Chosin Reservoir

Epic of Endurance

 
 

Introduction

One of the most well-known campaigns in the Korean War took place in the Chosin Reservoir area of North Korea in November/December 1950. The goal of the Chinese and North Koreans was to completely annihilate their enemy. They failed in their mission.  Instead, allied troops displayed great tenacity and determination as they fought their way out of the Chosin Reservoir area, causing tremendous enemy casualties in the process. Amazing feats of accomplishment and endurance took place during the Chosin campaign. Against overwhelming odds, including massive numbers of enemy and extreme cold temperatures, allied participants succeeded in avoiding annihilation by fighting their way out of the deadly trap that had been set by the Communist enemy.  Meanwhile, thousands of US Navy personnel miles away at sea were involved in close air support efforts for the ground forces in the Chosin campaign.  As one Navy veteran commented, "I did not have anyone shooting at me, but I assure you it was just as cold 25 miles out to sea as it was in the hills and valleys of Korea."

When news about the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir reached the United States, there was a great deal of media attention about it. That attention eventually transferred into American history textbooks. The Korean War hardly receives more than a paragraph or two in those books, but what little mention is made of it generally includes some commentary about the Chosin campaign.  In doing so, the hard fighting and misery of the remaining months of the war have often been overlooked through the decades.

Chosin Reservoir veterans are justly proud of their accomplishment, but most who fought in Korea also know that American blood ran just as red in 1951-53 as it did during the Chosin Reservoir campaign. No time between June of 1950 and July of 1953 was a "good" time to serve in the Korean War. Combat veterans who fought in the deadly outpost wars in 1953, who dug in to hold strategic hills in 1952, who chased the Communist enemy back north in 1951, and who held the Pusan perimeter in the early days of the war in 1950, each had to endure their own unique hardships, as well as fight overwhelming numbers of enemy troops. The entire Korean War was a series of cold, bloody, and forgotten events and battles that claimed over 33,000 American lives. To this day, not all of our war dead and missing have been returned to the United States.

The purpose of this page of the Korean War Educator is not to make light of the long, miserable months and bloody battles that followed the Chosin Reservoir campaign. Rather, its purpose is to focus on the first two cold winter months in 1950 in northeast Korea in order to educate the public about the events that took place during that time frame and place. It is our hope that readers viewing these pages will come to understand why the Chosin Reservoir campaign is considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments in American military history.

Watch as links on the Table of Contents below are activated in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, be sure to view more pages of the Korean War Educator to learn about other campaigns and battles of the deadly Korean War.


TABLE OF CONTENTS


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Chosin - Synopsis

 


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Statistics

  • Participants
    • China - 9th Army Group CCF
    • United States - 1st Marine Division (1st, 5th, 7th & 2 battalions of the 11th Marine Regiments)
    • United States - 7th Infantry Division (32nd and 31st Regiments)
    • England - 41st Independent Commando Royal Marines
    • South Korea - Marines
  • Strength of Forces (approximate)
    • China - 120,000
    • United Nations - 20,000
  • Casualty Figures*
    • China - 25,000 dead; 12,500 wounded; 30,000 frostbite casualties
    • United Nations - 718 dead; 192 missing; 3,508 wounded; 7,500 cold-related injuries

*Casualty figures for the Chosin Reservoir vary due to the unavailability of accurate records.  When fighting under such conditions, nobody stops to count bodies.

Table of Marine Casualties - 30 November 1950-3 December 1950 (1stMarDiv SAR, annex E (Division Adjutant), appendix II, 3

Date KIA DOW MIA WIA Total Battle Total Non-Battle
30 November 27 6 6 183 222 102
1 December 27 14 6 111 158 134
2 December 55 2 33 231 321 180
3 December 16 1 6 194 217 196
Totals 135 29 55 921 1140 1194

Table of Marine Casualties - 6 December 1950-7 December 1950 (DivAdjutant SAR, Appendix II,3

Date KIA DOW MIA WIA Totals
6 December 32 4 7 218 261
7 December 51 16 0 288 355
Totals 83 20 7 506 616

Table of Marine Casualties - 8 December 1950-11 December 1950 (DivAdjutant SAR, Appendix II,3)

Date KIA DOW MIA WIA Totals
8 December 29 8 4 127 168
9 December 6 7 1 46 60
10 December 7 5 8 45 65
11 December 9 4 3 38 54
Totals 51 24 16 256 347

Marine equipment allowances/shortages (shortages in December 1950)

Items of equipment T/E allowance Shortages 23 Dec. 1950 Shortages 31 Dec. 1950
Bags, sleeping 23,000 3,585 0
Machine gun, Browning, Cal. 30, M1919A4 1,398 338 0
BAR, 30 cal. 904 441 0
Carbine, 30 cal., M2 11,084 2,075 0
Launcher, rocket, 3.5", M20 396 105 0
Howitzer, 105mm 54 8 0
Howitzer, 155mm 18 9 0
Glasses, field, 7x50 1,740 1,305 1,006
Tank, Med., M4A3, dozer, 105mm 12 7 7
Tank, Med., M-26, 90mm 85 16 12
Truck, 1/4 T., 4x4 641 105 58
Truck, 1 1/2 T., 6x6, cargo 54 3 0
Truck, 2 1/2 T., 6x6, cargo 737 124 33
Radio set, SCR 536 474 211 211
Radio set, SCR 619 137 74 49
Telephone, EE8 1,162 58 58

 


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Veterans' Memoirs

KWE's Chosin Memoirs

Click on the links below to view memoirs of Chosin Reservoir veterans who have participated in the Korean War Educator's oral history project:

 


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Newspaper/Magazine Articles

"Seattle Leathernecks Conference"... Seattle Post Intelligencer Nov. 14, 1950

 


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Chosin-related Websites
 

  • Army at the Chosin Reservoir
    Information about the 31st RCT—Task Force Faith and Task Force MacLean, at the Chosin Reservoir.
     
  • Army at the Chosin Reservoir
    A site exclusively about the Army at the Chosin Reservoir.
     
  • Ballad of Chosin
    A song written by Frank Gross, and information on how to order a
    copy of his music.
     
  • Changjin Journal
    Created by George Rasula to disseminate and solicit information on the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
     
  • Chosin Few
    Books and reviews, USMC commanders, units to Hagaru, Hagaru to Koto-Ri, Map Room, Chosin air support, cold injury information, and more.
     
  • Chosin Few
    Chapters of the Chosin Few organization, the Few on the net, links, maps, membership information, PX, etc.
     
  • Chosin Reservoir Medal of Honor Recipients
     
  • D-2-7
    Poems about the Chosin Reservoir and Dog-2-7 Marines in Korea.
     
  • Gene Dixon's Personal Website
    One branch of Gene's personal website is devoted entirely the Korean War, with several pages thereon covering Chosin.
     
  • History Central
    One page of information about Chosin.
     
  • North to the Yalu
    From a 1973 government publication (American Military History) edited by Maurice Matloff.
     
  • Soldiers on Line
    An overview of "Phase 3" (the Chosin campaign) during the Korean War.
     
  • USS Chosin
    Official government website of the USS Chosin (CG65). The USS Chosin is a guided missile cruiser.
     
 

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Chosin Medal of Honor Recipients

The citations listed below for these honorable warriors were provided to the Korean War Educator courtesy of Chosin veteran and historian Bob Carr.

  • Barber, William E.
  • Baugh, William B.
  • Cafferata, Hector A.
  • Davis, Raymond G.
  • Faith, Don
  • Hudner, Thomas Jermoe
  • Johnson, James E.
  • Kennemore, Robert
  • Mitchell, Frank
  • Myers, Reginald
  • Page, John U.D.
  • Phillips, Lee H.
  • Poynter, James I.
  • Reem, Robert D.
  • Sutter, Carl L.
  • Windrich, William G.
  • VanWinkle, Archie

Barber, William E.

Captain William E. Barber
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Company F, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea from 28 November to 2 December 1950. Assigned to defend a three-mile mountain pass along the division's main supply line and commanding the only route of approach in the march from Yudam-ni to Hagaru-ri, Captain Barber took position with his battle weary troops and , before nightfall, had dug in and set up a defense along the frozen snow-covered hillside. When a force of estimated regimental strength savagely attacked during the night, inflicting heavy casualties and finally surrounding his position following a bitterly fought seven-hour conflict, Captain Barber, after repulsing the enemy, gave assurance that he could hold if supplied by air drops and requested permission to stand fast when orders were received by radio to fight his way back to a relieving force after two reinforcing units had been driven back under fierce resistance in their attempts to reach the isolated troops. Aware that leaving the position would sever contact with the 8,000 Marines trapped at Yudam-ni and jeopardize their chances of joining the 3,000 more awaiting their arrival in Hagaru-ri for the continued drive to the sea, he chose to risk loss of his command rather than sacrifice more men if the enemy seized control and forced a renewed battle to regain the position, or abandon his many wounded who were unable to walk. Although severely wounded in the leg the early morning of the 29th, Captain Barber continued to maintain personal control, often moving up and down the lines on a stretcher to direct the defense and consistently encouraging and inspiring his men to supreme efforts despite the staggering opposition. Waging desperate battle throughout five days and six nights of repeated onslaughts launched by the fanatical aggressors, he and his heroic command accounted for approximately 1,000 enemy dead in this epic stand in bitter sub-zero weather, and when the company was relieved, only 82 of his original 220 men were able to walk away from the position so valiantly defended against insuperable odds. His profound faith and courage, great personal valor and unwavering fortitude were decisive factors in the successful withdrawal of the division from the deathtrap in the Chosin Reservoir sector and reflect the highest credit upon Captain Barber, his intrepid officers and men and the United States Naval Service.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States


Baugh, William E.

