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The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

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The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War Cover

ISBN13: 9781401300524
ISBN10: 1401300529
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Less Than Standard
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The Coldest Winter book and DVD comboBuy the set! Order The Coldest Winter now and receive the acclaimed 35-minute documentary about David Halberstam's last great effort.

Starring Joan Didion, Bob Woodward, Robert Caro, Anna Quindlen, and Neil Sheehan.

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

David Halberstam's magisterial and thrilling The Best and the Brightest was the defining book for the Vietnam War. More than three decades later, Halberstam used his unrivalled research and formidable journalistic skills to shed light on another dark corner in our history: the Korean War. The Coldest Winter is a successor to The Best and the Brightest, even though in historical terms it precedes it. Halberstam considered The Coldest Winter the best book he ever wrote, the culmination of forty-five years of writing about America's postwar foreign policy.

Up until now, the Korean War has been the black hole of modern American history. The Coldest Winter changes that. Halberstam gives us a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculations on both sides. He charts the disastrous path that led to the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu, and that caught Douglas MacArthur and his soldiers by surprise. He provides astonishingly vivid and nuanced portraits of all the major figures — Eisenhower, Truman, Acheson, Kim, and Mao, and Generals MacArthur, Almond, and Ridgway. At the same time, Halberstam provides us with his trademark highly evocative narrative journalism, chronicling the crucial battles with reportage of the highest order.

At the heart of the book are the individual stories of the soldiers on the front lines who were left to deal with the consequences of the dangerous misjudgements and competing agendas of powerful men. We meet them, follow them, and see some of the most dreadful battles in history through their eyes. As ever, Halberstam was concerned with the extraordinary courage and resolve of peopleasked to bear an extraordinary burden.

The Coldest Winter is contemporary history in its most literary and luminescent form, and provides crucial perspective on the Vietnam War and the events of today. It was a book that Halberstam first decided to write more than thirty years ago and that took him nearly ten years to write. It stands as a lasting testament to one of the greatest journalists and historians of our time, and to the fighting men whose heroism it chronicles.

Review:

"Reviewed by James Brady At the heart of David Halberstam's massive and powerful new history of the Korean War is a bloody, losing battle fought in November 1950 in the snow-covered mountains of North Korea by outnumbered American GIs and Marines against the Chinese Communist Army.Halberstam's villain is not North Korea's Kim Il Sung or China's Chairman Mao or even the Soviet Union's Josef Stalin, who pulled the strings. It's the legendary general Douglas MacArthur, the aging, arrogant, politically ambitious architect of what the author calls 'the single greatest American military miscalculation of the war,' MacArthur's decision 'to go all the way to the Yalu [River] because he was sure the Chinese would not come in.'Much of the story is familiar. What distinguishes this version by Halberstam (who died this year in a California auto crash) is his reportorial skill, honed in Vietnam in Pulitzer-winning dispatches to the New York Times. His pounding narrative, in which GIs and generals describe their coldest winter, whisks the reader along, even though we know the ending.Most Korean War scholars agree that MacArthur's sprint to the border of great China with a Siberian winter coming on resulted in a lethal nightmare. Though focused on that mountain battle, Halberstam's book covers the entire war, from the sudden dawn attack by Kim Il Sung's Soviet-backed North Koreans against the U.S.-trained South, on June 25, 1950, to its uneasy truce in 1953. It was a smallish war but a big Cold War story: Harry Truman, Stalin and Mao, Joe McCarthy and Eisenhower, George C. Marshall and Omar Bradley, among others, stride through it. A few quibbles: there were no B-17 bombers destroyed on Wake Island the day after Pearl Harbor, as Halberstam asserts, and Halberstam gives his minor characters too much attention.At first MacArthur did well, toughing out those early months when the first GIs sent in from cushy billets in occupied Japan were overwhelmed by Kim's rugged little peasant army. MacArthur's greatest gamble led to a marvelous turning point: the invasion at Inchon in September, when he outflanked the stunned Reds. After Inchon, the general headed north and his luck ran out. His sycophants, intelligence chief Willoughby and field commander Ned Almond, refused to believe battlefield evidence indicating the Chinese Communists had quietly infiltrated North Korea and were lying in wait. The Marines fought their way out as other units disintegrated. In the end, far too late, Truman sacked MacArthur.Alive with the voices of the men who fought, Halberstam's telling is a virtuoso work of history. (Sept.)James Brady, columnist at Parade and Forbes.com, is author of several books about Korea. His latest book is Why Marines Fight (St. Martin's, Nov.)." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"No 'Mission Accomplished' banner has ever been flaunted about the Korean War. The conflict that David Halberstam calls a 'black hole' in history (despite shelves of books about it) achieved its original objective. At great cost, military intervention reversed the communist thrust into South Korea, now a model of prosperity; North Korea remains an impoverished, Stalinist state. But in the 1950s, Americans... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Commanding and evocative....Halberstam's final work stands as the coda to his enduringly famous The Best and the Brightest." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Another memorable slice of the 20th-century history, measuring up to such earlier Halberstam classics as The Best and the Brightest and The Powers That Be." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"I could hardly put this book down. Meticulously and thoroughly researched, it is splendidly compelling reading. The Coldest Winter is a superb conjoining of all the factors of this tragic war: the military tactics and strategy of both sides; the international diplomacy; the internal politics; the personalities of the various players. A great work." Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.), co-author of We Were Soldiers Once...and Young

Review:

"Some rough organization and lack of narrative covering the later years suggest that Halberstam's death may have cut short his work. Still, this is a vital, accessibly written resource for students of the period and is sure to be widely read." Library Journal

Review:

"[A] book that only Halberstam could pull off, and he does so with bravura and skill worthy of a farewell performance." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"We may have forgotten the Korean War, but this volume is a reminder of what we should have remembered in history and, with the Halberstam oeuvre now complete, what we will miss." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"It caps a brilliant journalistic career in a particularly satisfying way since it serves as a kind of prequel to The Best and the Brightest." William Grimes, New York Times

Review:

"[A] fitting, warm tribute to the art of reporting, the most appropriate epitaph imaginable for David Halberstam." Christian Science Monitor

Review:

"[C]ements Halberstam's reputation as the preeminent popular historian of his generation." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Meticulously reported and exhaustively researched, it traces the strategy, politics, diplomacy and history behind the war on both sides, from Tokyo and Taiwan to Beijing, Moscow and Washington, providing remarkably detailed capsule portraits of its major figures." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"Much more than a book on a war, The Coldest Winter is an instant-classic look at the people, power and politics that created a dangerous stage...and then acted on it." Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"The Coldest Winter is easily the best popular history of the Korean War. Halberstam is a whale of a storyteller." Baltimore Sun

Review:

"Halberstam's recounting of the immense shifts in battlefield momentum is breathtaking." Seattle Times

Review:

"Painstakingly researched, including detailed interviews with a number of those who fought in Korea, Halberstam's book reveals the devastating consequences that resulted from the miscalculations and myopia of central military commanders." Oregonian

Synopsis:

Halberstam uses his unrivaled research and formidable journalistic skills to shed light on another dark corner in history: the Korean War. He provides a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculation on both sides, culminating with the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu, which catches Douglas MacArthur's forces by surprise.

Synopsis:

