Sir Max Hastings answered a fan message I left him on his website
so I'm going to rate everything I read of his five stars. I don't care that he voted Tory in 2001. actually, the Pan Grand Strategy entry for "The Korean War" is a five-star book, too. they say a big war generates a book every decade, as global politics shift and values evolve. the way this pattern emerged for the 1950-1953 U.N. "police action" is also telling:
1967 T.R. Fehrenbach's "This Kind of War"
1987 Max Hastings "The Korean War"
1990 Stokesbury "Short History of the KW"
2007 Halberstam "The Coldest Winter"
2010 Cumings "KW: A History"
I'm a war-buff. Have read three of the five. The missing decade is the 70s, where the US was still reeling from Vietnam and unable to articulate a new understanding of its proto-involvement in Asia. Hastings' work does capture some of the 80s neo-con air, the age of Reagan and Thatcher, but benefits from Sir Hastings' military experience as well as decades spent at the helm of one of the UK's leading newspapers of record. Hastings' additional advantage is his British perspective; if on one hand we get a very detailed account of the British Army's performance during the Korean War, on the other, Hastings can analyze the good and bad aspects of the US performance without fear of being called "un-American" or "ideological" in the way a U.S. author would also have in the back of his mind.
this is the irony of the American position with regard to the UK, that allegiance to the foreign policy of the United States is part of the national identity to a degree British and Commonwealth nationals may take issue with. however, the famous London society madam's comment aside (viz., "America is the first country to go from barbarism to decadence without passing through civilization"), clearly to some degree the relationship is mutually beneficial, as the experiences of the first world empire in history to peacefully withdraw from its foreign frontiers permits the optimistic American empire-in-becoming to understand its limitations. I think this is a good compromise text of the situation, although anyone who wants to comment further is welcome.
anyway returning to the book. Hastings does a little over-strong UK coverage and then as per most writers passes quickly over the 1951-1953 years; he does not pay as much attention to the firepower solution organized at Chipyongni as Halberstam, but thankfully he does not fill his book 50% with criticism of MacArthur as Halberstam does. though I did read the Fehrenbach book of the 60s, actually I'll have to re-read it in order to remember comparisons, but Hastings does provide documentary coverage of the Fehrenbach's analysis of the North Korean POW riot, and his work is balanced and insightful.
"The Forgotten War;" the KW was briefly last month in the media again as N. Korea sabre-rattled. at time of writing, China is attempting to assert sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku island chain. maybe we are all in the shadow of another 3 year war?!