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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of this forgotten war
My knowledge of the Korean War has always been very limited, and like many people, mine has been slanted by the 1970s TV series MASH.

In this book, Hastings gives us a detailed yet very readable account of the origins of the war, it early prosecution and the need for the US to gain support from others to give itself the fig leaf of pretence that this was a UN...
Published on 2 July 2011 by Simon Welch

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overarching analysis, but a decidedly slanted one
Just five years after the end of the Second World War, the Korean War was the first of a set of ideological wars between the capitalist United States and her allies and communist states, which threatened to make the cold war with the Soviet Union a hot one. In The Korean War, Max Hastings sets out the historical context and lead-up to the war, its initial unfolding and...
Published 2 months ago by Rob Kitchin


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of this forgotten war, 2 July 2011
By 
Simon Welch (Chiang Mai, Thailand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Korean War (Pan Military Classics) (Paperback)
My knowledge of the Korean War has always been very limited, and like many people, mine has been slanted by the 1970s TV series MASH.

In this book, Hastings gives us a detailed yet very readable account of the origins of the war, it early prosecution and the need for the US to gain support from others to give itself the fig leaf of pretence that this was a UN operation and not the first instance of the Cold War being fought by the super powers' proxies. Considerable use is made of first hand accounts as well as archive material. It must, given the fact that it was written in 1985, be slanted towards the western experience of the war, and doubtless if written now would have the benefit of some restricted access to the Chinese record, though even now one must suspect that a truly impartial account must be difficult to produce.

A criticism has been made that the British contribution plays too large a part of the narrative. Given that the author is British, this is what the buyer should anticipate. The fact that Hastings is not afraid to criticise American prosecution of the war, together with accounts of American blunders will no doubt upset American readers, who may prefer a more partisan account. A sub text that questions why the Americans chose to support the distasteful regime in the South of a country with no strategic interest, other than in pursuit of the Truman doctrine, may also be distasteful to some, but is worthy of discussion.

A well written and clear account, typical of Hastings' output. Thoroughly recommended to the general reader.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and detailed, 6 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: The Korean War (Pan Military Classics) (Paperback)
The korean war is known as the forgotten war for a good reason. i wanted to learn about it and saw this as the best starting point. Max Hastings does an amazing job in covering the whole war from the first arrival of american troops after the surrender of Japan to the final ceasefire agreement in 1953. if your looking for an overview of the conflict then this is it. its covers in wonderful detail the the political and military side of it filled with veteran interviews of both UN and chinese forces. by far what makes its so great is the way the author is able to summarize and conclude so many parts in it that give you a great idea of the events. my own criticism is that its a very top down view of the war with little idea of what it was really like for the soldiers. while that is in a way good because it then focuses on the big events of the war which for someone who nothing of it is good yet there is little personal looks into what the soldiers experienced although there are many veteran accounts of their experience and battles. it includes a lot of great photos of the war and many haunting stories of many individuals who as the book says "were never heard from again". with the situation today in Korea remaining much the same as it was when the cease fire was signed this is definitely a book to buy as it still today remains a current event and if the current situation is to be ever understood you have to start with this war and this book will give you a great start on a war that was very harsh with often heavy fighting yet is completely nude shadowed by the simple fact that it left many americans unsatisfied after the war as it was there first war in which they did not attain full victory but had to settle for a stalemate and ceasefire. fascinating from beginning to end.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and written, 8 Nov. 2008
By 
R. Loughins - See all my reviews
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In my opinion, a good historical non-fiction is one that doesn't read like one. In other words, the historian doesn't bore you with pointless details and fancy words, which you need to consult a dictionary to understand. This is one such book. Hastings provides an excellent chronological description of the Korean war without concentrating on one particular aspect for too long, with the exception of degrading MacArthur. But then this is wholly justified because I personally think the guy was an idiot. People talk about his heroic deeds in the second world war and then at Incheon but the reality is: he left his men to rot and die on the Philippines; he simply used brute force in his reconquest of the Pacific without using any fantastic new tactics or strategies; and Incheon could have been a major disaster if the North Korean army had been larger and better equipped. He got lucky however and people now call it a masterstroke.

