Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Coldest Winter - David Halberstam

This was not a geezer selection. George Elsey was giving away a few of his books and this was one I have wanted to read for some time. It's about MY war. The forgotten war in Korea. I sort of adopted it because officially I am a Korean War Veteran (I hasten to add that I've never been anywhere near Korea), and because it was being fought (on the other side of the planet) I became a Korean War Vet - on paper only.  It was to become very important to me - a long time ago. Permit me to quickly say again that I had absolutely nothing to do with the Korean War. Nothing at all. I happened to be in the military from 1954 to 1958. I attended a few specialized schools in the USA and then was shipped to Sembach AFB in Germany. That became my home base for the duration.

But because of the timing, I was eligible for the KOREAN GI BILL. Without it's considerable financial help I would never have been able to go to college. I was so lucky as to have served during the time the Korean War was still on the books. Actually it was over but our leaders seem not to have known just how to formally end it. Finally, no one was declared the winner, and the Korean War just stopped at the 38th parallel . . . . and the two sides, North and South, agreed to quit fighting right there.  

Back to the book. The Coldest Winter is one of the few serious books about the Korean "Police Action", and it is surely the best. As I proceeded to read it I found the characterizations of the dominant individuals involved, to be fascinating. To be sure, Douglas MacArthur is first praised for a victory at Inchon that (in advance) had all of the earmarks of a catastrophe.  He got lucky. After that victory Mr. Halberstam takes Doug-out Doug apart, piece by piece. In the end, following a distinguished career, MacArthur is painted with a brush of tar. He deservedly became a worthless, dangerous, egocentric failure as a military commander. His fall happened during the Korean War.

If I were to recommend this book to anyone, I would give it an A++


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