Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, by David Halberstam

This audiobook was 33 hours and 42 minutes long, and was narrated by Scott Brick.

This was David Halberstam's last completed work before he died in 2007. It is the usual top notch piece of 20th century history for which he was famous.

America and its military leaders thought that the atomic bomb was the end of conventional warfare. President Truman was looking to trim the defense budget to under $10 Billion, the American people just wanted their boys to come home, and the rest of the world was still at the brink of war. The US had gone from victory in Europe and the Pacific to total military unpreparedness in only 5 years. It set the stage for a deadly learning curve in Korea.

Much of this book concerns the mishandling of military intelligence by General Douglas MacArthur and his staff. MacArthur's best days were behind him and he didn't know it. He also had a lot of help from President Truman's domestic adversaries, mostly Republicans who made up the China Lobby. They were as hot for a confrontation with China as MacArthur was, and this desire for turning back the Communists in China nearly brought us into World War 3.

There are lots of stories from the actual conflict as well as the inside dirt on American politics during the McCarthy era. A fascinating book, even if it ran a bit long. I give it 3 stars.

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