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The Coldest War: A Memoir of Korea

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America's "forgotten war" lasted just thirty-seven months, yet 54,246 Americans died in that time -- nearly as many as died in ten years in Vietnam. On the fiftieth anniversary of this devastating conflict, James Brady tells the story of his life as a young marine lieutenant in Korea. In 1947, seeking to avoid the draft, nineteen-year-old Jim Brady volunteered for a Marine America's "forgotten war" lasted just thirty-seven months, yet 54,246 Americans died in that time -- nearly as many as died in ten years in Vietnam. On the fiftieth anniversary of this devastating conflict, James Brady tells the story of his life as a young marine lieutenant in Korea. In 1947, seeking to avoid the draft, nineteen-year-old Jim Brady volunteered for a Marine Corps program that made him a lieutenant in the reserves on the day he graduated college. He didn't plan to find himself in command of a rifle platoon three years later facing a real enemy, but that is exactly what happened after the Chinese turned a so-called police action into a war. The Coldest War vividly describes Brady's rapid education in the realities of war and the pressures of command. Opportunities for bold offensives sink in the miasma of trench warfare; death comes in fits and starts as too-accurate artillery on both sides seeks out men in their bunkers; constant alertness is crucial for survival, while brutal cold and a seductive silence conspire to lull soldiers into an often fatal stupor. The Korean War affected the lives of all Americans, yet is little known beyond the antics of "M*A*S*H." Here is the inside story that deserves to be told, and James Brady is a powerful witness to a vital chapter of our history.


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America's "forgotten war" lasted just thirty-seven months, yet 54,246 Americans died in that time -- nearly as many as died in ten years in Vietnam. On the fiftieth anniversary of this devastating conflict, James Brady tells the story of his life as a young marine lieutenant in Korea. In 1947, seeking to avoid the draft, nineteen-year-old Jim Brady volunteered for a Marine America's "forgotten war" lasted just thirty-seven months, yet 54,246 Americans died in that time -- nearly as many as died in ten years in Vietnam. On the fiftieth anniversary of this devastating conflict, James Brady tells the story of his life as a young marine lieutenant in Korea. In 1947, seeking to avoid the draft, nineteen-year-old Jim Brady volunteered for a Marine Corps program that made him a lieutenant in the reserves on the day he graduated college. He didn't plan to find himself in command of a rifle platoon three years later facing a real enemy, but that is exactly what happened after the Chinese turned a so-called police action into a war. The Coldest War vividly describes Brady's rapid education in the realities of war and the pressures of command. Opportunities for bold offensives sink in the miasma of trench warfare; death comes in fits and starts as too-accurate artillery on both sides seeks out men in their bunkers; constant alertness is crucial for survival, while brutal cold and a seductive silence conspire to lull soldiers into an often fatal stupor. The Korean War affected the lives of all Americans, yet is little known beyond the antics of "M*A*S*H." Here is the inside story that deserves to be told, and James Brady is a powerful witness to a vital chapter of our history.

