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American RadioWorks |
Josipa Roksa and Richard Arum, co-authors of Aspiring Adults Adrift. (Photo:  Social Science Research Council)

Ed researchers: Colleges can do more for students, especially in a bad economy

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American RadioWorks |
Josipa Roksa and Richard Arum, co-authors of Aspiring Adults Adrift. (Photo:  Social Science Research Council)

Ed researchers: Colleges can do more for students, especially in a bad economy

College is worth the investment. College graduates can't find good jobs. Student loan debt keeps rising, and now tops a trillion dollars. What can be done?

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Home | Oral History Archive | Reporter's Notebook

AMERICAN RADIOWORKS
ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

interview with:
Roy Flint



As part of the research for Korea: The Unfinished War, American RadioWorks conducted almost 100 interviews with veterans and historians. We've made those interviews available here. Rough transcripts accompany each interview - but these are incomplete, and often paraphrase the speaker. The authoritative source should be seen as the audio recording, not the transcription. You can listen to and/or read the interviews -but please DO NOT QUOTE from the transcript.

Transcript:


Roy Flint interviewed by John Biewen
Banner Elk, NC
April 11, 2003

{Roy Flint:} And we said yes, it should be published. This is the story that should be told. Theres no whitewashing. Its just flat-out non-interpretative unit history. And my comment was that I thought that the unfortunate part is that nobody had extended the narrative to include the worldwide context and the state of the army as a whole in 1950. And as a result of that they called me about two weeks later and told me the decision was to publish it but would I write an introduction. So I wrote a short introduction and Ive heard from a couple of people, black veterans who appreciated it because it does make the point that all the units were in about the same dismal shape. But part of my criticism of MacArthur, which Im not going to, Ill let whats his name?

{John Biewen:} Bruce Cummings? Gerald Early?

{RF:} Gerald Early. Let him deal with it. But I think its really unconscionable that MacArthur was in the theater so long and even after Truman had sort of by executive order, integrated the army, he did nothing about it, untilhe didnt even do it during the war, Ridgeway did it. He did it on his own authority right in Korea. He integrated the 8th army.

{JB:} MacArthur hadnt taken any steps yet?

{RF:} Nothing. It was terrible. Really, when you look at it as an exercise in responsibility, and what you would expectthe army was bad that way though. My generation changed the army. And I think my generation changed the country too because our parents were bigoted. I can remember listening to my father talk about black people in such a way that I finally just had to say, I just cant buy that. I finally stood up to him. This was after I was a little older. But my wife had the same experience in her family and my kids always talk about how they liberated the world, you know. And I said no, we liberated you and then you went ahead, so we sort of take credit in that now sort of grandfather generation.

{JB:} Thats interesting.

{RF:} It was that way.

{JB:} Lets back up a little bit. Tell what you do and me who you are.

{RF:} Well Im Roy Flint and I graduated from the University of Michigan in the same month that the Korean War broke out. And because my father and my grandfather and my uncles had all served in the Canadian Army, I was the first American, and my cousins; it was just natural for me to feel that when the country went to war, you went to war with them. So I enlisted in the army and subsequently went to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned and got to Korea just, as I said, as the war ended in Korea. But I liked the service so much that I stayed in and I had a, I was an infantry officer and I served in Hawaii with the 25th division after Korea was over and I served with the 82nd airborne division and served in staffs in particularly in Germany. I went to the British Staff College after Leavenworth, which was the Command and General Staff College in our army and then after the British Staff College I went to the Armed Forces Staff College. Apparently I was one of those people that didnt stick and they kept sending me back to school to learn it. And went to Vietnam where I served in headquarters, US Army Vietnam first and then as a battalion commander in the 25th division. After that I was asked to teach at the Military Academy and I went back for one year and then was ordered to the War College and I decided to go. I could have deferred it but I didnt want to take a chance at that time. And then I was invited to compete for a permanent professorship or an associate professorship at the academy and I decided by that time that I would like to go back. And so I competed and I won. Then I competed to be the deputy head of the department and I won. I competed to be the head of the department and won and finally I became the dean. Again competing with my colleagues.

{JB:} Dean of?

{RF:} Of the Military Academy at West Point. And in the process I did my PhD at Duke under Ted Ropp and I wrote a history of the Korean War up to the intervention of the Chinese. Now the reason it was cut short was because I pioneered the opening of the Korean War records under the Freedom of Information Act, and so my dissertation was just all secret and top secret documents and to make sure that was included, I guess for that reason, they allowed me to drop it short because to finish would have been awell my book, which Im still writing is at 800 pages not typed, so Ive got obviously this summer Im, last summer I worked on it and finished it and this summer Im going back to edit it to bring it intoto ensure consistency with what I now believe is the real meaning of the war. And so that pretty much, oh and I spent 20 years teaching at West Point, by the time I retired and then Ive been at Lees-McRae College here in Banner Elk for 10 years. And so thats pretty much the story. Ive worked for a long time, since 1950. So Im cutting back a little bit.

{JB:} How old are you?

{RF:} Well, Im 73; Ill be 74 in October.

{JB:} So you grew up in Michigan?

{RF:} Yep.

{JB:} Where?

{RF:} Just outside of Detroit in a, went to a high school called Ferndale High School and really my experience with black people was really sort of second nature to me all the way through school. We had integrated schools of course and we had, when we got to high school the area consolidated, just the one high school, well there was a catholic high school, but just one public high school. And a number of black youth arrived at high school from a district in Detroit, no just outside the Detroit city limits and our high school was a remarkably diverse and complete picture of the community. And I had friends among the blacks. I never had any problem with the blacks. We always got along well. So this is part of the background of my splitting with my father on the issue, which obviously, he was getting on in years and well, he was still working though when he was talking like that. I just gave up on him on the subject though.

{JB:} Well, lets start and if only briefly with your experience. When exactly did you get to Korea?

{RF:} I got to Korea in August of 1950. I think, no wait, it was July, no the war ended in July and I got there in the first week of August.

{JB:} In 1953.

