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The Korean War

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,618 ratings  ·  127 reviews
It was the first war we could not win. At no other time since World War II have two superpowers met in battle. Now Max Hastings, preeminent military historian, takes us back to the bloody, bitter, struggle to restore South Korean independence after the Communist invasion of June 1950. Using personal accounts from interviews with more than 200 vets - including the Chinese - ...more
Paperback, 427 pages
Published January 7th 2000 by Pan Books (first published January 1st 1987)
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Christopher It depends on the reading level of your sister - but I would assume any 15 year old who is actively interested in reading about the Korean War is not…moreIt depends on the reading level of your sister - but I would assume any 15 year old who is actively interested in reading about the Korean War is not an average 15 year old.

While I wouldn't describe this as an academic text, it is far more in-depth than 'pop' histories. Mr Hastings attempts to place the war in context of the immediate post WW2 and there is equal emphasis placed on the tactical and strategic elements of the warfare along with considerable discussions of the situations in Japan (MacArthur's HQ) and Washington DC and less so of the sitches/reactions in the UN, London, Moscow and Beijing - in other words, if you're looking for a pure battlefield narrative, this isn't for you.

In terms of appropriate aka are there elements that might disturb a 15 year old, the answer is a resounding yes. There are a great many first hand accounts of the fighting and the men and they include descriptions of what would appear to be heartless violence (it is war) and virulent ... perhaps not racism but lack of respect for other cultures. There are also additional graphic descriptions of the brutal treatment of POWs and refugees.

To sum it up - personally, I certainly wouldn't ban a 15 year old from reading it - I'd in fact encourage people who want to have their 'eyes opened' to read it - but I'd warn you - the book plays rough.

Hope that was informative.(less)
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May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
In this readable,insightful, and well-written volume, Hastings aims to paint a “portrait” of the war and does not claim to provide anything resembling a comprehensive history, although in the end the book is a fine balance of both for the most part. The book is also mostly focused on military actions.

Hastings argues that China’s intervention in the war was, to a large degree, motivated by a sense of patriotism, rather than a reflexive pro-Communist ideology. The Americans had, of course, committ
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cheshire
Sir Max Hastings answered a fan message I left him on his website so I'm going to rate everything I read of his five stars. I don't care that he voted Tory in 2001. actually, the Pan Grand Strategy entry for "The Korean War" is a five-star book, too. they say a big war generates a book every decade, as global politics shift and values evolve. the way this pattern emerged for the 1950-1953 U.N. "police action" is also telling:

1967 T.R. Fehrenbach's "This Kind of War"
1987 Max Hastings "The Korean
I remember seeing this in bookshops when it was first published in the 80s. I thought about buying it at that time but decided I didn’t have enough of an interest in the subject. It’s quite topical now though…

This book provides the normal Max Hastings’ package - a very readable and well researched narrative of the political and military aspects of the conflict (with the emphasis on the latter) interspersed with personal testimony from veterans. What you also get with this author is a lot of outs
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
An excellent accounting of an overlooked conflict! The Korean War is one that I think many Americans tend to brush aside in favor of WWII or Vietnam, but this bloody war and those who fought within it deserve to be remembered and this book does an excellent job relaying the tales and bringing them to life.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An insightful and comprehensive guide to the Korean War. This book mixes close narratives of some key battles with the strategic viewpoint from HQ and the personal narratives of POW and civilians.
Urey Patrick
I have mixed emotions - Hastings is a superb historian and one I recommend. His wide view treatment of the Korean War is excellent. He lays out the political, military and ideological factors that led to the war and sustained it for the three years it ran, the inextricably interlaced influences of the leadership and decision making personalities, the tactics and strategic considerations - examined from the perspectives of both sides, the US, Britain, South Korea and the UN on one side and the So ...more
Kristi Thielen
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My father served in Korea from 1951 to 1953; he was a U.S. Marine and a mortarman. He fought in one of the battles at the Hook, was wounded and received a Purple Heart. Over the years, he related several isolated experiences to me, but we never talked about the war in general; the global and national political atmosphere in which it took place.

I have read several other books about the Korean War, but never felt those books helped me grasp the whole. This book did.

