SOCIAL SCIENCES

On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War's Greatest Battle

Doubleday. Oct. 2018. 416p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780385541152. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780385541169. HIST
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Outside magazine editor Sides (In the Kingdom of Ice) recounts the classic story of the Korean War's famous battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the winter of 1950. Led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Oliver Smith, American forces of the First Marine Division—who felt that Korea was "a long way to come to fight and bleed and die, in a war that was not officially a war, for a cause that at times was not altogether clear, for an endgame that was anybody's guess"—entered the bitterly cold and mountainous terrain of Inchon along the eastern coast of North Korea with sights set at moving inland toward the reservoir. Confident at first that the Chinese were going to be kept at bay, MacArthur and Smith changed course once Chinese troops surprised and pushed the marines toward humbling mountain passes. Though the bitterly cold conditions made battle difficult, the outnumbered marines courageously fought their way out and ultimately reached safety.
VERDICT While other works exist on this famous battle, Sides's highly accessible narrative will be appreciated by general readers as well as history buffs. For fans of Stephen Ambrose and Lynn Vincent. [See Prepub Alert, 4/23/18.]

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