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The Eagle has Landed: Groping for a Korean Role in the Pacific War

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

The first Americans to arrive in Korea following Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II brought with them a quartet of Korean soldiers that U.S. officials had recruited for the Eagle Project, the most ambitious American effort to use Koreans in the Pacific War that punctuated a long wartime effort to enlist Allied diplomatic and military support for overseas Koreans. In response, U.S. officials had insisted that Korean exiles in the United States unify their efforts. This condition referenced squabbles among Korean groups in general, with the most transparent being those between Syngman Rhee and Haan Kilsoo. While Korean combatants on the Asian mainland managed to gain some U.S. support for their cause, recognition of their potential came too late in the war for them to help liberate their country. Ultimately, the United States turned to the Japanese and Japanese-trained Koreans to assist in this occupation. Reviewing the history of both Korean lobbying and U.S. response to it provides the opportunity to ask whether better handling of the Korean issue during World War II could have provided U.S. occupation forces with better circumstances to prepare southern Korea for a swift, and unified, independence.

Affiliations: 1: Rikkyo University,


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