The best books on the Korea War, as recommended by award-winning historian, Bruce Cumings. What got you interested in studying the Korean War?. Online shopping for Korean War from a great selection at Books Store. Discover the best Korean War History in Best Sellers. Find the top most popular items in site Books Best Sellers.
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Online shopping for Korean War History Books in the Books Store. Sometimes called America's "Forgotten War", the Korean War is vital to history. This is a list of books about the Korean War. Contents. 1 Campaigns and battles; 2 Combat studies. Air combat; Ground combat; Intelligence.
Throws new light on many aspects of the Korean War and casts doubt on much conventional wisdom. Unquestionably and notably augments the literature on a conflict that decisively affected the ultimate outcome of the cold war and the fate of Korea. A welcome addition, especially because of the inclusion of Soviet-era documents that clear up several questions concerning the war.
Sander has improved on previous short histories of the war with his incorporation of the new archival material. Sandler has produced a text that is a contender for the distinction of being the best work in this narrow field. Chinese and Russian documents recently made public have shed new light on battlefield decisions. Benefiting from this newly declassified material as well as established sources, Sandler offers a timely new look at the war. Not only gives insight into the war that began in , but points to its relevance in understanding the present situation in North and South Korea.
The book reads smoothly, and the reader will find much that is both useful and. Covers everything you ever wanted to know about the war-torn peninsula of Korea. Naval Institute Proceedings. A more expert and specialized attention to military detail than most other books on the subject, and it provides insight into many peripheral aspects of the fighting not hitherto explored. It is overshadowed by WWII on one side and Vietnam on the other, yet was of immense global significance. Hastings tells the story in a clear, readable, and informative style, without getting too journalistic.
The book was originally published in , which dates the conclusions at the end interestingly. When the USSR and communism were still considered global superpowers and threats to the West, it must have been easier to see the Korean war as a just conflict that merited its cost in lives and money. These days, it is notable that the only insular communist dictatorship still to exist is North Korea with, as I understand it, the same boundaries as were agreed in the armistice.
This is hardly a positive legacy for the Korean War. In the 21st century, we can ask with hindsight why it was worth fighting proxy wars against communism when its superpowers would peacefully collapse USSR or smoothly shift into a state capitalist oligarchy China a few decades later. At the time of the Cold War, such developments could hardly be foreseen. Hastings ends by saying that the war saved South Korea from an awful fate. Since American has stacked up several more catastrophic military interventions, tempting the rest of the world to suppose that they only ever make things worse.
The actual narrative of the war, by contrast, has not dated discernibly. The inevitable temptation to compare wars to each other led me to consider the similarities of the Korean War and the trenches of WWI. The former began with unprovoked invasion of South Korea by the North, which the South Korean army could do little to repulse.
American forces, with fairly tokenistic allied support, proceeded to repulse the North Korean army and drive it back close to the Northern border with China. Whereupon Chinese forces entered the war and threw back the American troops into South Korea, nearly creating a rout.
After the initial shock had worn off and General MacArthur had been replaced, the Americans pulled themselves together and turned back the Chinese advance.
All this occurred within the first year of the war, which then dragged on for a further three or so years, during which time both sides dug in and the lines moved very little. Any small gains were achieved at the cost of heavy casualties.
In fact, my strongest impression of the whole war is that it was a tragic fiasco and narrowly escaped becoming a nuclear one. The US forces were by all accounts in a terrible state when the war began, their technological superiority barely making up for failures of leadership, training, and morale. The South Korean regime was a corrupt dictatorship with a totally ineffectual army. The North Korean communist regime was ruthlessly oppressive. Bad decisions were made on all sides, millions of lives were thrown away, and both North and South Korea were devastated.
On the other hand, the surprising success of the Chinese forces was premised on a complete disregard for the value of human life. Hastings is only able to provide vague estimates for Chinese and Korean casualties, which run to the millions: The loss of life in the Korean War would nonetheless have been much greater if nuclear weapons had been used.
