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


On October 15, 1950, the vainglorious General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of U.N. troops in Korea, convinced President Harry Truman that the communist forces would be utterly defeated by Thanksgiving. The Chinese, he said with near certainty, would not intervene in the war.

As he was speaking, 300,000 Chinese soldiers began crossing the border. Led by the 13,000 men of the 1st Marine Division, the Americans moved far north into the trap Mao had set for the arrogant MacArthur at the Chosin Reservoir. What followed was one of the most heroic - and harrowing - operations in American military history. Faced with annihilation, and temperatures plunging to 20 degrees below zero, the surrounded Marines fought through the enemy forces with ferocity, ingenuity and nearly unimaginable courage.

Hampton Sides's superb account of the battle relies on years of archival research and interviews with scores of Marines and Koreans who survived the siege. While expertly chronicling the follies of the American leaders, this is an immediate, grunts-eye view of history, enthralling in its narrative pace and powerful in its portrayal of what ordinary men are capable of in the most extreme circumstances.


Mr. Hampton Sides gives you an outstanding look at the beginning of what a lot of people have called the forgotten war, Korea. Growing up around military bases all my life I had heard about it plus my father was a WWII and Korean Vet but even he did not speak of it all that much. Here the author takes you through the beginning and the decision of us going in to push back the North Korean’s who had invaded South Korea. That seemed simple enough until General MacArthur with the approval of the President sent in the First Marine Division. You see the divisions between General Smith of the Marines and General Almond from MacArthur’s staff and how out of touch MacArthur and Almond both were. How not passing on information caused by more men to be killed. Why they would send the Marines into the Chosen Reservoir in the first place in the dead of winter is anyone’s guess and just proves how out of touch they were. The 1st Division was attacked by the Chinese and they encircled them for at least 17 days. The fighting was intense and brutal. The author gives you individual stories of different men and groups of men and how each one fought for their Marine Brother’s next to them. Survival was all that mattered. What was fascinating about the book was that while the battles were going on there also was an attempt on President Truman. This is one of those attempts that is very rarely brought up but the author goes into detail about that as well since it also had to deal with us being in Korea. A very good book and a good history book about the first battles and really the first big battle of Korea. The Marines fighting force knew where the enemy was because they were around the Marines. The Marines would come out to fight again. Though people think it was a loss for was really the Chinese troops lost over three times the men and what should have been a rout of 300,000 Chinese soldiers to 13,ooo men of the 1st Marine Division, was really a victory. An excellent book and I wish more of the men I grew up around would have shared with me. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 5 stars Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

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