The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War
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"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 pivotal moment in our history: the Korean War. Halberstam considered The Coldest Winter his most accomplished work, the culmination of forty-five years of writing about America's postwar foreign policy.
Halberstam gives us a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculations on both sides. He charts the disastrous path that led to the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu River and that caught Douglas MacArthur and his soldiers by surprise. He provides astonishingly vivid and nuanced portraits of all the major figures-Eisenhower, Truman, Acheson, Kim, and Mao, and Generals MacArthur, Almond, and Ridgway. At the same time, Halberstam provides us with his trademark highly evocative narrative journalism, chronicling the crucial battles with reportage of the highest order. As ever, Halberstam was concerned with the extraordinary courage and resolve of people asked to bear an extraordinary burden.
The Coldest Winter is contemporary history in its most literary and luminescent form, providing crucial perspective on every war America has been involved in since. It is a book that Halberstam first decided to write more than thirty years ago and that took him nearly ten years to complete. It stands as a lasting testament to one of the greatest journalists and historians of our time, and to the fighting men whose heroism it chronicles.
military history has shortchanged any of this country’s wars in the past century, it is Korea, and if any aspect of that war has been overlooked, it is the series of smaller battles fought along the Naktong in July, August, and September 1950, and if any one commander has not been given the credit he deserves, it is surely Walton Walker in those battles. “He was,” his pilot Mike Lynch once said, “the forgotten commander of the forgotten war.” If the Korean War itself never captured the
passionate. If the Chinese were foolish enough to launch an attack against the island, he himself would rush down there, take command personally, and “deliver such a crushing defeat that it would be one of the decisive battles of the world—a disaster so great it would rock Asia, and perhaps turn back Communism.” Then he had paused and commented that he doubted they would be that foolish, before adding, “I pray nightly that they will. I would get down on my knees.” Not many other American
They had become too dependent on their machines and their technology. The first thing he intended to do when he took over the command was get them out of the warmth of their jeeps and trucks and make them patrol exactly as their predecessors had done, climbing the hills on foot. If they shared nothing else with their enemy, they would share the cold. Ridgway bristled with personal purpose: he had an innate sense of how to lead, of what motivated fighting men—and what did not. There were at least
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often junk. Back at Fort Devens, they had been given old training rifles in terrible shape, poorly cared for, not worth a damn, which seemed to indicate how the nation felt about its peacetime army. Once they got to Korea, there was never enough ammo. Miller remembered a bitter fight early in the war when someone had brought over an ammo box and it was all loose. They had to make their own clips. He had wondered what kind of army sent loose ammo to outnumbered infantrymen whose lives were