily relapses Land hourly alarms, the world of man is improving. I am not by nature a Panglossian sort but, like the grandparent of a precocious child, I am overwhelmed by a sense of how far my still sprouting human species has come in so short a time. Read more »

Truman At Potsdam

His newly discovered diary reveals how the President saw the conference that ushered in the Cold War

For the past year and a half, Robert H. Ferrell, a diplomatic historian at Indiana University, has been at work among President Harry S. Truman’s newly opened private papers at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Early last year, working with Erwin J. Mueller, an extraordinarily able library archivist, he uncovered a hitherto unknown personal journal kept sporadically by the President during the 1945 Big Three Conference at Potsdam, Germany. Scribbled on miscellaneous scraps of paper—White House stationery, lined sheets from a tablet, note paper picked up aboard the U.S.S.Read more »

From Austerlitz To Moscow

An American Success Story

A dreadful prospect opened up for mankind when Napoleon’s Grande Armée won the battle of Austerlitz and swept on to conquer all of Europe. The enthusiastic multitudes of revolutionary France had placed at Napoleon’s disposal the resources of an entire nation, and he had fashioned from them a mighty new weapon: the mass citizen army, the Grande Armée. War was no longer a game for kings and small hired armies; it had become a cataclysm into which entire nations were hurled.Read more »

Full House At Yalta

Vodka at breakfast was only one of the minor problems when Russians entertained Americans

It was 5 P.M. on Sunday, the fourth of February, 1945. After seven months of dispatches and a month of frantic preparation by the Soviets, the Big Three conference at Yalta on the Black Sea was about to commence.Read more »