An Unforgettable Crucible in the Ice . . .
An Epic Ordeal of Survival and Endurance . . .
A Classic Tale of Entrapment and Breakout . . .
ON DESPERATE GROUND tells the story of one of the most harrowing clashes in American history, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, during which Mao’s numerically superior armies surrounded and tried to destroy the First Marine Division in the frozen mountain wilds of North Korea. In this deeply researched work of literary non-fiction, bestselling historian Hampton Sides offers a gripping chronicle of the extraordinary feats of heroism performed by the beleaguered Marines, who were called upon to do the impossible in some of the most unforgiving terrain on earth.
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 operations in American military history, and one of the classic battles of modern times. 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.
On Desperate Ground relies on years of archival research, unpublished letters, declassified documents, and interviews with scores of Marines and Koreans who survived the siege. While detailing the conspicuous follies and intelligence failures of the American leaders in Tokyo and Washington, On Desperate Ground is an immediate, grunt’s-eye view of history that serves as an enthralling illustration of what ordinary men are capable of accomplishing in the most difficult circumstances.
As Sides shows, the extremity of their predicament brought to the fore a naked instinct for self-preservation, a ferocious camaraderie, and a rare improvisational spirit—making the engagement at Chosin Reservoir not only one of our country’s most highly decorated battles, but also one of the great military survival stories of all time.
Learn more about The Battle of Chosin from PBS’ American Experience.
SELECTED MEDIA AND REVIEWS
New York Times
Remembering the Forgotten War
Mountain & Prairie Podcast
Hampton Sides, Part 2 – How to Tell a Damn Good Story
WYPL Book Talk Podcast
Hampton Sides – On Desperate Ground
KSFR Radio (Santa Fe NPR)
The Last Word: Conversations With Writers
KERA’s “Think” (Dallas NPR)
The Greatest Battle the Marines Didn’t Win
KGNU radio (Boulder CO)
Booktalk: Historian Hampton Sides’ “On Desperate Ground”
Colorado Springs Gazette
Author coming to Colorado College to speak about inspiring U.S. battle in Korean War
NPR Morning Edition
The Decades-Old Backstory Of America’s Conflict With North Korea
Wall Street Journal
‘On Desperate Ground’ Review: Victory in Retreat
Charleston Post and Courier
‘On Desperate Ground’ recounts horrors of Korean War’s Chosin Reservoir battles
Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger
Author Q & A with Hampton Sides
Santa Fe New Mexican
On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle
St. Louis Post Dispatch
Hampton Sides tells story of horrific battle in Korean War
Hampton Sides on a Bitterly Cold Korean War Battle
Frozen in Time
Publishers Weekly (featured Q&A)
A Tragic Collision: PW Talks with Hampton Sides
WHYY “Radio Times” Philadelphia NPR
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir