[KS] The Korean War and The Three Cambridge Spies

Balazs Szalontai aoverl at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Jul 2 08:41:12 EDT 2010

Dear All,
I wonder what is the latest opinion about the extent to which the information supplied by the Cambridge spies might have influenced Stalin's decision to give his consent to Kim Il Sung's invasion plan, first in late January and then in March-April. Of the authors who covered this subject, several scholars (e.g., Kathryn Weathersby) expressed the opinion that the confidential information thus obtained probably encouraged Stalin who concluded that U.S. military retaliation was unlikely. In contrast, some other historians (e.g., Bruce Cumings) concluded that if Stalin, thanks to the British spies, was indeed privy to the confidential plans of the Truman administration, he might have easily concluded that the U.S. would not let the ROK be attacked by the North without retaliation (and thus he may have actually wanted to provoke U.S. involvement in this local conflict of secondary strategic importance). Since one of my ongoing research projects is
 focused on Stalin's role in the Korean War, I am greatly interested in your views on this issue.
PS: I wonder if the statement cited in the article below ("I would never have made the attack and risked my men and 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.") was indeed made by Lin Biao (or Lin Piao, but definitely not Lin Pioa:)), or mistakenly attributed to him, rather than to Peng Dehuai (whose actual military role in the PLA offensive in question was greater). 
With best regards,
Dr. Balazs Szalontai
Mongolia International University     

--- On Thu, 1/7/10, Kwang On Yoo <lovehankook at gmail.com> wrote:

Hello Everyone,

As this year marks the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War (1950-2010), it is good opportunity to examine the role that three out of the five Cambridge Spies played in the war. It is not widely known that these three particular individuals (Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and Kim Philby) were deeply involved in Korean War. Their involvement inflicted colossal damage upon the Korean and U.N. forces during the first 10 months (June 1950-April 1951) of the war. 
General MacArthur asserted that "Philby, as well as Burgess and Maclean had betrayed the plans and the order of battle of the U.S. 8th Army in Korea to the communist intelligence services, and that thirty thousand men had been killed, wounded or captured through that betrayal." If we consider that the total U.S. casualties during 3 years of the Korean war was 33,870 dead and 142,000 wounded, the casualties attributed to these three Cambridge spies was almost 6% in less than 10 months out of all 37 months of the war (June 25, 1950-July 27, 1953). It should be noted that in the week preceding Maclean's appointment on September 1, 1950, as the Head of the American Department of the British Foreign Office, the U.N. had suffered its fewest casualties in seven weeks.  
At the time, all three spies were in prime positions where their treasonous activities would have maximum impact and as the saying goes, truly, they were cats at the fish stall.

Name                    Post(06/50-04/51)                                         In U.S.             Bolted to USSR                     
Donald Maclean   Head, American Dept, British Foreign Office 04/44-09/48      May,1951
Guy Burgess         2nd Secretary, British Embassy, D.C.           08/50-04/51      May,1951
                              transferred to U.S. from Far Eastern Dept., Foreign Office
Kim Philby             SIS(M16) liaison to  U.S. CIA & FBI             10/49-06/51       Jan., 1963

