Attorney Shaines details his experience with a nasty piece of legal and military skullduggery that happened during the Korean War.
Shaines was still wet behind his law-school ears when he was assigned to defend a second lieutenant serving in Korea, George Schreiber, who had been charged with premeditated murder. But before charging into that appalling situation, author Shaines wisely puts the war in Korea into perspective; despite the best efforts of writers like David Halberstam, that conflict remains a shadowy affair. Shaines draws it, assiduously and with conviction, as a murderous, corrupt enterprise, a Cold War folly of dreadful alternatives—Kim Il Sung and Syngman Rhee. Into this “place of horror and deprivation” came Schreiber, placed in charge of an Air Police guard unit in Pusan. Under his command were two soldiers, Kinder and Toth, who had arrested and roughed up a man of unknown nationality (an “Oriental male” whom some wag dubbed Bang Soon Kil), then shot him to death. It was bandied about that Schreiber, who was on medication for allergies and a bit fuzzy, had insinuated to Kinder and Toth that they should get rid of the man. So Schreiber was put up on charges of murder, Shaines was detailed to serve as his lawyer and the rest of the story concerns the sham that passed as a trial. Shaines tells it in a grippingly direct manner and with an urgent liveliness. It is a sad story of double-dealing and foregone conclusions where the accused will not be acquitted but be given a “fair trial before they hang him.” Although the uniform code of military justice forbids the strong-arm tactics of command influence, wherein the will of a senior officer shall be done (“if the general wanted someone convicted, there would be a conviction”), it was routine in real-world application in Korea. Shaines is bell clear in his depiction of military power mongering, the incompetence of many officers and the outrageous roadblocks thrown up against the defense.
A well-told tale of ego and politics subverting justice and a military with a conspicuous lack of honor, set against the misery of wartime Korea.