Harry S. Truman: Presidential Rhetoric

By Halford R. Ryan | Go to book overview
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The Korean Quagmire

Whereas the Truman Doctrine had been foreshadowed by the press before the president dramatically announced it on March 12, 1947, the Korean War was sprung on Truman, the nation, and the world without warning. But, unlike FDR's "Day of Infamy" speech delivered on December 8 to immortalize December 7, 1941, and perhaps owing to the lack of skilled oratory by the thirty-third commander in chief, no one remembers Saturday, June 24, 1950, the day when the North Korean Communists invaded South Korea (the invasion began on Sunday, June 25, Korean time, but all dates hereafter will be given in U.S. time).

The military vagaries of the battlefield and the Manichaean philosophy of the war overwhelmed Truman, for he was restrained by the former and he created the latter constraint that came round to haunt him. Moreover, the famous encounter between HST and General Douglas MacArthur had its roots in the conduct of the war and, more importantly, in their diametrically opposed rhetorical justifications for the war and its envisioned outcome.

Aside from the invasion itself, the political motivations and rhetorical reasoning for the Korean War were stated in two documents. The formulation of these papers preceded the conflict, but they served as rationales when the war came. Although these papers were then top secret, they nevertheless motivated the administration's military responses to the war, and they especially molded its justifications for the public's consumption. The position papers were produced by the National Security Council (NSC), which was created by the National Security Act of 1947.

The first paper was NSC-48. It was signed by Truman at the end of 1949 on the heels of the Soviet's exploding an atom bomb in September


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Harry S. Truman: Presidential Rhetoric


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