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This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,881 ratings  ·  152 reviews
Updated with maps, photographs, and battlefield diagrams, this special fiftieth anniversary edition of the classic history of the Korean War is a dramatic and hard-hitting account of the conflict written from the perspective of those who fought it. Partly drawn from official records, operations journals, and histories, it is based largely on the compelling personal narrati ...more
Paperback, 50th Anniversary Edition, 540 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Potomac Books (first published 1963)
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4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,881 ratings  ·  152 reviews

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Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone with a general interest in military history or the Korean War.
Recommended to Checkman by: An instructor at Fort Knox in 1991.
T.R. Fehrenbach served in the Korean War as an officer in the U.S. Army. His experiences shaped this book. This Kind Of War is an account of the military aspects of the Korean War (1950-1953) with a fair amount of social commentary to go along with it. Fehrenbach addresses the conflict in American society between the social liberalism that the civilian world values and the more Spartan, totalitarian world that the military prefers. Fehrenbach comes down on the side of the military, but he makes ...more
Bryan  Jones
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
As a former Army officer, I have read many military history books; and I assert that "This Kind of War" is the best military history book I have ever read. As a retired Army officer and Korean War veteran writing approximately 10 - 15 years after the conflict, Fehrenbach does a masterful job in his account. He seamlessly is able to provide an comprehensive account of the conflict across the tactical, operational, and strategic spheres. He recounts the plight of the frozen foot soldier and marine ...more
Nov 18, 2008 rated it liked it

T.R. Fehrenbach's "This Kind of War" is more of a "U.S. Army" history of the Korean War. It is long on tactical/operational detail, placing less stress on politics, diplomacy and grand strategy surrounding the war.

Ferhenbach has an ax to grind, but it is strictly professional. He despairs over the state of the army at the start of the war, unprepared, under-equipped and under-trained, then analyzes and chronicles how the force hardened after being bloodied. The author accepts reality, albeit wi
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it
T.R. Fehrenbach, who died just two years ago, was an American historian and journalist who served in the Korean War and published this history of that war in 1963. It is an interesting work that provides an historical overview of the conflict. The 50th anniversary edition includes very helpful maps without which a reader unfamiliar with events might easily be lost. The period covered is from 1950-1953, from the initial attacks from northern Korea into the south until the ceasefire and armistice. ...more
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hookah
times change and so do our expectations and language. there's some 1920s era world history free ebook floating around, and although the work is completely readable, the modern reader is somewhat shocked to see written without any sense of irony

the Negro should blame himself for his plight, for nations must organize themselves first...

as if, of course, Africans or African-Americans are one person, 'the Negro...'

T.R. Fehrenbach wrote his classic 1961 Korean War history just before the 60s sexual a
Lucas Mackey
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wish I knew all this sooner.

I knew very little about the Korean War. I've studied both World Wars, Vietnam, and the Cold War in general, but Korea hardly ever comes up. I never realized how strong an effect Korea had on American policy until now. If you are interested in Foreign policy and the Cold War, I highly recommend learning about this chapter in history (if not from Fehrenbach, then from somewhere).

The writing itself is somewhat heavy on military details and will likely be difficult for s
Soap box: Fehrenbach is a huge fan of General McArthur and is cutting him all kinds of slack for his decisions which cost UN soldiers lives and suffering and prolonged the war. He's even made statements about how it's Truman's fault for not giving McArthur clearer instructions! I'm all but pulling my hair out, I'm so frustrated with this one-sided history. Do I finish the book? It's hard for me to deliberately not finish a book, and this is almost like a train wreck... where you close your eyes ...more
May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
There's lots of sentimental bullshit about lions and legions and stoic defense of the frontiers and the necessity of harsh, just, professional men to do unspeakable things in the service of polite, gentle folk, which is unfortunate because on balance it's a good book. This stuff is partially redeemed by truly incisive analysis of the war effort and a ground-level perspective. Fehrenbach frequently summarizes entire operations not by a bloodless, detached narration of bold arrows moving over topo ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Great book about the Korean War. I read this book because while in the Marines one of my commanding officers gave me an copy of chapter 25, entitled, Proud Legions. That chapter is still my favorite in the book because it talks about the valor and fighting ability of the Marine Corps compared to other fighting units.

