This Kind of War is a monumental study of the conflict that began in June 1950. Successive generations of U.S. military officers have considered this book an indispensable part of their education. T. R. Fehrenbach's narrative brings to life the harrowing and bloody battles that were fought up and down the Korean Peninsula.
Partly drawn from official records, operations journals, and histories, it is based largely on the compelling personal narratives of the small-unit commanders and their troops. Unlike any other work on the Korean War, it provides a clear, panoramic view; sharp insight into the successes and failures of U.S. forces; and a riveting account of fierce clashes between U.N. troops and the North Korean and Chinese communist invaders.
The lessons that Colonel Fehrenbach identifies still resonate. Severe peacetime budget cuts after World War II left the U.S. military a shadow of its former self. The terrible lesson of Korea was that to send into action troops trained for nothing but "serving a hitch" in some quiet billet was an almost criminal act. Throwing these ill-trained and poorly equipped troops into the heat of battle resulted in the war's early routs. The United States was simply unprepared for war. As we enter a new century with Americans and North Koreans continuing to face each other across the 38th parallel, we would do well to remember the price we paid during the Korean War.
©2010 T.R. Fehrenbach (P)2010 Tantor
"The awful beauty of this book [is that] it cuts straight to the heart of all the political and military errors, and reveals the brave souls who have to bleed and die for mistakes made. A timely reissue of a military classic." (General Colin L. Powell)
This book, originally published in 1963 ,is THE classic by which other Korean War histories may be measured. The author was a battalion commander in Korea and had the connections to get outstanding personal interest stories of his living contemporaries. He provides an unbiased telling of a story that Americans may want to forget but he makes a clear differentiation between the American military of 1945 and that of 1950. He deals with problems of funding neglect by Congress and training shortfalls by leadership of the American military after World War II. Fehrenbach deals with the campaigns as one who has been there. His insight into the politics of coalition warfare is excellent. If you want to read ONE book about Korea, this is it. It has detail, insight and intrigue which were all a part of the time.
To be sure, Fehrenbach has written a novel that chronicles the Korean war in all of its tragedy, savagery and unlikely heroism. His narrative of each stage of the conflict, drawing on a multitude of resources, gives us an excellent view of the war's experience from private to general. The anecdotal accounts of individual soldiers highlight the helpless situations they often found themselves in, and convey a 'kicked-in-the-gut' kind of empathy for their plight. The historical background of Chinese and then Japanese occupation, and the latter's influence on culture at the time, give a much clearer understanding of the origins of savagery seen throughout the war.
What makes this book so difficult however, especially in audio format, is the dogmatic and redundant manner in which he states his polemic--the U.S. was not prepared militarily or psychologically for the war, and this was a result of the post WWII dismantling of the military. At least once, if not more, each chapter recapitulates said point, ad naseum. His frequent comparisons of Roman Legions and the army of the British Empire don't really fit, and fail to account for the cultural and historical context of each era. Had he not explicitly posited this main idea, the message would come through well enough from his accounts of the war. Around chapter 10 or 11, having to listen for the umpteenth time that American cultural attitudes and the Defense Department's poor planning and foresight left the military several weakened, I was driven back. I quit listening to it, checked out the book from the library, and finished, skipping over the aforementioned drivel.
It's worth listening too, however I would wear a helmet, as getting beaten over the head with the same point becomes pretty painful
I am a blind lawyer and aspiring writer, trying to read a little bit of everything but partial to sci-fi and military fiction.
Fifty years after its writing, this classic narrative history remains as relevant and effective as it ever was during the Cold War. As much a cautionary tale as a retelling of events, the author's account puts before the reader a stark dilemma whose spectre looms large at the dawn of the 21st Century.
With some wit, the author tells the tale of a nation tired of war, which cast aside any expectation of sending its soldiers overseas ever again and turned inward to domestic concerns. All the while, other players on the world stage continued to advance agendas contrary to American interests, maneuvering to exploit perceived weaknesses with a combination of diplomatic and ultimately military pressure. When the United States elected to commit to armed resistance of communist aggression, it found itself in possession of a military that had been allowed to materially and, for lack of a better word, spiritually decay in favor of those same domestic concerns, particularly egalitarian social reform among the ranks. The result was an army entirely incapable of meeting the enemy with any real hope of initial success or even survival. Troops that had not learned discipline until then, were forced to learn or die in a series of battles that will forever be remembered for their absolute waste. Even after avoiding utter disaster in the summer and fall of 1950, the United States continued to struggle with how it viewed this concept of limited war, having prided itself in victorious crusades, which it would gladly engage in again, but fearful of the prospect of total war in the nuclear age.
The lesson of this experience is that a democratic nation, though loathed to admit it, requires professional legions to fight and die in limited wars, for which the general populous hasn't the stomach, but which must be fought lest that populous fall to the myriad bad actors beyond the seas. The author in 1962 was principally, actually solely, concerned with communism, but this truth remains evident long after the Cold War's end. Those legions were raised of course, in the form of a professional, all volunteer military heavy in special forces, and highly trained technical personnel focused on joint and multilateral operations with allied nations, a subject covered admirably by Robert Kaplan. At a time when the army has announced plans to emphasize leaner less armor heavy units, and marines have trimmed back the number of companies in their tank battalions, one needn't try very hard to imagine a scenario alarmingly similar to Task Force Smith playing itself out once again on some not too distant day.
