Truman and Korea: The Political Culture of the Early Cold War

By Paul G. Pierpaoli Jr. | Go to book overview

II

“An Entirely New War” The Chinese Intervention and the Institutionalization of Rearmament, December—January 1951

By the time President Truman declared a national emergency on December 16, 1950, the nation was bracing itself for any eventuality, including full-scale war with the Soviet Union. Consumers and producers alike, sensing the impending price and wage controls, bought at record levels, pushing inflation to new heights. The press was rife with talk of World War III, and the continued gloomy reports of military reverses in Korea dimmed the brightest of holiday spirits. Above all, an air of confusion and uncertainty pervaded society, seeming to paralyze the country from the top down. The angst of the period and of the war itself was ominously illustrated in Life magazine, which warned amidst a barrage of Christmas ads that “the news is of disaster; World War III moves ever closer ... our leaders are frightened, befuddled, and caught in a great and inexcusable failure to marshal the strength of America as quickly and as strongly as they ought to have done in recent months.” 1.

The period from mid-December 1950 to February 1951 witnessed a flurry of activity aimed at stabilizing the overheating economy while heightening the nation's war readiness. In short, the nation was entering the second phase of the Korean mobilization, which became subsumed within the administration's drive to significantly increase the pace and breadth of the nation's broader Cold War rearmament effort. During this time, the Truman administration concentrated on building organizational and bureaucratic structures to carry out the new exigencies of the stepped-up mobilization process. At the same

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1.
Life (December 11, 1950): 46.

-49-

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