Anyway, enough about MacArthur. Another good aspect about the book is that it doesn't concentrate on one particular issue. It deals with everything including the military tactics employed during the war, the experiences of both soldiers and civilians, and the political reaction from governments and civilians across the world.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and objective account of a forgotten war, 19 Mar. 2000
By A Customer
The book is an excellent account of a war the West has forgotten about.The battle accounts are well written and use many eyewitnesses,but it's real strengh is in the way it tries to examine the reasons for the war and the lessons we didn't learn without trying to make political points scoring,the writer recognises the essential rightness of the UN cause while not flinching from the faults of the South Korean regime.There is a sense of tragedy about the way it is shown that so many of the American policies were dress rehearsals for the Vietnam war,and a sense of outrage at the poor leadership and performance of many aspects of the UN intervention in the first year of the war.Recommended.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good account of an overlooked conflict., 27 Jan. 2008
This review is from: The Korean War (Paperback)
The Korean War is to some extent an overlooked war considering its importance and scale. This might be because it was the last big war before widespread television or because the result was inconclusive or because coming so soon after the Second World War it was simply eclipsed. Max Hastings sets out to redress the balance in this work about the confrontation between the USA and its Western Allies versus China and North Korea.

The book can essentially be divided into three parts. First of all is an account of the events that ultimately led up to war starting with the Japanese invasion back in the late 19th century. The second part is a chronological narrative of the military conflict itself, this takes up the bulk of the book obviously. Finally Hastings analysis specific aspects of the war, such as the impact of air power, intelligence and the treatment of prisoners by both sides. Most of the primary research is derived from interviews with survivors so the story is told through the eyes of soldiers, officers and civilians from many countries with illuminating anecdotes breaking up the straightforward recitation of events.

The war itself appears almost a morality tale about hubris. Although it ultimately ended in a stalemate both sides squandered opportunities to settle on far more favourable terms than they eventually got. After the sneak attack by North Korea almost succeeded in taking the whole peninsula the American led UN force rallied strongly and pushed the communists out of South Korea and deep into the North. Had MacArthur not tried to go for total victory then China would not have been sufficiently concerned to enter the war. This precipitated a panicky retreat by the American army (though the Marines were much more disciplined), all the way back down the peninsula. Here China failed to use it's advantage to secure a diplomatic victory and tried to rout the UN from Korea, but the UN again regrouped under a new General, Matthew Ridgway and drove the Chinese back over the 38th parallell. This time much to the dismay of the US officers, Washington decided against going for a total victory and sought a truce based on the status quo. Achieving the status quo cost the lives of over 30000 UN troops, hundreds of thousands of Korean civilians and hundreds of thousands if not millions of North Korean and Chinese soldiers.

In 2008 the Iraq war commands public attention despite being a relatively small war, yet at the time the Korean War attracted surprisingly little attention in the West apart from frustration and confusion about why they were fighting to support an impoverished hell hole governed by the corrupt and brutal Syngman Rhee. From a contemporary prospective it is not hard to see why the War was seen as a squalid and pointless stalemate that should never have been fought. With the benefit of almost 60 years of hindsight though, where we can see the difference between the free and prosperous South and the horrific North the cause is much clearer. It signaled that the West was willing to fight overt aggression by the Communists and it helped sow discord between the two Communist powers of China and the USSR.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overarching analysis, but a decidedly slanted one, 8 Feb. 2015
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Korean War (Pan Military Classics) (Paperback)
Just five years after the end of the Second World War, the Korean War was the first of a set of ideological wars between the capitalist United States and her allies and communist states, which threatened to make the cold war with the Soviet Union a hot one. In The Korean War, Max Hastings sets out the historical context and lead-up to the war, its initial unfolding and the deployment of a United Nations forces, and its bloody progression up to the armistice in 1953. The book covers the wider general arc of the war, its ideology and politics, military actions, and the principle actors and their acts, but also has a series of smaller stories about individuals, and chapters about specific aspects of the war, such the air war, intelligence, and prisoners of war. There’s a wealth of information based on an analysis of documentary sources and interviews with over 200 participants. And rather than just describe what happened, he’s prepared to provide analysis and judgement as to cause and effects.

