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The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War Hardcover – 1 Aug 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (1 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230709907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230709904
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 39,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'David Halberstam makes sobering sense of one of modern history's less well-known and less well-understood wars.'
-- Birmingham Post

'It is a remarkable piece of storytelling, about the first 10 months of the Korean saga... -- The Sunday Times

'This is military history at its best.'
-- Literary Review

'This masterfully constructed and grippingly written book'
-- Daily Telegraph

Book Description

A magisterial and compellingly readable history of the Korean War from the acclaimed author of The Best and the Brightest, the defining account of the Vietnam War --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The necessity for this book is exemplified by the author's experience in a provincial Florida library: when looking at the shelves found it had eighty eight books on the Vietnam War, and only four on Korea.

This is a magisterial single volume history of the American involvement in a major war with Communist China. David Halberstam draws on considerable historical and journalistic skills to follow in the footsteps of Chester Wilmot's Crusade in Europe: the same effortless movement between platoon level experience of single combat to the liaisons and conferences of the chiefs of staff. I was as engaged by the character sketches of key politicians and diplomats as I was by the gripping depiction of close quarter conflict with the Chinese army. The portrait of MacArthur is worthy of Greek tragedy.

This was a highly politicised conflict exposed fault line between soldiers and civilians in the American way of making war. It explores the tension between the American instinct to isolationism and its global responsibilities - and provides sharp contrasts between the outstanding success of the USA in stabilising and securing democracy in post-war Europe with a far more problematic experience in Asia

Some qualifications: if you are a British reader, and your previous reading on the war is centred on Max Hastings and Michael Hickey, then you are likely to be disappointed by the very peripheral treatment of the UN effort outside the US armed forces. I think this is to be expected, but it is a little sad. My major criticism is the very poor index which does very little service to an excellently scholarly and readable book.

The key axis of power in the 21st century is likely to be between the USA and China, and the events of 1950-1953 will remain central to the dynamic of this relationship. This book is a fine tribute to its author who was so tragically killed in a car accident just as it was completed.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a tour de force of a book which not only covers the War itself but the dynamics which led to it and the personalities on both sides who played such a major part in this grim forgotten war. Halberstam is ruthless in his analysis, which is always backed up by evidence or contemporary accounts of others who were there. This is required reading for anyone interested in this and the period which follows. Go buy it now...
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Format: Paperback
I acquired this book in the hope of expanding my knowledge of the Korean military campaign, but was sorely disappointed. The narrative starts off well enough, with a well constructed relation of the first Chinese border crossing and the ensuing battle of Unsan, interspersed with nicely edited anecdotes from veterans of the action. Then it starts to fall apart...

Virtually half the book is a diatribe against MacArthur and his personal failings and shortcomings as a military leader, coupled with long passages chronicling the political intrigue in Washington. I have no particular problem with this being an integral part of the history, but the author is interminably repetitive in describing the machinations of these situations. The book could probably have been edited to half its length, and would have been twice as good...
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Format: Paperback
I have a bad or good habit, judge as you will, of pretty much always finishing a book once I've started it. This was tested sorely to the limits with David Halberstams "The Coldest Winter" which I had borrowed from my local Library in the hope of filling in the ample gaps in my knowledge of the Korean War. Instead, within a few score pages, it became apparent that the book had immense and ultimately fatal problems. The fact that there are 650+ pages meant that my reading endurance was tested to its limits.

The amount of clichés is simply astounding as well as a blizzard of trite sound bites, sentimentalism and more than a few dubious judgements. Sentences such as "he passed all kinds of secret tests, and he [Kim Il Sung] was a true believer" appear continuously in the text: the stuff of caricature and they occur with regard to everyone who makes an appearance, from the lowliest soldier to such historical figures as General MacArthur, Harry Truman, Mao and General Ridgeway.

The book is subtitled "America and the Korean War" and I expected that the American contribution to the Korean War would have primacy. What I cannot accept is the utterly miserable amount of space that is given to the Koreans. With the exception of the two leading figures of North and South there is only the odd sentence or paragraph on the Korean people themselves. The reader is left, beyond a few shallow generalities, with little idea of what their experience of the War was. There is not even much in the way of detail regarding how partition happened, or the status of the two Koreas in the period between the end of WW2 and the beginning of the Korean War.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like the writing of David Halberstam. At its best it is magisterial in its sweep and the 'helicopter' approach of recording and recounting events at both the highest and lowest levels of action makes it for me the ideal sort of reading material. I did not know a lot about the Korean War but Halberstam has in this work placed on the record for all time the sacrifices that were made by the men on the front line and the arrogant stupidity of some of the Senior Command involved in the decision making process which ended up causing the needless deaths of so many men.

This book should be mandatory reading for all OCS entrants in the US military and beyond.
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