The best books on the Korean War from someone who served there

Why am I passionate about this?

James Neal Butcher is a professor emeritus of the Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota. At age 17, he enlisted in the US Army during the Korean War. He served 2 years in a parachute infantry division (82nd Airborne). He volunteered for service in the Korean War and served one year as an infantry soldier in the 17th Infantry Regiment during the war including the battles for Jane Russell Hill in October 1952 and Pork Chop Hill in April 1953. In 2013 he published a memoir of his early life and his military experience Korea: Traces of a forgotten war. 


I wrote...

Korea: Traces of a Forgotten War

By James N. Butcher,

Book cover of Korea: Traces of a Forgotten War

What is my book about?

The Korean War is often referred to as the forgotten war. In his book, Professor James N. Butcher relives his experiences as an infantryman with Fox Company of the 17th Infantry Regiment, during the final year of the Korean War (1952-1953). In a graphic portrayal of living conditions on the front, Butcher describes combat actions that occurred in two major battles of this period the Battle for Jane Russell Hill (a part of Triangle Ridge) and the First Battle of Pork Chop Hill and makes a strong case for why we as Americans need to remember what happened there and why.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

James N. Butcher Why did I love this book?

This is an interesting early description of events occurring during the beginning days of the Korean War.  The author also addressed the prominent battle at Chipyongni three months later.  The book also covers the entrance of the Chinese into the war to support North Koreans. He focuses upon the extremely cold temperatures-- dropping to a minus forty degrees. He also provides a perspective on the reasons and causes of the Korean War.

By David Halberstam,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Coldest Winter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Up until now, the Korean War has been the black hole of modern American history. The Coldest Winter changes that, giving readers a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculations on both sides. He charts the disastrous path that led to the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu, and that caught Douglas MacArthur and his soldiers by surprise. He provides astonishingly vivid and nuanced portraits of all the major figures -- Eisenhower, Truman, Acheson, Kim, and Mao, and Generals MacArthur, Almond, and Ridgway. At the heart of the book are the individual stories of the soldiers on…


Book cover of The Korean War

James N. Butcher Why did I love this book?

Max Hasting’s book described the early days of the war, for example the actions of Task Force Smith. He provides a valuable perspective on the Korean War that includes an interesting balanced account of a war that is still considered by many to be controversial. Hastings considers the perspectives of all sides of the Korean conflict and examines the various motivations of their respective actions, such as the U.S. decision to send troops to Korea in September 1945, and to send them back in June 1950, to the Chinese decision to send their own troops into Korea in the fall of 1950.  He also provides a perspective on the important decision to participate in the signing of the armistice in July 1953.

By Max Hastings,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Korean War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Korean War is journalist and military historian Sir Max Hastings' compelling account of the forgotten war.

'The best narrative history of the Korean conflict' - Guardian

On 25 June 1950 the invasion of South Korea by the Communist North launched one of the bloodiest conflicts of the last century. The seemingly limitless power of the Chinese-backed North was thrown against the ferocious firepower of the UN-backed South in a war that can be seen today as the stark prelude to Vietnam.

Max Hastings draws on first-hand accounts of those who fought on both sides to produce this vivid and…


Book cover of The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-1951: A Nonconformist History of Our Times

James N. Butcher Why did I love this book?

The Hidden History of the Korean War by I. F. Stone was originally published in 1952 during the Korean War and republished in 1970 at a time in which the US was engaging in the Vietnam War. This controversial book provides viewpoints that are not widely accepted historically. The author raises questions about the origin of the Korean War and makes the case that the United States government manipulated the United Nations and was critical that the U.S. military and South Korean governments extended the war by undermining the efforts to complete the peace talks.

By I.F. Stone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-1951 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Reexamines the causes and course of the Korean War, discusses U.S. war propaganda, and analyzes U.S. foreign policy


Book cover of The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat

James N. Butcher Why did I love this book?

