Hampton Sides’ fine writing about the Chosin Reservoir Campaign takes you into the eye of the storm. This rendition of what happened during the greatest battle of the Korean War is much greater than just a well-researched historical account of a military battle. The author knows the facts so well that he is able to craft a powerful story that has fast-paced momentum. The page-turning churn of the book, coupled with the author’s exquisite mastery of the language, makes this an important book that everyone ought to read. I chose to read this book because my father served as a Marine in Korea and I wanted to understand what he had experienced.
Even if you are not at all interested in the Korean War, you will see how the narcissistic General Douglas MacArthur caused one of the worst intelligence failures in American military history. Time and time again, we see people in leadership positions who flex their muscle to make careless and stupid decisions that end up costing the lives of brave Americans. In spite of MacArthur’s stupidity, our troops rallied heroically, and many lived to tell of their harrowing experiences.
My father has long passed, and like many men of his generation he did not talk about what had happened to him in Korea. Because of this book, though, I have a conceptual understanding of what he had encountered in battle. As an interesting note, my father died in a military hospital. In the hospital lobby, there was a large framed oil painting depicting the battle at the Chosin Reservoir. Later during my father’s funeral, a man who came to pay his respects told me that my father had saved his life in Korea. Thank you Hampton Sides for this powerfully written tale!