As for the book itself, the author masterfully interweaves several continuing stories that follow certain units through the thick of the fighting, all the while taking brief sojourns in Tokyo, Washington D.C. and New York to recount the deliberations of military and political leaders that plotted the course of the battles. Anyone interested in a big picture survey of the Korean War will find a great deal to chew on in this hefty work. The narration is very good, with an attempt to give character to quotes and liven up the author's humorous asides. As others have warned though, the author assembles his facts to tell a particular story, the outline of which he repeats frequently to make sure you get the point. If you are looking for a purely combat-driven or policy-oriented history, look elsewhere. One should also be mindful of the fact that as it was penned in 1962, this book predates modern conventions of political correctness and may ruffle the feathers of someone sensitive to such attitudes.
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The lesson of the Korean War
The lesson of the Korean War was that it happened. What surprises me is we let it happen again in Vietnam, and Iraq.
To not fight a war all out with the muscle and might of our great nation means more brushfire wars (police actions) will take place. Precious blood and treasure will be spent and nothing will be gained.
To read about the different battles for hill tops, and frozen reservoirs was riveting in detail. To read how backward we were just 55 years ago is a bit troubling. We didn't have good radio communication, ect.
To hear about the mountains of artillery shells we fired was a bit of a shock. How we sent tanks that were almost impossible to off load the transport ships, showed how going to war is very hard to plan.
If you buy this book it is a good history lesson, and you won't be disappointed if you buy it for the history and the storytelling will keep you entertained.
At last a truly comprehensive study of the Korean War; Fehrenbach has an understanding of how the most powerful military force in the world of a few short years before was so badly mauled and who exactly was at fault, he pulls no punches.
The arrogance and ultimate futility of 'Task Force Smith
Do not recall if I've listened to him before, his mispronouncing of some military terms was mildly annoying however, overall the performance was quite good.
However impractical... yes, and I made a noble attempt too.
Classics, history, historical fiction, marketing, Napoleonic stuff and of course 'Boys own Adventure'. This is my bent. Occasional self help as well.
Kevin Foley narrates this book superbly. The accents, style and even the period is captured the way I imagine it would of been. T. R. Fehrenbach has written and excellent study of this conflict both from the social political point of view as well as the soldier in the shell scrape. He is neither bogged down in strategy or emotional turmoil but does a neat balancing act between the two. I am not saying this is the perfect history, I don't know, I know little of this war but this book has open my mind to what happen, possibly why and how. The Americans are caught off guard and suffer due to relaxed attitudes amongst politician, public and the so called citizens army. They however are quick to learn, if they have the time. The North Koreans are quick and strong, but there blitzkrieg was not sustainable and this is where logistics win wars. The Chinese are excellent diplomats and soldiers but they do waste so much to achieve short term gains especially at the discussion tables.
A war of waste, heroism and stamina with no victory or heroes.
This book is good and great to listen to. I loved it and wonder why I took so long to listen to it, the length flew by and I was a little sad it finished. Funny, but the book sort of finishes as the war finishes, with very little fanfare and then suddenly you are back home with no real answers to what just happened.
I hope though that the world has learned the lessons of the Korean War and that the US never makes the same mistakes again.
I would like to read another book on the subject and if it was possible, from the other side, but I don't think it would be as good.
Timeless classic that is as relevent today as it was when it was written. Truly great insight of this often forgotten war.
The vivid detail.
I would, but I would qualifiy it with sttating that the author is making a political point of the narrative, and that, as a result, fast forwarding bits of the book might be advisable.
Also, the perspective is almost completely on the infantry. Tanks and aircraft are mentioned merely in passing as "Then the airforce napalmed the hills". This is IMHO because of the aforementioned political point which the author presses home ( to the point of sadonecrohippophilia), namely that the US by 1950 had grown weak, leftist and antimilitary and that as a result its soldiers were untrained and ill equipped.
All in all, it is not bad as a book on the flow of battle during the Korean war, but I would not recommend it as a first book on the subject.
The description of the Korean society and the legacy of the imperial japanes conquest and ockupation was the most interestiong as it laid the foundation for the politics of NK and RoK.
The least interesting was the lamentation of how the US had grown soft and leftist.
the book was kanid of bland and not so engaging. the descriptions of the battles did not make so much of an individual impression on me.
While my father was in this war he spoke little of it. All I knew of it was from watching MASH as a kid. I do believe that after listening to this I have a more than adequate knowledge of the subject.It was well balanced in the political views although the Party's of today would have little resemblance to then. I truly enjoyed.
This book is part history part personal story collection. Very well read and compiled, I would call it enjoyable but for the horific contents and details of one of the most bloody conflicts of our time.
I'd recommend we all know more about this war before making further decisions on North Korean and China in modern times.
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