Private First Class William B. Baugh
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a member of an Anti-Tank Assault Squad attached to Company G, Third Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), during a nighttime enemy attack against a motorized column en route from Koto-ri to Hagaru-ri, Korea, on 29 November 1950. Acting instantly when a hostile grenade landed in his truck as he and his squad prepared to alight and assist in the repulse of an enemy force delivering intense automatic-weapons and grenade fire from deeply entrenched and well-concealed roadside positions. Private First Class Baugh quickly shouted a warning to the other men in the vehicle and, unmindful of his own personal safety, hurled himself upon the deadly missile, thereby saving his comrades from serious injury or possible death. Sustaining severe wounds from which he died a short time afterward, Private First Class Baugh, by his superb courage and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice, upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gave his life for his country.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States


Cafferata, Hector A.

Private Hector A. Cafferata
United States Marine Corps Reserve

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Rifleman with Company F, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea on 28 November 1950. When all other members of his fire team became casualties, creating a gap in the lines, during the initial phase of a vicious attack launched by a fanatical enemy of regimental strength against his company's hill position, Private Cafferata waged a lone battle with grenades and rifle fire as the attack gained momentum and the enemy threatened penetration through the gap and endangered the integrity of the entire defensive perimeter. Making a target of himself under the devastating fire from automatic weapons, rifles, grenades and mortars, he maneuvered up and down the line and delivered accurate and effective fire against the onrushing force, killing fifteen, wounding many more and forcing the others to withdraw so that reinforcements could move up and consolidate the position. Again fighting desperately against a renewed onslaught later that same morning when a hostile grenade landed in a shallow entrenchment occupied by wounded Marines, Private Cafferata rushed into the gully under heavy fire, seized the deadly missile in his right hand and hurled it free of his comrades before it detonated, severing part of one finger and seriously wounding him in the right hand and arm. Courageously ignoring the intense pain, he staunchly fought on until he was struck by a sniper's bullet and forced to submit to evacuation for medical treatment. Stouthearted and indomitable, Private Cafferata, by his fortitude, great personal valor and dauntless perseverance in the face of almost certain death, saved the lives of several of his fellow Marines and contributed essentially to the success achieved by his company in maintaining its defensive position against tremendous odds. His extraordinary heroism throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States


Davis, Raymond G.

Raymond G. Davis
Lieutenant Colonel
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in aware that the operation involved breaking through a surrounding enemy and advancing eight miles along primitive icy trails in the bitter cold with every passage disputed by a savage and determined foe, Lieutenant Colonel Davis boldly led his battalion into the attack in a daring attempt to relieve a beleaguered rifle company and to seize, hold and defend a vital mountain pass controlling the only route available for two Marine regiments in danger of being cut off by numerically superior hostile force during their redeployment to the port of Hungnam. When the battalion immediately encountered strong opposition form entrenched enemy forces commanding high ground in the path of the advance, he promptly spearheaded his unit in a fierce attack up the steep, ice-covered slopes in the face of withering fire and, personally leading the assault groups in a hand-to-hand encounter, drove the hostile troops from their positions, rested his mean and reconnoitered the area under enemy fire to determine the best route for continuing the mission. Always in the thick of fighting, Lieutenant Colonel Davis let his battalion over three successive ridges in the deep snow in continuous attacks against the enemy and, constantly inspiring and encouraging his men throughout the night, brought his unit to a point within 1500 yards of the surrounded rifle company by daybreak. Although knocked to the ground when a shell fragment struck his helmet and two bullets pierced this clothing, he arose and fought his way forward at the head of his men until he reached the isolated Marines. On the following morning, he bravely led his battalion in securing the vital mountain pass from a strongly entrenched and numerically superior hostile force, carrying all his wounded with him, including 22 litter cases and held the vital terrain until the two regiments of the division had deployed through the pass and, on the morning of 4 December, led his battalion into Hagaru-ri intact. By his superb leadership, outstanding courage and brilliant tactical ability, Lieutenant Colonel Davis was directly instrumental in saving the beleaguered rifle company from complete annihilation and enable the two Marine regiments to escape possible destruction. His valiant devotion to duty and unyielding fighting spirit in the face of almost insurmountable odds enhance and sustain the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Harry S. Truman,
President of the United States

FOOTNOTE: Lieutenant Colonel Davis was awarded the Navy Cross in World War II, the Medal of Honor in Korea, two Distinguish Service Medals, 2 Silver Stars, 2 Legion of Merits, Bronze Star , a Purple Heart, 5 Presidential Unit Citation, 3 NUCs. Over three plus decades, Lieutenant Colonel Davis also filled every one of the possible staff and command assignments. During his military career, he has commanded every level of combat from platoon to Division. He was Executive Officer of the 7th Marines in Korea. Lieutenant Colonel Davis was also in 14 Campaigns, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam and has been awarded Seven Foreign Awards.


Faith, Don

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Organization: U.S. Army, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.
Place and date: Vicinity Hagaru-ri, Northern Korea, Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 1950.
Entered service at: Washington, Ind.
Birth: 1918, Washington, Ind.
G.O. No.: 59, Aug. 2, 1951.

Citation: Lieutenant Colonel Don C. Faith Jr. Infantry, United States Army, Commanding 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty 27 November to 1 December 1950, in the area of the Chosin Reservoir. When the enemy launched a fanatical attack against his battalion, Colonel Faith unhesitatingly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire as he moved about directing the action. When the enemy penetrated the positions, Colonel Faith personally led counterattacks to restore the position. During an attack by his battalion to effect a junction with another U.S. unit, Colonel Faith reconnoitered the route for, and personally directed, the first elements of his command across the ice-covered reservoir and then directed the movement of his vehicles which were loaded with wounded until all of his command had passed through the enemy fire. Having completed this he crossed the reservoir himself. Assuming command of the force his unit had joined he was given the mission of attacking to join friendly elements to the south. Colonel Faith, although physically exhausted in the bitter cold, organized and launched an attack which was soon stopped by enemy fire. He ran forward under enemy small-arms and automatic weapons fire, got his men on their feet and personally led the fire attack as it blasted its way through the enemy ring. As they came to a hairpin curve, enemy fire from a roadblock again pinned the column down. Colonel Faith organized a group of men and directed their attack on the enemy positions on the right flank. He then placed himself at the head of another group of men and in the face of direct enemy fire led an attack on the enemy roadblock, firing his pistol and throwing grenades. When he had reached a position approximately 30 yards from the roadblock he was mortally wounded, but continued to direct the attack until the roadblock was overrun. Throughout the five days of action Colonel Faith gave no thought to his safety and did not spare himself. His presence each time in the position of greatest danger was an inspiration to his men. Also, the damage he personally inflicted firing from his position at the head of his men was of material assistance on several occasions. Colonel Faith's outstanding gallantry and noble self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty reflect the highest honor on him and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army. (This award supersedes the prior award of the Silver Star (First Oak Leaf Cluster) as announced in General Order No. 32, Headquarters X


Hudner, Thomas Jerome Jr.

Thomas Jerome Hudner Jr.
Rank: Lieutenant (j.g.)
Organization: U.S. Navy, pilot in Fighter Squadron 32, attached to U.S.S. Leyte.
Place and date: Chosin Reservoir area of Korea, Dec. 4, 1950.
Entered service at: Fall River, Mass.
Birth: 1924, Fall River, Mass.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Fighter Squadron 32, while attempting to rescue a squadron mate whose plane struck by antiaircraft fire and trailing smoke, was forced down behind enemy lines. Quickly maneuvering to circle the downed pilot and protect him from enemy troops infesting the area, Lieutenant (j.g.) Hudner risked his life to save the injured flier who was trapped alive in the burning wreckage. Fully aware of the extreme danger in landing on the rough mountainous terrain and the scant hope of escape or survival in subzero temperature, he put his plane down skillfully in a deliberate wheels-up landing in the presence of enemy troops. With his bare hands, he packed the fuselage with snow to keep the flames away from the pilot and struggled to pull him free. Unsuccessful in this, he returned to his crashed aircraft and radioed other airborne planes, requesting that a helicopter be dispatched with an ax and fire extinguisher. He then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, renewed a desperate but unavailing battle against time, cold, and flames. Lieutenant. (j.g.) Hudner's exceptionally valiant action and selfless devotion to a shipmate sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.


Johnson, James E.

Sergeant James E. Johnson
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Squad Leader in a Provisional Rifle Platoon composed of Artillery men and attached to Company J, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces at Yudam-ni, Korea, on 2 December 1950. Vastly outnumbered by a well-entrenched and cleverly concealed enemy force wearing the uniforms of friendly troops and attacking his platoon's open and unconcealed positions, Sergeant Johnson unhesitatingly took charge of his platoon in the absence of the leader and exhibiting great personal valor in the face of a heavy barrage of hostile fire, coolly proceeded to move about among his men, shouting words of encouragement and inspiration and skillfully directing their fire. Ordered to displace his platoon during the fire fight, he immediately placed himself in an extremely hazardous position from which he could provide covering fire for his men. Fully aware that his voluntary action meant either certain death or capture to himself, he courageously continued to provide effective cover for his men and was last observed in a wounded condition single-handedly engaging enemy troops in close hand grenade and hand-to-hand fighting. By his valiant and inspiring leadership, Sergeant Johnson was directly responsible for the successful completion of the platoon's displacement and the saving of many lives. His dauntless fighting spirit and unfaltering devotion to duty in the face of terrific odds reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States

Footnote: Sergeant Johnson from Washington D.C. and Pocatello, Idaho, was a veteran of the Peleliu and Okinawa campaigns in World War II. The Sergeant departed for Korea in August 1950, just five days after the birth of his daughter, Stephanie. His medal was presented to his widow, Mrs. Mary Jeanne Johnson on March 29, 1954, by Secretary of the Navy Robert B. Anderson. In addition to his wife and daughter, Sergeant Johnson was survived by his mother, Mrs. Juanita Hart and a sister, Mrs. Edwin L. Hanke, of Pocatello, Idaho. Although Sergeant Johnson was serving with a provisional company of the 7th Marine Regiment where by his actions was presented the Medal of Honor, his regular outfit was the 11th Marines, the same regiment his father had served in during World War I.

