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Eyewitness Korea

Eyewitness Korea

James Goulty
ARRSE Rating
2.5 Mushroom Heads
Eyewitness Korea
The Experience of British & American Soldiers in the Korean War 1950 – 1953 by James Goulty

The text of this book is first-class; it is packed with information about the Korean War as seen through the eyes of those who took part and is suitable for an audience of all tastes. The excellent first chapter covers the political background to the conflict and describes the particularly rugged Korean peninsula and its extremes of weather. This is followed by details of mobilisation, conscription and combat training for those involved, with many first-hand accounts of the situations encountered.

Skilfully and seamlessly the Author recounts the movement of thousands of regular, reserve and conscripted troops to the other side of the World – which was often by troopship with a journey duration of several weeks – and their impressions once they arrived. It is known widely that the Korean War was a bitter and bloody affair which turned out to be a hard-fought struggle between Communist forces and those from the UN with many casualties on both sides. With personal accounts to hand the Author provides a colourful account of the fighting which could quite easily have turned into World War Three.

The fluid nature of the War, in which highly mobile and fierce fighting was interspersed with periods of static attack then withdrawal plus further spells of relative calm receive a great deal of attention and are combined with details of recreation, welfare, rations and medical matters. Both sides took many Prisoners of War and it was good to see that their lives in captivity receive the same amount of attention as the rest of the book, concluding in their release and repatriation.

Having found the text of the book an excellent account of a highly significant encounter I was very disappointed that not one map is included throughout – not even one of the two Korean neighbours on their peninsular. I don’t know why this omission was accepted by the publishers but, believe me, it detracts immensely from the overall enjoyment of this important book. There is a small collection of photographs, all bunched together in the middle but not so much as one hand-drawn sketch. A serious omission indeed.

Another problem with general readability was a whole host of referenced ‘Notes’ at the end of the book which means there was much flipping to and from the back. These notes should become footnotes at the bottom of each page at the next iteration. There is also a good sprinkling of spelling mistakes throughout plus a few ridiculous Americanisms such as ‘Soldierization’ which need amending.

In conclusion: a very good book which could become a universal best-seller with some work and thought. Enjoyment of a book does not come from the words alone…

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