Customer Reviews

388
4.3 out of 5 stars
The Coldest Winter
Format: Audio CDChange
Price:$36.85 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

519 of 583 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having served two tours in the infantry in Korea during the War, and being a Korean War buff, I have a different view of the book than most of the reviewers. Unfortunately, the reviewers think that this book is about the Korean War. In part that is true but the real theme of the book is about how General Douglas MacArthur screwed it up.

The book is not a complete history of the Korean War as some reviewers have touted. It is anything but that. The book centers on the time period during which Gen. MacArthur was in command, both pre-war and until Pres. Truman relieved him of command. What little remains is more of an epilog very briefly describing the aftermath. That is why the book title is "The Coldest Winter" because it focuses on the disastrous defeat of the UN troops during the winter of 1950 as the result of MacArthur's bungling.

Because the book was billed as the most comprehensive history of the Korean War, I was lulled into reading it, only to be sorely disappointed. The first eight months of the War have been extensively covered in books and documentaries with the remaining 2 1/2 years given only cursory exposure, even though several major battles were fought during that period, so Halberstam doesn't expose any new ground. He just regurgitates material already written although he does it in an interesting fashion.

What I had hoped to read about was a thorough rendition of the history following MacArthur and the political decisions that colored the War and that was not there in the book for me. Not that I am not aware of them but a lot happened that is not generally known about and I hoped that Halberstam, with his reputation, would expose that material so that it become common knowledge to those studying or even interested in the War.

Some tout the book as telling the story of the historic escape of the First Marine Division from the Chosen Reservoir. It doesn't at all. The book tells how the Division Commander ignored MacArthur's orders in not racing to the Yalu and consequently the Marines were able make an orderly retreat, which the Army units were unable to do, but Halberstam provides almost no facts concerning the actual retreat, but when he does, the facts are not always correct. For example, the Chinese blew up the bridge between Koto-ri and Hungnam which crossed a narrow mountain gorge. Marine engineers then replaced it with a Bailey Bridge that was parachuted in. Halberstam says that it was the Air Force that dropped the bridge but I was on guard on the mountain above the gorge and I saw the bridge dropped from Marine Corps Flying Boxcars.

The book is not even a complete history of the first eight months of the Korean War. Most of it is devoted to certain battles which illustrated the incompetence either of MacArthur or the officers under him. It is only a partial picture of that period of the War but what there is, is done in remarkable detail.

Halberstam doesn't not highlight some of MacArthur's bad decisions as much as they should have been. While he brings out that it would have been a better strategy if the Marines had by-passed Seoul after landing at Inchon and cut off the retreat of the North Koreans, he doesn't give that mistake the emphasis that it warrants because it was a decision that really prolonged the War. Those familiar with the War are very conscious of that but lay readers may not.

Nor does he allude to the fact that MacArthur violated a basic tenant of fighting a War and that is after winning a battle, it is a cardinal principle that you stop and consolidate before resuming the attack. His failure to adhere to that principle was one reason the UN troops were so vulnerable when the Chinese struck.

One lament I have about the book is that it falls well short of providing its readers of what happened after Gen. Ridgeway took command. The book describes how the Chinese were suffering horrendous losses but Halberstam fails to follow through. The UN counter offensive resulted in more heavy losses to the Chinese as they were pushed back into North Korea, particularly on the eastern flank. The entire Chinese front was in such danger or collapsing that the Chinese sought a truce and Pres. Truman's biggest mistake was to agree to the truce. Had the UN rejected the truce offer, the Chinese would have been forced to retreat deep into N. Korea and that would have been a propitious time for the UN to agree to an armistice. Instead, the war went on for over two more years ending on July 28, 1953. It ended then only because a major Chinese offensive designed to push the Marines back across the Imjin River failed and the Chinese again had run out of steam.

Despite its shortcomings , as a book about the blundering of Gen. MacArthur, it is superb. Unfortunately, it was written 50 years too late. MacArthur was a desk general from the start of WWII and remained so during the Korean War. He really botched up the defense of the Philippines but because the Americans needed a hero, he was made a hero instead of a goat. He should have been relieved of his command. He actually played a subordinate role in the Pacific War which was mainly run by the Navy, but we all can be thankful for the atomic bomb, because if the Japanese had not surrendered, MacArthur would have been in charge of the invasion of Japan.
5959 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
David Halberstam's "The Coldest War" is a brilliantly written, compelling, and well balanced history of the United States and China in the Korean War.

