Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War” as Want to Read:
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  4,246 ratings  ·  471 reviews
"In a grand gesture of reclamation and remembrance, Mr. Halberstam has brought the war back home."
--The New York Times David Halberstam's magisterial and thrilling The Best and the Brightest was the defining book about the Vietnam conflict. More than three decades later, Halberstam used his unrivaled research and formidable journalistic skills to shed light on another pivo
Hardcover, 719 pages
Published September 25th 2007 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Coldest Winter, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Coldest Winter

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenLone Survivor by Marcus LuttrellUnbroken by Laura HillenbrandFlags of Our Fathers by James D. Bradley
Best Non-fiction War Books
52nd out of 839 books — 1,083 voters
John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Best History Books
98th out of 1,626 books — 1,549 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Any book that fills the void of our knowledge concerning the Korean War is a welcome addition to any library. There are too few available and on that basis I would recommend this one. It is well written, easy to read and for the general public disgorges a wealth of information, although to some critics, nothing new and therefore disappointing.

Essentially, Halberstam launches a scathing and deserved attack on MacArthur and Gen. Ned Almond. From the very first sentence of Part 1, he blames MacArt
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War gets a 4 Star rating in the end. I so wanted it to be 5 Stars but could not get there. Halberstam is one of my most admired authors but I had some problems with this book. This book covers the lead up to the start of the Korean War, the geopolitical arena and the US domestic situation impacting the war. This book ends with the firing of MacArthur with a short postscript on the consequences of that action. First the good stuff.

Halberstam really stand
Although Halberstam’s insights are repetitive, the book is interesting and quite readable. He makes a lot of judgment calls that you may or may not agree with, but I found him pretty persuasive. And many of his insights into the motivations and objectives of all sides are penetrating and illuminating.

Halberstam provides an illuminating and insightful portrait of Douglas MacArthur, who doesn’t come off too well as the narrative progresses. MacArthur had an amazing capacity for deception and a hug
This is a must read. I liked it so much that I bought it twice. The 2nd time I purchased Coldest Winter was after I left my first copy on a plane on a flight returning from Brazil. Watch out as it is liable to make you angry, however. Why? First, how could the US give so much money and support to China’s Chiang Ki Shek and get so little in return when it was obvious he was an incompetent thief? The end result was to supply Red China with all the equipment that Chang’s forces surrendered which we ...more
Dave Gaston
For some time, “The Coldest Winter” sat cold on my shelf... winter after winter after winter. Sometimes a title will kill a good book. Finally by default, I was goaded into reading it. Like most middle-aged American’s, I knew next to nothing about the Korean War. Of course, Halberstam fixed all that. Thanks to his well told and well edited story, I now have a very good sense of this little, lost war. The Korean War is well worth our attention on several levels. It was the very first in a long, s ...more
I like the idea of David Halberstam more than his books. I liked the fact that a well-educated, erudite journalist with diverse interests lived in this world, writing big, messy, sprawling books about those interests, whether they be Vietnam, the Portland Trailblazers, or a single firehouse. Unfortunately, I've never really liked his books.

Halberstam is famous for his style, which really isn't a style at all. His writing has been called "workmanlike," which is to say it is skillful, but not tha
May 03, 2013 Dave rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Political Science people.
I picked up this book as the Korean War was something I'd never really taken the time to investigate, while my interest in history lay mainly in the Second World War and before that. I had seen on Goodreads that it had a great reputation, and came highly recommended, and I thought that it was a good introduction to the Korean War. I had never read any of Halberstam's other books, but that's not uncommon in non-fiction circles.

My main issue with the book was that it is a book of big things, of gr
Steven Peterson
This volume typifies the care with which the author develops his books. The start is the surprise appearance of Chinese troop at Unsam in October of 1950. Their vast numbers and surprise attack shredded American forces, which had advanced by then deep into North Korea. The discussion of the fighting is classic Halberstam, with a lot of veterans reporting their experiences here, with great detail to provide a sense of the confusion and chaos as the Chinese attacked. And, amazingly, General Dougla ...more
Amazing! Absolutely amazing!!! It is rare for me to be surprised by a book on 20th century American history. Just when I think I know everything about a subject, a book comes along and sweeps the rug right out from under my feet. This is due in large part to my ignorance of the Korean War itself and Halberstam's incredible synthesis of interviews, personal accounts, history, politics, and multiple biogrpahies from the lowliest corporeal to the President himself. The first few parts on the geopol ...more
I doubt I’ll finish this book. A lot of people seem to love Halberstam, and this book’s been much ballyhooed, but I’ve rarely enjoyed history written by journalists. This book reminds me why: it often reads like an extraordinarily drawn-out journalistic “lead” (730 pages!), it’s full of smarminess and jargon, action-packed soldier’s-eye perspective (i.e., the good guys), very little careful analysis or thoughtful reflection or genuine insight, and apparently little or no original research. I sup ...more
Simon Wood

