The Korean War - Vol. 1

The Korean War - Vol. 1

The Korean War - Vol. 1

The Korean War - Vol. 1


The Korean War (1950- 53) began as a conflict between North Korea and South Korea and eventually involved the United States and nineteen other nations. An estimated three million people lost their lives during the war. For Americans who think that only GIs and their United Nations contingent comrades fought effectively, The Korean War will be a surprising introduction to the valor and sacrifice of the South Korean army. This comprehensive view of the war from the South Korean perspective has not been previously available in English translation.

The Korean War comprises three volumes. Volume one examines the background of the war and sketches its development up to the intervention by Communist China. It carefully analyzes North Korean war planning, South Korea's early defensive efforts, and the collective security measures taken by the United Nations. The volume summarizes subsequent military operations, the defense along the Naktong Line, and the counteroffensive carried out in conjunction with the United Nations forces. The Korean War considers recently declassified documents as well as primary accounts by veterans.


While it has become fashionable to call the Korean War “forgotten” in the United States, it is far more accurate to call it “misunderstood.” If the histories of the Korean War have not exactly made the bookshelves groan as the volume of literature on World War II and the Vietnam War has, a student of the Korean War can still find ample accounts of American participation in the war, especially the thrill of victories and agonies of defeat experienced by the U.S. Eighth Army. However, when soldiers from the Republic of Korea (ROK) ever wander onto the scene, they are usually limited to depictions of ill-trained and confused “Katusas,” or conscripts from the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) program. Filling gaps in infantry battalions for which the U.S. Army apparently could not find replacements, these South Koreans arrive in and disappear from war accounts in anonymity. When the army of the Republic of Korea (Hangukgun) enters the story, it is almost always as a South Korean division fleeing to the rear in panic. Leaving the gallant American GIS to fight desperately to prevent their own extinction at the hands of the vicious North Koreans and the armed “hordes” of “the Chinese Communist forces,” the Korean soldiers rally only at rear-area safe havens. Or so the stories go.

The American official histories of the Korean War do scant justice to the South Korean army, let alone the American officers and men of the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG). The KMAG advisors helped create an army in the middle of a guerrilla war (1948–50) and then built, trained, rearmed, and supported a South Korean army adequate to defend the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) after the armistice of July 1953. The experience was not without its moments of despair. One chief of the KMAG said that it was impossible to underestimate a South Korean division. Anyone who later studied the Vietnam War would wonder how the miserable Korean army of the 1950s could have sent two crack divisions and an elite marine brigade to South Vietnam in the 1960s, all together a force so tough and disciplined that everyone gave it a clear berth in the field. The eventual success of the KMAG is part of the war story, but it remains to be told in full yet today.

Of course the South Korean army, in terms of longevitys and experience, had a history that went back centuries; it simply did not have that history contained between book covers because the Japanese colonial government (ruling from . . .

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