However, whilst the book provides an overarching analysis, it is fair to say it is a decidedly slanted one, and has a number of notable absences. Hastings is a British journalist and historian and the book has a definite British slant in terms of analysis and sources. There is some criticism of the British participation, but largely the British role both militarily and diplomatically is portrayed favourably. On the other hand, the Americans do not fair so well, in part because they did make a hames of many situations, but it seems that more than that is going on. For example, the British disaster at Imjin is depicted as a heroic last stand and plucky retreat, whereas the very similar American defeat at Chosin is framed as a deadly calamity. His coverage of the Chinese participation is relatively scant and certainly coloured by his own ideological position. However, by far the largest absence from the book is how the citizens and soldiers of the Republic of Korea and North Korea viewed and experienced the war. Beyond a handful of anecdotes and some sweeping statements, the Korean people and Korean politics are almost absent in a book about Korea. Perhaps this is to be expected in a book written by a British historian and the bias toward using Western, and in particular, British sources and interviews, but it does create a somewhat lopsided narrative. The other major gap is what happened in Korea after the war ended in 1953. Instead of tracking the post-war developments in both parts of Korea, Hastings instead compares the Korean war with Vietnam and the wider conflict with communism. It’s another way in which he demonstrates that the book is not so much an analysis of the Korean war, but a war against communism fought in Korea. It’s shame that it couldn’t have been both. Nonetheless, it’s a very useful starting point for anyone interested in getting an overarching, if particular, account of the war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Korean War, by Max Hastings, at Amazon.co.uk, 20 May 2012
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This review is from: The Korean War (Pan Military Classics) (Paperback)
The book was originally edited in 1987 and has lost nothing of its ability to discuss the US politicians who were engaged in first instance with the korean war: the President, Harry Truman `a man of wider outlook than you might think, who had read a lot of history ... a background of deep'; Dean Acheson `a natural first class in any university'; George Marshall, `looking at the big world all the time ... looked for solutions to problems rather than worrying about them'; Omar Bradley, `very, very high class'; and finally Douglas Mac Arthur: an imposing, extroverted, self-assured, egocentric, aged and almost paranoic titan who hated Europe.

I read just the first 140 pages of the book, because I wait for the summer to enjoy it in peace. But from the little I can tell you,it is an imposing great book to be read in its complexity. Important pages are those where Mac Arthur is able to impose his approach to Inchon to a recalcitrant entourage of Chiefs of Staff, and those regarding him meeting Truman at Wake in October (where again Mac Arthur seems to enjoy full swing); up to his dismission decreed by Truman next April (I happen to have read that too).

Dean Acheson on January 12 1950 had avoided to include Korea among the countries under american shield. I could not find this story in what I have seen of the book; perhaps I am wrong but, if it is so, it is a minor fault in a book absolutely first class for its analysis of the main characters waging the war.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Korean war, and a lot of info on the European units, 6 Jan. 2002
By 
B. Gaunt "beng_uk" (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This book has it all, it describes all the nationalities that fought in the war. The reasons why it happened, what happen in the war and even what happened once peace returned.
It has a lot of information on the British and other European units that fought in the war (though it is pointed out that American?s defiantly supplied most of the troops).
Nothing in held back when describing some of the battles that took place, and the accounts of the battle on the Imjin by the Gloucester?s is breathtaking.
Its interesting to read this book as it points out a lot of the flaws that the great nations had at the time with fighting in the east. And why many European nations later on would not supply troops for the Vietnam war, even if they did understand what America was trying to do in Vietnam.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complete story of a forgotten war, 6 Nov. 2012
By 
Ramon Dominguez (Barcelona, Spain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Korean War (Pan Military Classics) (Paperback)
A very comprehensive review of a distant, and for most, a forgotten war. Not only focused on the beginning of the war, but a complete story of the whole war with good detail of the participation of Great Britain troops, sometimes forgotten by american scholars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Korean War, 3 April 2013
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This review is from: The Korean War (Pan Military Classics) (Paperback)
The typical Max Hastings' book, I mean a very detailed book based on first hand account and divided in three big parts: the origins ( as usual the Americans mistook which leader to support ); the war; the "peace" and its consequences.
Talikng about the war, the author dedicates a part of the book to the situation of the prisoners ( the comunists tried to convert them and to use them for propaganda or for spying ), to the intelligence war and to the battle of the air (where the American superiority reached its maximum very soon).
The book is very deep and the author is not ashamed to talk openly about the unpreparedness manifested by the UN troops in several occasions.
A good book about the Korean War
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The Korean War (Pan Military Classics)
The Korean War (Pan Military Classics) by Max Hastings (Paperback - 17 Sept. 2010)
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