Hastings suggests that the US came disturbingly close to this. In the early s, only the US had the bomb and MacArthur argued both before and after his removal from command that tactical nuclear strikes on China were necessary to contain communism. It appears, though, that at the time nuclear weapons did not have the doomsday aura they later acquired and the American military viewed them as only quantitatively different from conventional arms.
Hastings puts it like this: How close did the United States come, in the winter of , to employing nuclear bombs against the Chinese? Much closer, the answer must be, than her allies cared to believe at the time. All very chilling. Not surprisingly, most of the voices in the narrative are American or others on the UN side, but Hastings does take care to include Korean and Chinese accounts.
He also makes no secret of the atrocities on all sides and the pervasive racism of the US soldiers. In addition to following the front lines, the book includes chapters on intelligence scant and badly organised , the war in the air US-dominated , prisoners of war, and how peace was negotiated.
The latter includes extraordinary accounts of how the island of Koje-do, where the UN forces kept their POWs, became in effect a second front in the war. North Korean and Chinese POWs took control of the camps where they were imprisoned, thanks to deliberate communist infiltration and remarkably slapdash US management. In May , one camp of North Koreans actually took their American commandant hostage, precipitating a siege.
What has not changed, sadly, in the apparent inability of the US to learn foreign policy lessons.
Hastings quotes Colonel John Michaelis as follows: The US Army has still not accepted the simple fact that its performance in Korea was lousy.
Back then the stated aim was to create bulwarks against communism, now apparently it's to create bulwarks against Islamic fundamentalism. I'm no expert, but the tactics seem equally counterproductive in each case. Same shit, different century.
Sir Max Hastings has written a very detailed narrative on the War in Korea. He has also provided readers with an excellent and concise coverage of the Korean war in its entirety.
From the constant political debates ensuing from Washington, London and the UN, to the daily struggles of the life of a grunt in the front lines fighting and clinching on to his dear life.
Everything is laid out in a way that is easily readable. This book also includes testimonies not only from the UN troops who fought Sir Max Hastings has written a very detailed narrative on the War in Korea. This book also includes testimonies not only from the UN troops who fought in the war but also that of their opponents; Chinese troops who saw the value life differently from their Capitalist counterpart.
The various interviews of enemy troops give readers a unique perspective of the emotions and thoughts of the enemy during the war.
However, the one aspect I was rather taken aback of while reading was the excessive glorification of the British Government and military during the war and the constant bashing of the Americans.
This narrative was written in a way that the British were heroes while the Americans did a really bad job during the war. Sure, the Americans bore the most brunt of blame for the mistakes that occurred during the war, but by no means are the British immaculate. There was almost nothing negative written about the British in this book.
Yes, we get it, The British are honorable people, but I think it was of no coincidence that all the interviews that were gained from the British were mostly painting Americans in a bad light. Surely, the British had to bore some of the blame that stemmed from the "Forgotten war". Take this instance, British chaplain Padre Sam Davies is being spoken of highly in the book for his heroics during the battlefield and courage while under captivity.
But Father Emil Kapuan, probably the greatest and most prominent chaplain in the history of warfare was only mentioned in a measly sentence. By no means am I disputing the factual contents of the book, but the glorification of the British in this book made me wonder if this narrative could be written in a more objective and neutral tone.
It is kind of disappointing for someone who wanted a neutral read on the war in Korea. Sometimes, it becomes very frustrating and painful to read. Jul 09, Tariq Mahmood rated it it was amazing Shelves: In Max Hastings, I have discovered a war-history master. It is the first history book on war genre which has managed to keep me engaged in the Korean conflict soon after the end of the Second Great War.
I loved his style of juxtaposing very personal individual accounts, of ordinary soldiers with might generals. I was looking for a book which could explain South Korea's meteoritic economic rise and looks like I have made a great choice with this one.
I found Hastings account to be very subjective In Max Hastings, I have discovered a war-history master. I found Hastings account to be very subjective with quite a few references to the Communists side as well. Seems like Hastings could have been a bit more objective in regards to the American role instead of glorifying the British angle.
