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Niles

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Charles

Donovan,
Robert

Frazier,
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Galing,
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Pyo-wook,
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An,
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Simmons,
Edwin



     
   


INTERVIEW WITH GENERAL EDWIN SIMMONS

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INT: Could I ask you about how you felt at the time fighting what was a limited war with limited objectives as against the experience of the Second World War and other major conflicts, the First World War, a total war. Did you feel this was a war that could be won?

ES: By the Spring of 1951, it became evident to us that we were not going to fight this war to win it, that we were going to fight it to some [sic] negotiate a kind of peace. At about this time, the division between MacArthur and Truman became apparent. On the 20th of March MacArthur had a press conference in which he had talked about the need to win the war. He had sent a letter to Joseph Barton, minority leader in the House of Representatives, in which he had that wonderful phrase "there is no substitute for victory". Truman of course reacted violently to that and on the 11th of April relived MacArthur of his command and unfortunately, the radio news broadcast reached MacArthur in Tokyo before his official dismissal was received and so that was a terrible thing to relieve a general of the stature of MacArthur by virtue of a radio broadcast. And a curious thing happened. The marines were never that fond of MacArthur but from then on, MacArthur was alright. He understood that when you enter a war, you fight to win. You can't ask Americans to go overseas and fight for limited objectives. They don't understand that and nearly 50 years later, they still don't understand it. From Truman's perspective, it was a successful war. Truman did what he set out to do. He contained the war to the Korean peninsula. He of course went out in '53, Eisenhower was elected in the November '52 elections. Part of his platform was "I will go to Korea". The country had great faith in Eisenhower, a tremendously popular person. Truman was not popular, something that is now forgotten, and when Eisenhower said "I will go to Korea and I will bring this war to an end", the American people accepted that, and he did what he said he would do. But he also did not seek a military victory. He moved towards a negotiated peace, a peace which is still being negotiated without too much success.

INT: You were talking earlier about the fears of Communist infiltration in the State Department, the Pentagon and so on at home. As a fighting man, was it any different fighting a hot war in the Cold War, fighting an enemy who was Communists, Reds? Did it feel any different fighting a sort of ideological war, as it were, than fighting in the Second World War?

ES: Sometimes I say that World War II was a war in black and white. All good and all bad. Easily understood. Forces of good, forces of evil. In the Korean War, shades of grey entered in. It wasn't quite that easy to say 'good' and 'evil'. Vietnam War even worse, more shades of grey. And I think that's very difficult in a democracy, to pursue a war when there's not a clear perception of good and evil.

INT: Finally, General, just on a.. different note altogether, the impact of the Korean War on the Japanese economy was I believe very substantial. Could you tell us.. your views on that?

ES: The Korean War was one of the best things that ever happened to Japan. In 1950, Japan was still flat on its back industrially. Seeing that poor country at that time, as I did passing through, the conditions were still miserable. They had not in any way recovered from the war or perceptively so. Well, Japan became the jumping-off place for the Korean War. Millions and then billions of dollars, primarily American dollars but also European dollars, poured into Japan. It was the staging area for troops going to Japan, the dockyards and shipyards were used to rebuild, recondition the ships, the automotive industry was used to rebuild jeeps etcetera etcetera, new production lines were set up and the electronics business, well, the Japanese electronics, which are probably now the top of the world, really got their start in the Korean War. For a time, we would get Japanese batteries for our radios and they were no good. Lousy, we hated them. By the end of the war they were turning out very good batteries. So I don't know whether I could prove it with statistics but I think that the enormous growth of Japanese industry and commerce and business has its foundations in the Korean War.

INT: Let's cut there. Thank you.


CUT

INT: General Simmons, what was your view of the combat potential of the occupying forces in Japan in 1950?

ES: I remember when we arrived in Japan middle or toward the end of August, we off-loaded at Kobi, 3rd Battalion 1st Marines, and we moved up to Lake Atsu and there was a old Japanese barracks there and our troops moved into the barracks and they were very primitive as far as plumbing arrangements and so forth and the officers on the other hand moved into a very comfortable resort hotel across the lake, Lake Biwa, so we were living in this marvellous resort hotel. Our troops were living in this very primitive barracks and I asked the question of the Army quartering officer "how did you get to.. American troops to live under these conditions?". He said "oh, oh, they didn't live here. They lived in town. They made their own arrangements." And so this was technically their barracks but they didn't really live here, and I think that was very true. the army was living a comfortable life and they had been recruited not on 'defend your country' or fighting, but 'join the Army, see the world, learn a trade' etcetera. They were not mentally conditioned. And then when we tried to do a litraining ourselves, we found that all kinds of restraints on using the terrain. Japan's a very crowded country and we couldn't go across country. We could only stick to the roads on our marches and curiously, we found some Japanepolice officials who were only too happy to cooperate with us and let it drop that they had been in the Japanese Army and they understood what we were trying to do.

INT: Finally, can I just ask....

INTERRUPTION

INT: This is tape number 10479, 3rd of February 1997, continuation of interview with Brigadier General Ed Simmons. General, can I just ask you to describe for us what the invasion fleet on Inchon looked like. What did it feel like to be part of this enormous invasion operation?

ES: The invasion fleet that approached Inchon was a rusty travesty of the World War II invasion fleets. The number of ships was there but not the quality of the ships. Amphibious shipping had gotten a very low priority in the United States Navy and it had to be reconstructed from scrap, literally scrap. all the things that we were used to in World War II - a careful rehearsal, trained landing craft operators, trained amphibian tractor drivers - not much training. the story that I've told many times before probably this has turned up on tape. As I was trying to get my wave inland to Blue Beach 2 and all I could see was smoke and fire and confusion, and I went to the wave control, took my wave over to the wave control ship, a small ship, and said "which way to Blue Beach 2" and an excited ensign on the leaning of the bridge sort of waved and said "that way" and he really didn't know. He sort of pointed to where the smoke was the darkest and I figured, well, I'm gonna have to get there one way or another. And I broke out my map and I wasn't sure whether my compass would work in the hull of the Amtrak and so I asked the driver of the Amtrak -- amphibian tractor, that is -- "do you have a compass in this thing?" and he says "I don't know. Couple of weeks ago I was driving a bus in San Francisco." (laugh) So I broke out my camp compass and hoped that it was fairly true and I said, "well, this is our asmyth. We're going to head in that direction." And that was about the quality of our landing. And in World War II it wouldn't have cut the mustard.

INT: But in terms of the scale of the operation?

ES: The scale of the operation - one division landing followed by another division. Oh, it approximated the size of the landing at [Taroa] in 1943 but thank God the resistance was not what the Marines ran into at Taroa in 1943. Roughly speaking, the size of the opposing forces was about the same.

INT: Right, let's cut there. Very good, thank you very much indeed.

DISCUSSION

WILD TRACK

END OF I/V WITH GENERAL EDWIN SIMMONS