Customer Reviews: From Pusan to Panmunjon (Memories of War)
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on April 4, 2005
I'm glad I found this gem of a book. I've read more then a few Korean War books and they take a decidedly American point of view. It's not to say that this is wrong, but it's certainly unbalanced. Many of these other books go on to describe the ROK army as cowardly, unreliable and prone to breaking. Finally there is a Korean commander that puts the record straight.

Yes, it was true that the ROK army at the time were not up to American Army standards, but it's not fair to put the same expectations on them. It doesn't take a genius to know what happens when militia goes against a heavily equipped professional army head-to-head in the open field. Militia loses every time, just look at how the British man handled continental armies in the first few years of the Revolutionary War. In 1950 the ROK army was the equivalent of a militia as it was very much under equipped, with no armor, air force and very little artillery (some 60mm and 80mm mortars and a few light 105mm pieces).

The U.S. had purposely left the ROK army under equipped and it was designed from the ground up as a lightly armed anti-guerilla force. The ROK army had a very poor junior officer corps, there was not school to train junior officers. The U.S. was too preoccupied in rebuilding Japan and sent very limited funds to South Korea. Proper equipment was not sent, no school for junior officers was established. Anyone who knows something about military matters knows that the backbone of an effective army are the junior officers, the lieutenants, captains and majors that lead the troops into the teeth of enemy fire. The North Korean Army (NKA), on the other hand, had an effective junior officer corps because many of the veterans were anti-Japanese guerilla fighters. Furthermore, the Russians supplied NKA with T-34 tanks, YAK fighter bombers, 155mm artillery, etc. Heavy artillery, tanks and close air support gave the NKA heavy offensive power.

It is not mentioned very often, but American trooped faired NO BETTER against the NKA during the first few months of the war. 24th ID troops ran from their positions when their antiquated WWII era bazookas just scratched the paint off NKA T-34s. It was carrier based air power that saved the Americans from being overrun.

General Paik tells stories of desperate battles, where ROK soldiers wrapped satchel charges around their bodies and threw themselves in suicide missions onto NKA tanks. ROK soldiers did the best they could with the weapons and training they had on hand. General Paik provides a fair and often underappreciated reason for why ROK units faired badly in the early part of the Korean War. As far as I'm concerned, any student of the Korean War cannot consider himself a expert unless he's read Paik's book. It is wrong to not put into consideration the viewpoint of the nation that contributed the most manpower and had the most casualties of all the UN forces. No Korean War library can be considered complete without this book (how many Korea War books have a glowing foreword by Mathew B. Ridgeway himself, huh?).

General Paik Sun Yup was the 29 year old commander of the ROK 1st division. The 1st ROK division had the distinction of the only ROK unit that never retreated from their positions without orders. It was also the only ROK unit that was attached to a U.S. Army Corp for the duration of the war and given tasks expected of a regular U.S. infantry division. General Paik was adamant about the fact that given the proper artillery, armor and air support, the 1st ROK division always performed as well, if not better then any regular U.S. infantry division. The 1st ROK also had the distinction of being the first UN unit to enter Pyongyang, beating several better equipped U.S. units in the race to the NK capital.
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on August 4, 2011
Gen. Paik's book is much overdue and I feel that it gives much overdue credit to the ROK Army that history seems to have passed by or omited. I served in Korea in 1957-58 with a helicopter company. Not to long after I joined the company we recieved about 50 KATUSA (Korean Augmintation To the US Army). This group was commanded by a Captain who had several NCOs and the rest were raw troops. Our job was to include them into our company by teaching various jobs such as refueling aircraft. While most of them had never been around vehicles let alone helicopters they learned fast and became a very important part of the company. Based on what Gen. Paik says I now understand how this came about.

I know that the ROK Army at the start of the Korean war was on the short end of a very long stick militarly. This book opened my eyes on how this force progressed to the point that when ROK troops were sent to Vietnam they performed outstanding service. In Vietnam I again had the a chance to work with ROK troops and they were great.

I think that one important point needs to be made in comparing the South Vietnames Army with that of ROK. We tried to do much the same thing in Vietnam as we did in Korea, develope, train and fight a army during combat that for the most part had to start from scratch, we made it in Korea but not in Vietnam. The fact that when he was Chief of Staff Gen. Paik seems to have kept an open mind on how to improve his Army, I am not so sure that was always the case in Vietnam.

As a old soldier myself, Gen. Paik come across not only as a good commander but as one hell of a soldier.
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on September 10, 2015
Paik Sun Yup's book was for me often hard to read. At times I literally shook with emotion. I was 18 when my regiment was assigned to temporary duty in Korea as support troops. I was stationed in Pusan. While there I was able to move about and ended up with a very good impression of the people of Korea. I heard both good and bad about the ROK army. From Matthew Ridgway's book The Korean War that the bad reputation came from an unfortunate source. President Syngman Rhee offered Ridgway troops that unknown to him were not trained. They were sent to the front with rifles. When they saw the enemy not knowing what to do they dropped their weapons and ran. This happened for than once. Thus people got a bad view of the ROC army. These men were willing to fight for their country but without training they could not. Ridgway did give credit to the trained units of the ROC army. I was impressed with General Paik Sun Yup. He wrote not only of the things he did right but also things he did wrong. Only an honest man does that. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Korean War.
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on September 21, 2015
I LOVE this book. Gen Paik's amazing story is a must read! From very impoverished beginnings, Paik became at a young age South Koreas first high ranking general. So greatly appreciated and reveared by both Gen Ridgway and Gen Van Fleet, together they wrote a spectacular introduction to this book. Paik is able to give us a great deal more information behind the South Korean ROK Army, which for too long has gotten a very poor and unjust rap. Let Paik help you have a clearer view of what things were going on in their sector and the reasons behind unfortunate problems as the massive in waves attacked them and United Nation Forces also in their sector.
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on March 28, 2007
This is a fairly important book to anyone interested in the Korean War. General Yup was South Korea's first four star general and was a field commander of various units during the war.