The book is a scathing condemnation of U.S. and U.N. Commander General Douglas MacArthur and key members of his staff, including Generals Edward (Ned) Almond and Charles Willoughby. Almond, MacArthur's Chief of Staff and Commander of the U.S. X Corps, was a racist who continuously underestimated the military capabilities of the Chinese. Willoughby, MacArthur's chief of intelligence, skewed or ignored key intelligence reports indicating the Chinese would enter the war on a large scale. That intervention thus achieved strategic and tactical surprise and resulted in the deaths of thousands of young Americans.

Like many historians before him, Halberstam has high praise for General Matthew Ridgway, who replaced Walton Walker (killed in a motor vehicle accident) as Eighth Army Commander. Ridgway later replaced, Douglas MacArthur as the Far Eastern Commander when the latter was (finally) fired by President Harry Truman. One of the Army's most brilliant officers, Ridgway was hyper-aggressive and had much greater respect for his Chinese opponents than MacArthur. He also paid much greater attention than his predecessor to collecting good inteligence and focused on identifying the Chinese Army's key weaknesses, which he exploited. As a result, the Americans managed to inflict tremendous losses on the Chinese Communist Forces at the battles of Chipyongni and Wonju, thus turning the tide of the war.

Much to his credit, Halberstam pays a great deal of attention to the strength and weaknesses of both the North Korean and the Chinese leaderships and military.

The result is an endlessly interesting and insightful history of what is commonly known as "The Forgotten War".
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
133 of 148 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"The Coldest Winter," David Halberstam's final journalistic tribute to heroes, is a fitting tribute to the men of the oft forgotten war.
Halberstam's lengthy career in journalism and as an author shows in his brilliant writing style that keeps you engrossed in every word. It is not surprising that someone who has written so much about Vietnam, would have a huge resource to draw upon in a work about the Korean War.
The Coldest Winter is a story that needed telling, much the way Herodotus told of the men of Thermopylae or, more recently how Stephen Ambrose told of the men of Easy Company in "Band of Brothers."

Halberstam understood well how most Americans ignore the events and outcome of the Korean Conflict; often, that part of history seems better left untold. The Coldest Winter tells this story and it's back stories and even it's substantial post-script. We mustn't forget that South Korea's success today owes a debt to the American and U.N. forces who fought there over half a century ago.
What Halberstam also does in this book is point out the miserable failings of Generals like MacArthur, long-time sacred cows of the World Wars, whose hubris in later life jeopardized the legacy of any truly heroic deeds of their early careers. General Ned Almond is also lambasted for his stubbornness and poor leadership style, which Halberstam shows led to unnecessary losses of American and U.N. forces.
While "Coldest Winter" is by no means concise as far as a historiography goes, Halberstam has revealed the machinations that led to the war and the egos that sustained it. This is not a blow-by-blow, battlefield-to-battlefield account of the Korean War, much of the latter part of the war is overlooked. But, it covers the broader picture and the political implications and ramifications of American civilian policy versus military instinct in the early 1950s, however poor it may have served us.
The Coldest Winter is a hefty book, at over 650 pages, broken into eleven sections with over 50 chapters, but it reads as fast as it reads brilliant.
This is the first Halberstam book I have read, I regret that it comes only after his passing. There were certainly more great works to come had he not met his untimely death.
REVIEW EVERY BOOK YOU READ, OTHER READERS, PUBLISHERS AND AUTHORS DESERVE YOUR OPINIONS TOO.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
54 of 62 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam will stand the test to time just as all of his other works have. It is sad that Mr. Halberstam died last April in an automobile accident while working on his next book. This fact makes reading his last book doubly important, and a little difficult. This is the last trip to the water fountain.

The Coldest Winter is well written. While lengthy, there is no fat. Cut a few facts here or there and you've changed the value of the work and not for the better. With books like this I sometimes jump around from chapter to chapter taking the topics in an order that is important to me. I wasn't able to do that with the Coldest Winter.

