Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert E. Barbour
BARBOUR: That letter was, I suppose, written by Rusk, signed by the Secretary and given to Pace. Then followed another speech, an interview, and Rusk disappeared one afternoon and stayed at a long meeting at Blair House until two or three o'clock in the morning as I recall. Then he came in in the morning with his briefcase, put it in the top drawer of his safe and announced to everybody in the room, “This is out of bounds.” Obviously the decision had been made and they were in the process of formulating it. The decision was announced, I think, that night—the following night—and there was a good deal of turmoil and excitement in the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs, as you might imagine. My association with it was, you might say, one of distant and amazed observation.
Q: What was the feeling of the people in the Far Eastern Bureau, as you saw it as the “fly on the wall”, dealing with MacArthur?
BARBOUR: That, as I recall, he was less and less responsive to his orders. That, for whatever reason, personal ambition or a totally different concept of how the military operation should be run, he was giving it more and more of his imprint. I recall distinctly people feeling that it was getting dangerous.
Q: Livingston Merchant was a major player at that time but even more so in the Dulles period. How did you find Livingston Merchant in working with him and seeing him in operation?
BARBOUR: He was, as I said, the sole deputy, which is amusing today when we think of an Assistant Secretary with five deputies. He was the Deputy Assistant Secretary. He did all the things that Rusk was not personally involved in, was an able second, was much more available to us, we dealt more with him. He was always, no matter how preoccupied, available and I never hesitated to go in and ask him questions, and he always had time to answer—something I would have never dared do with Dean Rusk.
Q: To get a little feel for the attitude of the Department, did the entrance of China into the Korean War come as a sudden shock or was it becoming more and more apparent? What was the feeling toward China that you were absorbing?
BARBOUR: Great preoccupation, great preoccupation. I think one of the problems with MacArthur was the feeling that he was going to provoke them even more so, he was proposing the use of nuclear weapons and things like that. Then they had the Chinese onslaughts across the Yalu.
Q: This was in the winter of 1950-1951.