A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist remembers the "forgotten war" on the Korean Peninsula through the eyes of 21 individuals who experienced it—soldiers and civilians, refugees, men and women, young and old, witnesses both to atrocity and to heroism.
As Mr. Hanley’s narrative gathers force, he seeks to share out the blame equally between the two sides—or, as he terms them, 'the communist and capitalist powers'—for the war’s staggering record of suffering. Whether he makes his case persuasively is doubtful, but he does manage to show that all wars are hell, not least the forgotten ones ... Mr. Hanley’s granular approach, which makes such compelling reading, leaves aside the larger issues involved. In the end, Ghost Flames resembles a series of police reports rather than a work of history. Mr. Hanley delves into the darker recesses of this conflict without shedding light on why it was happening ... 'War is the worst thing in the world,' Ridgway said when the fighting in Korea stopped at the end of July 1953. Mr. Hanley’s harrowing account, in all its vivid detail, confirms that judgment while stopping short of measuring with similar precision why some wars are worth fighting all the same.
The book is a fast and engrossing haunting read that thoroughly educates while pulling on the heart strings. It blends military campaigns with real politic, while never losing sight of the people in the context of the immorality and savagery of war.