On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War's Greatest Battle

On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War's Greatest Battle

by Hampton Sides

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"Superb...A masterpiece of thorough research, deft pacing and arresting detail...This war story — the fight to break out of a frozen hell near the Chosin Reservoir — has been told many times before. But Sides tells it exceedingly well, with fresh research, gritty scenes and cinematic sweep."—Washington Post

From the New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers and In the Kingdom of Ice, a chronicle of the extraordinary feats of heroism by Marines called on to do the impossible during the greatest battle of the Korean War

On October 15, 1950, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of UN troops in Korea, convinced President Harry Truman that the Communist forces of Kim Il-sung would be utterly defeated by Thanksgiving. The Chinese, he said with near certainty, would not intervene in the war.

As he was speaking, 300,000 Red Chinese soldiers began secretly crossing the Manchurian border. Led by some 20,000 men of the First Marine Division, the Americans moved deep into the snowy mountains of North Korea, toward the trap Mao had set for the vainglorious MacArthur along the frozen shores of the Chosin Reservoir. What followed was one of the most heroic—and harrowing—operations in American military history, and one of the classic battles of all time. Faced with probable annihilation, and temperatures plunging to 20 degrees below zero, the surrounded, and hugely outnumbered, Marines fought through the enemy forces with ferocity, ingenuity, and nearly unimaginable courage as they marched their way to the sea.

Hampton Sides' superb account of this epic clash relies on years of archival research, unpublished letters, declassified documents, and interviews with scores of Marines and Koreans who survived the siege. While expertly detailing the follies of the American leaders, On Desperate Ground is an immediate, grunt's-eye view of history, enthralling in its narrative pace and powerful in its portrayal of what ordinary men are capable of in the most extreme circumstances.

Hampton Sides has been hailed by critics as one of the best nonfiction writers of his generation. As the Miami Herald wrote, "Sides has a novelist's eye for the propulsive elements that lend momentum and dramatic pace to the best nonfiction narratives."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781984833655
Publisher: Diversified Publishing
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 656
Sales rank: 335,252
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

HAMPTON SIDES is an award-winning editor of Outside and the author of the bestselling histories In the Kingdom of Ice, Hellhound on His Trail, Blood and Thunder, and Ghost Soldiers, which won the PEN Award for Nonfiction. A past fellow of the Santa Fe Institute, he teaches narrative non-fiction at Colorado College.

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Copyright © 2018 Hampton Sides.
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All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Morning Calm 3

Book 1 Seoul

Chapter 1 The Professor 9

Chapter 2 Traitor's House 21

Chapter 3 Across the Han 29

Chapter 4 Beneath the Lighthouse 36

Chapter 5 The Battle of the Barricades 39

Chapter 6 The Savior of Our Race 48

Chapter 7 God's Right-Hand Man 56

Chapter 8 The Tiger Wants Human Beings 62

Book 2 To The Mountains

Chapter 9 Many, Many 71

Chapter 10 King's Envoy to Hamhung 80

Chapter 11 Heroic Remedies 88

Chapter 12 Will o' the Wisp 95

Chapter 13 Broken Arrows 104

Chapter 14 A Powerful Instrument 109

Chapter 15 Fattened for the Kill 119

Chapter 16 Never Too Late to Talk 128

Chapter 17 Never a More Daring Flight 132

Book 3 The Reservoir

Chapter 18 Easy for Us, Tough for Others 141

Chapter 19 Boon Companions 150

Chapter 20 Easy Company Holds Here 157

Chapter 21 Where the Bullet Belongs 163

Chapter 22 Gung-ho, You Cowardly Bastards 168

Chapter 23 When the Lead Is Flying 172

Chapter 24 A Hot Reception 182

Chapter 25 The War Council 191

Chapter 26 An Entirely New War 195

Book 4 $$$

Chapter 27 You Will All Be Slaughtered 203

Chapter 28 Kissing a Buzz Saw 211

Chapter 29 Morphine Dreams 215

Chapter 30 No Soft Options 219

Chapter 31 One-Man Army 228

Chapter 32 Every Weapon That We Have 236

Chapter 33 The Ridgerunners 239

Chapter 34 This Place of Suffering 247

Book 4 $$$

Chapter 35 Attacking in a Different Direction 257

Chapter 36 In the Day of Trouble 266

Chapter 37 I'll Get You a Goddamn Bridge 275

Chapter 38 Blood on the Ice 281

Chapter 39 Taking Departure 289

Chapter 40 The Bridge of Long Life 297

Chapter 41 Down to Earth 300

Chapter 42 The Most Harrowing Hour 306

Chapter 43 The Crossing 310

Chapter 44 We Will See You Again in the South 316

Chapter 45 We Walk in the Hand of God 323

Epilogue: In the Pantheon 333

Acknowledgments 339

A Note on Sources 345

Notes 349

Selected Bibliography 369

Index 379

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On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War's Greatest Battle 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I remember much regarding the start of the Korean war but this book puts it in clearer focus!
jmgallen 5 months ago
“On Desperate Ground” places the struggle of the First Marine Division at the Chosin Reservoir in the context of the early phase of the Korean War. It provides insights into the MacArthur Court in Tokyo and Mac’s relations with Washington. The Inchon Landings set in motion the events that placed the First Marines at the frozen lake when the Chinese intervention turned the United Nations war from a march to the Yalu to a desperate struggle for survival. The trials of individual soldiers add human interest to the tale. I appreciate the even-handed treatment of MacArthur. Criticism of his unwillingness to tolerate dissent among his staff and glaring errors in assessing intelligence about Chinese and Russian involvement is balanced by recognition of his master stroke at Inchon and the universal enthusiasm to conquer North Korea from the battleground to the White House. I am intrigued by the suggestion that MacArthur could not figure out why he was summoned to Wake Island to meet President Truman. Author Hampton Sides has crafted an informative tome that draws the reader into the conferences and the intense cold and pain of Chosin that is difficult to put down. It is a must read for anyone interested in the Korean War, Douglas MacArthur or just in search of a great read.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good combination of personal stories in the context of the bigger picture.
SevenAcreBooks More than 1 year ago
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.
joseph_spucklerJS More than 1 year ago
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.
Hillsboro More than 1 year ago
This is a comment about the "Editorial Review" of the book. Whoever wrote it clearly does not know anything about the Korean War, the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, or Korean geography. First, the Marines were not the only force that was involved with the battle. The Army 9th Infantry Division played a significant role in that as the Marines withdrew toward Hamhung harbor, the 9th fought a delaying action giving the Marines cover. The editor needs to give credit where credit is due. Second, Inchon is on the west coast of Korean and is located below the 38th parallel in South Korean. The editor needs a remedial geography lesson. Bottom line: get an editor and check your facts.