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Roger Dingman on: Conflict Over Strategy in Korea
Roger Dingman Q: There was tension between Truman and his Administration and MacArthur after the Chinese did intervene. What was it about? Was there disagreement over the aims of the war or was it simply clarity of what Washington wanted? What was MacArthur trying to get out of Truman, what was the cause of the tension?

DINGMAN: After the Chinese came into the war, I think the central issue that developed between President Truman and General MacArthur was the issue of defining an end and when it would come. I don't think General MacArthur wanted to fight a war against China, for the sake of fighting a war against China. General MacArthur wanted to end the war in Korea successfully, with a victory, however that might be be defined. And the more people that President Truman sent out from Washington, to talk to, or carry papers to General MacArthur, the more General MacArthur became convinced that Washington didn't have an end plan, an end game. Its sense of how to end the war simply wasn't clear enough to provide the direction a military man needed to conduct the war.

This led to the development of a kind of war which again General MacArthur had seen in the First World War--trench warfare. A seemingly endless conflict with loss of life, where you see a decline in morale, a decline in the performance ability of the troops, and eventually, a decline in the willingness of the American public to support such a war. And, I think that's the central issue -- how are we going to end this war, why are we fighting it, and what should be the clear statement of policy which would enable us to define a way to end it.

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