Item description for The Korean War: The West Confronts Communism by Michael Hickey...
Outline ReviewWaged half a century ago, the three-year Korean War has been called "America's first Vietnam." It was also the first flash of fire in an otherwise cold war between the forces of capitalism and those of communism. Little was written about the war for many years, as if it were something best forgotten. Recently, books such as Martin Russ's controversial Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950 and Stanley Weintraub's MacArthur's War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero have brought renewed attention to the bloody ordeal.
Michael Hickey offers a valuable contribution to the literature with The Korean War, which examines the conflict from the point of view of America's United Nations allies, an international force comprising contingents from Turkey, England, India, Australia, Canada, Belgium, and Norway, among other countries. Hickey, who served as a lieutenant in the British forces (he modestly describes himself as an "insignificant packhorse"), examines the debates surrounding UN involvement and the British government's fear of parting ways with the Truman administration over the best approach to containing North Korean and Chinese ambitions. Hickey acknowledges events that are now much in the news, such as the South Korean military's murder of thousands of civilians thought to be sympathetic to the North. And he ventures the view that China was drawn somewhat unwillingly into the conflict after General Douglas MacArthur led a surprisingly effective counteroffensive deep into North Korean territory, uncomfortably close to the Chinese border. Yet Hickey is no apologist. He observes that the war was "well worth the effort," for with it world communism "was firmly confronted and rebuffed." Well written and carefully documented, his book offers a thoughtful history of a conflict that still haunts our time. --Gregory McNamee
Product Description "The Korean War provides a comprehensive picture of the war . . . and riveting tales of heroics." (The Washington Post Book World)
"Hickey has written a quite brisk, succinct, and useful general history of the war." (The Chicago Sun-Times)
Set in the early days of the Cold War, amid fears of an enlarging conflagration, the Korean War at its height involved rapid, large-scale movements over long distances as each side experienced both outstanding success and disaster. Korean War veteran and military historian Michael Hickey tells the full story of the first test by the Communist bloc of Western resolve.
In addition to covering the dominant American involvement, Michael Hickey also sets in context the significant contributions of the other nations that answered the U.N. call. Alongside American soldiers, troops from Britain, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Turkey and elsewhere joined the effort. The Korean War recounts such masterstrokes as MacArthur's landing behind enemy lines at Inchon, the drama of the "glorious Glosters" episode, and both collaboration and mutiny in the prisoner-of-war camps on both sides.
Drawing on a wide range of previously unused sources from several countries, including recently declassified documents, regimental archives, diaries, and interviews, Michael Hickey adds extensively to our knowledge of one of the most significant conflicts of modern times.
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Reviews - What do customers think about The Korean War: The West Confronts Communism?
Badly Needed Balance Mar 22, 2008
This book is an excellent one volume history of the Korean War,written by an Englishman who served during the conflict. Some reviewers have criticized the author's focus on the Commonwealth forces involved in the war. (Which readers can name the Canadian battalion that fought in Korea?)However, most other histories of the Korean War, like Clay Blair's "The Forgotten War",have largely ignored the experiences of the English, Canadian and Australian soldiers who fought-although Donald Knox included narratives from Commonwealth soldiers in his excellent oral histories of the war. (And in all fairness,Hickey himself almost ignores the astounding fighting done by the French troops who served in Korea.) Hickey also explains the English government's view of the war and its aims, topics normally ignored or only lightly touched on by American historians. For these reasons' Hickey's very readable history of the war provides a badly needed balance to the histories written by American writers. Having said that,it must be noted that Hickey has little but contempt for the average U.S. army infantryman, whom he regards as "unprofessional". Hickey respects the Marine and the U.S. Army specialty troops,such as the Airborne units and the engineers and artillerymen,but he has little use for the G.I. who served in the American infantry divisions (which were largely staffed by draftees, who were, by definition, "unprofessionals"). The U.S. army in 1950 had been ravaged by Truman's administration and MacArthur had allowed his troops to fall to a shocking state of unprepardness. Having said that, Hickey's disdain for American troops mirrors the contempt felt by English officers from the North African campaigns on through WWII. Many American readers, especially the veterans of infantry divisions like the savaged 24th and 2nd Divisions, will take issue with his opinions. Regardless, this is an excellent book and should be read by anyone interested in the Korean War.