There are a few surprises in the book. I thought that MacArthur was treated pretty fairly by Halberstam. MacArthur is not the perfect leader that he has been portrayed as in much of the media. In fact, at this stage of his career he is beginning to exhibit signs of feebleness brought on by the shaking hands and loss of hearing. That MacArthur underestimated the Communist Koreans is a fact of history but not often discussed.

I was also taken by the amount of confusion in the Truman administration during the first few days after the North crossed the border. Very eye opening.

I also highly valued the discussions of both Korean leaders, Syngman Rhee in the south and Kim Il Sung in the north. Halberstams treatment of these two leaders along with his wonderfully concise but accurate history of both the Koreas not only adds to the value of this book, but puts into perspective much of the recent difficulty with North Korea and their obsession with nuclear weapons.

Halberstam has always written masterfully constructed books. The reader can tell that Halberstam loved research because he did it so well and it shows in his books.

The Coldest Winter, in my opinion, is a must read for those that love current events but love history as well.

The Coldest Winter will be a terrific addition to your personal library.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The critiques of this book can be divided into two fairly narrow categories. If the reader is interested in the conflict from a deeply historical prospective and wants to focus on the political aspects of the Korean War, this is a fabulous book. I found myself unable to either put the book down or read at a very fast pace. I found the interaction of the world players, their goals and objectives, and their actions to be fascinating and very well documented. Alternatively, if the reader is interested in following all of the battles in detail, the reader will be very disappointed. The book only covers a handful of battles and if the battle has been described in other books dedicated to that single battle, there might be a single page thereon. (Bill Barber was a friend of mine and one of the heroes of the Chosin Damn battles and I was disappointed that the battle is covered in less than a page or two.)

A simple decision: political and historical interest: buy it today; battle by battle interest: many better books on the subject.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"The Coldest Winter," David Halberstam's final journalistic tribute to heroes, is a fitting tribute to the men of the oft forgotten war.
Halberstam's lengthy career in journalism and as an author shows in his brilliant writing style that keeps you engrossed in every word. It is not surprising that someone who has written so much about Vietnam, would have a huge resource to draw upon in a work about the Korean War.
The Coldest Winter is a story that needed telling, much the way Herodotus told of the men of Thermopylae or, more recently how Stephen Ambrose told of the men of Easy Company in "Band of Brothers."

Halberstam understood well how most Americans ignore the events and outcome of the Korean Conflict; often, that part of history seems better left untold. The Coldest Winter tells this story and it's back stories and even it's substantial post-script. We mustn't forget that South Korea's success today owes a debt to the American and U.N. forces who fought there over half a century ago.
What Halberstam also does in this book is point out the miserable failings of Generals like MacArthur, long-time sacred cows of the World Wars, whose hubris in later life jeopardized the legacy of any truly heroic deeds of their early careers. General Ned Almond is also lambasted for his stubbornness and poor leadership style, which Halberstam shows led to unnecessary losses of American and U.N. forces.
While "Coldest Winter" is by no means concise as far as a historiography goes, Halberstam has revealed the machinations that led to the war and the egos that sustained it. This is not a blow-by-blow, battlefield-to-battlefield account of the Korean War, much of the latter part of the war is overlooked. But, it covers the broader picture and the political implications and ramifications of American civilian policy versus military instinct in the early 1950s, however poor it may have served us.
The Coldest Winter is a hefty book, at over 650 pages, broken into eleven sections with over 50 chapters, but it reads as fast as it reads brilliant.
This is the first Halberstam book I have read, I regret that it comes only after his passing. There were certainly more great works to come had he not met his untimely death.
REVIEW EVERY BOOK YOU READ, OTHER READERS, PUBLISHERS AND AUTHORS DESERVE YOUR OPINIONS TOO.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having served two tours in the infantry in Korea during the War, and being a Korean War buff, I have a different view of the book than most of the reviewers. Unfortunately, the reviewers think that this book is about the Korean War. In part that is true but the real theme of the book is about how General Douglas MacArthur screwed it up.

The book is not a complete history of the Korean War as some reviewers have touted. It is anything but that. The book centers on the time period during which Gen. MacArthur was in command, both pre-war and until Pres. Truman relieved him of command. What little remains is more of an epilog very briefly describing the aftermath. That is why the book title is "The Coldest Winter" because it focuses on the disastrous defeat of the UN troops during the winter of 1950 as the result of MacArthur's bungling.

