INT: Can you describe how you first heard about the invasion of South Korea by the North and what how much of a surprise it was to you?
NB: Yes , I remember very well because my wife and I, on the 24th, the day before the Korean War, the well, no, let me start over again.We have a confusion of time zones
NB: I learned about it on the night of Saturday the 24th when my wife and I arrived home from a wedding anniversary dinner that we'd been to and the baby-sitter had a string of phone calls as long as her arm which I started calling back. They were all from the State Department or the Pentagon and the first call that I returned was from to the Assistant Secretary in the State Department, the Assistant Secretary for the Far East, Dean Rusk. I believe it was. And he asked me to come into his office immediately and so I got in to his office about midnight and the place was pretty full. The Secretary of the army was there and a number of generals and a lot of people from the Far East division of the State Department and so forth and so we spent the night going over the incoming messages and at 3 o'clock in the morning, the State Department called the Secretary-General of the UN to inform him of this and request an immediate meeting of the Security Council. The phone call was actually made by the Deputy US Representative to the UN, whose name was Earnest Gross. So the meeting was set up for the next day and that's the way the night passed. I didn't get home again for 3 days after that so were it was all the time, either the State Department or the UN or the Pentagon. So I remember it very well indeed and I remember almost every moment of that night. And I was surprised. I think there was general surprise at the magnitude of the operation for one thing. We were used to forays across the 38th parallel but this was obviously something very different.
INT: Can you remember the role played through that night by the Korean ambassador and his First Secretary. Did they come into the State Department and talking to you at all?
NB: No, I didn't see them at all that that evening. I didn't see them until the following day on the way to the se Security Council meeting.
INT: So just going back on to that decision to refer the whole thing to the United Nations, obviously that's a crucially important step and a major historical moment. Why was it decided not to deal with the crisis unilaterally but to go to the United Nations?
NB: Well, that was dealing with the crisis, that was the way we the Department decided to deal with the crisis was to go to the UN. There was nothing really nothing else they could do immediately. There was no way to respond immediately. This was before we'd set up this daily talk with MacArthur and so there was there was really nothing we could do. There were no troops we could send immediately, there was nothing, so I think it was very wisely decided to give it to the UN and it met with a lot of sympathy on the part of the Security Council fortunately.
INT: Was there a sense that the issue was just too big for the United States to handle alone, that this was an international issue rather than a national issue?
NB: Yes, I think it was decided that it was a larger problem than just an American problem and we decided that's what the Security Council was, to handle cases of this sort.
INT: At the time, thinking back, can you remember, did you and other colleagues feel that the North Korean invasion was part of a plan orchestrated from Moscow?
NB: The feeling in Washington at that time was almost unanimous, that a military operation of this magnitude could not possibly have been taken conceived and taken without the support of the Russian military and that and, in other words, it was concluded right at the beginning that this was a movement this was something happening in the context of the Cold War and I believe that was the point of view that was expressed in Dean Acheson's talks with President Truman. They met I think the 25th, 26th and 27th, they met together at Blaire House and my understanding is that that was one thing they agreed on was that this was a this was this was a Cold War (unintelligible) and should be handled as such.
INT: And therefore was there a sense that you had to make a stand against Communist aggression now, I mean, the so-called loss of China had gone by without any reaction
NB: Yes. Yes.
INT: Was there a sense that now you had to prevent Communist aggression or who knows what would have happened in the future sort of thing?
NB: Yeah, The United States was much more deeply committed to preserving South Korea than it ever was in China. We had created the government and it was basically, number one, our responsibility and we felt we couldn't since we couldn't do it alone, the Security Council was the place to go.
INT: Can you just describe, thinking back to that Sunday, the 25th of June 1950, can you describe for us what you felt the mood of the Security Council was that afternoon when they met?
NB: The Security Council. I discussed this with the ambassador, with the Korean ambassador, John Chang, on the way to New York and with Philip Han and they were wondering what the reception, what that attitude would be. The attitude when we got there proved to be one of great sympathy on the part of the Security Council members, almost without exception and a unanimity of feeling that something really had to be done and done quickly. The Russians of course were not there so that simplified things.
INT: Was there a sense of expectation that at any moment the Russians might return and veto any anything that was going on sponsored by the United States?
NB: The expectation I think of almost everyone was, on the 25th, the first meeting, that the Russians, although they were boycotting the Security Council at that time, that they could not afford to be absent and when finally they did not arrive and the meeting started and ended and they still hadn't come, and then even more so when, 2 days later, they didn't show up for the the next one, there was a tremendous amount of speculation about that and, in retrospect, it seems to be one of the, -- I don't know whether you call it stupid -- but, if you think about what the situation would've been had they been there and had they vetoed both of these resolutions, what the next step would have been is difficult. I suppose it would have been to call the General Assembly where there is no veto but that would have. That's a very unwieldy body. So everyone was really surprised by the absence of the Russians.
INT: You referred to the meetings at the Blaire House over those 3 days.
INT: between Truman and Acheson. In your view, who really made the decision to intervene militarily in Korea? Was it was it primarily down to the President, the Secretary of State or the military?
NB: No, I am convinced that it was the President. Secretary Acheson was less enthusiastic about it and I think was talked into it by the President, and the military, were mostly against against it.
INT: Let's just cut there for a moment.
BREAK IN TAPE
INT: Can we just ask you to repeat the point. Who really made the decision to intervene in the in the situation, militarily in the situation in Korea?
NB: I'm convinced that the US decision to intervene military in Korea came directly from the President. He was not supported by many people in the government, including, the military, and Dean Acheson I'm told was not enthusiastic about the idea of going in militarily but, President Truman by force of his personality -- and his office, of course -- was the one who made the decision.
INT: And how important was the role of the United Nations in meeting the challenge of Communist aggression?
NB: I think it was very important. If the United States had not gone through the, wait, let me let me start over again. Would you rephrase your question and then I can use your phrasing to
INT: Yeah, how important was the role of the United Nations in meeting the Communist aggression in Korea?
NB: I think the role of the United Nations at the time of the invasion of South Korea was very important indeed. This was it was a historic move on the part of the UN. It was the first time the United Nations had enforesolutions of the Security Council or moved to enforce them, and if it had not been for the umbrella, the UN umbrella, that this put over the operation, I'm sure thathe US would have had much more difficulty in getting support. Other countries would've, been much less ready to leap into the, fray as they did. The telegrams were coming in from all over the world with promises of support from UN members and if there had been no UN involved, it wouldn't have happened that way at all and it might have been a very tough struggle for us.