Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D.
The most important constant in the history of the United States of America has been the implacable hostility of the British Empire and the London-centered British oligarchy. This hostility generated the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, in addition to many lesser clashes. But after Gettysburg and Vicksburg in 1863, the reality of US military and naval superiority forced London to come to terms with the inevitable persistence of the United States on the world scene as a great power for another century and more. By 1895-1898, galloping British decadence, expressed as industrial decline combined with a looming inability to maintain global naval domination, suggested to the circles of the soon-to-be King Edward VII the advisability of harnessing the power and resources of the United States to the British imperial chariot. Thus was born the London-Washington Special Relationship, under which the United States was established as London’s auxiliary, proxy, and dupe through such stages as the 1898 Anglo-American rapprochement before Manila Bay, Edward VII’s sponsorship of Theodore Roosevelt’s aspirations to “Anglo-Saxon” respectability and, most decisively, Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war on Germany in April, 1917. Under the Special Relationship, London has parlayed its financial and epistemological dominance over the United States into profound and often decisive influence over US directions in foreign policy and finance.
The essence of British policy has long been embodied in the immoral doctrine of geopolitics or the quest for the balance of power. For centuries this meant that the New Venice on the Thames habitually concluded an alliance with the second-strongest power in Europe so as to checkmate the strongest continental power. Naturally this approach conjured up the danger that in case of “success,” the second-strongest continental power of today might become the strongest of tomorrow, and sometimes strong enough to threaten London. London therefore did everything possible to guarantee that their continental surrogates of today received the maximum possible punishment so that their interlude of alliance with London, even if victorious on paper, left them in absolute prostration and deprived of the ability to threaten the British. In this way, London’s enemies and London’s allies embarked over the centuries on converging roads to ruin. After antagonizing Spain, Holland, France, Russia and Germany as both friends and foes over several centuries, the British turned in the early years of our own century to the Special Relationship with the US. The onset of this Special Relationship coincided roughly with Britain’s implicit loss of world maritime supremacy, starting in the Pacific.
The Special Relationship has meant that during most of the twentieth century, the British have had no choice but to batten for dear life onto an alliance with the strongest world power, the United States, and have thus been deprived by force majeure of their preferred option of allying with various powers against the dominant and bitterly resented United States. But this instinctive impulse, although dissembled, has periodically erupted into full view, as in the case of the Nazi King Edward VIII, Lady Astor, and the 1930’s Cliveden set, who favored an alliance with Hitler, not with Roosevelt. Today the British writer John Charmley expresses a retrospective desire for a deal with Hitler in 1940, rather than an alliance with the US. Another celebrated case was the 1956 Suez crisis, when atavistic Anglo-French colonial reflexes brought on a confrontation with the Eisenhower administration.
The British response to their predicament has been to act out their hatred against the United States surreptitiously, in the form of treachery, by betraying their American “ally” through more or less covert collusion with a series of powers hostile to the United States. If the British had richly earned the universal obloquy of “Perfidious Albion” during the time of their world naval domination, then surely new and historically unknown dimensions of perfidy have been added during the time of British decadence when they have been forced to conduct their duplicitous strategy from the behind the shelter of the Special Relationship. British perfidy has assumed its greatest dimensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
This essay will concentrate on four important episodes of London’s anti-American operations conducted especially in the Asia- Pacific area under the aegis of the Special Relationship:
- The Anglo-American rivalry for world naval domination from 1916 to about 1938, which brought the United States to the brink of war with London in 1920-21 and again in 1927-28, with the virtual certainty that war with London would mean war with London’s ally, Japan.
- World War II in the Pacific, during which the British attempted to maximize US losses in the struggle against Japan by depriving Gen. MacArthur of logistical support and forcing a retreat to the Brisbane line while Japan occupied northern and central Australia. By then sponsoring a strategy of bloody frontal assault against a series of well consolidated Japanese strong points, the British hoped to prolong the Pacific war until as late as 1955, decimating American forces in a manner comparable to France’s horrendous losses in World War I.
- The Korean War, in which the initial North Korean invasion was openly invited by British and London-controlled Harrimanite networks. When Communist China intervened against Gen. MacArthur’s forces, the British insisted on imposing the straightjacket of “limited war” or cabinet warfare on the US response, yielding immense military advantage to Mao while the British supplied Mao’s forces through Hong Kong. At the same time, the British triple agent network of Philby-Maclean-Burgess-Blunt-Lord Victor Rothschild provided Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang with all vital US military dispatches. The British goal was to build up the Maoist regime as a counter to US Pacific hegemony.
- The Vietnam War, in which the Anglophile Harriman-Rusk-Bundy-McNamara group reversed the Kennedy-MacArthur policy of non-intervention after the London-directed assassination of Kennedy in November, 1963. Key encouragement for the US buildup in Vietnam was provided by Sir Robert Thompson of British intelligence, allegedly the world’s leading expert on guerrilla warfare. Thompson was a friend of Kissinger who later advised Nixon, and claims to be the first Britisher allowed to participate in a meeting of the US National Security Council. Functioning as an advisor to President Diem in Saigon, Thompson was also the leading author of the “counterinsurgency” strategy which guaranteed that the US effort would end in bloody failure while US society was convulsed and Weimarized by conflict over the war.
British-US Naval Rivalry in World War I and the Interwar Years
“…the relations of the two countries [Great Britain and the United States] are beginning to assume the same character as that [sic] of England and Germany before the war.” —Colonel House at Versailles [Seymour, iv.p. 495]
After the US had entered World War I on the British side in April, 1917, Washington and London were, formally speaking, close military allies. But this did not prevent acute tensions from developing over the issue of the size of the American battleship fleet and the threat it posed to British naval supremacy, which London had jealously defended against all comers since Lord Nelson’s victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805.
The American threat to British supremacy in capital ships (battleships and battle cruisers, which at the time were the decisive weapons in any fleet action) had emerged in 1916, before the US entry into the war. The US naval construction bill that became law in 1916 called for building 156 new warships, including 16 capital ships (10 battleships and 6 battle cruisers). If these ships had been built, the United States would have achieved theoretical naval parity with Great Britain and would have enjoyed a defensive superiority over the British in any future confrontation because of the better qualities of the US ships and because of the American geographical position. In 1918, Secretary of the Navy Daniels proposed doubling the 1916 program, which would have been the coup de grâce for Britannia’s rule of the waves.
The British were horrified by the prospect of seeing their battle fleet outclassed by the United States. Even US-UK parity was abhorrent to Sir Winston Churchill, who told the House of Commons in November 1918: “Nothing in the world, nothing that you may think of, or dream of, or anyone may tell you; no arguments, however specious; no appeals however seductive, must lead you to abandon that naval supremacy on which the life of our country depends.” [Buckley, p. 25]
The British argued that the United States ought to build destroyers and other convoy escort craft, along with freighters. These would be useful in the war against Germany, but of far less utility in a possible later showdown with London. Sir Eric Geddes, the First Lord of the Admiralty came to the US in October 1918 to agitate the threat of a German submarine offensive in the hopes of pushing the Wilson administration in the desired direction. In the event, only one battleship of those called for in the 1916 program was ever built, and Britain kept maritime domination until 1942-43.
The issue of naval supremacy generated a bitter US-UK conflict at Versailles. The German High Seas fleet, previously the second most powerful navy in the world, was interned by the British at Scapa Flow. Elements of the London oligarchy wanted to incorporate the most powerful German units into the Royal Navy, thus re-enforcing British predominance on the world’s oceans, but this plan was opposed by parts of the US government. The issue was settled when the German ships were scuttled by their own crews.
But with Germany eliminated as a naval contender, Washington was gripped by the uneasy awareness that there were now only two battle fleets left in the North Atlantic – the British and the American. American anxiety was heightened by the British alliance with Japan, the number three world naval power, which threatened the US in the Pacific. Given the British track record, the stage was set for a possible US-UK naval rivalry which might lead to war. A memo prepared for Wilson by the US Navy in April 1919 recalled the ominous fact that “every commercial rival of the British Empire has eventually found itself at war with Great Britain – and has been defeated…We are setting out to be the greatest commercial rival of Great Britain on the sea.” Even the Anglophile Wilson wrote some time later that “it is evident to me that we are on the eve of a commercial war of the severest sort, and I am afraid that Great Britain will prove capable of as great commercial savagery as Germany has displayed for so many years in her competitive methods.” Under these circumstances, the cry for a “navy second to none” was increasingly persuasive.
The British government made plain their intention to cling to naval supremacy, if necessary engaging in an all-out naval race with Washington. In the spring of 1919 British Prime Minister David Lloyd George told Wilson’s advisor Col. House “Great Britain would spend her last guinea to keep a navy superior to that of the United States or any other power.” [Buckley, p. 21]
The clashes at Versailles quickly became so heated that the threat of war was raised by the American side. The patriot Admiral William S. Benson, the US Chief of Naval Operations, warned the British at Paris that if they persisted in demanding naval supremacy, “I can assure you that it will mean but one thing and that is war between Great Britain and the United States.” [Buckley, p. 2]
This explosive conflict was defused by the Anglophile Col. House through an exchange of memoranda with the British delegate Lord Robert Cecil. In these memos of 10 April 1919, the British agreed to support Wilson’s chimera of a League of Nations, and not to object to an affirmation of the Monroe Doctrine being placed in the League Covenant. Wilson promised the British to postpone vessels called for in the 1916 plan but not yet laid down, which froze the vast majority.
