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“The 38th parallel was picked up by a tired meeting on a hot night in Potsdam,” said a State Department official last week. “It’s a line that makes no political, geographical, economic or military sense. But the Russians and Americans at the meeting simply couldn’t agree on who should occupy what. Finally a general suggested the 38th parallel. And that was that.”

After Japan surrendered, U.S. Lieut. General John R. Hodge moved into South Korea with 72,000 troops while Colonel General I. M. Chistyakov occupied North Korea with 100,000 troops. The two generals were supposed to set up an all-Korean government, but the Russians stalled all negotiations. The Russians demanded that every Korean who opposed Communism be barred from the proposed government. After a two-year stalemate, the U.S. raised the Korea question in the United Nations. Russia refused to let any U.N. observers into North Korea. In May 1948 a U.N. commission supervised free elections in South Korea, and the Republic of Korea was proclaimed. The firmly riveted Red regime in the Russian-held north claimed sovereignty over all Korea.

Both the U.S. and Russia withdrew their troops. Both proceeded to train local armies. The Communist army in the north was known to be at least 95,000 strong to be equipped with heavy artillery, tanks and planes. The U.S.-trained army in the south, numerically about equal to the Northern force, had lately begun to look good to its U.S. advisers (TIME, June 5). But it had virtually no military planes or tanks. Presumably somebody had thought that none would be needed.

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