Letter to Senator Russell on the Prison Camps on Koje Island.
I appreciated very much your letter of the tenth as the result of our conversation yesterday on the situation in Korea. I hope we can get a concrete result.
I am enclosing for you a copy of a memorandum which I have just sent to the Secretary of Defense, and a copy of a memorandum I have just sent to the Secretary of the
Army frank Pace. Sincerely yours,
HARRY S. TRUMAN.
[Honorable Richard B. Russell, United States Senate, Washington, D.C.]
Note: Senator Russell's letter follows: Dear Mr. President:
The situation resulting from the loss of control of the prisoner of war camps on Koje-do Island is, I am sure, of great concern to both of us. The Senate Committee on Armed Services has conducted hearings on this matter and I have given it a great deal of study.
A core of fanatical Communists have apparently assumed complete control of the prisoner of war compounds. All of their actions are undoubtedly directed by higher authority for the sole purpose of giving our enemies grist for their propaganda mill which is devoted to discrediting this country in the eyes of the world.
We know that we have leaned over backwards to accord to every Communist prisoner of war taken in battle every right and privilege to which he is entitled by the Geneva Convention. We have done this despite the fact that the Communist enemy will not permit officials of the International Red Cross, who constantly observe our every act on Koje-do, to even visit our own soldiers who have fallen into the hands of the Communists.
Our leniency has been so extreme as to be an undoubted factor in the revolt against authority which resulted in the capture of General Dodd by his prisoners. It is essential that order be restored in these Communist prisoner of war compounds and that those prisoners recognize the authority of their captors-the forces of the United Nations. Our experience indicates that the fanatical Communists who are now in authority in these compounds are determined to use violence against legal authority for propaganda purposes. The orders of rulers who occupy positions of safety will cause the loss of life and injury to their poor puppets who have fallen into our hands.
The problem of assuming and maintaining control of these compounds is essentially a military problem. The difficulties which confront us will be much better understood by men of military experience than by the officials of the International Red Cross.
To nullify the mass of falsehoods which are being broadcast to the world by the Communist propaganda machine and to enable free people everywhere to understand the truth of Koje Island, I wish to suggest that military observers of high rank and broad military experience from the other free nations of the earth be invited to visit Koje Island to observe the conduct of the operations necessary for us to enforce the rules of the Geneva Convention upon the thousands of Communist prisoners interned there.
I regard it as being particularly important that military observers from India, Pakistan and Indonesia be urged to attend as observers, though in my opinion, it would be wise to invite such observers from all of the free nations who have not furnished military units to the United Nations forces in Korea.
We know that the truth of our actions on Koje-do will refute all of the falsehoods being spread by the Communists and it should be extremely helpful to have reports from their own high ranking officials available to all of the free peoples of the earth.
It will not only refute the false charges made by the Communists in regard to our actions on that small island, but will go a long ways to show to the free peoples of the earth that they cannot believe the false and highly colored charges of the Communists as to our intentions and purposes in all of the fields of international relations.
With assurances of esteem, I am
RICHARD B. RUSSELL
See also Item 162.
Harry S. Truman, Letter to Senator Russell on the Prison Camps on Koje Island. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230923