Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_Korean War reveal

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

Source 5

Part of Winston Churchill’s speech in the House of Commons, dated 1 July 1952


CHUR 5/48A-B

We've highlighted the parts of the document which appear in the transcription below.

Simplified Transcript

We’re not sure what’s going to happen. The talks are only aimed at establishing a truce. There may be many more talks before we have peace. All this time the huge efforts of the US will continue. I’m not going to go into the rights and wrongs of the situation in Korea. But I’m saying that people who sympathise with the Chinese Communists, and the British people as a whole, should be aware of the huge cost which the US has borne in doing its duty for the UNO. ...

I think we ought to admire them for the restraint they’ve shown instead of trying to criticise them. There might come a time, particularly during a US presidential election, when they might get very angry about this and it’ll give any candidate who joins in a great advantage. ...

Our casualties have been very small compared to the US. I think we should be very cautious about criticising the US which has shown patience beyond all compare.

Original Transcript

... The future is indefinite.

This Armistice negotiation is in itself
only intended to lead to a truce
and the truce if kept
is to lead to discussions about peace
which may be equally prolonged.

All the time the immense expenditure of the U. S [handwritten],
will continue.

I am not at this moment
arguing the rights or wrongs
of the world issue.

I am only asking tt [that] due consideration
shd [should] be given by the admirers sympathisers [handwritten]
with [handwritten] of the Chinese Communists in this country
and by the British nation [handwritten]
to the monumental patience,
breaking all previous human records,
wh [which] has bn [been] displayed
by the American Govt. [Government] and people

in discharging their duty to the U. N.
I defy anyone to show any other historical example
wh [which] can equal it.

... I think we ought to admire them
for the restraint wh [which] they hv [have] practised
instead of trying to find fault w [with] them
on every occasion.

There might easily come a time
especially during the presidential election
when a vy [very] sharp reaction of anger
might sweep the American people
and when any candidate for the Presidency
who gave full vent to it [handwritten]
might gain a vy [very] considerable advantage.

... Our casualties have been one …25th…[handwritten] th part
of those of the U. S.

and in money one …90th… [handwritten] th part.

I think it is vy [very] dangerous thing
for this country

wh [which] makes such a comparatively small
although greater than that
of any of the other U. N. members,

to over press its claims and complaints
agst [against] those who are bearing
almost the whole burden

and who,
as I hv [have] said,
hv [have] shown a patience beyond all compare.

What is this source?

Part of Winston Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons, 1 July 1952, in the debate on the situation in Korea.

Background to this source

At the time of this speech Churchill was Prime Minister of Britain for a second time. There’d been a debate on Korea in the House of Commons on 25 June 1952 (see the House of Commons’ report in Hansard, the Official Report of debates in Parliament, here). A Government White Paper on Korea was published, setting out the options for policy, and it was in response to the debate on the White Paper that Churchill was making this speech. ‘White Papers’ are documents produced by the British government setting out details of future policy on topics in order to gather feedback before it formally presents policies before Parliament as a Bill.

By 1952, the war in Korea had largely ground to a halt. Negotiations were going on, but were complicated by the fate of prisoners of war – many Chinese held by the UN forces didn’t want to go home. The UN had been bombing North Korea (the electricity grid was knocked out for two weeks) in an attempt to put pressure on the negotiations. Millions of civilians had been displaced and there had been some criticism of US tactics in the war.

As usual, Churchill’s speech notes are typed up on small pieces of paper so he could keep them in his pocket and hold them in his hand when making his speech, and are laid out in ‘psalm style’, which helped aid his delivery of the speech.

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. What is the situation in Korea at this time?
  2. According to Churchill, what qualities have been shown by the US?

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 is a great admirer of the US.

Lots of people in Britain sympathise with the Chinese Communist government.

Other people shouldn’t criticise the US government over its actions.

Britain has very little influence with the US and UN in Korea.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • You can read the whole speech here, in CHUR 5/48A-B, where the speech is at images 3 to 52.
  • The White Paper referred to was published by the Government just before the debate in the House of Commons.
  • Churchill, as Prime Minister, was giving his government’s official view on the war in Korea.
  • Churchill is pessimistic about the prospect of peace without US force.

Explore the guide to interpreting speeches

Source 6

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