The House-Cecil secret diplomacy solved nothing, in part because of the complications introduced by Britain’s ally, the Japanese Empire. Although this salient fact has been much obscured by the events of the Second World War, it must be recalled that for the first two decades of this century, the Japanese and British Empires were the closest of allies. This relationship had been inaugurated by British King Edward VII in the framework of his overall post-Boer War revamping of the British strategic posture, and had been proven useful to London during the Russo-Japanese war. It must be stressed that the growth of an aggressive and expansionist imperialist faction in Japan would have been unthinkable without British support.
Under the aegis of the British alliance, Japanese power had grown rapidly as rival powers were eliminated seriatim. First the Russian Empire was defeated in 1905, and the Russian fleet virtually annihilated by Admiral Togo. Then, during World War I, the Japanese, still closely allied with London, joined the Allies and attacked German bases and colonies in the Far East, eliminating the German presence in the Pacific. Since France was being bled white by trench warfare, that country also had no resources left for a naval presence east of Suez. This left Japan as the masters of the western Pacific, well placed for encroachments on China under their “21 demands.”
There were rumors at Versailles that the British were planning to transfer to Japan some of their Queen Elizabeth fast battleships; these were the best superdreadnoughts in the world, combining the armament and armor of a battleship with the speed of a battle cruiser, and had been the one bright spot in the dismal British performance at the 1916 Battle of Jutland.
Even worse, from the US point of view, was the fact that Japan had during the war seized from Germany the Pacific island groups of the Marianas, the Carolines, and the Marshals. Few of the American soldiers and marines who fought on these island chains during World War II were aware that they had been acquired for Japan at Versailles under British sponsorship. Since these island groupings were astride the US line of naval communications to Guam and the Philippines, the Japanese mandate over these islands was a time bomb ticking towards a new conflict. Thus in the Pacific no less than in Europe did Versailles make a new world conflict virtually inevitable.
The ancient British maxim of allying with the number three power against the number two power dictated an Anglo-Japanese common front against the United States, and spokesmen for the British oligarchy argued the case for this policy in the secret councils of Whitehall. F. Ashton-Gwatkin of the Far Eastern Department of the British Foreign Office offered the following considerations for the conduct of British policy in case of war between the United States and Britain’s oldest major ally, Japan: Great Britain might find it “impossible” to remain neutral in the event of a US-Japanese conflict. The US “can manage without us, but Japan cannot.” Geographical and economic factors would push London towards a “pro-Japanese intervention, in spite of the fact that our natural sympathies would be on the American side.” “In our own material interest we should have to take action, and perhaps armed action, to prevent the United States of America from reducing Japan to complete bankruptcy.” A Japanese-US war for Ashton Gwatkin would represent a “calamity to the British Empire, since victory for either side would upset the balance of power in Asia. [Memorandum by Ashton-Gwatkin, “British Neutrality in the Event of a Japanese-American War,” October 10, 1921, Foreign Office F.3012/2905/23 at Public Record Office, London, cited in Buckley, p. 28].
In plain language, London would line up with Tokyo for war against Washington. By the winter of 1920-21, a war scare was developing on the Potomac. The combined British and Japanese fleets would far outclass the US, forcing the American navy on the defensive in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. A war beginning with a direct clash with the British fleet was becoming thinkable, and in that case the Japanese were considered as certain to join in. A clash with Japan in the Pacific was even more plausible, and the British response might come along the lines theorized by Ashton-Gwatkin.
The British for their part were alarmed that Woodrow Wilson, their willing stooge of 1917, was about to be superseded by the Republican Sen. Warren G. Harding of Ohio, who had won the 1920 election over the Democrat Cox, who promised more Wilsonianism, Harding was a small-town newspaper editor with political roots similar to those of William McKinley, who had been the last nationalist US president. Harding had been a strong protectionist and had opposed the League of Nations. Harding had usually voted with the pro-navy block of senators, and had insisted that the US should be “the most eminent of maritime nations” with a navy “equal to the aspirations” of the country. If Harding had acted on these ideas as President, the US would have been destined to seize naval supremacy.
Harding became the target of a campaign of denigration and scandal-mongering with the standard London trademark. London’s assets harped on the theme that Harding had been chosen in a “smoke-filled room” at the GOP convention. The London destabilization of the Harding administration centered on the Teapot Dome affair. Naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming, and Elk Hills, California, had been transferred to the Department of the Interior and sold to private investors, including Sinclair Oil, by Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall. Fall was accused of having accepted a $100,000 bribe. A key figure in the emergence of the scandal was Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and the son of the Anglophile President.
In August, 1923, as he was contemplating a run for a second term, Harding toured the western United States and Alaska by rail. After passing through Vancouver, British Columbia, he headed south and became ill. His complaint was first diagnosed as ptomaine poisoning caused by eating rotten crabs. Published accounts contend that Harding had in reality suffered a heart attack. Harding was taken to San Francisco, where he was stricken by pneumonia. He seemed to be recovering when he was killed by a cerebral thrombosis, although no autopsy was ever carried out. Wild rumors alleged that he had been poisoned by his own wife. At present, Harding belongs with William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor on the list of American presidents who died in office under highly suspicious circumstances, with the British always the prime suspects in case of foul play.
Harding was succeeded upon his death by Vice President Calvin Coolidge, from the New England oligarchical family.
Harding was influenced as President by Republican figures like the Wall Street lawyer and former Secretary of State Elihu Root and the Boston Brahmin Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Harding’s cabinet included Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, a former New York governor and Supreme Court Justice who had been the 1916 GOP presidential candidate. Another influential was GOP Senator Oscar Underwood. It was through the influence of these men that Harding was persuaded to invite Britain, Japan, and other powers to an international conference on the limitation of naval armaments and related questions that convened in Washington on November 12, 1921, just three years after the Armistice that terminated hostilities in World War I.
In a dramatic speech at the opening of the Washington Naval Conference, Secretary Hughes made a sweeping proposal for the reduction of naval armaments, offering to scrap 15 older pre- dreadnought battleships and to abort the construction of 15 new battleships (those of the 1916 plan) provided the British scrapped 19 older battleships and stopped building 4 more. The Japanese were invited to scrap 10 older ships. Hughes also proposed a 10-year naval holiday during which no new ships would be built. At the end of the Washington conference tonnage ratios for the capital ships of the leading naval powers were set at 5 for the US, 5 for Britain, 3 for Japan, and 1.7 for France and Italy.
The Washington conference was also much concerned with Pacific and Far Eastern questions. This conference produced the so-called Nine-Power regarding China, which pledged its signatories “to respect the sovereignty, the independence, and the territorial and administrative integrity of China.” [Buckley, 152] This was meaningless rhetoric, since China was at this time divided into contending warlord regimes. Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931 in an action that can be seen as the beginning of World War II.
The United States emerged from the Washington Conference as the big loser. The British were economically exhausted and unable to match US fleet construction. Japan lacked the industrial base necessary to keep pace. If the construction of the 15 new battleships had been carried through, the US would have assumed naval supremacy by the second half of the 1920’s. This would have been the case even if the British had kept a nominal lead in battleships, because many British units would have been obsolete and inferior. In particular, if US naval building had proceeded at this pace through the 1920’s and into the 1930’s, there is reason to believe that Japan might have been deterred from undertaking the Pearl Harbor attack.
Under the terms of the treaty eventually ratified by the US Senate, the US scrapped 15 pre-dreadnoughts and abandoned plans for 15 modern superdreadnought battleships with 16-inch guns. These were the most modern keels given up by any nation. UK and Japan merely agreed to scrap some old ships and then not to build up beyond the limits prescribed.
As the US Navy General Board forwarded this prophetic protest to Secretary Hughes: “These fifteen capital ships (building) brought Japan to the Conference. Scrap them and she will return home free to pursue untrammeled her aggressive program….If these fifteen ships be stricken from the Navy list, our task may not be hopeless; but the temptation to Japan to take a chance becomes very great. [Wheeler, p.56] The US was left with a hollow navy — inadequate to defend such points as the Philippines and Hawaii.
The outbreak of World War II in the Pacific was delayed but also made more likely. After December 7, 1941, there was a short burst of revived interest in the Washington Conference, which was identified in retrospect as one of the contributing factors of US Pacific vulnerability and relative naval weakness. One observer, the writer H.M. Robinson, judged that the conference “was in reality one of the costliest bits of diplomatic blundering that ever befell the United States….In a comic script, the United States was cast as the premiere stripteaseuse, a peace-loving but weak-minded creature who could always draw enthusiastic applause by wantonly denuding herself in the presence of her enemies.” [see Fantastic Interim (New York, 1943)]
Naval officers and military professionals were embittered by what they rightly saw as a sell-out. “To Navy critics of the Washington Conference and its successor, the London Naval Arms Limitation Conference of 1930, the decades of what became known as the “Washington system” and the “treaty navy” were years of strategic drift and dangerous vulnerability in which a gutted force could not back declared national policy.” [Baer, 94]
After the Washington Conference Hughes claimed that its result “ends, absolutely ends, the race in competition of naval armaments.” This turned out to be as fatuous as the claim that World War I had been the war to end all wars.