{RF:} In 53 yeah, Im sorry, 53, I entered the army in 50. The situation that I found was a watchful waiting, even though the truce had been signed there was no real confidence that it would last. It was, after all just a cease-fire and we had no idea of the permanence of that agreement. So we rather expected that we would be facing action, and in fact we had problems with line crossers and we had problems with the South Korean people. They were somewhat brutal with the line crossers so there was kind of a contest between us, at least as far as we saw it, that we should take these people under our control and not allow them to fall under South Korean control. Because after all they are our primary source of intelligence at that level. I was a company commander in the 23rd infantry regiment, 2nd division and we were on a rather interesting part of the line. Right on the shoulder of the Chorwan Valley, which was a major terrain feature; break in the mountains and all. And so when we picked them up, as I recall, we tried to turn them over to US Military Police and get them out of the area before any others got a hold of them. And that kind of surprised me, but thats the only other action we had. We always acted like the war was about to break out and manned our positions at every sighting or potential threat that somebody saw along the line. But other than that it was straight soldiering and improving the fighting positions. We rebuilt a number of the bunkers and hid them a little better and improved the trench line connecting the bunkers to each other. It was a lot of work. There was plenty to do and it wasnt like we were just sitting around. And

{JB:} And that war, now that was, that situation, essentially has continued to this day?

{RF:} Yeah, the South Koreans now man the whole line. Well, there may be, theres at least one, theres one American division over there and it operates, it mans the line, but it rotates I think in and out just like we did. We did the same thing; we were replaced by South Korean unit and then went back up into the line after a while.

{JB:} In the sense that the ceasefire continued, but

{RF:} Yeah, but I should, I wanted, the reason I wanted to talk about the South Koreans for a moment is because they have, they have institutionalized the truce to the extent that they call those positions the combat zones, the front lines. They treat that like a war zone and they station units in it and rotate units in and out of it as if theyre at war. And I remember talking to a waitress in a restaurant and she said, well I have a son thats in the army, spoke good English; I have a son in the army. And I said, oh really? Where is he? Hes at the front, which I thought was a remarkable, casual description of the situation.

{JB:} This was when?

{RF:} Oh this would be back in about 1993 or 94 something like that. Well actually it was earlier than that. It was more like the late 80s.

{JB:} That you were visiting Seoul?

{RF:} Yeah. Well I was on temporary duty over there working on an annual joint exercise. A map, called a CPX or whatever you want to call it, but it was a map exercise and we were war-gaming a North Korean attack on the line and it employed the South Korean government all the way down. It was interesting, but I had some time on my hands, so I got a chance to travel. I got a chance to travel back up to my old company area, which was, which wasnt being used. It was actually a reserve position by the time I saw it again. But I traveled the line and all the little grass had grown into big trees and it was almost impossible. It had all been on a hill, which rose above the rice patties in the Chorwan Valley and in the little valley that was in front of us. And I couldnt even see it. I couldnt see it because the trees, the trees, everything was overgrown. It was a totally different experience to see it like that, but Im glad I did.

{JB:} And yet, we still have how many American troops over there?

{RF:} Now?

{JB:} Yeah. Ive seen figures of 30-some thousand, does that seem?

{RF:} Well, its, I think there is one division that should number somewhere around 20. Then thered be artillery and support units and all that sort of thing and then theres headquarters people; I thought that the figure would be somewhere crowding 50 thousand. Theres another, theres the joint command, that is the international command in Seoul and then theres a, when I was there, there was a three-star general commanding it, which would mean it would be, essentially, a core headquarters waiting, in waiting, and playing the part of a larger American force and there was really, I think one division there. So that would be, I would think 50 thousand would not be far off the total number of Americans over there.

{JB:} By the way, the working title were using is Korea: A War Without End.

{RF:} Thats interesting because really, thats what Ive been describing the waitress who said her son is at the front. Thats pretty good.

{JB:} And not so much that were going to focus so much on the post-war, but also thats meant to sort of evoke that the war had lasting impact, more than what people think.

{RF:} Well, thats exactly the reason why Ive reoriented the book Im writing because Ive seen the integral part that Korea played in the Cold War. Its not good enough just to say that well it was the first military action of the cold war, but it was more than that. And much of the war was fought out in Washington with the changes in the budgetary content, the expansion by 1954 of the military services into a major force in the world, which it had not been when the Korean War broke out.

So, but see I would perhaps, I see what youre saying, War Without End, applying to Korea, but its clear that we have, as far as the South Koreans are concerned and the Americans, weve moved well beyond the war into an economic combination around the Pacific Rim thats sort of leading the world in technology and things such as that and theyre playing a big part of it. So Id be, now if you just transfer it to the Korean people, the struggles going on with North Korea now are surely an extension of the feelings that were generated during the war.

{JB:} In a way, the premise Im thinking of putting this is to say that it almost goes without saying that you cant understand the current situation on the Korean Peninsula without knowing the Korean War and but also and this is where we turn is that theres much about United States foreign policy and military that took shape at that time.

{RF:} Thats right and thats part of that Cold War expansion of, of course World War II was a pretty good rehearsal. All of the relationships had already been established, Korea was one of the few that hadnt been really, well in a minor sort of sense of disarming the Japanese army and sending them home, confronting the Russians in the backwater of that was certainly

{JB:} But you know, one of the pictures that you get is that Harry Truman from then on always had the first priority in Europe that Korea was an aggravation if it detracted the American foreign policy from the NATO alliance in Europe and of course in the United Nations.

{JB:} Well lets back up to that, 1945 and remind us of how the Korean Peninsula came to be divided the way it was.

{RF:} Well, yeah. The Russians had entered the war a few days before it actually ended and they were driving through Manchuria and then actually had an army on the Korean Peninsula and south of the 38th parallel. They were within days of occupying the whole peninsula, when a coordination and probably youd have to talk to Bruce because hes really keen on this early period, much more so than I. A communication was made, obviously between the Americans and the Russians and they discussed the problem of disarming the Japanese and so a deputation met with the Russians and they decided that the 38th parallel provided a port to the north and a port to the south, Pusan and Inchon, two ports actually because there was a Wonsan as well as the port for PYongyang, the capitol.

(bell rings)

Well, I was just saying that they had decided to divide the peninsula roughly in half so that the United States army would be responsible for disarming Japanese soldiers south of the 38th parallel and the Russians would disarm the Japanese north of the 38th parallel. And thats the way it started. The Americans moved in and the Russians actually, the Soviets I should call them, they keep changing their names on me at critical times in my life, but the Soviets then pulled back north of the 38th, which nobody really thought about at the time, but if you stop and think about the history from that point on, you wonder why they didnt just occupy the peninsula, but they pulled back from the 38th and we sent a corps, I think it was the 24th corps went in and occupied the southern part and set up actually, an American, military government. And that government, again, talking to Bruce would be an advantage to you because that government was probably largely responsible for the tensions and I would go so far as to say almost mal-administration of South Korea. They utilized bureaucrats from the Japanese government and that anchored the people of South Korea and I think Ill leave it at that and let someone else who understands the problem.

