A skillful, action-packed account of the first five months of the Korean War.
Despite American opinion in 1950, historians now agree that Stalin had little interest in expanding his empire and only reluctantly yielded to North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung’s eagerness to conquer the South. Popular historian Sloan (The Ultimate Battle: Okinawa 1945—the Last Epic Struggle of World War II, 2007, etc.) ably navigates the chaos that followed Kim’s invasion. Poorly trained and ill-equipped by U.S. advisors, South Korean forces fled. President Truman vowed to repulse the invaders, but the only Americans available were units accustomed to the easy life of occupation duty in Japan. Rushed to Korea, they often panicked and suffered devastating casualties. By mid-August, tattered UN Forces had retreated to a small corner of southeast Korea where the arrival of more disciplined American units—mostly Marines, according to the author—and the revival of the South Korean army stabilized the front. By summer’s end, increasing resistance and pounding from the air had stretched Kim’s army to the breaking point. When the UN launched its offensive in mid-September to accompany the Marines’ amphibious landing behind enemy lines at Inchon, the invading army disintegrated and American forces surged forward into North Korea. When the Chinese intervened in November, the war turned ugly again, this time permanently. Though David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter (2007) remains the definitive history of the war, Sloan fills his book with capsule biographies, interviews and small-unit battle action that effectively intermix with often critical analysis of behind-the-lines politics and generalship.
A colorful description of a part of the Korean War that actually turned out well.