The thing that I enjoyed the most about the book is that it taught me a lot about the Korean war. I drew a lot of parallels between the war in Iraq and the Korean war. If you read t
Art Redding
Difficult conflict, difficult book

If my Dad had not fought in this war, I don’t think I would have finished reading this book. The major shortcoming was that no maps were included.
Jim Doyle
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Appears daunting when first picked up off the shelf, but the author does a good job of keeping the historical narrative flowing. My primary criticism of the book is that it does not include helpful visual aids like battle maps, etc. While there is a source packet at the beginning of the book containing various maps as referenced throughout the writing, I did not find them very helpful or detailed. However, the amount of content covered in this book (Korean war, start to finish) certainly require ...more
Christopher Pokorny
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mad Dog Mattis recommended this in light of the Korean missile testing. Fehrenbach takes an objective look at the Korean War identifying helpful lessons learned to improve readiness of the American forces in future conflicts.
Mac McCormick III
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
This Kind of War: The Classic Military History of the Korean War (Kindle Edition) is a very interesting read. Written just 10 years after the armistice that brought an end to the fighting of the Korean War, it is a look at the war unfiltered through the lens of the remainder of the Cold War. It isn't just a military history of the war either, Fehrenbach also looks at the politics of the Korean War - both US domestic politics and between the US, its allies, and Communist countries. I like how he ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We are reminded by present events that the border between the Koreas has not moved in 65 years since the signing of the Korean War truce. But, there is much to write about. This forgotten war was one of the bloodiest in US history. Although it lasted barely three years, the rate of Americans killed in military service was 45 per day –- over four times that of Vietnam.

I was aware of the Korean War then, but too young to understand its underpinnings. Now, I was looking for a book that covered all
Mar 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I didn't know much about the Korean War before reading this book. Written a decade after the armistice, it offered not only details of the battles, but also the effect the end of WWII had on American public opinion toward war (particularly limited action) and the size and training of the standing military, as well as the politics of containment that directed decisions affecting action in the field. The book, written in 1963, has a definite point of view that "soft, liberal" American society got ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I have found that books detailing the Korean War are the hardest to find amongst the major American wars. There seems to have been many books written about certain elements of the war, but not many that give a straight-forward account from beginning to end. I’m a bit surprised that this one remained off my radar for so long. Especially since it was written back in 1962. Maybe I couldn’t find it because it wasn’t available in e-format? Regardless, I loved this book yet felt a bit gypped that it ...more
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fehrenbach does not technically write a history of the Korean war, although his book is historically accurate. Rather, through following the actions of numerous small units, he creates a gripping story of the war as seen by the man on the ground and uses those snapshots to lead the reader from the initial invasion to Busan, to Panmunjom, and on through the peace talks. What sets This Kind of War apart is the social and political commentary that Fehrenbach regularly engages in. By keeping the rea ...more
D. Krauss
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you want to know what happened during the Korean War, this is the book you should read. Yes, yes, there are more recent ones with probably better access to newly declassified records but Fehrenbach’s is more contemporary, written in 1962, when the memories, the nightmares, were fresher. And it is nightmare reading. My God, what the troops, on both sides, went through. What the South Korean people went through. It’s like Mordor. All because, a mere five years after winning WW2, America was gon ...more
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's what they didn't teach us

As a child of the 60s, you would think that I would have learned about the Korean War in school. It wasn't that long ago and the lessons would have been very useful, especially in light of the wars to come afterwards. Sadly, it wasn't. I really liked this book. It seemed to present a balanced view of the events. It also didn't hold back when talking about the dying and maiming that took place. I could go on about the waste of lives that comes from war, but this is a
Mike Kershaw
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Subtitled ‘A Study in Unpreparedness’. Fehrenbach has a point to make about how the once most powerful Army in the world was brought literally to its knees by first the North Koreans and then the Chinese Communists and how it rose to the occasion each time. It is, deservedly, the classic book of the Korean War and widely read for good reasons. Fehrenbach combines an easy writing style, almost Cornelius Ryan-like and focused analysis on the war at its lowest level. Almost every officer who goes t ...more
Feb 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Kind of War is powerful, insightful, and all too prophetic in its account of Western idealism. Very few books have moved me, challenged my political beliefs, and shaken my foundations in the way that this one has. Not for everyone, I would recommend this book to those who question the role of the military in modern society, and those who believe that wars should be fought to win. This Kind of War challenges the lay person's perspective upon armed conflict, as well as those espoused by liber ...more
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Now I think I know why they call Korea the forgotten war.