But there was, without any doubt, a strong Communist presence in the south. There was not, there was no unanimity in the nature of the government that would be put in the south. The American military government favored the party of Syngman Rhee and ultimately he won an election and became the president. But you know Mark Clark wrote a very interesting letter later on in the war to a friend in which he talked about Syngman Rhee as a brutal dictator. He stifles the press, he jailed his political opponents and he went on. And you know I interviewed Clark and I had read the letter, but I hadnt realized the depth of his feeling. And I said to him, what was the biggest problem that you had facing you as the commander in chief of UN command when you arrived in Korea, of course there were a couple of problems. He had a POW rebellion going on in the south, he had the war, of course and he came in the middle of the truce talks. So I thought, you know I really didnt know what he was going to say, and then he said, Syngman Rhee. And then he proceeded to almost repeat what he had said in the letter some years ago. But he said to me something that he didnt put in the letter, you know as I think about it, as a Korean, I wish he had been an American. And Ive heard that said before by some folks who were in an adversarial position, but really its a statement of respect of the commitment of the adversary.

And I think that he, I think Clark had come to the realization or the belief anyway that Syngman Rhee was a true Korean patriot nationalist. Whether he was good for the country or not was a matter of some debate, but he respected him I think, even though he didnt much care for him.

{JB:} Interesting.

{RF:} Yeah, I thought so. But anyway, as time passed the conflict between the North and the South got hotter and more active particularly after Ree became president. And Kim Il Sung became the, basically his counterpart in the North. And Kim Il Sung was a soldier. He was also a brilliant politician, I think and he built a military presence with Russian, Soviet assistance. Our policy in the South was not to trust Syngman Rhee very far, particularly not to trust him with a large modern army, for which we were the reason the sponsors. And congress in particular were offended by Rees actions and by some of his public statements. And so the army was kept relatively small. The figure thats used is roughly 64 thousand but the description of the army is more like a peacekeeping, police, kind of military police, sort of a gendarmerie the way the French use there, use some of their people.

It was not much of a fighting force. It didnt have support, it didnt have modern aircraft, it didnt have artillery. It was basically a rifle and machine gun force. And it manned the 38th parallel, the line dividing the north and the south.

{JB:} And I know weve looked at some of the scholarship and I know that Bruce Cummings has been in the thick of some of these academic battles about was this fundamentally a civil war and what was the extent to what was the extent of the role of the international forces. It sounds like hes losing the extent of that argument lately.

{RF:} Well, I would agree with him in some ways and disagree in others, but I do think his categorization, as a civil war is probably correct. Its North Koreans versus South Koreans, its a government in North Vietnam, Im sorry, North Korea, government in South Korea and as I was saying, there were a lot of sympathetic South Koreans. It wouldnt be right to call them full-fledged Communists yet, but they were, I think Syngman Rhee in a sense had a large role to play in galvanizing opposition, which found its natural home with the Northerners who had not yet had a chance to exercise their form of government on them. They had no real future if you think about it. They had to either live under Syngman Rhee or live under Communism. And so a lot of the country did support Ree and he put together, eventually, a very large and effective army.

{JB:} But the situation was that in a way, that the north is a client state of the Soviets.

{RF:} Yeah, but there is a lot of Korean nationalism involved in this. This is not all Communism; this is a unification of the Korean people. And you know Ree wanted to go North too, he wanted to do the same thing to the North that the North wanted to do to him. So I think Bruce Cummings I probably on the mark as far as a civil war is concerned as far as other details are concerned. And Ree did terrorize the country outside of Seoul and I think it had a weakening effect on the loyalty of the South Koreans. And I think when the Koreans came in, the North Koreans came in, they were welcomed in a number of places. After all, General Dean was captured, roamed around the countryside and was finally turned over to the North Koreans, so its not like there was a well, let me put it this way, I think you probably couldnt trust anybody if you were in Deans position. But I dont know if he knew that or not.

{JB:} So, but as I read the Kathryn Weathersby, it looks to me like essentially both things were true. It was a civil war and

{RF:} It was a Communist versus the Free World war. I think were probably as; my assessment now is that Kim Il Sung is probably motivated as a Communist, as a client of the Soviets and as a North Korean to seek the unification of the peninsula. I think Syngman Rhee as a nationalist, as a, certainly a right-winger, a kind of totalitarian authority, authoritarian type figure was, in effect trying to preserve the South prior to imposing his will on the North and he was happily the client state of the United States, which was the international arch enemy of the Soviets and by this time he could count on the United States to adopt his stand as their position in the Cold War. This was part of what Im trying to get at in my book is the greater meaning of the Korean War within the Cold War. And I think this is part of it. And golly, it does look like Korea is kind of lynchpin of American

When Harry Truman starts putting together thewhen Harry Truman finally realizes the future of the world is when he reads whats called NSC68 the document, which described the semi-permanent nature of the hostility between the Soviets and the Americans, and hes got a war on his hands, or he, no, not at that moment, but he comes to have a war in his hands that same summer. Hes just really studied the document in April and in June, the war breaks out. And nothings been done about the document theres been no policy change until the war breaks out. And then in July he presents a speech to Congress, which changes all of our outlooks. Our domestic interests become international, our economic interest becomes military in terms of the emphasis and we adopt a kind of lying in the sand mentality in Europe. This is what causes us to send the first units to Europe in peacetime to man a line across Germany. So its a really remarkable event, I think.

{JB:} Now he, I havent heard his speech to congress, but I have Trumans address to the American people in July, July 19th of 50 and I suspect that its a similar, because what he does is -

{RF:} He changed the Cold War policy of the United States. He, the reason why he gave the speech, he delivered the message to Congress, but then I use that rather than the public speech, but what hes in a sense saying is that we have to do something to conserve the military power that we have, we have to build the military power and thirdly and importantly we have to build our allies military power. And that seems to be, to me, the springboard to everything that takes place in the next, through the Korean War, but then right on. Not one other event took place and I think educated Truman about the world and that was his meeting with Clement Attlee after the Chinese intervention in December. He met with Attele early in December and they talked about basically, their disagreements and during the course of that conference, about a 4 day conference, they changed their positions, both of them, moving towards a sort of central agreement, which was to continue to fight on in Korea and to find a line, fight for a line, a position of strength in Korea and then negotiate an end to the war. Now having made that agreement in December, you can see the progression played out just exactly as those two men envisioned it.

And I believe the relief of MacArthur; while it was explained on military grounds had a very deep, political importance to Truman, because in a sense, MacArthurs the last really influential obstacle to this long-term Cold War idea. In other words, it all turned to whether you fight to win in Korea or whether you fight to hold the line and negotiate an end. And of course MacArthur was so upset about that that he made a serious breach in judgment. Had he been a successful politician afterwards youd have said that was his great epiphany, but he was probably the most miserable failed politician that Ive ever seen when he finally did throw his influence into the public sphere. He simply wasnt, he was born to fail in that I think. He was a 19th century soldier trying to lead a presidential campaign. He was not

{JB:} I want to come back and talk at length about that decision, but going back to 1949, 50, the US pulls out of Korea in what 49?

{RF:} 49. And they were going to pull out, the Soviets pulled out in 48. They left advisors, but they pulled their forces out in 48 and the US Army wanted to pull Americans out too because even then theres a priority, which doesnt include Korea necessarily, a military priority. And they thought they could control the military situation from Japan by naval and air forces.

{JB:} I didnt realize the Soviets had pulled out.

{RF:} Yeah, they pulled out first. But the state department, Dean Atchison didnt want to pull out. He was afraid to pull all the troops out and so there was a good bit of negotiating during the subsequent year and then in 49 they pulled them out. 49 was a big year of course because it was when the Soviets exploded an atomic device and demonstrated the potential to eliminate our monopoly on atomic weapons. They had the air power, they had a model of the B36, American B36 and it had an intercontinental range, so they had the capability to weaponize the nuclear device and drop it with, I presume accuracy in the US. And American Intelligence did warn the national security council of this threat. They warned them after the Korean War broke out and so it seems to me its the fall of 1950 when I think Bradley says they have the weapons, they have the delivery means, and they have therefore the capability to attack the eastern part of the US, well capability to attack all across the US.

{JB:} And also in 49 in Communist China?

{RF:} The nationalists are driven off to Taiwan and of course that plays a little role in the Korean War too, part of the disaffection of MacArthur during that first summer. He visits Chang and they sit down really for all the world like two national leaders, negotiating. And MacArthur , had he been completely, MacArthur had sort of standing permission to do this. This was not a breach of anything when he visited Chang, but he demonstrated an arrogance, beginning I should say then, it probably had been observed earlier by, Truman certainly didnt think much of it. But he demonstrated an arrogance in that he didnt inform the joint chiefs of everything he intended to do, his agenda. And had he done so the joint chiefs could have coordinated with the State Dept., gotten approval of the president and sent back what amounted to an approval of the agenda and MacArthur could have used. But he talked privately about the defense of Taiwan and what the Americans might do and what they could be expected to do and of course it was consist with his view that Taiwan was the permanent aircraft carrier that in the hands of the communists would be a dagger at the heart of the Philippines and Hong Kong and Japan even

And so what MacArthur and I have no doubts about his sincerity in this regard. He believed that we should take whatever steps are necessary to preserve the independent access to Taiwan and of course the president is at the mercy of his informants and he doesnt like MacArthur anyway, I mean hes suspicious of him and Im sure that Dean Atchison didnt like him. MacArthur was a problem and this was really the beginning of policy problem. And he went on, he had even written a paper on the importance of Taiwan, which was presented by Louis Johnson, the Secretary of Defense at that time at the Blair House meetings when they gathered to discuss American response to the North Korean attack on South Korea. And Louis Johnson tried to read that paper at the meeting and Im not sure, I dont know whether he finished it or whether the president said, lets go eat supper and well talk about these issues after supper. So he was, MacArthur believed I think at that point in time that this was the real place. And maybe he thought at that point in time that the real threat was aimed at Taiwan, I dont know. But eventually this became an issue that was central to their disagreement all the way through the relief of MacArthur .

He sent a message to the VFWs annual convention in September, which was published unseen by the president and it was contrary to the policy of the US concerning Taiwan. He raised the issue again with Joe Martin, the floor leader of the democrats in the house at the very moment that hes angered the president on his ultimatum to the enemy and now heres this letter suddenly restating the whole Taiwan, well different language, but basically behind it is this idea that we cant back off; weve got to be victorious. And Martin loves it. He reads it in the record and of course Truman loses his mind over this, I can just imagine his reaction privately. I wish Id been in the room at the time.

{JB:} So the North Koreans decide that theyre going to go for it and Kim essentially talks Stalin and Mao into going in.

{RF:} Yeah, according to Kathryn and Ive read her accounts of her translations of the correspondence and shes done a great service. According to her well, shes going to be the expert on it, but my understanding of the documents is that initially Stalin was very conservative about the Koreans mounting a venture on the peninsula. Mainly because his, the advisory officers didnt believe that the North Korean army was ready yet to take this on. And lets see, its about, its in the winter of 49, 50, probably after they blow the atomic device that he changes his mind. He believes that in spite of what his advisors say, and hes also talked to Kim Il Sung and Kim raises the point that Americans owe him and Americans are not going to fight. He doesnt believe that the Americans are going to fight. And I suspect that although Stalin was always strangely afraid of the American response, he probably thought that their behavior at that time indicated that the Americans were weak, that they had been decreasing the size of their armed forces. Atchison had given his speech on the 12th of January about the perimeter, the American defensive perimeter in the South Pacific that excluded Korea and excluded the south of Taiwan and (phone rings)so Stalin tells him that well support you and Kim of course is arguing that the people in the south are going to welcome and pave the way for the North Korean army to go in

{JB:} So he kind of exaggerates the, I mean there is some

{RF:} Well, hes a nationalist, he has evidence, this is the kind of thing that Bruce Cummings would, the point he would make is that there were a lot of people in the south that would welcome relief from Syngman Rhee anyway and so anyway, it just, the willingness to support Kim starts with Stalin, Mao is brought in and Mao thinks its a good idea, but Mao has a lot of problems too you know. Theyve got to settle their revolution down too, so theyre distracted by a lot of things and he is not eager to, hes not going to be an immediate participant. Its not until later in the year. But the thing that I had always thought was interesting was that I have never fully understood the reason that Kim attacked on the 25th of June with the Soviets not seated into UN Security Council. Now that seems to me to have been a major blunder that could have easily been rectified at any point in time after Stalin had agreed to support Kims invasion of the south.

Why didnt Stalin reseat his delegate so that he could have at least stymied the UN Security Council and forced the issue on to the general obscenity if that was going to be the case? He might have turned this into a US war instead of a UN war. It was pretty much that in terms of numbers, but theres not question but that we marshaled a good deal of the worlds support. And I just dont understand why it was done that way. I understand why they came back in on the first of August because on the first of August, Soviet Ambassador took over the chairmanship of the Security Council.

{JB:} And why were the Soviets, were they boycotting the Security Council?

{RF:} Yeah in January they had walked out because of a debate in the council, which decided not to seat the defacto government in Peking. They simply continued to recognize Chang Ki Chek as the government of China. And of course the British were really puzzled by the Americans on this one, but this is alsothey walked out over this issue. They could have just as easily taken a breather and come back on Monday morning. They didnt have boycott the Security Council meetings until the first of August. Thats never made any sense to me. Ive never really heard and maybe I havent read Kathryns stuff and maybe she doesnt cover it, but Ive never really heard a convincing explanation of this stuff.

{JB:} Maybe they just didnt think it through that much.

{RF:} Well some people say that the Soviet bureaucracy was cumbersome and it took a great deal of time to pass changes and to implement changes, but that seems to me to be a matter of Joseph Stalin picking up the phone and saying get back in there.

{JB:} So they come roaring across the 38 parallel. I actually spoke with Alexander Haig, and he was Ned Almonds

{RF:} He was in Japan at that time.

{JB:} Yeah and that this was not a false alarm that theyve really done it this time.

{RF:} Well, in all deference to him I think the phone calls to the opt center and the State Department might have beaten him, but they were in the same bank of calls, youre right.

{JB:} Well I asked him whether the first call would have gone to Washington. He said he didnt think so, but obviously he probably doesnt know. But the point is now the US has a decision to make. Why did the US after Atchison saying that we would not enter Korea [] Stated as simply as I can, I think that all of the years of argument in the Cold War were finally at a decision point. You either believe all the things youve been saying, or you dont. Because the attack on South Korea was totally unambiguous. I mean heres an army charging down and even the UN agency in Seoul, which was checked by the way, by the UN said yes theyre on the way and yes we need to take action, we need to do it fast. So, well, I think its simply Harry Truman. Ive had a long time trust in Harry Trumans judgment. I know that isnt necessarily uniformly believed, but I admired him and I think he was an honest man and I think that he was responsible for our position vis--vis the Cold War, all the way from the end of World War II to that very moment. And we had responded to the Berlin Blockade and we had a success experience. We not only kept the Berliners supplied, but we eventually caused the Soviets to withdraw the blockade. So he had that small episode and the use of force in his background.

And I think he was offended by the brazen attack on the north, on the south whether it was justified or not, I dont think he had that kind of sensitivity to the issues, but he responded in a way that few presidents can, have few opportunities like that in our history. And he responded in a way that shaped the rest of the 20th century. Thats how important I think the decision was. And it turned out, I believe to be the right decision if you carry it all the way through to the end. Our opposition to the Soviet Union ultimately brought the Soviet Union down. Economically more than militarily but nevertheless theyre related. I know therell be some argument on that point, but I think Harry Truman, he had an element of common sense in him and Im sure he stayed awake thinking about it those first few nights or at least from the time he heard about the attack until he made the decision that were going to have to help these people. And I imagine Harry Truman thought that thing through very carefully and probably did a great deal of reading as he shaped his views. I know histhe people who were closest to him had absolute faith in him, in his judgment or his willingness to do the thing, which is not necessarily the sensible thing to do, but, in his opinion the right thing to do.

{JB:} And if and obviously you can start an endless game of what-ifs, but is it fair to say that if the US had not taken on that challenge that it just would have

{RF:} Well all of the rhetoric of the preceding five years would have been meaningless. How could we rationalize that? How could we say, well I dont mean to introduce the Iraqi war into this discussion, but it is clear that people that argued for continued negotiation still believe that continued negotiation would have resulted in the resolution of the problem and I can just see Harry Truman dealing with that problem. It would have been another Korea and I think George Bush is very similar to Harry Truman in some ways. Yeah, Harry Truman was not all that popular and certainly didnt act like a democrat of the future. He was a decision maker. And get on with it. Lets go up to the next one. There was a lot to admire in Harry Truman no matter how you feel about the war you can just separate.

{JB:} And obviously MacArthur argued that yes we need to go.

{RF:} Well, I would say yes, obviously. He was given the responsibility really on the first day of supplying the South Korean army. And yeah, he saw it as his responsibility and I think in the first month of the war, up till the first of October MacArthur, from 25 June to 1 October, MacArthur performed spectacularly successfully other than his political mistakes that he made. But militarily he did a fine job. There have been some who have called the Inchon invasion risky and I guess it was risky, but he was right. He was right about the defense of Seoul, he was right about hitting the communication lines that funneled through Seoul and the marines and the army were successful in taking the objective and Lord knows everybody thought the war was over.

{JB:} Now the first two weeks though, June 25th and MacArthur has an ill-prepared bunch of occupation forces in Japan that he starts as many as he can. Describe those first few weeks.

{RF:} Well, histhere were two things in his mind at the same time. The first was to keep track of what was going on in the situation on a daily basis in Korea and committing forces. He had four divisions, but he didnt have four full strength divisions so he pirated the seventh and took people away from the seventh to put in key positions in the other three. The first cab the 24th and the seventh divisions.

No he took them out of the 7th division and the 24th or no, what was the, well the fourth one was the 1st cab, the 24th, well anyway there were four and the 7th was the one that was raided to get its personnel to fill the others. Then he deployed them and they were at least able to get into a line and conduct a successful delay and withdrawal leading to what was called the Pusan Perimeter. And so I think MacArthurs performance during this period is very courageous because the other thing hes thinking about at exactly this time is the counteroffensive. And actually hes selecting Inchon as an objective area. Now actually hes got too little force to deal with it so he has to postpone it, but the point is he is thinking the way a theater commander should think about, about the total operation. What does he have to do to eject the North Koreans from South Korea? He has to defend, he has to delay, withdraw and then hes got to successfully defend and then when hes done that hes got to mount a counter offensive that will strike the enemy in a vulnerable position. And what he does is he performs one of the most successful and brilliantly conceived turning movements, turning meaning a deep movement, not just an attack on another flank, but in the rear, way in the rear.

In such a way that the enemy, in order to survive has to break contact with the troops around Pusan and turn and in this case either they had a choice of attacking MacArthur but in this case what they did is just bypassed and went back into North Korea as best they could.

{JB:} Its spectacular really that you had the US troops really, or the forces in the Pusan Perimeter in a tough situation. They were outnumbered right?

{RF:} Well they were initially, but the Perimeter Battle lasted long enough, the Perimeter Battle lasted really from the 1st of August, when I think Walker gave the order to occupy the positions, which by the way had been surveyed and prepared in advance and that last until something like about the 17th or so of September when the 8th army broke out of that perimeter. It was a bitter fight and Walker I thought, Ive always thought did an equally good job because what he did is he picked the areas that were potentially most dangerous to his defense. He was an armored officer and he fought this essentially infantry battle like an armored officer would think. He had a loop of road and a loop of railroad and he was able to move reinforcements around the perimeter and he did that.

And he fought what was called the Nacktong Bulge where the river was closed to the road and the railroad lines and he gave that the priority and he held that flank so that all that the North Koreans could do was attack successfully against the South Koreans along the northern flank of the position and all that did is just compress the defense into a tighter, more effective defense. Meanwhile, the second infantry division and other troops from the US, but mostly tanks and artillery and the 25th division came in from, well anyway, the point is that the reinforcements from the US began to stream in and this increased the density of the defense and pretty well assured. There were two, fundamentally two offensives against the South Koreans and the Americans in the position. The first one was kind of uncoordinated, but the second one was coordinated but it was too late. By that time they had the tank fire, the indirect fire, the density of defense to hold the best they could throw at them and they did.

{JB:} But is it September 15th?

{RF:} Inchonyeah.

{JB:} And just within

{RF:} Well now, if youre gonna say [] it was tough fight, not landing. That went off spectacularly. It shouldnt have gone off that well but it did. And then they got to Seoul and the fight for Seoul was a pretty bitter fight. But by the first of October the marines had moved through and were up on the 38th parallel.

{JB:} So thats true. In todays terms when the war in Iraq hit the first bumps on about day 4 people began to say whats going on? So, the point is well taken. Its a very different standard. That in a matter of 0

{RF:} Days, two weeks.

{JB:} That is was really a 180-degree turn.

{RF:} Exactly and thats attributed entirely to the fighting ability of the Americans and the South Koreans particularly those that executed the attack at Inchon and took the city of Seoul. Thats a big city and there are a lot of similarities. Now Im not saying, what happened in this case I believe is that most of the North Koreans withdrew above the 38th parallel, basically to what appears to be a preordained assembly area called the Iron Triangle. But there was no attempt to tie the Americans up in Seoul. There does not seem to have been any irregular or any guerrilla type operation to tie them up. Now a lot of the North Koreans took refuge in the mountains of South Korea and there they did mount guerrilla operations against the lines of communications and we knew that and there was a whole US Corps kept down south to deal with that problem along with South Korean units.

{JB:} Okay, but the war takes a dramatic turn and some people have called it, and I think even MacArthur , some of his language about the war really talks about 2 wars.)

{RF:} Oh yeah. This was the decisive moment in the Korean War. The Americans had a choice. They could and I say the Americans because theyre calling the shots militarily for the UN, they could stop at the 38th parallel. You see the war aims of the president were to save South Korea and the second one was to do this with sufficient force. To convince everybody else in the world that they could count on the US to give real assistance if needed. It was played out for the UN. And obviously he didnt want the war to spread to Europe and by this time you see hes thinking in terms of what NSC68 had to say and so he needs to buy time to rearm. So basically those were his war aims. And so the most dramatic event to me in the long term is the period around the first of September when the national security council staff submits recommendations on a question that Truman had asked way back in July: Should we cross the 38th parallel? And so they studied it. The joint chiefs studied it and predictably you can imagine how they compared.

The National Security Council staff said look, crossing the 38th parallel doesnt really mean anything in terms of winning the war. And I think thats probably right. You dont have to cross the 38th to declare victory and bring everybody home. The joint chiefs however read the UN directive resolution much more literally, which called for restoring peace and stability to the region. And as long as there was a North Korean army just a few miles north of the 38th parallel that was defeated but not destroyed, they thought in terms of continuing the operation to complete the mission given to them by the UN. And so theres a debate. Now at the same time that theyre doing this, the joint chiefs are dealing with the matter of Inchon invasion and MacArthur. MacArthur, of course is going with what he considers adequate force. The joint chiefs are concerned that hes put everything into one throw of the dice and that if its too far removed from Pusan the two forces could be out of contact and independently isolated and the war could be lost right there. Never get another step further. And so the army chief of staff recommended an invasion sight further south, particularly down really just sort of due west of the perimeter, which would have been as MacArthur said adding more troops to the fight that was going on around Pusan.

What he wanted to do was to create this impact that would cause them to pull away. The joint chiefs were reluctant to give him the go ahead. Even though he had been planning it, they were brought in on the plan very late and they had suspicions about its success and they questioned him about it. And he lost, kind of lost his temper. Anyway, they finally approved it. Now when theyre dealing with crossing the 38th parallel, theyre the ones who are pushing to go into the north. And they havent reinforced MacArthur with any more divisions. Theyre going to give him the 3rd division, one division, but here they are. If you look at the map theyre going to invade across the 38th parallel into an expanding, fan-shaped peninsula, which is going to stretch the Korean and American forces thinly at best over the whole thing while that force is advancing towards China and the Chinese boarder. And they dont deal with that. They argue, persuasively because Truman approved it for the crossing, actually its more like MacArthur, if youre confronted with threats to the peace and security of the region, go ahead and deal with it, which is to cross the 38th parallel and go after the survivors of the North Korean Army.1.19.09 So thats the big issue of the war.

{JB:} So you say they didnt deal with it?

{RF:} They were arguing. See the state department tended to line upno that wouldnt be fair. There were elements of the state department that wanted to unify the peninsula because that had been the subject of a number of resolutions in the UN for a number of years and so theres that influence. We need to unite the peninsula. But there are other people George Cannon for example and Chip Bollen, who are very, very nervous about this. Its a lot easier to get into one of these things that get out of it. And they were right too.

{JB:} Part of it is, I know that a lot of calculations were made about what will the Chinese do, what will Stalin do, but it put one way, especially the Chinese border as you say and if we saw an attack on South Korea as a threat, is it surprising that the Chinese would be

{RF:} Absolutely not, you can read Kathryn Weathersbys books and there Maothe argument is, the argument in China would be spending our resources and devoicing our efforts to completing the revolution in China. And not getting involved in an outside adventure. As opposed to a UN army led by a guy like MacArthur whose taking over a portion or is about to take over a portion of North Korea.

{RF:} A fellow socialist, communist state. And that actually wins the argument in Maos mind. That becomes the immediate problem that has to be solved. And so he begins immediately to, it isnt overnight, but its almost overnight. Theyre pretty much poised, ready to come into North Korea and he conducts discussions and they decide that they should go. He delays it. Apparently Joanne Li had gone to Russia to Soviet Union, to Moscow to argue for the reinforcement of the Chinese, particularly with airpower from the soviets. And Joanne Li according to the Weathersby volume, apparently is a member of the faction that wants to conclude the revolution in China first. So he apparently fabricates the idea that Stalin has turned down the use of airpower. But as you read along through those messages you find out thats probably not true. And the interpretation of the people who write essays or pieces about sections of messages is that Joanne Li is the culprit in all this, causes a brief delay until I think hes reassured that is Maos reassured by Stalin that hell provide airpower.

And he did provide airpower. Pilots, but he also made provisions to put those pilots on the ground as soon as Chinese pilots could be prepared to take over. So he was very nervous again that the Americans would find out that Soviets are in direct combat. He was deathly afraid of that. He pulled his people back from the front when they attacked into South Korea and he was very nervous about the planes being shot down and a Soviet pilot being recovered.

{JB:} Now skip ahead just a little bit to late November and first of all what was the mood like around Thanksgiving and what kind of expectations were there?

{RF:} Well, Thanksgiving, Im not sure I know what date it was, but early in October, lets see, the offensive jumped off about the 24th of November and earlier in October there had been contact with reportedly Chinese troops and there had been, probably accidental, but nevertheless it had occurred and there were Chinese forces and MacArthur argued that they were not decisive they were not sufficiently strong to make an impact on the war, another misjudgment I think. But about the 24th if we say thats before Thanksgiving, of November when the Americans jumped off and when the Chinese came in about a day later, there was shock throughout the country.

I mean the euphoria of a UN army advancing towards the Yellow River was suddenly dashed as the realization that what were envisioned as the armed hoards of Chinese were pouring across the mountains and through our forces. And the mood was I think the mood was initially uniformed. The people were shocked, the Congress were shocked, the President and his staff were shocked. The president, of course is the one who has to make the decision. His reaction is, hey, I cant make a decision until I know more about whats going on so lets let this thing develop a little bit and then we can make decisions. And thats to his credit that seems to be, the other thing to his credit was, almost within days theres criticism of MacArthur coming from Europe, the UN, from Americans and even VP Barkley says what is he doing? He went ahead with the attack and whered all these people come from? And of course the answer to that is that he didnt see them, they concealed themselves and concealed that army. Thats point number one. And then, and that he was overwhelmed with the compulsion to prevail; to win. Somehow the Yellow River had this magical effect of winning the war and he never made it. Well he did over on the right flank. They had an element of the 7th infantry division had Thanksgiving dinner on the Yellow River.

{JB:} And peed in it, right?

{RF:} Yea, probably, although there was no George Patton there.

{JB:} I heard of a couple of officers although they were not actually peeing into the river because it was frozen

{RF:} Well thats kind of funny because theres a famous photograph kept pretty quiet of George Patton doing that in the Rhine River. Well, the reaction is dismay.

{JB:} And just how big, among the military debacles in recent US History.

{RF:} Well I cant, well certainly nothing in the 20th century to compare with it. It was a defeat. We were defeated. And MacArthur, say what he wanted to, those troops retreated. They werent simply marching to the rear. They were marching to the rear but they were in retreat.

{JB:} And they were attacking in another direction as the saying goes.

{RF:} Well thats what the marines said; they were attacking in another direction. And they actually were fighting. But I dont think, I think the army survived because the close air support was so good that they kept control of the situation and allowed the army to get away. I hope Im not oversimplifying it, but theres simply not a great record of delay. In fact when Ridgeway took control of the army in the midst of this that was one of his first observations that this is more like a march to the rear than a fighting delay because, theres a difference between a fighting delay and a march to the rear. And its the air force thats keeping them off the backs of the retreating army.

{JB:} But they were almost, which was it the 8th army that barely escaped.

{RF:} You mean early? It was the 2nd infantry division on a road thats called the gauntlet. They got caught on a narrow defile and the Chinese were on the hills above them and they were trying to move their equipment and their manpower through this valley. And they were badly pummeled. The unit had had to be withdrawn from combat, reequipped, re-soldiered, retrained and then put back in the line. It was a major destruction. The division commanders spirit was broken. He had to be immediately relieved and that was probably the only case like that that occurred. But to go back to the president, the momentum of this debacle is really what causes the prime minister of Great Britain to come to the United States and sit down with Truman and talk about the war. Its really what do we do now? And what we do now is we find a line that we can hold and then we fight until we can get a position of strength and then we negotiate an end to the war because its not worth whats going on. The problem is magnified by Korea in Europe and so the build up of Europe becomes obviously first priority, even more important than a victory in Korea.

{JB:} So what does MacArthur want to do?

{RF:} Well he wants to keep fighting, he wants to be reinforced; he wants Chinese nationalists to be committed. He had opposed that originally but now he wants them. And the Joint Chiefs say this is not realistic.

{JB:} Well and he wants to attack the Chinese on the other side of the Yellow?

