President Truman Orders U.S. Forces to Korea

President Truman Orders U.S. Forces to Korea


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On June 27, 1950, President Harry S. Truman announces that he is ordering U.S. air and naval forces to South Korea to aid the democratic nation in repulsing an invasion by communist North Korea. The United States was undertaking the major military operation, he explained, to enforce a United Nations resolution calling for an end to hostilities, and to stem the spread of communism in Asia. In addition to ordering U.S. forces to Korea, Truman also deployed the U.S. 7th Fleet to Formosa (Taiwan) to guard against invasion by communist China and ordered an acceleration of military aid to French forces fighting communist guerrillas in Vietnam.

At the Yalta Conference towards the end of World War II, the United States, the USSR, and Great Britain agreed to divide Korea into two separate occupation zones. The country was split along the 38th parallel, with Soviet forces occupying the northern zone and Americans stationed in the south. In 1947, the United States and Great Britain called for free elections throughout Korea, but the Soviets refused to comply. In May 1948 the Korean Democratic People’s Republic—a communist state—was proclaimed in North Korea. In August, the democratic Republic of Korea was established in South Korea. By 1949, both the United States and the USSR had withdrawn the majority of their troops from the Korean Peninsula.

READ MORE: FDR, Churchill and Stalin: Inside Their Uneasy WWII Alliance

At dawn on June 25, 1950 (June 24 in the United States and Europe), 90,000 communist troops of the North Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea across the 38th parallel, catching the Republic of Korea’s forces completely off guard and throwing them into a hasty southern retreat. On the afternoon of June 25, the U.N. Security Council met in an emergency session and approved a U.S. resolution calling for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” and the withdrawal of North Korean forces to the 38th parallel. At the time, the USSR was boycotting the Security Council over the U.N.’s refusal to admit the People’s Republic of China and so missed its chance to veto this and other crucial U.N. resolutions.

On June 27, President Truman announced to the nation and the world that America would intervene in the Korean conflict in order to prevent the conquest of an independent nation by communism. Truman was suggesting that the USSR was behind the North Korean invasion, and in fact the Soviets had given tacit approval to the invasion, which was carried out with Soviet-made tanks and weapons. Despite the fear that U.S. intervention in Korea might lead to open warfare between the United States and Russia after years of “cold war,” Truman’s decision was met with overwhelming approval from Congress and the U.S. public. Truman did not ask for a declaration of war, but Congress voted to extend the draft and authorized Truman to call up reservists.

On June 28, the Security Council met again and in the continued absence of the Soviet Union passed a U.S. resolution approving the use of force against North Korea. On June 30, Truman agreed to send U.S. ground forces to Korea, and on July 7 the Security Council recommended that all U.N. forces sent to Korea be put under U.S. command. The next day, General Douglas MacArthur was named commander of all U.N. forces in Korea.

READ MORE: The Most Harrowing Battle of the Korean War

In the opening months of the war, the U.S.-led U.N. forces rapidly advanced against the North Koreans, but Chinese communist troops entered the fray in October, throwing the Allies into a hasty retreat. In April 1951, Truman relieved MacArthur of his command after he publicly threatened to bomb China in defiance of Truman’s stated war policy. Truman feared that an escalation of fighting with China would draw the Soviet Union into the Korean War.

By May 1951, the communists were pushed back to the 38th parallel, and the battle line remained in that vicinity for the remainder of the war. On July 27, 1953, after two years of negotiation, an armistice was signed, ending the war and reestablishing the 1945 division of Korea that still exists today. Approximately 150,000 troops from South Korea, the United States, and participating U.N. nations were killed in the Korean War, and as many as one million South Korean civilians perished. An estimated 800,000 communist soldiers were killed, and more than 200,000 North Korean civilians died.

The original figure of American troops lost–54,246 killed–became controversial when the Pentagon acknowledged in 2000 that all U.S. troops killed around the world during the period of the Korean War were incorporated into that number. For example, any American soldier killed in a car accident anywhere in the world from June 1950 to July 1953 was considered a casualty of the Korean War. If these deaths are subtracted from the 54,000 total, leaving just the Americans who died (from whatever cause) in the Korean theater of operations, the total U.S. dead in the Korean War numbers 36,516.

READ MORE: The Korean War Hasn't Officially Ended. One Reason: POWs


President Harry Truman's Economic Policies

Harry S. Truman was the 33rd U.S. president, serving from 1945 to 1953, during World War II and the Korean War. During his tenure, he took America from isolationism to global leadership. Despite his unpopularity at the time, Truman won a surprise second term and has cemented a legacy among U.S. presidents.  


President Truman Orders U.S. Forces to Korea - HISTORY

North Korea Calls U.N. Order Illegal: Declares Security Council&aposs &aposCease Fire&apos Invalid Without Assent of China and Russia

Legislators Hail Action By Truman: Almost Unanimous Approval Is Voiced in Congress by Both Sides--House Cheers

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Sanctions Voted: Council Adopts Plan of U.S. for Armed Force in Korea, 7 to 1: The Soviet Is Absent: Yugoslavia Casts Lone Dissent--Egypt and India Abstain

President Takes Chief Role In Determining U.S. Course: Truman&aposs Leadership for Forceful Policy to Meet Threat to World Peace Draws Together Advisers on Vital Move

U.S. Force Fighting: MacArthur Installs an Advanced Echelon in Southern Korea: Foe Loses 4 Planes: American Craft in Battle to Protect Evacuation--Seoul Is Quiet

Mainland Attacks Ended By Formosa: Chinese Nationalists Halt Air, Navy Forays in Accordance With Request by Truman

House Votes 315-4 To Prolong Draft: Korea Crisis Breaks Deadlock--Bill Expected to Be Sent to White House Tonight

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World News Summarized

Washington, June 27--President Truman announced today that he had ordered United States air and naval forces to fight with South Korea&aposs Army. He said this country took the action, as a member of the United Nations, to enforce the cease-fire order issued by the Security Council Sunday night.

Then acting independently of the United Nations, in a move to assure this country&aposs security, the Chief Executive ordered Vice Admiral Arthur D. Struble to form a protective cordon around Formosa to prevent its invasion by Communist Chinese forces.

Along with these fateful decisions, Mr. Truman also ordered an increase of our forces based in the Philippine Republic, as well as more speedy military assistance to that country and to the French and Vietnam forces that are fighting Communist armies in Indo-China.

After he had started these moves that might mean a decided turn toward peace or a general war, the President sent Ambassador Alan G. Kirk to the Russian Foreign Office in Moscow to request the Soviet Union to use its good offices to end the hostilities. This was an obvious proffer of an opportunity for Russia to end the crisis before her own forces might get involved.

