Sunday, March 16, 2008

Coldest Winter

I am in the middle of a number of very good books at the moment and one of them is the late David Halberstam's Coldest Winter. This, his final book, was finished shortly before he died in a car accident. His prologue starts mid-story in October 1950, where the US Army having come perilously close to defeat, went on to triumphant victory and then suffered one of the worst defeats in American military history at the hands of the Chinese Army.

I believe Halberstam chose this point to emphasize that MacArthur's command is what got the Army into the pickle in which it found itself. While a good portion of the book is spent on the various battles, equal time is given to the American political scene and to the various political and military leaders of the era.

What I like about the book and what I like about history in general is how interconnected the stories are and how reading about one issue deepens our understanding of other issues. The leaders in Korea brought their experience and baggage from WW2 to Korea. As Halberstam points out, in MacArthur's command, if your World War 2 experience was European you were immediately suspect. The younger leaders in Korea took their experiences to Vietnam. The New Deal and communism were major issues stretching back in the 30s and ahead to the Great Society debates of the 1960s.

More on this later, but suffice for now to say that this a rich discussion of the era.

On the subject of the war, the video below is of questionable taste, but many will enjoy it. It is depiction of wars from WW2 to today told entirely through food. I'm sure the kimchi will give away Korea.

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