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On Desperate Ground

The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War's Greatest Battle

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


"Superb...A masterpiece of thorough research, deft pacing and arresting detail...This war story — the fight to break out of a frozen hell near the Chosin Reservoir — has been told many times before. But Sides tells it exceedingly well, with fresh research, gritty scenes and cinematic sweep."—Washington Post

From the New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers and In the Kingdom of Ice, a chronicle of the extraordinary feats of heroism by Marines called on to do the impossible during the greatest battle of the Korean War

On October 15, 1950, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of UN troops in Korea, convinced President Harry Truman that the Communist forces of Kim Il-sung would be utterly defeated by Thanksgiving. The Chinese, he said with near certainty, would not intervene in the war.

As he was speaking, 300,000 Red Chinese soldiers began secretly crossing the Manchurian border. Led by some 20,000 men of the First Marine Division, the Americans moved deep into the snowy mountains of North Korea, toward the trap Mao had set for the vainglorious MacArthur along the frozen shores of the Chosin Reservoir. What followed was one of the most heroic--and harrowing--operations in American military history, and one of the classic battles of all time. Faced with probable annihilation, and temperatures plunging to 20 degrees below zero, the surrounded, and hugely outnumbered, Marines fought through the enemy forces with ferocity, ingenuity, and nearly unimaginable courage as they marched their way to the sea.

Hampton Sides' superb account of this epic clash relies on years of archival research, unpublished letters, declassified documents, and interviews with scores of Marines and Koreans who survived the siege. While expertly detailing the follies of the American leaders, On Desperate Ground is an immediate, grunt's-eye view of history, enthralling in its narrative pace and powerful in its portrayal of what ordinary men are capable of in the most extreme circumstances.

Hampton Sides has been hailed by critics as one of the best nonfiction writers of his generation. As the Miami Herald wrote, "Sides has a novelist's eye for the propulsive elements that lend momentum and dramatic pace to the best nonfiction narratives."

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 27, 2018 – Sides (In the Kingdom of Ice) updates the much-chronicled, epic winter fighting retreat from the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War in this splendid account. In September 1950, countering a June invasion by communist North Korean forces, Gen. Douglas MacArthur launched a "bold, sweeping" and reckless landing at the port of Inchon. When United Nations troops reached the border of the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong and his generals, fearing an invasion, sent troops into Korea to counter the threat. The First Marine Division, led by Gen. Oliver P. Smith, continued to advance, though its commander rightly feared a Chinese trap. He was correct: for three hellish weeks, his 30,000 Marines, U.S. Army, and assorted UN forces fought four times their number of Chinese soldiers, weathering terrifying assaults with little support and fanatical courage. Sides unsparingly describes the theatrical arrogance and misplaced sense of racial superiority that led MacArthur and X Corps Commander Gen. Ned Almond to discount the intelligence warning of major Chinese infiltration, even dismissing President Harry Truman's concerns about a widening war that could involve nuclear weapons. This account features abundant heroism, vivid battle scenes, and nuanced treatment of the judicious, determined leadership of General Smith. Sides's lucid assessment of the battles, leadership, politics, and key figures at the turning point of the war show how the First Marine Division's commanders and fighting men staved off a nearly unprecedented military debacle.

Customer Reviews


Amazing and horrific book on the fight at Chosin, and finely written.

On Desperate Ground

Not only an informative account of the Korean War and the battle of Chosin Reservoir, but told through the eyes of individual participants, much like a novel. Keep some Kleenex close; reality is better than fiction!

On Desperate Ground
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Military
  • Published: Oct 02, 2018
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings