The Korean War: NoVictors, No VanquishedReaching back into the memories of childhood,and inevitably sifting through the archival collections in my ever-expandingfiling cabinet of a brain, I can honestly say that I draw a blank when thinkingabout the Korean War. Ask me about any other war in American history, and I canundoubtedly recall what the issues were and what actually happened. Not Korea.
In fact, I cannot recall any time, at any point in any of the years ofelementary school up having studied the Korean War in any depth. That is, thebrief overviews of the Korean War only offered that there was a dispute overborders, and not much more.The Korean War, for whatever reason, has beendubbed such names as the “Unknown War,” or the “Forgotten War,”and seems to go down in history as something that shouldn’t be discussed.
Maybethis is because American forces suffered humiliating losses on and off thebattlefield, and failed to win decisively, instead settling for an armisticepeace treaty that left no victors. However, this armistice proved to show thatthe United States was not invincible, and seemed to put its ignorance in check.Or, maybe the Korean War failed to reach the esteem of other wars, such asWorld War II or the Vietnam War, because there were no heroic figures such asMacArthur, there were no battles of Iwo Jima, and there were no majorcontroversies such as Vietnam. All these seem to be plausible theories on whythe Korean War has remained such a mystery to most Americans.
Rather than beingstudied in great detail, such as wars like World War II and the Vietnam War,the Korean War has been shuffled to the side, and has remained, even inclassrooms, a hushed issue.That is why Stanley Sandler, in The Korean War,No Victors, No Vanquished, has, in my opinion, done such a good job in bringingto the public a work that examines the Korean War from all aspects and allviewpoints. Sandler brings to light the relevance and enormity of this war thatwent far beyond a simple border dispute between North Korea and South Korea.The implications of this war reached far beyond what any course throughout mycareer has taught me. Sandler, in his book, is largely responsible for this.Sandler methodically and analytically worksthrough the book from the beginning of Korea’s history until the end of thewar. Opening up the book, he starts off with an account of the causes of thewar, and the implications behind it as well. He examines the advantages to allparties concerned about entering the war, and explained that the United Statesdid not actually want to engage in a war with North Korea.
Along with otherWestern powers, the United States couldn’t be bothered with Korea, and didn’thave much interest in waging war with Kim Il Sung. However, with the Cold Warin full swing, the threat of Soviet domination was reason enough to go to war.Sandler acknowledges the fact that the KoreanWar had not reached the esteem of other wars, yet seems convinced, and withsolid evidence, that this third costliest war should be ranked much higher thanit has been. The Korean War, he argues, would have never even begun had theCold War not been such a terrible threat to the American people. The extremefear that the American people lived with back then was more than ample enoughto justify a war with an enemy that most could not even point out on a map.With the causes and implications behind thejustification for the war out of the way, Sandler than goes on to examine theactual history of the war, and everything that goes on in war. Frompre-diplomatic discussions to all the actors involved in the war, including theChinese, Japanese and Soviets, Sandler does a thorough and complete examinationof the Korean War.While offering a general overview of the historyand background of the Korean War, Sandler than gets more specific anddetail-oriented in breaking down into subcategories the various elements of thewar itself.
He examines the major offensives and retreats that markedsignificant and proved to be of vital importance. While some may see this bookas biased towards Americans and their doings in Korea, it is necessary to lookbeyond that and realize that what he is writing about is factual information.Although the factual information does not make abook noteworthy or necessarily important, what does make it noteworthy is thefact that Sandler wrote this book and offered various different perspectivesother than the traditional American viewpoint. While he did discuss America’sroles, beliefs and ideologies in the war, he also touched upon the ideologiesof other groups as well.
This, in my opinion, is the strongest point ofthe book. Different chapters are designated to the role in which each actorplayed a part in. For example, Sandler discusses in length the involvement ofthe Chinese and how they affected not only the outcome of the war, but how thataffected the international political system as well. He shows the enormouseffect that they had on the way war was waged after their involvement and howthey were such a pivotal force in the Korean War. Additionally, along with theUS perspective, he examines the role the United Nations, along with memberstates, played in this highly involved war. While discussing their involvementin the war, and the significant effect they had on the ability to sustain thewar with North Korea, Sandler also discusses their ultimate short-comings andattributes the outcome of the war somewhat to the UN. This, to me, is veryimportant in providing a detailed and thorough sketch of a war that most peopleknow little about.
That point raises one issue of criticism onbehalf of this book. For all its good qualities, the book, in my opinion, issomewhat long-winded and wordy. That is, it seems difficult for me to imaginethis book capturing an audience and making them want to continue reading. Whileit is of high historical value, the complexity and detailed nature of this bookwould seem to be a turnoff from those who are not being forced to read it.
Rather than concentrating so much on detailed accounts and factual data andstatistics, a more illustrative and animated book would, in my opinion, make ita much appealing and interesting book.While the book may tend to be dry at times, andlengthy in point, the fact remains that nevertheless, this book is crucial inshedding light on a subject that has been forgotten by so many. While people ofall ages are readily familiar with other wars such as the Vietnam War, it iscrucial for more writers to designate an appropriate chapter in history tobringing intoperspective a warthat meant so much to the history of its peoples. Like stated above, this warhad enormous implications, with the Cold War raging, yet didn’t have themagnificent dimensions of heroism and scandal that accompanied so many otherwars. That, however, is not justification for abandoning a crucial andsignificant chunk of American history. This book, overall, does a fantastic jobof re-examining the Korean War.