However, I did like the commentary on the possible use of atomic weapons in Korea and Douglas MacArthur's role in that. Classic study of the Korean War, takes you from the high level strategy to the unit level tactical actions. One of the best overviews of the entire conflict. Hastings once again provides a comprehensive overview of the entirety of the Korean War, with liberal use of firsthand accounts ranging from the ranks in the front line to the Korean citizens who had to somehow survive three years of conflict, living in the mountains with little to no support.
A particular strength to Hasting's writing is his tenacious defence of the individual on the ground, particularly the Korean citizens, when it came to the political aims and doctrines of the opposing sides Hastings once again provides a comprehensive overview of the entirety of the Korean War, with liberal use of firsthand accounts ranging from the ranks in the front line to the Korean citizens who had to somehow survive three years of conflict, living in the mountains with little to no support.
A particular strength to Hasting's writing is his tenacious defence of the individual on the ground, particularly the Korean citizens, when it came to the political aims and doctrines of the opposing sides. Jul 19, Dan Snyder rated it really liked it.
I enjoy Hastings' writing. This is a useful book at the moment unfortunately. Perhaps the best perspective gleaned from this book is an outsider anglophone's view of post war America and their moral dilemma of inherited Empire maintenance. Because of who we are, our hearts just weren't in it. Fortunately, South Korea stands as an example of the accidental consequences of bourgeois clumsiness.
Mostly happiness. A very detailed, well researched look at the war. On the only stage where Cold War adversaries ever faced off each other directly in military conflict, I was quickly surprised at how much the text almost read like a study in contemporary issues.
It seems that the mistakes, both tactical and political, not only repeated themselves during the Vietnam conflict, but have recently been re-inserted in the present conflict over in Iraq. Some of the biggest mistakes not only between military and political factions help to create a no win situation for America and in general, the U.
This springs to mind the reports of the casualness of President Bush's ignorance and indifference to the two major factions of Islam in Iraq, the Sunni and the Shi'a.
In the case of the Korean War, there seems to be no attempt to understand the land of Korea, it's culture, or its history that would have enabled the U. Another interesting point brought by the author is that of America's tendency to support a charismatic leader rather than a whole movement, which might have strengthened South Korea's democracy a lot sooner. It was apparent even by the United States in the dying days of the war that by supporting Syngman Rhee that it was backing the wrong horse.
The sacking of Douglas MacArthur sacking is as strong a word possible here was a drama that was in itself riveting reading.
A hero of World War Two in idealist battle with Truman is not only fascinating reading, but troublesome as well. To think that brinkmanship may have caused a sort of Cuban missile crisis twelve years sooner is a frightening, yet even possible reality, as Hastings does not give the reader assurances that it was a sure thing that atomic weapons use was not off the table, and documents the difference in attitude between British and American civilian, military, and political policy on the use of such weapons.
There are only two criticisms of this book. The other point is his conclusion, which he states was a defeat to America. Though he points out that there are others who see as keeping safe South Korea from Communist domination, he seems to fall on the failure hypothesis.
For this reader, the evidence he supports shows more as a draw, with both sides winning a piece of the pie. This is in spite of the opinions between American military and politicians.
Feb 08, Rob Kitchin rated it liked it. Just five years after the end of the Second World War, the Korean War was the first of a set of ideological wars between the capitalist United States and her allies and communist states, which threatened to make the cold war with the Soviet Union a hot one.
In The Korean War, Max Hastings sets out the historical context and lead-up to the war, its initial unfolding and the deployment of a United Nations forces, and its bloody progression up to the armistice in The book covers the wider gen Just five years after the end of the Second World War, the Korean War was the first of a set of ideological wars between the capitalist United States and her allies and communist states, which threatened to make the cold war with the Soviet Union a hot one.
The book covers the wider general arc of the war, its ideology and politics, military actions, and the principle actors and their acts, but also has a series of smaller stories about individuals, and chapters about specific aspects of the war, such the air war, intelligence, and prisoners of war. However, whilst the book provides an overarching analysis, it is fair to say it is a decidedly slanted one, and has a number of notable absences.