War Plan Red
Fortunately the entire US government was not as deluded as Hughes. During these same years planners in the War and Navy Departments and in the Joint Board of the two services were elaborating contingency plans for defending the United States against Britain and Japan, the two main partners in the Washington naval treaties. One of the results of this planning was War Plan Red, the United States war plan for use against the British Empire.
Before World War I, US planners had developed a color code for planning purposes. The US was designated as Blue, Germany as Black, Japan as Orange, Mexico as Green, and Britain as Red. The British imperial dominions of Canada and Australia/New Zealand were given the color codes of Crimson and Scarlet.
War Plan Red assumed a US conflict against the Red Empire in which Red was seeking to eliminate Blue as a world trade competitor and to deprive Blue of the freedom of the seas. Red’s war aims would include the attempt to seize and retain the Panama Canal. According to one version of the Red Plan, “The most probable cause of war between RED and BLUE is the constantly increasing BLUE economic penetration and commercial expansion into regions formerly dominated by RED trade, to such extent as eventually to menace RED standards of living and to threaten economic ruin….The foreign policy of BLUE…is primarily concerned with the advancement of the foreign trade of BLUE and demands equality of treatment in all political dependencies and backward countries, and unrestricted access to sources of raw materials. In this particular it comes into conflict with the foreign policies of RED.”
The plan offers this view of how hostilities might begin: “It is not believed likely that Blue, when relations become strained, will be likely to take the initiative in declaring war. At the same time, Red, in order to preserve an appearance before the world as a non-aggressor, will likely refrain from declaring war on Blue and will make every effort to provoke Blue into acts of hostility. For these reasons it is considered probable that neither will issue a formal declaration of war, but, after hostilities break out, each, in accordance with its constitutional procedure, will formally recognize that a state of war exists between them.”
The planners judged that “the great majority of the Blue nation possesses an anti-Red tradition and it is believed that the Blue government would experience little difficulty in mobilizing public sentiment in favor of the vigorous prosecution of the war, once hostilities begin.”
Blue’s biggest priority was to cut Crimson off from effective Red support. This required the seizure of “Red bases in the western North Atlantic, the West Indies, and the Caribbean.” The great issue was “the influence of Blue naval forces in retarding and restricting the development of Red land and air forces on Crimson soil.” The most important strategic priority for Blue at the outbreak of war would be the capture of Halifax, Nova Scotia, which was the naval base the Royal Navy would require for operations against Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, as well as for establishing Red naval supremacy in the western Atlantic. It was estimated at the time that the British Empire could eventually put over 8 million troops in the field. War Plan Red embodied Blue’s intention to prevent Red from initially delivering more than 100,000 troops per month to Crimson. The plan includes explicit authorization for Blue submarine warfare against Red shipping.
The planners were confident that if the 1916 naval program had been completed, it would prove impossible for the Red fleet to operate in the western Atlantic. Otherwise it was assumed that the superior Red fleet could be worn down by attrition within two years while Blue completed the 1916 program, which Red would be unable to match. Once Blue had attained naval superiority and driven the Red fleet out of the western Atlantic, Blue submarines and cruisers would proceed to cut off the supply of food and raw materials to the Red home islands, bringing the Red economy to a standstill and forcing the surrender of Red.
Red’s strategy was seen as depending first of all on securing Red communications to Crimson where a buildup of Red imperial power would be attempted. Red would seek to destroy the naval power of Blue, and would use the initially superior Red air force against Blue targets. Red would attempt to strike at the coastal regions of Blue, and also at the Panama Canal, seeking to disperse Blue’s military strength over a wide area. Red would seek to maintain the initiative in land operations on the North American continent and “force the main operations to occur in a theatre favorable to herself.”
Accordingly, War Plan Red specifies that on M+2 (three days after the start of US mobilization) Blue must be ready to assemble at Boston a force of 25,000 troops organized as one Army corps of 3 divisions ready to proceed under fleet escort for an amphibious attack on Halifax. If Halifax could be taken, the Red fleet would be forced to fall back on other points of the Crimson littoral which were both more distant and less developed as naval bases.
During the first two weeks after mobilization, Blue naval forces would also undertake attacks on insular possessions of the Red Empire. The targets of first priority were Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. On a second-priority list were Trinidad, St. Lucia, and all the other Red possessions in the West Indies and Central America. These moves were coherent with the great importance assigned by Blue to maintaining control over the Panama Canal, which it was expected that Red would try to occupy. Efforts to reinforce the Panama Canal zone were on the agenda for early in the war.
One aspect of the Red Plan highly relevant to today’s situation in Central America regards British Honduras, today called Belize: “…it may be expected that the Colony of Red Honduras, if left intact, will become a base for revolutionary groups and bandit elements hostile to the Governments favorable to Blue established in these countries. For this reason it will be of great advantage to Blue to seize and occupy this Colony early in the war.”
The Blue attack on Halifax would be supplemented by a series of overland thrusts against Crimson. At the outbreak of the conflict, it was assumed that the Royal Air Force flying from Crimson bases would be able to inflict serious damage on US targets in the area of the Great Lakes, New York state, and New England. Blue covering forces would take position along the Blue-Crimson border upon mobilization. A Blue force would gather in upstate New York for a large-scale thrust against Montreal and Quebec. A Blue force would mass at Buffalo and advance west of the Niagara River, seizing the hydro-electric plants there, and taking possession of the Welland Canal for use of Blue shipping. Another thrust would move east across the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, so as to protect the Detroit industrial region. A third Blue column would move north from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, shielding the highly strategic Sault Ste. Marie canal and its immense locks from Red sabotage. All of Crimson territory would be occupied as soon as practicable.
Another Crimson point slated for early occupation was the rail center at Winnipeg, which, because of the lakes to the north constitutes a crucial bottleneck for all traffic moving on the Crimson east-west axis. Another Blue advance would occupy Vancouver British Columbia and the port of Prince Rupert somewhat to the north. These were considered the only Crimson ports on the Pacific Ocean with adequate rail connection to make possible the debarkation of Red or Orange troops. The use of chemical warfare against Red forces was explicitly authorized in the plan.
If Red were joined by Orange, the combined war plan Red-Orange would come into play. Here the strategy would remain Red first, with Orange to be dealt with after Red had been disposed of. If Vancouver and Prince Rupert had been captured, it was thought that Blue submarines and destroyers could prevent an Orange invasion of the Blue mainland. Blue light naval forces in the western pacific would do as much damage as possible before their own anticipated elimination. The question of whether the Philippines could be held, and for how long, remained controversial. But the planners assumed that after the defeat of Red, the Blue battle fleet could be transferred to the Pacific for the final decisive reckoning with Orange.
The planners could not explicitly count on support from any other nation. They saw Brazil and Peru as pro-Blue, while Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay were seen as inclining toward Red. Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay were viewed as evenly divided between Red and Blue. But because of regional rivalries, it was not expected that any of these states would actively enter the war.
Work on War Plan Red was carried forward from approximately March, 1921 until the planning effort was officially classified as obsolete in October, 1936. Some revisions made in 1935 carry the signature of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, at that time the Army Chief of Staff. (The relevant documents were classified until about 1974, when they were made available to the public at the National Archives. It is believed that this is the first time they have been discussed in detail and quoted from in any published location since declassification.)
How serious did US policy makers take War Plan Red? Suffice it to say that military planners must be concerned with capabilities, not intentions. From this point of view the combined strength of Britain and Japan represented the only proximate threat of military attack against the United States, and it thus had to be taken very seriously indeed. Although the formal alliance between London and Tokyo was formally abrogated in 1921 as part of the package deal wrapped up at the Washington Conference, it was clear to US military intelligence that a form of hostile coalition was still in force. The 1928 annual “Estimate of the Situation” of the War Plans Division of the Navy Department noted the deterioration of relations with Britain as a result of the Geneva Conference, and added that “although the treaty of alliance between Britain and Japan had been abrogated there were still…relationships between them that were very cordial.” This estimate also called urgently for intensified work on War Plan Red, War Plan Orange, and War Plan Red-Orange. [US Navy Department, Operational Archives, Op-12A-CD, Estimate 13 April 1928, in Hall p. 54]
Although battleship fleets had been confined to the 5:5:3 ratio, this did not extent to other surface craft or to submarines. After Coolidge had been re-elected the British were surprised that this President as well could become a vehicle for US resistance against British hegemonism. This time the issue was cruisers. The British wanted to build a large number of light cruisers with displacements of less than 8,000 tons and with guns of 6 inches caliber or less. The US was interested in building somewhat smaller numbers of the most powerful type of modern cruiser, with 8-inch guns and 10,000 tons displacement. The British were already ahead in heavy cruisers by an 11 to 2 margin in 1926. British arms control proposals tried to limit the number of heavy cruisers the US might build, while permitting immense tonnages of British “trade protection cruisers.” The British arrogantly announced that they had “absolute requirements” in this department which had no relation to the strengths of other naval powers. Pro-navy forces in the US Congress agitated for a cruiser bill providing for a US buildup in this category. Another Anglo-American confrontation loomed. A naval disarmament conference usually called the Coolidge Conference was held at Geneva during the summer of 1927. London and Washington were unable to agree on cruisers, despite the suspect attempts of Allen Dulles, a member of the US delegation, to obtain a compromise.
