Thursday, April 10, 2014

What happened AFTER Ike went to Korea ...

About two years before his death, my father, Jack Knight (1921-2004, Colonel, USAF), described the remarkable tactics President Eisenhower used to bring an end to the Korean War.

My father's account was rendered about two years before his death and came from his experiences working with the CIA in 1952-1953.  Whenever General Cabell (once Chief of Air Force Intelligence and then Deputy Director of the CIA) was in Korea, the Philippines, or Japan, my father served as his personal pilot. Moreover, my father flew numerous "special ops" missions seeding, supporting and recovering agents in Communist China.  At one point, for example, he entered Communist China in a seaplane and landed at a base hidden in a cliff wall of a river [1].  There he prepositioned canisters of weaponized anthrax for use in a plan to cause a massive kill of cattle and people in southern China with the aim of inducing chaos in the area and a consequent withdrawal of the Peoples Volunteer Army (PVA) from Korea.  This Truman Administration initiative was abandoned once Eisenhower took office.

As is well known, negotiations to settle the conflict between the UN and the PVA/KPA began in July of 1951, even as a combat meat grinder continued.  The protracted negotiations were bitter and frustrating, as changing battlefield conditions hardened or softened the positions taken by each side.  Negotiations finally concluded with a ceasefire on July 24th, 1953, six months after Eisenhower was inaugurated in January of 1953.

The question my father addressed was why the negotiations actually concluded on July 24, 1953.

After several months of a seemingly endless back and forth with the Communists, Eisenhower's strategists developed a simple plan to conclude the negotiations.

In May/June, CIA operative leaked indications that Eisenhower was considering the use of nuclear weapons against Chinese and Korean forces on both sides of the Yalu River.  In mid-July, a message was transmitted to what my father termed a “Silverplate Squadron"[2]  based at McClellen AFB, tasking its aircraft to fly to Kelly Field, near San Antonio, Texas.  The clearly top secret order was transmitted via the Army Signal Corps unit at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, because it was known by Eisenhower to have been penetrated by Soviet spies. Kelly Field was significant, because it was (and is) adjacent to Medina Base, the Air Force depot where all operational U.S. atomic weapons were stored at that time.  When the Silverplate aircraft landed at Kelly, another message was transmitted via Fort Monmouth, tasking the Medina Base to deliver a number of atomic bombs to Kelly for upload them into the bomb bays of the Silverplate B-50's.  Upon completion of that task, another message via Fort Monmouth ordered the Squadron to Offutt AFB in Nebraska. Once they landed at Offutt, the next message via Fort Monmouth tasked them to fly to Elmendorf Field, Alaska.  The next message via Fort Monmouth ordered the fully loaded Silverplate B-50's to fly from Elmendorf to Japan (I believe my father said Misawa, but I am not totally clear on that).  Each message relayed by Fort Monmouth was in turn delivered to the Soviet embassy in Washington and then to the Soviet Union.  A final message was sent to Fort Monmouth for relay to the Secretary of Defense on July 24th, 1953, confirming that the Silverplate B-50’s had landed in Japan.  On that day, the KPA/PVA accepted the ceasefire terms, and the war was over.

As an interesting side note, my father always contended that Eisenhower shut down the Army counter-intelligence investigation of the Ft. Monmouth infiltration and turned on Senator Joe McCarthy in order to protect his disinformation channel at Ft. Monmouth for as long as it was useful.

I have never heard any other account of this sequence of events to which my father was a first-hand witness.  I would be very interested in hearing from others either involved (if any of those are still with us) or who knew anyone who was involved.

[1] In 1952-3, my family lived at Clark Field near Manilla in the Philippines.  One of the most vivid memories of my childhood was a day in 1952 when the Chaplin and Base Commander came to our door and informed my mother that my father was missing and presumed dead.  Four days later my father walked in the door saying that there was a mistake and it was another Jack Knight who had been killed.  In fact, when he was attempting to leave the cliff-wall base on the anthrax mission, the engines on his SA-16 would not start and it took his crew chief three days to get the engines running.  Because of the extreme security and radio silence, the Air Force did not know his status and notified our family when it seemed all hope was lost.

[2]  B-50 bombers then configured to carry nuclear weapons -- though the "Silverplate" code name had been dropped by 1953, he said Air Force personnel still commonly referred to the units by that designation.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing story! Do you have any details on the sea planes escape from communist China? How many people were on the plane?