Top positive review
42 people found this helpful
Killer McCoy Goes to Korea, Part II : Inchon to Chosin
on January 21, 2004
A major improvement over the mediocre Under Fire, Griffin returns to form with Retreat, Hell! He shows his usual impeccable attention to detail and histoical accuracy, which was sadly lacking in Under Fire.
This novel covers the peiod in the Korean War in which the situation turned around for the UN forces and the overextended North Koreans were chased back across the 38th Parallel with the US Army and its allies in full pursuit. The Pick Pickering-is-MIA situation is resolved in an imaginative way I didn't see coming; a couple of new characters are introduced who seem very interesting (and don't I just wish Griffin could rewrite the Brotherhood of War series to integrate them into it!); and a character is killed off in a way that is utterly consistent and tragic, with the potential for serious impact on others in the next book. Good writing.
I have to admit that I find what Griffin is doing with Ken McCoy a little disconcerting. He seems to think McCoy's name is Mac MacMillan and that he is running Task Force Able. However, as Griffin seem to have no intention of crossing any Brotherhood of War characters over to The Corps (given what he has his characters doing, I would have expected at least passing references to the activities of MacMillan and Mouse Felter, if not to Duke Lowell and his panzers), I suppose there are no grounds for complaint.
The timeline is heading into the final confrontation between Truman and MacArthur. The one thing that surprised and disappointed me, given El Supremo's frequent appearances and conversations with Brigadier General Pickering, is that there is no sign of the animosity that was building, not even at the Wake Island Conference (or 'summit') between Truman and MacArthur; at which he has Pickering present at Truman's orders. Both men commented extensively on it in their autobiographies, but their dislike for each other is absent here. Griffin usually has a better feel for interpersonal relations between major real people than that.
Griffin also, which earned him my respect, addresses the issue of medals for valor that are awarded for other than the type of actions for which they are supposed to be presented. The problem was epidemic in Vietnam, but I didn't realize its roots went back to Korea. This subplot, involving Ken McCoy, Billy Dunn, Pick Pickering and General Clyde Dawkins (and I wish we saw more of The Dawk), offers an informative look not merely at the process by which medals are awarded, but also at the warrior ethos which permits warriors to accept them - or not.
The bottom line: While I wish W.E.B. Griffin would go back and finish the World War II portion and the interbellum part of this series (in particular the sections dealing with McCoy's time at the Command & General Staff College, how and why he was reduced in grade from major to captain when by time in grade he would have been in the zone for promotion to lieutenant colonel, how on earth the cowardly, self-serving Macklin was promoted and why he wasn't run out of the service, and whatever happened to a number of characters I care about), this book is a page-turner I gulped down in one afternoon. The tempo is fast and the visual melody sharp and clear. It's well worth reading, and more than once.
The trouble is, now I have to wait impatiently for the next one!