What makes this book important is that it covers the same war as many other books, but that it is written not from an American viewpoint but from the view of a soldier whose country was being attacked. This has made the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) through its Institute for Land Warfare put this title on their list of books that should be kept in print for study by AUSA members and others concerned about important issues.

This book was first published in 1992, the copies being sold by Amazon are reprints of the original book.
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on May 15, 2000
General Paik's work stands out among the many works on the Korean War because of his focus on the operations of the Republic of Korea (ROK) forces. Highly recommended to readers looking for information that goes beyond the American contributions to the struggle. The operational details and accounts of the interaction of American and ROK commanders are fascinating. The book suffers slightly from a lack of detailed maps that assist readers in following the movements of the oppossing forces.
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on March 16, 2015
Amazing man. The first Korean 4-stars' memoirs of the korean war.
I had the pleasure of listening to the General when I first got to a posting in Seoul in 2013. He is still giving talks about his experiences with the US military and the war. He called Admiral Arleigh Burke his divisional artillery officer.
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on July 25, 2015
Gen Paik's story is very informative and fills in a great number of Korean War blanks. Gen Paik is a Soldier/Statesman the Republic of Korea should hold in the highest esteem. He served his country in its greatest hour of need with upmost honor and professionalism. His contributions are without doubt unparalleled in Korean history. This book, a first of its kind, gives insight from the Korean soldiers perspective of the terrible sacrifices required of them and their struggle to recover from the early reversals due mainly from the USG neglect to properly train and equip an adequate force to repel the NKPA. Thank you Gen Paik for helping to set the record straight.
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on April 30, 2014
General Paik had an incredible career, from being an officer of the Manchukuo Imperial Army, engaged in Anti-Japanese resistance in Manchuria, then joining the Japanese campaign on northern China, returning to Pyongyang only to flee south since rising communists threatened his safety, then being commissioned a First Lieutenant in the Constabulary, the predecessor of the ROK Army, and then rising quickly to Lieutenant Coronel at the beginning of the Korean War heading a Division, again rising to 4-star General within 3 years and becoming Chief of Staff of the ROK Army. I don't think there are many other examples of such an incredibly fast rise in the ranks of an Army, probably possible only during such exceptional circumstances as encountered in the Korean peninsula during and after WWII and the Korean War.

This book presents his view on the Korean War, the events leading to the surprise attack by North Korean forces on June 25, 1950, the campaigns during the war and a quick look at his years after the War. Due to his position in the Army during the War (Division Commander, Corps Commander, Field Army Chief, Chief of the Staff), the book reflects the war from this rather high perspective. You will not find tales from trenches in the book, the closest you get to the foot soldier is at Regimental level! Having said that, General Paik comes over as a "leader from the front", trying to keep a close contact with the Operational Commanders under his responsibility, keeping his HQ as close as possible to the front. He also succeeds in presenting the sometimes breathtaking speed of the movements of Regiments, Divisions and Corps in a clear and concise language, so that even considering the too few and sparse maps it is possible to follow the course of the war without any mayor problems (I found myself most of the time skimming pages back to find the last map). This kind of book needs many maps, particularly with the many movements and (for the first year of the War) ever changing frontline. The reader is allowed a look into an otherwise little know world of field commanders in war, coordinating between many different units and nationalities (many years before the first Gulf War coalition), as well as seeing (for the first time) from the ROK perspective their contribution to the War effort, both positive and negative.

The book was originally written in Korean, and I suspect mostly aimed at a Korean audience. Therefore, sometimes the translation gets a little too literal and the sense of the sentences is lost or not correctly conveyed, but overall it does not really detract too much.

The unique Korean perspective of this War makes this book and absolute must for anyone interested in this War, but you need to know that the book is centered on the larger scale of units, written by a General - recommended.
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on December 10, 2012
This is an amazing book, made even more so as it is written by a Korean national hero to a Korean audience. The author doesn't pull many punches, alternately lauding and lambasting American actions in Korea during the Korean conflict. Gen Paik is truly an amazing man. I just returned from Korea and we had the opportunity to hear him personally brief the Korean conflict - in English! Although the man is quite old his mind is astute as he talked about people he knew personally, characters that seem only historical from our point of view: MacArthur, Ridgeway, Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek, just to name a few.
The book is a necessary read for anyone who wishes to gain a fuller and less Ameri-centric view of the Korean conflict.
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