In the wake of the failure of the “Coolidge Conference” Sir Winston Churchill confirmed the attitude of Royal Navy diehards by denouncing the “principle of mathematical parity in naval strength” with the United States.
A Cruiser Bill calling for 15 new heavy cruisers and an aircraft carrier was passed by Congress and was signed into law by Coolidge on February 23, 1929. During the cruiser debate Coolidge, in what were judged the most impassioned speeches of his life, had attacked foreign governments – meaning especially Britain – for “using the movement to limit and reduce armaments in order to advance their own self-interest.” (see New York Times, 12 November 1928) This was a direct affront to British pretensions which renewed an acute naval rivalry with London, and one scholar later opined that with these measures “the United States assumed a far more hostile attitude to Britain that year than it had for a hundred years.” (Hall, p. 54)
A leading British “disarmament expert” of the day was Sir John W. Wheeler-Bennett of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, a veteran American handler whose lifelong hobby was the study of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and who boasted that Confederate General A.P. Hill had been one of his forebears. Wheeler-Bennett later wrote about this period in the following terms: “At the close of the year 1927, Anglo-American relations were undergoing a severe strain which in the following year became tenser and more dangerous, before the welcome relaxation in 1929…. In England a latent dislike of all things transatlantic blazed up afresh and produced a state of mind vis-a-vis the United States comparable only to that manifested towards Germany in the years 1908-1914. In America this antagonism and suspicion was keenly reciprocated and found expression during the Congressional debates on the ratification of the Kellogg Pact and the passage of the Cruiser bill. In both countries men of goodwill declared war between them to the ‘unthinkable,’ a sure sign that they had already begun to think about it.” [John W. Wheeler-Bennett, Disarmament and Security Since Locarno (London: Allen and Unwin, 1932 and New York: Howard Fertig, 1973), pp. 127, 142.]
Another Anglo-American war scare rapidly gathered on both sides of the Atlantic. The Manchester Guardian editorialized: “Not for many years have the Americans and the British been on terms as bad as they are now. There is ill-feeling, suspicion, and misunderstanding between the two nations. ” Manchester Guardian, 28 November 1928
As it turned out, the newly elected Herbert Hoover was a greater Anglophile than Coolidge, and it was under his auspices that the US backed down. Hoover was assisted by his Secretary of State, Henry L. Stimson, and his ambassador to London, General Dawes, who had been Coolidge’s Vice President. Dawes indicated that he would bring to the naval armaments question the same methods he had employed on the reparations question in 1924.
Hoover came out early in favor of further disarmament. He stated in his inaugural address of March 4, 1929: “Peace can be promoted by the limitation of arms, and by the creation of the instrumentalities for the peaceful settlement of controversies. I covet for this administration a record of having contributed to advance the cause of peace.” [Wheeler-Bennett, pp. 142-3] Sensing an opportunity, the London oligarchy dumped the Tory government in favor of a new Labor Party regime led by Ramsay MacDonald, who had campaigned on a platform of improving Anglo-American relations. MacDonald quickly signalled that he accepted naval parity with the US as a general principle, and in October 1929 visited Hoover at his retreat in Rapidan, Virginia. Hoover was willing to accept 18 heavy cruisers for the US to 15 for Britain and 12 for Japan. In light cruisers, the US settled for 143,500 tons to 192,200 for London – hardly a condition of parity. Japan was allowed 100,450 tons. The US and UK got 150,000 tons of destroyers compared to 105,500 for Japan. All three powers got parity in submarines at a level of 52,700 tons. The implications of the US-Japan comparisons for the later Pacific war are obvious enough. In addition, no replacement battleships were to be built until 1936. These provisions were embodied in the London Naval Treaty signed in 1930.
Hoover thereupon announced the ratification of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which purported to outlaw war and stated on July 24, 1930: “Mr. MacDonald has introduced the principle of parity, which we have now adopted, and its consummation means that Great Britain and the United States henceforth are not to compete in armaments as potential opponents, but to cooperate as friends in their reduction.”
During the Hundred Days of 1933, the new Roosevelt administration announced its intention of building the US Navy up to all applicable treaty limits. This was soon mandated by the Vinson-Trammell Act of March 1934, which subsumed legislation which authorized enough new tonnage as to almost double the existing US fleet, including 7 new battleships and 3 aircraft carriers. Nevertheless, the US continued to lag behind.
On July 1, 1935, the Washington Treaty expired. For the British, the treaty had achieved goals that would have appeared impossible in 1919. It had served to preserve British naval supremacy for two decades, and at the same time to create a dangerous US vulnerability to Japan. It was estimated at the time that the actual aggregate tonnages of non-obsolete warships of all types for the leading naval powers were as follows:
UK US Japan France Italy 10 7.46 6.62 3.78 3.01
[see Bemis, p. 708]
The Japanese tonnages actually exceeded the above because of non-compliance with the treaties, as surveys after World War II revealed. By 1936, Japan had terminated the treaty regime, which then rapidly broke apart.
World War II in the Pacific: Britain’s Japanese Gambit
From June, 1941 on, the US was operating under a war plan known as Rainbow Five, the US-British Commonwealth Joint Basic War Plan. The explicit content of this plan was, Germany first. “Allied strategy in the Far East will be defensive”, the plan stated. The United States would not add to its military strength in the Pacific theatre. Two months before Pearl Harbor the War Department, impacted by Rainbow Five, was planning the abandonment of not just the Philippines, but Wake and Guam as well.
Behind this strategy lurked a fiendish British plot against the United States: the entire area between India and South America was marked for conquest by Japan. Germany first was a reasonable strategy, but total denial of forces and supplies for the Southwest Pacific was quite another matter, and a suicidal strategic folly. Averell Harriman, then in London with Churchill, referred to Indo-China, Australasia, Polynesia and Micronesia as a “vast, doomed area”. The Japanese, according to this London strategy, were to be permitted to take over the entire Pacific basin while the war in Europe was being fought to a conclusion. Then, in the late forties, after the Japanese had fortified, consolidated, and otherwise strengthened their hold on this myriad of islands, the United States would return to the Pacific and conduct an unending series of frontal amphibious assaults, storming each and every fortified island, all the way to the final assault to Dai Nippon itself. The Japanese were expected, according to their Shinto-Bushido profile, never to surrender, but to fight to the last man, including on their home islands. According to this British scenario, the war in the Pacific was to have lasted until about 1955, with millions of dead on the two sides. The British approach to the war in Europe was to promote in every way possible an endless mutual bloodletting by Russians and Germans. In the Pacific, their plan called for a colossal American-Japanese hecatomb. This would have greatly enhanced the relative power of the British Empire in the postwar world.
The British had assured the US that Singapore could hold for at least 6 months, but it fell to the Japanese on Feb. 15, 1942 with the Gen. Percival’s biggest surrender of British troops in history. How much was bungling, and how much was treachery?
Churchill began to argue that the Japanese would now turn away from Australia and concentrate instead on the conquest of India. Churchill demanded that the US buildup in the Pacific be transferred to the British command in Southeast Asia under Lord Louis Mountbatten. MacArthur convinced Roosevelt to refuse. In late March, 1942 Japanese Admiral Nagumo struck at British naval forces around Ceylon. The British ran away, with some battleships retreating to the east coast of Africa.
MacArthur’s biggest problem in countering the British sabotage was to defend Australia, the key industrial power and vast staging area still in allied hands. His first task was to jettison the defeatist war plan which the British Imperial staff had sold to the Australian military leadership. As MacArthur recounts:
“Having been witness to the Japanese conquest of Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaya, Rabat, and the Northern Solomons, the Australian chiefs of staff understandably had been thinking and planning only defensively. They had traced a line generally along the Darling River, from Brisbane, midway up the eastern shoreline, to Adelaide on the south coast. This would be defended to the last breath. Such a plan, however, involved the sacrifice of three-quarters or more of the continent, the great northern and western reaches of the land. Behind this so-called Brisbane Line were the four or five most important cities and a large proportion of the population — the heart of Australia. As the areas to the north fell to the enemy, detailed plans were made to withdraw from New Guinea and lay desolate the land above the Brisbane Line. Industrial plants and utilities in Northern Territory would be dynamited, military facilities would be leveled, port installations rendered useless and irreparable.”