David Halberstam's magisterial and thrilling The Best and the Brightest was the defining book for the Vietnam War. More than three decades later, Halberstam used his unrivalled research and formidable journalistic skills to shed light on another dark corner in our history: the Korean War. The Coldest Winter is a successor to The Best and the Brightest, even though in historical terms it precedes it.Halberstam considered The Coldest Winter the best book he ever wrote, the culmination of forty-five years of writing about America's postwar foreign policy.Up until now, the Korean War has been the black hole of modern American history.The Coldest Winter changes that. Halberstam gives us a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculations on both sides. He charts the disastrous path that led to the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu, and that caught Douglas MacArthur and his soldiers by surprise. He provides astonishingly vivid and nuanced portraits of all the major figures — Eisenhower, Truman, Acheson, Kim, and Mao, and Generals MacArthur, Almond, and Ridgway. At the same time, Halberstam provides us with his trademark highly evocative narrative journalism, chronicling the crucial battles with reportage of the highest order.At the heart of the book are the individual stories of the soldiers on the front lines who were left to deal with the consequences of the dangerous misjudgments and competing agendas of powerful men. We meet them, follow them, and see some of the most dreadful battles in history through their eyes. As ever, Halberstam was concerned with the extraordinary courage and resolve of people asked to bear an extraordinary burden.The Coldest Winter is contemporary history in its most literary and luminescent form, and provides crucial perspective on the Vietnam War and the events of today. It was a book that Halberstam first decided to write more than thirty years ago and that took him nearly ten years to write. It stands as a lasting testament to one of the greatest journalists and historians of our time, and to the fighting men whose heroism it chronicles.Includes an Afterword by Russell BakerTributes to David HalberstamDavid Halberstam died at the age of 73 in a car accident in California on April 23, 2007, just after completing The Coldest Winter. Legendary for his work ethic, his kindness to young writers, and his unbending moral spine, Halberstam had friends and admirers throughout journalism, many of whom spoke at his memorial service and at readings across the country for the release of The Coldest Winter. We have included testimonials given at his memorial service by two writers who made their reputations at the same newspaper where he won a Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam War reporting, The New York Times: Anna Quindlen ...David occupied a lot of space on the planet. Perhaps he felt the price he must pay for that big voice, that big reach, that big reputation, was that his generosity had to be just as large. Most of us, when we take to the road and meet admiring strangers, vow afterward to answer the note pressed into our hands or to pass along the speech we promised to the person whose daughter couldn't be there to hear it. But with the best will in the world we arrive home to deadlines, bills, kids, friends, all the demands of a busy life. We mean to be our best selves, but often we forget. David did it. He always did it. The note, the call, the book, the advice. When I mentioned this once he dug his hands deep intothe pockets of his grey flannels, set his mouth at the corners, looked down and rumbled, "Well, but it's so easy." That's nonsense. It's not easy. But it is important, and why he has been remembered with enormous affection by ordinary readers all over this country, and why each of us who live some sort of public life would do well, with all due respect to Jesus, to ask ourselves about those small encounters: what would David do ... Read her full tributeDexter Filkins .

About the Author

David Halberstam was one of America's most distinguished journalists and historians. After graduating from Harvard in 1955, he covered the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, then was sent overseas by the New York Times to report on the war in Vietnam. The author of fifteen bestsellers, including The Best and the Brightest, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam reporting at the age of thirty. He was killed in a car accident on April 23, 2007, while on his way to an interview for what was to be his next book.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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eglazier, July 20, 2008 (view all comments by eglazier)
The only other reviewer complained that this book did not detail the whole of the Korean war. There are plenty of those extant, so many that one can almost have a daily log of what transpired in the war itself.

The real value of this book is its detailing of the people involved in the start and conduct of the war; the political scene and that of the high military command.

This was a war dominated by a fool at the military leadership who brought a few other incompetents with him such that they caused the needless deaths of thousands of the UN fighting force. Truly the first rule of war is that young men die, but if we accept that at times there is no choice we at least should be spared those lost because the top commander was an egotisitic fool who , though he thought he did because of his long service in Asia never really understood the Chinese. MacArthur never could imagine that the Chinese and Koreans were like all men, able to fight valiantly and ferociously for something in which they believed, whether it be a man, an idea, or a country. His chief commander in the field, Gen. Almond was an out and out racist and so he could only think of the Chinese as 'laundrymen'. Fortunately we had serving underneath these two fools many fine commanders, as Marine General O.P.Smith whose tactics saved the Marines at the Chosin reservoir and Col. Paul Freeman who followed his instincts and saved his 23rd Infantry regiment from having to run and be slaughtered going through the Gauntlet, the Chinese Army ambush of the 8th Army.

Halberstam also details the political leaders of both sides, Mao, Kim Il Sung, President Truman, terribly underrated in his time, and all the other players in the U.S.; politicians, columnists, publishers, and members of congress both good and bad.

Korea was also my war, though in only a peripheral way. I was a serving USAF officer in a little known army camp , Camp Detrick in Maryland, serving with Army, Navy , Air Force personnel and civilians. My lab contained about 5 civilians, two army enlisted men, an army Lt. and me; all of us doing the same type of work. One of the army enlisted used to complain to me that everyone got paid so much more and we all worked the same type of job. I had to remind him that being here was better than being in Korea.( we met again about 15 years later when we worked together in a company in California)

This book, and many others, tells any reader why Korea was bad; even as wars go it was bad.

For all those for whom history is just 20 or 30 years ago, this book is a look at some of our history that has been forgotten by most. The majority of people in the U.S. know there was WW II, though they may know little about what it was all about, but very few know of Korea and the honor of the UN in actually fighting for its principles. The U.S. was part of that.
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uclajack, September 24, 2007 (view all comments by uclajack)
This book is supposed to be a complete history of the Korean War but it falls far short of that goal. Having fought in Korea at the beginning and the end of the war, I was disappointed that the book devotes very little to what happened after MacArthur is fired in early 1951. The title " The Coldest Winter" fairly sums up the book because it is mainly devoted to explaining what occurred up to and through the route of the UN Forces during the winter of 1950. To that point, the book is fairly thorough and accurate but it only repeats what many other authors have already written.
After the UN forces were driven back by the Chinese deep into South Korea, the UN forces were able to reorganize and launched a major counterattack in early 1951 which Halberstam writes about. But what the book fails to bring out is that in routing the UN forces, the Chinese had suffered heavy losses and did not have the reserves to replace those losses. The UN counter offensive resulted in more heavy losses to the Chinese as they were pushed back into North Korea, particularly on the eastern flank. The entire Chinese front was in such danger or collapsing that the Chinese sought a truce and Pres. Truman's biggest mistake was to agree to the truce. Had the UN rejected the truce offer, the Chinese would have been forced to retreat deep into N. Korea and that would have been a propitious time for the UN to agree to an armistice. Instead, the war went on for over two more years ending on July 28, 1953. It ended then only because a major Chinese offensive designed to push the Marines back across the Imjin River failed and the Chinese again had run out of steam.
Many important battles were fought up until the end which Halberstam fails to even acknowledge, particularly the last battle of Boulder City. But where he really falls short is that he misses all the maneuvering of Pres. Eisenhower to bring the war to an end, how the 25th Division was ordered not to counterattack and retake key outposts in May 1953, and later the First Marine Division was also barred from retaking other key outposts lost to the Chinese in July 1953. The loss of those outposts left the Marines naked on Boulder City and meant that the battle was fought in their front lines instead of 2,000 yards in front of them, and the result was very heavy casualties for the Marines. Except for some blunders by the Chinese, they could have penetrated the lines and driven the UN back across the Imjim River which would have left the Chinese a clear route right into the Korean capital at Seoul. Halberstam apparently was unaware of how significant the last battle was in War.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781401300524
Subtitle:
America and the Korean War
Author:
Halberstam, David
Author:
Halberstam, David
Publisher:
Hyperion
Subject:
Military - World War II
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Military - Korean War
Subject:
Korean war, 1950-1953
Subject:
Korean War, 1950-1953 -- United States.
Subject:
General History
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
September 25, 2007
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 8 up to 17
Language:
English
Pages:
736
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.125 in 39.04 oz
Age Level:
from 18

