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Operation Broken Reed: Truman's Secret North Korean Spy Mission That Averted World War III Hardcover – November 16, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Career army officer Boyd breaks his half-century of silence to tell the remarkable story of a top-secret black operation behind enemy lines during the Korean War. Code-named Broken Reed, the operation sent a 10-man team into North Korea to collect badly needed intelligence on enemy capabilities and intentions to aid President Harry Truman in making a fateful decision: to escalate the conflict or accept a stalemate. Boyd, a young signal corps lieutenant, was selected for the mission because of his top-secret clearance and his knowledge of Morse code. Boyd would transmit whatever intelligence the team gathered to a communications aircraft over the Sea of Japan. Inserted into North Korea by submarine, the team collected and transmitted intelligence that revealed a staggering enemy buildup and convinced Truman not to escalate the conflict. Discovered and ambushed, seven of the team were killed and three wounded—two grievously. In a desperate flight, the wounded reached their rendezvous point and were rescued by a waiting ship. If true—and there are no records, transcripts, or evidence of the operation and Boyd is the only known survivor—this suspenseful saga of heroism and sacrifice is further proof that truth can be stranger than fiction. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A chilling story and, if true, certainly an amazing one in the annals of wartime espionage." -- Library Journal, 10/15/07

"A fascinating account." -- Military Officer, October 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (November 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786720867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786720866
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #695,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Arthur L. Boyd on July 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Please read my in-depth comment following the negative critical reader review posted by R. Axelrod. It is imperative that the reader fully understands and comprehends the fact that the Operation Broken Reed story was written based upon a factual event, not some mind-generated military intelligence mission. The nine Americans and sixty-six Nationalist Chinese military who died for their country demand to be honored by a grateful nation for their heroic deed. Had they failed, a third world war and a doubtless nuclear holocaust would have ensued, claiming the lives of millions. This story is not, as Axelrod stated,"a fraud." Abundant historical, circumstantial and presumptive evidence abounds, fully supporting the authenticity of the mission. Axelrod's review is a cruel and a disgraceful insult to the memory of my dead comrades. Axelrod, following outlandish and unsupported remarks, drove a nail into the heart of the story with a closing comment, "You can delight in a creative adventure story." One fact remains. Anyone may lay claim to being a "specialist" within any given field, however unsupported words from a self-made fake specialist will lay waste to any boni-fide claim, thereby revealing the non-existence of any true level of training, experience and expertise.
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Format: Hardcover
Four-five years back I read a terrific book, "The Secrets of Inchon: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Covert Mission of the Korean War," by Eugene Franklin Clark. I blogged about it Sept. 15 of last year. It is the first-person account of a secret, commando-like mission at Inchon that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the U.N. side. Clark at the time was a Navy lieutenant who at 39 was "getting a little old for the commando game." The book is the record of his two-week adventure--a hair-raising reconnaissance strikes, night raids, firefights, a blazing naval battle between Chinese sailing junks--among the islands and mudlfats of the communist-held Seoul-Inchon harbor area. Clark wrote it in the 1950s, intending it not for publication but as a keepsake for his wife and children and as a personal memorial to the Korean men and women who fought and in many cases died to help him accomplish his mission. The manuscript lay in a safe deposit box for decades and only came to light because historian and novelist Thomas Fleming happened to come across it in doing research for an article about Clark's exploits.
Now I have found another such book, "Operation Broken Reed: Truman's Secret North Korean Spy Mission That Averted World War III" (Carroll & Graf), similar to it in secretiveness and amazing events. Written (extremely well) by its central character, Lt. Col. Arthur L. Boyd (Ret.), and published in October 2007, it is the story of Boyd's participation as a 20-something Army Signal Corps lieutenant in a super-secret mission in North Korea in January 1952. Written as a compelling narrative rather than as a journal-like chronicle, there is so much about it that I like.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been quite conflicted over this book, from the basic issue of whether such an operation took place to the less fraught question of whether everything happened as described by LTC Boyd, and whether it had the crucial significance he attributes to it. I want to believe that the story of this astonishingly bold and dangerous mission in early 1952 is completely authentic. As described in the book, LTC Boyd and those with him, American and Nationalist Chinese, were among the bravest men in the Korean War. He and nine others were to impersonate a downed B-29 crew (infiltrated into North Korea by an unidentified US sub) being moved across the peninsula by their Chinese captors (actually Nationalists in Peoples' Volunteers uniforms). Along the way then-LT Boyd was to encrypt and transmit, by Morse code, reports from other Nationalist teams on enemy strength and intentions, reports that bypassed the intelligence and operational chain of command and went directly to President Truman. (Unlike some reviewers, I didn't think the use of Nationalist soldiers was improbable; the US used Japanese-crewed minesweepers to clear Inchon harbor, an incendiary fact that was long kept secret.) At the end, Boyd and two other wounded US survivors were picked up off North Korea's west coast by a Royal Navy surface vessel, also unnamed.

One of the oddities in this story is the selection of Boyd himself, plucked from a tour as a Signal Corps officer in Germany, to disappear for who knew how long. In the entire Pacific area, were there no Signal Corps lieutenants with the requisite clearances and crypto skills?
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Format: Hardcover
I first met Lt. Col. Art Boyd on an airplane trip to Kansas City earlier this year. We sat across the aisle from each other and began to strike up a conversation. He told me he was on his way to give a speech at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo. He asked me if I would be interested in reading his speech and offer feedback. I had no idea that what I was about to read was about an amazing secret spy mission that kept our country out of a third World War.

Upon reading his speech which was the synopsis of his book Operation Broken Reed, I was speechless. The experiences that were revealed by Mr. Boyd in his speech had me fighting back tears. The act of bravery that Mr. Boyd and his comrades exhibited at such a young age was heroism at its highest form.

After reading the complete version in the book Operation Broken Reed, it touched me even more. To have kept all this inside for so many years had to be a living hell for Mr. Boyd. His desire to locate the families of his fallen comrades so that he can tell them about the heroism of their loved ones is to be highly commended. He wants to be able to locate and bring home the remains of these comrades. After meeting Mr. Boyd I feel certain that if anyone can accomplish this, he will. He has made it his current life's mission to do so.

I highly recommend Operation Broken Reed as a book for all to read. We should all applaud Mr. Boyd and his comrades for all that they did for our great country to keep us out of a war that we probably would not have prevailed. The book outlines the mission and the feelings and emotions of all involved with amazing detail. As a reader I felt like I was right there with them on the mission. I hope that the book is turned into a movie so that more people can witness the journey that Mr. Boyd has taken and hopefully provide a means to locate his comrade's families.
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