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The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,890 Ratings  ·  532 Reviews
"In a grand gesture of reclamation & remembrance, Mr Halberstam has brought the war back home."--NY Times
Halberstam's magisterial & thrilling The Best & the Brightest was a defining book about the Vietnam conflict. More than three decades later, he used his research & journalistic skills to shed light on another pivotal moment in our history: the Korean Wa
Hardcover, 733 pages
Published September 25th 2007 by Hyperion (NYC) (first published January 1st 2007)
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Dec 17, 2007 John rated it liked it
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
Mar 25, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
In this epic piece, David Halberstam offers a thorough analysis of the Korean War and its effects on America. As is laid out in the introduction, there is little written or produced about the conflict, overshadowed by both the Second World War and Vietnam, bookends of opposing sentiment on America's military capabilities. However, as Halberstam elucidates, this was more than military incursion across the 38th Parallel. It stood to represent much in an era of new ideas, emerging politics, and wan ...more
Jul 30, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
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
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it liked it
Shelves: korean-war
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
Erik Graff
Jan 10, 2016 Erik Graff rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: US/Korean citizens
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Another excellent book by Halberstam and, sadly, his last. Although giving an overview of the Korean War 0f 1950-53, most of the text concerns the first months of the war, the violent back-and-forth between communist and U.N. forces. Although some mention is made of politics of Korea, its two dictators and two armies, much more attention is paid the real actors, the militaries of the U.S.A. and of People's China. In the background, of course, is General Douglas MacArthur, locked in his losing st ...more
Robert French
Apr 23, 2016 Robert French rated it it was amazing
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War is the first book I have read by David Halberstam. I was surprised by how much the book resonated with me, perhaps because many of important political and military players would be part of my life as I grew up. I kept remembering all those names: Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, George Kennan, Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall, Syngman Rhee, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and many more. Perhaps I had particularly good social studies and his ...more
Dave Gaston
Oct 19, 2010 Dave Gaston rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history, war, asia
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
Oct 10, 2013 Jerome rated it it was amazing
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
May 03, 2013 Dave rated it it was ok
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
Horace Derwent
Jul 04, 2016 Horace Derwent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

today, again i read a brainwashing review and some retarded comments from some mindwarped morons, which were about this lamentable period of history

all the same, said that rhee syngman stirred this up, he who started the war and made this turmoil, said that it was in the name of justice that mau tsetung sent People's Volunteer Army to support (aw, just another dictator and butcher) kim ilsung to fight against American Imperialists' invasion

i told them to have fried rice with egg with the cro
Jul 29, 2012 Sweetwilliam rated it it was amazing
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
Lynn Spencer
Jul 03, 2016 Lynn Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
My husband and I listened to this on audio over a couple of car trips. Very interesting book about a time in history that I feel like I don't know enough about. In addition to giving good background about the diplomatic mess that led to the Korean War, the author also interviewed a number of people who were there and the stories of their experiences at the front were just harrowing. Fascinating to hear about, but hard to think about these folks living through them.

The book meanders a bit in the
Frank Theising
Apr 22, 2016 Frank Theising rated it really liked it
The Korean War is often referred to as “The Forgotten War.” The number of books and movies on the Korean War pales in comparison to those on WWII or Vietnam. The Coldest Winter, David Halberstam’s final book, seeks to help fill that void in the literature. While the book did not reveal any new revelations about the war, I found it a masterful portrayal of the geopolitical and domestic politics that shaped the conflict. While the author does cover a few of the key battles, this book is more about ...more
Sainath Sunil
Mar 23, 2016 Sainath Sunil rated it really liked it
This is the first book I have read on the forgotten korean war and it is a wonderful account of both what was happening in washington as well as tokyo. This book details the individual characters of the people at work which included Truman, Dean Acheson, George Keenan, Mc Arthur...some very defining names in very recent history.
Reading this book is important for a couple of reasons, first it offers a sneak peek into what happened in the korean war, how stalin egged on Kim Sr to invade South kor
Feb 26, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing
In a country where you have a democratic Republic much to the wisdom our Founding Fathers who created a system where the military was to remain under civilian rule, to be answerable to the citizenry, and Congress was given the task of declaring war and deciding whether or not to fund a war. Probably this one concept has kept us a free nation, for there are always in any society ideologues: politicians who believe all wars are simple and easily won, because we have industrial material might, and ...more
Apr 24, 2015 James rated it really liked it
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
Steven Peterson
Oct 01, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
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
May 09, 2015 Christopher rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 19, 2008 Tim rated it did not like it
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
Jan 09, 2014 Simon Wood rated it it was ok

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
Jan 28, 2008 Terry rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 01, 2012 Frederick Bingham rated it really liked it
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
Jul 05, 2016 patricia rated it it was amazing
Excellent history of the American entry into the Korean War, the forgotten war. The politics of the war from America's entry until the end. Egos made the decisions. Seldom good sense. Politicians and top army commanders vieing for glory and the soldiers used as their pawns. General MacArthur being the most egotistical of them all. In essence a political war for the glory of the top officers with little regard for the soldiers that had to fight. Lack of supplies including ammunition, proper cloth ...more
Nov 11, 2007 James rated it really liked it
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
Feb 01, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: korean-war
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
Feb 19, 2016 Leah rated it really liked it
I originally tried to read this and didn't like it. But I gave it another chance and really liked it. It is not really a general history of the Korean war, but is a good history of the first winter of the war. According to the author, the first winter was the most important of the entire conflict, as it set the scene for all of the players. After the first winter, the conflict settled into the stalemate that eventually ended it.

The author did a good job situating the Korean war in the context o
Lane Willson
Jun 10, 2016 Lane Willson rated it liked it
Each of history’s demons has a midwife, someone who knowingly or unwittingly delivers it in the time and place that allows the birth of chaos. Every age has plenty of demons, and an abundance of helpers lined up to offer them passage to the world’s stage. In The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, David Halberstam writes masterfully about the demons that created the Korean War and those that followed the stalemate on the 38th parallel. Halberstam does not flinch from showing us the dange ...more
May 29, 2016 Mleczny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Si la guerra de corea tuviera que ser recordada a partir de este libro, seguiría siendo una guerra olvidada. Al menos desde cualquier punto de vista que no fuera el del ejército y la política estadounidense.
Páginas y más páginas para describir el entramado político en Washington y su tensa relación con el cuartel general de MacArthur en Tokyo, pero el triángulo Stalin-Mao-Kim es ventilado en apenas un par de capítulos.
Es bastante meritorio escribir un libro de más de ochocientas páginas en los q
Paul Haspel
May 27, 2016 Paul Haspel rated it really liked it
Shelves: winter, korea
The cold of that winter became an enemy in itself, along with the Chinese and North Korean troops that American soldiers were fighting; and the testimony of U.S. servicemen bore out the brutal, punishing, unrelenting quality of that winter of 1950-51. A tanker from the 38th Tank Company, a veteran who survived the German World War II Ardennes winter offensive known as the Battle of the Bulge, recalled how “he had thought the German cold was the worst cold in the world, but Korea eventually was w ...more
Earl Grey Tea
Feb 19, 2016 Earl Grey Tea rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, korea
Of all the major 20th century conflicts that America was involved in, the Korean War was the war that I knew the least about. My knowledge of the war consisted of the following:

North Korea invaded South Korea and almost won. America and the UN stepped in and almost won. China got involved and almost won. President Truman and General MacArthur had a bit of tiff, and MacArthur got laid off. The war ended up being a stalemate for another two and half year before hostilities ceased.

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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
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“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.” 13 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.” 4 likes
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