Union General William Tecumseh Sherman remarked during the American Civil War: “War is cruelty. You cannot refine it.” In Ghost Flames, former Associated Press (AP) reporter Charles J Hanley writes about the cruelty of the Korean War—and the impacts it had on some ordinary soldiers, civilians, and even some military commanders.

Ideology grappled geography in a civil war with no end. As the Korean War froze along the trenches and barbed wire entanglements, harbingers of the final line of control that was to divide North from South for a lifetime, the United States fought and sought a political triumph as a surrogate for military failure on the battlefield. Armistice talks in May 1951 started, hiccuped, stopped and then were reborn and recycled as Washington stubbornly—to the chagrin and incredulity of its own negotiators—refused to abide by the 1949 Geneva Convention requiring the simple repatriation of prisoners of war (POWs) at the end of military conflict.