“The concept was purely one of passive defense, and I felt it would result only in eventual defeat. Even if so restrictive a scheme were tactically successful, its result would be to trap us indefinitely on an island continent ringed by conquered territories and hostile ocean, bereft of all hope of ever assuming the offensive.” [Reminiscences, p. 152]
MacArthur protested to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington that “such a concept is fatal to every possibility of ever assuming the offensive, and even if tactically successful will bottle us up on the Australian continent, probably permanently. I am determined to abandon the plan completely.” [Whitney, p. 64]
MacArthur proposed to move the first line of defense of Australia more than a thousand miles to the north, from Brisbane on the Tropic of Capricorn to the Owen Stanley mountain range in Papua, eastern New Guinea. This thrust also impelled US forces to defend Guadalcanal, whose conquest by Japan would have threatened a cutting of the sealane between Australia and the United States, which was MacArthur’s vital supply line. Another part of the incipient US-Australian offensive was the naval battle of the Coral Sea, in which a Japanese aircraft carrier was sunk and the aura of invincibility enjoyed by the Japanese fleet after Pearl Harbor shattered.
At the time MacArthur arrived in Australia there was less than one US division there, and Churchill was holding most of the Australian army in North Africa. At one point Churchill pledged that he would only release the Australian divisions from the Middle East if the Australian continent were actually invaded – since by then, as MacArthur stressed, the defense of Australia would have been a hopeless cause.
MacArthur was able to pursue his strategy with a great economy in the lives of his men. This was because he generally avoided frontal attacks in favor of the flanking envelopment. This allowed him to do more with less. The navy and marines just at Okinawa, for example, lost almost 50,000 men. MacArthur conquered New Guinea, (what is today Indonesia) and the Philippines, going from Melbourne to Tokyo, with just 90,000 casualties. (By contrast, US losses at Anzio were 72,000, and in the battle of the Bulge, 107,000.)
MacArthur succeeded against a powerful and determined enemy because he was able to adapt the flanking envelopment to the specific conditions of the war in the Pacific. MacArthur called his strategy leap-frogging, and contrasted it most sharply to the so-called island-hopping, frontal assaults of the navy and marines. MacArthur’s problems were exacerbated by his frequent numerical inferiority to the Japanese concentrations he faced. In the middle of 1942 these problems were discussed at a war council attended by MacArthur, Eighth Army commander General Kruger, Admiral Halsey, and the Australian commander, MacArthur later wrote: “To push back the Japanese perimeter of conquest by direct pressure against the mass of enemy-occupied islands would be a long and costly effort. My staff worried about Rabaul and other strongpoints.” Rabaul, on New Britain, north of New Guinea, was in fact one of the most formidable fortresses of the Pacific, defended by 100,000 Japanese veterans, and prepared, like Verdun, to exact a fearful price from any attacker. In the war council, one general remarked: “I just don’t see how we can take these strongpoints with our limited forces.” MacArthur replied: “Well, let’s just say that we don’t take them. In fact, gentlemen, I don’t want them.” MacArthur added that he thoroughly agreed with the objection adding that he “did not intend to take them. (He) intended to envelop them, incapacitate them, apply the hit ’em where they ain’t – let ’em die on the vine philosophy. I explained this was the very opposite of what was termed island-hopping, which is the gradual pushing back of the enemy by direct frontal pressure, with the consequent heavy casualties which would certainly be involved. There would be no need for storming the mass of the island held by the enemy. Island-hopping, I said, with extravagant losses and slow progress, is not my idea of how to end the war as soon and as cheaply as possible.”
MacArthur’s method involved the selection of islands that were lightly held, but which were suitable for the construction of bases for fighters and bombers, which could in turn be used to cut off the lines of supply and communications to islands that were more strongly held to the point of being almost invulnerable to direct assault. These centers of strength had to be by-passed, cut off, neutralized, and starved out. The method turned on the acquisition of air bases from which bombers could operate, since MacArthur was never given any carriers. The advance of the bomber line, the operating sphere of the bombers, was the leading edge of each forward step.
MacArthur told a reporter for Collier’s magazine in 1950 that “Japan failed to see the new concept of war which was used against her, involving the by-passing of strongly defended points, and by use of the combined services, the cutting of essential lines of communication, whereby these defensive positions were rendered strategically useless and eventually retaken.” [Manchester, p. 389]
After the war Colonel Matsuichi Juio, a senior intelligence officer assigned to scrutinize MacArthur’s deployments and intentions reported to a military interrogator the effect of MacArthur’s mode of waging war upon the Japanese. This, he said, was “the type of strategy we hated most.” MacArthur acted “with minimum losses, attacked and seized a relatively weak area, constructed airfields and then proceeded to cut the supply lines to our troops in that area…Our strongpoints were gradually starved out. The Japanese army preferred direct frontal assault, after the German fashion, but the Americans flowed into our weaker points and submerged us, just as water seeks the weakest entry to sink a ship. We respected this type of strategy…because it gained the most while losing the least.” [Manchester, p. 391]
These were the methods MacArthur used to fight his way along New Guinea and then to return to the Philippines, which he correctly regarded as the key to cutting off the supplies of raw materials from Indonesia to the Japanese home islands by interdicting the sea lanes of the South China sea, thus bringing the war to a rapid end. The Japanese showed at the Battle of Leyte Gulf that they shared MacArthur’s view of the importance of the Philippines, since they concluded that they must risk their entire fleet to stop MacArthur at Leyte. In their view there would be no point in keeping the fleet intact if the Philippines were lost, since in that eventuality the fleet would be useless. Winston Churchill, true to form, proposed a campaign in the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, and Indo-China, a combination side-show and blood bath that can be usefully compared with his North African, Italian, and attempted Aegean-Balkan diversions of the war in Europe.
MacArthur had a subordinate send the following reply to Churchill’s lunatic scheme for an attack across the Indian Ocean: “General MacArthur feels that his present campaign into the Philippines will have the strategic effect of piercing the enemy’s center and permitting rapid and economical envelopment either to the north or south or preferably both. Having pierced the center he feels it would be advisable to take full advantage of the Philippines as an ideal base from which to launch these developments, rather than to pull back to stage frontal attacks on the Japanese perimeter in any of the areas from existing bases.” [Reminiscences, p. 201]
MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Theatre of Operations – as distinct from Admiral Chester Nimitz’s Pacific Ocean Areas and Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Southeast Asia Commands – never got more than about ten percent of the military resources of the United States. The coefficients used for the computation of the amount of supplies needed to keep one infantryman in the field in this theatre of war were lower than in any other theatre of the world. When Eisenhower invaded North Africa, he was allowed fifteen tons of supplies per man. MacArthur got an average of five tons per man. His average was about one half of the prevailing world-wide allied statistic over the duration of the conflict. Less than 100,000 tons of supplies arrived in Australia from the United States during the final quarter of 1942, as compared with 2,300,000 tons of supplies provided for Italian civilian needs during the first year of campaigning there. Using the productive capacities of Australia’s 7,000,000 citizens and workforce of 2,000,000 to the utmost, MacArthur was able to ship more supplies to adjacent theatres than he received from the United States – something of a logistical miracle. The Southwest Pacific was thus, from the point of view of war production, a self-sufficient area. MacArthur often referred bitterly to the “shoestring logistics” to which he was subjected by Washington while other commanders were far more liberally supplied. Many a golden strategic opportunity, in his view, was lost because of inadequate supply. “It is truly an Area of Lost Opportunity,” he said.
During the four months between Pearl Harbor and the fall of Corregidor the US forces on the Philippines were the cynosure of the Pacific conflict. The Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, a close friend of MacArthur, stated “without and inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links with the United Kingdom.” Churchill was apoplectic, and the British elite were confirmed in their vendetta against MacArthur, which they would act out during the Korean War some years later.
The Korean War: North Korea and Maoist China as British Proxies Against America
In Washington Lord Halifax Once whispered to Lord Keynes: It’s true they have the money bags, but we have all the brains. [McDonald, p. 3]
This doggerel captures something of the rabid British resentment for the United States that prevailed after World War II. The British had come hat in hand to Washington in search of loans to stabilize the tattered pound sterling, and they imagined that they had been mistreated when the US objected to the regime of Imperial preference in trade. They greatly resented the US role in Europe, but they were not going to start a proxy war there. But in the Far East and the Pacific, such a proxy war seemed feasible, and went to the top of the British agenda.
After the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, US influence in the Pacific was at an all-time high. US forces had dominated all the military campaigns, and Gen. MacArthur had been made the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) in Tokyo. Japan was not divided into zones of occupation, but was in effect administered under MacArthur’s supervision. MacArthur’s occupation reforms included strong provisions to reduce the oligarchical element in Japanese society, including the abolition of titles of nobility and of the Japanese equivalent of the House of Lords. The British deeply resented US pre-eminence in the eastern Pacific, which they had regarded as one of their spheres, and in Japan, which they still considered their own asset.
This British attitude was reflected in the remark by the anti-American British Foreign Secretary, Sir Ernest Bevin, who served under Prime Minister Clement Atlee in the Labor Party government of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Bevin found the US wanted to be “a law unto themselves” in the Far East. The British responded by redoubling their support for Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Communists in their civil war against Chiang Kai-Shek’s nationalist Kuomintang. Mao was assisted by a cutoff in US military aid to the KMT during a decisive phase of the civil war. This cutoff was ordered by the Truman Administration’s special envoy to China, Gen. George C. Marshall, an asset of the pro-British Harriman grouping. The People’s Republic of China was founded on October 2, 1949. The KMT was hanging on to Taiwan, but the British were anxious to liquidate these old adversaries as soon as possible.