Sergeant Johnson was born at Pocatello on January 1, 1926. He attended public schools there and played junior varsity basketball for two years in high school before enlisting in the Marine Corps on November 10, 1943. After serving in the Pacific theater and at San Diego he as discharged on February 7, 1946, and returned to Pocatello, where he worked as a machinist in the Naval Ordnance plant. He also attended Western Washington College at Bellingham, Washington, before re-enlisting in the Marines on January 13, 1948.

The Sergeant met his wife while he was stationed at Quantico, Virginia. They were married on October 15, 1949, and he embarked for Korea after a year as and instructor in post exchange accounting at the Marine Corps Institute, Marine Barracks, 8th and I Streets, S.E. Washington.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Sergeant Johnson's decorations include: The Purple Heart (Posthumous); the Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze star for Korean service; the Korean Service Medal with three engagement stars; the Navy Unit Commendation for action on Peleliu: the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two engagement stars; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia Clasp.


Kennemore, Robert S.

Staff Sergeant Robert S. Kennemore
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Leader of a Machine-Gun Section in Company E, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea on 27 and 28 November 1950. With the company's defensive perimeter overrun by a numerically superior hostile force during a savage night attack north of Yudam-ni and his platoon commander seriously wounded, Staff Sergeant Kennemore unhesitatingly assumed command, quickly reorganized the unit and directed the men in consolidating the position. When an enemy grenade landed in the midst of a machine-gun squad, he bravely placed his foot on the missile and, in the face of almost certain death, personally absorbed the full force of the explosion to prevent injury to his fellow Marines. By his indomitable courage, outstanding leadership and selfless efforts in behalf of his comrades, Staff Sergeant Kennemore was greatly instrumental in driving the enemy from the area and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

HARRY S. TRUMAN
President of the United States


Mitchell, Frank N.

First Lieutenant Frank N. Mitchell
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Leader of a Rifle Platoon of Company A, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea on 26 November 1950. Leading his platoon in point position during a patrol by his company through a thickly wooded and snow-covered area in the vicinity of Hasan-ni, First Lieutenant Mitchell acted immediately when the enemy suddenly opened fire at point-blank range, pinning down his forward elements and inflicting numerous casualties in his ranks. Boldly dashing to the front under blistering fire from automatic weapons and small arms, he seized and automatic rifle from one of the wounded men and effectively trained it against the attackers and. when his ammunition was expended, picked up and hurled grenades with deadly accuracy. at the same time directing and encouraging his men in driving the outnumbering enemy from his position. Maneuvering to set up a defense when the enemy furiously counterattacked to the front and left flank, First Lieutenant Mitchell, despite his wounds sustained early in the action, reorganized his platoon under devastating fire and spearheaded a fierce hand-to-hand struggle to repulse the onslaught. Asking for volunteers to assist in searching for and evacuating the wounded, he personally led a party of litter bearers through the hostile lines in growing darkness and, although suffering intense pain from multiple wounds stormed ahead and waged a single-handed battle against the enemy, successfully covering the withdrawal of his men before he was fatally struck down by a burst of small-arms fire. Stouthearted and indomitable in the face of tremendous odds. First Lieutenant Mitchell by his fortitude, great personal valor and extraordinary heroism,, saved the lives of several Marines and inflicted heavy casualties among the aggressors. His unyielding courage throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States

Footnote: First Lieutenant Frank N. Mitchell was born on August 18, 1921 in Indian Gap, Texas to J.D. and Isabel Mitchell. His family moved to Roaring Springs, Motley County, Texas where he went to high school. He attended Southwestern University, North Texas State University and Texas Tech where he played football. He married Beverly Banks and they were blessed with one daughter. Jack entered the Marine Corps at Roaring Springs and served as a Rifle Platoon Leader in Company A, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced). His Medal of Honor action was November 26, 1950, near Hansan-ni, Korea. He was listed as MIA and his body was never recovered. His Medal of Honor was presented in Atlanta, GA to his wife Beverly and daughter, Barbara, who lives in Florida. He has two sisters, Marian Alice Jones and Rosalyn Work. First Lieutenant Mitchell is on the "Wall of the Missing" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Honolulu, Hawaii. A "In Memory Marker" is located at the Roaring Springs Cemetery, Roaring Springs, Texas.


Myers, Reginald

Major Reginald R. Myers
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of the Third Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea on 29 November 1950. Assuming command of a composite unit of Army and Marine service and headquarters elements totaling approximately 250 men, during a critical stage in the vital defense of the strategically important military base at Hagaru-ri, Major Myers immediately initiated a determined and aggressive counterattack against a well entrenched and clearly concealed enemy force numbering and estimated 4,000. Severely handicapped by lack of trained personnel and experienced leaders in his valiant efforts to regain maximum ground prior to daylight, he persisted in constantly exposing himself to intense, accurate and sustained hostile fire in order to direct and supervise the employment of his men and to encourage and spur them on in pressing the attack. Inexorably moving forward up the steep, snow-covered slope with his depleted group in the face of apparently insurmountable odds, he concurrently directed artillery and mortar fire with superb skill and, although losing 170 of his men during fourteen hours of raging combat in sub-zero temperatures, continued to reorganize his unit and spearheaded the attack which resulted in 600 enemy killed and 500 wounded. By his exceptional and valorous leadership throughout, Major Myers contributed directly to the success of his unit in restoring the perimeter. His resolute spirit of self-sacrifice and unfaltering devotion to duty enhance and sustain the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Harry S. Truman


Page, John U.D.

John U. D. Page
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Organization: U.S. Army, X Corps Artillery, while attached to the 52d Transportation Truck Battalion.
Place and date: Near Chosin Reservoir, Korea, Nov. 29, to Dec. 10, 1950.
Entered service at: St. Paul, Minn.
Birth: 1904, Malahi Island, Luzon, Philippine Islands.
General Order No.: 21, April 25, 1957.

Citation: Lieutenant Colonel John U. D. Page, United States Army, a member of X Corps Artillery while attached to the 52d Transportation Truck Battalion, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in a series of exploits near the Chosin Reservoir from 29 November to 10 December 1950. On 29 November, Colonel Page left X Corps Headquarters at Hamhung with the mission of establishing traffic control on the main supply route to 1st Marine Division positions and those of some Army elements on the Chosin Reservoir plateau. Having completed his mission Colonel Page was free to return to the safety of Hamhung but chose to remain on the plateau to aid an isolated signal station, thus being cut off with elements of the Marine division. After rescuing his jeep driver by breaking up an ambush near a destroyed bridge Colonel Page reached the lines of a surrounded marine garrison at Koto-ri. He then voluntarily developed and trained a reserve force of assorted army troops trapped with the Marines. By exemplary leadership and tireless devotion he made an effective tactical unit available. In order that casualties might be evacuated, an airstrip was improvised on frozen ground partly outside of the Koto-ri defense perimeter which was continually under enemy attack. During two such attacks, Colonel Page exposed himself on the airstrip to direct fire on the enemy, and twice mounted the rear deck of a tank, manning the machinegun on the turret to drive the enemy back into a no man's land. On 3 December, while being flown low over enemy lines in a light observation plane, Colonel Page dropped hand grenades on Chinese positions and sprayed foxholes with automatic fire from his carbine. After 10 days of constant fighting the Marine and army units in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir had succeeded in gathering at the edge of the plateau and Colonel Page was flown to Hamhung to arrange for artillery support of the beleaguered troops attempting to break out. Again Colonel Page refused an opportunity to remain in safety and returned to give every assistance to his comrades. As the column slowly moved south Colonel Page joined the rear guard. When it neared the entrance to a narrow pass it came under frequent attacks on both flanks. Mounting an abandoned tank Colonel Page manned the machinegun, braved heavy return fire, and covered the passing vehicles until the danger diminished. Later when another attack threatened his section of the convoy, then in the middle of the pass, Colonel Page took a machinegun to the hillside and delivered effective counter fire, remaining exposed while men and vehicles passed through the ambuscade. On the night of 10 December, the convoy reached the bottom of the pass but was halted by a strong enemy force at the front and on both flanks. Deadly small-arms fire poured into the column. Realizing the danger to the column as it lay motionless, Colonel Page fought his way to the head of the column and plunged forward into the heart of the hostile position. His intrepid action so surprised the enemy that their ranks became disordered and suffered heavy casualties. Heedless of his safety, as he had been throughout the preceding 10 days, Colonel Page remained forward, fiercely engaging the enemy single-handed until mortally wounded. By his valiant and aggressive spirit Colonel Page enabled friendly forces to stand off the enemy. His outstanding courage, unswerving devotion to duty, and supreme self-sacrifice reflect great credit upon Colonel Page and are in the highest tradition of the military service.


Phillips, Lee H.

