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The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War | [David Halberstam]

The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

Up until now, the Korean War has been the black hole of modern American history. The Coldest Winter changes that. Halberstam gives us a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculations on both sides. He charts the disastrous path that led to the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu, and that caught Douglas MacArthur and his soldiers by surprise. He provides astonishingly vivid and nuanced portraits of all the major figures.
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Publisher's Summary

David Halberstam's magisterial and thrilling The Best and the Brightest was the defining book for the Vietnam War. More than three decades later, Halberstam used his unrivalled research and formidable journalistic skills to shed light on another dark corner in our history: the Korean War. The Coldest Winter is a successor to The Best and the Brightest, even though, in historical terms, it precedes it. Halberstam considered The Coldest Winter the best book he ever wrote, the culmination of 45 years of writing about America's postwar foreign policy.

Up until now, the Korean War has been the black hole of modern American history. The Coldest Winter changes that. Halberstam gives us a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculations on both sides. He charts the disastrous path that led to the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu, and that caught Douglas MacArthur and his soldiers by surprise. He provides astonishingly vivid and nuanced portraits of all the major figures: Eisenhower, Truman, Acheson, Kim, and Mao, and Generals MacArthur, Almond, and Ridgway. At the same time, Halberstam provides us with his trademark highly evocative narrative journalism, chronicling the crucial battles with reportage of the highest order.

At the heart of this audiobook are the individual stories of the soldiers on the front lines who were left to deal with the consequences of the dangerous misjudgments and competing agendas of powerful men. We meet them, follow them, and see some of the most dreadful battles in history through their eyes. As ever, Halberstam was concerned with the extraordinary courage and resolve of people asked to bear an extraordinary burden.

©2007 David Halberstam; (P)2007 Hyperion

What the Critics Say

"Stirring....In a grand gesture of reclamation and remembrance, Mr. Halberstam has brought the war back home." (The New York Times)
"Alive with the voices of the men who fought, Halberstam's telling is a virtuoso work of history." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Doug Columbus, NC, United States 10-02-07
    Doug Columbus, NC, United States 10-02-07 Member Since 2004

    Retired teacher of literature with an interest in religion and in science and in history. I have loved reading for 50 years.

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    "Almost as good as The Best and the Brightest"

    Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest has been judged to be one of the best books on Vietnam ever written, and he comes close to that standard with his Korean War book. Alternating between gripping battle scenes (based on interviews with particpants done by Halberstam) and analysis of the politics of the White House, of Congress, and of the military figures, the book races along like a fiction thriller. Here is Gen. Macarthur in all his billiance and in all his egotistical mania....the combination of which led to his downfall. Here is practical, common sense, stalwart Harry Truman....threading his way among generals who were out of touch with the ground forces, a Congress suddenly beguiled by Joe McCarthy's witch hunt, Joe Stalin, who wanted to cause the US some discomfort in Asia and who did not mind if the US caused his Chinese Communist allies some discomfort too, Mao Tse Tung, ready to show the imperialist West that its time in Asia was finished, Kim Il Sung, an over-confident war monger determined to unite Korea under his power, and an American public who saw this sad war as being the wrong war, at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

    The quality of the audio production is excellent. The narrator's voice is clear, his pacing is varied to suit the needs of the text, and his emphasis is well-placed.

    Thanks to Halberstam, Korea may no longer be "the forgotten war."

    47 of 49 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill san diego, CA, USA 10-25-07
    Bill san diego, CA, USA 10-25-07
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    "Great book, great reader"

    The Coldest Winter is one of the better war history books I've read or heard. The author, David Halberstam, certainly did his homework, and he tells a compelling story about the incredible bravery of the soldiers fighting the cold and the enemy, and dying because the stupidity of the senior command.
    Edward Herrmann is a great reader and makes the listen all the more enjoyable.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lewis Port Angeles, WA, USA 01-01-08
    Lewis Port Angeles, WA, USA 01-01-08
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    "More than Korean saga"

    "The Coldest Winter" shows how age can bring wisdom and perspective, and an excellent journalist can bring it out. The book may begin on June 25, 1950, but it winds its way back to the roots of the conflict and explains, finally, to me, how the Army could have been so stupid, so beguiled. MacAuthur is exposed -- again, if one saw Ken Burns' epic about WWII -- as an egocentric maniac surrounded by brainless "leaders" who cannot lead. Thank God for O.P. Smith, the Marine leader who refused to betray his men in a meglamaniac scheme to "race" to the Yalu. The book draws all the characters from each sector of the conflict -- Russian, Chinese, N. Korean, S. Korean, the U.S. and to some extent Japan -- into an intertwined story that shows the war from each perspective.

    The inclusion of so many first person stories makes the book come alive. Being in combat is not the same as being in Japan or Wash. D.C., hearing about it. Getting a sense of the conditions on the ground fleshed the story out well.

    The book is in no small part a "can't put it down" because the narration is incredible. The flawless pronunciation is accompanied by the emotion the moment demands, from the fawning, yawning acts of Almond to the overwhelming anger of Walker and Smith. The book just flows.

    The book is going to be a classic and may attract some attention to a forgotten war and the men who fought it.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    russell levittown, NY, United States 12-07-07
    russell levittown, NY, United States 12-07-07 Member Since 2007
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    "The Coldest Winter"

    finally the men of this war got the nod that they deserve. The writer of this book did the men of this war the justice they deserve. I did not want this book to ever come to an end, because you can feel yourself inside these battles. The way the writer describes them. I found myself crying at times, and angry many other times at the way the generals in the beginning of the war was stupid and arrogant and more general MacArthur, that it was a disgrace that they let this man have all these poor men because of his arrogance and stupidity they are dead today. My father served in the Korean War, and never spoke of it. And now I understand why, after listening to this book. The narrator is excellent. I recommend this book highly to time flies listening to it

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Phoenix, AZ, USA 03-29-08
    Gary Phoenix, AZ, USA 03-29-08
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    "The Coldest Winter"

    This is an excellent account of the Forgotten War, juxtaposing the valor and sacrifice of individuals in combat against the incompetence of their civilian and military leaders. Its themes remain sadly topical more than a half-century after the events.

    I cannot recommend the audio version of the book, however. First, the abridgement is poorly done. Halberstam chose to begin the book with the first encounter between UN and Chinese troops, at Unsan in October, 1950; this important chapter is omitted in the abridgement, however. Later, when the narrative proceeds chronologically from the beginning of the War in June, 1950 but assumes the reader is familiar with Unsan, the audio listener is left at a loss.

    The second problem with the audio presentation is the lack of maps, twenty-five of which are provided in the physical book. This makes it difficult to grasp fully the audio narrative.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D Merrimon Arvada, CO, USA 02-21-08
    D Merrimon Arvada, CO, USA 02-21-08
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    "Fascinating views!"

    This book offers an incredible look at the political reasons for the Korea War, and shows how misunderstandings by our leaders and those of Russia, China and North Korea caused it. It has fewer foxhole stories than some of Stephen Ambrose's WW2 books but gives very enlightening views of the games played by politicians and the military commanders. I'm also reading a book about New Guinea in WW2 and between these two books, General Douglas MacArthur is definitely not presented as a very good commander. "The Coldest Winter" shows that had a huge ego and made serious mistakes. An awesome book!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Clearwater, FL, United States 08-29-12
    S. Clearwater, FL, United States 08-29-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Excellent -"

    Halberstam at his best - this is a fantastic book, on an important subject, performed by a great narrator, and worth every minute..

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John MENLO PARK, CA, United States 05-06-10
    John MENLO PARK, CA, United States 05-06-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Filled a Gap"

    I think my favorite thing about this book was how it filled in a huge gap in my knowledge of American history. I knew the broad strokes of the conflict, but this book really helped me understand some of the nuances and decisions, as well as the personalities.
    A good solid use of the credits.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Smith New Orleans, LA USA 10-22-09
    R. Smith New Orleans, LA USA 10-22-09 Member Since 2004
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    "Excellent!"

    "The Coldest Winter" is one of David Halberstam's most interesting and important books.

    The Korean War was a brutal affair, one that deserves more attention in our history books. United Nations troops entered that conflict poorly prepared and directed by leaders with agendas of their own. Fought to a bloody stalemate, that conflict should have taught lessons unlearned to this day.

    Mr. Halberstam clearly narrates the events of the war while vividly weaving in the stories of the men who caused the war and of those who fought the battles. Geopolitical issues, military tactics and the human side of war are superbly covered.

    The narrator, Edward Herrmann, is tops, one of the best readers of audio books.

    "The Coldest Winter" is riveting and thought provoking. I heartily recommend it!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Boston, MA, United States 10-21-08
    Jim Boston, MA, United States 10-21-08 Member Since 2007
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    "A wonderful book well read"

    I'm not particularly interested in war histories, but I purchased this audio book because my father was in the war and I know nothing about why we fought there. This is a clear and compelling story that explains both the politics and the ramifications for individual soldiers. A must read (or listen) for anyone wanting a primer on the Korean War told from the perspective of those who lived (or died) through it. Excellent!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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