Door Opened for Russia

In the capital this was regarded as being at once a possible face-saving device for Russia in a showdown crisis and a feeler to determine her intentions.

The decisions amounted to a showdown in the "cold war" with Russia, in which this country has at last decided to begin shooting in a limited area. Yet all the decisions followed a carefully worked out formula of action within the framework of the United Nations, as well as unilateral moves that avoided any direct provocation of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Truman based the decision to fight for the South Koreans entirely on the Security Council resolution which called upon all members of the United Nations to help carry it out. And at the Pentagon it was explained that our air and naval forces would fight only below the Thirty-eighth Parallel line that divides South Korea from the Russian- sponsored North Korea.

"The Security Council called upon all members of the United Nations to render every assistance to the United Nations in the execution of this resolution," Mr. Truman stated. "In these circumstances I have ordered United States air and sea forces to give the Korean Government troops cover and support."

Russia Is Not Mentioned

Mr. Truman carefully avoided mentioning Russia in his statement. He pivoted today&aposs great shift in United States foreign policy on a conclusion that the "cold war" had passed from an uneasy passive stage to "armed invasion and war." He blamed "communism."

"The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war," he said. "It has defied the orders of the Security Council of the United Nations issued to preserve international peace and security. In these circumstances the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area.

President Truman took the unusual action of virtually ordering the Chinese National Government to cease its air and sea operations against the Chinese mainland. He tersely stated that the Seventh Fleet will see that this is done, adding that the future status of Formosa would have to await peace in the Pacific or a peace settlement with Japan, or United Nations action.

In many major speeches Mr. Truman has not hesitated to name Russia as the country that had obstructed peace efforts in the United Nations through her use of the veto or the boycotting of its meetings.

In military parlance, the term "cover and support" used by Mr. Truman as missions for our forces means that they would seek to destroy any North Korea air, ground or sea forces, as well as their installations, that are encountered below the Thirty-eighth Parallel. They would do the same in support of any counter-offensive that the South Korea forces might be able to mount.

Thus the complexion of the Korean situation was changed overnight. Yesterday officials were inclined to see South Korea, with her small, poorly equipped forces, as good as lost. It was acknowledged, as President Syngman Rhee of South Korea had complained, that aid in the form of munitions and supplies was "too little and too late."

Victory Is Seen for South

Today the view was that American air and naval forces could assure overwhelming superiority to South Korea and bring victory, unless, of course, Russia similarly aided North Korea.

The decisions were made last night in Blair House and before the night was over the coded action orders were being radioed to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Tokyo and to other pertinent places. The formula encompassing all the action, it was learned authoritatively, began to take shape Sunday night in the first Blair House conference and it was custom-tailored for the resolution that the United States representative was directed to introduce in the Security Council meeting that night.

The correlated diplomatic action in Moscow was announced this afternoon by the State Department. Ambassador Kirk delivered a note, the text of which was not published.

Lincoln White, State Department press officer said:

"The Embassy asked that the Soviet Government use its influence with the North Korean authorities for the withdrawal of the invading forces and the cessation of hostilities."

President Truman was gratified with markedly good reaction that followed news of his decisions. There was typical bipartisan support as in other great emergencies that have faced the country, and Mr. Truman was particularly pleased with the message he received from Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York, his opponent in the Presidential race of 1948. He promptly sent a grateful reply. As one White House official expressed it, "there was a wonderful closing of ranks."

The unity on the political front was more than matched among the high civilian and military leaders of the nation who made the recommendations for action. Mr. Truman, before he even left his home in Independence, Mo., on Sunday to cope with the crisis, had formed a determination to do something drastic, something that would be neither appeasement nor merely passive. Both Defense and State Department officials, it was learned, worked with great harmony and easy agreement on the recommendations that were drawn up to meet his basic requirements.

Secretary of State Dean Acheson was said to have been a strong hand in working out the diplomatic requirements, both as to Moscow and the Security Council, and in urging the use of force. Those at the fateful council with the President in his home at Blair House last night were the same that met with him Sunday, after his hurried return from Independence.

They were Mr. Acheson, Philip C. Jessup, Ambassador at Large, John D. Hickerson, Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs, and Dean Rusk, Deputy Under Secretary of State Louis Johnson, Secretary of Defense Gen. Omar N. Bradley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. J. Lawton Collins, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations Frank C. Pace Jr., Secretary of the Army Thomas K. Finletter, Secretary of the Air Force and Francis P. Matthews, Secretary of the Navy.

The proposed actions--air and naval support for South Korea to enforce the United Nations resolution and the decision on Formosa establishing unilaterally a line of United States defense in the Western Pacific--were already familiar. Mr. Truman canvassed the situation once again from every possible angle and then made his decisions. That, in brief, was the story of the meeting as told by one familiar with it.

This morning Secretary Johnson, Stephen T. Early, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and General Bradley and Collins went to the President&aposs office before 10 A.M., and apparently reported that the orders had gone out.

Then in mid-morning, before the announcement was made to the world, Mr. Truman summoned Congressional leaders and members of the committees dealing with foreign affairs in the Senate and the House. There were Republicans and Democrats, including Speaker Sam Rayburn, Senator W. Scott Lucas, the Senate Majority Leader, and Senator Tom Connally, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and John Kee, his opposite number in the House.

Secretary Johnson said, as the President&aposs statement indicated, that none of our ground troops would be committee in the Korean conflict.

President Truman, as if to inspire confidence and calm in public, walked instead of drove to Blair House.

He lunched with his Cabinet. Eight were present, Maurice J. Tobin, Secretary of Labor, being out of town.

Washington, June 27--The text of President Truman&aposs statement today on Korea:

In Korea the Government forces, which were armed to prevent border raids and to preserve internal security, were attacked by invading forces from North Korea. The Security Council of the United Nations called upon the invading troops to cease hostilities and to withdraw to the Thirty-eighth Parallel. This they have not done, but on the contrary have pressed the attack. The Security Council called upon all members of the United Nations to render every assistance to the United Nations in the execution of this resolution.

In these circumstances I have ordered United States air and sea forces to give the Korean Government troops cover and support.

The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war.

It has defied the orders of the Security Council of the United Nations issued to preserve international peace and security. In these circumstances the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area.

Accordingly I have ordered the Seventh Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa. As a corollary of this action I am calling upon the Chinese Government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland. The Seventh Fleet will see that this is done. The determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations.

I have also directed that United States forces in the Philippines be strengthened and that military assistance to the Philippine Government be accelerated.

