Wednesday, June 19, 2019

This Kind of War

This Kind of War is by T.R.Fehrenbach.  The Kindle version was on special the other day, so I bought it.  The Korean War was the first war I experienced, through the newspapers, the newsreels, and magazine articles.  The book was written in 1963, long enough after the war's end for some perspective, long enough ago to offer some insights.  (Fehrenbach was an officer in the 2nd Division, a unit which features prominently in the book, but he doesn't cite his experience explicitly.) I've read something about the war since, especially a bio of the general commanding the 1st Marine Division focused on the battle of the Chosin Reservoir.

He alternates between a focus on individual battles and individuals and a broad general picture of the war.  It's still recommended by figures like Sen. McCain and Gen. Mattis.

Some things which struck me:

  • the learning curves of the various militaries involved. The North Koreans, Chinese, South Koreans and US all came into the war with different backgrounds; the first three were able to learn  from the experience while the US was handicapped by the rotation policy.
  • the writer's surprise at the ability of Japan to rehabilitate American equipment, a reminder of how far Japan has come since my boyhood when they made cheap toys.
  • serious omens for our experience in Vietnam.
  • [updated: the author's prediction South Korea would forever be a basket case dependent on US, although that's more definitive than his actual words--a reminder of how limited our vision of the future can be]

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