On January 6, 1950, the British government was the first western nation to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC. This clear overture for cooperation was followed by sharp attacks in the US Congress against London, including the demand that economic sanctions be imposed against the UK.
Korea at this time was governed by two violently contending governments, that of the communist and Red Army veteran Kim Il Sung in the north and the pro-US regime of President Syngman Rhee in the south. US troops had been present in South Korea, but the last of them had departed in June, 1949. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, a notorious Anglophile, was at this point functioning as the de facto controller of President Truman in foreign policy matters. Acheson had been a close friend of W. Averell Harriman, the dean of US Anglophiles, since they had met at Yale in 1905, and the two cooperated to “work with and on” Truman and against MacArthur.
On January 12, 1950 Acheson delivered at the National Press Club an important policy speech entitled “Crisis in China – An Examination of United States policy.” In this discourse, among other things, Acheson talked about what territories in Asia the US was prepared to defend after the fall of China to the communists. He described a US “defensive perimeter…along the Aleutians to Japan and then…to the Ryukyus [Okinawa]…and to…the Philippine islands.” [Acheson, p. 357] This list of protected US assets pointedly excluded both South Korea and Taiwan. After North Korea attacked South Korea in late June, 1950, Acheson was widely accused of having issued a de facto invitation to North Korea to launch this aggression. Acheson became the April Glaspie of the Korean War. It can be assumed that the assurance of impunity to the aggressor implicit in Acheson’s remarks was privately repeated in more explicit terms by British diplomats to certain interested parties.
At this time Acheson was dining in secret once a week at the State Department with the British Ambassador to Washington, Sir Oliver Franks. During this period Franks’ First Secretary was British triple agent H.A.R. (Kim) Philby. Franks’s Second Secretary was the British triple agent Guy Burgess. A third British Triple Agent, Donald Maclean, who had worked for Franks in Washington a few years earlier, was shortly to become the chief of the American Department at the Foreign Office in London. When Prime Minister Atlee visited Truman at the White House in December, 1950, some accounts assert that Maclean was present in his entourage.
“Triple agent” means here that while the Philby group and others like them were British officials who were also spying for the KGB, their ultimately loyalty and control always remained with the Queen and the British oligarchy.
During the 1964 interrogation of Anthony Blunt, the fourth of the Cambridge triple agents to become known to the public, Blunt is reported to have revealed that the Canadian Herbert Norman, another Cambridge undergraduate of the 1930’s, had been recruited by the KGB. Norman had died, allegedly through suicide, in 1957. Norman had been a member of Gen. MacArthur’s staff in Tokyo and had attracted the suspicions of Gen. Willoughby, MacArthur’s intelligence chief. Norman was a close associate of Sir Lester Pearson, at that time the Canadian External Affairs Minister and later to become the Canadian Prime Minister. James Barros has asserted in his book No Sense of Evil that Norman, while serving in Tokyo in 1950, played a role in encouraging Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang to launch the invasion of South Korea.
Barros writes: “In this context we must scrutinize Pearson’s trip to Tokyo in February 1950. During that visit General MacArthur explained to him and to Norman Washington’s policy in Asia and that its defense perimeter in the region did not include Korea, as it was not vital to America’s security. MacArthur’s comments were in line with Dean Acheson’s speech a month earlier when he told the National Press Club that America’s defense perimeter In Asia ran from the Aleutian Islands to Japan and from there to the Ryukyu and Philippine Islands….Acheson’s public comments could not have gone unnoticed in Moscow. Keeping in mind MacArthur’s military role in Asia, his February remarks to Norman and to Pearson, the foreign secretary of a friendly and allied country, would have stimulated Moscow to favor a possibly low-risk North Korean invasion of South Korea. In other words, in addition to other information available to Moscow, MacArthur’s comments, if conveyed to the Soviets by Norman – which might have been done – could have led to the assumption that such a scenario would evoke no American response.” [Barros, pp. 137-8]
Pearson was one of the most important British Empire political operatives during the postwar decades. In reviewing Pearson’s role in protecting the career of Norman, Barros reviews evidence compiled by the US Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and speculates that “one might even dare to think the unthinkable — that Pearson was Moscow’s ultimate mole.” [Barros, p. 169] Some years earlier the Canadian Prime Minister MacKenzie King had officially stated that Canada had been used as a base for espionage activity against the US.
In early 1950 Stalin had been telling Mao that “a confrontation with the United States is inevitable, but for us it would be favorable to delay its beginning. At present, war is not feasible, because we have just tested the atomic bomb, the country is exhausted, and the people of the USSR would not understand and support such a war.” [Goncharov et al., p. 108] But Stalin was at the same time interested in various ideas for a limited, pre-emptive conflict. In talks with Kim Il Sung, Stalin repeatedly warned the North Korean leader that the Soviets would never go to war in Korea, not even if the US were to intervene: “…Stalin told Kim that even if the United States participated in the war, the Soviet Union had no intention of joining the fray.” [Goncharov et al., p. 144] Stalin made this abundantly clear, telling Kim in April 1950 in their last conference before Kim started the war: “If you should get kicked in the teeth, I shall not lift a finger. You have to ask Mao for all the help.” [Goncharov et al., p. 145]
In this situation, intelligence reports tending to confirm a US line of non-intervention would certainly have increased the propensity of Stalin, Mao, and Kim to launch the Korean War. But we must assume that the Pearson-Norman channel would have been only one of several highly authoritative channels used by London to promote an attack in the Far East. (At the same time, Stalin’s adamant warning that he would never get involved with his own forces in Korea powerfully undercuts the later British pro-appeasement argument that any strikes against assets on Chinese territory would elicit Russian aid for China and thus start an apocalyptic third world war.)
North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. In a stunning reversal of US policy, the Truman administration decided that South Korea was a vital US interest after all, and ordered MacArthur to defend South Korea using forces previously engaged in the occupation of Japan. Because they lacked the tanks and heavy artillery which the US had not provided, the South Korean forces were forced into a disorganized retreat. MacArthur sent his forces to South Korea as quickly as possible, but by August US forces were fighting with their backs to the sea in a 135-mile arc of trenches called the Pusan perimeter. On paper, MacArthur seemed destined for early defeat, a factor which London had doubtless appreciated in advance.
A brigade of troops from the British Commonwealth of Nations was a part of MacArthur’s army in Korea, which operated under the formal aegis of the United Nations. British troops on the ground meant that London had the right automatically to receive all of MacArthur’s war dispatches and reports, along with a wealth of other information. The lives of many of these British and Commonwealth forces were cynically sacrificed in battle by the London oligarchy. They were merely expendable pawns used to obtain access to secrets which were then swiftly betrayed to the communist side.
In September 1950, the daring and desperate flanking maneuver of MacArthur’s Inchon landing turned the tables and ensured the total defeat of the North Korean forces, opening the way to national re-unification under Rhee. MacArthur’s forces advanced into North Korea and approached the Yalu River, the Korean border with China. Consternation reigned in the Foreign Office, since the very North Korean gambit that had promised to cut the US down to size in the Far East and restore some of the balance of power in the region had boomeranged into the apotheosis of MacArthur as the irresistible force in Asia.
Before the Korean War started, Stalin had tried to encourage Mao to seize the British Crown colony of Hong Kong. Mao disagreed with Stalin on the need to take possession of this colony. [Goncharov et al., p. 100] In the spring of 1950, the communist Chinese People’s Liberation Army had seized control of Hainan island from the KMT. For the summer of 1950, all signs pointed to an attempt by Mao to take Taiwan and extinguish Chiang Kai-Shek’s government there. One element in Mao’s aggressive disposition was the need to consolidate the new communist regime through conflict with an external enemy.
Mao chose to attack not Taiwan, but MacArthur’s US and UN forces in Korea. There are numerous indications that this fateful decision was profoundly influenced by covert encouragement and assurances to Beijing on the part of British officials, including but certainly not limited to the Philby-Maclean-Burgess-Blunt-Rothschild triple agent circle.
This view is supported by an official release by Lin Piao, the commander of the Chinese forces attacking Korea, which was published by MacArthur in his Reminiscences. Lin Piao here stated: “I would never have made the attack and risked my men and my military reputation if I had not been assured that Washington would restrain General MacArthur from taking adequate retaliatory measures against my lines of supply and communication.” [p. 375]
Since May, 1951, when Maclean and Burgess defected to Moscow (followed by Philby in 1963), it has been evident to students of the Korean War that the “restraints” applied to MacArthur were those demanded by the British, and that knowledge of these restraints was imparted to the various communist capitals through the efforts of Philby and his confreres, whose activities could later be disavowed by the London regime owing to the fact that “Soviet espionage” was involved. In reality, all of the British triples of Her Majesty’s Secret Service remained loyal to the Queen.
Chinese forces operating south of the Yalu River and thus in Korean territory left their first unmistakable calling card on October 25, 1950 by mauling a South Korean force near the Yalu. Then, for almost one month, the Chinese forces disengaged from their attacks, retired into camouflaged positions and waited. Whatever assurances he had received from London, Mao had been rendered suspicious by the beating Kim had taken, and he was more cautious. For one month, Mao and Lin waited to see if MacArthur would in fact be restrained.
