In taking the Iron Triangle, which was the Communist's most important staging area for attacks on South Korea, Ridgway put the Communists on the defensive and dramatically changed the tenor of the war. With 75,000 American killed or injured since the fighting began, the American public was now decidedly against continuation of the war; Truman agreed. Truman now pushed for a return to the "status quo ante bellum" (the state of things in Korea before the war started): a Korea divided at the 38TH Parallel. Truman, however, would always refuse to budge on the question of the fate of Formosa, and as a result negotiations ended up taking over a year. The slow pace of negotiations was further influenced by the symbolic importance of Korea in the Cold War: neither side in the negotiations wanted to seem too eager to settle for peace, because to do so might be seen as a sign of weakness.

Since the US wanted to end the war as badly as the Communists, why did it refuse to agree to a cease-fire while the negotiations at Kaesong took place? The reason is that the US thought it had the upper hand in the fighting, and could use strategic bombing to exert pressure on the negotiations. In Operation Strangle, Ridgway had US bombers target crucial parts of the Communist supply line such as roads and bridges. However, Operation Strangle never seemed to have much impact. The Chinese negotiators never showed any sign of responding to the effects of the bombing campaign except maybe to become even more inflexible in their demands. The Chinese resolve partly stemmed from the efficiency and success of Communist forces in repairing damaged roads and bridges, often rebuilding bombed utilities in a matter of hours. Because it was not a highly industrialized country, North Korea had few targets for strategic bombing to take out. (Once again, the failure of strategic bombing in Korea proved to be a foreshadowing of a similar failure in Vietnam.) Another reason the US refused to hold a cease-fire while the Kaesong talks went on was that Ridgway wanted an excuse to send his men into the field, keeping them "fighting trim" instead of allowing them to become inactive and unprepared for battle.

Popular pages: The Korean War (1950-1953)