Analyzing Viewpoints: The Korean War Speech Explaining the Firing of MacArthur

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Analyzing Viewpoints: The Korean War

Speech Explaining the Firing of MacArthur, Harry S. Truman, April 13, 1951

…In the simplest of terms, what we are doing in Korea is this: We are trying to prevent a third world war. The Soviet government in engaged in a monstrous conspiracy to stamp out freedom all over the world… the best chance of stopping it without general war is to meet the attack in Korea and defeat it there… We do not want to see the conflict in Korea extended. We are trying to prevent a world war—not to start one. The best way to do that is to make it plain that we and the other free countries will continue to resist the attack…

But you may ask, why can’t we take other steps to punish the aggressor. Why don’t we bomb Manchuria and China itself? Why don’t we assist Chinese Nationalist troops to land on the mainland of China?

If we were to do these things we would be running a very grave risk of starting a general war. If that were to happen, we would have brought about the exact situation we are trying to prevent. If we were to do these things, we would become entangled in a vast conflict on the continent of Asia and our task would become immeasurably more difficult all over the world.

What would suit the ambitions of the Kremlin better than for our military forces to be committed to a full-scale war with Red China? […]

Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, Douglas MacArthur, April 19, 1951

If a potential enemy can divide his strength on two fronts, it is for us to counter his efforts. The Communist threat is a global one. Its successful advance in one sector threatens the destruction of every other sector. You cannot appease or otherwise surrender to communism in Asia without simultaneously undermining our efforts to halt its advance in Europe…

While no man in his right mind would advocate sending our ground forces into continental China, and such was never given a thought, the new situation did urgently demand a drastic revision of strategic planning if our political aim was to defeat this new enemy as we had defeated the old…

Efforts have been made to distort my position. It has been said in effect that I was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. But once war is forces upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory…

  1. What does Truman give as the major reason for fighting in Korea?

  2. With which of Truman’s ideas does MacArthur agree?

  3. Why does MacArthur disagree with Truman over the steps that should be taken in dealing with China?

  4. According to Truman, how would such steps help the Soviet Union?

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