Corporal Lee H. Phillips
United States Marine Corps
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, Company E, 2d Battalion, 7 Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.).
Place and date: Korea, 4 November 1950.
Entered service at: Ben Hill, Ga. Born: 3 February 1930, Stockbridge, Ga.
Cpl. Phillips was killed in action 27 November 1950.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a squad leader of Company E, in action against enemy aggressor forces. Assuming the point position in the attack against a strongly defended and well-entrenched numerically superior enemy force occupying a vital hill position which had been unsuccessfully assaulted on 5 separate occasions by units of the Marine Corps and other friendly forces, Cpl. Phillips fearlessly led his men in a bayonet charge up the precipitous slope under a deadly hail of hostile mortar, small-arms, and machine gun fire. Quickly rallying his squad when it was pinned down by a heavy and accurate mortar barrage, he continued to lead his men through the bombarded area and, although only 5 members were left in the casualty ridden unit, gained the military crest of the hill where he was immediately subjected to an enemy counterattack. Although greatly outnumbered by an estimated enemy squad, Cpl. Phillips boldly engaged the hostile force with hand grenades and rifle fire and, exhorting his gallant group of marines to follow him, stormed forward to completely overwhelm the enemy. With only 3 men now left in his squad, he proceeded to spearhead an assault on the last remaining strongpoint which was defended by 4 of the enemy on a rocky and almost inaccessible portion of the hill position. Using 1 hand to climb up the extremely hazardous precipice, he hurled grenades with the other and, with 2 remaining comrades, succeeded in annihilating the pocket of resistance and in consolidating the position. Immediately subjected to a sharp counterattack by an estimated enemy squad, he skillfully directed the fire of his men and employed his own weapon with deadly effectiveness to repulse the numerically superior hostile force. By his valiant leadership, indomitable fighting spirit and resolute determination in the face of heavy odds, Cpl. Phillips served to inspire all who observed him and was directly responsible for the destruction of the enemy stronghold. His great personal valor reflects the highest credit upon himself and enhances and sustains the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.


Poynter, James I.

Sergeant James I. Poynter
United States Marine Corps Reserve

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Squad Leader in a Rifle Platoon of Company A, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces during the defense of Hill 532, south of Sudong, Korea, on 4 November 1950. When a vastly outnumbering, well-concealed hostile force launched a sudden, vicious counter-attack against his platoon's hasty defensive position, Sergeant Poynter displayed superb skill and courage in leading his squad and directing its fire against the onrushing enemy. With his ranks critically depleted by casualties and he himself critically wounded as the onslaught gained momentum and the hostile force surrounded his position, he seized his bayonet and engaged in bitter hand-to-hand combat as the break-through continued. Observing three machine guns closing in at a distance of twelve-five yards, he dashed from his position and, grasping hand grenades from fallen Marines as he ran, charged the emplacements in rapid succession, killing the crews of two and putting the other out of action before he fell, mortally wounded. By his self-sacrificing and valiant conduct, Sergeant Poynter inspired the remaining members of his squad to heroic endeavor in bearing down upon and repelling the disorganized enemy, thereby enabling the platoon to move out of the trap to a more favorable tactical position. His indomitable fighting spirit, fortitude and great personal valor maintained in the face of overwhelming odds sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States


Reem, Robert D.

Second Lieutenant Robert D. Reem
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty as Platoon Commander in Company H, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Chinhung-ni, Korea, on 6 November 1950. Grimly determined to dislodge a group of heavy enemy infantry units occupying well-concealed and strongly fortified positions on commanding ground overlooking unprotected terrain, Second Lieutenant Reem moved slowly forward up the side of the ridge with his platoon in the face of a veritable hail of shattering hostile machine-gun, grenade and rifle fire. Three times repulsed by a resolute enemy force in achieving his objective, and pinned down by the continuing fury of hostile fire, rallied and regrouped the heroic men in his depleted and disorganized platoon in preparation for a forth attack. Issuing last-minute orders to his non-commissioned officers when an enemy grenade landed in a depression of rocky ground in which the group was standing. Second Lieutenant Reem unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself and, springing upon the deadly missile, absorbed the full impact of the explosion in his own body, thus protecting others form serious injury and possible death, Stout-hearted and indomitable, he readily yielded his own chance of survival that his subordinate leaders might live. Decisiveness and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon Second Lieutenant Reem and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States


Sitter, Carl L.

Captain Carl L. Sitter
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Company G, Third Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces at Hagaru-ri, Korea, on 29 November 1950. Ordered to break through enemy-infested territory to reinforce his Battalion the early morning of 29 November, Captain Sitter continuously exposed himself to enemy fore as he led his company forward and, despite twenty-five percent casualties suffered in the furious action, succeeded in driving through to his objective. Assuming the responsibility of attempting to seize and occupy a strategic area occupied by a hostile force of regiment strength deeply entrenched on a snow-covered hill commanding the entire valley southeast of the town, as well as the line of march of friendly troops withdrawing to the south, he reorganized his depleted units the following morning and boldly led them up the steep, frozen hillside under blistering fire, encouraging and redeploying his troops as casualties occurred and directing forward platoons as they continued the drive to the top of the ridge. During the night when a vastly outnumbering enemy launched a sudden, vicious counterattack, setting the hill ablaze with mortar, machine gun and automatic weapons fire and taking a heavy toll in troops, Captain Sitter visited each foxhole and gun position coolly deploying and integrating reinforcing units consisting of service personnel unfamiliar with infantry tactics into a coordinated combat team and instilling in every man the will and determination to hold his position at all cost. With the enemy penetrating his lines in repeated counterattacks which often required hand-to-hand combat and, on one occasion infiltrating the command post with hand grenades, he fought gallantly with his men in repulsing and killing the fanatic attackers in each encounter. Painfully wounded in the face, arms and chest by bursting grenades, he staunchly refused to be evacuated and continued to fight on until a successful defense of the area was assured with a loss to the enemy of more than fifty percent dead, wounded or captured. His valiant leadership, superb tactics and great personal valor throughout thirty-six hours of bitter combat reflect the highest credit upon Captain Sitter, and the United States Naval Service.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States

Footnote: Captain Carl Sitter passed away on April 4, 2000.


Windrich, William G.

Staff Sergeant William G. Windrich
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Platoon Sergeant of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Yudam-ni, Korea, the night of 1 December 1950. Promptly organizing a squad of men when the enemy launched a sudden, vicious counterattack against the forward elements of his company's position, rendering it untenable, Staff Sergeant Windrich, armed with a carbine, spearheaded the assault to the top of the knoll immediately confronting the overwhelming force and, under shattering hostile automatic weapons, mortar and grenade fire, directed effective fire to hold back the attackers and cover the withdrawal of our troops to commanding ground. With seven of his men struck down during the furious action and he, himself, wounded in the head by a bursting grenade, he made his way to his company's position and, organizing a small group of volunteers, returned with them to evacuate the wounded and dying from the frozen hillside, staunchly refusing medical attention himself. Immediately redeploying the remainder of his troops, Staff Sergeant Windrich placed them on the left flank of the defensive sector before the enemy again attacked in force. Wounded in the leg during the bitter fight that followed, he bravely fought on with his men, shouting words of encouragement and directing their fire until the attack was repelled. Refusing evacuation although unable to stand, he still continued to direct his platoon in setting up defensive positions until, weakened by the bitter cold, excessive loss of blood and severe pain, he lapsed into unconsciousness and died. His valiant leadership, fortitude and courageous fighting spirit against tremendous odds served to inspire others to heroic endeavor in holding the objective and reflect the highest credit upon Staff Sergeant Windrich and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States


Van Winkle, Archie

Staff Sergeant Archie Van Winkle
United States Marine Corps Reserve

For service set forth in the following:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Platoon Sergeant in Company B, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Sudong, Korea, on 2 November 1950. Immediately rallying the men in his area after a fanatical and numerically superior enemy force penetrated the center of the line under cover of darkness and pinned down the platoon with a devastating barrage of deadly, automatic weapons and grenade fire, Staff Sergeant Van Winkle boldly spearheaded a determined attack through withering fire against hostile frontal positions and, though he and all the others who charged with him were wounded, succeeded in enabling his platoon to gain the fire superiority and the opportunity to reorganize. Realizing that the left-flank squad was isolated from the rest of the unit, he rushed through forty yards of fierce enemy fire to reunite his troops despite an elbow wound which rendered one of his arms totally useless. Severely wounded a second time when a direct hit in the chest from a hostile hand grenade caused serious and painful wounds, he staunchly refused evacuation and continued to shout orders and word of encouragement to his depleted and battered platoon. Finally carried from his position unconscious from shock and loss of blood, Staff Sergeant Van Winkle served to inspire all who observed him to heroic efforts in successfully repulsing the enemy attack. His superb leadership, valiant fighting spirit and unfaltering devotion to duty in the face of heavy odds reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States


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Marine/Navy Military Personnel Still Missing at Chosin Reservoir

The following list of military personnel still missing at the Chosin Reservoir was compiled by Bob Carr, a Chosin veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  He believes that the source he used is no doubt the most reliable:

"I think I got it from the Naval Press or something like that," he said. "I downloaded the complete Korean KIA from the source and then in Microsoft Excel, I first sorted by service, then by dates. The Chosin dates were reliable due to the fact that the Marine Corps has verified that Chosin Campaign started on Nov 3, 1950 when the 7th Marines were attacked by regular Chinese elements. So using the dates between Nov 3 and December 15th of 1950, I compiled my list which according now to the Marine Research Center in Washington Naval Yard is most accurate. I do have a couple of Navy Corpsmen listed, but I didn't do the Army because I can't verify the results listed from the source. I can't use units or dates because of the way the units (Army) were broken up.  Some parts were not at Chosin. I know where all the Marine units were and when, so it wasn't that difficult.  The hard part was entering the names and finding someone that I had known before Korea that I had been stationed with at one time or another--like Reuben Fields from Harlin, Kentucky.

History is never 100% accurate I found out. In the case of Chosin, a lot of the After Action Reports were done after the fact. Who has time to write down anything while in the midst of combat and who can write down anything while freezing cold? Most were done by memory after we got back to Masan. Even the daily diaries were that way.

