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

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

III

Labor's Cold Shoulder The Price and Wage Freeze and a Crisis-Filled Spring, February—May 1951

February through May 1951 was one of the most active—and divisive—periods of the Korean mobilization. It was a time of constant adjustment, as the Truman administration tried to structure and pace rearmament in a manner compatible with the nation's long-standing traditions and values and that would not convert the country into a regimented garrison state. At the same time, the administration was forced to deal with a series of military and political crises that threatened the entire mobilization effort. These months also brought considerable good news, however. The inflation rate eased, and materials that had been in short supply began to reappear. The new stabilization program began to have the desired effect: panic-inspired buying ceased, prices fell, and production rose. In the early summer of 1951, the United States was poised to enter one of the most productive and prosperous periods in its history.

The story in Korea was not as rosy as the domestic economic scene, however. By early spring, the heretofore topsy-turvy military engagement in Korea had stalemated. General Douglas MacArthur's attempts to widen the war and question its efficacy undermined the Truman administration and precipitated a full-blown crisis that called into question the primacy of the civilian government over the military establishment. MacArthur's insubordination resulted in his dismissal, which played right into the hands of Truman's opponents and the conservative bloc in Congress. By now, the Korean War had become “Truman's War, ” a war of stalemate, attrition, and bitter partisan political rhetoric. The uproar over MacArthur's dismissal hampered the administration's efforts to formulate coherent, long-term defense strategy

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