Remembering David Halberstam

The late David Halberstam was a journalist, heart and soul, with a distinctive way of writing history

DAVID HALBERSTAM had put the finishing touches on his final book, The Coldest Winter, in the spring of 2007, just five days before his tragic death in a car accident in California. He had essentially finished the book months earlier, but with a book there is finishing, and then a little more finishing, and then a final finishing, and after months of revising, checking and rechecking, slashing, inserting, and wrestling with endless pages of manuscript and printed proofs, he stopped by his publisher’s office on an April Wednesday and dropped off his final corrections.Read more »

Wrong Turns In Korea

Miscalculations and blunders by world leaders precipitated the Korean War 60 years ago

On its 60th anniversary, the Korean War looks much like Vietnam, a pointless conflict that gained nothing for those who began it: North Korea’s Kim Il-sung and South Korea’s Syngman Rhee, with the consent of the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin and China’s Mao Zedong. Yet it was far worse than that: The bloodletting in that corner of northeast Asia was an exercise in human folly that cost all sides in the fighting nearly 4 million lives lost, missing, and wounded, not to mention the devastation of the peninsula from Pusan in the south to the Yalu River in the north. Not a single northern or southern Korean city escaped the ravages wrought by modern warfare. Public buildings and private homes were turned into piles of rubble, while thousands of refugees fled from the scenes of battle.

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MIA

A search begun in a Washington, D.C., boardinghouse 140 years ago continues today as a $100-million-a-year effort to reunite the U.S. military and American families with their missing soldiers

Atop a half-mile-high mountain deep in the heart of the A Shau Valley in central Vietnam, a poisonous worm snake winds itself onto the edge of a spade. After a fleeting glance, the U.S. sergeant holding the spade, Tammi Reeder, 34, flicks her wrist and flings the vermilion serpent into the double-canopy jungle surrounding this mountaintop enclave. It is the fourth such snake in an hour and about the millionth over the past several weeks, so this group of 10 U.S.Read more »

Airpower’s Century

Powered flight was born exactly one hundred years ago. It changed everything, of course—but most of all, it changed how we wage war.

Walter Boyne’s résumé makes for unusual reading. He is the author of 42 books and one of the few people to have had bestsellers on both the fiction and the nonfiction lists of The New York Times. A career Air Force officer who won his wings in 1951, he has flown over 5,000 hours in a score of different aircraft, from a Piper Cub to a B-IB bomber, and he is a command pilot. Boyne retired as a colonel in 1974 after 23 years of service (in 1989 he returned for a brief tour of duty to fly the B-IB).Read more »

1951 50 Years Ago

TRUMAN DISMISSES MACARTHUR

On April 10 in Washington (April 11 in Asia), President Harry S. Truman removed Gen. Douglas MacArthur as the Army’s supreme Asian commander, replacing him with Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway. The move, announced at a hastily summoned news conference at 1:00 A.M., after word had begun to leak, was no routine personnel change, for after spending 52 of his 70 years in the Army, MacArthur was as feared as he was revered. In World War I, MacArthur had commanded a brigade, been wounded twice, and received seven Silver Stars.Read more »

Chosin

Fifty years ago in the frozen mountains of Korea, the Marines endured a campaign as grueling and heroic as any in history

The deeds of our heroes are based, all too often, on the arrogance of higher authority. The list is long: Xenophon’s Ten Thousand, the Light brigade at Balaklava, Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, the British infantrymen at the Somme in 1916. Fifty years ago, the United States Marines at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea joined this list. • Marines tell this story alongside those of Belleau Wood, Tarawa, and Iwo Jima. The scene is quickly set. On June 25, 1950, the armies of the People’s Republic of [North] Korea invaded South Korea.

 
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How To Remember The Forgotten War

The Korean conflict erupted fifty years ago this June. Many Americans still believe that it began in debacle (which is true) and ended in a humiliating compromise that changed nothing (which is not).

Only by coincidence does the fragment of a map of Korea along the fateful thirty-eighth parallel that is part of the jacket art for my book MacArthur’s War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero include the town of Chunchon. That was as far north as I got during the war. My commission as an Army second lieutenant had come on April 18, 1951, exactly one week after President Truman dismissed Douglas MacArthur as commander in chief in the Far East.

 
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The Warfare State

A scholar searches across two centuries to discover the main engine of our government’s growth—and reaches a controversial conclusion

Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1835 that America had no neighbors and hence no enemies. Indeed, the New World Republic was the ultimate island power, with the Atlantic Ocean providing a protective moat nearly a hundred times as wide as the English Channel. The German philosopher Hegel, writing at about the same time as Toque, cited this isolation as one reason “a real State”—a powerful, centralized, European-style state—could never exist in America.Read more »

Echoes Of A Distant War

The half-remembered Korean conflict was full of surprises, and nearly all of them were unpleasant

Korea is in the news again, and it’s ugly news. North Korea may or may not have the capability to make nuclear weapons, and North Korea’s aging dictator, Kim Il Sung, is unwilling to let international inspectors find out. The United Nations is talking of sanctions. The United States is pointedly scheduling military maneuvers with the army of the Republic of South Korea. Some of the media’s self-chosen secretaries of state summon us, from their word processors, to sturdy firmness.Read more »

Build-down

After every war in the nation’s history, the military has faced not only calls for demobilization but new challenges and new opportunities. It is happening again.

Not many people appreciate a military base closing. Like the shutting of a factory, it can devastate nearby towns, throwing thousands of people out of work. Merchants face losses and even bankruptcy as sales fall off. Home-owners put their houses on the market at distress prices and sometimes simply walk away from their mortgages. Even long-established military centers are not immune; the current round of closings includes the Mare Island Naval Base near San Francisco, which has operated since 1854. Read more »