On April 11, 1951, the destroyer USS John A. Bole (DD-755) closely approached the Communist China mainland and maintained a position just outside the three-mile limit near the People's Republic of China's sensitive port city of Swatow (Shantou). The crew manned battle stations for a period of five hours and forty-five minutes as numerous armed motorized junks approached from the port and in a threatening manner surrounded the destroyer. Two hours later a reconnaissance/show-of-force patrol consisting of several U. S. Navy aircraft arrived and made threatening passes at the junks and the Swatow airport for a period of two hours. An hour after the aircraft departed, the destroyer departed to the east, carefully avoiding contact with the surrounding junks. Midway during the period the aircraft were on the scene, it was announced to the world that General Douglas MacArthur had been relieved of his commands.
The official document of the day's activity, the deck log of the USS John A. Bole, makes no mention of the event. According to the ship's log, the Bole was steaming at a constant speed of twelve knots at a location over fifteen miles southeast of its actual position. The Bole's crew had been ordered to remain silent about the incident. Apparently, the aircrews of the aircraft on the scene received similar orders. However, the event was never officially classified secret as Washington had never learned of it. Eyewitness accounts of the incident were finally published by the United States Naval Institute in 1996 and 1997, accounts that were written by James Edwin Alexander who had witnessed the entire event from his main battery control battle station above the destroyer's bridge. He also described the incident in two other books published in the years 2000 and 2004. In 2019, the book, Holding the Line - The Naval Air Campaign in Korea, by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver was published. It describes the event as viewed by the airmen who were on the scene for two hours. I, personally, was at my battlestation in an engine room of the destroyer during the event. Although I did not see what was transpiring outside the engine room, I did hear reports of the numerous junks around the vessel and of the air activity that was occurring. Also, I observed that the ship was holding a constant position for about five hours.
Several years ago, I noted that recent accounts of General MacArthur's actions during the Korean War did not mention the incident and commenced a research project involving several visits to the archives in College Park, MD. On my first visit, I noted that the Bole's deck log was an incorrect account of actual events. Thereupon, I contacted other members of the crew and children of others who no longer survived. A son of one of the deceased crew member sent me a photocopy of the entry his father made in his diary for April 11, 1951. Last year, I published an account based on my research, the diary, and statements of former crew members or their children who had been told of the incident by their fathers. As Paul Nitze, director of the State Department's policy planning at the time, stated in his memoirs, "It was clear that MacArthur was headed in a most dangerous direction." Although President Truman, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and Paul Nitze had learned from intercepts of diplomatic messages what MacArthur's intentions were, they, as do historians today, remained unaware of how MacArthur intended to achieve his goals. The intercepted diplomatic messages remain classified to this day, but correcting the official record (the Bole's deck log) should assist in better understanding MacArthur's plan to expand the Korean War into China.
The deck log on file is not correct. Should the record of events as set forth in the current account be permitted to stand or should the record be corrected? What action should eyewitnesses to major military operations take upon discovering they had been incorrectly recorded in official documents?