I have similarly directed acceleration in the furnishing of military assistance to the forces of France and the associated states in Indo-China and the dispatch of a military mission to provide close working relations with those forces.

I know that all members of the United Nations will consider carefully the consequences of this latest aggression in Korea in defiance of the Charter of the United Nations. A return to the rule of force in international affairs would have far-reaching effects. The United States will continue to uphold the rule of law.

I have instructed Ambassador Austin, as the representative of the United States to the Security Council, to report these steps to the Council.


Contents

Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri, on May 8, 1884, the oldest child of John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen Young Truman. He was named for his maternal uncle, Harrison "Harry" Young. His middle initial, "S", honors his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. [7] [b] A brother, John Vivian, was born soon after Harry, followed by sister Mary Jane. [8] Truman's ancestry is primarily English with some Scots-Irish, German, and French. [9] [10]

John Truman was a farmer and livestock dealer. The family lived in Lamar until Harry was ten months old, when they moved to a farm near Harrisonville, Missouri. The family next moved to Belton and in 1887 to his grandparents' 600-acre (240 ha) farm in Grandview. [11] When Truman was six, his parents moved to Independence, Missouri, so he could attend the Presbyterian Church Sunday School. He did not attend a conventional school until he was eight. [12] While living in Independence, he served as a Shabbos goy for Jewish neighbors, doing tasks for them on Shabbat that their religion prevented them from doing on that day. [13] [14] [15]

Truman was interested in music, reading, and history, all encouraged by his mother, with whom he was very close. As president, he solicited political as well as personal advice from her. [16] He rose at five every morning to practice the piano, which he studied more than twice a week until he was fifteen, becoming quite a skilled player. [17] Truman worked as a page at the 1900 Democratic National Convention in Kansas City [18] his father had many friends active in the Democratic Party who helped young Harry to gain his first political position. [19]

After graduating from Independence High School in 1901, Truman enrolled in Spalding's Commercial College, a Kansas City business school. He studied bookkeeping, shorthand, and typing but left after a year. [20]

Truman made use of his business college experience to obtain a job as a timekeeper on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, sleeping in hobo camps near the rail lines. [21] He then took on a series of clerical jobs and was employed briefly in the mailroom of The Kansas City Star. Truman and his brother Vivian later worked as clerks at the National Bank of Commerce in Kansas City.

He returned in 1906 to the Grandview farm, where he lived until entering the army in 1917. [22] During this period, he courted Bess Wallace. He proposed in 1911, but she turned him down. Truman later said he intended to propose again, but he wanted to have a better income than that earned by a farmer. [23] To that end, during his years on the farm and immediately after World War I, he became active in several business ventures, including a lead and zinc mine near Commerce, Oklahoma, [24] a company that bought land and leased the oil drilling rights to prospectors, [25] and speculation in Kansas City real estate. [26] Truman occasionally derived some income from these enterprises, but none proved successful in the long term. [27]

Truman is the only president since William McKinley (elected in 1896) who did not earn a college degree. [28] In addition to having briefly attended business college, from 1923 to 1925 he took night courses toward an LL.B. at the Kansas City Law School (now the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law) but dropped out after losing reelection as county judge. [29] He was informed by attorneys in the Kansas City area that his education and experience were probably sufficient to receive a license to practice law. He did not pursue it, however, because he won election as presiding judge. [30]

While serving as president in 1947, Truman applied for a license to practice law. [31] A friend who was an attorney began working out the arrangements, and he informed Truman that his application had to be notarized. By the time Truman received this information he had changed his mind, so he never sought notarization. After the rediscovery of Truman's application, in 1996 the Missouri Supreme Court issued Truman a posthumous honorary law license. [32]

National Guard

Because he lacked the funds for college, Truman considered attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, which had no tuition, but he was refused an appointment because of poor eyesight. [29] He enlisted in the Missouri National Guard in 1905 and served until 1911 in the Kansas City-based Battery B, 2nd Missouri Field Artillery Regiment, in which he attained the rank of corporal. [33] At his induction, his eyesight without glasses was unacceptable 20/50 in the right eye and 20/400 in the left (past the standard for legal blindness). [34] The second time he took the test, he passed by secretly memorizing the eye chart. [35] He was described as 5 feet 10 inches tall, gray eyed, dark haired and of light complexion. [36]

World War I

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Truman rejoined Battery B, successfully recruiting new soldiers for the expanding unit, for which he was elected as their first lieutenant. [37] Before deployment to France, Truman was sent for training to Camp Doniphan, Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma when his regiment was federalized as the 129th Field Artillery. [38] The regimental commander during its training was Robert M. Danford, who later served as the Army's Chief of Field Artillery. [39] Truman later said he learned more practical, useful information from Danford in six weeks than from six months of formal Army instruction, and when Truman later served as an artillery instructor, he consciously patterned his approach on Danford's. [39]

Truman also ran the camp canteen with Edward Jacobson, a clothing store clerk he knew from Kansas City. Unlike most canteens funded by unit members, which usually lost money, the canteen operated by Truman and Jacobson turned a profit, returning each soldier's initial $2 investment and $10,000 in dividends in six months. [33] At Fort Sill, Truman met Lieutenant James M. Pendergast, nephew of Tom Pendergast, a Kansas City political boss, a connection that had a profound influence on Truman's later life. [40] [41]

In mid-1918, about one million soldiers of the American Expeditionary Forces were in France. [42] Truman was promoted to captain effective April 23, [43] and in July became commander of the newly arrived Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 35th Division. [44] [45] Battery D was known for its discipline problems, and Truman was initially unpopular because of his efforts to restore order. [33] Despite attempts by the men to intimidate him into quitting, Truman succeeded by making his corporals and sergeants accountable for discipline. He promised to back them up if they performed capably, and reduce them to private if they did not. [46] In an event memorialized in battery lore as "The Battle of Who Run", his soldiers began to flee during a sudden night attack by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains Truman succeeded at ordering his men to stay and fight, using profanity from his railroad days. The men were so surprised to hear Truman use such language that they immediately obeyed. [33]

Truman's unit joined in a massive prearranged assault barrage on September 26, 1918, at the opening of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. [47] They advanced with difficulty over pitted terrain to follow the infantry, and set up an observation post west of Cheppy. [47] On September 27, Truman saw through his binoculars an enemy artillery battery setting up across a river in a position allowing them to fire upon the neighboring 28th Division. [47] Truman's orders limited him to targets facing the 35th Division, but he ignored this and patiently waited until the Germans had walked their horses well away from their guns, ensuring they could not relocate out of range of Truman's battery. [47] He then ordered his men to open fire, and their attack destroyed the enemy battery. [47] His actions were credited with saving the lives of 28th Division soldiers who otherwise would have come under fire from the Germans. [48] [49] Truman was given a dressing down by his regimental commander, Colonel Karl D. Klemm, who threatened to convene a court-martial, but Klemm never followed through, and Truman was not punished. [47]

