The History of the Ethiopian Imperial Bodyguard Battalion in the Korean War

Published on
Published on
Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Dagmawi Abebe
Other Publication Information
96pp, 88 b/w photos, 8pp color section, 6 maps plus diagrams
Company: Helion & Company - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate UK - Website: Visit Site

The Setting

On June 25, 1950, President Harry Truman was flying back to Washington, D.C. to deal with the outbreak of war in Korea. He thought, “In my generation, this was not the first occasion when the strong attacked the weak. I recalled some earlier instances: Manchuria, Ethiopia, and Austria. I remembered how each time that the democracies failed to act, it encouraged the aggressor to keep going ahead. Communism was acting in Korea just as Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese had acted, ten, fifteen, twenty years earlier . . . If this was allowed to go unchallenged it would mean a third world war.”

About the Author

Dagmawi Abebe was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His father was a naval officer and his mother a nurse. He moved to the U.S. as a teenager and later earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminology. He currently works as a criminal investigator and has experience in both private and public sectors. His interest in military history of the obscure nature ranges from the Barbary Wars to 20th Century Imperial Ethiopia.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Glossary
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 - First Kagnew Battalion
  • Chapter 2 - Second Kagnew Battalion
  • Chapter 3 - Third Kagnew Battalion
  • Chapter 4 - Fourth Kagnew Battalion and Firth Kagnew Company
  • Epilog
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the Author

This is a review I am especially pleased to write, not because this book is the most amazing one I have ever read, but rather because this book really challenged me to acknowledge and confront my biases. For that, I’m grateful to have read it. The Korean war was before my time, and I am largely not as knowledgeable of it as I am of World War II or contemporary wars. This book—based on a pretty esoteric topic---filled a big gap in my knowledge of history.

The Introduction is not to be ignored. It provides a wealth of background knowledge about Ethiopia, the Italian occupation on October 3, 1935, battles between Ethiopian soldiers and Italian troops, and the re-capturing of Addis Ababa in 1945 by Emperor Haile Selassie.

Chapter One begins with the start of the Korean War and the beginning involvement of the Ethiopians. On April 11, the Emperor inspected the Imperial Bodyguard Academy. One day later, the battalion assembled in front of Swedish instructors, diplomats and tens of thousands of spectators. Emperor Selassie presented the battalion with their unit colors and the designation “Kagnew Battalion.” Kagnew was the name of General Ras Makonnen’s war horse. General Makonnen fought in the First Italo-Ethiopian War and was Haile Selassie’s father.

This book is chockfull of interesting information. The photographs show images I’ve not seen elsewhere, and I especially appreciated the color plates showing Ethiopian military uniforms. This book serves two functions: it teaches the reader about the Korean War, but more importantly it tells the story of how a proud people and a proud nation rose to meet the call to protect democracy and joined the world in squelching the aggression of the North Koreans.

I strongly recommend this book. It is worthy reading, and it will undoubtedly expand the reader’s worldview. My knowledge of the Korean War mostly comes from having watched MASH, I hate to admit. But, because of this book, I have grown. This is perhaps, the best compliment I can give.

Thank you to Helion for publishing such a fine book, thank you to Dagmawi Abebe for sharing your culture, thank you to IPMS for the opportunity to review it and to Casemate Publishers for providing it. Thank you Bill & Phil for all you do for the Reviewers!


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