Monday, April 14, 2014

Intended consequence of the indirect approach ...

I recall reading about the controversies about "Operation Moolah" announced by General Clark in April of 1953, wherein the U.S. dropped leaflets over numerous North Korean and Chinese air bases offering $50,000 in cash for any pilot who defected south with a MiG-15, and an additional $50,000 for the first defection.  I asked my father if he had been involved in the operation.

When he said he was directly involved, I was particularly curious if he considered the operation a success given that the first defection did not occur until September 21, 1953, two months after cessation of hostilities.  He had no idea that there was a debate among  historians about the issue.  

My father was quite amused by the controversy and told a version of what happened very different from anything I have seen published.  Indeed, his version is an example of Liddell Hart's indirect approach that probably belongs in the textbooks.   

To wit:

By 1952, UN troops in combat enjoyed total air supremacy in all areas where ground troops were in contact.  This was largely because the MiG-15 lacked the range to penetrate much south of the Yalu River with enough maneuver energy to engage in air combat.  The CIA learned in early 1953 that the Soviet Union was planning to remedy this by supplying the North Koreans and Chinese with drop tanks copied from those employed by the USAF F-86 aircraft.  

The point of the "Operation Moolah" plan was not to capture a MiG-15.  By that time the MiG-15 held no mysteries for the U.S.  The point was to induce the Soviet Union to withdraw the drop tanks that would extend the range of the MiG-15 and subject UN forces to attack from the air.  

According to my father, immediately after the first leaflet drop, all retro-fitting ceased, all drop tanks in China were withdrawn and no new tanks were shipped into China before the cease fire was announced.  His view was that Operation Moolah was a complete success, and the later defections after the end of the war were a side-show of little practical importance.  

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