Hastings has a very thoughtful
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Annise
I freely admit that I probably wouldn’t have read ‘The Korean War’ if it hadn’t been lent to me. Moreover, it took me a little while to get into. I'm very glad to have given it a chance, though, and 80 pages in I was hooked. The Korean War is an often overlooked conflict; I knew practically nothing about it before reading this book. It is overshadowed by WWII on one side and Vietnam on the other, yet was of immense global significance. Hastings tells the story in a clear, readable, and informati ...more
Leonard Leow
Sir Max Hastings has written a very detailed narrative on the War in Korea. He has also provided readers with an excellent and concise coverage of the Korean war in its entirety. From the constant political debates ensuing from Washington, London and the UN, to the daily struggles of the life of a grunt in the front lines fighting and clinching on to his dear life. Everything is laid out in a way that is easily readable. This book also includes testimonies not only from the UN troops who fought ...more
Tariq Mahmood
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In Max Hastings, I have discovered a war-history master. It is the first history book on war genre which has managed to keep me engaged in the Korean conflict soon after the end of the Second Great War. I loved his style of juxtaposing very personal individual accounts, of ordinary soldiers with might generals. I was looking for a book which could explain South Korea's meteoritic economic rise and looks like I have made a great choice with this one. I found Hastings account to be very subjective ...more
Seems like Hastings could have been a bit more objective in regards to the American role instead of glorifying the British angle. However, I did like the commentary on the possible use of atomic weapons in Korea and Douglas MacArthur's role in that.
Nov 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
Classic study of the Korean War, takes you from the high level strategy to the unit level tactical actions. One of the best overviews of the entire conflict.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hastings once again provides a comprehensive overview of the entirety of the Korean War, with liberal use of firsthand accounts ranging from the ranks in the front line to the Korean citizens who had to somehow survive three years of conflict, living in the mountains with little to no support. A particular strength to Hasting's writing is his tenacious defence of the individual on the ground, particularly the Korean citizens, when it came to the political aims and doctrines of the opposing sides ...more
Dan Snyder
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoy Hastings' writing. This is a useful book at the moment (unfortunately). Perhaps the best perspective gleaned from this book is an outsider anglophone's view of post war America and their moral dilemma of inherited Empire maintenance. Because of who we are, our hearts just weren't in it. Fortunately, South Korea stands as an example of the accidental consequences of bourgeois clumsiness. Mostly happiness.

Rebecca Crunden
A very detailed, well researched look at the war.
Michael Havens
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Max Hastings book, ‘The Korean War’ is a book that surveys the Cold War conflict between the start of the Korean War on June 25th 1950 to the signing of the armistice on July 27th 1953 and to some of the after effects of the war years after. On the only stage where Cold War adversaries ever faced off each other directly in military conflict, I was quickly surprised at how much the text almost read like a study in contemporary issues. It seems that the mistakes, both tactical and political, not o ...more
Rob Kitchin
Feb 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Just five years after the end of the Second World War, the Korean War was the first of a set of ideological wars between the capitalist United States and her allies and communist states, which threatened to make the cold war with the Soviet Union a hot one. In The Korean War, Max Hastings sets out the historical context and lead-up to the war, its initial unfolding and the deployment of a United Nations forces, and its bloody progression up to the armistice in 1953. The book covers the wider gen ...more
Matthew Barlow
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book and a good look at a war that people often forget. Hastings does a remarkable job of addressing the issues surrounding US intervention in Korea and the similarities to the disaster of Vietnam twenty years later. As a British writer he manages to avoid displaying the US as a heroic nation, but instead shows it as the self serving nation that it so often is, and how this led to military defeat, or at least a failure to win.

Highly important is the divide between milita
Jim Mcclanahan
The only "comprehensive" history of the Korean conflict that I have read. Written in the 1980s by British historian Max Hastings, I initially was struck by the somewhat biased view he took regarding the western participants. While he acknowledged basic differences (esp. between Britain and the United States), he does not flinch from judging the British involvement as somewhat superior.

His recounting of events, heavy on anecdotal narratives, was mostly informative and insightful. His characteriza
Hunter McCleary
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Full of great hindsights. Among them, don't get in bed with an unpopular leader, such as Rhee (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq). Don't be led by a narcissist, such as MacArthur. [Lesson for today here, "folks?"] It seems the communists learned a lot from this war; and Americans successfully forgot everything. Amazing what the US does in the name of national defense; especially when it isn't.

