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The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

4.2  ·  Rating details ·  5,728 Ratings  ·  627 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 pivot
ebook, 736 pages
Published September 25th 2007 by Hyperion (first published January 1st 2007)
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David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

Should you read any history of the Korean War it should be The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam. It was Halberstam's last book. Shortly after publication, Halbertsam was killed in an automobile accident April 23, 2007. He was on his way to interview a subject for his next book.

Lest the reader pick up this volume thinking it is a history of the compete Korean War, it is not. It is a masterful treatment
Dec 12, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war, nonfiction, korea
Halberstam's prose is workmanlike, but he still tells quite the story. The book benefits most from interviews with ordinary soldiers.
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dave Gaston
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: korean-war
This is a book about Heroes and Villains, which is how I prefer my military history served. I enjoyed reading of the criminal negligence of Generals MacArthur and Almond as much as I did about many, many individual acts of bravery by names now permanently etched. Few do heartbreaking as well as Halberstam.

There are weaknesses, to be sure. Halberstam is a writer in need of an editor, someone to tighten up the redundancies and to fix a syntax which is, well, gnarly. Sometimes there are little hint
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fabulous book. It was written in such a way that kept me engaged, and the author's passion for the story is contagious. So glad read it.
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

A great piece of investigative journalism, the book presents the testimony of ordinary people, as well as the American leaders and their opponents. David also focus on "the miscalculations" of both sides of the war. Interviewing war veterans adds nobility to those interviewed and to the purpose of the war: freedom.

Right, the "forgotten war"; not for those who fought it, as one of my friends wrote.*

But now, 2017, can History repeat? I mean, those MISCA
Erik Graff
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Horace Derwent
Jun 27, 2016 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
Robert French
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
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 19, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gave me chills.

I will be the first to admit that, like many Americans, the subject of Korean War is a little bit of a mystery to me, and this book is my first true foray into the topic, and I seriously doubt I can peel back the Korean War with a better book. David Halberstam was absolutely a master of the subject. He not only captured all of the dynamics of the war, but he did so without spinning long narratives that lead you down rabbit holes after rabbit holes.

Key figures like Truma
Steven Peterson
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sainath Sunil
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lynn Spencer
Jun 26, 2016 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
Dominic Wong
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply an epic book about American troops in the Korean War. A must read for anyone who wants to learn about the Korean War.
David Mccracken
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Masterful. A clear look at an often forgotten time in American history. He does a good job of showing how surprising it was for the US when China attacked and trapped MacArthur's army such a short time after the landing at Inchon and when the public was expecting a quick end to the war.

Halberstam is not afraid of taking sides and has the arguments and research to back it up. He is very sympathetic to Truman, to Eisenhower, to the military leadership in Washington, to the soldiers and low level c
Cathi Davis
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am recommending this book to everyone. I knew so little about the Korean War and with today’s events felt perhaps I should know more, now I do. Halberstam did his usual approach mixing the grand sweep of history with the mundane details of individual soldiers’ stories. It started very slowly, and I slogged through the first several chapters, reading only bits each day. (My own personal campaign, “what are you reading.” “Uh, well still stuck in Korea”. Which of course is a good metaphor, boy we ...more
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: korean-war
David Halberstam captured the essence of the Korean War in this book for people that weren't there. Mr. Halberstam was once good friends with a favorite author of mine before that author had stepped on a land mine in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive.

What I enjoyed about this book is how Mr. Halberstam made it a point to give credit where none was previously outwardly noted before. He begins this sort of "thanks" (if you will) for General Walton Walker but he also manages to do this for lower ra
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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.” 3 likes
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