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From the New York Times bestselling author of Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden tells the riveting story of Kim Il Sung's rise to power, and the brave North Korean fighter pilot who escaped the prison state and delivered the first MiG-15 into American hands
In The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot, New York Times bestselling author Blaine Harden tells the riveting story of how Kim Il Sung grabbed power and plunged his country into war against the United States while the youngest fighter pilot in his air force was playing a high-risk game of deception—and escape.
As Kim ascended from Soviet puppet to godlike ruler, No Kum Sok noisily pretended to love his Great Leader. That is, until he swiped a Soviet MiG-15 and delivered it to the Americans, not knowing they were offering a $100,000 bounty for the warplane (the equivalent of nearly one million dollars today). The theft—just weeks after the Korean War ended in July 1953—electrified the world and incited Kim’s bloody vengeance.
During the Korean War the United States brutally carpet bombed the North, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and giving the Kim dynasty, as Harden reveals, the fact-based narrative it would use to this day to sell paranoia and hatred of Americans.
Drawing on documents from Chinese and Russian archives about the role of Mao and Stalin in Kim’s shadowy rise, as well as from never-before-released U.S. intelligence and interrogation files, Harden gives us a heart-pounding escape adventure and an entirely new way to understand the world’s longest-lasting totalitarian state.
Harden delivers another page-turner about a North Korean who got out alive, despite staggering odds, in this real-life thriller that unfolds during the Korean War. (The author's previous title, Escape from Camp 14, about Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean political prisoner who escaped from a concentration camp, generated some controversy recently when the author and publisher admitted that parts of the bestselling book are inaccurate, due to false representations on the part of Dong-hyuk.) Harden weaves together narratives of "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung and No Kum Sok, who harbored a childhood dream of coming to the U.S., even though "at 19 he became the youngest jet fighter pilot on either side of the Korean War." The book opens with brief bios of both men, covering the battles and No's defection. Although the title is a tip-off to a happy resolution, No's road to the West is a circuitous one that starts with the U.S. secretly promoting a financial reward for defection, dubbed Operation Moolah, in Communist nations shortly after Stalin's death in 1953. With access to No and newly released intelligence, Harden presents fresh insights into North Korea.