I found in the 3rd Volume of Marine Operations Korean War, by Montross and Calzona, which it seems is used as the end reference for Chosin, that on page 199, it shows the defense perimeter for Hagaru on 27-29 Nov in Map format to be flawed. It shows a detachment of 1st Service Battalion where 1st Ordnance Battalion was and doesn't show 1st Ordnance at all. It shows also X Corps where they were not at the base of East Hill. They (Washington Marine Research ) acknowledges this, but you can't recall all the books just to correct one mistake or so."

Click HERE for the List
(Opens in a separate window)


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Commendations

Presidential Unit Citation

The President of the United States takes pleasure
in presenting
THE PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION
TO THE FIRST PROVISIONAL MARINE BRIGADE
for services as set forth in the following Citation:

"For extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea from 7 August to 7 September 1950. Functioning as a mobile, self-contained, air-ground reserve unit, the First Provisional Marine Brigade rendered invaluable service during the fierce struggle to maintain the foothold established by friendly forces in the Pusan area during the early stages of the Korean conflict. Quickly, moving into action as numerically superior enemy forces neared the Naktong river on the central front and penetrated to within thirty-five miles of Pusan in the southern sector, threatening the integrity of the entire defensive perimeter, this hard-hitting, indomitable team counterattacked serious enemy penetrations at three different points in rapid succession. Undeterred by roadblocks, heavy hostile automatic-weapons and highly effective artillery fire, extremely difficult terrain and intense heat, the Brigade met the invaders with relentless determination, and on each crucial occasion, hurled them back in disorderly retreat. By combining sheer resolution and esprit de corps with sound infantry tactics and splendid close air support, the Brigade was largely instrumental in restoring the line of defense, in inflicting thousands of casualties upon the enemy and in seizing large amounts of ammunition, equipment and other supplies. The brilliant record achieved by the unit during the critical early days of the Korean conflict attests to the individual valor and competence of the officers and men and reflects the highest credit upon the First Provisional Marine Brigade and the United States Naval Service."

- Harry S. Truman, President of the United States

[Submitted to the Korean War Educator by Ted & Shirley Heckelman, Bellingham, WA]

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Tribute

TRIBUTE TO 1ST MARINE DIVISION KOREAN WAR VETERANS
by Commandant of the Marine Corps at 1st MarDiv Assn. Banquet,
29 July, 1995, Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.

"In 1950, when the nation called, the reaction of the 1st Marine Division was to march to the sound of the guns. The nation called and you saluted….In fact, you didn't even blink an eye. You marched with an unmatched determination to do whatever it took. And that mindset was critical—because it was the belief of many people that the task before you simply could not be done… They considered it impossible to throw together a combat force in the span of two weeks and rapidly embark them on ships to deploy half-way around the world. Experts said that no force could rush into a theater teetering on the brink of collapse, engage a numerically superior enemy and stop his advance. Authorities on military operations advised that it was suicide to conduct an amphibious assault—an assault targeted at an area with the second greatest tide change in the world. And nay-sayers declared it was hopeless to attempt any operation where reservists, just called to active duty, comprised over half the strength of some units. They said it couldn't be done, that it was impossible.

What they didn't realize was that Marines DO the impossible.

The 1st Marine Division did it with units fielded by sweeping every spare body and weapon from stations around the world. You did it through the fierce house-to-house fighting in Seoul. You did it in the most brutal conditions—across the roughest terrain and in the harshest weather on earth. You did it despite the efforts of three Chinese armies to surround and destroy you.

Your courage—displayed from Pusan, to Inchon, to Chosin—was much more than just bravery in the face of the enemy and the elements. It was also bravery in the face of the "impossible." The tremendous odds against you, the extreme hardships you endured, and the enormity of your missions would have stopped anyone else…anyone less resilient…anyone less versatile…anyone less courageous than United States Marines…To those who said it was impossible, you showed that for Marines, all things are possible.

The lesson we have learned from you is never to listen to those who say it cannot be done—for you proved them wrong time and time again. You have left a legacy of flexibility, of tenacity, and of courage—a legacy that will endure forever…In addition, you left a more tangible legacy…YOU secured a Marine Corps for the future.

Your magnificent performance against formidable odds served as the catalyst for congress to acknowledge that 'THIS NATION WANTS A MARINE CORPS; THIS NATION NEEDS A MARINE CORPS and THIS NATION WILL HAVE A MARINE CORPS, ONE THAT IS SET IN LAW." Like the faces carved in the stone of your monument, your accomplishments compelled our national leaders to carve into stone our role as a force-in-readiness…A role which charges us to be most-ready when the nation is least ready…to be always at a high state of combat readiness…in position to hold a full scale aggression at bay—no matter the clime, no matter the place, no matter the foe. At a time when defense experts and others conspired to "merge us out of existence," you not only forestalled aggression on the Korean peninsula, you prevented our demise at home…you guaranteed us a future. Your most enduring legacy IS the MARINE CORPS itself.

Today, this nation remains ever thankful for the Corps preserved by your service in Korea. Recall the faces of the American students in Grenada, their gratitude and relief echoes in their simple statements, "Thank God for the Marines." Sentiments echoed around the world, as this same Corps of Marines fed starving Somali children, gave a homeland back to the people of Kuwait, helped restore democracy to the people of Haiti and who performed a daring, dawn rescue of an Air Force Captain by the name of Scott O'Grady. America's Corps of Marines carries the legacy of the Marines of Korea, ready to answer any call—no matter what the mission, no matter the odds, no matter what others may say, although your contributions began on the razorback hills of Korea, they have been felt around the globe, by all mankind, wherever Marines have answered the call.

The Korean War Memorial we dedicated is a visible acknowledgment of your selfless contributions. Sprung from your sacrifices, the future of our Corps will be launched from your legacies; the Corps you have deeded us will remain prepared to meet the challenges of the future. Whenever the nation calls to Send in the Marines—we will respond and we will succeed—because our course has been set by you—through your extraordinary performance and selfless devotion to duty in the mountains and on the shores, in the dust and in the snows of a far off country named Korea.

Semper Fidelis,
General C.C. Krulak
Commandant Marine Corps

[Submitted to The Korean War Educator by Ted & Shirley Heckelman, Bellingham, WA.]

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Presidential Unit Citation

The President of the United States takes pleasure
in presenting
THE PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION
TO THE FIRST MARINE DIVISION
for service as set forth in the following Citation:

"For extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action against enemy aggressor forces in the Chosin reservoir and Koto-Ri of Korea from 27 November to 11 December 1950.

When the full fury of the enemy counterattack struck both the Eighth Army and the Tenth Corps on 27 and 28 November 1950, the First Marine Division, operating as the Left Flank Division of the Tenth Corps, launched a daring assault westward from Yudam-Ni in an effort to cut the road and rail communications of hostile forces attacking the eighth army and at the same time, continued its mission of protecting a vital main supply route consisting of a tortuous mountain road running southward to Chinhung-Ni, approximately 35 miles distant.

Ordered to withdraw to Hamhung in company with attached army and other friendly units in the face of tremendous pressure in the Chosin reservoir area the division began an epic battle against the bulk of the enemy third route army and, while small intermediate garrisons at Hagaru-Ri and Koto-Ri held firmly against repeated and determined attacks by hostile forces, gallantly fought its way successively to Hagaru-Ri, Koto-Ri, Chinhung-Ni and Hamhung over twisting, mountainous and icy roads in sub-zero temperatures.

Battling desperately night and day in the face of almost insurmountable odds throughout a period of two weeks of intense and sustained combat, the First Marine Division emerged from its ordeal as a fighting unit with its wounded, with its guns and equipment and with its prisoners, decisively defeating seven enemy divisions, together with elements of three others, and inflicting major losses which seriously impaired the military effectiveness of the hostile forces for a considerable period of time.

The valiant fighting spirit, relentless perseverance and heroic fortitude of the officers and men of the First Marine Division, in battle against a vastly outnumbering enemy, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States

[Submitted to The Korean War Educator by Ted & Shirley Heckelman, Bellingham, WA.]

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Division Memorandum

Headquarters, 1st Marine Division FMF
c/o FPO, San Francisco, CA
19 December 1950
DIVISION MEMORANDUM
NUMBER…..238-50
Operations in the Chosin Reservoir Area

  1. Early in November the First Marine Division launched a drive from Hamhung toward the Chosin Reservoir. The 7th Marines, in the lead, advanced north steadily and by aggressive and determined fighting finally decimated the 124th CCF Division in the vicinity of Chinhung-ni. The advance continued to a point west of Yudam-ni, when, on November 29th, due to the deteriorating situation on the 8th Army front and the appearance of several fresh Chinese divisions in the Chosin Reservoir area, orders were received to withdraw toward Hamhung. This withdrawal, which was concluded when the last elements of the division closed the Hamhung area on December 11th, will become an epic in the annals of the Marine Corps. Seldom, if ever, have Marines been forced to battle against comparable odds. The enemy in overwhelming force was on all sides, necessitating determined attacks to the front to clear the way, resolute rear guard actions to keep the enemy from closing in, and flank protection to guard the trains and the wounds in the center of the column. Step by step the division fought its way for a distance of thirty-five miles, always against unremitting pressure from the enemy. First the 5th and 7th Marines, with attached units, fought their way out of Yudam-ni, over a 4,000 foot mountain pass and into Hagaru-ri. The losses were heavy but the column was strengthened by the garrison at Hagaru-ri, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, the 41st Royal Marine Commandos, and Headquarters and Service units. Then the column fought its way from Hagaru-ri to Koto-ri. Again losses were heavy but the column was strengthened by the addition of the headquarters of the 1st Marines, the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, and attached units then in garrison at Koto-ri. For the final drive from Koto-ri to the relative security of Chinhung-ni at the southern end of the tortuous mountain road below Koto-ri the entire division participated. While the bulk of the division fought down the mountain, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines fought up the mountain to a juncture, thus permitting the trains to descend the mountain with reasonable safety. Much of the road over which this withdrawal was conducted was tortuous, narrow and snow-and-ice-coated. Temperatures ranged from -8 degrees F to 20 degrees F imposing extreme hardship on men and causing considerable difficulty with motor vehicles. There were road blocks, blown bridges, and cratered roads. Yet in spite of determined enemy resistance, hazardous roads and bitter weather the division emerged from its ordeal a fighting division and inflicted heavy casualties on the six enemy divisions encountered. All wounded were evacuated, there were no stragglers, and useable equipment was not destroyed except by enemy action.
     