30 review for The Coldest War: A Memoir of Korea

  1. 5 out of 5

    Checkman

    A compact smooth reading Korean War memoir of James Brady's nine months (November 1951 - July 1952) with a Marine Corp rifle battalion. Brady was a Marine Corp Reserve officer; called up for active duty as soon as he finished university. Brady had thought that the reserves would be a good way to avoid the draft, but instead found himself being sent to a war. Brady's tour was fairly uneventful despite all of that. During the winter of 1952 he was a platoon leader with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marin A compact smooth reading Korean War memoir of James Brady's nine months (November 1951 - July 1952) with a Marine Corp rifle battalion. Brady was a Marine Corp Reserve officer; called up for active duty as soon as he finished university. Brady had thought that the reserves would be a good way to avoid the draft, but instead found himself being sent to a war. Brady's tour was fairly uneventful despite all of that. During the winter of 1952 he was a platoon leader with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment The majority of his service took place in the North Korean Taebaek Mountains. When he arrived both sides had been bled dry after fifteen months of hard fighting. The formal peace talks had not begun, but planning and preparations were underway. What Mr. Brady found himself in was in a lull; with days and even weeks of relative peace. There were patrols, sporadic artillery barrages and harassing sniper fire that punctuated the calm. Men still died, but nowhere like what had happened just a few months prior. Brady experienced a relatively quiet tour of duty, Later the Marines were moved to just south of Panmunjom (where the peace talks were taking place) and things became more active. On May 31, 1952 he participated in an attack on a Chinese position for which he was awarded the Bronze Star for valor........in 2001. On July 4, 1952 he boarded a troop ship and returned to the United States - his tour of duty was over. The book is accessible and readable. I never got the impression that Mr. Brady was exaggerating or spinning a yarn. There are no encounters with beautiful exotic women, daring raids behind enemy lines (the one time they tried such a thing it ended with a Marine losing a leg to a landmine) and other assorted war hero stories. Brady is very honest about what and who he was. He was a young lieutenant of twenty-three who had to learn as he went along. He was deathly afraid of landmines in the beginning, scared of making mistakes and getting his men hurt; which happened despite his best efforts. He admits that there were things that he should have done, but didn't and yet also acknowledges his strengths. Unlike some war memoirs The Coldest War never has an air of braggadocio. Mr. Brady was a young officer who did his best in a war. A situation he never expected to find himself in. Mr. Brady was a professional journalist and columnist for many decades before he wrote this memoir (published in 1990). Thanks to those decades of experience The Coldest War is compact tight read. There is very little padding and it reads quickly. The book begins with his arrival in Korea and ends with the troop ship leaving Korea. I was a soldier (not a Marine) for many years in the United States Army. I never experienced combat or duty in a combat zone, but there are things about military service that are universal. One can sense when an individual is lying about military experiences and I never got that impression from this memoir. This is a very good read and I believe an honest one.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    James Brady gives an excellent view of what life was like for a Marine infantry officer during the Korean War. No punches were pulled, even when he described his own actions. This is a good, gritty read. Once I started I had to finish.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is an excellent memoir about the Korean war. Frankly Brady is probably the most underrated non-fiction writer in America. Anything by him is going to be insightful and well written.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    "Marine platoon leader memoir" is one of my favorite micro-genres of literature, and among stories of leadership, heroism, maturation, and fear, The Coldest War stands a cut above for its clarity, candor, and writing. More Americans died in 3 years in Korea than in 10 years in Vietnam, and the war is still not officially over, yet most civilians are entirely ignorant of the conflict, let alone what it was like to serve in the coldest war. Sent to Korea in November of 1952, Lt Brady faced a bloody "Marine platoon leader memoir" is one of my favorite micro-genres of literature, and among stories of leadership, heroism, maturation, and fear, The Coldest War stands a cut above for its clarity, candor, and writing. More Americans died in 3 years in Korea than in 10 years in Vietnam, and the war is still not officially over, yet most civilians are entirely ignorant of the conflict, let alone what it was like to serve in the coldest war. Sent to Korea in November of 1952, Lt Brady faced a bloody, static war more remiscint of World War I than anything else. Americans and Chinese faced off across frozen mountains, where artillery made it too dangerous to move by daylight. In this war, men died by dribs and drabs, in raids, shellings, and accidents. There was no strategy, just a slow grinding of privates and platoon leaders against the communist adversaries. Brady went onto to make a living as a novelist, and it shows in the precisely written descriptions of characters, terrain, and combat. A truly amazing story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bob Willis

    An excellent personal memoir of the Korean War. A war that most Americans have forgotten. Jim Brady was there and tells his story with modesty and without the bragging found in other war memoirs. This book tells it like it was and is in Marine Infantry.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Scott Macfarland

    A well written memoir of a young Marine officer who went from college life to training at Quantico to the front in North Korea in a matter of months. He pulls no punches describing the horrors as well as the boredom and sacrifices of war as the two forces endure frigid cold, death and the stress of the conflict as the marines rotate back and forth between the front line and reserve camps. A very gritty, brutally honest and thought provoking book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew F.

    I loved the book. I loved the detail in describing the positions of where he was and what he was doing. I also like books about wars and the battles of them. The book had a decent amount of action and a some interesting parts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    Up close and personal memoir of a grunt in Korea. I liked it. The writing want as polished as Manchester, but was good enough to get the story across.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    War is hell. War is also boredom, misery, arrogance, cowardice and stupidity. James Brady covers all the bases.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Giulia

    I liked it! I could relate to much of the writing angst and decisions about stepping away from the novel writing. Not sure I’d recommend it for non-writers though.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James