36 In 1945 the US envoy to Korea recommended withdrawal and "self purification."
45 US fears were well founded
Nigel Seed
Feb 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Hastings writes well, there is no doubt and his research appears to be extensive. I do worry that there is a pro-British and rather an anti-American bias to this book which is unworthy of a writer of this calibre. He seems to dwell rather too heavily on poor performances by the US Army in particular and praises the British highly.

As an ex-British soldier I have a high opinion of the army I served in, but I also feel that others who carried the load in this nasty war deserve more credit.
establishment account of the conflict. candid to the extent it explains the political maneuvers and crimes of each side prior to the opening of hostilities, and noteworthy that, though the north is often thought to be the aggressor, text here suggests that there was plenty of water under the bridge by the time the north invaded.
Nigel Pinkus
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was quite a sad story but, vividly told and expertly written by Hastings. It would have to be THE reference for anyone researching or just wanting to know more about the Korean war. It totalled 476 pages in length with sections on the origins of the dating way back as far as the turn of the century with plenty of references to the Japanese and the march into Manchuria during the thirties. It showed, even in the 'early days' before WW2 that Korea was a very torn country indeed. It had the stor ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Enjoyed parts but not all of this book. I’m not a big fan of military history so I found the middle segment - lots of detail on air battles and military equipment - rather dull. The social and person-centred bits were much better.

This war happened before Vietnam, but had many of the same problems and features. Not much was learned by US.

Korea was under Japanese control until the end of ww2. Then it was transferred to US. Koreans were startled by the camaraderie between the Japanese and Ame
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is my second Max Hastings read. I chose this title for several reasons: we are leaving for Mongolia flying on Korean Airways and laying over in Seoul, I watched the 2018 Winter Olympics, the USA's handling of peace talks with Kim il Sung's grandson, Kim Jong-un, some discussions my father-in-law has recently shared with us about his service in Korea, and I think the Korean monument on the National Mall is my personal favorite--those soldiers seem so real, as if they are walking towards you. ...more
Mike Nesemann
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You can’t go wrong with Max Hastings – excellent stuff for whole spectrum of readers from casual to serious military historians. Although he does fall prey to some ethnic generalizations that cause one to wince now, he does outline the whole sad affair, starting with the rather last minute US decision to station troops there. And always has an eye for the details, e.g., the first official American team got to Seoul and, spotting a group of Europeans, hurried over to talk to them. Alas they were ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fbc-17
In the Foreword (published in 1987), Hastings notes that there's been remarkably little attention to the Korean War-- far less than World War I or II, certainly, but also significantly less than the apparently-similar Vietnam War. An interesting side effect of this (accurate) observation is that despite reading quite a bit about North Korea I don't know much about the Korean War.

This book's strength is also its weakness: it is unabashedly opinionated and incredibly British. Right away, Hastings
Forgot to mark this as 'read.' It was an interesting book, overall. The author does a nice job of looking at the global politics and not at just the war, so we get some of the reasons answering the 'why did this happen this way?' The author includes a lot of first-person accounts throughout the narrative, which also adds to the writing.

The book lays the groundwork of the early history of the Korean Peninsula, of how the Americans took over a proctorship [maybe it was protectorship] after the way
Johnny Malloy
Jun 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Max Hastings disclaims up front in this book that he is writing from a British perspective and for me it was almost an inescapable component of the narrative. Hastings is repeatedly concerned with how positively the British forces were perceived and likewise how negatively the American forces were perceived. This theme, repeated, was never really woven into a greater perspective or conclusion. And it diminished my perception of Hastings' objectivity.

The context of the Korean War is well develope
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I think I like the idea of military histories more than I enjoy reading them. Max Hastings is a great writer but I struggled to stay interested in the details of battle after battle, meeting after meeting.

The concluding chapters were fascinating, though. Hastings casts a critical eye on the Air Force - despite having total air superiority and running countless bombing campaigns they weren't able to disrupt the Korean/Chinese armies. Hastings also shrewdly notes the Air Force has to unquestionin
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Sir Max Hugh Macdonald Hastings, FRSL, FRHistS is a British journalist, editor, historian and author. His parents were Macdonald Hastings, a journalist and war correspondent, and Anne Scott-James, sometime editor of Harper's Bazaar.

Hastings was educated at Charterhouse School and University College, Oxford, which he left after a year.After leaving Oxford University, Max Hastings became a foreign c
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