Saturday, 13 April 2013
This Kind of War - T.R. Fehrenbach
Title: This Kind of War
Author: T.R. Fehrenbach
Illustrations: 20 b/w with maps
Col (Ret’d) Fehrenbach’s book traces the scope of the Korean war; commencing with an outline of the history of the initial partition to the final armistice. He not only provides an in depth explanation of the war itself but also incorporates the international situation and its effects upon the ongoing conflict and its outcomes.
This edition of the book provides detailed maps and timelines associated with the significant events of the war. This is very helpful as the first half of the conflict was characterized by a massive war of operational movement up and down the peninsula while the second half was one of relative stagnation.
His writing style is not technical in nature and is very accessible to the average reader. His focus is primarily on the US and ROK (Republic of Korea) and their experiences during the war. The other allied forces involved in the conflict receive little to no mention. He easily transitions from the tactical to the strategic view of operations thereby providing the reader with a clear understanding of the complexity and uniqueness of the fight. An excellent example being the uprising associated with the North Korean and Chinese POW’s held on the island of Koje off of the southern tip of South Korea. The degree of naiveté shown by the Allied (predominately US) forces charged with managing and administering these prisoners was staggering; especially in light of the fact that the experiences of WW2 were so recent. Fehrenbach not only adroitly outlines the situation but delves into the root causes that enabled the uprising and its outcome.
Fehrenbach makes a concerted effort to highlight the challenges of the individual soldiers (from senior officers to privates) engaged in the fighting. He does not hold back criticism (backed by fact) where warranted and his narrative displays the US army as a reflection of the post World War 2 society; warts and all. His writing does wander into a bit of ‘pulpit thumping’ from time to time however, while a little distracting, this does not adversely affect the overall narrative flow.
This was not a hard book to read and is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in a overall exposure to the Korean War. This war, coming on the heels of the Second World War, has often been dismissed (even being called a police action) as a minor engagement; far from it. This was a massive conflict that in terms of geography was much smaller than other major conflicts but was nevertheless, as intense and devastating as any that had been fought in the 20th century. It also heralded a new age of conflict within the auspices of the UN, a dawning of Asian pride and the superpower power struggles. I learned a great deal and came away with a much better understanding of some of the unique complexities associated with operations during this period and in this environment. I recommend it and would suggest that it be used a spring board to other more focused books on the Korean War.