Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_Korean War reveal

What does the Korean War reveal about the ‘special relationship’?

Source 1

The script of a speech by Churchill to the House of Commons, 30 November 1950. The title was ‘The International Situation’.


CHUR 5/39B/275-302 (images 18–23)

Simplified Transcript

When we look at the war in Korea it’s disturbing. But I also think that we can’t stop being wary of what the USSR is doing elsewhere in the world as well.

The Foreign Secretary said yesterday that he didn’t know whether the Russians and Chinese were planning a Communist takeover of the world. But he thought that there was no danger of an attack by Russia in Europe while war went on in Korea.

I disagree. I think that this could be a plan to get the US and the UN to commit forces to China and weaken our forces here in Europe.

For this reason I hoped that General MacArthur’s advance would stop and leave a no-man’s land. I’m not sure now whether this will happen.

I’m sure that all MPs agree that the sooner we can establish a settlement in the Far East the better. For it’s in Europe that the Cold War will be won or lost. We also shouldn’t criticise the US or their commanders or do anything to upset the Americans. We fight together under the banner of the United Nations but they’re taking on most of the burden.

The Americans have suffered much higher casualties than we have. This shows their commitment. Our own troops are brave and we worry about them. But our presence in Korea is mostly a symbol of our loyalty to the US.

Original Transcript

When we survey
as far as we can
the crisis in Korea and China,

we find much that is disquieting,
but I do not see
tt [that] what is happening in the Far East
shd [should] make the Soviets in a hurry
to depart fm [from their present policy
of expansion
by means of the Cold War
and of using others
to advance their aims.

The Foreign Secretary said yesterday:

"Is this move (of the Chinese) into Korea part of a grand strategy for a definite purpose? Is there a Russian-Chinese conspiracy on a world-wide scale?"

The r.h.g [right honourable gentleman] said he did not know,

but if it were true it wd [would] certainly not suggest tt [that] the Russians contemplated an immediate attack in Europe.
On the contrary,
the plan wd [would] evidently be
to get the U.S. and the U.N.
so far as they contribute,
involved as deeply as possible in China,
and thus prevent the reinforcement of Europe,
and the building-up
of our defensive strength there.

It is one of the most well known strategic
and tactical methods
to draw yr [your opponents'] resources
to one part of the field,
and then at the right moment to strike in another.

Military history shows countless examples of this
and of variants of it.

Surely however
the U.N. shd [should] avoid
by every means in their power
becoming entangled
in a war w [with] China.
For this reason
I had hoped tt [that] Gen. MacArthur's advance
in Korea
wd [would] stop at the neck
or wasp waist of the Peninsula

and wd [would] leave the country
btwn [between] the neck and..... River
and the Chinese Frontier as a kind of no-man's-land,

wh [which] the Allied air power cd [could] dominate,
and then construct an ever stronger
fortified line across the neck.

Whether this will be possible now
depends upon the result
of the gt [grea]t battle
wh [which] is now raging.

I suppose we shall know in a few days.

I am sure the whole House feels
tt [that] the sooner the Far Eastern diversion
can be brought
to something like a stable [handwritten] static condition
the better it will be.

For it is in Europe
tt [that] the world cause will be decided.

My r.h.f [right honourable friend] (Eden) said yesterday,
it is there that the mortal danger lies.

I am sure we all agree w [with] that.

That is another reason
why we shd [should] be vy [very] careful
not to indulge in criticisms of the U.S. or their commanders,

or do anything wh [which] cd [could] weaken,
even by gusts of opinion,
the vital ties that bind our fates together.

We fight in the name of the United Nations.

That gives a gt [great] moral sanction
to our action,

but in Korea and the Far East
the burden falls almost entirely
on the U.S.

It is important to get the proportions right.

British casualties:
Wounded…150(?) 176 [handwritten]
Missing 5 [handwritten]

What are the American casualties?

I hv [have] bn [been] told on good authority
tt [that] they hv [have] lost 7 or 8 thousand men killed
and between 20 and 30 thousand wounded.

Casualties are no doubt not the only measure
but they are the supreme and truest measure
of the sacrifice and exertion
made by the brave troops of any Army.

Our contribution
and that of other United Nations countries

however precious to us

cannot in any way be compared
w [with] that of the U.S.

Our thoughts are w [with] our own gallant soldiers
and we watch their fortunes w [with] the deepest sympathy and
and confidence tt [that] they will do their duty.

But their presence there
must be taken as a symbol
of our loyalty to the common cause

and our main responsibility
lies here at home in Europe

What is this source?

These are Churchill’s notes for a speech he made to the House of Commons, 30 November 1950. The title of the speech was ‘The International Situation’.

Background to this source

At the time of this speech Churchill was no longer the Prime Minister. He’d lost an election in 1945, immediately after the end of the Second World War in Europe. Nevertheless he was still the leader of the Conservative Party and he held enormous respect in Britain and in much of the rest of the world. This meant his words were listened to. In this speech he’s commenting on the international situation generally, not just the Korean War. As usual, his speech is typed out in ‘psalm style’ to aid delivery of the speech.

Britain, the US and the USSR had been allies in the Second World War. But as the war ended, the US and USSR became bitter rivals in what became known as the Cold War. The USSR established its influence over Eastern Europe and many leaders in the US and Western Europe feared that the USSR planned to control all of Europe even though Soviet leader Stalin denied this. In the later 1940s and early 1950s the rivalry intensified and Cold War conflict spread throughout Asia, particularly after China became Communist in 1949.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember, we’re hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating the relationship between Britain and the US. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level

  1. According to Churchill, where is the main theatre of conflict with the Soviet Union?
  2. Why does he talk of the Korean War as a ‘diversion’?
  3. Who has lost the most troops in Korea?
  4. Who does Churchill blame for the current fighting?
  5. Why does he talk about ‘the vital ties that bind us [UK and US] together’?

Deeper level

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference?

Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?

Churchill thinks the war in Korea isn’t important.

Churchill thinks Britain should send more troops to Korea.

The US and Britain are sharing the burden in Korea equally.

Churchill thinks that Britain shouldn’t criticise US actions in any way.

Churchill thinks Europe is more important than Asia.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • The key to this source is that Churchill is speaking to the British government but he also wants the US leaders to hear his views.
  • Churchill was deeply alarmed when Soviet forces drove the Germans out of Eastern Europe in the Second World War but then left their troops in Eastern Europe after the war was over.
  • Churchill believed that only American resources could hold back the USSR.
  • Churchill talks about military strategy in this source, mentioning the tactic of ‘drawing opponent’s resources to one part of the field ... to strike in another’. In some ways, he held rather old-fashioned views, perhaps carried over from his youth as a cavalry officer, and some saw him as out of touch with modern military methods and modern warfare in general. The US and USSR were quite capable of deploying resources all over the world, especially the US. And the USSR was supplying aid to Korea rather than troops. So it may be that US politicians did not accept this view of Churchill’s.

Explore the guide to interpreting speeches

Source 2

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