In other action during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Truman's battery provided support for George S. Patton's tank brigade, [50] and fired some of the last shots of the war on November 11, 1918. Battery D did not lose any men while under Truman's command in France. To show their appreciation of his leadership, his men presented him with a large loving cup upon their return to the United States after the war. [33]

The war was a transformative experience in which Truman manifested his leadership qualities. He had entered the service in 1917 as a family farmer who had worked in clerical jobs that did not require the ability to motivate and direct others, but during the war, he gained leadership experience and a record of success that greatly enhanced and supported his post-war political career in Missouri. [33]

Truman was brought up in the Presbyterian and Baptist churches, [51] but avoided revivals and sometimes ridiculed revivalist preachers. [52] He rarely spoke about religion, which to him, primarily meant ethical behavior along traditional Protestant lines. [53] Most of the soldiers he commanded in the war were Catholics, and one of his close friends was the 129th Field Artillery's chaplain, Monsignor L. Curtis Tiernan. [54] The two remained friends until Tiernan's death in 1960. [55] Developing leadership and interpersonal skills that later made him a successful politician helped Truman get along with his Catholic soldiers, as he did with soldiers of other Christian denominations and the unit's Jewish members. [56] [57]

Officers' Reserve Corps

Truman was honorably discharged from the Army as a captain on May 6, 1919. [58] In 1920 he was appointed a major in the Officers Reserve Corps. He became a lieutenant colonel in 1925 and a colonel in 1932. [59] In the 1920s and 1930s he commanded 1st Battalion, 379th Field Artillery, 102d Infantry Division. [60] After promotion to colonel, Truman advanced to command of the same regiment. [61]

After his election to the U.S. Senate, Truman was transferred to the General Assignments Group, a holding unit for less active officers, although he had not been consulted in advance. [62] Truman protested his reassignment, which led to his resumption of regimental command. [62] He remained an active reservist until the early 1940s. [63] Truman volunteered for active military service during World War II, but was not accepted, partly because of age, and partly because President Franklin D. Roosevelt desired Senators and Congressman who belonged to the military reserves to support the war effort by remaining in Congress, or by ending their active duty service and resuming their Congressional seats. [64] He was an inactive reservist from the early 1940s until retiring as a colonel in the then redesignated U.S. Army Reserve on January 20, 1953. [65]

Military awards and decorations

Truman was awarded a World War I Victory Medal with two battle clasps (for St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne) and a Defensive Sector Clasp. He was also the recipient of two Armed Forces Reserve Medals. [66]


CPT Harry S. Truman, MOARNG

As the thirty-third President of the United States, Harry S Truman made some of the most important decisions in American military history. He served as Commander-in Chief during the closing months of World War II after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He made the ultimate decision to use atomic weapons against the Japanese. In the summer of 1948, Truman signed legislation that reinstated Selective Service, and issued Executive Order 9981, ordering the desegregation of the armed forces. During the next year of Truman’s presidency, the U.S. became a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He also ordered U.S. troops to Korea after North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950.

While Truman made many command decisions as President, he also had an impressive military record of his own. An avid reader of military history, Truman had applied to West Point after graduating from high school, only to be rejected because of his abysmal eyesight. On 14 June 1905, Truman became a charter member of the newly formed Battery B of the Missouri National Guard. Some of Truman’s relatives, however, were less than ecstatic about his enlistment. Upon seeing him in his blue National Guard uniform, Truman’s grandmother, whose farm had been plundered by Union sympathizers from Kansas during the Civil War, said, “Harry, this is the first time since 1863 that a blue uniform has been in this house. Don’t bring it here again.”

Truman’s Battery – By Dominic D’Andrea (National Guard Heritage Series)

Truman served as battery clerk until discharged in 1911. After the U.S. entered the war against Germany in April 1917, Truman reenlisted in the National Guard despite being exempt from the draft. He was elected first lieutenant of Battery F, 2nd Missouri Field Artillery at the age of thirty-three. On 5 August 1917 the 2nd Missouri was federalized and redesignated the 129th Field Artillery Regiment. The regiment was assigned to the 60th Field Artillery Brigade, 35th Division. In September 1917 the 129th was sent to Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma, a post adjacent to Fort Sill, for training. While at Camp Doniphan, Truman was assigned the duties of regimental canteen officer. Under Truman’s direction, the regiment’s canteen turned a respectable profit, the only one on the post to do so.

On 29 March 1918 Truman and the 129th boarded the George Washington for the voyage to France. After arriving in France, Truman was promoted to captain on 11 July 1918 and given command of Battery D. Despite some self-doubt in his abilities, he proved to be a very capable artillery officer, displaying great courage and initiative while under enemy fire. He led the battery in actions in the Vosges, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Verdun. By the end of the war, Battery D had fired over 10,000 75mm rounds into the German lines. Truman received sterling evaluations from his superior officers (“an excellent battery commander…an excellent instructor…resourceful and dependable”), and his regimental commander recommended him for the rank of major in the Regular Army. But Truman declined the commission. Truman and the 129th returned to the U.S. and were mustered out on 6 May 1919.

Following his discharge from active duty, Truman accepted an appointment as a major in the Organized Reserve Corps. He took great pride in his military service and never missed an opportunity to wear his uniform in public. He maintained a close association with his wartime unit and his men continued to call him “Captain Harry” years after the war.

In December 1941, Truman, who was 56 at that time and held the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve, was serving as a U.S. Senator. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Truman presented himself to Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall and volunteered for active duty. Marshall refused, telling Truman, “We don’t need old stiffs like you—this will be a young man’s war.”

Today, the 129th Field Artillery, Missouri Army National Guard, Truman’s former unit, honors him in a unique way. The 129th maintains a Battery D, nicknamed “Truman’s Battery,” the only Battery D in the National Guard.


Truman MacArthur and the Korean War

During the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur challenged President Harry S. Truman's authority as foreign policy leader and commander in chief of the armed forces. This resulted in the first major test of civilian control of the military in American history.

