THE WIDER CONFLICT
The Frozen Chosen
Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, Osprey, July
For 17 days, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 13, 1950, U.S. troops numbering just 20,000
battled a 200,000-strong force of Chinese soldiers at the Chosin Reservoir in North
Korea, in the coldest blizzard conditions there in a century. Temperatures of - 50° F
froze men in their foxholes and rendered medical supplies useless; medics carried
morphine ampoules in their mouths to keep them thawed.
The U.S. Marine Corps considers the breakout—not a retreat, but an “advance in
a different direction” as Maj. Gen. O.P. Smith called it—one of its greatest triumphs. Seventeen Medals of Honor were awarded in the battle. Interviews with
surviving Marines, who named themselves the Frozen Chosen, inform Cleaver’s story.
Nigel Cliff, Harper, Sept.
A pianist seems an unlikely Cold Warrior, but the East-West rivalry was fought on
many fronts. In 1958, 23-year-old piano prodigy Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn’s performance in the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow shocked the
Soviet Union, which had already selected a Russian winner. The audience gave Cliburn
an eight-minute standing ovation, and the judges apprehensively asked Soviet Premier
Khrushchev for permission to award him the victory. “Is he the best? Then give him
the prize!” A sudden hero to both Russians and Americans—a Time magazine cover
labeled him “The Texan Who Conquered Russia”—he received a New York City ticker
tape parade, the only time a classical musician has been so honored.
Simon Hall, Pegasus, Sept.
Hall, a historian at the University of Leeds, details how 1956 was a landmark year for
East-West relations. Among the highlighted events: Guy Burgess and Donald
Maclean, two members of the Cambridge Spy Ring, publicly revealed their defections
to Moscow; Khrushchev’s gave his secret anti-Stalin “cult of personality” speech and
also warned the West, “We will bury you”; the U.S. began flying U- 2 spy planes over
the U.S.S.R.; the Suez Crisis led to an invasion of Egypt by Britain, France, and
Israel; and labor riots in Poland and a revolution in Hungary were violently crushed
by Soviet troops.
Blood and Sand
Alex von Tunzelmann, Harper, Oct.
On Oct. 24, 1956, the Soviet Union moved to crush a revolt against the Stalinist
Hungarian government. Five days later, Israel invaded the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula,
with military support from Britain and France. Tunzelmann, whose “Reel History”
column in the Guardian fact-checks historical films, examines these two pivotal
international events from 1956, which signaled the end of European colonialism
in the Arab nations and the expansion of Soviet influence in the Middle East and
Greg Mitchell, Crown, Oct.
The Berlin Wall, a physical and symbolic barrier between East and West, stood for 28
years. But within a year of its 1961 construction, West Germans were tunneling under
it to free their former countrymen.
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