INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - The CIA on Wednesday released a massive
number of documents dealing with the Korean War, some of which
point to the young agency's failure in the late 1940s to understand
crucial events on the Korean peninsula in the run-up to the
One CIA analysis said "American military and civilian leaders
were caught by surprise" when North Korean troops moved south
across the 38th Parallel in June 1950.
"Only the intercession of poorly trained and equipped US
garrison troops from Japan managed to halt the North Korean advance
at a high price in American dead and wounded," the report said.
That document, "Two Strategic Intelligence Mistakes in Korea,
1950," also describes how U.S. military and civilian leaders were
caught off-guard four months later when the Chinese "intervened in
massive numbers as American and UN forces pushed the North Koreans back."
The release of the 1,300 CIA documents includes 900 papers that
had either not been made public before or now contained new
information. The CIA release coincides with the 60th anniversary
this month of the Korean War's start.
The CIA documents were released on a CD-ROM distributed at the
Truman library to participants at a two-day conference on the
Korean War. The documents were also to be made available on the
The announcement of the papers also coincides with the release
of hundreds of additional documents from the Woodrow Wilson
International Center for Scholars in Washington and the Harry S.
Truman Library and Museum.
The Truman library documents, which included audio clips of
President Truman and correspondence from then-Secretary of State
Dean Acheson, were being made available at the library, though some
may eventually be released online, said museum director Michael
Devine. The Wilson center's documents are on its website.
The CIA documents include intelligence reports, correspondence
and National Intelligence Estimates, and foreign media accounts of
activity in the region.
Peter A. Clement, CIA's deputy director of Intelligence for
Analytic Programs, said the documents showed the CIA was "not very
well-organized" at the time.
"They didn't call the invasion," he said. "It showed very
clearly that we didn't put the signs all together."
Clement said the documents illustrate how the agency then relied
on "a small crew of people who looked over the entire world," as
opposed to current iterations involving separate staffs each
assigned to a specific region.
Some parallels remain, however, between the CIA in its early
years and the agency today, which is still "doing some tea leaf
reading" but also has the help of more sophisticated tools.
"Intelligence-wise, we have come far," Clement said. "But at
its core, the (job) of understanding leaders' decisions ... is
still a challenge."
James F. Person, program associate for the Woodrow Wilson
center, said the documents his center had collected from 1955 to
1984 depict the "rocky relationship" between North Korea and
China that continues today.
"We continue to get this wrong today, the North Koreans and the
Chinese walking in lock step," Person said. "The North Koreans
can't stand the Chinese. ... It's going to go on and on until we
sit down and talk with them."
Clayton Laurie, a CIA staff historian, said the "breadth" of
the documents release indicates the Truman administration's
interest in the region.
"Even though this is not a primary area of interest for the
Truman administration, they're still reporting on this area," he
Michael Pearlman, a former professor at the U.S. Army Command
and General Staff College in Leavenworth, Kan., and a conference
participant, said he had hoped the release would include
information on the circumstances of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's firing
in 1951. But from what he could tell, the documents had no such
"It's more than disappointing," he said. "It's a tragedy."
Paul Edwards, founder of the Center for the Study of the Korean
War at Graceland University in Independence, Mo., said before he
had seen the documents that he hoped to find information about
President Dwight Eisenhower's efforts to end the war.
"I'll be terribly surprised if there's anything too
surprising" in the papers, he said.