General Douglas MacArthur was an American military hero. Like his father, a Civil War hero, MacArthur won the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor. Brilliant as well as brave, MacArthur graduated first in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Leading the 42nd Division in World War I, he was wounded three times. During World War II, he served in the Pacific theater, operating first in the Philippines. When his troops faced overwhelming opposition, he was ordered to Australia. Before leaving, he issued a famous promise, "I shall return." He put together an island-hopping strategy, which led to American forces recapturing the Philippines in 1944. By the war's end, MacArthur was supreme allied commander in the Pacific. His counterpart in the European theater was General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Following the war, MacArthur served as military governor of Japan for five years, getting rid of militarist influences and setting up a constitutional democracy.

Harry S. Truman also served his country as a soldier. Enlisting in the Army in World War I, he rose to the rank of captain and headed an artillery unit in France. He returned home to Missouri following the war, worked briefly in business, and entered politics. In 1934, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. President Franklin D. Roosevelt picked him as his running mate in 1944, replacing Vice President Henry Wallace for Roosevelt's fourth term in office. Inexperienced and unknown to most Americans, Truman assumed the presidency when Roosevelt died suddenly in 1945. As president, Truman immediately faced many difficult situations. He negotiated the German surrender. He decided to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. To stop Soviet expansion, he instituted a policy of containing communism. As part of this policy, he set up the Marshall Plan to send economic aid to Europe, and he established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to provide military security for Europe. In 1946, the Republicans gained control of Congress, and Truman seemed likely to lose the next election. Yet in the 1948 presidential election, Truman pulled an upset victory.

In 1950, war broke out in Korea. During this war, a major confrontation took place between Truman and MacArthur over the conduct of the war. MacArthur was the top commander of the American and other U.N. forces in Korea. Truman, as president, was MacArthur's superior. The U.S. Constitution designates the civilian president as the commander in chief of the armed forces and the one who sets American foreign policy.

North Korea Attacks

Korea had been a Japanese possession since 1910. Following the defeat of Japan in 1945, Soviet troops occupied Korea north of the 38th line of latitude (usually referred to as the 38th parallel). American troops occupied the area south of this line. By agreement, both Soviet and American forces withdrew from Korea in 1948. By this time, Korea as a practical matter had separated into two countries. North Korea, which bordered China, had become a Communist state heavily armed by the Soviet Union. South Korea maintained close ties with the United States, which still occupied nearby Japan under the command of General MacArthur.

In 1949, the Chinese Civil War ended. Victorious Chinese Communist forces drove the anti-Communist Nationalist Chinese off the China mainland to the island of Formosa (now called Taiwan). Soon after the victory of the Communists in China, news arrived that the Soviet Union had tested an atomic bomb.

President Truman's containment policy sought to stop Communist aggression, especially against Europe and Japan. But Truman administration officials made public statements that seemed to exclude Formosa and Korea as areas to be defended by the United States.

To the surprise of both Truman and MacArthur, North Korea attacked South Korea across the 38th Parallel on June 25, 1950. Moving quickly, and without seeking a declaration of war from Congress, President Truman ordered U.S. air and naval forces to attack targets north of the 38th parallel. He also authorized General MacArthur to send American ground troops from Japan to support the rapidly collapsing South Korean Army.

Several days after the invasion began, the United Nations passed a resolution calling for its members to aid South Korea in repelling the attack and restoring peace. This resolution should have been vetoed by the Soviet Union. But the Soviets were boycotting the United Nations for refusing to admit Communist China. Eventually, more than a dozen U.N. member nations under the overall command of General MacArthur entered the Korean War.

By the fall of 1950, the war was going badly for South Korea and its allies. The North Korean Army had cornered American, South Korean, and other U.N. troops in a small area around the southern port of Pusan. Defeat seemed inevitable.

But General MacArthur devised a bold and risky plan. The North Koreans had taken most of the Korean peninsula. He proposed landing troops from the sea at the port of Inchon far behind enemy lines. The troops would cut off enemy communications and supply lines, retake Seoul (the capital), and "hammer and destroy the North Koreans."

But Inchon seemed an improbable site. The approach was narrow and could be easily mined. The currents ran swift and made it hazardous for landing troops. Mud flats prevented any amphibious landing. The landing would have to be made on one of the three days each month when the tide covered the mud flats. Once ashore, the troops would have to climb sea walls and cliffs. The enemy could defend the port from the heights surrounding it. For all these reasons, many of the high command opposed an Inchon landing and proposed other sites.

But MacArthur believed that because Inchon was such an awful place for a landing, his troops would take the enemy by surprise, which they did on September 15. At the same time, the besieged U.N. troops in the south around Pusan also attacked. The combined forces drove the North Koreans above the 38th parallel in 15 days.

Next came perhaps the most fateful decisions of the Korean War. Pressed by MacArthur, Truman authorized him to pursue the North Korean troops north of the 38th parallel. The United States succeeded in getting a new U.N. resolution. It called for the destruction of the North Korean Army and the reunification of Korea under a democratic government.

American troops led the offensive beyond the 38th parallel, pushing the North Koreans toward the Yalu River, which separated Korea from Communist China. Despite assurances by the United States that U.N. troops would stop at the Yalu, the Chinese government warned that any foreign forces north of the 38th parallel posed a threat to China's security.

China Enters the War

Over the weekend of October 15-17, President Truman flew to Wake Island in the Pacific to meet General MacArthur for the first time. The most important question that Truman asked MacArthur was whether he thought China would enter the war. The general confidently replied that the Chinese would not enter the fighting, and the war would be over by Christmas. Anxious to wrap up the war, MacArthur ordered American and other U.N. troops to press on to the Yalu River. In doing this, he ignored the warnings of the Communist Chinese as well as a directive by military planners in Washington to send only South Korean troops into the provinces bordering China.

On November 25, 1950, nearly 200,000 Chinese soldiers poured across the Yalu River , forcing U.N. forces into a full retreat to the south. MacArthur demanded authority to bomb Chinese bases north of the Yalu in China itself. But fearing a widening of the war and possible entry of the Soviet Union, Truman and his advisors refused. Instead, they ordered him to organize a phased and orderly retreat. On December 29, Truman administration officials informed MacArthur that the United States had abandoned the goal of reunifying Korea.

MacArthur was infuriated at what he considered the Truman administration's sell-out of Korea. MacArthur proposed his own plan for victory. He wanted a complete blockade of the Communist Chinese coastline. He wanted to bomb industrial sites and other strategic targets within China. He wanted to bring Nationalist Chinese troops from Formosa to fight in Korea. Finally, he wanted the Nationalists to invade weak positions on the Communist Chinese mainland.

