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The Korean War  By  cover art

The Korean War

By: Max Hastings
Narrated by: Frederick Davidson
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Publisher's Summary

It was the first war we could not win. At no other time since World War II have two superpowers met in battle. Max Hastings, preeminent military historian, takes us back to the bloody, bitter struggle to restore South Korean independence after the Communist invasion of June 1950.

Using personal accounts from interviews with more than 200 vets, including the Chinese, Hastings follows real officers and soldiers through the battles. He brilliantly captures the Cold War crisis at home, the strategies and politics of Truman, Acheson, Marshall, MacArthur, Ridgway, and Bradley, and shows what we should have learned in the war that was the prelude to Vietnam.

©1987 Roma Data (P)1997 Blackstone Audiobooks
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Must reading for any American who wants to understand one of the watershed events of the post-World War II period." (Richard M. Nixon)
"Rings true and will surely stand the test of time....Max Hastings has no peer as a writer of battlefield history." (Stephen E. Ambrose)

What listeners say about The Korean War

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Well worth it

I have read a great deal of military history over the years, but despite the fact that my father fought for a year in Korea, I knew little of the overall situation.
The author does a very nice job - well paced - of moving thru the three years of the war (aka conflict). Near the end there are good detailed parts dealing with prisoners for example.
A very effective summary of a miserable conflict from all parties perspectives.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Inspiring and Hard Hitting

I begin listening to this book while on the plane from California to Seoul on my first trip to the Land of the Morning Calm. The book gave me such a detailed overview of the entire war that I was able to discuss the events with locals and feel like an informed person.

Without question, The Korean War defines South Korea to this day and Max Hastings work will give you a clear and objective picture – from the view point of both America and China. (In the forward Hastings points out that while objective data and interviews with Americans and Chinese are possible, such an exercise with the North Koreas would be a waste of time.) The scenes he depicts are vivid and graphic without being sensational. The opening firefight between Task Force Smith and the North Korean regulars was particularly gut wrenching. There are some phrases he uses to describe later events that haunt me a bit, yet I believe Hastings did this for clarity. One of the darkest chapters – the story of the POWs during the war - also contains some moments of extreme levity when Hastings describes the pranks GI’s pulled on their captors. Some of them had me laughing out loud.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about South Korea, and a large, yet nearly forgotten war and the heroes who sacrificed their lives in a noble struggle.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

British view of the war

I selected this book because I wanted to know more about the Korean War. I found the book to be well written and informative but I think the synopsis should warn us that this is, essentially, the British view of the war.

As an ex-pat Briton myself, I was looking forward to the story of the American involvement and was disappointed with how often British opinon and tales had been substituted instead.

--Morton

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic - Good Balance!

I really loved this book! The author did a great job of being balanced in his presentation, not from the political side, but in giving just the right amount of detail, but not too much to overwhelm you.

Before reading this, I only knew that the two Koreas had a "civil" war in the 50's. I had no idea of what precipated this or how the war progressed.

This book really filled in the blanks for me and was a real pleasure to read.

Well done!

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Forgotten WAR, One Seed of Vietnam

Massive detail that explains the haunting nature Of the Korean War Monument in Washington, DC. The reason I picked up this book was to familiarize myself with a gap in my recent political history. By saying political history, I mean a transition point that moved The Government of the United States from International Participant in world affairs to its current role (rightly or wrongly perceived) as international peacekeeper in world politics.

There are many details about General Douglas MacArthur that biographers of the man have paid greater attention to but are here used to indicate the transition between WWII thinking and the concept of "Limited War" (an idea he never appreciated).

Even though this book is written from a British perspective, it amply points out the Eastern versus Western social sensitivities. War is war, but the reasons for war and the method by which war is undertaken, sustained and justified very with the culture. If the fear of China was to be surrounded by US political outposts (Japan, Taiwan, a unified Korea and Vietnam), the political fear of Western nations was that Korea represented a "Creeping Red Menace". Much has changed, but history is history and the precursor events of the modern world continue to resonate in the attitudes reflected in current events. From the attitude that Korea would be a "pushover war", to the current condition of stalemate and desire for reconciliation, Korea (North and South) continues to be an active shaper of history whose history needs to be appreciated to validate its relevance.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Satisfactory read, abominible READER

Fred has the narrowest voice characterization of any author I have ever heard. ALL of his American voices sound like a farcical British sketch show parody of a stereotypical "Yankee" politician and presidents and journalists and generals are all furnished with precisely the same obnoxious accent. His Korean-accented English speakers are no better.

