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A Marine Returns to North Korea

by James Brady

Pub Date: April 20th, 2005
ISBN: 0-312-33242-4
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

An affecting memoir, by novelist/journalist Brady (The Marine, 2003, etc.), of service in what is still a strangely forgotten war.

The Korean War followed WWII, and it had no shortage of men willing to fight it; as Brady writes, “some of us went almost eagerly and with a certain dash, having missed the ‘Big War’ and feeling left out.” The young men who did officer training together at Quantico, Va., were a mixed bunch straight out of a WWII movie, but many had elevated pedigrees: there was Punch Sulzberger, for instance, who became publisher of the New York Times, along with future university provost Pete Soderbergh, whose son would become a movie director, and Washington Redskins quarterback Eddie LeBaron, and televangelist-in-the-making Pat Robertson. (Robertson’s father was a U.S. senator, “with sufficient political muscle that his son hinted that the brass would sort of look after him, which stirred resentment among fellow officers and led to tribulations of near biblical proportions for young Lieutenant Robertson.”) Off they went to war, and, fighting in the cold mountains of the two Koreas, many of them died, “raw meat on the end of a stick.” That, of course, is what Marines do, and Brady cautions that you won’t find many pacifists among their kind, though he has become a careful student of war and voices plain criticisms of the wars that have followed his. The present Brady, who is now in his late 70s, meets the younger one on a mission that must have been daunting: a journalistic assignment to revisit the places where he fought and where many of his friends died. His evocation of their lives and his lost youth is most moving, and so, too, are his notes on the passing of former comrades who lived through the war: “The Quantico class of ’51 wasn’t doing so well,” Brady mourns. “Life was closing in on us. Death was.”

Graceful, even elegant, and always eloquent tribute to men at arms in a war that, in a way, never ended.