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Journal of Cold War Studies 3.3 (2001) 122-124

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Book Review

In the Devil's Shadow:
U.N. Special Operations During the Korean War

Michael E. Haas, In the Devil's Shadow: U.N. Special Operations During the Korean War. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000. 243 pp. $29.95.

Like the TV series M.A . S.H ., this book takes its text from the Vietnam War--and the stab-in-the-back school of military authors--and extends it backward into the Korean War. Colonel Haas's most sensational finding (duly reported in the press) is that the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) formed a veritable army of Korean infiltrators, dropped them into North Korea, and wrote them off as "expendable assets" when few of them ever sent in reports or even [End Page 122] survived their missions. Haas makes the entire operation sound like agent cleansing rather than a desperate attempt to foment rebellion and subversion behind enemy lines. Nowhere would a reader sense that it was a reasonable (if ultimately unsuccessful) covert action, albeit one gone awry. As in much of the literature on the Korean War, especially in books written by American veterans, the South Koreans here appear only as shadowy victims, not as ardent patriots or ambitious adventurers who sought to free North Korea from the Communists.

To be fair to Colonel Haas, a retired special operations warrior for both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, his book is much more than an attack on the CIA, with which he probably had his own unpleasant experiences in the 1960s and 1970s. Most of In the Devil's Shadow deals with a service-by-service review of all special operations conducted during the Korean War for various purposes and with different levels of success. Haas's previous book detailed the Air Force's Cold War special operations, and in his new book he expands the subject beyond air-sea rescue operations to include various other efforts to conduct raids behind enemy lines.

Despite Haas's emphasis on operations, much of the book deals with intelligence collection, which muddies his analysis, just as such missions muddy the real world. In fact, many of the special operations, such as the raids by the island-based United Nations-sponsored Korean partisans, served as cover for intelligence collection activities, including communications intelligence. Haas makes a special effort to "out" Frank Wisner and Hans Tofte, the CIA operatives who directed Asian operations, but he does not even mention then-Captain Richard G. Stilwell, the actual theater OPC-CIA boss as well as deputy intelligence chief for the Far East Command. In a similar oversight Haas consistently calls the Korean Liaison Office (KLO), which was a joint and combined off-line intelligence agency in Seoul, the "Korean Labor Organization." There is an extensive May 1951 report on the KLO in the MacArthur Memorial archives.

The most convincing parts of the book are the anecdotal accounts of the cleverness of American special operations warriors of every service. If Wisner and Tofte are the villains, the hero is then-Colonel Harry C. "Heinie" Aderholt of the U.S. Air Force, a legendary figure in Cold War special operations and the father of the current 1st Special Operations Wing. Aderholt's service is properly recognized, as are the other forlorn hopes mounted by all the other elements of the Combined Command Reconnaissance Activities, Korea (CCRAK), the umbrella military special operations consortium. (One could hardly call it a command in the conventional sense.) Haas also argues, with some success, that CCRAK could never coordinate its activities with those of the Joint Advisory Commission Korea, which was the CIA-sponsored theater office. During World War II special operations and intelligence collection clashed within the walls of the Office of Strategic Services, but during the Korean War the CIA wanted to foist special operations onto the military, which usually resisted taking responsibility unless it saw some distinct...