{RF:} Well Im not certain about that. I would not say that. I bet, he might have wanted to use airpower to influence the Chinese capabilities in Korea by attacking certain, well their airfields, their transportation hubs and things like that, which he could have done with airpower. Although remember airpower at that time wasnt what it is today. So it was not a sure thing. We never stopped the North Koreans from moving their trains. We stopped them during the daylight and theyd put 15,000 people to work on the railroad line and by morning thered be, well by next night thered be train traffic again. It was a different kind of war. But to the credit of the president []

Oh I had started to tell you earlier, that not only did he say we have to see what the development is, what transpires, but he also said in the midst of all this criticism of MacArthur he said when you pick your man you have to stand by him. He never criticized MacArthur . And when Barkley made that comment in a national security meeting he made that statement. I cant tell you how this wars gonna play out, I have no idea but I know that weve got to stick by him. Because hes gonna come into a lot of criticism overseas and here at home and we cannot ruin his effectiveness. And that took a lot of courage. And thats another think I respect Harry Truman for. Now, when MacArthur finally did cross the line, there was no talking Truman out of what he was gonna do. But its clear he gave him every break he could up untilNow when Attley came and they made these decisions about how the war would be fought in the future this also included a build up of allied forces, build up of American forces, it was actually activated. And you could see the impact because MacArthurs unit, MacArthur was told theres going to be no more large unit reinforcements of your theater and of course thats what he wanted was a large unit reinforcement so he could carry the war to the North and reverse this military decision, which also was a personal failure on his part. And he wanted to turn this around. His position in history was at stake here.

And so these decisions that came out of that Truman/Attlee conference were preconditioned by the thoughts of the President as he delivered those addresses in July and also the experience that he had since that time and in effect what hes doing is saying okay. Weve got to rebuild. Youre going to put more money in, were going to put more money in and were going to build a substantial deterrent to Soviet aggression. And I think this is another, part two of the decision-making policy.

{JB:} Part one being the decision to go in the first place.

{RF:} Well, no, well maybe we could say part three, but I prefer to look at it as a broader thing that he had changed the Cold War policy in the United States and this was a part of that. He also, without thinking about it, Im sure, changed the Cold War policy when he committed troops, but it was to validate what had gone before. This is with an eye to the future. And most historians have missed that Truman/Attlee conference. I think that was an extremely important conference and that the United States and Great Britain and European countries made a conscious effort to rearm and to bolster NATO. NATO became a formidable power.

{JB:} How much consideration was there given to taking MacArthurs approach, to taking the war, broadening the war

{RF:} There was a lot. For example, I think that would probably be the position of the Republican Party at that time. And a lot of newspaper people, a lot of people throughout the country were saying that MacArthurs right, Trumans wrong. And I think this was inevitable because MacArthur was a hero. His reputation came out of WWII virtually untarnished by some other events. The marines didnt like him for the most part and there were troops who thought there were too many casualties and maybe there didnt need to be. But MacArthur had a lot of influence and even though people really didnt know him, it was his image. The way he portrayed himself in the press and in the public and so I think there was a lot of opposition and I think, well yeah, the president was under pressure. And the British were more timid than the president, but I think they were in a different world compared with the Republican party.

{JB:} What do you know about the role that was played by Attley, were there other, the UN, what were some of the other constituents in this argument who would have been arguing for restraint?

{RF:} Well the British were arguing for restraint. The Canadians were arguing for restraint. The Indians were arguingnow Im talking about people who played a prominent role in blocks. There were probably other nations that shared their views. The British and the Canadians and the Indians certainly all made independent efforts and during the winter of 50/51 theres a concerted effort on the part of the British leading, in this regard to quietly try to tone down the aggressive nature of the Americans, the president in particular. And this is a kind of a cover for attempts being made by theres a group of 3 and there are other UN sponsored actions trying to get the Chinese to withdraw or negotiate. And the Chinese, as long as theyre winning are not interested in negotiating and so they, ultimately everybody comes to the conclusion that weve got to do something. But theres a good bit of disquiet particularly in the winter of 50/51 until the UN was pretty well convinced that the Chinese had no interest in negotiating. Now, by the same token, the UN forces had no interest in negotiating while they were losing. Thats why they wanted a position of strength. So its not until the springtime that Ridgeway who has taken over the 8th army with the death of Walker. Ridgeway leads a successful invasion, offensive operation turns the, first of all stops the army, consolidates its forces on a line, about where they started roughly and then undertakes a growing offensive, a small regimental combat team followed by divisional elements of a couple corps and then it spreads all the way across the front.

And once that starts well it rolls all the way north of the 38th parallel. Now, hes in his position of strength and now he can afford to invite the Chinese to negotiate. And now its this point you see, its at this point that MacArthur intervenes in the process and the way it happened was that the President had decided to send a message to the Chinese and the North Koreans. And they sent a copy of the message to MacArthur and they said, the president plans to send this message. Will this change your directive? Is there anything we need to do to your directive? And MacArthur sends back a note, which is really probably correct, but he sends it in language thats probably irritating, this commands capabilities have been so degraded that no offensive action in the north could ever be complicated, thus theres no need change the directive. That message goes back and the chiefs are working on it, but the next day, I dont know who saw it first, but MacArthur has sent this arrogant message to the Chinese commander in the field saying that the vaunted Chinese army had been proven to have no substance. And the UN has brought it to its heels and the only possible way for us to avoid further bloodshed is for us to be in the field and discuss a truce.

Truman and Atchison and the Joint Chiefs see this as MacArthurs insubordinate intervention in the responsibilities of the president. MacArthur argues that thats really what the president wanted to do. And hes absolutely correct but you cant strip the personalities and the nature of the climate of the situation out of it that simply. Thats by the way his line in his defense all along. I never did anything the President didnt want to do. Well it wasnt that may even be by a stretch be true, but if it is true, certainly the president didnt want to do it that way. And then comes the letter to, the President is talking to the Joint Chiefs, what do we do about this guy? And theyre all getting nervous about the possibility of relieving because they all come to the conclusion that he has to be relieved and the joint chiefs are unanimous about that. And then the letter to Joe Martin drops on the floor at the House of Representatives, reopens this issue of Taiwan and there is no substitute for victory. Well that did it. The President just told the boys to take just one more weekend. Ill meet you Monday morning and then on the 11th of April.

{JB:} The boys being the Joint Chiefs?

{RF:} Yeah, and the Secretary of State and Truman himself talked to a couple of people. The Chief Justice who raised the issue of MacArthurs the constitutionality of the presidents position vis--vis MacArthur. He said the constitut

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Josipa Roksa and Richard Arum, co-authors of Aspiring Adults Adrift. (Photo:  Social Science Research Council)

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