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Product details 736 pages Hyperion - English 9781401300524 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Reviewed by James Brady At the heart of David Halberstam's massive and powerful new history of the Korean War is a bloody, losing battle fought in November 1950 in the snow-covered mountains of North Korea by outnumbered American GIs and Marines against the Chinese Communist Army.Halberstam's villain is not North Korea's Kim Il Sung or China's Chairman Mao or even the Soviet Union's Josef Stalin, who pulled the strings. It's the legendary general Douglas MacArthur, the aging, arrogant, politically ambitious architect of what the author calls 'the single greatest American military miscalculation of the war,' MacArthur's decision 'to go all the way to the Yalu [River] because he was sure the Chinese would not come in.'Much of the story is familiar. What distinguishes this version by Halberstam (who died this year in a California auto crash) is his reportorial skill, honed in Vietnam in Pulitzer-winning dispatches to the New York Times. His pounding narrative, in which GIs and generals describe their coldest winter, whisks the reader along, even though we know the ending.Most Korean War scholars agree that MacArthur's sprint to the border of great China with a Siberian winter coming on resulted in a lethal nightmare. Though focused on that mountain battle, Halberstam's book covers the entire war, from the sudden dawn attack by Kim Il Sung's Soviet-backed North Koreans against the U.S.-trained South, on June 25, 1950, to its uneasy truce in 1953. It was a smallish war but a big Cold War story: Harry Truman, Stalin and Mao, Joe McCarthy and Eisenhower, George C. Marshall and Omar Bradley, among others, stride through it. A few quibbles: there were no B-17 bombers destroyed on Wake Island the day after Pearl Harbor, as Halberstam asserts, and Halberstam gives his minor characters too much attention.At first MacArthur did well, toughing out those early months when the first GIs sent in from cushy billets in occupied Japan were overwhelmed by Kim's rugged little peasant army. MacArthur's greatest gamble led to a marvelous turning point: the invasion at Inchon in September, when he outflanked the stunned Reds. After Inchon, the general headed north and his luck ran out. His sycophants, intelligence chief Willoughby and field commander Ned Almond, refused to believe battlefield evidence indicating the Chinese Communists had quietly infiltrated North Korea and were lying in wait. The Marines fought their way out as other units disintegrated. In the end, far too late, Truman sacked MacArthur.Alive with the voices of the men who fought, Halberstam's telling is a virtuoso work of history. (Sept.)James Brady, columnist at Parade and Forbes.com, is author of several books about Korea. His latest book is Why Marines Fight (St. Martin's, Nov.)." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Commanding and evocative....Halberstam's final work stands as the coda to his enduringly famous The Best and the Brightest."
"Review" by , "Another memorable slice of the 20th-century history, measuring up to such earlier Halberstam classics as The Best and the Brightest and The Powers That Be."
"Review" by , "I could hardly put this book down. Meticulously and thoroughly researched, it is splendidly compelling reading. The Coldest Winter is a superb conjoining of all the factors of this tragic war: the military tactics and strategy of both sides; the international diplomacy; the internal politics; the personalities of the various players. A great work."
"Review" by , "Some rough organization and lack of narrative covering the later years suggest that Halberstam's death may have cut short his work. Still, this is a vital, accessibly written resource for students of the period and is sure to be widely read."
"Review" by , "[A] book that only Halberstam could pull off, and he does so with bravura and skill worthy of a farewell performance."
"Review" by , "We may have forgotten the Korean War, but this volume is a reminder of what we should have remembered in history and, with the Halberstam oeuvre now complete, what we will miss."
"Review" by , "It caps a brilliant journalistic career in a particularly satisfying way since it serves as a kind of prequel to The Best and the Brightest."
"Review" by , "[A] fitting, warm tribute to the art of reporting, the most appropriate epitaph imaginable for David Halberstam."
"Review" by , "[C]ements Halberstam's reputation as the preeminent popular historian of his generation."
"Review" by , "Meticulously reported and exhaustively researched, it traces the strategy, politics, diplomacy and history behind the war on both sides, from Tokyo and Taiwan to Beijing, Moscow and Washington, providing remarkably detailed capsule portraits of its major figures."
"Review" by , "Much more than a book on a war, The Coldest Winter is an instant-classic look at the people, power and politics that created a dangerous stage...and then acted on it."
