Engrossing wartime memoirs from South Korea's first four-star general. Paik was a 29-year-old colonel in command of the 1st ROK Division when Communist forces rolled across the provisional boundary partitioning Korea in mid-1950. Though outgunned, Paik's ill-equipped, poorly trained men performed valiantly, halting the enemy's sneak assault on the South for a precious three days. Having helped create a defensive perimeter north of Pusan around the Naktong River, the author's South Korean troops then went on the attack. In the murderous period following Chinese intervention, Paik's prowess on battlegrounds up and down the peninsula earned him promotion to chief of staff of the ROK Army. In addition to overseeing its expansion and deployment under fire, he represented his country's interests in armistice negotiations, first at Kaesong and later at Panmunjom. Beyond its harrowing accounts of front-line engagement—in which quarter was neither asked nor given—the author's narrative goes a long way toward setting the record straight on such issues as the cruel myth that ROK units did not pull their weight in combat. While no match for their foe at the outset, his soldiers, Paik documents, fought in subsequent campaigns even though they were the preferred targets of Communist offensives (owing mainly to their relative lack of firepower). The author also conveys the immense difficulties involved in building, equipping, and training an army during a vicious conflict and while almost wholly dependent upon the resources of allies with variant agendas. Much has been written of the Korean War's geopolitical and military significance. While scanting neither, Paik reminds an often forgetful world of the country that, in a struggle for its very survival, provided the most manpower and sustained the greatest casualties. Impressive and instructive. The vivid, perceptive text has maps (not seen).
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