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Library Journal Review
The Korean War has been misunderstood and neglected. Hastings had the unique opportunity of interviewing Chinese and North Korean veterans, a source denied to most Western historians. He shows how Korea served as a prelude to Vietnam and why Americans were making the same mistakes 15 years later. One minor criticism: Hastings devotes much space to the operations of the British Commonwealth Division. The Commonwealth never had more than 20,000 men in Korea; the United States had well over 500,000. Recommended for most academic and public libraries; for a more extensive history buy Edwin P. Hoyt's trilogy, Pusan Perimeter, On to the Yalu, and Bloody Road to Panmunjon . BOMC and History Book Club alternates.Stanley Itkin, Hillside P.L., New Hyde Park, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The best general history of this near-forgotten conflict that has been produced to date. Hastings draws some chilling parallels with Vietnam. In both cases, the president sent troops without a declaration of war, supported unpopular regimes, US strategists relied too much on aerial bombing, and the American public's disillusionment led to termination of the conflict. Because Hastings is English, his views on such controversial issues as the Truman-MacArthur controversy are especially noteworthy. His interviews with British, Korean, and American civilians and combatants reveal the human side of the war. Readers will appreciate the excellent photographs of civilian and military leaders of both sides. A chronology revealing the timetable of events is especially useful because of the seesaw nature of the conflict, (e.g., Seoul changed hands four times). Footnotes indicate exhaustive research of both primary and secondary sources. Another excellent work, The Forgotten War by Clay Blair (see above), is a much more exhaustive study on the conflict. Blair's work is of greater interest to upper-division undergraduates and graduate students; Hastings's book, however, should be in all public and academic libraries.-M. O'Donnell, College of Staten Island, CUNY
An accessible discussion of the military conflict and the cold war crisis at home, this draws on the personal accounts of veterans, and also includes the Chinese perspective. [BKL O 15 87 Upfront]
Kirkus Book Review
An overview of the 1950-53 ""police action"" that ranks with T.R. Fehrenbach's This Kind of War and Bevin Alexander's Korea (1986). Having interviewed over 200 American, British, Canadian, and Chinese veterans, Hastings (Overlord, Bomber Command, The Battle for the Falklands) is able to put the bitter conflict into human-scale focus. As an Englishman, moreover, he offers fresh perspectives on the contributions of Commonwealth and other nations that, at no small sacrifice, sent troops to fight under the UN banner. In addition to obligatory coverage of the Inchon, Pusan, and Chosin campaigns, for example, he provides a musing account of the Gloucestershire Regiment's costly 1951 stand on the Imjin River, about 30 miles north of Seoul. Hastings is equally adept at capturing the big picture, offering persuasive interpretations of the causes and course of the Korean conflict, ""a struggle the West was utterly right to fight."" For instance, he documents the American miscalculations that' helped precipitate North Korea's mid-1950 invasion with ""active assistance"" from Moscow and ""the connivance"" of Peking. Along similar lines, the author argues convincingly that the US, whose forces bore the brunt of the combat duty, could have avoided confrontation with the Communist Chinese had it heeded clear warnings that they required North Korea as a buffer state. While the Korean War was effectively ended when peace talks started at Kaesong, Hastings makes clear that the small-unit actions and set-piece battles of the pre-ceasefire period were every bit as bloody as the dramatic thrust and parry of the first year. During the stalemate, UN and Chinese forces engaged in savage strife along the 38th Parallel, sustaining tens of thousands of casualties. Brutality and brawls in POW compounds on both sides also exacted a heavy toll while the superpowers took each other's measure at the bargaining table. A balanced, perceptive reckoning of what was won and lost in an important clash of arms that excited precious little interest or passion on home fronts. The absorbing text has photographs and maps (not seen). Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.