Appalled that MacArthur's plan could launch World War III, Truman and the top military leaders in Washington quickly rejected it. But MacArthur continued to publicly argue for his plan. He also criticized the "politicians in Washington" for refusing to allow him to bomb Chinese bases north of the Yalu River. He did all this in spite of an order from his superiors in Washington not to make any public statements on foreign or military policy without first getting approval from the Department of State or Defense. MacArthur was on a collision course with his commander in chief.

Truman Fires MacArthur

When the Chinese offensive stalled just south of the 38th parallel in the spring of 1951, Truman began to work on a peace proposal. This would have re-established the original border between North and South Korea and removed all foreign troops from both countries.

A few days after MacArthur received notice of Truman's peace proposal, he announced his own terms for ending the fighting. In a public statement, again without getting any clearance from Washington, MacArthur taunted the Chinese for failing to conquer South Korea. He then went on to threaten to attack China unless the Chinese gave up the fight. He even said he would meet the enemy military commander to arrange how to end the war.

MacArthur's announcement was an ultimatum to China. It completely torpedoed Truman's diplomatic efforts to negotiate a cease fire. America's allies wondered who was really in charge of U.S. foreign and defense policy. Truman was stunned. "By this act," he later wrote, "I could no longer tolerate his insubordination." A few days later, MacArthur's Republican Party supporters in Congress released a letter from him in which he declared, "There is no substitute for victory."

Truman met for several days with his top advisors. In the end, they all agreed that MacArthur had to go because "the military must be controlled by civilian authority in the country." Truman acted quickly without giving MacArthur the chance to reconsider his views or to resign. His dismissal was final and complete. The hero of the war in the Pacific against the Japanese was stripped of his command of U.N. troops in Korea, his command of all U.S. forces in East Asia, and his position as the head of the American occupation of Japan. MacArthur's half-century of military service had ended.

In a written public statement, Truman acknowledged MacArthur "as one of our greatest commanders." But he went on to explain that "military commanders must be governed by the policies and directives issued to them in the manner provided by our laws and Constitution."

Public reaction was overwhelmingly against the firing of MacArthur. Republican congressional leaders invited him to address Congress on his views about how to conduct the war. The Republicans also called for a congressional investigation of American foreign policy in Asia and even discussed "possible impeachments." Tens of thousands of telegrams opposing MacArthur's dismissal flooded the White House. President Truman himself was booed at a baseball game. A Gallup Poll, however, revealed that despite MacArthur's enormous popularity, only 30 percent of the public agreed with his view of expanding the war to Communist China.

MacArthur returned to the United States and was welcomed by huge emotional crowds. In his televised address to Congress, he repeated his message that, "In war, indeed, there can be no substitute for victory."

Later, appearing before a joint House and Senate committee, MacArthur argued that the fight for Korea was the critical test of America's resolve to stop Communist aggression. Failure to stop it in Asia, he said, would surely lead to future defeats in Europe and elsewhere in the world. But under questioning, MacArthur admitted that he did not know much about America's foreign and defense policies outside of Asia or how they might be affected by expanding the Korean War.

Truman administration officials and military leaders also testified before the congressional committee. They contradicted MacArthur's judgment that an attack on China would not draw in the Soviet Union. They further stated that the United States would have to bear most of the fighting because our allies opposed an expanded war in Asia.

MacArthur had tried and failed to win the Republican nomination for president in 1944 and 1948. In 1952, taking advantage of his popularity as a critic of Truman's Korean War policies, he tried again. But this time he was beaten by another war hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower. After winning the presidency, Eisenhower largely adopted Truman's peace plan. He negotiated a cease fire in 1953 that re-established the border between North and South Korea at the 38th parallel.

Later, as MacArthur realized that nations could exterminate each other with nuclear weapons, he denounced war. On his death bed in 1964, he warned President Lyndon Johnson not to send American ground troops to Vietnam or anywhere on the Asian mainland. This was the final ironic twist in the life of the general who had once called for America to go to war against China.


TWE Remembers: Truman’s Decision to Intervene in Korea

Seventy years ago today, President Harry Truman ordered the U.S. military to aid South Korea in repulsing an invasion from North Korea. The decision had geopolitical consequences that are still felt to this day. The decision was equally momentous for its impact on America’s constitutional practice. Truman acted without seeking congressional authorization either in advance or in retrospect. He instead justified his decision on his authority as commander in chief. The move dramatically expanded presidential power at the expense of Congress, which eagerly cooperated in the sacrifice of its constitutional prerogatives.

Truman’s decision hardly fit the framers’ vision of how the war power would be exercised. When Pierce Butler of South Carolina proposed at the Constitutional Convention to vest the war power with the president, no one seconded the motion and a fellow delegate exclaimed that he "never expected to hear in a republic a motion to empower the Executive alone to declare war.” James Wilson, a leading voice at the convention, assured the Pennsylvania state ratifying convention that the new Constitution “will not hurry us into war it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress.” Alexander Hamilton offered similar reassurances in Federalist 69. The president’s role as commander in chief “would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces” while Congress would possess the powers of “DECLARING of war and…RAISING and REGULATING of fleets and armies.”

The framers’ restricted vision of presidential war-making powers carried over into practice. In 1810, James Madison, a man who knew something about original intent, dismissed as unconstitutional a Senate-passed bill that would have delegated to him the authority to order the Navy to protect American merchant ships against attacks from British and French raiders. His reasoning? Only Congress could take the country from peace to war. Nearly forty years later, President James Buchanan wrote that “without the authority of Congress the President can not fire a hostile gun in any case except to repel the attacks of an enemy.” Just nine years before Truman unilaterally decided to defend Korea, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan even though the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor—an attack that clearly met Buchanan’s (and the framers’) standard of when a president could act without soliciting congressional approval.

James M. Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power. 2-4 times weekly.

Truman clearly believed that time was essence, and with the memory of Munich hovering in the background, that the United States had to counter communist aggression. But he couldn’t argue he didn’t have time to go to Congress or that Congress couldn’t act quickly. Congress was in session when North Korea invaded and almost certainly would have endorsed his decision. And Truman knew from experience that Congress could act swiftly. FDR asked for a declaration of war against Japan the day after Pearl Harbor. Congress provided it within hours.

Truman also couldn’t argue that he hadn’t been reminded that the Constitution gave the war power to Congress. Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio, one of the leading Republicans on Capitol Hill at the time, took to the Senate floor on June 28 to argue that “there is no legal authority for what he [Truman] has done.” Nor could Truman argue that the Korean conflict didn’t constitute war in a constitutional sense, even if he did downplay the significance of his decision. (At a press conference on June 29, Truman denied the country was at war, prompting a journalist to ask, “would it be correct…to call this a police action?” Truman answered simply, “Yes.”) The framers understood the difference between full-scale and limited wars—or what they would have called “perfect” versus “imperfect” wars. Over the years, Congress had authorized many small-scale conflicts. The Supreme Court had even ruled that Congress’s war power encompassed both large and small-scale conflicts and that when Congress authorized limited wars the president could not go beyond what Congress permitted. And, of course, the Korean War was “limited” only in the sense that it was smaller in scope than the two world wars.

