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Review of “The Frozen Hours” by Jeff Shaara


The Korean War is often called the “Forgotten War” because, well, other than the brave men that fought in it, few remember that it happened. Taking place from 1950-53, it has been overshadowed by both World War II and the Vietnam War, along with other highlights of the Cold War, such as the Space Race and crises in Cuba. But, I think one of the other reasons that the Korean War has been forgotten by most Americans is that there are few good books about it. Well, that changed with the publishing of The Frozen Hours by Jeff Shaara, which is an excellent work of historical fiction that takes place during the Korean War.

The Korean War was one of America’s most important struggles against communism during the Cold War. By fighting it, we showed the world that we would stand up to communism rather than backing down to it. If you want to learn more about it, I highly recommend that you check out The Frozen Hours by Jeff Shaara.

Summary of The Frozen Hours

Like other great works of military history, such as Phase Line Green, The Frozen Hours centers on a key aspect of the war it takes place in. In this case, that is the landings at Inchon and the later Battle of Chosin Reservoir, where United States Marines were surrounded by Chinese communists and had to battle their way out of the mountains despite subzero temperatures, mountainous terrain, a lack of supplies, and being overwhelmingly outnumbered.

Being Marines, they did so excellently and destroyed the dozen or so Chinese divisions sent to wipe them out. Even better, they were able to fight their way to a port and leave on ships to fight another day. Hopefully, that’s not a spoiler; the Battle of Chosin Reservoir is one of the most well-known events of the Korean War and Jeff Shaara assumes you have some knowledge of it before starting The Frozen Hours. If you don’t, the book might be confusing at some points.

To tell the story of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in The Frozen Hours, Jeff Shaara uses the novel tactic of telling it from three perspectives: an American Marine general, an American Marine private, and a Chinese general. Through doing so, he is able to show the different perspectives of the battle and in so doing provide a holistic view of what that portion of the war was like and how terrible it was for both sides.

Additionally, Shaara uses dialogue and beautifully constructed scenes in The Frozen Hours to help readers understand the level of incompetence demonstrated by the American high command, the ideological fervor of the Chinese communists, the murderous nature of Chinese leaders like Mao and Stalin, and the bravery of the US Marines.

Finally, The Frozen Hours provides excellent insight into the tactics used during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. For example, in the many action-packed battle scenes, Shaara uses precise language and his obvious knowledge of war to describe how our troops used machine guns and trenches while the Chinese used human wave tactics and a prodigious number of grenades to try to take our positions. If you want to learn more about the terror of a nighttime human wave assault, reading The Frozen Hours is a great way to do so.

the chosin reservoir from the frozen hours
The Chosin Reservoir

Analysis of The Frozen Hours

Although I was shocked by Shaara’s distaste for General MacArthur, I otherwise thought The Frozen Hours was a fun and informative read.

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Shaara’s writing style helps show readers the horrors of warfare and he does a great job of providing some introductory issue about a war that few Americans know anything about. Also, the dialogue between characters is excellently done and, in my view, makes the book seem all the more real. In fact, because of both the voluminous, in-depth descriptions of combat and battle plans and the realistic-seeming dialogue, The Frozen Hours seemed more like military history than historical fiction.

However, I was somewhat disappointed by Shaara’s portrayal of General MacArthur. Love him or hate him, there are certainly aspects of his World War II and Korean War performances to criticize. His autobiography, Reminiscences, should not be viewed as objective or sacrosanct, it obviously is just his perspective.

However, that doesn’t mean he was only a media-crazy character who had little strategic or tactical foresight, which is how Shaara portrays him. His hatred of communism and plans to crush both the North Koreans and Chinese communism are, I think, mostly above reproach.

Had he been given a free hand to prosecute the war as he saw fit, I have no doubt that it would have ended more satisfactorily. One of our greatest mistakes in the 20th Century was not crushing communism in China and North Korea when we had the chance. MacArthur would have crushed it had Truman let him, and I don’t think Shaara adequately shows that and, in fact, his portrayal of MacArthur is at times insulting, much like Max Hasting’s was in Inferno.

Other than that one disagreement, I thought The Frozen Hours was terrific. Jeff Shaara’s historical knowledge is on full display in it and he does a terrific job of describing the horrors of warfare and just what happened in the mountains around the Chosin Reservoir. If you have time, read it.


The Korean War was one of the American Marine Corps’ finest moments. Veterans from World War II, men who thought they’d be able to return to civilian life, were thrust back into vicious, horrific combat. Even worse, they were often left without adequate supplies and were always outnumbered.

But still, they stood and fought the communist menace. Their sacrifice should be remembered. Reading The Frozen Hours by Jeff Shaara is a great way to learn about and remember that sacrifice.

By: Gen Z Conservative