The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War Hardcover – 1 Aug 2008
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'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
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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...
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.Read more ›
This book should be mandatory reading for all OCS entrants in the US military and beyond.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a very good read and great way to learn about this brutal and significant war between 1950-1953.
Recommended for readers interested in forgotten conflicts
Excellent insight into development of international perspectives in Amercian politics post WWII. Depressing to see the same mistakes being made 50 years on. Read morePublished on 7 April 2011 by Barry