Truman would argue that he was obligated to act because the UN Security Council had called on UN members to repel the attack and that his decision was in keeping with past practice. He in fact had decided to intervene in Korea before the UN Security Council voted, and he couldn’t assume the Council would vote as it did. (Had the Soviets not boycotted the meeting for unrelated reasons, they would have blocked action.) More important, he was not legally obligated or empowered to respond to the UN’s call. The Senate’s approval of the UN Charter and Congress’s subsequent passage of the UN Participation Act of 1945 were explicitly predicated on agreement that UN membership did not override Congress’s war power. (Precisely that fear had helped torpedo Senate approval of the Treaty of Versailles a quarter century before.) The list of supposed precedents of unilateral presidential actions, which were presumed somehow to have put a “gloss” on constitutional meaning, was unimpressive. As a leading legal scholar at the time noted, the list consisted of “fights with pirates, landings of small naval contingents on barbarous or semi-barbarous coasts, the dispatch of small bodies of troops to chase bandits or cattle rustlers across the Mexican border and the like.”

Truman in the end acted because he believed, contrary to what the framers envisioned and the historical record showed, that as commander-in-chief he had the authority to order U.S. troops into combat. Indeed, when asked after he left office whether he still would have intervened in Korea had the UN Security Council failed to approve a response, he answered: “No question about it.”

Truman was able to establish the precedent that presidents can take the country to war, though, because members of Congress were unwilling, Taft’s complaints notwithstanding, to defend their constitutional power from executive encroachment. Truman met with fourteen leading members of Congress on Tuesday, June 27, shortly after he ordered the U.S. military to move toward combat status. According to Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s telling, lawmakers responded to the news that the United States would come to the aid of South Korea with a “general chorus of approval” while saying nothing about taking the issue to Capitol Hill. When Truman met with congressional leaders again three days later, moments after he committed U.S. ground troops to the war, Senate Minority Leader Kenneth Wherry (R-NE), who had not attended the first meeting, argued that Truman should have gone to Congress. Senator Alexander Smith (R-NJ) then suggested, but didn’t insist, that the president still seek congressional approval. Truman promised to consider the request. As the meeting ended, Representative Dewey Short (R-MO), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, endorsed Truman’s decision to act unilaterally.

Acheson subsequently recommended that Congress pass a resolution to “commend”—but not “authorize”—the action the United States—not the president—had taken in Korea. However, Acheson argued that Congress, rather than the president, should initiate the process. Truman raised Acheson’s recommendation and a draft resolution the State Department had prepared with Senator Scott Lucas (D-IL) in a meeting on July 3. The Senate Democratic leader had no appetite to take up any resolution. He argued that “that the president had very properly done what he had to do without consulting the Congress” and that “many members of Congress had suggested to him that the president should keep away from Congress and avoid debate.” Truman gladly followed the advice.

The refusal of Lucas and other lawmakers to force a vote was hardly the first time that Congress sacrificed its constitutional prerogatives in the service of immediate political needs. In doing so, however, it helped greatly expand the boundary of presidential power. To be sure, Truman’s immediate successors were more impressed by how the Korean War consumed his presidency than by the authority he asserted in entering it. Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson both saw Truman’s experience showing the need, as the saying went, to get Congress in on the takeoffs in foreign policy if they wanted it around for the crash landings. So whether it was the crises over Dien Bien Phu and Formosa, or the Gulf of Tonkin incident, their initial instincts were to turn to Congress for resolutions to bless their authority to act. (After his experience in Vietnam, Johnson lamented that he had “failed to reckon on one thing: the parachute: I got them on the takeoff, but a lot of them bailed out before the end of the flight.”)

The fears that drove Eisenhower and LBJ eventually receded. What remained—particularly in the legal briefs prepared over the years by White House lawyers for Democratic and Republican presidents alike—was the contention that Truman showed that presidents can go to war on their own initiative. Members of Congress have long to sought to put that genie back in the box. They have largely failed, as the Kosovo War, the Libyan intervention, and the Yemen War all attest. Powers easily given away are exceedingly difficult to reclaim.

Noah Mulligan and Anna Shortridge contributed to the preparation of this post.


Reasons For The Cold War

For instance, Korea can be seen as an infant, through the right nurturing and teachings they can be shaped and formed into anything a superior power wants them to be. In this case, the USSR wanting to expand their communist ideals on a newly independent nation, causing a rise of communism , as Prime Minister of Britain Winston Churchill says “a shadow [being] fallen upon.” This is where the USSR saw their opportunity to expand. However the United States also has this similar view as to why they wanted to posses Korea, they felt that since they defeated Japan, almost single-handedly, they felt no obligation to give the USSR any territory. In a way the US is similar to the USSR, in their reasons as to why they want to be involved in Korean politics. Both wanting to share their ideals and “help” this newly independent nation.&hellip


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“Mr. President, everybody is asking in this country, are we or are we not at war?” a reporter said. “We are not at war,” Truman replied. (As an undeclared war by all participants, the conflict helped bring the term “police action" into wide use.)

The fighting ended on July 27, 1953, with the signing of an armistice. Under the agreement, a demilitarized zone separated North and South Korea. In April 2018, the leaders of two nations met at the demilitarized zone and vowed to sign a peace treaty by the end of the year that would formally end the war.

“The recognition that the security of Japan required a non-hostile Korea led directly to [Truman’s] decision to intervene. … The essential point … is that the American response to the North Korean attack stemmed from considerations of U.S. policy toward Japan,” Kim Yong-jin, an analyst at the University of Maryland, wrote in 1973, 20 years after the truce had ended the fighting.

Recent studies put the full death toll in battle on all sides at about 1.2 million.

(SOURCE: “TRUMAN,” BY DAVID MCCULLOUGH (1992) “MAJOR POWERS AND KOREA,” KIM YONG-JIN (1973)

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President Truman Orders U.S. Forces to Korea - HISTORY

The Power of Independent Thinking

In U.S. history, many of the most drastic incursions on private property rights have sprung from the conjunction of a threatened work stoppage, owing to a union-management dispute, and the government’s desire to expedite a war-production program. Such a conjunction underlay the government’s nationalization of the railroads, the telegraph lines, and the Smith & Wesson Company during World War I and the railroads, the coal mines, the midwest trucking operators, and many other companies during World War II. The conjunction occurred again during the Korean War, but on that occasion the government failed in its attempt to seize the steel industry.