I have a bad or good habit, judge as you will, of pretty much always finishing a book once I've started it. This was tested sorely to the limits with David Halberstams "The Coldest Winter" which I had borrowed from my local Library in the hope of filling in the ample gaps in my knowledge of the Korean War. Instead, within a few score pages, it became apparent that the book had immense and ultimately fatal problems. The fact that there are 650+ pages meant that my reading
If you're interested in the origins of the "Cold War," if you've never read anything about the Korean War, if you have little knowledge of the people who made the decisions that determined how the world got into the mess it's in in the latter half of the 20th Century you should probably read this book. It synthesizes much of what you would read in a whole bookshelf of political history. When North Korea's army crossed the 38th parallel in June 1950 the American Army that was supposed to be able ...more
Frederick Bingham
A lengthy and detailed history of the Korean War, told by a veteran war correspondent. It talks about all the players in the drama, MacArthur, Ridgway, Truman, Ned Almond (one of Macarthur's toadies), Mao, Kim Il Sung, etc. The author interviewed many Americans who had been troops on the ground and low-level commanders to see how they experienced various battles. The book includes a number of excellent maps, but, sadly, no photos. There are long descriptions of some of the most important battles ...more
Excellent book, I knew next to nothing about the Korean War and I picked this up at my local Habitat for Humanity and decided to rectify that situation. He expertly weaves the political backgrounds, the generals backgrounds, the strategic overviews, and the first hand accounts of the men on the ground into one flowing story. To understand the American politics behind the war he also presents the Russian, North Korean, and Chinese going ons as well. It is (as most books of this kind are) a sad re ...more
This was my very first Halberstam book, a thumping slab of a book that covers the Korean War. Halberstam is resolutely old school in his history. The book is an unabashed series of charcter studies and events that unfold across the conflict. In Halberstam`s telling the drivers were men seeking glory or men reacting to being put in dreadful situations. Wider economic and social trends are referred to but very much in terms of setting the stage for the various heroes, bad guys and collateral damea ...more
David Halberstam
The Coldest Winter

“The Coldest Winter” is a summary of the Korean war – the politics and people that took center stage in this conflict.

We see Douglas MacArthur at his most brilliant and his most hubris-filled moments.

We see China’s Mao flexing his muscles at the beginning of his long reign.

We see General Matthew Ridgway’s brilliant intervention in the terrible leadership vacuum plaguing the war.

But most heart-rending is the story of common soldiers who died heroically despite c

Books about war don’t always rise to the level of compelling literary narrative, often because they are wedded to the intricacies of how specific battles are won and lost on specific pieces of terrain.

There’s some of that in The Coldest Winter, but Halberstam masterfully uses the crises for U.S./UN forces in Korea to support and drive his narrative--illustrating the brutal horror and folly that made this war one of the worst America ever fought.

He switches perspectives artfully: Sometimes he quo
Halberstam is the consummate researcher. There are more facts in this book than in many encyclopedias. But don't let that scare you off reading it. There are so many aspects of this book that give it appeal to a wide range of people.

First let me give a synopsis. The book is about the first winter of the Korean War. The reason he only deals with six months of this war is that the rest of the conflict was not newsworthy. The first six months held all the surprises and contained all the real drama.
T Fool
No one captures the 50s as DH does. This time he's looped the immediate post-WWII years through the earliest period of the Korean War. Baby boomers are so suffused with moments Elvis ongoing that it's no wonder the Korean War period is 'forgotten'. Halberstam comes to us with a posthumously published reminder.

From the closely-detailed battle stories, harrowing and grim, slaughter attributable in no small measure to the complacent defensive strategy of the war's start, we see just how much desper
Zhifei Ge
As a Chinese, I think the book tells a story which I was told only partially in my education. The author's examination of the Korean war is very insightful and generally convincing. Overall, the book is worth reading.

Previously, I only knew China had volunteered joining the North Korea to defend against the US army. Now, I know North Korea initiated the civil war and then two big nations joined the war as policemen. North Korea fought well in the beginning and then UN army beat them back to alm

David Halberstam's last book (he was killed in a traffic accident shortly after completing it) focuses on the origins and the first few months (up to about the winter of 1951) of the Korean War. Although it has bit more purple prose than I could wish, I liked it. Kim Il Sunn, the North Korean leader installed by the Soviets when they occupied Korea north of the 38 parallel after the Second World War, seems to have been the person who initiated the war. Stalin, the Soviet dictator, went along wi