"Review" by , "The Coldest Winter is easily the best popular history of the Korean War. Halberstam is a whale of a storyteller."
"Review" by , "Halberstam's recounting of the immense shifts in battlefield momentum is breathtaking."
"Review" by , "Painstakingly researched, including detailed interviews with a number of those who fought in Korea, Halberstam's book reveals the devastating consequences that resulted from the miscalculations and myopia of central military commanders."
"Synopsis" by , Halberstam uses his unrivaled research and formidable journalistic skills to shed light on another dark corner in history: the Korean War. He provides a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculation on both sides, culminating with the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu, which catches Douglas MacArthur's forces by surprise.
"Synopsis" by , David Halberstam's magisterial and thrilling The Best and the Brightest was the defining book for the Vietnam War. More than three decades later, Halberstam used his unrivalled research and formidable journalistic skills to shed light on another dark corner in our history: the Korean War. The Coldest Winter is a successor to The Best and the Brightest, even though in historical terms it precedes it.Halberstam considered The Coldest Winter the best book he ever wrote, the culmination of forty-five years of writing about America's postwar foreign policy.Up until now, the Korean War has been the black hole of modern American history.The Coldest Winter changes that. Halberstam gives us a masterful narrative of the political decisions and miscalculations on both sides. He charts the disastrous path that led to the massive entry of Chinese forces near the Yalu, and that caught Douglas MacArthur and his soldiers by surprise. He provides astonishingly vivid and nuanced portraits of all the major figures — Eisenhower, Truman, Acheson, Kim, and Mao, and Generals MacArthur, Almond, and Ridgway. At the same time, Halberstam provides us with his trademark highly evocative narrative journalism, chronicling the crucial battles with reportage of the highest order.At the heart of the book are the individual stories of the soldiers on the front lines who were left to deal with the consequences of the dangerous misjudgments and competing agendas of powerful men. We meet them, follow them, and see some of the most dreadful battles in history through their eyes. As ever, Halberstam was concerned with the extraordinary courage and resolve of people asked to bear an extraordinary burden.The Coldest Winter is contemporary history in its most literary and luminescent form, and provides crucial perspective on the Vietnam War and the events of today. It was a book that Halberstam first decided to write more than thirty years ago and that took him nearly ten years to write. It stands as a lasting testament to one of the greatest journalists and historians of our time, and to the fighting men whose heroism it chronicles.Includes an Afterword by Russell BakerTributes to David HalberstamDavid Halberstam died at the age of 73 in a car accident in California on April 23, 2007, just after completing The Coldest Winter. Legendary for his work ethic, his kindness to young writers, and his unbending moral spine, Halberstam had friends and admirers throughout journalism, many of whom spoke at his memorial service and at readings across the country for the release of The Coldest Winter. We have included testimonials given at his memorial service by two writers who made their reputations at the same newspaper where he won a Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam War reporting, The New York Times: Anna Quindlen ...David occupied a lot of space on the planet. Perhaps he felt the price he must pay for that big voice, that big reach, that big reputation, was that his generosity had to be just as large. Most of us, when we take to the road and meet admiring strangers, vow afterward to answer the note pressed into our hands or to pass along the speech we promised to the person whose daughter couldn't be there to hear it. But with the best will in the world we arrive home to deadlines, bills, kids, friends, all the demands of a busy life. We mean to be our best selves, but often we forget. David did it. He always did it. The note, the call, the book, the advice. When I mentioned this once he dug his hands deep intothe pockets of his grey flannels, set his mouth at the corners, looked down and rumbled, "Well, but it's so easy." That's nonsense. It's not easy. But it is important, and why he has been remembered with enormous affection by ordinary readers all over this country, and why each of us who live some sort of public life would do well, with all due respect to Jesus, to ask ourselves about those small encounters: what would David do ... Read her full tributeDexter Filkins .
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