A view of the Korean War from the Boardroom and the Battlefield Jul 16, 2006
This is a comprehensive and competent account of the Korean War, written by someone who personally experienced it. It tells the story of the first major military confrontation between the Communist bloc and the Western alliance. The series of explosive encounters between the North and the South Koreans, the Americans and the Chinese, and the myriad other groups involved is rendered in commendable detail. Military history buffs would be treated to descriptions of the minutiae of almost every battle - details that Hickey has meticulously extracted from a combination of declassified official records, regimental archives and diaries and interviews.
One of the great strengths of the book is its ability to switch convincingly between power politics and frontline action; between the view from the corridors of power and that of the man on the ground. I found myself alternately enthralled by the vivid portraits of military supremos like General McArthur and sickened by just as vivid depictions of death and brutality in the trenches.
Hickey also brings new depth to traditional accounts of the war by setting in context the contributions of other nations, besides the US, that answered the UN call to military involvement and coalition against the Communists. More specifically, he focuses on the contributions of the `old' Commonwealth: Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. In other accounts, their contributions are usually obscured by the role of the Americans. Here, their heroics and their idiosyncrasies are on full display.
All this being said, Hickey's `Korean War' lacks that extra spark that makes a book a truly great read. It lets itself down in terms of style. Even after having read the book from cover to cover, I would never have guessed that the author himself was in the thick of the action had I not been told. His account, comprehensive as it is, lacks the rawness and immediacy of personal experience. The book could also be better structured; the narrative tends to get laboured and the plot directionless when consecutive battles are being methodically described. Not a book to be finished in one serving.
Good, but too much British for a general history Dec 22, 2005
Hickey has written a nice book about the Korean War (where he too part himself) and his description of battles, heroic actions and important decision making are very good indeed. The problem is that he gives heavy emphasis on the British (and Comonwealth) side of the war, spending too many pages to analyze the battles of these troops and he has little knowledge for the ¨other side of the hill¨. The maps are very few and general in nature and in many cases the reader will have a problem to follow the action. Some chapters are especially interesting, like that about the living conditions in the front lines, the commando and partisan operations, the air war and the highly informative appendices. I wish Mr Hickey had adopted a more balanced account of the war, presenting also the strategy, logistics and tactics of the communist side.
Perfect for Brits, less so for Yanks Sep 7, 2005
In this book, Korean War veteran and British scholar Michael Hickey provides an interesting narrative of that conflict. Hickey served in a supply unit, and apparently did not see any combat, but this thoroughly researched narrative has no shortage of action. But be prepared for a decidedly British account of the war. Much of the book describes the exploits of the Commonwealth Division, consisting of units from Britain, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, purely American events in the war, such as the critical Inchon landings, are merely glossed over.
Hickey should not be blamed for focusing on the UK perspective of the war. Commonwealth forces made a relatively small but nonetheless important contribution to the UN effort in Korea, and their story deserves to be told. But the title of the book is misleading. "The Korean War: The West Confronts Communism" implies a broad and balanced overview of the conflict, which this book clearly is not. One wonders if the subtitle was concocted by the publisher in order to attract a larger audience.
As is too often the case in military books, there is a dearth of quality maps. The reader struggles to follow the action as it rapidly moves up and down the Korean peninsula. A lesser complaint would be Hickey's fondness for praising the bravery and efficiency of the British soldier, particularly at the expense of the American fighting man. Undoubtedly, many of the comparisons are accurate, especially when speaking of the neglected post-war U.S. Army of 1950, but Hickey indulges in this personal pleasure far too often. He does compliment the U.S. Marines and certain army units repeatedly, sometimes even lavishing them with the ultimate compliment: saying that they could be considered equals of the British troops.
If you've already read quite a bit about the Korean War and are looking for a fresh perspective, then this book is ideal. If you are new to the conflict and want an objective explanation of what happened and why, it might be best to look elsewhere.
A very balanced view Jul 6, 2004
What a great read. Its a shame some American reviewers can't accept that sometimes the mighty US military machine is out-performed by its allies (never mind its enemies); this was certainly the case during the initial North Korean successes, and again later when the Chinese joined the fighting. Far from looking through 'rose-colored glasses', the author is plainly stating facts gathered from a wide range of sources, including, presumably, personal experience. The author obviously calls it not only as he sees it, but as others do as well; he is also fulsome in his praise for the US Marines, for example. The perception that generally the British, and certainly the Australians, were of a far better standard than the US Army units it fought alongside isn't the book's 'most glaring weakness', but one of its strongest themes. People in this country should read it, accept it and move on. A highly recommended book. By the way, the Australians out-performed the Americans in Vietnam, as well.