Chinese Hordes and Human Waves: A Personal Perspective of The Korean War 1950-1953

Posted: November 25, 2014 in Books, Korean War

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The North Koreans’ attack on their Southern neighbours shocked and surprised the World. The conflict rapidly escalated with China soon heavily involved on one side and the United States and United Nations on the other.  Brian Parritt, then a young Gunner officer, found himself in the midst of this very nasty war.

Describing first hand what it was like to be at the infamous Battle of the Hook, where UN troops held off massed attacks by the Communists. Few outside the war zone realised just how horrific conditions were.  As a qualified Chinese interpreter and, later, a senior military intelligence officer, Parritt analyses why the Commonwealth got involved, the mistakes and successes and the extreme risk that the war represented.

Chinese Hordes and Human Waves is enjoyable from the start, as Parritt is a likable and sympathetic narrator, and – as a reader – you want him to succeed.  He starts off with some very enjoyable anecdotes displaying the local colour, which help us to understand the locations he visits, and the era he is living in.  The tension is well maintained as all the forces are ready to be mobilised at a moment’s notice.  The sections on their field gear and armaments is especially interesting.

Several of Parritt’s experiences in the war are very well written, especially the description of the truce/ceasefire, which is actually very moving.  As he works as an Intel Operative and Radio Operator, we are introduced to a whole new side to the conflict, and I learnt more from this section that I did from the rest of the book, as the coded signals and Morse used is very intriguing.

My only real criticism is that it doesn’t really seem to have a conclusive ending, instead meandering off topic a little and just…finishing.  A better ending would have made for a more satisfying conclusion, but there’s no denying that the bulk of the book makes for a very interesting journey.

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