KOREA: The Untold Story of the War by Joseph C. Goulden

KOREA: The Untold Story of the War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Korean War--with the emphasis on high-level squabbling over strategy in general, and the ""incompetence"" of Douglas MacArthur in particular. No relevance is shown for the author's description of MacArthur ""gloating"" over hapless prostitutes in Washington in the 1930s, and no proof is given for descriptions of the general ""gloating over his work"" when he comes ashore at Inchon after his brilliant landing in September 1950. His ""duplicity,"" ""compulsions,"" etc., are similarly noted but not demonstrated. As for the war itself, other authors have managed, while criticizing MacArthur, to cover the actual events more authoritatively and with much less rancor. (Goulden, no military historian, arms US troops with the M16 rifle 20 years early--among other gaffes.) A mass of recently declassified material provides the bulk of what's new--notably, hundreds of cables between Washington and commanders in the field. South Korean president Syngman Rhee, officially ""a gallant ally,"" is discovered to have been ""an irrational fanatic"" in the eyes of some US advisers--which is hardly news to anyone familiar with the period. Most of the other cables quoted denigrate MacArthur or his plans; but in light of C, oulden's bias, questions arise as to balance. Only in the detailing of events leading up to MacArthur's dismissal does something consequential emerge: from access to the cables of NATO allies, Truman learned that MacArthur had assured Spain and Portugal that he intended to ""dispose"" of the Chinese in a major conflict, but that they should not fear Soviet intervention. This knowledge, Goulden thinks, lay behind Truman's calling MacArthur's actions ""treason."" Had he stuck to the political and diplomatic story, and tempered his handling of MacArthur, the book might have had some solid value.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1982
Publisher: Times Books