Cover Image: On Desperate Ground

On Desperate Ground

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Member Reviews

Mr. Hampton Sides gives you an outstanding look at the beginning of what a lot of people have called the forgotten war, Korea. Growing up around military bases all my life I had heard about it plus my father was a WWII and Korean Vet but even he did not speak of it all that much. Here the author takes you through the beginning and the decision of us going in to push back the North Korean’s who had invaded South Korea. That seemed simple enough until General MacArthur with the approval of the President sent in the First Marine Division. You see the divisions between General Smith of the Marines and General Almond from MacArthur’s staff and how out of touch MacArthur and Almond both were. How not passing on information caused by more men to be killed. Why they would send the Marines into the Chosen Reservoir in the first place in the dead of winter is anyone’s guess and just proves how out of touch they were. The 1st Division was attacked by the Chinese and they encircled them for at least 17 days. The fighting was intense and brutal. The author gives you individual stories of different men and groups of men and how each one fought for their Marine Brother’s next to them. Survival was all that mattered. What was fascinating about the book was that while the battles were going on there also was an attempt on President Truman. This is one of those attempts that is very rarely brought up but the author goes into detail about that as well since it also had to deal with us being in Korea. A very good book and a good history book about the first battles and really the first big battle of Korea. The Marines fighting force knew where the enemy was because they were around the Marines. The Marines would come out to fight again. Though people think it was a loss for was really the Chinese troops lost over three times the men and what should have been a rout of 300,000 Chinese soldiers to 13,ooo men of the 1st Marine Division, was really a victory. An excellent book and I wish more of the men I grew up around would have shared with me.
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Sides is a tremendous writer of accessible of historical non fiction. I have read all of his books and ‘‘tis rates as one of his best. A moving analysis of one of the most stirring battles in American history- the battle of the  Choisin Resivoir. Highly reccomended!
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Very good writing of huge  battle  in the Korean war., that was a  battle that never should have happened.  Very important lesson  to learn, should be required reading for all militaty leaders and the general public.
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On Desperate Ground by Hampton Sides is an incredibly well-researched account the battle at Choisin Reservoir during the Korean War.  As someone who doesn't normally pick up nonfiction titles I was amazed at how quickly I was pulled in to the story of the Marines and their extraordinary heroism.  Engaging writing and amazing attention to detail provides the reader with an immediate connection to not only the soldiers, but the innocent people who were affected by the war.  
Thank you to Netgalley and Doubleday for the opportunity to read and review this advanced copy.  All opinions are my own.
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A magnificent story by the author of In the Kingdom of Ice about the key battle at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. The details of the war’s greatest battle are stunningly written. I loved everything about this book which covered details of tactics, politics, major historical character portrayals.

The marines fought like never before in history. Inter-relationships between the various military elements - Army, Marines - were meticulously researched by Sides. Sources include written accounts, books, interviews of actual participants and historical archives. I don’t think Sides left any stone unturned. Gripping!

Infuriating to discover the political missteps of General MacArthur in placing the Marines and Army in grave danger and disregarding the intelligence and the input from senior officers on the ground. Overwhelming numbers of aggressors, supply lines stretched too far, the preening of MacArthur and staff telling him only what he wanted to hear. He put so many soldiers at risk!The ingenuity and courage of boots on the ground and determination of the units who refused to capitulate was incredible. 

This book was a pleasure to review and the third I’ve read by Sides. I’ve just downloaded the audio version of his 2006 work titled Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West - my book of choice for our 17 hour drive south this coming weekend.

* will post in additional online venues once book is released.
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This is an excellent book that explains the whole story of what happened in what was probably the most famous battle in America's forgotten war.  Very comprehensive.
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Apparently Hampton Sides can make anything interesting to me. I have never enjoyed any accounts of war, but I found this book fascinating. The book details the battle at the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War and the events leading up to it.  Unlike some history authors who just supply a book's worth of facts, Sides provides a moving narrative of the men involved in the battle... while still supplying all the facts. Can I give this book six stars?
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I received a free Kindle copy of On Desperate Ground by Hampton Sides courtesy of Net Galley  and Doubleday, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.

I requested this book as  Ihave read about the Korean War,  but not one on the specific subject that this one covered.  I have read a number of books by the author.

Like the other books of Hampton Sides that I have read, this one is well researched and written. It is an engaging read in that the author's writing sytle makes it almost like one is reading fiction and not history.

The book covers the events in the Korean War surrounding the the push through North Korea after the initial invasion into South Korea. Specifically, it is about the Marines and the fighting in and around the Chosin reservoir near the North Korean border of the Yalu river. The author does an excellent job of showing how Douglas McArthur's self centered ego almost cost the lives of thousands of american soldiers by grossly ingnoring the the potential of the Chinese to intervene when the american troops got close to the border.

Sides does an excellent job of detailing the stories of several different individuals at differnt levels within the troops involved in the battle and what eventually happened to them afterwards.

I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in american history and in particular the Korean War.
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I was unfamiliar with the Korean war going into this book.  So when some of the same names that were heavy hitters in WWII came up I was surprised.  I did not realize that Gen Douglass MacArthur was in Tokyo telling the Marines to push to end this skirmish quickly.  This would have worked if the Chinese added some 300,000 troops to the fight.  The Marines got trapped at Chosin Reservoir. 

