The U.S. and its allies stood at the abyss of disaster. The Chinese Communists, pouring across the Manchurian border in vast formations, had smashed the U.N. army, this week were clawing forward to pursue and destroy its still-organized fragments. Caught in the desperate retreat were 140,000 American troops, the flower of the U.S. Army—almost the whole effective Army the U.S. had. With them, fighting to establish a defensive position, were 20,000 British, Turkish and other allies, some 100,000 South Korean soldiers.

It was defeat—the worst defeat the U.S. had ever suffered. Even though the U.N. forces might still have the luck,...

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