HISTORY

Ghost Flames: Life and Death in a Hidden War, Korea 1950–1953

PublicAffairs. Aug. 2020. 528p. ISBN 9781541768178. $32. HIST
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Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Hanley (The Bridge at No Gun Ri) was on the team that in 1999 broke the story of a U.S. military massacre of fleeing Korean civilians 50 years earlier. Hanley is back with an equally compelling and groundbreaking narrative history of the Korean War, told via the experiences of 20 men and women who lived through the bloodshed. Commanding generals Matt Ridgway (U.S.) and Peng Teh-huai (China) direct strategy and play politics. British Marxist reporter Alan Winnington reports from the Communist side of the battlefield, while Bill Shinn publishes scoops from behind U.S.-South Korean lines. African American soldier Clarence Adams survives prisoner-of-war camp and ultimately defects to China, inspired by the Communist message of racial equality. Chi Chao-chu resigns his studies at Harvard University, hastening home to Communist China to translate at armistice negotiations, while student Ahn Kyong-hee evades sexual assault and other dangers, helped by a South Korean double agent. Ri In-mo goes from bespectacled Communist Party functionary to mountain guerilla to political prisoner. Meanwhile, this fruitless war of attrition forever alters the course of both Koreas and leads to the death of millions.
VERDICT An extraordinary kaleidoscope of human experiences in a catastrophic forgotten war.

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