  2. The performance of officers and men in this operation was magnificent. Rarely have all hands in a division participated so intimately in the combat phases of an operation. Every Marine can be justly proud of his participation. In Korea, Tokyo and Washington there is full appreciation of the remarkable feat of the division. With the knowledge of the determination, professional competence, heroism, devotion to duty, and self-sacrifice displayed by officers and men of this division, my feeling is one of humble pride. No division commander has ever been privileged to command a finer body of men.

Oliver P. Smith
Major General, USMC
Commanding General, 1st Marine Division

[Submitted to The Korean War Educator by Ted & Shirley Heckelman of Bellingham, WA. This Memorandum was distributed in 1950 to all members of the 1st Marine Division and to the 41st Royal Marine Commandos. It is believed the distribution to 1st Division Marines took place via family members, as a copy of this Memorandum was in the belongings of Ted Heckelman's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Heckelman. Ted did not see it until after his mother's home was closed out after 1986.]


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Suggested Reading (from www.chosinreservoir.com)

"Reading about Chosin is somewhat like trying to find the beginning of a ball of string, except that in reading about Chosin the problem is not in finding where to start, it is in finding where to stop. The battles at Chosin can be view from four different perspectives. The first is the view of the individual Marine or Soldier. Then there is the view of the tactical success of the 1st Marine Division, with attached troops; how the battles were conducted. The third view, one not often considered, is the place that Chosin played in the overall course of the war, its place in history. With that in mind, I suggest the following:

From the eyeball to eyeball view:

Montross, Lynn and Nicholas Canzona. US Marine Operations in Korea. Vol. III "The Chosin Reservoir Campaign". Washington, D.C.: Historical Section, USMC, 1957 - This is the basic place to start. It is sparsely written but covers all the essential action at Chosin. It was based on Marine Corps records, extensive correspondence, and many interviews at a time when events were still fresh in their minds.

Geer, Andrews The New Breed: The Story of the U. S. Marines in Korea. New York: Harper. 1952 - This is the granddaddy of all stories of Marines in Korea. As General O.P. Smith stated, The book pictures "...vividly the real-life, not fictional, Marine as he fought the bitter battles.."

Hammel, Eric. Chosin: Heroic Ordeal of the Korean War. New York: Vanguard Press, 1981, This is probably the most detailed book with much information about individual Marines and small units.

Wilson, Jim. Retreat Hell, We're Just Attacking in Another Direction. New York: Pocket Books. 1988. - This is an unknown gem of individual and small unit action at Chosin, often in the explicit language of the participants. (Hard to find.)

Appleman, Roy E. East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea. 1950, College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987. This is a must read for anyone who want to understand the Army participation in Chosin. Appleman is a careful and objective historian and tells this tragic story in great detail.

Russ, Martin Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea, 1950. New York: Fromm International. 1999 - Russ spent many years collecting the information for this. As a combat Marine in a later phase of the war, Russ is able to write this from the point of view of the individual man. As each successive book has done, Russ adds more details.

Wilson, Arthur and Norm Strickbine. Korean Vignettes: The Faces of War. Portland: Artworks Publications, 1996 - Art Wilson and Norm Strickbine have spent years collecting the stories of individual Soldiers and Marines told here in their own unvarnished words. Much of this book is from participants of Chosin.

Colder Than Hell.  Joe Owen tells his personal experiences as a Officer In Charge of a Marine Mortar Platoon At Chosin.. One of the best and most honest historical stories written about Chosin. A Must Read.

Green Berets In Korea. Fred Hayhurst's book is a story of a small unique amphibious raiding force especially raised for service during the Korean War, the first armed conflict fought under the flag of the United Nations.

March To Glory Robert Leckie- Leckie's "March to Glory" describes the First Marine Division's withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir in Korea during November and December of 1950. Many authors have described the events of this trek, but none capture the pure physical torment each side went through as well as Leckie.

The tactical story:

Appleman, Roy E.. Escaping the Trap: The US Army X Corps in Northeast Korea, 1950. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990. - Both Appleman and Stanton (below) give an excellent overall view of the conduct of the battle from the X Corps point of view and include the contribution of the 3rd and 7th Infantry Divisions and I ROK Corps.

Stanton, Shelby L. America's Tenth Legion: X Corps in Korea: 1950. Novato: Presidio Press, 1989

The long view:

Roe, Patrick C. The Dragon Strikes: China and the Korean War: June - December, 1950. Novato: Presidio Press. 2000. - This is the most comprehensive view yet of the part the success at Chosin played in the future course of the war with emphasis on the massive intelligence failure that led to the Chosin battles. It is unique in being able to tell the story from both the US and the Chinese point of view.

Schnabel, James F. Policy and Direction: The First Year. US Army in the Korean War. Center of Military History, U. S. Army. Washington, D.C.:, 1988 - One of the series of official U.S. Army histories this chronicles the major decisions made during the first years of the war.

Alexander, Bevin. Korea: The First War We Lost. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1986.- Still the best one volume history of the war yet written. Alexander has done a masterful job of boiling down the record to its essential elements."


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Obituaries - Chosen Veterans

William E. Barber

The Orange County Register - Part 1   Part 2

William E. Barber... The Times on Sunday

Leon Ashley Cady

CADYLEON   Leon Ashley Cady, 77, of West Hartford passed away peacefully on Friday (September 2, 2005) surrounded by his family. He was born on December 6, 1928 in Sayville, Long Island, New York, the son of Paul Revere and Ivy Rose Cady.  He lived most of his live in West Hartford. He graduated from Hall High School in 1946. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September of 1946. He fought with his fellow Marines of "I" Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Division in the battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. He received the Purple Heart in March of 1951. He was discharged from the Marines in September 1951.

He was a journeyman tool and die maker by trade. He worked most of his career at Nielsen Tool & Die Company in Hartford/  He was interested in photography and had great knowledge of military history.  He was also fascinated by aircraft history. In 1943, he received a commendation from the U.S. Navy for building hand-made models used for aircraft spotting during World War II.

Leon was married to Sarah (McAnearney) Cady in 1954 and remained devoted to her until his passing.  Besides his wife Sarah of West Hartford, he is survived by his son Bruce Cady of Canton, his daughter Lynne Purcell, his son-in-law Tim Purcell, and his grandson Daniel of Alta Loma, CA. He is also survived by his older sister, Jean Doughty of West Hartford, and his younger sister, Barbara Cady of Lake Elsinore, CA.  He was predeceased by his eldest daughter, Diane.

Those who knew him will dearly miss his kind, gentle nature. He was an active member of the Korean War veterans organization, The Chosin Few. He will sincerely be missed by everyone whose life he touched. Rest in eternal peace. A funeral service was held on Friday, September 9, at 10 a.m. at the St. James Episcopal Church, corner of Farmington Ave. and Walden St., West Hartford. Burial with full military honors followed at Fairview Cemetery, West Hartford. Calling hours were held on Thursday from 4-7 p.m. at the Taylor & Modeen Funeral Home, 136 South Main St., West Hartford. Memorial contributions can be made to the Veterans Administration, Newington.

 


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Miscellaneous

Letter to the Editor, Lee Sang-Don
Korea Times, January 02, 2005

[KWE Note: Lee Sang-don is a professor of Law at Chung-Ang University.  Full credit goes to Mr. Lee and the Korea Times for the following article posted on this page of the Korean War Educator.]

U.S. 1st Marine Division

On Dec. 7, the 63rd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, U.S. President George W. Bush visited Camp Pendleton in the United States, which is the 1st Marine Division's hometown base. Bush had good reason to visit Camp Pendleton as the marines from there were engaging in heavy fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, the stronghold of radical Islamic militants. The U.S. assault on Fallujah was long overdue because of the U.S. presidential election, and probably because of such lateness, the marines endured many casualties. Bush talked to a large crowd of marines at Camp Pendleton about the war on terror and the valor and sacrifice of the U.S. troops.

Bush then mentioned the Changjin Lake Campaign (or the Chosin Reservoir Campaign as it is commonly known in the U.S.) during the Korean War, a major battle fought by the U.S. marines in the mountainous area near Changjin Lake of the eastern part of North Korea in the cold winter of 1950-51. Bush said that the 1st U.S. Marine Division heroically fought against 10 divisions of Red China's army that had already infiltrated deep into North Korea. Bush animated the marines at Camp Pendleton by saying that the troops in Korea at the time were in the right place to kill many enemy soldiers as they were completely surrounded by them. Most Korean news media overlooked this event, which I think has an important implication for the current Korea-U.S. relationship.

The Changjin Lake Campaign was one of the most notable battles won by the U.S. military. The 1st U.S. Marine Division under the command of Major General Oliver Smith had fought in severe cold weather, successfully repelling the People's Republic of China's 9th Army that had 10-to-1 superiority to the U.S. Marines in manpower. If the U.S. marines couldn't have defeated China's 9th Army, the Red Army might have well pushed the U.S. 8th Army and ROK Army to the southern end of the Korean Peninsula. One can easily imagine how the Korean peninsula's political map could have been shaped after such a major retreat of the Korean and U.S. Army. That means those brave young marines virtually saved Korea from falling into the bloody hands of the communist regime. The Changjin Lake Campaign is also meaningful as a major battle won by the U.S. armed forces fought in severe cold weather. However, the importance of the Changjin Lake Campaign is not well understood in Korea.

