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Roger Dingman on: Use of Atomic Weapons in Korea
Roger Dingman Q: MacArthur wanted to use the atomic bomb. He told a French television reporter, a French journalist who went in to see him and he said, "Give me a handful of bombs and I'll take care of the China industrial bases." What did he want to do this for? I think one has the sense that the Truman administration thought they were dealing with a madman. Did he have rational goals in terms of the use of nuclear weapons? Did he recognize any constraints of the nuclear age?

DINGMAN: General MacArthur at the Surrender ceremonies aboard the Missouri, September of 1945, talked about nuclear weapons making war obsolete. What happens in June of 1950? A totally unexpected war, which nobody thought could happen, which challenges that proposition.

I don't think that General MacArthur really ever wanted to use nuclear weapons. I think he was quite capable of talking to journalists in private, and people who came to visit him, about the possibility of this sort of thing, but I think that what he really wanted to do was to bring an end to the Korean War. The way to do that in his view was to punish the Chinese in a way which would make them realize that a protracted war of attrition with a loss of many lives in Korea was futile. And so that he was prepared to do things which were dramatic, such as cross the Yalu and impose a blockade on the Chinese. He would talk about the possibility of using weapons of destruction against Chinese cities that would accelerate the process of the people in China coming to their senses, and realizing that they were not going to drive United States off the Korean peninsula. Therefore, the purpose of these dramatic statements that he makes is to convey this sense that there is a need to take a dramatic action which will bring an end to the fighting in Korea.

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