Korean War - Imjin River (Kindle)
Fall of the Glosters to the Armistice, April 1951–July 1953
As of October 1950, a quarter of a million Communist Chinese troops, in twenty-seven divisions, had poured across the Yalu River into North Korea, with the singular objective of forcing General Douglas MacArthur’s United Nations troops back across the 38th Parallel and into the Sea of Japan.
Shortly before midnight on 22 April 1951, to the west of the US Eighth Army’s defensive front, the Chinese Sixty-third Army fell on the British 29th Brigade. On the left flank, the 1st Battalion, Gloucester Regiment (‘Glosters’) held a tenuous position at a ford on the Imjin River. Despite a gallant defence, the battalion was pushed back to make a desperate but futile stand on Hill 235. On what became known as ‘Glosters’ Hill’, the battalion ceased to exist. It was subsequently estimated that the attacking force of 27,000 Chinese troops suffered 10,000 casualties, forcing the Chinese army to be withdrawn from the front.
From August 1951 to the summer of 1952, the USAF conducted Operation Strangle in a futile and costly attempt to disrupt Chinese supply routes. In the last two years of fighting, Communist Chinese and UN forces faced each other from well-entrenched positions in hilly terrain, where mapped hill numbers were contested. From June 1952 to March 1953, a series of five hard-fought engagements took place in central Korea as the antagonists sought ownership of Hill 266, commonly referred to as ‘Old Baldy’. This was followed during April–July 1953 by two tactically pointless battles over Pork Chop Hill, in which the UN forces won the first battle and the Chinese the second, with both sides sustaining major casualties. On 27 July 1953, the two belligerents signed an armistice agreement, implementing a ceasefire that stands to this day. De facto, the Korean War has never ended.
Imjin River is a worthy final instalment in Van Tonder’s series on the Korean War. As with his other books, Van Tonder weaves an operational overview with the action on the ground in a story that rattles along without getting bogged down in too many stuffy details. His description of the fate of the Glosters in particular is full of tension and drama. Van Tonder is supported by many useful supporting maps and photographs, some of them in colour. Above all, Van Tonder reminds us that the Korean War was a proper war not just a sideshow in a larger struggle and it deserves our attention to prevent it happening again as much as anything else. For those unfamiliar with the Korean War, or just military history enthusiasts in general, this series of books from Pen & Sword’s Cold War 1945-1991 stable is an excellent starting point.Beating Tsundoku
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I know very little about the Korean War but that’s not a problem when I have this book in front of me. Gerry Van Tonder's 'Korean War - Imjin River' is a good enough place as any to begin a brain dump on this conflict, and this volume, which runs to 128 pages, Is profusely illustrated with contemporary photos and clear maps.Paul Nixon
The specific period covered is April 1951 to July 1953 and includes the Gloucestershire Regiment’s glorious stand on the Imjin River. This is a good summary of events during this conflict and forms part of the Pen & Sword Cold War series covering the years 1945 to 1991. The book benefits from a good index and detailed bibliography and brings the reader right up-to-date with current events in North Korea, South Korea and beyond.
A recommended read, and I shall be looking out for other books in this series.
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A good narrative history that serves to open the way to more detailed reading. Good images and maps and bibliography. Interesting to note the rather high number of British deaths compared to their total casualties, which suggests that the British troops were very heavily engaged indeed and that their contribution was essential.Michael McCarthy
Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide