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The Korean War [Paperback]

Max Hastings
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 15, 1988 067166834X 978-0671668341 Reprint
It was the first war we could not win. At no other time since World War II have two superpowers met in battle. Now Max Hastings, preeminent military historian takes us back to the bloody bitter struggle to restore South Korean independence after the Communist invasion of June 1950. Using personal accounts from interviews with more than 200 vets -- including the Chinese -- Hastings follows real officers and soldiers through the battles. He brilliantly captures the Cold War crisis at home -- the strategies and politics of Truman, Acheson, Marshall, MacArthur, Ridgway, and Bradley -- and shows what we should have learned in the war that was the prelude to Vietnam.

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

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.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Hugh Sidey Time A top-drawer book by a splendid historian.

Drew Middleton The New York Times Admirable...penetrating.

Stephen E. Ambrose author of Eisenhower: The President and Nixon: The Education of a Politician Rings true and will surely stand the test of time....Max Hastings has no peer as a writer of battlefield history.

Richard M. Nixon Must reading for any American who wants to understand one of the watershed events of the post-World War II period.

Alistair Horne author of The Price of Glory Fair and immensely readable...a major contribution to more than just military history....Max Hastings is among the ablest of the younger generation of British military historians....He now illuminates the struggle that changed all perceptions of the post-1945 world.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 389 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (October 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067166834X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671668341
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 98 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Korean War Readers: Advance Cautiously February 13, 2000
The interpretations of the Korean War are varied and numberalmost as many as the pages that have been devoted to the conflict'shistory. The Korean War is an attempt by the British author MaxHastings to paint a portrait of the war, focusing upon some human and military aspects less familiar to readers on both sides of the Atlantic. From the outset, Hastings does not purport to give a comprehensive account of the war and cites the works of David Rees (Korea: The Limited War, New York, 1964) and Bruce Cumings (Origins of the Korean War, New Jersey, 1981) as the best in these categories. The author also professes his belief in the rightness of the American commitment to Korea in 1950. One of the more interesting passages in the Korean War is the author's coverage of the Inchon operation. Hastings defends the decision of General MacArthur to maintain X Corps as a separate tactical unit from Eighth Army: ... there was an entirely legitimate case for placing the conduct of the Inchon landing in hands other than those of General Walton Walker. MacArthur well knew the low morale that existed in Eighth Army headquarters.... [Although] Walker had conducted a stubborn defense of Pusan.... there was grave reason to doubt his ability now to lead the sort of imaginative and dynamic operation MacArthur planned. MacArthur considered, and rejected, the possibility of relieving him [Walker] of his command.... MacArthur's compromise was to entrust the amphibious operation to Almond. The author's argument is plausible, but he fails to cite his references. One of the strong points of the Korean War is the author's analysis ofthe Chinese and their intervention in the war. Read more ›
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good overview August 3, 2000
British Historian Max Hasting's gives the "forgotten war" the kind of good overall one volume treatment that it deserves. For some reason, Korea has just never registered with Americans the way World War Two or Vietnam has. But the stakes were high as America rushed its untrained Pacific army from Japan to the Korean peninsula in a desperate attempt to forestall a communist takeover of the South in 1950. The heroism of those first soldiers cannot be understated. Hastings captures the whole saga of the war as a horrible tragedy and as the first test of the West's determination to literally fight the spread of communism. Ultimately, as Hastings points out, the sacrifice of the allied troops was not in vain. That democracy exists today in South Korea is a testement to those who fought and died to preserve the country's freedom.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbiased, Objective Book about Korean War March 7, 2006
By jason
First, let me clear a reader's confusions. The Chinese Army fights with not only American Army but also UN Troops. If you can include the casualty of ROK, British, Turkish and some other country's armies, I am quite sure you can draw a different conclusion. Second, the Chinese Army didn't get too many US weapons formerly owned by Chiang Kai-shek. Most of them used .31-caliber rifle, which was used by Japanese in 1930's and totally out of date. You can find this information from a lot of photographs on both sides.

Korean War is a forgotten war in USA and some kind of forgotten by younger generation in China. There are a lot of books and photographs introducing this war on both sides. So far, this book is the best book I have seen about Korean War from the West. The writer is objective, unbiased to describe the cause of the war, the battle in the war and the prisoner on both sides. He incorporates American soldiers, Chinese soldiers and British Soldiers into his book, which gives readers a vivid image of War. His clear writing, objective and informative narrative of the war make his work the best book of Korean War for almost twenty years. This is a classic book deserve to read and keep, if you are big fan of Korean War. If you just want to browse the history, I strongly recommend a website: [...] which can give you objective, unbiased information.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent One Volume Compact History May 20, 2000
By Viking
Max Hastings has achieved one of the most difficult feats in writing a good survey history about a particular event. That is, Hastings was able to cover the Korean War well from the political, diplomatic, social, and military aspects.
In addition to this, Hastings was able to bring in a very personal feel to the drama by including touching accounts of the war from a wide range of people including American, British, Korean, and Chinese soldiers; and the people of Korea who suffered very dearly.
I found especially gripping and well constructed, the epic U.S. retreat to the Pusan Perimeter and the stunning counterstroke at Inchon. As an American, I found the heroic British battle with the Chinese at Imjin welcome to my limited knowledge of English military contributions.
Hastings also illustrates quite well how the U.S. and China were both and at varying times close to total victory, and how the failure to achieve total victory put themselves in a worse postion diplomatically. (i.e. the U.N. push to the Yalu that failed in the fall of 1950, and the Chinese advance to the 38th Parallel in the winter of 1950-51.)
Hastings also shows just how different General MacArthur's strategic thinking on the war was from both Washington and London. Also interesting is the author's exploration into the typical poor moral within the U.N. ranks resulting from the frustration of having to fight a limited war in a cold-inhospitable place.
Anyone looking for a good one volume compact history of the Korean War should buy this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Never fails to deliver
Max Hastings is a thorough researcher who can reveal his results in a compelling read that highlights the human cost of war. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Judy M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Sir Max hits the mark again
Max Hastings knows his craft. The book captures the relevant facts as well as anecdotal information well, weaving them together in a very readable form. Read more
Published 5 months ago by John Johnston
5.0 out of 5 stars A great single volume account.
The nature of the Korean War comes out well in this book. The antipathy and misunderstandings that led to the conflict come out as well. Read more
Published 5 months ago by drohan00
4.0 out of 5 stars a police action not a war?
this gives very different view points of the korean war from the pusan encirclement to the landing at Inchon and the drive into north korea
Published 6 months ago by roy sparks
4.0 out of 5 stars Korea: Told By Those who were there
If you are looking for an in-depth overall historical narrative of the Korean War this is not it. But if you are looking for a first hand account by the soldiers who were there,... Read more
Published 6 months ago by J. Hojnacki
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the read.
Put simply, when I finished this book it did not get put on my library shelf nor did I donate it to the library. Instead I put it in the recycle bin. Mr. Read more
Published 7 months ago by David T McKenna
4.0 out of 5 stars Korea
This book was used as our text book for a course on the Korean war
at Lifelong Learning, Washington U in St. Louis. The book was very
thorough and well written.
Published 9 months ago by Eugene W. Spilker
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative, Very Sad
The Korean War is a thorough account of all aspects leading up to the war, during the war and after the war. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jerry Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study of a much ignored subject
This is the best book on the subject I have read so far. The author is British and therefore has no patriotic ax to grind about either the motives or the performance of the United... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Al Singh
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A war that very few understood or understand. Gives a new appreciation for the greatness and the the tragic excess that was MacArthur.
Published 10 months ago by thomas parker
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