It is interesting to learn about the quite substantial British and Commonwealth contribution to this war. It would be nice if the book was LONGER and went into more detail.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

the narration hasn't aged well...

while I appreciate that the narrator tried to do different voices for the different people being quoted, doing "Asian" accents for the Koreans and Chinese wasn't necessary and really was a huge distraction/annoyance. If this is going to offend you, skip this audiobook.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

War in bigger context -- racist narrative voice

If you could sum up The Korean War in three words, what would they be?

War in greater context.

Any additional comments?

While many books on war or military campaigns offer little to nothing to the student of history (many so fetishize tactics, casualty figures, and types of ordnance they read like firearms porn), it comes as something of a surprise when a war historian goes out of his way to place battle in a greater social and political context.

Perhaps this is inevitable with the Korean War which the author describes with much caustic comment in which Cold War superpower geopolitics alone escalated a regional conflict into an undeclared superpower war that narrowly missed precipitating WWIII. As the author describes, with UN troops in the field and the easily war wearied home fronts in America and Britain feeling little personal investment in the war’s nominal cause – the defense of a corrupt and unpopular S. Korean dictatorship – the war could be interpreted (as Hastings does) as a preview for the south Asian conflict a generation later. Hastings’ narrative is particularly poignant when recalling the similarities between the two especially the implication that the U.S. learned little to nothing for all the blood, sweat, and tears shed on the Korean peninsula – don’t wage an unpopular war to prop up a corrupt regime with no support in their own country much less yours, high tek fire and air power doesn’t work as well on a low tek enemy, don’t underestimate the foe just because they’re “gooks,” and more. Please note: without maps and diagrams to indicate troop dispositions and battlefield maneuvers, this audiobook is likely to disappoint arm chair generals but I find the attention to the war’s larger context more than compensates.

Commentators on Amazon seem to find Hastings’ account “objective” possibly because he always has something both caustic and approving to say about all participants – the troops on both sides, the generals, MacArthur, Truman, the P.O.W.s, etc. But there is essentially no attempt to present the S. Korean experience, only token attempts to include some Chinese material, and much approbationary attention spent on the Commonwealth contribution especially on the ground and in getting Truman to restrain MacArthur. From his bias, one can’t wondering if he is suggesting that things would have been different if the British had been in charge.

As reader, Frederick Davidson has a lot to recommend him especially in his renditions of British lit classics. His clear and dignified voice is particularly good in a variety of U.K. characters. But apart from MacArthur whom he renders with an appropriate blend of pomposity and grandeur, his American voices don’t quite work. And, his Asian voice – the same loud choppy rendition for both Chinese and Koreans – is nothing less than racist. His is not the ching-chong voice of, say, the video UCLA Asians in Library but an obnoxious declamatory voice learned from corny Cultural Revolution era propaganda films. However, if you’re likely to be offended by what is probably Davidson’s unintentional racism, keep in mind that he uses almost the same for his Brooklyn voice.

Overall, I offer a limited recommendation. This will be interesting to those interested in a bigger picture than the battlefield and the narration is fine except for the Asian voice characterization.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Book Great, Narration Atrocious

The book is well written and does a great job of telling the story of this forgotten war. Hastings doesn't pull any punches with either the Americans or North Koreans.

The narrator, though, is appalling. It took me some time and a second opinion to decide if it's a man or woman reading. His accent is the worst preening combination of public school English and East Coast prep school lock-jaw. He could hold an American accent for about one phrase before falling back into his own accent. His attempts to impersonate Koreans speaking English sound like Grade B Hollywood Gestapo agents rather than any Korean's I know.

Buy it for the book, not the narration.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

An almost even handed account.

It is very difficult to provide even handed and culturally sensitive account to Korean war, I think Hasting did an admirable job, the narrative has clarity, but I think if the book was shorter, the book would have been more compelling. The narrator is very good, he definitely enhanced the experience with mimmicking accents. Recommended for undergraduates level.

1 person found this helpful