A top-notch addition to the literature on the Korean War.



A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist forges a masterly new history of the Korean War through character studies of the participants caught in the conflict.

During his 40-year career at the Associated Press, Hanley reported from nearly 100 countries around the world, and his journalistic talents are on full display in his latest book. He also demonstrates a novelist’s touch and a wonderful ear for dialogue and detail. He builds his history via observers’ testimonies about the war, from the initial invasion of South Korea by North Korean troops on June 25, 1950, to the stunning “morning of silent guns” on July 28, 1953. The characters Hanley chooses to highlight aptly represent the diversity of people involved, from refugees and soldiers on both sides to U.S. military leaders like Matthew Ridgway, appointed Far East commander by Harry Truman after certain miscalculations by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In countless poignant snapshots, the author describes harrowing, often horrific experiences, including those of Sister Mary Mercy at a clinic in Pusan, where “sanitation is abysmal and disease endemic,” and “existing facilities fall far short of what’s needed to deal with the typhoid, typhus, smallpox, and tuberculosis spreading through the refugee population”; and South Korean AP journalist Bill Shinn, who tried to cover the conflict while protecting his family. Elsewhere, Hanley discusses numerous witnesses to the horrendous retaliation by both North and South Korean troops in terms of executions and mass burials as well as American troops’ “depravity” in torturing and raping the local population. The author also details the conditions at the POW camps, including Pyoktong, where a black American soldier endured not only an existence of “simple misery,” but also racist taunts from fellow American soldiers in the camp. In addition to excellent maps and a chronology, Hanley provides photos of the characters and an “After the War” section about each of them. The accretion of astounding detail makes for a vivid, multilayered look at a deeply complicated war in which few emerged as heroic.

A top-notch addition to the literature on the Korean War.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6817-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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