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The Marines of Autumn: A Novel of the Korean War Hardcover – June, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Readers nostalgic for the patriotic news reports of American wars prior to Vietnam, or those who enjoy vintage Hollywood war movies, will savor James Brady's accurate and informed treatment of the disastrous Chosin Reservoir campaign in North Korea in the fall and early winter of 1950. His hero is Captain Tom Verity, a Yale-educated, war-seasoned Marine who at the opening of The Marines of Autumn is teaching Chinese history at Georgetown University and raising his 3-year-old daughter alone after the death of his young wife. Verity was born in China, the son of an American businessman, and returned to the States only in his teens. Recalled to active service because of his familiarity with several Chinese dialects, he is assured that he will only be needed for a month or so, to roam the countryside in a Jeep and monitor Chinese radio activity across (and soon within) the Korean border.

The campaign itself provides a rich subject. As Brady depicts it (both here and in his memoir, The Coldest War), thousands of men were betrayed by the ambition of General MacArthur and the pigheadedness of his intelligence officers. They ignored mounting evidence that entire regiments of Chinese communist forces were crossing the border into North Korea by night and hiding in the hills surrounding the Chosin Reservoir, a narrow mountain pass through which American troops were being sent en masse as a giddy, premature display of victory over the North Koreans. After the liberation of Seoul in September 1950, and with presidential hopes in mind, MacArthur had decided to push his troops forward all the way to the Yalu River, the border with China, while assuring President Truman that there was no organized resistance to their advance, and that American soldiers would be home by Christmas.

Verity watched the Marines arrive by sea, realizing that his brief tour of duty might be prolonged and feeling nostalgic for the rifle platoon he had led on Okinawa:

They looked pretty much like all the Marines he'd ever seen, some clean-shaven and baby-faced like kids' bottoms; others hairy and tough; craggy men like Tate and gnomes like Izzo; pimpled boys and top sergeants going gray, men with their helmets securely fastened with chin straps, others with their steel hats cocked back off their faces, straps a-dangle.

Hell, Verity thought, they look like... Marines.

Admittedly, it is hard to avoid cliché in this genre. The unconventional plot--an ill-advised advance followed by a hasty and equally costly retreat--helps Brady. And there is no flag-waving at the end of The Marines of Autumn. The author's treatment is sentimental but realistic, and will be relished by Marines and ex-Marines alike, since the army is the butt of every joke. --Regina Marler

