Cheevers, Jack. Act of War: Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo. NAL. Dec. 2013. 448p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780451466198. $26.95. HIST
While spying off the coast of Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast in 1968, the U.S.S. Pueblo, an aging and poorly equipped naval intelligence ship, was seized by North Korean forces. Cheevers supports the contention that the ship was still in international waters. One sailor died in the fight, and the rest of the crew were imprisoned for 11 months. Cheevers (former political reporter, Los Angeles Times) paints a vivid picture of the harrowing experiences the sailors faced before, during, and after their stint in a North Korean prison. Unlike the memoirs of Pueblo captain Lloyd M. Bucher (Bucher: My Story, with Mark Rascovich) and Edward R. Murphy Jr. (Second in Command, with Curt Gentry), Cheevers includes perspectives of multiple survivors as well as various military and government officials who were involved (Cheevers did interview Bucher before his death in 2004 and is sympathetic to Bucher’s position). The author’s access to personal interviews, large amounts of government documents, as well as news reports on the incident, allows readers to experience this event from the Pueblo’s viewpoint and beyond. VERDICT Readers who appreciate intense accounts of survival against difficult circumstances will find this book enthralling. Those interested in naval history and the history of U.S.–North Korean relations will also enjoy it. It deserves a wide audience.
Haruki, Wada. The Korean War: An International History. Rowman & Littlefield. Nov. 2013. 440p. tr. from Japanese by Frank Baldwin. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781442223295. $44; ebk. ISBN 9781442223301. HIST
Although 19 nations were involved militarily in the Korean War, Wada (former director, Univ. of Tokyo Inst. of Social Science) focuses his attention primarily on the actions of the Koreas, China, the Soviet Union, and the United States in this first English translation of his highly esteemed Japanese history of the war. He provides an in-depth analysis of the decisions various government and military officials from those countries made during the course of the war, revealing in detail the disputes that allies on both sides had during the armistice talks. The author’s use of Soviet documents helps to shed light on the decision-making processes of the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea. Readers will also learn the ways in which Japan and Taiwan participated in and were impacted by this conflict. VERDICT This meticulously researched work will serve as valuable reading to students and scholars of both the Korean and the Cold War. For a book that includes personal accounts of how the conflict affected individuals on the ground and provides a more extensive examination of how this war impacted subsequent events, see Sheila Miyoshi Jager’s Brother at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea.