The War for Korea, 1945-1950

A House Burning

Allan R. Millett

Choice Outstanding Title

When the major powers sent troops to the Korean peninsula in June of 1950, it supposedly marked the start of one of the last century’s bloodiest conflicts. Allan Millett, however, reveals that the Korean War actually began with partisan clashes two years earlier and had roots in the political history of Korea under Japanese rule, 1910–1945.

“This multi-faceted, detailed, and well documented book untangles the roots of the continuing crises on the Korean peninsula. . . . Allan Millett recounts and analyzes in detail the five vital years that led to the Korean War, a conflict whose unfinished business bedevils U.S. foreign policy to this day. He clarifies the politics of the Korean peninsula, the Kim family’s unending reign in the North, and the political and economic transformation of the South into a prosperous democracy.”

Michigan War Studies Review

“Millett’s diligence in pursuing and unearthing source material is impressive. . . . His persistent success in hunting down the papers of American military advisors, his interviews with those individuals, and data gleaned from unpublished papers all have contributed to the creation of a compelling and comprehensive diplomatic-military history of the contested creation of the Republic of Korea. . . . [This] is a big and exciting work, and the author’s expertise in and ardor for the matter is well conveyed.”

Korean Studies
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The first in a new two-volume history of the Korean War, Millett’s study offers the most comprehensive account of its causes and early military operations. Millett traces the wars origins to the post-liberation conflict between two revolutionary movements, the Marxist-Leninists and the Nationalist-capitalists. With the U.S.-Soviet partition of Korea following World War II, each movement, now with foreign patrons, asserted its right to govern the peninsula, leading directly to the guerrilla warfare and terrorism in which more than 30,000 Koreans died. Millett argues that this civil strife, fought mostly in the South, was not so much the cause of the Korean War as its actual beginning.

Millett describes two revolutions locked in irreconcilable conflict, offering an even-handed treatment of both Communists and capitalists-nationalists. Neither movement was a model of democracy. He includes Korean, Chinese, and Russian perspectives on this era, provides the most complete account of the formation of the South Korean army, and offers new interpretations of the U.S. occupation of Korea, 1945–1948.

Millett’s history redefines the initial phase of the war in Asian terms. His book shows how both internal forces and international pressures converged to create the Korean War, a conflict that still shapes the politics of Asia.

About the Author

Allan R. Millett is Major General Raymond E. Mason, Jr., Professor of Military History at The Ohio State University. In 2004 he received the Society for Military History’s prestigious Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for lifetime achievement. His books include Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps; For the Common Defense: The Military History of the United States of America; A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War; Their War for Korea; and Mao’s Generals Remember Korea.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series