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The Korean War | [Max Hastings]

The Korean War

It was the first war we could not win. At no other time since World War II have two superpowers met in battle. Max Hastings, preeminent military historian, takes us back to the bloody, bitter struggle to restore South Korean independence after the Communist invasion of June 1950.
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Publisher's Summary

It was the first war we could not win. At no other time since World War II have two superpowers met in battle. Max Hastings, preeminent military historian, takes us back to the bloody, bitter struggle to restore South Korean independence after the Communist invasion of June 1950.

Using personal accounts from interviews with more than 200 vets, including the Chinese, Hastings follows real officers and soldiers through the battles. He brilliantly captures the Cold War crisis at home, the strategies and politics of Truman, Acheson, Marshall, MacArthur, Ridgway, and Bradley, and shows what we should have learned in the war that was the prelude to Vietnam.

©1987 Roma Data; (P)1997 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"Must reading for any American who wants to understand one of the watershed events of the post-World War II period." (Richard M. Nixon)
"Rings true and will surely stand the test of time....Max Hastings has no peer as a writer of battlefield history." (Stephen E. Ambrose)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (91 )
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4.3 (39 )
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4.2 (38 )
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  •  
    David West Newton, MA, USA 11-17-06
    David West Newton, MA, USA 11-17-06 Member Since 2004
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    "Well worth it"

    I have read a great deal of military history over the years, but despite the fact that my father fought for a year in Korea, I knew little of the overall situation.
    The author does a very nice job - well paced - of moving thru the three years of the war (aka conflict). Near the end there are good detailed parts dealing with prisoners for example.
    A very effective summary of a miserable conflict from all parties perspectives.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Ewing Clayton, CA, United States 08-06-07
    David Ewing Clayton, CA, United States 08-06-07 Member Since 2005
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    "Inspiring and Hard Hitting"

    I begin listening to this book while on the plane from California to Seoul on my first trip to the Land of the Morning Calm. The book gave me such a detailed overview of the entire war that I was able to discuss the events with locals and feel like an informed person.

    Without question, The Korean War defines South Korea to this day and Max Hastings work will give you a clear and objective picture – from the view point of both America and China. (In the forward Hastings points out that while objective data and interviews with Americans and Chinese are possible, such an exercise with the North Koreas would be a waste of time.) The scenes he depicts are vivid and graphic without being sensational. The opening firefight between Task Force Smith and the North Korean regulars was particularly gut wrenching. There are some phrases he uses to describe later events that haunt me a bit, yet I believe Hastings did this for clarity. One of the darkest chapters – the story of the POWs during the war - also contains some moments of extreme levity when Hastings describes the pranks GI’s pulled on their captors. Some of them had me laughing out loud.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about South Korea, and a large, yet nearly forgotten war and the heroes who sacrificed their lives in a noble struggle.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Morton Northville, MI, USA 03-05-08
    Morton Northville, MI, USA 03-05-08 Member Since 2001
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    "British view of the war"

    I selected this book because I wanted to know more about the Korean War. I found the book to be well written and informative but I think the synopsis should warn us that this is, essentially, the British view of the war.

    As an ex-pat Briton myself, I was looking forward to the story of the American involvement and was disappointed with how often British opinon and tales had been substituted instead.

    --Morton

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 05-15-08
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 05-15-08 Member Since 2004

    Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.

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    "Fantastic - Good Balance!"

    I really loved this book! The author did a great job of being balanced in his presentation, not from the political side, but in giving just the right amount of detail, but not too much to overwhelm you.

    Before reading this, I only knew that the two Koreas had a "civil" war in the 50's. I had no idea of what precipated this or how the war progressed.

    This book really filled in the blanks for me and was a real pleasure to read.

    Well done!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Fred Smith Plano, Texas 08-18-11
    Charles Fred Smith Plano, Texas 08-18-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Not Hasting's Best"

    I have been impressed with the detail yet readability of historian Sir Max Hasting's work. His writing of 20th Century military history has been superb. I am teaching a college course on the Korean War and have reread both Fehrenbach (This Kind of War) and Halberstam (The Coldest Winter) as well as Hastings (The Korean War). This time I used my Audible unabridged versions of all three books.

