August 13, 2020

The U.S. and the 1945 Division of Korea


During a meeting on August 14, 1945*, Colonel Charles Bonesteel and I retired to an adjacent room late at night and studied intently a map of the Korean peninsula. Working in haste and under great pressure, we had a formidable task: to pick a zone for the American occupation. . . . Using a National Geographic map, we looked just north of Seoul for a convenient dividing line but could not find a natural geographic line. We saw instead the 38th parallel and decided to recommend that. . . . [The State and War Departments] accepted it without too much haggling, and surprisingly, so did the Soviets. . . . [The] choice of the thirty-eighth parallel, recommended by two tired colonels working late at night, proved fateful.