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First of all, historically speaking, this is early in the Korean War in 1950. The North Koreans have attacked the South and conquered almost the whole country. Then the US counterattacked and drove them back.
In Brady's book, the hero, Captain Tom Verity, is just being called back to active duty in the Marine Corps. He'd been in World War II and now he's being called back. Verity's wife was killed the previous winter and he has a small daughter.
In the first two chapters, we see Verity in the process of getting called up and in the early stages of his experience in Korea. The book goes back and forth between what's happening in the present and his memories of his wife.
In Chapter One, Brady presents the point of view of Marines in the Korean War who do not trust General MacArthur, who tells them that the war is almost over. MacArthur had told them that the fighting was over once they captured Seoul, but then the fighting continued, with deadly results. MacArthur is now about to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea and is unaware that Mao Tse-Tung, the leader of China, has committed Chinese troops to the war (on the side opposed to the Americans).
The narrative continues with from point of view of Captain Tom Verity, who is called up into the military while he is working at Georgetown as a professor of Chinese history. Verity had hoped to stay out of serving in the Korean War, as his wife, Elizabeth, had died the previous winter, and he has a daughter, who is almost three, named Kate. Verity was born in China and then attended Yale. He served in the Marines in World War II and fought the Japanese in Guadalcanal. The chapter contains the story of Verity's courtship with his lovely wife, Elizabeth.
Verity is told at Marine headquarters that Republic of Korea troops are crossing into North Korea, and he's being sent to Korea to spy on the Chinese. The Americans want to find out if the Chinese are going to counterattack if MacArthur crosses the Yalu River into China.
In Chapter 2, Verity flies to Tokyo and then to Seoul. He finds out that the Marines have already headed north to Wonsan, well into North Korean territory, by rounding the Korean peninsula by boat. He's supposed to listen to the Chinese radio broadcasts to see what they are planning. Many Marines think the path to China will be easy and that the North Korean military is falling apart. Verity plans to go by car with Tate, a gunnery sergeant, from Inchon to Wonsan, to meet the Marines. They meet up with their driver, Izzo, just as the Chinese decide to fight on the side of the North Koreans. Verity wishes that he had been granted permission to stay at home with his daughter.
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