Shortly after the beginning of the Korean War in 1950, the First Marine Division was fighting the North Korean army in the north of the Korean Peninsula. In the fall of 1950, the Chinese suddenly entered the war and the First Division Marines became surrounded and vastly outnumbered by Chinese soldiers near the Chosin Reservoir. The only way they could survive was to fight their way south through a narrow valley. Fox Company led by Captain William Barber fought a long cold struggle against the surrounding Chinese. During the relentless violence, three-quarters of Fox’s Marines were killed, wounded, or captured. Just when it looked like they would be overrun, Lt. Colonel Raymond Davis, who is fighting south from Chosin, volunteers to lead a daring mission that will seek to cut a hole in the Chinese lines and relieve the men of Fox.

By Bob Drury, Tom Clavin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Stand of Fox Company as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A "gut-clenching and meticulously detailed" (USA Today) account from the Korean War and how Captain William Barber led 246 courageous Marines of the Seventh Marine Regiment in the perilous defense of Fox Hill.

November 1950, the Korean Peninsula: After General MacArthur ignores Mao’s warnings and pushes his UN forces deep into North Korea, his 10,000 First Division Marines find themselves surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered by 100,000 Chinese soldiers near the Chosin Reservoir. Their only chance for survival is to fight their way south through the Toktong Pass, a narrow gorge that will need to be held open at all costs.…


Book cover of American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 - 1964

James N. Butcher Why did I love this book?

Manchester’s biography of Douglas MacArthur provides a sympathetic but generally evenhanded characterization of MacArthur’s personality and life contributions.  He provides a detailed background of MacArthur’s military history and his capability of managing complex administrative duties in a complex world.  He acknowledged MacArthur’s skill and bravery in challenging circumstances.  In balance of his descriptions of MacArthur, he also noted complex circumstances in which he was difficult to deal with and sometimes suspicious and mistrustful of others. In his characterization of MacArthur as “Julius Caesar” he characterized MacArthur as having great intellect, brilliant strategic generalship, and political ambition as well as compassion. 

By William Manchester,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Caesar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspiring, outrageous...A thundering paradox of a man. Douglas MacArthur, one of only five men in history to have achieved the rank of General of the United States Army. He served in World Wars I, II, and the Korean War, and is famous for stating that "in war, there is no substitute for victory." AMERICAN CAESAR exaines the exemplary army career, the stunning successes (and lapses) on the battlefield, and the turbulent private life of the soldier-hero whose mystery and appeal created a uniquely American legend.


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Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

By Kathleen DuVal,

Book cover of Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

Kathleen DuVal Author Of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional historian and life-long lover of early American history. My fascination with the American Revolution began during the bicentennial in 1976, when my family traveled across the country for celebrations in Williamsburg and Philadelphia. That history, though, seemed disconnected to the place I grew up—Arkansas—so when I went to graduate school in history, I researched in French and Spanish archives to learn about their eighteenth-century interactions with Arkansas’s Native nations, the Osages and Quapaws. Now I teach early American history and Native American history at UNC-Chapel Hill and have written several books on how Native American, European, and African people interacted across North America.

Kathleen's book list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers

What is my book about?

A magisterial history of Indigenous North America that places the power of Native nations at its center, telling their story from the rise of ancient cities more than a thousand years ago to fights for sovereignty that continue today

Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

By Kathleen DuVal,

What is this book about?

Long before the colonization of North America, Indigenous Americans built diverse civilizations and adapted to a changing world in ways that reverberated globally. And, as award-winning historian Kathleen DuVal vividly recounts, when Europeans did arrive, no civilization came to a halt because of a few wandering explorers, even when the strangers came well armed.

A millennium ago, North American cities rivaled urban centers around the world in size. Then, following a period of climate change and instability, numerous smaller nations emerged, moving away from rather than toward urbanization. From this urban past, egalitarian government structures, diplomacy, and complex economies spread…


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