MacArthur thought even when reports were coming in that they must be wrong. Once MacArthur was quoted saying "Only God or the Government of the United States can keep me from the fulfillment of my mission." because he was forced to meet with President Truman.  But Macarthur spent too much time in Toyko to really know what was going on in Korea.  

A Chinese office had told his men that the Marines were "uniquely diabolical- bloodthirsty murders and rapist".  This must have made it easier for the Chinese soldiers to attack.  And attack they did.  Luckily when Major Gen. Smith knew things were turning out bad, he helped rally his troops.  If it wasn't the thousands of Chinese attacking, the sub-zero temperatures were making everything more difficult.  The men struggled to stay warm, maybe would have fingers and toes amputated once they reach the evacuation point. Guns would jam and planes could only fly during certain times of the day.

The Marines were severely outnumbered but some of the final death tolls showed the Chinese forces had 30,000 dead, 12,500 wounded and the Marines had only lost about 750 men, with around 3000 wounded.  The Marines had to stop their push that MacArthur and Almond wanted and had to do a fighting retreat.  Some called it an attack in the other direction because it was not the typical retreat.  The Marines fought every step of the way.  They inflicted massive casualties and had to get creative with a makeshift airfield, and a less than ideal bridge project.  

This book covers the can-do attitude of the US military and how even in a foreign land, with orders they do not fully understand, they will fight, innovate, and do whatever it takes to come out on top.
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My husband is a military history buff – if we are in a bookstore and get separated, I know I will find him in the military history section, and if I lose him in a public library, I just look in the 940s through the 990s. He has read hundreds of books on military history in general, he devours whatever he can find on the Korean Conflict, and for many years he has been interested in the story of the battle at the Chosin Reservoir. With all that,  I HAD to jump at the opportunity to receive a copy of Hampton Sides’s book On Desperate Ground  (subtitled The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle) from Doubleday Books and NetGalley in return for my honest review.

 That was my plan…but my husband got to my Kindle first, and that was that! For several days, he was surrounded by maps, Kindle in hand, and I swear he kept saying things like “Oh my God, listen to THIS!”

Here is the basic outline: in October, 1950, while General Douglas MacArthur  (in charge of all the United Nations troops in Korea), was talking with President Truman about how the Communist Chinese forces in Asia would definitely NOT get involved in the war, 300,00 Chinese soldiers began crossing the Manchurian border. They set a trap for the UN forces, which included the U.S. First Marine Division,  at the Chosin Reservoir in the snowy mountains of what is now North Korea. What followed was an epic battle as the Marines tried to escape the trap.

The whole thing was brutal: temperatures were as low as thirty below zero, they were completely surrounded and hugely outnumbered. Although the Marine General and his officers tried to convince MacArthur (who  NEVER SPENT A SINGLE NIGHT IN KOREA during the war) that it was indeed a trap, MacArthur refused to believe the reports from the Marines on the ground until it was too late, and the Marines were pushed into the trap created by the Chinese.

TBH, I couldn’t bear to read it. Sides details incredibly heroic acts as the Marines fought their way twenty miles toward the sea, and showed their amazing efforts to overcome relentless attacks by the Chinese. Thanks to his study of declassified documents, archives, never before published letters, and interviews with survivors (both Marines and Koreans), Hampton Sides has written the definitive account of the story of the Chosin Reservoir, in a very readable way. Five stars.
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Hampton Sides masterfully tells the story of the Chosin Campaign. If I have a criticism it is that I felt that while telling a slightly broader story than what is told in The Last Stand of Fox Company, it doesn't quote go wide enough to enter new territory. However, as a big fan of the Korean War history this is a solid entry into the collection.
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On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle by Hampton Sides is the history of one of the greatest stories to come out of the Korean War. Sides is an American historian, author, and journalist. He is the author of Americana, Hellhound on His Trail, Ghost Soldiers, Blood and Thunder, and other bestselling works of narrative history and literary non-fiction.

The Korean War is America’s forgotten war, and the heroics that took place in the war are often overlooked. Marines, however, do remember the events from the landing at Inchon to the evacuation at Chosin. Perhaps the Marine Corps most celebrated and most iconic leader Colonel Chesty Puller. Puller and the Marines left no man behind as they fought their way out of being surrounded at Chosin. Puller always saw the positive: “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.” Temperatures were well below zero, and the Marines reported 7,338 non-battle casualties from the weather alone. The navy provided close air support and the air force dropped in supplies. If there was a time to see defeat this was it. There would be no defeat at Chosin. The Marines made an orderly withdrawal under heavy fire and against a force that vastly outnumbered them.

Sides tells the story of the forces involved at Chosin. Using the narrative form, he brings to life Marines and members of the other services and countries who fought the battle, I am not usually a fan of the narrative style in nonfiction writing, but here Sides breathes life into those who were there. Army and Marine Corps archives were used to form much of the narrative. Also used were interviews of over fifty who fought at Chosin and the personal papers of many others. On Desperate Ground puts a human voice on the battle and the war. More than just battle plans and casualty counts this book is about the people who were there.
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this is the 3rd book of Hampton Sides that I've read the first two are and where Ghost solders and Blood and Thunder and both are books that I've loved , as soon as I saw this I had to request it and I'm glad I did , as with his other two , he brings to life the men who lived and fight doing this time , with that said I would love to say thinks Netgalley  .
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