Though many Koreans know or at least heard about General MacArthur's brilliant Landing Operation on Inchon in September 1950, a scale-downed version of the Normandy Operation during World War II, not many Koreans remember or have even heard of the Changjin Lake Campaign. The reason may be that the battle was fought between the two foreign armies, American marines and the Red China army, not between the South and North Korean soldiers. Clearly, it is a shame that very few Koreans remember the U.S. marines' heroic campaign during the Korean War. The Changjin Lake Campaign was never forgotten in the U.S. President Ronald Reagan mentioned the Campaign in his 1981 inauguration address. In 1999, Martin Russ published a best-selling non-fiction novel "Breakout" about the campaign. Then came President Bush's mention at Camp Pendleton.

Bush's mention made me feel mixed emotions. Korea dispatched a military unit to Iraq, but it is a non-combat duty force. While the U.S. marines are engaging in a fierce combat mission against radical militants in Fallujah and other places of Iraq, Korea's non-combat soldiers are simply digging in. Of course, I do not argue that the Korean soldiers should engage in combat operations in Iraq. But, I would like to raise the following question. Do Korea's politicians and people know that the U.S. marines who are conducting dangerous combat operations everyday in Iraq belong to the same marine division that saved Korea 50 years ago? Fortunately, there was an occasion showing the American marines' efforts were not completely forgotten in Korea. In the spring of 2004, Martin Russ' "Breakout" was translated into Korean and published in Seoul. The publication itself was a kind of an epic story.

Yim Sang-kyun, an insurance firm manager in Seoul, who went to college in Seoul in the 1970s and served as an army officer, had bought a copy of "Breakout" while on a business trip in the U.S. Yim read the book while he was in hotels and airplanes and was very impressed. Returning back to Seoul, he was disappointed to know that the book had not been translated into Korean. He never had written a book or even an article, but he decided to translate it into Korean as a kind of mission. As he was a busy man at his insurance firm, it took him four years to complete. While he was working on the translation, he once visited the Korean War Memorial Hall in Yongsan. On the wall where the fallen U.S. soldiers' names were inscribed, he found those of U.S. marines who did ultimate sacrifice during the Changjin Lake Campaign. For Yim, it was a very touching moment.  I would like to tell the Americans that in Korea there are still people like Yim who do not forget what the American marines did for a small poor country in Asia threatened by the communist aggression a half century ago. God bless the U.S. 1st Marine Division!


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Marine Viewpoint

"The leadership (not Marines) had strung out the 1st Marine Division and an Army task force along more than a 75-mile single lane of a mostly mountainous road in the interior of North Korea. When the Chinese intervened and surrounded almost the entire length of the road, the Marines had these options, with no support on either flank:

  • Attacking into Manchuria (annihilation);
  • Contracting and holding where they were in an isolated pocket (probably slower annihilation);
  • Breaking out to the sea, which they did, coming out intact.

Survival? Yes! Defeat? No!"

Author: Bob Ezell, Los Alamitos, CA, Orange County Register 4/29/02


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Army Viewpoint

Army at Chosin Website -

"The 31st RCT was a full 3,000 men from various companies and regiments in the United States Army and South Korean soldiers. They were ambushed by an onslaught of Chinese soldiers numbering around 20,000. For five nights and four days, the 31st RCT was left to hold out, at any cost, on their own. Sleep and food deprivation were minor compared to the extreme cold they faced. The odds were against the 31st RCT just to survive, knowing that they were completely outnumbered by the enemy. Many of the 31st RCT soldiers are still not home, but buried in a foreign place called Chosin. Many survivors of Chosin carry wounds from frostbite in the form of amputated arms and limbs, fingers and toes, or other physical problems. Then there are the psychological scars never seen by most—repeated nightmares and the questions of why they were left behind to live."

Author: The Army at Chosin website – http://31rct.tripod.com

Reader Comments - Ray C. Vallowe, Belleville, IL, 57th FA. Bn., Chosin -

Lynnita: Your comments about "I'd like to get more up on the KWE about the Army at the Chosin Reservoir," would be welcome. But sadly over the years, as just one veteran of the Army disaster east of Chosin, I personally feel that the early reports have been so restated, misstated and overstated that readers are sick of them. New facts must be included with updated history. History has now corrected the hype in the number of enemy forces at Chosin; The biggest disaster at Chosin was to the Army forces in KIA's.  These exceed the Marine forces KIA's, total by 48%.

Number Game - The change in history by the revelation of the new 7th Infantry Division documents (See History at Chosin) places an obligation on all new historians--yet to rewrite the history of the Chosin Reservoir--that they use reality and not the PR hype of the 1st Marine Division and their earlier claim to fame as the only sole American division at Chosin. Also the hype of the 12 Divisions of 120,000 CCF enemy facing them alone. History has long corrected this exaggeration. Updated history has now arrived at a general consensus of eight division's @7,500 men per division, now reducing 120,000 men by 50% to equal a total of 60,000 men. These eight divisions to face the entire Marine Division. [?] Three of these, the 59th, 79th & 89th CCF Divisions, being involved with the Marine forces west of Chosin at Yudam-ni. That enemy force now reduced to equal 22,500 men. But we also know that the 89th was split by one half of that division swinging south to engage the Army 3rd Infantry Division elements at the "Gap' below the Marines at Koto-ri. This further reducing that enemy force at Yudam-ni to 18,750 men, out of seven and one-half divisions.

If one factors in the enemy division(s) facing the 31st RCT on the east side of the reservoir, the importance of the battle shifts dramatically. Today we know that Marine number reduced to 56,250 men in seven and one-half, divisions, further, reduced by two more of these divisions, engaging the Army units of the 31st RCT. Reducing the original eight; to five and one-half divisions [41,250 men] facing the Marines. After 30 years, the Army (originally) given one division (80th) of these CCF enemy forces--now raised over 100% to equal,15,000 enemy--as a second enemy division ( 81st) and possibly part of another is added (see www.geocities.com/chosin_katia/korprescit.html - The Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Army 31st RCT). This is embarrassing to the Marines "glory" wise, as the "odds" against them in the beginning were never as great as they claimed. What is also an embarrassment is their placing in their history a pure speculative report of where this 81st CCF Division, "May have been" as no report of combat, "May have been around Yudam-ni" point, they were not there! Why the speculation?  History is not a speculative sport!

The Alpha and the Omega of Task Force Faith: Let me restate a phrase I have often used: For those Army forces on the East side of Chosin.  "We made no claim to any fame there."  It was a disaster pure and simple. Those who took that disaster and elevated it to an ending of shame did not do those forces justice. But, justice must be considered at the beginning of any mission and an obedience to those orders that activate that mission.

The Eighth Army forces however, suffered the biggest disaster in North Korea, mainly to the 2nd Infantry Division.  All of these units had to get back to South Korea via road while the X Corps would be evacuated via sea--each side the way they got there in the first place.

Note that the enclosed link to Army History, November 1950-July 1951; Ebb & Flow, by Billy C. Mossman, 1990, http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/korea/maps/map8_full.jpg outlines the position of the three enemy divisions on the west side of Chosin facing the Marines there. Also note part of the 89th CCF Division going south to engage the 3rd Infantry Division (1/7 Inf) at Sach'ang-ni, below Koto-ri. The 31st RCT east of the reservoir, only having credit for that one enemy division (80th) this being before the Chinese military history surfaced in the late nineties, placing at least one other division (81st) also east of Chosin. These two divisions named and credited in the 1999 PUC award to those Army men east of Chosin.


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Ray Vallowe Research

Ray Vallowe is an Army veteran of the Chosin Reservoir campaign.  In recent years, his sons uncovered some declassified documents in the National Archives that pertain to the Army's movements in the Chosin Reservoir area of North Korea.  Vallowe followed this discovery up with a great deal of investigative research on the Chosin Reservoir campaign and its participants.  The thesis of Vallowe's extensive, documented research is that the Army's true role in the Chosin campaign has been degraded and ignored by historians through the years, and that too much undeserved emphasis has been placed on Marine operations in the Chosin area as a result.  Vallowe's research, which is now published on the Korean War Educator, will be the first time that the recently found declassified documents will be visible on the world wide web.

Click HERE to read the Vallowe Research on the Korean War Educator.


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58th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company - Funchilin Pass Bridge
 

Following are details about the 58th Engineer Float Bridge Company, taken from "Memories of the 58th" (Volume 7) of the 58th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company veterans' newsletter.  The editor of the newsletter, Bill Redstreake, 1509 Gwynedd View Rd., North Wales, PA 19454, sent them to the KWE for inclusion in this segment of our Chosin page.  The newsletters originated in 2004 as a result of e-mail correspondence between former 2nd Lt. Frank Christ and Bill Redstreake (also known as Stoneheart).  Frank served with the 1169th Engineer Combat Group before he was assigned to the 58th.  Bill was a combat engineer/bridge builder with the 58th before he was assigned to the 1169th because he knew how to use a slide-rule.  Bill mails the newsletter to some 140 ex-members of the bridge company, as well as to a few interested widows.

The unit was based at Camp Hood, Texas, in 1948.  According to Randolph K. Seidens, at that time, it was called the 988th Engineer Treadway Company.  "On 25 April 1949," he said, "the unit moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where it was redesignated as the 58th.  In July 1950, the unit moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia; and soon after that on 3 October 1950, the 58th landed at the port of Inchon in Korea."