    A strongly written and very personal memoir of the author's service as a Marine officer in the Korean War. For those who haven't heard much about that conflict compared to World War II, Vietnam, and others, this is an enlightening read which does as much as any book could to help the reader see the war through the eyes of the young men who served there, to feel their terror, physical misery, occasional humiliation, and tedium. This sets the stage for Brady's newly published book looking at Korea A strongly written and very personal memoir of the author's service as a Marine officer in the Korean War. For those who haven't heard much about that conflict compared to World War II, Vietnam, and others, this is an enlightening read which does as much as any book could to help the reader see the war through the eyes of the young men who served there, to feel their terror, physical misery, occasional humiliation, and tedium. This sets the stage for Brady's newly published book looking at Korea from the perspective of the much older man he is now; it says a lot about the nature of the experiences he describes in "The Coldest War" that even half a century later, when he revisited Korea and the old battlefields, it led him to title the new book "The Scariest Place in the World."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Wayne

    This book written by James Brady was a first hand description of his experience in the Korean war. A friend of mine, Don Kelly, was a Marine in Korea and he said Chapter 34 was a good description of what Marines experienced in this war. It was pretty intense. This memoir of Korea was well written although my Kindle version had many misspelled words. I suspect it resulted from conversion to digital from hard print but it is surprising that spell checking didn't catch this. This book is an importa This book written by James Brady was a first hand description of his experience in the Korean war. A friend of mine, Don Kelly, was a Marine in Korea and he said Chapter 34 was a good description of what Marines experienced in this war. It was pretty intense. This memoir of Korea was well written although my Kindle version had many misspelled words. I suspect it resulted from conversion to digital from hard print but it is surprising that spell checking didn't catch this. This book is an important story of a time in American history that we should try to experience and understand. Like all of James Brady books it is a highly recommended read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eddie

    I enjoyed this book. Brady did a great job of trying to capture the essence of warfare, including the boring, mundane details. It was also good to see a book written about the Korean War. We have had the tendency to let this pre-Vietnam conflict become all but forgotten since it was sandwiched between the WWII and Vietnam. Kudos to Brady on a good book. He needs to get a better editor though because there were many words not spelled correctly, and sometimes the grammar took on the tone of an ema I enjoyed this book. Brady did a great job of trying to capture the essence of warfare, including the boring, mundane details. It was also good to see a book written about the Korean War. We have had the tendency to let this pre-Vietnam conflict become all but forgotten since it was sandwiched between the WWII and Vietnam. Kudos to Brady on a good book. He needs to get a better editor though because there were many words not spelled correctly, and sometimes the grammar took on the tone of an email correspondence.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    One of the finest combat memoirs I've ever read; Brady paid his Marine dues as an infantry platoon leader in Korea and this book covers his tour of duty there. It was called a "police action" and "The Forgotten War" but it was a real conflict and claimed too many lives in just three short years. It was interesting to read about former U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Navy John Chaffee, who was Brady's company commander and an admirable figure even then. One of the finest combat memoirs I've ever read; Brady paid his Marine dues as an infantry platoon leader in Korea and this book covers his tour of duty there. It was called a "police action" and "The Forgotten War" but it was a real conflict and claimed too many lives in just three short years. It was interesting to read about former U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Navy John Chaffee, who was Brady's company commander and an admirable figure even then.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Philip Porter

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I thought it was a compelling story about Brady's experience. It felt realistic and pretty even-handed, as a memoir. My take-always were: that the Korean War involved a fairly large loss of life on both sides via skirmishes and yet it was like WW1 in that the lines did not much move; and soldiers died just being on the line from accidents. I am always amazed at what soldiers are willing to do for their country. I thought it was a compelling story about Brady's experience. It felt realistic and pretty even-handed, as a memoir. My take-always were: that the Korean War involved a fairly large loss of life on both sides via skirmishes and yet it was like WW1 in that the lines did not much move; and soldiers died just being on the line from accidents. I am always amazed at what soldiers are willing to do for their country.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    A nicely written account of the author's one year tour of duty as a Marine platoon leader during the Korean "conflict". Very nicely written with emotion and excellent descriptions of an officer's view of and relationship with enlisted personnel and with fellow officers. Gives special insight on the Marine's living and fighting conditions and the respect earned by the tough and resourceful Chinese and North Korean soldiers who opposed them. A nicely written account of the author's one year tour of duty as a Marine platoon leader during the Korean "conflict". Very nicely written with emotion and excellent descriptions of an officer's view of and relationship with enlisted personnel and with fellow officers. Gives special insight on the Marine's living and fighting conditions and the respect earned by the tough and resourceful Chinese and North Korean soldiers who opposed them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This may be a great memoir, but a bit too grimy for me. Engaging, yes. Had to read for school. I was also hoping to better understand my papa's adventures during the Korean War, but the experience of a Marine in action in Korea is a far cry from working on a supply ship in sunshiny New Caledonia.... This may be a great memoir, but a bit too grimy for me. Engaging, yes. Had to read for school. I was also hoping to better understand my papa's adventures during the Korean War, but the experience of a Marine in action in Korea is a far cry from working on a supply ship in sunshiny New Caledonia....

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    The Battle of the Bulge is not forgotten after one reads this story of tragedy and defeat, incompetence, and loss. I have often wondered where the 'best' place to fight a war would be. I have concluded that the winter, any winter, is NOT the place I choose. Of course, reading every book I can find about Stalingrad made me look for other place to fight many years ago. The Battle of the Bulge is not forgotten after one reads this story of tragedy and defeat, incompetence, and loss. I have often wondered where the 'best' place to fight a war would be. I have concluded that the winter, any winter, is NOT the place I choose. Of course, reading every book I can find about Stalingrad made me look for other place to fight many years ago.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    Haven't read very many books on the Korean war. In fact, there just aren't that many to begin with. I sure picked a winner on this one. James Brady tells the story about his time in the Korean war with clarity and honesty. He describes the little things that usually is missing in a memoir. An excellent read. Haven't read very many books on the Korean war. In fact, there just aren't that many to begin with. I sure picked a winner on this one. James Brady tells the story about his time in the Korean war with clarity and honesty. He describes the little things that usually is missing in a memoir. An excellent read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matt Howard

    There aren't many books on the Korean War, so its always nice to find something on the subject. I really enjoyed this book, and thought that the author did a good job at relaying his experiences in the second half of this conflict. The book was easy to read and follow, and enjoyable. There aren't many books on the Korean War, so its always nice to find something on the subject. I really enjoyed this book, and thought that the author did a good job at relaying his experiences in the second half of this conflict. The book was easy to read and follow, and enjoyable.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    Great memoir of a grunt in Korea.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Madelaine Landry

    Another novel-in-progress research book, but Brady's style is too engaging and the book was hard to put down once i got started. Another novel-in-progress research book, but Brady's style is too engaging and the book was hard to put down once i got started.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steffi

    This was for a class, of course I didn't finish it for that--but I do want to finish this; I'm a sucker for a good memoir. This was for a class, of course I didn't finish it for that--but I do want to finish this; I'm a sucker for a good memoir.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Roger Rohweder

    A great description of how all of the soldiers who weren't part of those big famous battles in all those other war books spent the war. A great description of how all of the soldiers who weren't part of those big famous battles in all those other war books spent the war.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marybull

    a great memoir, focuses on the nitty gritty details of being on the line in Korean for 5 months, without a change of underwear, and being in command as a brand new young-20s second lieutenant.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lillian EVHS Huynh

    I like how James Brady shows an in depth view on the Korean War. He focus his points on how it feels like to be in the war especially when the environment in Korea is completely different to America.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    Read this in preparation for a trip to Korea, where my Grandad served during the Korean War. Helped me get a realistic perspective on what he dealt with.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    3.5 stars

  29. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

    A solid and well written memoir of the Korean War.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jerry-Book

    I had a neighbor growing up. He had fought in the Korean War. He always had nightmares. I don't think they knew about PTSD back then. This is a memoir by James Brady who fought in Korea. I had read Halberstam's book "The Coldest Winter" and this book reminded of that book. Brady enters the War as a raw lieutenant in the last year of the war. By then the War is a stalemate along the original border between North and South Korea and the War has settled down into trench warfare along the border. Ha I had a neighbor growing up. He had fought in the Korean War. He always had nightmares. I don't think they knew about PTSD back then. This is a memoir by James Brady who fought in Korea. I had read Halberstam's book "The Coldest Winter" and this book reminded of that book. Brady enters the War as a raw lieutenant in the last year of the war. By then the War is a stalemate along the original border between North and South Korea and the War has settled down into trench warfare along the border. Having just read a book about WW I I was struck by the similarity between that War and this phase of the Korean War. Of course, there is the cold weather and thus the title of the book. Brady well-documents how it was to be a green lieutenant in this War. His feelings about the War are summed up at the end: "I knew I would never go back to Korea, never sign up for an old soldiers' tour. I didn't want to see the hills again or feel the cold or hear the wind out of Siberia, moaning. I didn't want to disturb the dead."

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