With the arrival of the millennium, we remembered that 50 years
ago this winter, the U.S. Marines—in the face of massive intervention
into the Korean War by Chinese regular troops—conducted their
famed “advance to the rear” from the Chosin Reservoir.
During the next three years, those events will be commemorated
with ceremonies, memorials and specials on the History Channel.
These books may help our readers put the times and the war in perspective.
Start with a photographic history, “War in Korea: 1950-1953,”
by D.M. Giangreco, published by Presidio Press, of Novato, Calif.,
with a sales price of $50.
This 10-chapter, 330-page volume is an effective way to begin the
story of Korea, where the United States lost 35,000 lives in three
years, and where we have more than 6,000 personnel missing in action
to this day. The book includes incredible detail, maps and a narrative
of the ebb and flow of the war. More than 500 black and white photographs
tell their own story.
Donald Knox’s two-book series is next on our list. The tale
begins with “The Korean War, An Oral History: Pusan to Chosin,”
published by Harvest Books (Harcourt, Brace, in New York City) and
selling for $21 in soft cover. Covering events from June 25 through
December 31 of 1950, the book includes first-hand accounts of the
roller-coaster events in the opening months of what was termed a
We are taken, in steps, from the attack by the North Korean People’s
Army (NKPA), abundantly equipped with modern arms by their Soviet
sponsors, to the desperate Eighth Army defense of Pusan, to the
MacArthur’s landing at Inchon, to U.S. pursuit to the Yalu
River and the Chinese intervention.
The second book in the series is “The Korean War: Uncertain
Victory,” also published by Harvest Books for $14.95 in soft
cover. This volume takes us from January 1951 to the armistice in
July 1953. We see the inception of truce talks, action with allied
units in the UN operations, riots in prisoner-of-war (POW) camps,
stories of our POWs and the battle of Pork Chop Hill.
“Chosin: Heroic Ordeal of the Korean War”—by
Eric Hammel, printed by Presidio Press, of Novato, Calif., and selling
for $19.95 in soft cover—covers one of the forgotten war’s
legendary events, which took place in a freezing hell of winter.
As U.S. forces made their way to the Yalu, the U.S. military command
made errors of intelligence, overconfidence and miscalculation.
It violated one of the most important principles of military theory
(concentration of forces), ignored North Korean geography and placed
the Marines in harm’s way, outnumbered 10-to-one by Chinese
Carry this story further with Martin Russ’s “Breakout:
The Chosin Reservoir Campaign,” published by Penguin Books
(Putnam Penguin), in New York City and selling for $14.95 in soft
A force of 12,000 Marines, comprising three regiments of the 1st
Marine Division, strung out over 80 miles of a single, narrow mountain
road, found themselves attacked and surrounded by hordes of Chinese
soldiers. Given up for lost, they fought their way out, against
all odds, bringing out their wounded and their dead, under constant
attack. This feat has been written forever into U.S. military history
as a monument to fortitude, esprit de corps and a determination
not to surrender to adversity but to rise above it and survive.
What would a reading of the Korean War be without touching on the
U.S. commanders? Take, for example, “MacArthur’s War:
Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero,” by Stanley Weintraub,
published by Free Press, of New York City, costing $27.95 in hardcover.
Under Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s command, we rose from
unpreparedness and despair at Pusan, to the brilliance of Inchon,
the thrust to the Yalu and the disaster at Chosin. Both credit and
blame fall on MacArthur’s doorstep. His insubordination forced
President Truman to fire him, but despite his famous speech before
a joint session of Congress, he did not just fade away. Korea will
forever remain “MacArthur’s War.” This is Weintraub
at his best.
Army Gen. Mathew B. Ridgeway’s “The Korean War”—from
Da Capo Press, of New York City, priced at $16.50 in soft cover—tells
the Korean War story from his perspective.
Ridgeway, first, replaced Gen. Walton Walker as commander of the
Eighth Army, then succeeded MacArthur as supreme commander both
of UN Forces in Korea and the U.S. Far Eastern Command.
“The Sea War in Korea” is written by Malcolm W. Cagle
and Frank A. Manson, published by the Naval Institute Press, in
Annapolis, Md., and priced at $39.95. Originally published in 1957,
this book remains the first and only full account of the U.S. Navy’s
role in the Korean conflict.
Without Navy and Air Force support throughout the war, the tide
of battle would have gone against U.S. ground forces. The landings
at Inchon, and the countless insertions, extractions (Hungnam),
naval gunfire-support operations and naval aviation missions were
all critical to the U.S. effort.
Wrapping up this reading list is “Battle For Korea: Fiftieth
Anniversary Edition,” by Robert J. Dvorchak, from Combined
Publishing, in Conshohocken, Pa., costing $24.95 in soft cover.