This Kind of War showed flashes of brilliance in its insightful commentary and and uncannily accurate predictions. Unfortunately much of Fehrenbach's conclusions were redundant and his accounts of events of the war itself often lacked the detail that makes military history so fascinating.
Jan 04, 2009 added it
The first US "police action" war where we made the error of mistaking a regional conflict for the grand struggle with world communism. Supported a corrupt regime, thought air power and technological superiority would win it, and underestimated our enemy. Sound like Vietnam?
Jun 29, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was enticed by Collin Powell's words. Unfortunately, the book was written in 1962. There wasn't anything really new here, for me. The BIGGEST problem was the poor editing. Grammer/spelling issues at a rate of 3 to 4 per paragraph made understanding very difficult.
I have many thoughts about this book but as always, here's the situation that led to me reading it.  This Kind of War is another book from the Army Chief of Staff's reading list.  It has also been recommended by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis as a must-read.

Secretary Mattis is known, colloquially, as the Warrior Monk due to his dedication to his craft and his knowledge and understanding of making war.  He is known to be a voracious reader and believes that all leaders should be reading.  From T
Bill FromPA
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A history of the Korean War almost exclusively from a US military perspective, touching on US Government actions only in so far as they affected military operations. Within that limitation, the book is epic in scope and tells its story both from a high level and ground level perspective. I picked this up because I knew practically nothing about the Korean War (or police action, as it was originally classified); having finished it, I now know a great deal about the conflict.

The war had four phase
Anthony Meaney
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read a lot of military history but never anything about the Korean War. I was familiar with the broad stroke events of the war but really it was a blank slate for me.

This is somewhat unusual since this was the war my father served in.

When I was a boy I always felt a tinge of disappointment that he hadn't seen battle on the Korean peninsula (he was stationed in Japan for the entire time). However, having read the accounts of the battles in this book I am grateful that he didn't set foot the
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fehernbach has written an outstanding history that covers the strategy and tactics of the Korean conflict as well as the politics. He puts equal emphasis on the human side with accounts relating the experiences of the infantry troops. It makes the reader fully aware that an infantry man in the midst of a battle is faced with mud, cold, confusion, pain and the imminent likelihood of painful death. There is no inspiring music and heroic scripted dialogue as we see it on the screen.

At the end of WW
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
"They were learning, in the hardest school there was, that it is a soldier's lot to suffer and that his destiny may be to die. They were learning something they had not been told: that in this world are tigers...

No American may sneer at them, or at what they did. What happened to them might have happened to any American in the summer of 1950. For they represented exactly the kind of pampered, undisciplined, egalitarian army their society had long desired and had at last achieved.

They had been
One of my new favorites.

Fehrenbach has a true talent in unfolding the history of the Korean War, how contemptuously unprepared the US military was, how political divisions and fears led to unnecessary restrictions and indecision on clearly obvious dilemmas, and the clear link between military and political objectives and the need for a unified effort between the two.

He shows how this "conflict" changed the face of the world, from the rise of China as a world power on the international stage, how
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Theodore Reed Fehrenbach, Jr. was an American historian, columnist, and the former head of the Texas Historical Commission (1987-1991). He graduated from Princeton University in 1947, and had published more than twenty books, including the best seller Lone Star: A History of Texas and Texans and This Kind of War, about the Korean War.

Although he served as a U.S. Army officer during the Korean War,
“Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life—but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.” 4 likes
“A nation that does not prepare for all the forms of war should then renounce the use of war in national policy. A people that does not prepare to fight should then be morally prepared to surrender. To fail to prepare soldiers and citizens for limited, bloody ground action, and then to engage in it, is folly verging on the criminal.” 3 likes
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