While the three were in London and Washington, D.C. they did everything in their power to see that the Soviet Union prevailed by providing highly secret policy and military information originating from the British mission in Peking, the British cabinet, the White House, CIA, State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General MacArthur and General Walker, the U.S. 8th Army Commander in Korea. 
The presence of the Commonwealth Brigade ( Britain , Canada , Australia and New Zealand ) in Korea helped to preserve the idea that the U.S. was not acting unilaterally in Korea , but as an agent of the U.N. Thus, from the first day of the war, the Pentagon leaders went out of their way to provide British military and diplomatic representatives with special treatment and access. MacArthur did same to Britain 's ranking political adviser in Japan who was able to provide London with information on proposed operations, bombing targets, and tactical decisions. Those reports originating in Tokyo and in Peking went directly to the Far Eastern Department, which were then copied to Maclean at the American Department. Because of this routing, Maclean was able to get all reports from Washington , Tokyo as well as from Peking .  
Yuri Modin, the Cambridge Spies’ KGB London Controller noted, "On Sunday 25 June, the day the North invaded the South, Burgess and his friend Maclean (on medical leave until Sept. 1st.) were more active than ever. Burgess gave me what he could: usually he annotated the documents in his own hand with comments about the attitude of the British Government and the possibility of an escalation of the war. Maclean, too supplied his own comments." For these Soviet spies, there were no Sundays, nor medical leave, only Stalin. Modin also noted that the information provided by the London agents (Maclean and Burgess) was so valuable and important that these were forwarded to "three addresses" only, Joseph Stalin, Foreign Commissar Molotov and KGB chief Beria. 
Not only was top secret, day-to-day military information, including the daily order of battle, compromised, but Washington’s war policy decisions and the following directives to MacArthur were also compromised: 
1. MacArthur was specially ordered to prevent any Nationalist (Formosa) attacks on mainland Communist China. Thus, the Red Chinese moved two of their best field armies from their coastal defenses opposite Formosa to the staging areas north of the Yalu. When the Red Chinese decided to intervene in Korea , these two armies under Lin Pioa (Lin Biao) spearheaded the attack. 
2. The restriction upon air reconnaissance of Manchuria ordered by Washington . It’s scope was confined entirely to Korea itself and nothing beyond. 
3. Washington's order "not to interfere with the operations of  the Supung (수풍) Hydroelectric Power Plant near Sinuiju (신의주) in North Korea". This installation on the south bank of the Yalu supplied power not only to North Korea but also to industrial and munitions plants in Manchuria and Siberia . Later, Washington also ordered MacArthur make no moves against Chinese units which were entering North Korea to take up position around the power plant. They knew that MacArthur was forbidden to bomb the power plant. 
4. The Joint Chiefs of Staff's refusal to bomb the Najin (나진) depot on the east coast, to which the Soviet Union forwarded supplies from Vladivostok for the North Korean Army. 
5. The Defense Secretary Marshall's order to MacArthur "to postpone all bombing of targets within five miles of the Manchurian border." Later MacArthur commented on this order, "It seemed to me incredible that protection should be extended to the enemy, not only of the bridges (over the Yalu, between North Korea and China) which were the only means the Chinese had for moving their men and supplies across that wide natural river barrier into North Korea, but also for a 5 mile deep area on this side of the Yalu in which to establish a bridgehead." 
6. Washington 's prohibition of hot pursuit of Soviet MIG-15s that had attacked U.S. planes, conducting hit-and-run sorties back to their Manchurian sanctuary. The doctrine of hot pursuit was not applicable in Korea because it carried with it the "great danger of provoking the Soviets". Later Dean Rusk(Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs during the Korean War) commented, "in retrospect, we made one mistake that I came to regret. I feel now that we should have allowed hot pursuit across the Yalu. Not permitting this was asking too much of our men." 
7. The British proposal to appease the Chinese Communists by giving them a strip of Northern Korea as a "buffer area", which was an ingenious solution to the problem of combating Red Chinese intervention. 

In addition to the above, the following agreements were made between Truman and British Prime Minister Atlee in December, 1950. Within hours of their meetings, a highly classified transcript of their talks was sent directly to Maclean at the Foreign Office to include: 
1. No naval blockade off the coast of China , in view of the extent of British trade with China through Hong Kong . 
2. The U.S. would not use an Atomic Bomb without prior consultation with the British. 
Regarding these agreements, Cecil Robert, Maclean's deputy at the time, likened the Korean War to a game of high stakes poker. He commented "He (Maclean) enabled Stalin and Mao to know not only which cards Truman and Atlee held, but how many chips Peking and Moscow would have to push into the center of the table to get London to insist that the West should fold it hands." 
The first commander who raised the question of a possible intelligence leakage was General Walker, though later, other high ranking military commanders followed.        On several occasions Walker complained bitterly to MacArthur that his operational plans, which were always telegraphed to Washington under the highest secrecy classification, were being leaked to the enemy, thereby giving the latter constant awareness regarding his battlefield strategy. General Van Fleet, The 8th Army Commander after Walker was killed in automobile accident, later testified before the Senate that "the enemy would not have entered Korea if he did not feel safe from attack in North China and Manchuria . My own conviction is there must have been information to the enemy that we would not attack his home bases." General Edward Almond, the X Corps Commander, also testified before the same Senate committee, that "the things as they happened looked very strange insofar
 as the assurance upon which the enemy appeared to operate. I think it would have been a very hazardous thing for the Chinese to enter North Korea in the abundant numbers in which they did, if they had thought their bases of rice or ammunition or any other base would be subject to attack." Admiral Turner Joy, the U.N. Naval Commander in Korea expressed the same sentiments. 
Most formidably, General James Gavin, a hero at the Normandy landing and later Kennedy's ambassador to France , recalls that during his service in the last critical months of 1950, the enemy repeatedly displayed an uncanny knowledge of U.N. troop deployment. He said " I have no doubt whatsoever that the Chinese moved confidently and skillfully in to North Korea, and, in fact, I believe that they were able to do this because they were well-informed not only of the moves Walker would make but of the limitations on what he might not do. At the time, it was difficult to account for this but I am quite sure now that all of MacArthur's plans flowed into the hands of the Communists through the British Foreign Office." 