If Truman had, during this period, issued a clear warning that continued aggression by China against MacArthur’s command on Korean soil would lead to retaliation against Chinese targets, there is every reason to believe that Mao and Lin would have swiftly desisted. But the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Ernest Bevin, was adamant that “no ultimatums to China would be supported by me,” and Truman, coached by Acheson and Harriman, said nothing.
MacArthur was more than restrained; he was placed in a straightjacket by the British and their various satellites at the UN. MacArthur was forbidden the hot pursuit of aircraft operating from Manchurian or Siberian airbases which would have been expected under the rules of war. MacArthur was told not to bomb the hydroelectric plants along the Yalu, and was forbidden to disturb the rail junction at Racin in North Korea.
In early November, MacArthur’s request to bomb the bridges across the Yalu River was denied. The denial came from Acheson, Lovett and Rusk at the State Department. As Acheson explained why he forbade the bombing: “Mr. Rusk, who was with us, contributed that we were committed not to attack Manchurian points without consultation with the British and that their Cabinet was meeting that morning to reconsider their attitude towards the Chinese government.” [Acheson, p. 463] Cable traffic on this issue would have been seen by Philby, Maclean, and Burgess.
Later this was modified to permit him to bomb only the southern half of these bridges, the Korean part. “By some means,” MacArthur concluded, “the enemy commander must have known of this decision to protect his lines of communication into North Korea, or he would never have dared to cross those bridges in force.” [Reminiscences, p. 371] Because of British blackmail, Chinese Manchuria became a vast privileged sanctuary which Mao and Lin could use as a staging area for attacks on US and UN forces in Korea. All of MacArthur’s attempts to get permission to strike at military bases in this area were overruled.
The Chinese attacked MacArthur’s army in great force on November 26-27. Gen. Lin’s first attack fell with uncanny accuracy on the weakest point in MacArthur’s line, the juncture at Tekchen between the US Eighth Army and the South Korean II Corps. The Chinese repeatedly seemed to be able to anticipate the moves that MacArthur was about to make. During this period Sir Frederick Hoyer-Millar of the British Embassy in Washington cabled to the Foreign Office in London that one of his underlings “gets information…in advance by an officer who should strictly speaking await its transmission via the warroom…this applies particularly to future operations.” [Newton, p. 281]
US Gen. James Gavin later commented: “I have no doubt whatever that the Chinese moved confidently and skillfully into North Korea, and in fact, I believe they were able to do this because they were well-informed not only of the moves Walker would make, but of the limitations of what he might do….All of MacArthur’s plans flowed into the hands of the Communists through the British Foreign Office.” [see Atlantic Monthly, June, 1965]
Later, MacArthur proposed measures to end the war, including an economic blockade of the coast of China. All of his proposals were rejected. The reply of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said in part that “…a naval blockade off the coast of China would require negotiations with the British in view of the extent of British trade with China through Hong Kong.” [Reminiscences, p. 380] During the entire period of the Korean War, London eagerly supplied Mao with the sinews of war by deliveries of strategic materials through Hong Kong. This was only slightly camouflaged by such public relations measures as the May, 1951 announcement of an embargo on British rubber sales to the PRC through Hong Kong.
Donald Maclean later became a prominent member of the Soviet Institute of World Economics and International Relations, and died in Moscow in the spring of 1993. At that time the Russian dissident historian Roy Medvedev, who had known Maclean closely during his years in Moscow, summed up some of the things that Maclean had told him in an article that was published in the Washington Post. Medvedev’s testimony bears on the ways in which Maclean’s espionage contributed to the ability of the Communist Chinese successfully to attack Gen. MacArthur’s army.
According to Medvedev, although Maclean “never spoke of the details or the techniques of his work as a spy,” “on a few occasions he made reference to certain historic events which he seemed to have influenced.”
As MacArthur moved north, wrote Medvedev, “when Stalin insisted on Chinese interference, Mao hesitated, afraid that the Americans might move the war onto Chinese territory and even use the atom bomb on Chinese troops and industrial centers.
“At that time an English delegation headed by Prime Minister Clement Attlee was visiting the United States. Donald Maclean, head of the American desk at the Foreign Office, was a member of that delegation. Neither Attlee nor their American colleagues had any secrets from Maclean. He managed to get a copy of an order from Truman to Gen. MacArthur not to cross the Chinese border under any circumstances and not to use atomic weapons. Americans feared a lengthy and hopeless war with China.
“Stalin immediately passed on the information to Mao Tse-tung, and the Chinese reluctance came to an end. On Oct. 25 a vast army of ‘Chinese people’s volunteers’ crossed the Korean border and attacked American and South Korean troops.” [see “Requiem for a Traitor,” Washington Post, 19 June 1983]
Towards the end of January, 1951, in the wake of Attlee’s visit to Washington, a debate developed in the British Foreign Office and cabinet about the tactics to be employed in regard to a US push to get the United Nations Security Council to condemn China as an aggressor. Junior officials like John Strachey, the Minister of War, and Kenneth Younger, Minister of State in the Foreign Office, supported a show of independence by the British, including a British vote against the US. This view was supported by Aneurin Bevan and Hugh Dalton of the Labour Party left. Denying that China was the aggressor in Korea would have aligned the UK with the USSR and the rest of the communist bloc in opposition to the US at the UN.
Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin opposed doing this in public, arguing that a break with the USA would leave Britain to face the USSR alone. Chancellor of the Exchequer Hugh Gaitskell argued that a break with the USA over China would be a disaster that would “enormously strengthen the anti-European bloc in the USA.” On 25 January the Cabinet decided to vote against a US resolution condemning China as an aggressor. At this time Bevin was suffering from a terminal illness. Gaitskell threatened to resign, and received backing from key figures in the Foreign Office. Atlee was forced to back down.
Even so, British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Gladwyn Jebb, attacked MacArthur for an alleged desire to “escalate” the Korean conflict. If MacArthur thought the UN would approve escalation he “must be only conscious of public opinion in the Philippines, some of the banana states and the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party.” [MacDonald, p. 48] At this time Jebb’s private secretary in New York was Alan Maclean, who was sharing an apartment with Guy Burgess. “The fear that American policy in Korea was dragging the world into a Third World War seemed to possess Burgess throughout the autumn and winter of 1950.” [Andrew Boyle, The Climate of Treason, p. 355] But what Burgess expressed was only the official view of the British Foreign Office.
Cave Brown [572ff.] calls attention to the fad of “treason chic” that became popular among the decadent London intelligentsia in the wake of the Maclean-Burgess departure to Moscow in May, 1951, and then again after Philby went over to the USSR in 1963. He quotes the cultural critic Richard Grenier on the widespread view of the British cultural elite that “Treason is in style. At least British treason when it is committed by Englishmen with posh accents.” This cultural mood of the British Establishment is reflected in the plays of Alan Bennett, including one (em>An Englishman Abroad) about Burgess in Moscow, and one (A Question of Attribution) about the relations between Sir Anthony Blunt at the Courtauld Institute and his patroness the Queen among her pictures at Buckingham Palace. This is the cultural suppuration which has produced the Rees-Moggs and Evans-Pritchards of our own day.
A total of 54,246 US service personnel lost their lives in the dirty proxy war waged by the British against the US in Korea, and almost 107,000 were listed as wounded and missing. Perhaps the day is coming when the American people will be capable of responding to the British oligarchy for decades of geopolitical proxy war.
Sir Robert Thompson: Architect of the US Defeat in Vietnam
A decade after Korea, British geopolitical strategy concentrated on provoking another, even more serious reverse for the United States. This assumed the form of the Vietnam War. After British intelligence had eliminated President Kennedy, who had intended to withdraw US forces from Vietnam, London’s assets in the US Eastern Anglophile Liberal Establishment undertook massive exertions to induce the Johnson administration to commit half a million ground troops to South Vietnam. At the same time, the London regime under Prime Minister Harold Wilson remained critical of the US effort, and no British forces were sent to Vietnam, although Australia did provide a contingent.
One British intelligence operative who played a vital role in convincing the Johnson administration to launch the Vietnam adventure was Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson, who was touted in Newsweek and US News and World Report during the mid-1960’s as the world’s preeminent expert on guerilla warfare. Born in 1916, Thompson held a history degree from Cambridge and was fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese. During World War II, Thompson had been a member of General Orde Wingate’s Chindits, a prototype of later special forces. He later commanded “Ferret Force,” a British anti-guerilla unit in Malaya, where he devised the strategic hamlet program that was later to fail miserably when tried in Vietnam. By 1961 Thompson was Secretary for the Defense of Malaya. In this year Thompson was invited to South Vietnam by President Diem; Thompson became the chief of the British Advisory Mission and a key advisor and counterinsurgency “idea man” to Diem.
Thompson never concealed his contempt for the United States. His favorite slur on the ungrateful colonials was “The trouble with you Americans is that whenever you double the effort you somehow manage to square the error.”
The best strategy for the US would have been to avoid a military buildup in Vietnam altogether. But once US forces were engaged, there remained the possibility that they might win military victory against the communist forces. Sir Robert was instrumental in ruling out this possibility.
In 1965, as the US buildup began, the South Vietnamese defense Minister, Gen. Cao Van Vien, submitted a strategy paper entitled “The Strategy of Isolation,” in which he posed the problem of cutting off the infiltration of troops and supplies from North to South, arguing that if this were done, the insurgency in the South would wither on the vine. Cao Van Vien wanted to fortify a line along the 17th parallel from Dong Ha to Savannakhet, a point on the Mekong River near the Laos-Thailand border. This would interdict the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail, a strategic artery used by motor vehicles and which was flanked by gasoline pipelines. Cao Van Vien wanted to follow this with an amphibious landing north of this line near Vinh along the 18th parallel to cut off the North Vietnamese front from their rear echelons and supply lines. The goal would have been to deny North Vietnam “the physical capability to move men and supplies through the Lao corridor, down the coastline, across the DMZ, and through Cambodia…by land, naval, and air actions.” The blocking position from the DMZ to the Mekong could have been manned by 8 divisions (5 US, 2 South Korean and 1 South Vietnamese) while Marine divisions could have been kept ready for the amphibious attack. US forces would have remained on the defensive, in well- prepared fortified positions while the South Vietnamese army dealt with the guerrilla forces in the South Vietnamese countryside. There would have been no search and destroy missions by the US, no My Lais, and far fewer US casualties. The US would have provided a shield behind which South Vietnam could have begun to solve its own national problems in the way that South Korea had.
The rejection of this strategy in favor of counterinsurgency is a testament to the influence wielded by Sir Robert.
Thompson was the most authoritative spokesman for the military doctrine of counterinsurgency, which was in reality a warmed-over version of British colonialist-utopian clichés stretching back to the atrocities of the Boer War. During the early 1960’s brush-fire wars in the third world and counterinsurgency tactics to deal with communist guerilla warfare became obsessions in Washington, and Thompson was able to parlay his specious Malaya credentials into pervasive influence. As long as Johnson was not fully committed to Vietnam, Thompson displayed a facile optimism about the perspectives for success. On July 5, 1965 (when the US had slightly more than 50,000 soldiers on the ground in South Vietnam), Thompson assured Newsweek that a US ground combat role was “unavoidable,” but that “if the right things are done within Vietnam at the present moment then the American combat role, which is comparatively small compared with the Vietnamese role, should be sufficient to halt [the Viet Cong]. At this time, the long agony of Johnson’s escalation of the US troop presence was just beginning.
In 1982 Colonel Harry Summers of the US Army published On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of The Vietnam War, which reflected an effort by the Army War College at Carlyle Barracks, Pennsylvania to determine the reasons for the US defeat in Vietnam. One of Summers’s conclusions was that the US command at all levels had been thoroughly disoriented by the illusion that Vietnam somehow represented a new form of people’s revolutionary warfare to which traditional military doctrine no longer applied. Summers cited Sir Robert Thompson as the leading spokesman for the counterinsurgency school, highlighting the Briton’s claim that
…Revolutionary war is most confused with guerilla or partisan warfare. Here the main difference is that guerilla warfare is designed merely to harass and distract the enemy so that the regular forces can reach a decision in conventional battles…. Revolutionary war on the other hand is designed to reach a decisive result on its own. [p. 113]
In an April, 1968 article in Foreign Affairs, Thompson argued that a true US strategic offensive in Vietnam would require “emphasis on nation-building concurrent with limited pacification” including “the rebuilding of the whole Vietnamese government machine.” For Thompson, “it is the Khesanhs which are the diversion,” a reference to the US Army’s conventional battle against the regular North Vietnamese army near the Demilitarized Zone on the North Vietnam-South Vietnam border. For Thompson, the communist guerilla structure in South Vietnam was characterized by “its immunity to the direct application of mechanical and conventional power.” Victory would therefore be decided “in the minds of the Vietnamese people.”
In practice, Thompson advised that the US Army be deployed into political action and nation-building in the Vietnamese countryside. He was opposed to US thrusts against the North Vietnamese regular army. In the event, it was the North Vietnamese regular army which finally destroyed the Saigon government, with a twelve division Eastertide armored attack across the DMZ in March 1972 (which failed) followed by the victorious assault by 17 North Vietnamese divisions which captured Saigon in March-April 1975. As it turned out, the war was won by conventional military forces, although the guerilla insurgency diverted a large portion of Saigon’s available divisions, who were thus unable to take part in the final, decisive conflict.
In light of all this, Summers and the War College are right in concluding that “with hindsight it is clear that by Sir Robert Thompson’s own definition, he was EXACTLY WRONG in seeing the war as a ‘classic revolutionary war.’ The guerillas in Vietnam did NOT achieve decisive results on their own. Even at the very end there was no popular mass uprising to overthrow the Saigon government.” [Summers p. 113, emphasis added]
The Korean War had also seen extensive guerilla activity in South Korea by North Korean and communist infiltrators. At that time, an effective division of labor had evolved which had given primary responsibility for maintaining order on the home front to the South Korean army, while US forces concentrated on countering the international aggression of North Korea and China. But this traditional approach was associated with the now-demonized MacArthur, leaving the dangerous vacuum in military doctrine that was filled by Thompson’s counterinsurgency theory. Unfortunately, during the Vietnam era there was no figure comparable to MacArthur and thus capable of forcing the repudiation of the bankrupt new pseudo-strategy.
In addition to the obvious military disadvantages of Sir Robert’s strategy, there were also political disadvantages that contributed in their own way to ultimate defeat. These are summed up by Gregory Palmer in The McNamara Strategy: “the official view, supported by the advice of Diem’s British advisor, Sir Robert Thompson, was that the appropriate strategy was counterinsurgency with emphasis on depriving the enemy of the support of the population by resettlement, pacification, good administration, and propaganda. This had two awkward consequences for American policy: it contradicted the reason given for breaking the Geneva declaration, that the war was really aggression from the North, and, by closely associating the American government with the policies of the government of South Vietnam, it made Diem’s actions directly answerable to the American electorate. [Palmer, pp. 99-100]
For Thompson, the struggle against the Viet Cong was everything, while the North Vietnamese regulars were virtually irrelevant. But was Sir Robert just another bungler, just another in the long line of marplot Colonel Blimps that stretches from Lord Raglan and Lord Lucan at Balaklava and Haig on the Somme to Percival at Singapore and Montgomery at Arnhem? Not bloody likely. Thompson was a deliberate liar and saboteur, as can be seen from his Foreign Affairs piece highlighting the Viet Cong, which was written after the January, 1968 Tet offensive, when the Viet Cong main force units had been virtually obliterated. Thompson’s role was that of a Secret Intelligence Service disinformation operative. The widows and orphans of Vietnam should not forget the evil Sir Robert.
Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation (New York: Norton, 1969).
James Barros, No Sense of Evil: Espionage, The Case of Herbert Norman (Canada: Deneau, 1986).
Samuel Flagg Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United States (New York: Holt, 1965).
Genrikh Borovil, The Philby Files (Boston: Little, Brown, 1994) This book alleges that after defecting to Moscow Philby never talked about the Korean War!
Anthony Cave Brown, Treason in the Blood (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994).
Thomas H. Buckley, The United States and the Washington Conference, 1921-1922 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1970).
James Cotton and Ian Neary (eds) The Korean War in History (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey).
Christopher Hall, Britain, America, and Arms Control, 1921-37 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987).
Sergei N. Goncharov, John W. Lewis, Xue Litai, Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao and the Korean War (Stanford University Press, 1993).
Kenneth Harris, Attlee (London, 1982).
Warren F. Kimball (ed), Roosevelt and Churchill: The Complete Correspondence 3 vols., (Princeton, 1984).
War Plan Red can be consulted in Joint Board 325, Serial Number 435, National Archives, Washington DC.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964).
Callum McDonald, Britain and the Korean War (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990).
William Manchester, American Caesar (New York: Dell, 1983).
Verne W. Newton, The Cambridge Spies: The Untold Story of Maclean, Philby and Burgess in America (Lanham, Md.: Madison Books, 1991).
Chapman Pincher, Too Secret Too Long (New York: St. Martin’s Press).
Chapman Pincher, Traitors (New York: St, Martin’s Press, 1988).
Stephen Roskill, Naval Policy Between the Wars,especially vol. I: The Period of Anglo-American Antagonism (London: Collins, 1968).
Charles Seymour, The Intimate Papers of Colonel House (New York, 1928).
Harry G. Summers, On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (New York: Dell, 1984).
Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson, Make for the Hills: Memories of Far Eastern Wars (London: L. Cooper, 1989).
Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson, No Exit from Vietnam (London: Chatto and Windus, 1969).
Gerald E. Wheeler, Prelude to Pearl Harbor: The United States Navy and the Far East, 1921-1931 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1963).
John W. Wheeler-Bennett, Disarmament and Security Since Locarno (London: Allen and Unwin, 1932 and New York: Howard Fertig, 1973).
Courtney Whitney, MacArthur: His Rendezvous with Destiny (New York: Knopf, 1956)
Sir William Wiseman, “The Attitude of the United States and President Wilson towards the Peace Conference,” undated memorandum, Balfour Papers, British Museum.