David Bales
I was deeply moved by this, the last book by David Halberstam before his untimely death in a car accident in 2007. Halberstam got the idea for a book on Korea while talking to officers who had served there when he was reporting from Vietnam in the early 1960s. Halberstam went to Vietnam in 1962 and ended up writing a book called "The Making of a Quagmire" in 1964 which proved prophetic. "The Coldest Winter" is about the terrible fighting in 1950 and 1951, after North Korea invaded South Korea an ...more
Scott Martin
This book focuses on the Korean War, specifically, the first year of conflict, when the Korean conflict underwent a great deal of momentum swings (North Korea's blistering offensive to MacArthur's great final success at Inchon, followed up by his greatest blunder of advancing on the Yalu and ignoring the overwhelming evidence of a Chinese offensive, the Chinese offensive and the American counter-offensive that eventually lead to 2+ years of stalemate before armistice). What is interesting about ...more
William Ramsay
This is a very good book, indeed. It's a history of the Korean War, but in the hands of a writer like Halberstam it becomes much more. It chronicles how domestic politics and influences can direct events in a way none of the participants can imagine. In 1948 Mao defeated the nationalist Chinese and took over China. At the time the Democrats had been in power for almost 20 years and the Republicans were desperate. They used the 'loss' of China as a wedge against the Truman administration. This wa ...more
I liked this book enough that the next book I read (On China by Henry Kissinger) was chosen to fill in some (large) gaps in my background knowledge. Halberstam maintains an excellent balance between the on the ground experiences of troops fighting and dying in the field and the geopolitical constraints on the upper level governmental figures from the US, to China, to the USSR. My only gripe (and it's minor) is the surprisingly jarring fast-forward from roughly spring '51 to the signing of the ar ...more
Nov 11, 2007 James rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history lovers
If you enjoy history well told you must read the last book by David Halberstam. Reading The Coldest Winter reminds me why I still remember reading The Best and the Brightest and The Powers That Be many years ago. As a writer Halberstam is superb and his latest, an excursion into the early years of the cold war, is more evidence of his skill. The story unfolds with careful attention to the details of the battles as well as incisive character sketches of the main players on each side. The internat ...more
Having just lived in Korea, and also because my Grandfather fought there, this book brought to life many aspects of the difficult fighting during the war in an interesting and engaging way. I would have loved a little less detail as to some of the individuals lives (for example, in the middle of a description of an important battle, Halberstam will take 3 pages to explain where a soldier came from and how he got to Korea, etc., etc.). In any case, it explains well the domestic political context ...more
Scott L.
A good balance of the military and political history of the first year of the Korean War. I originally wanted to read this book because my father (may he rest in peace) had fought in Korea; yet he never shared with us his story or any information about the war. After reading this book, I have a much greater understanding of what he and his fellow soldiers went through. Although the book skimps on the second and third years of the war; there is certainly enough here to assist in understanding wha ...more
Ethan Knox
May 29, 2015 Ethan Knox rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in Cold War politics
Recommended to Ethan by: Myself
I think the main problem with this book is that it needs a name change. It isn't directly about the Korean War; it's about the politics surrounding it.

I'll be honest, I quite this book somewhere in the 400-500s range. I was just so sick of how little it had to do with the actual conflict. Every time I thought it would get into the actual combat and major events in the war, it slid into another section on political background. Truman's election and presidency,Acheson, The Chinese Civil War, The
I have long appreciated Mr. Halberstam's writing. His approach to a topic combines the view from the bottom, as it were, and from the top. He does not write as an objective observer of evenst. His sympathies come through from the beginning. He is against arrogance, ego and self-importance. He admires loyalty and courage and the pluck of the middle brow, middle class, working class American. In his account of the Korean War, Mr. Halberstam directs withering criticism for MacArthur and his "boys". ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat
  • The Korean War (Pan Grand Strategy)
  • Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War
  • Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery (Bluejacket Books)
  • The Korean War: A History
  • The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today
  • The Coldest War: A Memoir of Korea
  • First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps
  • Street Without Joy
  • This Kind of War
  • Vietnam: A History
  • The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #2)
  • The Face of Battle
  • Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950
  • With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain
  • The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon 1950: The Battles That Saved South Korea--and the Marines--from Extinction
  • Feasting the Heart: Fifty-Two Commentaries for the Air
  • Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam
David Halberstam (April 10, 1934–April 23, 2007) was an American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author known for his early work on the Vietnam War and his later sports journalism.

Halberstam graduated from Harvard University with a degree in journalism in 1955 and started his career writing for the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Mississippi. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, writing for
More about David Halberstam...
The Best and the Brightest The Breaks of the Game Summer of '49 Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship

Share This Book

“Fear was the terrible secret of the battlefiled and could afflict the brave as well as the timid. Worse it was contagious, and could destroy a unit before a battle even began. Because of that, commanders were first and foremost in the fear suppression business.” 9 likes
“Fear was the terrible secret of the battlefield and could afflict the brave as well as the timid. Worse it was contagious, and could destroy a unit before a battle even began. Because of that, commanders were first and foremost in the fear suppression business.” 3 likes
More quotes…