During the Korean War, the government imposed controls of raw materials, production, shipping, credit, wages, and prices. When the wage-price controls created a collective-bargaining impasse in the steel industry, threatening a nationwide strike, President Harry S Truman ordered the Secretary of Commerce on April 8, 1952, to seize and operate most of the country’s steel mills for the ostensible purpose of maintaining production of critical munitions.

Owners of the seized properties obtained a court injunction against the seizure, and an appeal of that injunction to the U.S. Supreme Court gave rise to one of the “great cases” in constitutional law, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. et al. v. Sawyer. 1 Although the Court found the president’s actions to be unconstitutional, its decision did not signify a triumph of private rights or a significant check on the government’s exercise of de facto emergency powers.

By 1952, Truman had become an unpopular president, even among Democrats, and his attempted seizure evinced a power struggle with a hostile Congress. He had alternative ways to proceed. Although no current statute authorized him to nationalize the steel industry, he had authority under the Taft-Hartley Act to order an eighty-day “cooling-off period,” during which the union-management dispute might have been settled without a strike. The pro-union president chose not to issue such an order, however, because he opposed the Taft-Hartley Act, which Congress had passed it over his veto in 1947. He did not ask Congress to authorize his seizure of the steel industry.

Instead, Truman rested his seizure order on legally vague national-emergency grounds, citing his inherent powers as president and as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. 2 Afterward, he and his official spokesman sought clumsily “to transform the steel crisis from a particular labor dispute into a broader battle against ‘big business,’” a rendering that had little resonance. 3

Why did Truman proceed on such flimsy legal grounds? Although historians have advanced various explanations related to the administration’s political calculations, 4 few writers seem to have noted another possibility: The president had seized many industrial properties in labor disputes during past “national emergencies,” and therefore he probably did not worry about getting away with another seizure. Between April 17, 1945, and August 27, 1946, Truman had seized twenty-eight other industrial properties—sometimes entire industries, such as the railroads and the meat packers—in labor disputes. 5 High-handedness might have become second nature for Truman. Historian Maeva Marcus notes, “In view of the Supreme Court’s construction of presidential power during wartime, Truman and the White House staff were confident that the courts would uphold the seizure.” 6

The composition of the Supreme Court might have encouraged such confidence. In a recent recollection of Youngstown, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist observes that “all of the nine Justices who heard the case had been appointed by Democratic presidents—five by Roosevelt and four by Truman—and yet by a vote of six to three they ruled against Truman’s authority to seize the mills.” 7 Roosevelt and Truman, however, had distinctly different followings. Four of the six majority votes came from Roosevelt appointees two of the three dissents came from Truman appointees.

Justice Hugo Black’s majority opinion, which was really a ruling on constitutional separation of powers rather than on emergency or inherent presidential powers, found intolerable the president’s failure to cite specific legislative authority for his action. On emergency powers, however, the justices’ seven opinions—one for each for the six justices in the majority plus one for the three dissenters—spoke more in favor than in opposition. The three dissenters argued that “a [presidential] power of seizure has been accepted throughout our history” (p. 700). Justice Tom Clark, who supported the majority result but not the reasoning of Justice Black’s opinion, agreed (p. 662). Justice Robert Jackson, in a concurring opinion, emphasized “the ease, expedition and safety with which Congress can grant and has granted large emergency powers” (p. 653). Only two justices (Black and Douglas) explicitly rejected the claim of inherent presidential power to seize the industry in the absence of congressional authorization. 8

The outcome: The steel seizure itself was forbidden, but in view of the justices’ reasoning and the fragmentation of their opinions, the vulnerability of private property rights to emergency suspension remained as great as before—which is to say, very vulnerable indeed, as subsequent events have demonstrated repeatedly. 9 In Youngstown, as in many other cases, the Court read the Constitution not as a bulwark against government oppression of private citizens but rather as the institutional ground rules according to which high officials in the three branches of government conduct their internecine struggles for supremacy over civil society.

1. 343 U.S. 579 (1952). The defendant Sawyer was the Secretary of Commerce, Charles Sawyer.

2. Executive Order 10340 is reproduced in the case decision, where Truman’s grounds for issuing the order appear on p. 591.

3. Maeva Marcus, Truman and the Steel Seizure Case: The Limits of Presidential Power (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), p. 99.

4. On the political maneuvering, see Marcus, pp. 58-82.

5. My count from the compilation in Youngstown, pp. 624-27.

6. Marcus, p. 102. See also pp. 178-94, and Paul L. Murphy, The Constitution in Crisis Times, 1918-1969 (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), p. 289.

7. Remarks of the Chief Justice, Dedication of the Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown, New York, May 16, 2003, at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/publicinfo/speeches/sp_05-16-03.html.

8. Marcus, p. 216 and Alan I. Bigel, The Supreme Court on Emergency Powers, Foreign Affairs, and Protection of Civil Liberties, 1935-1975 (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1986), pp. 135-50.

9. For examples, see Robert Higgs and Charlotte Twight, “Economic Warfare and Private Property Rights: Recent Episodes and Their Constitutionality,” Journal of Private Enterprise 3 (Fall 1987): 9-14.


History Ch. 27

he admitted that he had lied throughout the committee hearings.

, A conflict that was between the US and the Soviet Union. The nations never directly confronted eachother on the battlefield but deadly threats went on for years.

, a policy of creating strategic alliances in order to check the expansion of a hostile power or ideology or to force it to negotiate pecefully

southern Democrats who opposed Truman's position on civil rights. They caused a split in the Democratic party.

An international organization of 183 countries, established in 1947 with the goal of promoting cooperation and exchange between nations, and to aid the growth of international trade.

, Conflict that began with North Korea's invasion of South Korea and came to involve the United Nations (primarily the United States) allying with South Korea and the People's Republic of China allying with North Korea.

A plan that the US came up with to revive war-torn economies of Europe. This plan offered $13 billion in aid to western and Southern Europe.

Said struggle b/w USSR and US was one of permanent total war, and that Amer. citizens must be prepared to give up some of their benefits associated w/ their freedom to defend their way of life.

, A process by which banks draw lines on a map and refuse to lend money to purchase or improve property within the boundaries.

, First established in 1947 after Britain no longer could afford to provide anti-communist aid to Greece and Turkey, it pledged to provide U.S. military and economic aid to any nation threatened by communism.

, An alliance between the Soviet Union and other Eastern European nations. This was in response to the NATO


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