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Colder Than Hell


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About the Author

Joseph Owen, a Marine first lieutenant when he commanded the platoon in Baker-One-Seven, served on active duty from 1943-1946 and from 1948-1952.


The morning of December 8, 1950, found Marine lieutenant Owen, along with the rifle company he led, fighting his way through "blood-splotched snow" with the temperature at 25 degrees below zero‘the beginning of another day in North Korea. Owen's dramatic account of that morning begins this close-focus combat memoir. Rifle company Baker-One-Seven, Owen tells us, "functioned at a primal level: they ate, slept, and fought, and they tried to get warm." What Owen presents here is an extraordinarily detailed and realistic account of combat at the level of individual soldiers and small units, covering the role of infantrymen in war, the dangers they are exposed to, the relations that form among them, what keeps them going, their ingenuity and their daring. Only occasionally and in passing does the author put the action of his rifle company into broader perspective, or refer to nonmartial matters such as his wife and two young daughters back in the States. Owen's journal-like account can be repetitive, but it's never monotonous. By offering an extended look at deadly combat taking place on snow-covered mountainous terrain in bone-jarring cold, Owen highlights the hardships and tactics characteristic of the war in Korea. Photos; maps. (Sept.)

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