Terry's Reviews > The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam
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's review
Jan 28, 2008

it was amazing
Read in January, 2008

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 to defend the country was as unprepared as any this nation had ever fielded. The U.S. troops in occupied Japan were poorly trained and equipped with worn out, out of date weapons from WWII. They were poorly led as well by officers who expected little from them and went along at least nominally, with the notion, promulgated by civilian authorities who drastically cut military budgets, that soldiers were nearly unnecessary in a a world of nuclear weapons. The reality of how wrong that notion was, that presented itself in the horrible, cold winter of 1950-51 on the Korean peninsula, had repercussions that we still live with today. Douglas MacArthur's reputation as a "great" military leader has been under scrutiny for several decades. This book does him no favors. However, it like other studies of the man, make us question the judgement of leaders who had the ability to remove him but continued to keep him in place and the system that let it all happen. David Halberstam will be missed in the future; he pulled together the essentials of whatever he was writing about whether it was Rock n'Roll or War. He wasn't afraid to state an opinion nor did he neglect to defend it with facts.
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