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📙 The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam — pdf free


No question in my mind that Halberstam was a great writer. I could not put this down. Yes, we know what happened but do we really? The actions of the war and the homefront are so well assembled. Halberstam has a view and he spills his guts to support it. In Korea he sees MacArthur as deeply flawed, exercising horrific judgment based on vanity and ego and surrounding himself with sycophants that told him only what he wanted to hear. He caused much unnecessary suffering and challenged the power of the Commander in Chief. While MacArthur is central to the history of the Korean War, Halberstam pulls back from the battles to give a fuller picture of the political winds blowing in China, Russia and United States that lead to misunderstandings (America not mentioning the Korea peninsula as under is "shield" was a major blunder) at almost every instance. The US had a skewed view of China presented by a 100 years of missionaries that was contradictory to Mao's growing success in fighting the Nationalists and therefore could not be "true". Halberstam helps explain how the defeat of the Nationalists triggered some sense in Americans that the US had lost to Mao. He does a great job refuting that but showing how the Republicans and Joseph McCarthy used this issue to show the Democrats as weak on Communism and trigger the Redbaiting that destroyed so many careers and reputations. Thus the Korean War took on added significance as it was seen as repulsing the Communists (as was Vietnam) rather than a nationalist uprising or civil war. Since the US had said Korea was not under their protection Mao saw an opportunity and he equally could not back down once he was committed to action. And of course could Stalin have it any better? The US tied up in Korea fighting a very large Chinese army? Halberstam's view is that while communism is the form of government that many countries took after WWII it was NOT a global movement but a series of nationalist battles for freedom from the Colonial era. While not the only one with this theory he does a wonderful job making his arguments. I could go on an on about how much can be gained by reading the book. Great history points and a very sincere effort to say "hey, there is actually some black and white here and I going to try to explain it". The battle scenes are excellent and I do wish he had spent some time on the Chosin Resevoir Breakout as it appears to be one of the most heroic battles in American military history. I very much appreciated how he studied the battles, interviewed relentlessly and paints a very human picture of soldiers under the greatest of physical stress acting with intelligence, bravery, loyalty and heroism. Clearly Band of Brothers. Last but not least - Korea itself. What a remarkable country. To have been so systematically torn apart by the Japanese and other invaders for so long to the point where there really was nothing; no indigenous structures for government, education, health, infrastructure. Just nothing. And yet today it's a world leader in many industries and a prosperous interesting place. That came about through the hard hard work of the people. Americans can claim some credit but for the most part the success of South Korea is another story that needs to be told.

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