INT: You say even his critics supported him. Were there any dissenting voices as to that action had to be taken to stem Communist expansionism?
RD: I would say no. I can't think of any. Oh somewhere there was criticism, but from the usual sources of criticism there was not and it was seen right away that this was... this was a move in the direction of Japan, which was our bastion in the Pacific. The thought of Communism taking over Japan was unacceptable, they had to be stopped.
INT: At the time, was there a feeling and to what extent was this the case, that North Korea was just part of a master plan which had been orchestrated in Moscow?
RD: That feeling absolutely did develop. Yes, whether it was true right off the bat, I don't know, but there was a feeling that Stalin was calling the shots on this and that this was done as a way of expanding the Soviet empire. Korea was always feared as one more step toward Communist expansion, and in this case, expansion toward Japan.
INT: Well, in that case, you would expect that the war would be popular with people, was this the case, was there a sense among newspaper readers, here was a to teach the Reds a le?
RD: I think so. I think that everyone thought that then Truman did the right thing, that we had to stop them.... I think at the same time, people thought it was going to be done quickly and that this was not something that was going... no-one dreamed that this was going to drag on in the way it did, nobody. And when it did drag on and on, you know, that's when people started to howl.
INT: But at the outset, was there a country-wide...
RD: [Interrupts] Everyone supported it, everyone. The newspapers supported it. I can't think right now who was opposed to it at the beginning. I suppose there were pacifist elements that did, but yes, Truman was supported by the American people on trying to stop that advance below the Thirty Eighth Parallel.
INT: To begin with it was fairly disastrous and then there was the Inchon landing, things were going a bit better, and then you had another blow to the administration in Washington with the Chinese coming into the war. Now can you remember what sort of reaction there was in Washington to that, the Chinese intervention, how much of a surprise it was to people?
RD: You mean the intervention...
INT: The Chinese in force in November came into the war...
RD: Oh yes, the period we're talking about...
INT: Right. So this is later, there's been a kind of faked attempt by the Chinese, but in a major force, thousands and thousands of troops are pouring across into North Korea and did this come as a big surprise to people in Washington?
RD: Let me go back to say... centre this on Truman. Truman's great fear was that the Chinese with their great manpower, would come into Korea, would cross the Yalu River and come into the mountainous North of Korea and strike our forces. We didn't have the manpower in Korea to meet a big Chinese army and indeed when they came in and began forcing us back, we were... was when trouble really began for our forces, for the President, and it caused great dread in the United States, I can tell you. People were horrified. There was talk, even at Truman's press conferences, about using the atomic bomb.... so that was the awful moment when Chinese forces came in, awful moment.
INT: But people like yourself, who knew more about the background and there was a mutual defence treaty between the Soviet Union and China...
RD: That's what made it all the worse. If China got the fear was that if China got involved in military in a war with us, that their non-aggression pact would bring Russia in on their side. In other words, Russia would consider an attack on them as an attack on Russia and so it was a deathly serious matter.
INT: I'll just ask you that again, because it's a mutual aggression... mutual defence...
RD: [Interrupts] Mutual defence.
INT: Yes, just tell me about...
RD: [Interrupts] But it means an attack... an attack on you was an attack on us.
INT: Let's just make that into a statement, if you could. If you could reflect on the seriousness of China coming in and what China's relation is with the Soviet Union and what that adds up to in terms of fear in this country.
RD: Let me see... China came in... just a minute... China came in '50, didn't it...
INT: In came in in force in November of 1950...
RD: [Interrupts] '50, that's right. Well, let me say this, the worst part of the whole Korean War was in November of 1950, when three hundred thousand Chinese troops came into North Korea, crossed the Yallu River from Manchuria and came into Korea and the danger was that they would wipe us out, that they could endanger opposition in Asia with Japan just across the water, and what made it so especially grim was that the Chinese had a mutual defence treaty...
INT: I think it's a mutual defence treaty. If I ask you why was it so frightening that the Chinese were coming in and if you could explain to me the reason why it's so frightening?
RD: It was so frightening because we didn't have all that many people in Northern Korea. The United States and the United Nations did not have the manpower of China, and the fear plainly was that our forces would be slaughtered. We had thousands of troops, thousands of troops in North Korea, and here are three hundred thousand enemies are coming in against us. Truman had been worried from the beginning about China coming into the war. When he met General MacArthur earlier on Wake Island, it was one of the things Truman most wanted to know, would the Chinese come in. And MacArthur, who's belief was that they would not and... but the worry persisted in the United States and suddenly it happened, it happened and it happened in a way that, you know, even at a Truman press conference, stimulated talk about how they were going use the atomic bomb, which of course we weren't.
INT: Why is it so significant, what is the potential danger with the Chinese coming?
RD: Well, the potential danger was reflected in the minds of the American people, that with its manpower, far exceeding ours, the Chinese might come into North Korea and destroy our forces. I mean, with that intent they came into Korea and they started pushing us back and it was bitter, bitter fighting for our American forces to hold them off as well as we did and that's what made it the real terror of the Korean War, not our going in to save the land below the Thirty Eighth Parallel, it was the danger that China would come in and that danger was much reinforced by the fact that the Japanese... the Chinese and the Soviets had a mutual... mutual defence pact. In other words, if China were in trouble, the Soviet Union would assist them. I'm doing that poorly, but you can get the wording in that can't you.
INT: Just summarise that. Apart from the fear that the US army could be wiped out by hoards of superior numbers, isn't it also the political relationship between the Soviet Union and China, so looking back on it, can you tell us what the fear that the Soviet Union and China would be on the same side together against the US?
RD: That is to say, under this treaty, if the Soviet Union saw China being defeated, that China, under the terms of the treaty, would come in and fight on the side of China. That was always considered a possibility. I'm not doing that quite...
INT: Let's talk about the press conference itself, where Truman was reported as threatening atomic weapons. Now how did the whole sequence of events go in that press conference?
RD: Right, when the Korean War seemed desperate and a very tough war, it was inevitable that people would talk about the atomic bomb. You know, that comes up... that would come up. It was mentioned in Vietnam. We had it and would we use it, would we save our forces, would we save our position in South East Asia? So that question was always there. President Truman held a press conference, I think on the thirtieth of November 1950, in which he said that the United States was building up its forces now and that we were appropriating some eighteen billion dollars for the army, navy and so forth and he added the Atomic Energy Commission, which of course suggests nuclear weapons. And when the press conference began, after he'd said that, the President went on to say, we will use all the forces we have here in the face of this assault and the reporter, who was a young reporter, worked for a tabloid, said, does that include the atomic bomb? Listening to that at the press conference, I thought that was a very show-off question. No-one thought anything of using the atomic bomb at that point. What were we going to, drop it in the vicinity of our own soldiers, who were in combat with the Chinese? But that got things going and the President would... never got precise enough about it. He says, that's always under consideration, which it is, and it went on and on just like that, the President not being able to shut this thing off and till people began to think that maybe we were going to use the atomic bomb. I don't mean people in the United States, but around the world there was a tremendous reaction to this.... Let me stop a minute. You know what I'm talking about.