Tuesday, September 27, 2011

#69: The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon 1950 by Bill Sloan

Simon and Schuster, New York: 2009. 383 pages

I don't know anything about Korea, and in this I am pretty close to average. I know my father was active during the war and was in the Air Force. I know that on the show "Mad Men" this is Don Draper's war, one that we somehow lost or no one cared about. Before I read this book, I knew these facts and more:

1. That the Korean War was never ended by an armistice. It remains in a state of cease fire.
2. The Chinese were involved and suffered massive casualties.
3. Douglas MacArthur was fired during the war, gave a maudlin speech and then was never heard from again

The subtitle of this text puts forth the idea that in 1950 the US Marine Corps was in danger of being eliminated. After WWII, the US government did not want to have a large standing army; between 1945 and 1949, the size of the US army dropped by nearly 85%. The Marines were viewed as somewhat archaic. Far from being a cheerleading book for the USMC, Sloan's text provides some answers as to why the USMC survived. To be quite blunt, they were better led and had more esprit d'corps than the army. If anything, the USMC had to save the army's bacon multiple times.

However, this was not the army's fault. One thing that absolutely leaps out at the reader here is the utter craziness of the Korean War in general. This was a war that the US did not want to fight and so did with 1 hand behind its back. In essence, the American public, as well as many soldiers in Korea, asked "Who gives two pinches of shit about this place?" That question is never fully answered and the reasons for that are well investigated in this text.

Also, Douglas MacArthur was a complete and absolute 24- karat asshole. While I was under this impression before I read this book, the text and Sloan's evenhanded description of the arrogant asshole with the corncob pipe reinforced this in spades. I mean, the jack ass literally lied about his ability, and when the Marines landed and kicked ass on Inchon, this prick said "OK, well that's it" and went to drink tea below decks of his ship. There is a phrase for this that was en vogue in Vietnam: REMFS. That stands for Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers. Most generals are those; ask those poor bastards on Corrigedor in World War II what MacArthur was. They'll answer "Oh, that REMF that evacuated to Australia while we went on the Death March?". What a fuck.

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