Dean Rusk, who knew Maclean from Washington and was the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs during the Korean War, later told William Manchester, "It can be assumed, first, anything we in our government knew about Korea would have been known at the British Embassy and second, that officers in the Embassy of the rank of these three would have known what the British Embassy knew." 
But the mother of all acknowledgments came from none other than General Lin Pioa (Lin Biao). The Chinese Commander in Korea himself tacitly admitted that he had known all of the limitations placed on the U.N. forces. He obviously knew everything, from no Nationalist Chinese attacks on Red China, no hot pursuit, no bridges to connecting Manchuria to North Korea, no strikes against dams or power plants, all targets in Manchuria and China off-limits, the date and order of battle for the end of the war offensive, no economic blockade and finally no risk of the atomic bomb. He specifically said "I would never have made the attack and risked my men and 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." Because of the information provided by the three spies, Peking and Moscow knew that they were fighting almost a risk free war. 
Later in 1968, from the safety of Moscow, Philby had the audacity to say about his friend Maclean, "After his departure, it was said blandly that he was 'only' the head of the American Department of the Foreign Office, and that had little access to high-grade information. But it is nonsense to suppose that a resolute and experienced operator occupying a senior post in the Foreign Office can have access only to papers that are placed on his desk in the ordinary course of duty." Regarding his own involvement in Korean War, he wrote to Manchester in 1978, “Was there a leak or wasn't there? I do not know, and, if I did I probably could not tell you. The question is left hanging." 
Some smoking guns, to further implicate the three include:     

1. In Philby's own words, "In my garage-cum-potting-shed, I slipped a trowel into my briefcase and then went down to the basement. I wrapped a camera, tripod and accessories into waterproof containers, and bundled them in after the trowel. I had often rehearsed the necessary action in my mind's eye, and had lain the basis for it. It had became my frequent habit to drive out to Great Falls to spend a peaceful half-hour between bouts of CIA-FBI liaison, and on the way I had marked down a spot suitable for the action that had now became necessary, where the undergrowth was high and dense enough for concealment and got to work with trowel. As far as inanimate objects were concerned, I was clean as a whistle." 
2. Cecil Robert, one of Maclean's two deputies in the Department, acknowledged that Donald had access to most of the important telegrams passing between the Foreign Office and posts abroad, as well as large selection of Cabinet papers, some of which Cecil found locked in Maclean's cabinet after he fled to Russia. 
3. Inside Burgess' abandoned car, the FBI found graphs and charts on the strength of American armed forces, defense expenditures for the U.S. from 1943 to1950, and maps of various defense installations. 
Fortunately(?) for South Korea, their espionage activities abruptly ended in April of 1951when Maclean and Burgess escaped to Russia in May. Otherwise Korea 's geopolitical situation would have been much different than it is now, though one cannot help but wonder how the course or duration of the Korean War may have differed, had it not been for the involvement of the Cambridge Spies. 


1) U.S. News & World Reports, September 30, 1955 - "How Two Spies Cost The U.S. A War" 
2) The Cambridge Spies: The Untold Story of Maclean, Philby, and Burgess in America , by Verne W. Newton 
3) An American Caesar- Douglas MacArthur: 1880 -1964, by William Manchester 
4) Reminiscences, by Douglas MacArthur 
5) MacArthur: His Rendezvous with History, by Major General Courtney Whitney 
6) Treason in the Blood, by Anthony Cave Brown 
7) As I Saw It, by Dean Rusk, as told to Richard Rusk 
8) My Silent War, by Kim Philby 
9) My 5 Cambridge Friends, by Yuri Modin

Thank you very much for your time.

Kwang-On Yoo



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