Hastings is a British journalist and historian and the book has a definite British slant in terms of analysis and sources. There is some criticism of the British participation, but largely the British role both militarily and diplomatically is portrayed favourably. On the other hand, the Americans do not fair so well, in part because they did make a hames of many situations, but it seems that more than that is going on.
For example, the British disaster at Imjin is depicted as a heroic last stand and plucky retreat, whereas the very similar American defeat at Chosin is framed as a deadly calamity. His coverage of the Chinese participation is relatively scant and certainly coloured by his own ideological position. However, by far the largest absence from the book is how the citizens and soldiers of the Republic of Korea and North Korea viewed and experienced the war.
Beyond a handful of anecdotes and some sweeping statements, the Korean people and Korean politics are almost absent in a book about Korea.
Perhaps this is to be expected in a book written by a British historian and the bias toward using Western, and in particular, British sources and interviews, but it does create a somewhat lopsided narrative. The other major gap is what happened in Korea after the war ended in Instead of tracking the post-war developments in both parts of Korea, Hastings instead compares the Korean war with Vietnam and the wider conflict with communism.
This was an interesting book and a good look at a war that people often forget. Hastings does a remarkable job of addressing the issues surrounding US intervention in Korea and the similarities to the disaster of Vietnam twenty years later. As a British writer he manages to avoid displaying the US as a heroic nation, but instead shows it as the self serving nation that it so often is, and how this led to military defeat, or at least a failure to win. Highly important is the divide between milita This was an interesting book and a good look at a war that people often forget.
Highly important is the divide between military command in Asia and the political realities in Washington. MacArthur, and indeed many other officers were dismayed at the prospect of limited war and the unwillingness of Truman to bomb China. The question of nuclear weaponry is also an important issue, as Washington, while seriously considering using it,denied the military demands that it be used.
This threat of nuclear warfare shaped the rest of the Cold War. Hastings also goes the extra mile in this book by interviewing veterans of both the UN and Chinese troops North Korea is somewhat difficult to get access to. These interviews allow him to show that while ideological differences motivated the fighting, the realities of warfare were similar for both sides,and that both sides were dissatisfied with the conclusion, or more precisely the lack there of.
Finally it is important to place the war in context of the Cold War and Hastings does this well, clearly showing that North Korean action was not unilateral,but rather controlled, or at least approved, by Moscow and Peking.
The limited involvement of the Soviets equipment and some fighter pilots can be seen as a source of American apathy to the war. Chinese and North Korean communism did not pose the same menace that the Soviets did. As a final note on the book it is necessary to point out that it was written in the mid 80s while the DPRK was still under the leadership of its wartime leads Kim-il Sung.
The changes in the past 30 years such as the end of the Cold War, two successions in NK leadership, the advance of DPRK nuclear weaponry, and the continued tensions along the DMZ would make for an interesting postscript if the book were to be reissued, as well as the opening of old Soviet records that would not have been available at the time of writing. Overall this was a good book, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the Korean conflict. The only "comprehensive" history of the Korean conflict that I have read.
Written in the s by British historian Max Hastings, I initially was struck by the somewhat biased view he took regarding the western participants.
While he acknowledged basic differences esp. His recounting of events, heavy on anecdotal narratives, was mostly informative and insightful. His characteriza The only "comprehensive" history of the Korean conflict that I have read. His characterization of leaders on all sides was fairly two dimensional. While giving credit for alternate views, he still plugged on with his own opinions of triumphs and failures.
His castigation, for example, of the UN air conflict with the Chinese seemed one sided and naive. He stated much about the overall ineffectiveness of the USAF on one hand and quoted veterans of the ground conflict as praising them for their very survival on the other. Not a bad history, but I find it unfortunate that there are so few such monoqraphs available with which to compare his and perhaps other opinions. On one thing I cannot argue.
It was a miserble and ill-conceived "war" which was doomed from the start. One quote from a veteran of both Korea and Viet Nam resonated with me: We entered into the Korean War with a poor army and left with a good one. In Viet Nam, we entered with a good army and left with a poor one.
