BREAKOUT by Martin Russ


The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950
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A masterful narrative of one of the most gripping battles of the 20th century. Russ (The Last Parallel, not reviewed), a Marine Corps veteran of Korea, provides a thorough history of the battle that pitted 60,000 Chinese troops against a force of 12,000 Marines in frozen, mountainous terrain, a skillfully detailed work that is sure to stand as one of the classics of the Korean War. Russ weaves eyewitness accounts and combat histories from Chinese, Korean, and American sources in a tale that seems made for Hollywood. The Marines, encircled by Chinese troops, fought and held their own in an environment that should have meant their end, but instead they tenaciously hung on, despite being given up for lost by their own leadership and in the US papers. Although numerous characters jump out from the page, none does so more than US Lieutenant Chew-Een Lee, a fierce soldier who goes AWOL from a military hospital to get back to his unit and rejoin the fighting (it’s an unfortunate flaw of the book that Russ doesn—t better probe the psyche of this Chinese-American serviceman fighting a Chinese-Korean enemy). It is in Russ’s depictions of the personal elements of the battle that he excels, showing the Marines” dedication to their ethos of always recovering their dead and wounded, as well as of overcoming losses and fighting to the end when so ordered. The lack of determined coordination between the army brass and the Marine Corps is also clearly evidenced; Russ quotes numerous dispatches showing the Marines” concern over being spread thin and the army’s failure to respond to that concern. A first-rate history. Russ makes the Chosin Reservoir campaign come alive in a narrative that’s impossible to put down. (photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 19th, 1999
ISBN: 0-88064-231-9
Page count: 464pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999