The Great Leader And The Fighter Pilot: A True Story About the Birth of Tyranny in North Korea
Harden paints a bleak picture of Kim Il-Sung. We also get to see the primary role that Stalin’s Soviet Union, and Mao’s China played in starting the Korean War. Neither of these brutal leaders liked Kim, but kept him around as a tool to neutralize the US. Unfortunately, Truman was willing to play along.
We learned Mao was planning to invade Taiwan but the Korean War stopped those plans. Harden covers Kim’s time as a guerrilla fighter, fighting the Japanese before and during WW-II. Fighting with and sometimes against Mao’s guerrilla army in China.
In parallel with the Kim story, we’re introduced to No Kum Sok. A boy who despises Kim, and what he’s done to No’s family and nation. No plays the game, becoming that which he hates in order to stay alive, and in the end wounding the DPRK by defecting and stealing a Soviet MiG-15. There’s not much detail about the MiG-15, but at the time, it was almost on par with the US F-86 ‘Sabre’.
Harden does describe the difference in training and skill levels between: US, USSR, Chinese, and North Korean pilots. Only the Honcho pilots from the USSR were a match for the American pilots. These were the Soviets’ best pilots, who flew in WW-II and had plenty of training. About mid-war Stalin called them home, as too many were getting killed. Stalin replaced them in trainees, and the slaughter was on. The Chinese and Korean pilots would just run away from the Americans.
No Kum Sok flies his MiG-15, just after the war ends, to Seoul, SK. There is a $100,000 reward waiting. (The US plays our own propaganda war with the Soviet Union. ) A reward, No never heard about. No becomes Kenneth Rowe and learns to play our games to get that reward, which Eisenhower really doesn’t want to give to him. But the games and cheapness doesn’t last long. Mr. Rowe is soon ensconced in the upper middle class of US society.. and probably living a better life than Kim for all his power.
I enjoyed reading the book. It was well written and a nice supplement to “This Kind Of War“.
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