Feb 19, Hunter McCleary rated it really liked it. Full of great hindsights. Among them, don't get in bed with an unpopular leader, such as Rhee Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq.
Don't be led by a narcissist, such as MacArthur. Amazing what the US does in the name of national defense; especially when it isn't. Feb 27, Nigel Seed rated it liked it. Hastings writes well, there is no doubt and his research appears to be extensive. I do worry that there is a pro-British and rather an anti-American bias to this book which is unworthy of a writer of this calibre. He seems to dwell rather too heavily on poor performances by the US Army in particular and praises the British highly.
As an ex-British soldier I have a high opinion of the army I served in, but I also feel that others who carried the load in this nasty war deserve more credit. Jun 11, sologdin rated it it was ok Shelves: Feb 26, Nigel Pinkus rated it it was amazing. It was quite a sad story but, vividly told and expertly written by Hastings. It would have to be THE reference for anyone researching or just wanting to know more about the Korean war.
It totalled pages in length with sections on the origins of the dating way back as far as the turn of the century with plenty of references to the Japanese and the march into Manchuria during the thirties.
It showed, even in the 'early days' before WW2 that Korea was a very torn country indeed. It had the stor It was quite a sad story but, vividly told and expertly written by Hastings. It had the story of significant individuals that saved the country from becoming completely Chinese communism by describing some of the heroics of General 'Bulldog' Walker, Paul Freeman and 'Iron Mike' Colonel John Michealis that should never be forgotten.
Hastings, rightly pointed out that if wasn't for a few quite heroic US officers, the outcome of the Korean war would have been quite different indeed. It also discussed MacArthur persistence to not only reach to reach Seoul but, then to the go on and cross way over to the "38th parallel" with the intent to push all the way back to China! There's the predicted and underestimated response by the US when the Chinese retaliated and the eventual dismissal of MacArthur in Hastings gave good credence to the Intelligence service, the air force, the prisoners taken on both sides and also to many civilians that were involved in the war.
He gave amazing surreal narrative accounts of the poor civilians during that time. It was so realistic that it felt that you were walking side by side next to that person on the road behind the front line.
But, his descriptions of MacArthur were very disturbing indeed. Not because Hastings was trying to castigate MacArthur, but because MacArthur himself became obsessive, delusional and out of touch. There were disturbing strategies of using the atomic bomb again and creating a radioactive no-go area between the communists and western Korea. It came from a leader that had supreme commander who became out of touch with his own troops, his government and his country.
There could have easily been yet another military, moral and historical global disaster again in Asia, after Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
If it wasn't for a few staunch peace activists in the UN then, God help us all because there could have been yet another human disaster on the scale that Japan suffered in ' The world had tilted on the side of oblivion only to be saved at the very last minute.
According to Hastings, the Korean war was full dress rehearsal and a repeated failure by the US to learn from it's failings when it finally gave up the war to the Chinese mid-year of Not only did the US eventually give up on the war, but the same mistakes were then repented again some ten to fifteen years later in Vietnam which occurred in '64 to ' In the case of Korea, the recent world war had literately tired people out.
The US government, for example, were sick of funding the forces after the second world war and had dramatically cut funding for the Korean war that very few wanted. Perhaps it would be fair to say that the army was also very unmotivated as well. There was 'bug out' fever where, upon heavy fire, the army would fall back, retreat and in more simple terms just run away from the front line.
Particularly, at the beginning of the war there was a yearning to escape the peninsula of Korea and get away from a thankless war where victory or some sort of glory seemed remote or out of the question. It wasn't unusual for a soldier to shoot himself or someone else because they even manage their weapon properly. They didn't even know how to load, unload or store a weapon properly. There was so much to talk about in Hastings book that this writer had more that four pages of comments on paper, but this is not an essay but a simple book review.
So, in keeping with brevity, the writer would like to say that some of the best works fiction or non-fiction can provoke a tremendous response that needs to be tailored suitably to a brief summary of thoughts.
