a war “orphaned by history,”


In looking over the carnage that was Korea, Halberstam wonders quietly about “the odd process — perhaps the most primal on earth — that turned ordinary, peace-loving, law-abiding civilians into very good fighting men; or one of its great submysteries — how quickly it could take place.”

And so he ends his last great book not in his own voice but with the reflections, in old age, of Sgt. Paul McGee, who felt that despite the public’s disillusionment and forgetfulness, he and his friends had done the right thing. They “had shared those dangers, and that set them apart from almost everyone else for the rest of their lives,” Halberstam reports. “They did not need words to bind them together; their deeds were the requisite bond.” McGee felt that “he was glad he had gone and fought there. It was a job to do, nothing more, nothing less, and when you thought about it, there had not been a lot of choice.”

David has left us with a long salute to duty.

more from the NY Times Book Review here.