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The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953 Paperback – March 31, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Blair takes a close and blistering look at high-level defense policy and ground-level leadership of the U.S. Army in Korea from the opening of the war in 1950 through the first yearthe "pendulum period" before the final battle lines were drawnthen summarizes the subsequent "talking war" period, which lasted for two years. That first year, the author amply demonstrates, was a ghastly ordeal for the Army, partly because of President Truman's untimely strip-down of the armed forces, and partly because of incompetent leadership in the field. No historian has been more critical of General Douglas MacArthur's leadership during this period than Blair is in these pages. He also faults corps and division commanders, especially General Edward Almond of X Corps. On the other hand, his admiration is unstinting for General Matthew Ridgway, who took over a demoralized field army and quickly turned it into a fighting force. Military buffs should not overlook this one. Blair collaborated with Omar Bradley on A General's Life. Photos. Military Book Club main selection; Literary Guild alternate.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Deserves an important place in the historiography of the Korean War." -- New Republic

"Military buffs should not overlook this one." -- PublishersWeekly

"We are in debt to Clay Blair for this book." -- New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1152 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (March 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591140757
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591140757
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Mendelssohn on October 1, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Forgotten War: America in Korea is an exhaustive study of command level combat in Korea. While the title claims to cover the war for 1950 thru its conclusion in 1953, in reality only perhaps 25 pages cover the last two years of the war.
Blair states in his introduction that he was especially interested in command level decisions, and the influence of West Pointers in specific. There is very little detail of 'soldier's stories' or any popular or oral history. To some degree, this renders the book a bit sterile although the combat descriptions, especially quite early in the conflict during the retreat to the Pusan perimeter, are thrilling. Further, every time a new commander is introduced, Blair gives a short biographical sketch. I found these redundant and annoying later on in the book. Further, Blair is not shy about criticizing political decisions behind the policy decisions. In particular, his treatment of Truman, many of Truman's political appointees, and MacArthur is scathing. To be fair, while Blair shows eventual Eighth Army commander and MacArthur's replacement, General Ridgeway, as a true hero, to the author's credit he does not refrain from criticizing Ridgeway for dangerously obstructionist behavior during the eventual peace talks. True or not, a lot of this criticism would be more effective had some attempt been made to give a 'man in the trench' perspective. Blair gives a lot of detail of Medal of Honor recipients, but not much besides that.
The basic criticism of the book is that Korea was not a vital part of America's strategic design, and that the decision to intervene was done without thought to preparedness or ramifications. According the Blair, Truman resented, mistrusted and then gutted the military...
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michael Valdivielso on September 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book on the Korean War is very complete and very detailed. The book gets down to the battalion level, getting into the battles, the cold, the terror, the heroism and the mistakes. It even touches on the treatment of the black soldiers within the American units. The only problem a reader might have is the amount of details. It is 1136 pages long, the first 976 pages cover the war, the last hundred or so covering sources and notes.
While there are few pictures, each one is powerful, no doubt carefully selected.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By JIM SHIVE on September 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book reflects a colossal effort at detailing virtually a day by day and unit by unit account of the Korean conflict. If you need to know what happened in Korea at a particular time or place or to a particular military unit or commander, this book will tell you. Although well written and organized, I personally was bothered by the author's emphasis on the command level personalities and actions. This book could more accurately be titled 'A History of West Point Graduates and Their Careers in Relation to the Korean Conflict'. Reading this book could leave the impression that there were no enlisted men, non-commissioned officers or field grade officers involved in the war. Excepting mention of Medal of Honor recipients during the conflict, there is very little use of personal accounts or activities of participants below the rank of colonel. The author's ritual of calculating average ages of commanders during every command change was at first irrelevant and then became irritating. I also would have appreciated inclusion of a little more contextural information along with the battle outlines. Despite an enormous amount of command and maneuver information, very little information is included on weapons systems, civilian populations, and the opponent forces and strategy in North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By antsi on January 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
On the minus side:
- The author seems overly concerned with the background of individual officers, especially whether they were West Point or ROTC, their ages, when they were commissioned, who their service "friends" were, etc. I started skimming these paragraphs about halfway through because most of them did not meaningfully contribute to understanding the subsequent events.
- The maps are not particularly enlightening and the way they are printed makes them extremely difficult to read. More "mini maps" illustrating particular operations or engagements would have been helpful.
- The author has a very annoying habit of massively over-using the phrase "Inasmuch as," often several times on a single page.
- Criticism of defecient commanders and praise of good officers both seem a bit heavy-handed at times. Apparently every officer in Korea was either a Genius Hero or an Incompetent Fool.
- Little detail or analysis of decisions or conditions on the North/Communist side.
- Scant detail of the air war.

On the plus side:
- Well researched. Plenty of evidence is presented to support the author's conclusions and analyses. Dude seems to have done enough homework to justify his opinions.
- Good background of the domestic and international political contexts from the UN/US/Allied side that affected how and why the war was fought.
- Comprehensive overview of the conflict. Probably not a bad place to start one's study of this important but nearly forgotten conflict.
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