Fighting on the Brink: Defense of the Pusan Perimeter, by Brig. Gen. Uzal W. Ent (ret.), Turner Publishing Company, Paducah, Ky., 1996, $39.95.
General Douglas MacArthur’s landing at Inchon may have been the most spectacular event of the Korean War, and the U.S. Marines’ fighting retreat from Chosin may have been its most publicized drama, but it may well be argued that the struggle for Pusan, in August and September 1950, was the conflict’s turning point. After suffering a startling succession of defeats at the hands of a well-equipped and well-trained North Korean People’s Army (NKPA), the southern Republic of Korea (ROK) Army and their U.S. Army and Marine allies dug in at Inchon to make a determined stand until United Nations forces could come to their aid. At stake was the independence of South Korea, the credibility of the United States’ commitment to her allies and the United Nations’ pledge to counter aggression anywhere in the world.
Although the ROK and U.S. forces had overall numerical superiority, the NKPA held the initiative and used it to concentrate its forces in an attempt to breach the perimeter. The North Koreans ultimately failed, due in part to the outstanding skill with which Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker countered their moves and largely to the speed with which both the Americans and the ROK troops recovered, adapted and prevailed.
As a second lieutenant in the 27th Infantry Regiment, author Uzal W. Ent was a participant in the battles for Pusan. In Fighting on the Brink, he presents a comprehensive account of the entire campaign. To flesh out his clear outline of the events, the author includes the experiences of numerous individual participants–including another frequent Military History contributor, Harry J. Maihafer, then a 1949 West Point graduate and a second lieutenant in the 21st Infantry. In sum, Fighting on the Brink is a superb chronicle of the turning point in the Korean War.