Book Review: Republic of Korea Official History of the Korean War


by Korea Institute of Military History

University of Nebraska Press, 2000-2002. 3 Vols. Illus, maps, tables, append., notes, biblio.. . ISBN:0-8032-7794-6

One of the great flaws of all treatments of the Korean War hitherto available in the West has been the almost total focus on the operations of the American, and to a lesser extent British, Turkish, and other foreign contingents in the war. Meanwhile, in the 1960s and 1970s what is now the Korean Institute of Military History complied a multivolume history of the war. Unfortunately, this was not translated into English, and was thus largely unavailable to Western historians, few of whom could read Korean. However, during the early 1990s, this work was revised, and a three volume English translation was commissioned. The resulting work tells the story of the war from the Korean perspective.

Based not only upon the archives of the Republic of Korea, but also upon untranslated captured North Korean documents, and Communist Chinese archival material, The Korean War throws fresh light on many of that conflict’s most important events, beginning literally before the beginning, with the formation of the respective governments and the creation of their armies, pre-war clashes, including the very successful ROK suppression of a dangerous communist insurgency on the eve of the North Korean invasion.. The work does an excellent job of discussing pre-war planning, and provides often very detailed accounts of operations, with extensive use of tables to display information ranging from order-of-battle to casualties. One interesting result of reading The Korean War is that some operations that loom large in American memories, such as the 1st Marine Division’s “attack in another direction” at the Chosin Reservoir, are given less coverage than is commonly found in English treatments of the war, a reminder that throughout the 37-month struggle the bulk of the fighting – and the dieing – was done by the ROK forces. Alan R. Millett, who has provided a useful introduction for each of the volumes, rightly points out that The Korean War has many of the short-comings common to official histories, but it also tells a story that has not hitherto been told. Of great value to anyone interested in the Korean War or the Cold War.rc=http://www.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close