Book Review: United Nations Participants in the Korean War: The Contributions of 45 Member Countries

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by Paul M. Edwards

Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013. Pp. viii, 216. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 0786474572

The Forgotten Allies of the Forgotten War

Edwards, a Korean War veteran and director of the Center for the Study of the Korean War (Graceland U.), looks at what he rightly calls “a forgotten part of a war that has been vastly ignored.”  Virtually all histories of the Korean War concentrate on American forces, with at best a little attention to unusually heroic exploits by other UN Contingents, such as the English at “Gloster Hill” or the Turks in front of Seoul.  Even the South Koreans, the “ROKs”, are hardly mentioned, although they were, if not initially highly capable, always the most numerous forces in the fight. 

Edwards opens with an overview of the origins and course of the war.  Then he examines how the UN came to be involved and efforts to have as many members as possible contribute forces.  Edwards then breaks the 45 nations contributing to the war into four categories, those sending combat troops, those providing medical services, those supplying food, fuel, and other commodities, and “Silent Partners,” countries that made contributions quietly.  For each country, he gives an appropriately longer or shorter account of the services rendered.  So naturally the larger military contingents such as the ROKs, Turks, and Commonwealth nations, get more attention than the Belgians, French, Colombians, Luxembourgers, Indians, and the many other smaller detachments.  But Edwards does manage to discuss the activities of every contingent, coming up with a number of surprises, such as Indian participation in airdrops behind enemy lines.

Edwards usually goes into the political and strategic for countries to make or not make a contribution to the UN effort, which is at times quite enlightening.  Although it could have used more careful editing, and both maps and a tabular summary of the various contingents that served would have be very useful, this is nevertheless a valuable work for those interested in the Korean War,

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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