September 2009 Archives

Recently I finished Coldest Winter, The: America and the Korean War, the last book written by David Halberstam.  As a history buff, I generally lean toward the Civil War and World War II, but I heard about Halberstam by way of Tony Kornheiser, when he announced on his radio show or ESPN's Pardon the Interruption that Halberstam had passed away in a car accident.  It game me reason to wonder, what have I been missing by not reading Halberstam?

It was not intentional slight, it was just that Halberstam never crossed my radar.  I had no idea the depth of this man's work.  When I searched for a new book to read, I ran across this in a Kindle edition.  Perfect, I thought, as I could read this at my own pace without needing a physical copy.  The Korean War was something I had not really studied since high school.  It seems to be a much forgotten war in America, known only as the event that split Korea into the North and the South.  Or the comedy that is MASH.

Halberstam weaves stories from Washington insiders, foreign hands, and the men on the ground in a story that tells the Korean War from pre-war to post-war and Cold War implications.  The stories from the boots on the ground and how they dealt with it once back home were the strongest, deepest memories.  The pain of going through the war and how some of them had just been through WWII and had to return to foreign lands to fight yet another war.  In a way, Halberstam shows us how Korea was the original Vietnam, a war that nobody really wanted to fight.  Only Korea had no real public face, unlike Vietnams protests.

In the end however, the most fascinating part was the game MacArthur was playing with Washington.  Many military careers and lives were lost over the things that MacArthur supposedly did.  We can only judge from what was stated by those who were there and the sight does not seem pretty.  This is part of the story I had either never learned or had completely forgotten, but Halberstam's book has put it all in perspective for me.

Overall, if you are a history buff like me, you will want to read The Coldest Winter.  It might be a little too much detail for your casual reader.  But fascinating nonetheless.

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