Bill Sloan has written another commendable story of combat. This time he covers the opening months of the Korean War when South Korea and especially the US were unprepared to repulse an invasion from the north. The signs were there but were ignored by MacArthur in Japan and by Washington. The author has chosen the first three months when the US was slowly coming up to speed, throwing in reinforcements piecemeal against the determined NKPA.
Before beginning his war coverage, the author describes how Truman and Johnson in the five years since WWII had gutted the Armed Services, especially the Marine Corps which was on life support. He goes on to depict the Army as poorly trained and equipped as well as low in morale. To make matters worse, the non confrontational ways of Acheson in regards to China and Soviet Union only encourage Stalin to help train and equip North Korea to invade the South.
Mr Sloan's battle coverage begins with the fall of Seoul and continues down the peninsula toward the important port of Pusan. In between Seoul and Pusan, you'll read about the battles for Suwon, Osan, Kum River, Taejon, Kumchon, Yongdong, Sanju, Sachon, Kosong, Obong-ni Ridge, Taegu and the Naktong River line, also called the Pusan Perimeter.
These were days when US Forces, both Gis and Marines, suffered heavy casualties and by August were almost pushed into the sea. In September there was a reversal when MacArthur landed at Inchon and within two weeks recaptured Seoul, saw the Pusan breakout and the full fledge retreat of the NKPA back to North Korea. MacArthur wasn't satisfied with regaining the 38th Parallel; he talked Truman into attacking the North with the objective of combining the two countries into one democratic one.
The battle coverage of the select engagements was good, descriptive. Using many sources including primary documents as well as interviewing 56 veterans, Mr Sloan was able to present many first hand experiences that added to the tactical details, giving greater depth to the book. The book closes with a brief summary of the rest of the war that includes UN forces invading the North, the Chinese counterattack, the dragged out negotiations as well as the present day circumstances. There is closing remarks on Truman and MacArthur as well as a discussion on whether the war had merit or if it is appreciated by the current generation.
Even though I really liked the book and eagerly recommend it, I couldn't give it five stars. The author provides too small of a window into the war, specializing too much which gives an incomplete view of the battle. I understand that was the author's intent but if this is the only book on the Korean War you read, you will have an incomplete picture of it. It can't compete with the full coverage books from Clay Blair, Bud Hannings and Roy Appleman. Secondly, there are only a few large scale maps of the peninsula. It would have been helpful to have a detailed map of each engagement covered; it certainly would have helped to follow the action. Also provided are photos and an extensive Notes section, Bibliography and Index.