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In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation: The Americans Who Fought the Korean War, by Melinda L. Pash

New York: NYU Press, 2012. Pp. xii, 338. Illus., notes, index. $75.00. ISBN: 0814767699 .

The Americans who Served in Korea

Dr. Pash delves deeply into the background and experiences of the Americans – men and women – who served during the “forgotten war” in Korea, a much neglected subject. After reminding us that like the members of the “Greatest Generation”, these men and women were also were children of the Depression, and all lived through the Second World War, in which some of them even served.

Pash looks at the social background of these people and the reasons they entered one of the services, whether as reservists, draftees, or volunteers. She then examines their training and preparation for combat, both often inadequate, and their experiences under fire, in the medical wards, or on other duties, reminding us that most personnel don’t actual “fight” but are still subject to many of the stresses of wartime service. Pash then devotes a chapter to the experiences of those who ended up as prisoners-of-war, while another examines the special cases of women and racial minorities. The final chapters discuss the postwar lives of Korean War veterans and their very long struggle to attain recognition for their service.

Those who have read Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War will find some of this material familiar, but that excellent work is more about military policy and the conduct of the the war, and far less about the personnel and their lives, making In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation an essential read for those interested specifically in the Korean War or generally in how the nation goes to war.


Note: In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation is also available in paperback, $24,00, ISBN 978-1-479-84728-0, and in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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