This fast paced, well researched and well written account of one of the battles fought by Marines as the Chinese Army surrounded them at North Korea's Chosin Reservoir provides a vivid view of front line warfare. There is a little something here for everyone. For the armchair warrior who never was a Marine, this is a chance to see what it is/was like. For the compassionate soul who recognizes the human waste of war, this provides ample evidence, not just of the waste of American lives but also of the waste of Chinese lives. For the military tactician, here is a brilliant case study. For the psychology oriented reader interested in the behavior of men under stress, this book provides many examples of individual behavior and reassures us that despite the brutality of battle some soldiers on both sides see the humanity of their enemy. For the person curious about how soldiers get recommended for medals you see it here in the action of Lieutenant McCarthy; of course an officer has to survive to make his recommendations. Perhaps the real truth about medals is that everyone, from the lowest grunt to the Company commander should be decorated or none should be. The sarcastic reader will say that just about everyone in Fox Company earned a Purple Heart but that's not what I mean. In a story like this one either every Marine was just doing his job or each one was operating above and beyond the call of duty regardless of rank.
Although little is said in this book about the leadership of the Korean War, enough is said to remind us all that those in high military command positions should hold command for strictly limited periods of time. Had this happened with McArthur, then perhaps this narcissistic, arrogant and ultimately megalomaniacal general would not have failed so miserably in his last great military assignment and caused the purposeless deaths of countless American and United Nations soldiers. And for those who revere the military command structure as somehow unfailing, there is enough here to underscore its tragic weaknesses. But even those can be overcome when field commanders receiving a series of consistently irrational orders disconnected from the reality on the ground, formulate and execute their own plans. In just a few words, this book illuminates the creative and hard headed thinking of Colonel "Blitzen" Litzen as the moment of truth arrives.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in military history at the "ground" level where the contest of arms is truly held and won or lost.