    Hasting's book relies heavily on personal stories presented earlier by Fehrenbach (who was in the Korean War) and presents little research or new material except more detail on some of the British units involved. His book is basically a critique of how the Brits (Hastings) would have run the war and what was wrong with all things American in Korea. The narrator sounds like a condescending British Seargeant Major reading to the members of the club. The book contains several errors, small points to be sure, but is not up to the work standards that the fine historian Sir Max Hastings normally upholds. Both Fehrenbach and Halberstam are better choices for both content and reading enjoyment.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    michael park city, UT, United States 09-05-10
    michael park city, UT, United States 09-05-10
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    "Satisfactory read, abominible READER"

    Fred has the narrowest voice characterization of any author I have ever heard. ALL of his American voices sound like a farcical British sketch show parody of a stereotypical "Yankee" politician and presidents and journalists and generals are all furnished with precisely the same obnoxious accent. His Korean-accented English speakers are no better.

    It is interesting to learn about the quite substantial British and Commonwealth contribution to this war. It would be nice if the book was LONGER and went into more detail.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chi-Hung Riverside, CA, USA 11-18-09
    Chi-Hung Riverside, CA, USA 11-18-09 Member Since 2007
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    "An almost even handed account."

    It is very difficult to provide even handed and culturally sensitive account to Korean war, I think Hasting did an admirable job, the narrative has clarity, but I think if the book was shorter, the book would have been more compelling. The narrator is very good, he definitely enhanced the experience with mimmicking accents. Recommended for undergraduates level.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Blake Annapolis, MD, United States 07-12-09
    Blake Annapolis, MD, United States 07-12-09 Member Since 2007
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    "Excellent overview of the Korean War"

    The author provides a thorough account of the Korean War both on the battlefield and the political fronts. It's a great overview of the miscues and successes of the war and has great insight into the leadership and personalities that provoked and served this conflict. The author provides plenty of personal recollections of men who served on both sides of the conflict.
    The narration is the weakest element, read with an over-the-top English high brow diffidence. The numerous audio edits don't match the audio quality of the material around it which can be distracting. However, don't allow the audio to take away from the rich history of the conflict to shine through.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cliff J Rochester, MN 09-06-08
    Cliff J Rochester, MN 09-06-08 Member Since 2003
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    "Forgotten WAR, One Seed of Vietnam"

    Massive detail that explains the haunting nature Of the Korean War Monument in Washington, DC. The reason I picked up this book was to familiarize myself with a gap in my recent political history. By saying political history, I mean a transition point that moved The Government of the United States from International Participant in world affairs to its current role (rightly or wrongly perceived) as international peacekeeper in world politics.

    There are many details about General Douglas MacArthur that biographers of the man have paid greater attention to but are here used to indicate the transition between WWII thinking and the concept of "Limited War" (an idea he never appreciated).

    Even though this book is written from a British perspective, it amply points out the Eastern versus Western social sensitivities. War is war, but the reasons for war and the method by which war is undertaken, sustained and justified very with the culture. If the fear of China was to be surrounded by US political outposts (Japan, Taiwan, a unified Korea and Vietnam), the political fear of Western nations was that Korea represented a "Creeping Red Menace". Much has changed, but history is history and the precursor events of the modern world continue to resonate in the attitudes reflected in current events. From the attitude that Korea would be a "pushover war", to the current condition of stalemate and desire for reconciliation, Korea (North and South) continues to be an active shaper of history whose history needs to be appreciated to validate its relevance.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kbreezy Twin Cities, MN 02-20-14
    kbreezy Twin Cities, MN 02-20-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Listenable but somewhat lacking"

    This is a decent single volume on the Korean War, though Hastings' style is a little less to my liking than some of his contemporaries. He tends towards the Stephen Ambrose "history by soldierly anecdote" method of storytelling than the John Keegan "clinical 50,000-foot view" method. But that's just a matter of preference.

    I've read one of Hastings' World War II books (Armageddon), and since I was much more familiar with that conflict I didn't notice one aspect of his writing: in some instances Hastings presupposes a knowledge of the topic prior to the reader coming to the book. That aspect comes out listening to this audiobook. If you're marginally familiar with the Korean War prior to this book, it will fill in some details nicely, but if you're looking for a one-volume introduction, there may be better alternatives.

    Lastly, Davidson's vocal characterizations seem out of place for a serious history book. If this were a novelization of the Korean War, speaking quotes from the Koreans and Chinese in bad, stereotypical Asian accents might be marginally less jarring. I'd prefer a narrator who read clearly and dispassionately. Save the drama for the Sharpe's Rifles narrations, please.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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