Top positive review
Semper Fi, Brothers.
Reviewed in the United States on August 18, 2018
This book did something rather extraordinary for me. After reading it, twice, I was motivated to visit the US Marine Corps Museum just outside of Quantico. There, the museum keeps an entire section on what the Marines faced in Korea, including a life-size diorama with climate control to show the cold and, frankly, hellish conditions faced during a prolonged battle. As an aside, if you find yourself near Quantico, visit the museum. You will not regret it.
Indeed, this book gave me some added context to not only what I was seeing at the museum's Korea exhibit, but the culture of excellence the USMC instills in its Marines. The narrative is gripping and highly approachable to the lay reader, yet Sides also successfully walks that fine line between making it interesting AND informative without making it read like a novel or some kind of historical fiction puff piece. Disadvantages and such are not given short shrift, and Sides certainly does not go out of his way to deify the Marines. No, their actions do just fine doing that without any kind of embellishment necessary.
Moreover, Sides looks at the home front as well, including Truman's struggles and the decisions he made. What results here is a book that takes a view of a battle from many perspectives, leaving the reader most appreciative of the wheels within wheels. It's not a dry recitation of facts - it's information.
We hear from many different Marines who were there, and Sides respectfully lets them speak for themselves. No editing of their recollections, nothing other than his taking extreme effort in finding these men and interviewing them, and allowing we the readers to enrich ourselves from not only his efforts, but from hearing the facts from the original sources.
In reading this, I'm struck that the last time I felt like this after reading history for a brave force of extraordinary men, I was transported to WWII and following the experiences of Easy Company in Band of Brothers. Like BoB did with WWII, On Desperate Ground motivated me to learn more about the Korean War - which I think is very important given that the war seems to have dissolved out of the consciousness of our nation (living mainly in MASH reruns, unfortunately...).
This book is fantastic. I do not praise it lightly, nor do I name drop BoB recklessly. On Desperate Ground is an important book, to not only fully understand what our Marines accomplished at Chosin, but what the United States Marines have as their legacy as the Corps moves forward toward new challenges. An outstanding book.