Because the book was billed as the most comprehensive history of the Korean War, I was lulled into reading it, only to be sorely disappointed. The first eight months of the War have been extensively covered in books and documentaries with the remaining 2 1/2 years given only cursory exposure, even though several major battles were fought during that period, so Halberstam doesn't expose any new ground. He just regurgitates material already written although he does it in an interesting fashion.

What I had hoped to read about was a thorough rendition of the history following MacArthur and the political decisions that colored the War and that was not there in the book for me. Not that I am not aware of them but a lot happened that is not generally known about and I hoped that Halberstam, with his reputation, would expose that material so that it become common knowledge to those studying or even interested in the War.

Some tout the book as telling the story of the historic escape of the First Marine Division from the Chosen Reservoir. It doesn't at all. The book tells how the Division Commander ignored MacArthur's orders in not racing to the Yalu and consequently the Marines were able make an orderly retreat, which the Army units were unable to do, but Halberstam provides almost no facts concerning the actual retreat, but when he does, the facts are not always correct. For example, the Chinese blew up the bridge between Koto-ri and Hungnam which crossed a narrow mountain gorge. Marine engineers then replaced it with a Bailey Bridge that was parachuted in. Halberstam says that it was the Air Force that dropped the bridge but I was on guard on the mountain above the gorge and I saw the bridge dropped from Marine Corps Flying Boxcars.

The book is not even a complete history of the first eight months of the Korean War. Most of it is devoted to certain battles which illustrated the incompetence either of MacArthur or the officers under him. It is only a partial picture of that period of the War but what there is, is done in remarkable detail.

Halberstam doesn't not highlight some of MacArthur's bad decisions as much as they should have been. While he brings out that it would have been a better strategy if the Marines had by-passed Seoul after landing at Inchon and cut off the retreat of the North Koreans, he doesn't give that mistake the emphasis that it warrants because it was a decision that really prolonged the War. Those familiar with the War are very conscious of that but lay readers may not.

Nor does he allude to the fact that MacArthur violated a basic tenant of fighting a War and that is after winning a battle, it is a cardinal principle that you stop and consolidate before resuming the attack. His failure to adhere to that principle was one reason the UN troops were so vulnerable when the Chinese struck.

One lament I have about the book is that it falls well short of providing its readers of what happened after Gen. Ridgeway took command. The book describes how the Chinese were suffering horrendous losses but Halberstam fails to follow through. The UN counter offensive resulted in more heavy losses to the Chinese as they were pushed back into North Korea, particularly on the eastern flank. The entire Chinese front was in such danger or collapsing that the Chinese sought a truce and Pres. Truman's biggest mistake was to agree to the truce. Had the UN rejected the truce offer, the Chinese would have been forced to retreat deep into N. Korea and that would have been a propitious time for the UN to agree to an armistice. Instead, the war went on for over two more years ending on July 28, 1953. It ended then only because a major Chinese offensive designed to push the Marines back across the Imjin River failed and the Chinese again had run out of steam.

Despite its shortcomings , as a book about the blundering of Gen. MacArthur, it is superb. Unfortunately, it was written 50 years too late. MacArthur was a desk general from the start of WWII and remained so during the Korean War. He really botched up the defense of the Philippines but because the Americans needed a hero, he was made a hero instead of a goat. He should have been relieved of his command. He actually played a subordinate role in the Pacific War which was mainly run by the Navy but we all can be thankful for the atomic bomb, because if the Japanese had not surrendered, MacArthur would have been in charge of the invasion of Japan.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
It was a tragedy that David Halberstam died while this massive book was still in production, because I am sure he could have given it that final tight editing that it so badly needs. From the title, one would think that the focus of the book would have been the battles against the surprisingly well trained and well equipped North Korean army and then the even stronger Chinese "volunteer" army during the terrible winter of 1950-1951. It is not. Rather, this book places much of its emphasis on the political aspects of the conflict, and on how the war in Korea shaped subsequent relations between the West and the USSR and China. Indeed, the book's editors seem to have sensed the mismatch between the title and the substance by inserting at the very beginning a detailed description, complete with inset maps, of the series of battles in the area of Unsan near the Yalu River, at the point when the Chinese entered the struggle for the future of Korea. Those battles occurred several months after the initial invasion by the forces of North Korea, and the placement of their description provides a somewhat anachronous start followed by a lurching return to an explanation of the roots of the conflict.
The book deserves a respectful analysis at great length and in better detail than is feasible here. But I must point out my astonishment that nowhere in these 719 pages do the editors provide an accounting of the cost of the war in terms of the casualties suffered by the United Nations forces during the three years of combat. The facts are as follows: US deaths, 33,741; US killed in action 23,615; US wounded in action, 92,134; US prisoners of war and missing in action, 12,065; Republic of Korea (ROK) killed in action, 137,899; ROK wounded in action, 450,742; ROK POW and MIA, 32,838. Other UN casualties exceeded 1,200 dead, 4,800 wounded in action,and 1,500 taken prisoner or missing in action. The number can be found engraved in marble at the Korean War Monument in Washington, DC and should also be engraved in the consciousness of anyone who thinks seriously about the War in Korea. William J. Potts, Jr., Bethesda, MD.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
In terms of books written about it, the Korean War was the black hole of American historiography, compared to the large output on WW2 and Vietnam; a nasty 'little' forgotten war. With Halberstam's last book before he died in a car accident, the gap is a little smaller.
Most wars can be seen as a series of mistakes. The Korean War offers itself perfectly for that approach. We know who 'started' it, that was clearly North Korea's invasion of the South in June 50.
But who 'caused' it? If monocausal explanations are worth anything, then Dean Acheson surely is the prime candidate with his monumental gaffe of forgetting to include Korea in a speech defining America's interest zone in Asia. That was clearly the signal to the uneasy triad of Kim, Mao and Stalin, that an adventure might work. Which was mistake number two. They had not counted on incompetence in the US government.
Next: the breathtaking inefficiency of MacArthur's intelligence, his view of the world defined as truth, which ignored on a level of criminal negligence the reports that something was building up North of the demarcation line. (Comparable to intelligence failures before 9/11 and the lies before the Iraq invasion? This is what happens when intelligence is a tool for a pre-defined view!)
Kim's stupidity in ignoring the warnings about the Inchon landing. Lucky for the good guys.
The focus on conquering Seoul rather than blocking the retreat to the North for the invaders. Costly! Again PR value over strategy!
The silly amphibious landing in Wonsan, when the Marines could have gotten there easily and faster on land from Pusan. (And Bob Hope had to perform to a nearly empty audience, as the Marines were stuck in their ships when the harbour was mined.)
Not wanting to repeat the whole book here (which is 650 pages of bad weather and anti-MacArthurism, not to forget the brillant brief bio sketches of the main protagonists, that we are used to expect from Halberstam), let's jump into the phase when the war seemed to be won: next mistake, underestimating the enemy, caused by the same basic flaw: intelligence to prove what we know already.
The failure to anticipate the Chinese invasion was a massive misjudgement, equally hard to understand as the man's previous failure to expect the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Of course in between he had made the impossible become true and carried out the Incheon landing, which erased the memory of previous errors.
That in turn was the basis for the US government's next big error: not to remove MacArthur from his command in time. The man seemed untouchable. A very costly overestimation of his value. Of course how would a weak accidental president be expected to trust his own judgement more than that of a war hero?
The pity is that mistakes are never learnt from. That is of course mainly because we can usually not agree on the what and the who in first place.
Or sometimes, when they are learnt from, then in the sense of the generals who fight the previous wars: unaware of the law of life which says that once you know the answers, the questions get changed.
Skimming through the book later, it occurs to me that I ought to have mentioned the special story of the 'loss' of China, which was politically a very relevant background noise of the Korea War. Of course the tragedy of China's civil war was that there was no competent leadership on the nationalist side, and that furthermore the anti Truman forces in the US had decided to be so totally taken in by that fraud CKS and his Missimo. While Mao had his starry eyed Edgar Snow for propaganda, CKS commanded the loyalty of Henry Luce and his press empire. Luce turned out to be a mighty force for befuddlement of American brains. In comparison, Snow was not much more than a court jester.
2626 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is Halberstam's magnum opus and is a wonderful restatement of his essential criticisms of American foreign policy. Other reviewers' criticism of the book as adding nothing "new" is not fair. First, this ignores the fruits of Halberstam's decades of interviews with company commanders, soldiers, policymakers, and with greats like Ridgway. Second, the reviewers miss the essential point that Halberstam is giving us a new and important interpretation of history that puts the Korean War in its proper context as one of the seminal events of the postwar era.

