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Many combat veterans refuse to discuss their experiences on the line. With the passage of time and the unreliability of memory, it becomes difficult to understand the true nature of war. In The Line: Combat in Korea, January–February 1951, retired Army colonel William T. Bowers uses firsthand, eyewitness accounts of the Korean War to offer readers an intimate look at the heroism and horror of the battlefront. These interviews of soldiers on the ground are particularly telling because they were conducted by Army historians immediately following combat. Known as the “forgotten war,” the action in Korea lasted from June 1950 until July 1953 and was particularly savage for its combatants. During the first few months of the war, American and U.N. soldiers conducted rapid advances and hasty withdrawals, risky amphibious landings and dangerous evacuations, all while facing extreme weather conditions. In early 1951, the first winter of the war, frigid cold and severe winds complicated combat operations. As U.N. forces in Korea retreated from an oncoming Chinese and North Korean attack, U.S. commanders feared they would be forced to withdraw from occupation and admit to a Communist victory. Using interviews and extensive historical research, The Line analyzes how American troops fought the enemy to a standstill over this pivotal two-month period, reversing the course of the war. In early 1951, the war had nearly been lost, but by February’s end, there existed the possibility of preserving an independent South Korea. Bowers compellingly illustrates how a series of small successes at the regiment, battalion, company, platoon, squad, and soldier levels ensured that the line was held against the North Korean enemy. The Line is the first of three volumes detailing combat during the Korean War. Each book focuses on the combat experiences of individual soldiers and junior leaders. Bowers enhances our understanding of combat by providing explanatory analysis and supplemental information from official records, giving readers a complete picture of combat operations in this understudied theatre. Through searing firsthand accounts and an intense focus on this brief but critical time frame, The Line offers new insights into U.S. military operations during the twentieth century and guarantees that the sacrifices of these courageous soldiers will not be lost to history.
William T. Bowers is a former U.S. Army officer and is currently a researcher and historical analyst. He is the coauthor of Black Soldier, White Army: The 24th Infantry Regiment in Korea.
"Finally, a long wait is over. This timely work on the military history of the Korean War fills a gap in the study of the American armed forces between their heroic operations in WWII and controversial mission in Vietnam. The book sheds new light on the Korean War and provides a military perspective. It will be a welcome addition to the literature on the history of the U.S. military and the Cold War."—Xiaobing Li
"It is always refreshing to have another book about the Korea conflict, often referred to as the 'Forgotten War.'"—Military Heritage
"Bowers skillfully summarizes military circumstances in Korea…anecdotes regularly add interest and insight."—James I Matray, Journal of Military History
"Bowers’ work is a fascinating insight into how the Korean War was perceived by those most intimately involved in this critical juncture. [The Line: Combat in Korea, January-February 1951] is of value to anyone interested in how U.S.-led forces were able to turn the tide in Korea . . . as well as anyone that wants a better understanding of small unit combat in general."—On Point
"Weaving together the account of the fighting at different tactical levels gives the reader a new account of a particular military aspect of the Korean War, casting new light on a hitherto neglected part of a forgotten war. It is well worth the read."—Military Review
"This book is a very welcome addition to the historiography of the Korean War; it sheds new light on the 'forgotten war' and provides an intimate ground-level look at the horrific fighting that characterized the first winter of the war."—Military History of the West
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Bowers, William T., "The Line: Combat in Korea, January-February 1951" (2008). Military History. 22.