With that in mind, this book easily deserves five stars. Thank you for reading the review. This was review of a very old, hardcover edition found in a box of books. Dit is een boek dat ik niet zo snel zelf had gekozen.
Dankzij de Korea-challenge lees 5 boeken over Korea heb ik me aan deze pil gewaagd. Want zeg je Korea, dan zeg je Noord- en Zuid-Korea. Waarom zijn Noord- en Zuid-Korea gescheiden? Waar ging die Koreaanse oorlog over? En wat deden wij Nederlanders daar eigenlijk? Ik was vooraf een beetje bang voor gedetailleerde verslagen van veldslagen. Die vielen gelukkig mee.
Sterker, de beschrijving van een chaotische terugtocht van het VN-leger is een Dit is een boek dat ik niet zo snel zelf had gekozen. Sterker, de beschrijving van een chaotische terugtocht van het VN-leger is een van de dingen die me bij zullen blijven.
Chinezen die op tanks springen van het VN-leger, uit struikgewassen komen springen en als een soort kamikaze-soldaten de terugtocht tot een hel maakten. Het geheim van dit boek? De afwisseling tussen droge feiten, persoonlijke verhalen, achtergronden en opinies. Het maakt het tot een leesbaar geheel, ook voor de militaire leek. Het boek is gebaseerd op meer dan interviews met betrokkenen, van diplomaat tot generaal tot soldaat en burger. Ik wist vooraf eigenlijk niets van deze oorlog.
En ik heb een paar dingen geleerd. Door de arrogantie van de Amerikanen werd dit niet omgezet in een militaire overwinning. Ook de hoogste generaal MacArthur maakte zich hier schuldig aan. Eigenlijk was de politiek! Families die elkaar kwijtraakten tijdens de vlucht of zich hebben opgesplitst en elkaar daarna nooit meer hebben gezien. Hele dorpen en steden werden met de grond gelijk gemaakt. En de terreur van de Noord-Koreanen was onvoorstelbaar. Waarom zou je daar willen wonen?
Hun soldaten waren letterlijk kanonnenvoer. Ik vraag me af of dit een kenmerk is voor een communistische staat. Ook Stalin zette zijn soldaten in als kanonnenvoer tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Het was bloediger dan Vietnam, kostte minstens evenveel slachtoffers en was de eerste keer dat de militaire kracht van de Verenigde Staten niet omgezet kon worden in een overwinning.
Zo had ik er nog nooit naar gekeken. Nov 28, Mette rated it liked it. Enjoyed parts but not all of this book. The social and person-centred bits were much better.
This war happened before Vietnam, but had many of the same problems and features. Not much was learned by US. Korea was under Japanese control until the end of ww2.
Then it was transferred to US. Koreans were startled by the camaraderie between the Japanese and Ame Enjoyed parts but not all of this book.
Koreans were startled by the camaraderie between the Japanese and Americans in light of the recent war, and particularly given the contempt shown by US officials to the Koreans. Allied intelligence officers in Europe befriended and recruited former nazi war criminals - a parallel scenario. In part this was due to the fear of communism, which took over fear of nazism rapidly. Korea demonstrates how quickly after WW2 people turned to fear of communism.
North Koreans invaded the South in summer Partly due to only 58 countries being members and because of the desire for the UN to do more than the interwar League of Nations has been able to.
The Chinese pushed the US back, eventually resulting in them being back where they started. It seems that the US came closer to using atomic bombs against the Chinese than is thought - if the Chinese had continued its success after pushing back the UN forces, There was a huge disconnect between the US general MacArthur who wanted a full on war with China, and the US gov and UN, who wanted limited intervention.
The latter half of the book gets into the military arguments - should they have used airforces etc etc. This is much less interesting to me than the social and cultural arguments - the similarity of objectives to Vietnam 10 years later and so on.
This was the first war the US had ended without victory. Sep 09, Julia rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is my second Max Hastings read. I chose this title for several reasons: In all these connections, I have been trying decide if the Korean War was really worth it.
My Dad is childhood friends with J.