From Publishers Weekly

Columnist and author Brady (The Coldest War) has written the most powerful and stunning war novel since 1997's The Black Flower by Howard Bahr. In 1950, soon after the start of the Korean War, the men of the 1st Marine Division found themselves surrounded by 100,000 Communist Chinese soldiers at the famous battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Brady is a Marine veteran of the forgotten war, and he writes colorfully and convincingly about how 20,000 Americans fought their way out of the Communist trap in the most bitterly cold winter weather ever experienced on the Korean peninsula. Reserve Marine Capt. Tom Verity, a young widower and a single parent, is recalled to active duty in the autumn of 1950; he is a Chinese linguist whose skills are badly needed. Gen. Douglas MacArthur has unwisely sent the Marine division into North Korea with orders to march to the Chinese border; despite MacArthur's flippant assurances, the Marines suspect the Red Chinese are waiting for them in the Taebaek Mountains. Verity is to join the forward battalion and gather intelligence for the Marine brass. Aided by conscientious, capable Gunnery Sergeant Tate and jeep-stealing, wise-cracking Corporal Izzo, Verity's efforts pay off, but it is too late. The Communists attack relentlessly, day and night, and with temperatures down to 25 degrees below zero, everyone freezes. The American withdrawal back to the seaport of Wonsan is a horrific nightmare of fatigue, frostbite, wounds and death. After days of marching and fighting, Verity, Tate and Izzo are about to reach safety when a single sniper's bullet changes all their fates. Brady's narrative captures the viciousness of combat, the brutal weather conditions, the forbidding terrain and the Marines' display of extraordinary courage, sacrifice, and valor. Incisively mapping out the fine lines between hope and despair, heroism and cowardice, this moving novel is a model of historical and moral accuracy. (June) FYI: This is just one of several upcoming novels commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 274 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (June 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312262000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312262006
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,618,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The late JAMES BRADY commanded a Marine rifle platoon during the Korean War and was awarded a Bronze Star for valor. For more than two decades, he wrote the "In Step With" column for Parade. He also wrote a column for Forbes.com. He authored eighteen books, among them several on the Marines, including the nonfiction Why Marines Fight and the New York Times bestselling novel The Marines of Autumn.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I found the book to be factual, but then Brady takes either great liberties or did not do his homework before writing the book.
Examples: Puller was not promoted to Brig. General until a couple of months after Chosin. In fact, he portrays Puller as still being the CO of the 1st Marines during that period. To my knowledge no Marine General ever commanded a Regiment. That is a slot for full Colonel. Except in the case of Lt. Colonel Murray who commanded the 5th. The only one star General serving with us was Brig. General Craig and he was sent home during that period to attend the death of his father.
Marines that fought with the 5th Marines are going to be quite upset to read that Puller and the 1st Marines were rear guard during the withdrawal to Koto-ri.
Pullers conversation with Maggie Higgins did not take place at Hagaru-ri.
He refers to Lt. Colonel Davis as Colonel Davis. Davis was battalion Co of the 1/7, a slot for Lt. Colonel.
There is mention of Tanks at Yudam-ni. I don't think that the plural applies since they only had one tank at Yudam-ni.
There are many more breakdowns to historical fact in the novel. I realize that this is a novel, but since it was mostly written as historical fact I found it quite distressing to read the inaccuracies in the novel.
I served at Hagaru-ri and made the fight and walk out and have read extensively about the battle.
A Chosin Vet
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Who knew James Brady, puff piece-er to the stars, had this great book in him? I was a kid when the Korean "conflict" took place, and remember more of the politics than the warfare, so, altho the Chosin Reservoir retreat was in my memory bank, I could not have explained why. Now I know, and memorably. Brady's prose is so vivid, you can almost feel your own toes becoming frostbitten as you read; the icy roads and the snow, the cold, the Chinese troops relentlessly attacking or sniping at our troops as they retreat down a narrow mountain road at the rate of a couple of miles a day. Brady lets MacArthur have it, for putting our troops in this untenable position in the first place. The main character, incidentally, is loosely based on the late Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island. I've read a few other war books, but this is perhaps the most vividly done. It leaves me wanting to be sure to pay homage to all our soldiers in some way this Memorial Day. A powerful book. Don't miss it.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Picciarelli on June 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a lover of war stories, perhaps because I fought in one and I find realism lacking in most writers. Brady has proved to be an exception. His depiction of the misery suffered by the Marines at the disaster that was the Chosen Reservior made me grateful that I spent a year in the infantry in the virtual paradise (by comparison) of Vietnam. You feel the cold as the Marines retreat from an untenable position, fighting a numerically superior Chinese army and becoming victims of Douglas MacArthur's meglamoniacal career plans. Brady gives MacArthur a justified raking over the coals and mixes his fictional characters with real ones; Chesty Puller is here as is Bob Hope and others. All in all a fantastic read.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John Baker on August 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
James Brady borrows heavily from his memoire "The Coldest War" in this novel about a recalled reservist officer, Tom Verity, a professor of Chinese at Georgetown, who finds himself thrown into the campaign to push the North Korean forces all the way north to the Chinese/North Korea border in the fall of 1950. General MacArthur thought this campaign would be a walk in the park, refusing to believe, despite many indications to the contrary, that the Chinese Communist Forces would become involved. Brady has done much research on the campaign, and I found some of his asides, personal opinions and commentary which combine his personal knowledge of the war as a reservist rifle platoon commander with his study, to be most compelling. I recommend that no one read both Brady's personal memoire of his experiences in Korea and this novel back-to-back, as I did, because Brady lifts some descriptive sections or small incidenc es almost word for word from the memoire. The troop ship which carries the Marines north to the mustering area for the march to Chosin has the name of the troop ship which transported Brady home from his duty in 1952. This doesn't in any way detract from the novel, but a little distance between the two books would erase some of the familiarity. I also found the repetition of the fact that "three marines traveling alone in a jeep towards the north made for a good target" was somewhat disconcerting. Bardy writes in fairly short chapters, and perhaps felt that most would read his novel a little bit at a time, not in one sitting as I did, and therefore the fact bore repeating. But I fault Brady's editor, not the writer, who should catch such things.Read more ›
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful By T. E. Vaughn on June 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Having read Brady's earlier non-fiction account of his combat tour in Korea, "The Coldest War," I was eager to read his novel of the war. Within the first couple of pages, I knew there might be problems. The height of the Taebek mountains was listed as 25,000 meters! (Does no one ever check manuscripts for errors like that?)What followed that brief prologue to set the stage for the fighting withdrawal of the Marines from the Chosin was very disappointing. I should have gotten a hint when Brady said that he had not taken part in the Chosin campaign but had gotten to Korea afterward. To his credit, Brady does not actually have his protagonist handle troops; he is basically an intellectual observer who, when not reminiscing about his deceased wife, simply reports things. He drops in and out of staff meetings, rubbing shoulders with the real personalities of the campaign, much as Pug Henry did in Wouk's "Winds of War." This leaves the feeling that Captain Tom Verity is a part of things... but not really. The descriptions of war in the cold are indeed harrowing and it makes me gladder than ever that my war was one of Asian heat. I am sure that words never adequately convey what it was like to deal with the numbing cold and with combat as well. And that is a problem with this book -- it is dull. Character development is not extensive, but perhaps it doesn't need to be. The Chosin withdrawal is really the story and Verity and the others seem almost tangential to it. As for characters, that of the daughter is almost completely unbelivable, acting and speaking far above her stated age. In short, Brady's non-fiction book, recently re-issued, is what you should read.Read more ›
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