Korea was the first limited conflict in a century of total war, and for that reason alone deserves special study. An important strand of political thought, which MacArthur attempted to exploit, could not come to terms with this. And in Vietnam as well as in subsequent conflicts, we see that frustration boil to the surface and be exploited by various politicians.

Halberstam's essential thesis is that American foreign policy is to a significant extent determined by domestic sources -- sources that are themselves dysfunctional and that tend to skew foreign policy in an often tragic fashion. In particular, the deep racism of American culture prevented generals and important policymakers from appreciating the skills of the Chinese and North Koreans, and from exploiting the important rifts between China and North Korea as well as between the Soviet Union and China. Too often we viewed these cultures monolithically and in a condescending fashion.

Another problem is what Hofstadter terms the "paranoid style" in American politics. Halberstam's narrative is excellent in bringing this to life. The "China Lobby" ignored the facts to build up the myth of Chaing and the "loss" of China. It didn't really matter what the facts were. What mattered was constructing a compelling narrative of an opportunity "lost" by the striped-pants sissies and traitors in the State Department. In this narrative, even Marshall's patriotism is suspect, a completely irrational and mean-spirited assertion. But it does fall within the grand tradition of the paranoid style that attacked Adams and Lincoln; that led to the "Know-Nothing" movement of the 1840s; that fanned the flames of the Palmer raids in 1919; and that resulted in the Japanese internment.

Our dysfunctional and often vicious domestic politics made Truman's position impossible -- but it also led Kennedy to walk the tightrope in Vietnam, sank Johnson, and tempted Bush to think he could define his own reality in Iraq. Mix in messianic notions of American exceptionalism and a view of the world tinged by racism and we can see the roots of all the disastrous miscalculations of the last half-century -- dropping the Bomb, failing to internationalize atomic energy, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.

On the other hand, American in the end did the right thing in Korea and in the Cold War in general. Its misadventures have been tragic, but America has been, on balance, a force for peace and democracy and has used its superpower status in a manner far more responsible than its predecessors. And at the individual level, one can only read with great national pride about the conduct of the likes of generals like Ridgway and Walker, and junior officers like McGee. These men reflect everything that is good and decent in the American character.

Halberstam's zeal at uncovering the truth leads him to paint greats like Truman, Acheson, and even Marshall in an ambivalent light. Truman did the right thing in canning MacArthur, but he is responsible for a great deal of miscalculation before then. And Acheson, while a subtle thinker and often right in his judgments, comes off as unconscionably weak in going along with the vague instructions to MacArthur that gave the General room to create the disaster. Most tragic is the brief appearance of the Vietnam-era Acheson as angry cold-warrior and as a Cheney-like caricature of himself. Even Marshall has uncharacteristic moments of weakness in responding to the disaster that befell the U.N. forces after the Chinese invasion.

Halberstam gives MacArthur what he deserves -- in a way that only someone with the uncompromising passion of Halberstam can. I suppose the MacArthur of the first 30 years of the century was a great man. But the vain and corrupt General of the 1940s and 1950s -- on the take from Philippines politicians, the man who screwed up the defense of the Philippines, the guy who took credit for what Nimitz did, the man who would dare to be the general-in-chief in Korea without ever spending so much as one overnight there -- that man was deserving of reproach. But the guy who could not admit his own mistake in pushing toward the Yalu, who refused to take the steps necessary to rally his own defeated troops, and who would advocate a larger war against China to cover his own miscalculations -- that man belongs in the Hall of Shame with the likes of George Armstrong Custer, George McClellan, and Benedict Arnold.

This is a remarkable book. I wish we could have heard more about how Ridgway handled things and about the last 2 years of the War. But it is powerfully written and is an important addition to the field. Best of all, it's completely absorbing. I highly recommend it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed


The Best and the Brightest
The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam (Paperback - October 26, 1993)
$14.50
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.