Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

Tag: Korean War

On Desperate Ground: The Epic Story of Chosin Reservoir–the Greatest Battle of the Korean War by Hampton Sides

The Korean War – one of the most brutal wars regarding the extreme cold in which it was fought and the massive numbers of enemy soldiers thrown against American and U.N. forces. On Desperate Ground by Hampton Sides revisits the heroic withdrawal (“fighting in another direction”) of the First Marine Division in the brutal cold from the Chosin Reservoir.

Sides takes an interesting approach to his description of the campaign. For the initial Chinese surprise attacks on the night of November 27, he writes detailed narratives of small unit experiences (platoon and company level). Sides then transitions to a broader view of the campaign at the regiment and division level (although he still includes stories of individuals struggling to survive the incessant Chinese attacks and the cold). For example, he describes the efforts of the Division’s engineers to repair a bridge that was blown by the Chinese and how the various units supported the engineers as they performed their work under fire.

This approach gives the reader a glimpse of the fighting at all levels of the Marine command.  Sides also thoroughly – rightfully so – praises the leadership of the Division commander General Oliver Smith. Smith’s calm, sometimes cautious, approach to battle was exactly what the Marines needed at the time. For instance, he ignored the X Corps commander’s order to push forward to the Yalu River prior to the main Chinese attack. Sides points out that this caution paid off because the Division was more concentrated at the time of attack. If Smith had heeded the corps commander’s orders, the Marines would have been more easily cut off with little chance of breaking out.

Sides takes a less kind analysis of General Douglas MacArthur – supreme commander of U.N. forces. As with most historians that write about MacArthur – they either love him or hate him – Sides is no different. He begrudgingly credits MacArthur for Inchon (although Sides credits the resounding success more on Smith’s and his Marines’ actions than MacArthur), but he eviscerates MacArthur for his strategy of pushing to the Yalu River. MacArthur ignored obvious signs of aggression from the Chinese – even when Chinese troops were captured, he did not believe his own commanders that the U.N. forces were at risk of attack.

Sometimes the book does feel like a rah rah for the Marines, but it is mostly an objective look at the Marines who fought hard to save themselves and their fellow Marines.

Such Men As These: The Story of the Navy Pilots Who Flew the Deadly Skies over Korea by David Sears

Continuing my two-book review series on the Korean War, I turn to Such Men as These: The Story of the Navy Pilots Who Flew the Deadly Skies over Korea by David Sears.  The book is 395 pages with 46 black and white photographs.

Generally, the book covers the Navy pilots that flew over the skies of North and South Korea during the War.  Many of the accounts of the pilots are from the pilots themselves.  Sears follows the pilots from their deployment to their way home (if they were lucky enough to survive).  He includes many stories of survival and loss during the war.

In the Mail: Give Me Tomorrow

Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War’s Greatest Untold Story–The Epic Stand of the Marines of George Company by Patrick K. O’Donnell

From the Publisher

“What would you want if you could have any wish?” asked the photojournalist of the haggard, bloodied Marine before him. The Marine gaped at his interviewer. The photographer snapped his picture, which became the iconic Korean War image featured on this book’s jacket. “Give me tomorrow,” he said at last.

After nearly four months of continuous and agonizing combat on the battlefields of Korea, such a simple request seemed impossible. For many men of George Company, or “Bloody George” as they were known—one of the Forgotten War’s most decorated yet unrecognized companies—it was a wish that would not come true.

This is the untold story of “Bloody George,” a Marine company formed quickly to answer its nation’s call to duty in 1950. This small band of men—a colorful cast of characters, including a Native American fighting to earn his honor as a warrior, a Southern boy from Tennessee at odds with a Northern blue-blood reporter-turned-Marine, and a pair of twins who exemplified to the group the true meaning of brotherhood—were mostly green troops who had been rushed through training to fill America’s urgent need on the Korean front. They would find themselves at the tip of the spear in some of the Korean War’s bloodiest battles.

After storming ashore at Inchon and fighting house-to-house in Seoul, George Company, one of America’s last units in reserve, found itself on the frozen tundra of the Chosin Reservoir facing elements of an entire division of Chinese troops. They didn’t realize it then, but they were soon to become crucial to the battle—modern-day Spartans called upon to hold off ten times their number. Give Me Tomorrow is their unforgettable story of bravery and courage.

Thoroughly researched and vividly told, Give Me Tomorrow is fitting testament to the heroic deeds of George Company. They will never again be forgotten.

In the Mail: Such Men As These

Such Men as These: The Story of the Navy Pilots Who Flew the Deadly Skies over Korea by David Sears

Kirkus Reviews

Quality military history of naval aviation during the Korean War. Historians traditionally bemoan America’s enthusiastic disarmament after World War II, and former U.S. Navy officer Sears (At War with the Wind: The Epic Struggle with Japan’s World War II Suicide Bombers, 2008, etc.) does not rock the boat. Budgets shrank, both draftees and skilled career men were discharged, ships were scrapped and vital military-technology research-jets, helicopters, new carrier designs-was shelved. North Korea’s 1950 invasion of the South found the United States with only a single, old aircraft carrier in the Pacific. After a scramble to refurbish the ships, recall reservists and spend generous new appropriations, Navy leaders assembled an impressive fleet that rained destruction on the North. As with Vietnam, North Korea was a poor, agricultural country with few of the key industrial targets bombers prefer, so airmen concentrated on railroads, bridges, tunnels and road traffic, which provided only occasional dramatic destruction in exchange for a steady stream of casualties. Sears does not shy away from politics and technical developments, but he focuses on an almost day-to-day account of carrier ground-attack missions. He follows the lives of a dozen Navy airmen, painting a vivid picture of their background, flight training and problems flying obsolete propeller aircraft, rudimentary early jets and the first futuristic but alarmingly dangerous helicopters. The author includes the moving story of the first black naval aviator, as well as the horrendous experience of several pilots taken prisoner. Military buffs will enjoy the nuts-and-bolts battle details, but Sears also offers a solid general history of naval air warfare.

The U.S. Army's First, Last, and Only All-Black Rangers by Edward L. Posey

I have always been interested in the history of individual military units, especially ones written by a former member.  Thus, I was intrigued by Edward Posey’s The U.S. Army’s First, Last, and Only All-Black Rangers when I found out about it.  Although the unit was only in existence for ten months during the Korean War, its members proved to many skeptics (some high ranking generals in the Army) that African-Americans could fight.  I believe their example and the efforts of others pushed the Army leadership in Korea (and worldwide) to finally end segregation in the U.S. Army – the armed forces were ordered to desegregate by President Truman, but the Army took its sweet time in carrying out the order.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén