This Kind of War by T. R. Fehrenbach
  • Title: This Kind of War
  • Subtitle: The Classic Korean War History
  • Author(s): T. R. Fehrenbach
  • Publisher: Potomac Books
  • Year: 2001
  • ISBN-10: 1574883348
  • ISBN-13: 9781574883343


This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History” by T. R. Fehrenbach offers a comprehensive examination of one of the most significant conflicts in modern history. Fehrenbach, an esteemed military historian, provides a remarkable account of the Korean War, delving into the political, social, and military aspects of the conflict.

Fehrenbach begins by setting the historical context, exploring the complex factors that led to the outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula. He meticulously traces the escalating tensions between North and South Korea, the Soviet Union, and the United States, shedding light on the intricate web of global power struggles that led to the conflict.

The author’s vivid and compelling narrative transports readers to the frontlines of the war, offering an in-depth analysis of the military strategies employed by both sides. Fehrenbach highlights the challenges faced by American forces, such as the harsh weather, the relentless guerrilla tactics of the enemy, and the limited resources available to them. Drawing on extensive research and interviews, he brings to life the experiences of soldiers on the ground, providing a gripping and humanistic portrayal of the war.

In addition to its focus on the military aspects, “This Kind of War” also explores the impact of the conflict on the Korean people and their society. Fehrenbach addresses the devastating consequences of war for both North and South Koreans, delving into the hardships endured and the widespread displacement of civilians.

Overall, “This Kind of War” stands as a seminal work on the Korean War, offering readers a comprehensive and deeply informative account of the conflict. Fehrenbach’s meticulous research, combined with his engaging writing style, make this book an essential read for anyone seeking a more nuanced understanding of this often overlooked chapter in world history.


Book Review

"A Sobering Account: This Kind of War Examines the Soul-Crushing Korean Conflict"

This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History” by T. R. Fehrenbach is a seminal work that explores the complexity and brutality of the Korean War, a conflict often overshadowed by others that preceded and followed it. Fehrenbach’s meticulously researched and thought-provoking account sheds light on the political, military, and human dimensions of this grueling war.

From its opening pages, Fehrenbach sets the historical context, diving into the years leading up to the war and the intricate power struggles between the Soviet Union, the United States, and China. He examines the disastrous consequences of the intertwining interests, which ultimately led to the division of Korea and the outbreak of hostilities in 1950.

Fehrenbach’s ability to delve into the nuances of war is evident as he meticulously dissects the military strategies employed by both sides. He explores the challenges faced by American forces, such as navigating treacherous terrain, brutal weather conditions, and a resource-constrained supply chain. Through vivid recounting of battles and interviews with soldiers, the author humanizes the war, providing readers with a gripping understanding of the soldiers’ experiences and the trauma they endured.

One of the strengths of Fehrenbach’s work is his ability to portray the war from multiple angles. He exposes the devastating impact of the conflict on the Korean people, highlighting the widespread displacement of civilians and the immense suffering endured. Fehrenbach acknowledges the immense human toll of war, addressing the plight of South Korean civilians caught in the crossfire and the plight of prisoners of war subjected to unbearable conditions.

Furthermore, Fehrenbach thoughtfully examines the political decisions and missteps of key figures involved, including General Douglas MacArthur. He analyzes the consequences of MacArthur’s over-extension into North Korean territory, which ultimately led to Chinese intervention and a shifting of the tide in the conflict. Fehrenbach’s account of the political landscape helps readers understand the profound impact of strategic decisions made at the highest levels.

This Kind of War” manages to balance historical analysis with engaging writing, making it accessible to both seasoned historians and those new to the subject. Fehrenbach’s meticulous research is evident throughout the book, as he skillfully weaves together primary sources, interviews, and detailed military analysis to construct a comprehensive narrative of this forgotten war.

However, one critique of the book is the occasional use of colorful language and personal biases that seep into the text. While it does not undermine the overall historical value of the work, it may distract some readers or leave them wondering about the author’s objectivity.

In conclusion, “This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History” by T. R. Fehrenbach offers a thought-provoking and in-depth exploration of the Korean War. Fehrenbach’s ability to navigate diverse aspects of the conflict, from military strategy to the impact on civilians, provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of the war’s complexities. Despite some minor concerns about the author’s personal biases, this book stands as a definitive account that captivates and educates readers about the soul-crushing nature of the Korean War.

Word Count: 537

War, when it comes, is not so much a confirmation of what we stand for but a vivid display of what we stand against.

Key Ideas

In “This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History” by T. R. Fehrenbach, several key ideas and themes emerge. These ideas shed light on the nuanced nature of the conflict and contribute to a deeper understanding of the Korean War. Some of these key ideas are:

  1. The Forgotten War Fehrenbach highlights the Korean War’s status as a forgotten conflict, overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War. Despite its significance in shaping the geopolitical landscape of East Asia, the war remains relatively unknown to many. Fehrenbach aims to rectify this by providing a comprehensive account that brings the Korean War into focus.

  2. Global Power Struggles Fehrenbach emphasizes the global power struggles that played a significant role in fueling the Korean War. He carefully examines the complex relationships between the Soviet Union, the United States, and China, illustrating how the conflict in Korea became a proxy battleground for these superpowers.

  3. Military Challenges The book delves into the military challenges faced by the United States and its allies during the Korean War. Fehrenbach elucidates the harsh weather conditions, treacherous terrain, and limited resources that tested the resolve of American forces. He emphasizes the difficulties of waging a war that required adapting to unconventional guerrilla tactics employed by the enemy.

  4. Human Cost Fehrenbach highlights the immense human cost of the Korean War. He explores the displacement of civilians, the suffering endured by the Korean people, and the brutal treatment of prisoners of war. By incorporating personal accounts and interviews, Fehrenbach humanizes the war, making readers acutely aware of the toll it took on individuals and societies.

  5. Leadership and Decision-Making The book explores the leadership and decision-making processes that influenced the course of the Korean War. Fehrenbach critically analyzes the decisions made by key figures such as General Douglas MacArthur, highlighting how these choices shaped the trajectory of the conflict.

  6. Lessons Learned Fehrenbach offers insights into the lessons learned from the Korean War. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the realities of warfare and the challenges of fighting in a decentralized and asymmetric conflict. Furthermore, Fehrenbach underscores the significance of clearly defined objectives and the need for adaptability in military campaigns.

Overall, “This Kind of War” examines various key ideas and themes that contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the Korean War. Fehrenbach’s exploration of the forgotten war, global power dynamics, military challenges, human cost, leadership, and lessons learned provides readers with a nuanced perspective on this historically significant and often-understudied conflict.


Target Audience

The book “This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History” by T. R. Fehrenbach is targeted at a diverse audience interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the Korean War and its historical significance. It is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • History Enthusiasts and Researchers “This Kind of War” provides an extensive and well-researched account of the Korean War, making it a valuable resource for history enthusiasts and scholars. Fehrenbach’s meticulous attention to detail and comprehensive analysis offer a nuanced understanding of the conflict, making it a compelling read for those seeking a deeper dive into this understudied war.

  • Military and Strategic Studies Students The book’s focus on military strategies, tactics, and the challenges faced by the U.S. forces during the war makes it a recommended read for students of military and strategic studies. Fehrenbach’s exploration of decision-making processes and the impact of leadership offers valuable insights into the complexities of warfare and the importance of adaptability.

  • International Relations and Political Science Scholars The Korean War occupies a crucial place in international relations, as it played a significant role in shaping the geopolitics of East Asia. Fehrenbach’s examination of the global power struggles and the geopolitical ramifications of the conflict make the book essential reading for scholars and students interested in international relations and political science.

  • Those Seeking a Humanistic Perspective Fehrenbach’s inclusion of personal accounts and interviews brings a humanistic dimension to the war. Readers interested in the impact of conflict on civilians, the experiences of soldiers on the ground, and the psychological and social effects of war will find “This Kind of War” to be a compelling read.

In conclusion, “This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History” is recommended reading for a diverse audience. History enthusiasts, military and strategic studies students, scholars of international relations and political science, and those seeking a humanistic perspective on the Korean War will all find value in Fehrenbach’s comprehensive and engaging account of this often overlooked conflict.

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