The 58th was one of four separate engineering companies, five engineering battalions, one ROK battalion, and one British unit that made up the 1169th Engineer Combat Group (approximately 4,500 men) in the I Corps sector of Korea.  Originally as part of Gen. Edward (Ned) Almonds' X Corps, the 58th came ashore at Inchon on Sept. 18, 1950.

The 58th and the Bridge at Koto-ri

[The following story was prepared by Bill Redstreake with generous assistance from Byron Sims who wrote, "Mission Improbable", an account of the bridging of the gap on Funchilin Pass, for the October/November 2003 issue of "The Chosin Few," a U.S. Army Chapter Newsletter.]

On October 3, 1950, the 58th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company landed at the port of Inchon with General "Ned" Almond's X Corps. After constructing a 708-foot M-2 treadway bridge across the Naktong River in sub-zero weather at Susan-ni, the 58th and its old Brockway trucks were assigned to the 1st Marine Division in November 1950 for the 'push north' to Chosin Reservoir. [For some reason, U.S. Army and Marine units used the Japanese name "Chosin" for the massive reservoir complex, called Changjin (Lake Dragon) by the Koreans.]

With vintage Brocks, built in the 1930s and '40s, the 58th waited at the port of Wonsan for the 1st Marine Division to come ashore. While they waited for the Marines, they enjoyed an early USO Christmas performance by Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell, and two lesser-known Hollywood starlets.

Gen. Oliver Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division, was 57 years old (General Almond was 58). In what General Smith's own troops called "Operation Yo Yo," he delayed landing at Wonsan 'because of mines'—even after Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell and their USO group had been there and gone! That delayed deployment of urgently needed troops was more likely influenced by Marine Corps' orders to 'hold up' in order to take female correspondent (Maggie Higgins) from the New York Herald Tribune along with the 1st Marine Division 'to record an anticipated triumphant push north.'

On the push north, Funchilin Pass (from Chinhung-ni to Koto-ri) presented a formidable obstacle with a 3,000-foot ascent. At temperatures as low as –20 degrees F, the Marines' tracked and wheeled vehicles strained to make the climb up that road, with a cliff on one side and a deep chasm on the other. Treadway bridge sections from the 58th's pre-World War II Brocks and riverbed stones from dump trucks were 'consumed' to rebuild a single-lane road up through the mountains.

Temperatures near the Chosin Reservoir were extremely bitter, falling to –40 degrees F, with cold Siberian winds—and massive nightly attacks by the Chinese Ninth Army, numbering about 60,000 men. (Not until after they were attacked, were most young Marines aware 1-million Chinese had crossed the Yalu River and fanned out across much of the North Korean peninsula.)

Keeping warm and active became major challenges! Luckily, air superiority during daylight hours was maintained by U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine planes. But helicopters didn't operate well in thin air at the 4,000 feet elevation. Surrounded by Chinese troops, the 1st Marine Division and elements of the 7th Infantry Division fought their way south from Chosin Reservoir to Koto-ri. There, 14,000 troops, including 2,000 from the Army, had to withdraw over the narrow road through the treacherous pass.

What really happened at Koto-ri?

About 3 miles from Koto-ri, the road ran along the side of a steep cliff and crossed a bridge next to a gatehouse. The gatehouse covered four steel pipes that carried water from the reservoir to the turbines of a power plant in the valley below. Because the gatehouse had no floor, the bridge was the only means of crossing.

Recognizing the importance of the bridge, Chinese troops had destroyed the original concrete structure, a hastily built wooden bridge, and an M-2 treadway bridge installed by men of the 58th, leaving a 29-foot gap. Bypassing that gap was impossible. Enemy fire and restricted assembly space ruled out the use of a Bailey bridge. Members of the 58th were still in Koto-ri with two operational Brocks but they had no more steel treadways.

After experimenting with airdrop techniques, on December 7, 1950, Air Force C-119s released eight treadway sections—twice as many as needed—on large parachutes flown over from Japan. (One was damaged; another fell into enemy hands.) Marines, commanded by 1st Lt. E.A. "Ozzie" Vom Orde, then built a wooden extension to reduce the gap to 22 feet before Lt. Charles Ward and his men of the 58th used the two boom-equipped Brocks to lay the treadways across the gap on December 9. Then, throughout that night, a steady stream of troops and vehicles crossed the span, headed for the port of Hungnam and evacuation south.

The day before the treadways were installed, during the breakout from Koto-ri, two provisional rifle companies from X Corps' infantry units seized the high ground (Hill 1457) directly above the gatehouse, where they were able to protect our guys from enemy small arms fire. The Chinese Ninth Army stopped its pursuit of the 1st Marine Division below Koto-ri.

Before 22,215 Marines and 17,500 vehicles were evacuated from Hungnam to Pusan, General Smith's forces suffered 4,418 battle casualties, including 718 dead, 192 missing, and 3,508 wounded. There were also 7,313 non-battle casualties, mostly from frostbite.

The Marine Corps' subsequent publicity campaigns to castigate Lt. General Almond, commander of X Corps, and to blame him for their delayed landing at Wonsan (which then delayed the push north)—and to even 'claim credit' for the successful Inchon landing behind enemy lines, which was actually opposed by the Navy and the Marines—still make some old soldiers from the Korean Conflict angry. Elements of the ROK Army as well as the U.S. Army's X Corps were already in firm control of the Port of Wonsan, in accordance with a timetable established by General Almond, before the Marines finally came ashore.

After the 58th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company was re-assigned from X Corps to the 1169th Engineer Combat Group in I Corps, where it was re-designated the 58th Engineer Float Bridge Company, the men of the 58th took great delight in using our large Brocks to force Marine trucks and jeeps off the roads in retaliation for leaving some of our guys behind in the retreat from Frozen Chosin. It is especially galling to read:

"(Marine) Lt. Col. Partridge arranged for the airdrop of treadway bridges which he put in place over penstocks at Funchilin Pass and (thus) permitted the division and its tracked and wheeled vehicles to head (back) for Hungnam."

That is an exact excerpt from 'The Epic of Chosin' by Benis Frank, Oral History Section, U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center.

Thanks to men from the 58th, U.S. Army units from Gen. Almond's X Corps and vital air support, the 1st Marine Division was saved from annihilation. After the Marines were evacuated from Hungnam, it was General Almond who ordered a dockside evacuation of 100,000 Christian (Presbyterian) North Koreans before the port of Hungnam was blown up.


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"Mission Improbable"

by Byron Sims

[KWE Note: The following article was authored by Byron Sims of Salt Lake City, UT, for inclusion in Volume 4, No. 4 (October/November 2003) issue of "The Chosin Few: U.S. Army Chapter Newsletter."  It was reprinted on the Korean War Educator with Sims' permission.]

In Korean War annals, the story of the 'gap' at Funchilin Pass usually falls within a larger scenario. Yet, with the ominous threat of disaster, then deliverance by audacious means, it has the drama and urgency of better known operations. It reflects inter-service collaboration at its best. And it validates the reputation of American ingenuity. The saga merits its own historical niche.

The Chinese saw an opportunity… The logical choke point in the withdrawal from Chosin in December 1950 was a narrow, icy road that left the bitter, wind-swept Koto-ri plateau in the Funchilin Pass and snaked its way down through the rugged mountain range. The enemy destroyed many bridges along the way, even touched off a few landslides, and they were manning bunkers on commanding heights along the route. When the Americans arrived, the crucially important bridge at the gatehouse for Changjin Power Plant No. 1 had a hole blown in it—for the third time. There was now a gap some 29 feet wide, opening to a sloping drop of 1,500 feet.  That was the length of the four penstocks--large pipes--built to carry a torrent of water from the Chosin (Changjin) Reservoir to the power plant below, part of a hydroelectric grid system.  (To put the "gap" in perspective, 29 feet is approximately the distance of the Olympic record for the long jump).

On one side of the gap was a concrete gatehouse covering the upper end of the penstocks; on the other side, a chasm.  There was no way around for the vehicle trains.  The Chinese had rammed a cork in the bottle, seemingly cutting off the battered forces of the X Corps.  Was a military debacle at hand?

Stretching from Koto-ri to the Pass, a column of men and equipment, including some 1,500 units of rolling stock--trucks, jeeps, tanks, bulldozers and artillery pieces--was lined up in a steady snowfall waiting for the gap to be closed.  Collectively, there were elements of the 1st Marine Division along with provisional units of survivors from the Army's RCT 31.  A few miles to the rear lay the smoldering killing grounds at Yudam-ni and Toktong Pass, the Pungnyuri Inlet perimeter and Hill 1221, and the village of Hagaru-ri where the column had first formed up.  It was anguished testimony to the surprise onslaught of Chinese forces November 27 against this American thrust toward the Yalu River dividing North Korea and China.

Gripped by the punishing cold blowing in from Manchuria (it was called a "hundred year winter" for its severity) while rooting out and beating off Chinese forces to its front and on either flank, the column intended to fight its way to the relative safety of Chinhung-ni at the foot of the tortuous mountain road.  Beyond lay its final destination, the port city of Hungnam where a fleet of ships stood by to evacuate the thousands of troops and civilian refugees from the bloody icebox that was northeastern Korea.

What transpired in the ensuing hours was a combination of pluck, ingenuity and exemplary interservice collaboration.  Not to mention the assistance of three unlikely ladies: Lady Luck, Dame Fortune and Mother Nature.

After aerial spotters sighted the latest version of the Funchilin 'gap' on December 6, X Corps engineers feverishly began to study their options. Only one seemed feasible—an airdrop of the bridge sections—but it had never been done before. Time was running out for the convoy.  They had to try. 

At Yonpo airfield near Wonsan on the coast, the Air Force commander asked the Combat Cargo and Quartermaster aerial supply teams to rig and load (treadway) bridge sections for a trial drop. It failed: 24-foot parachutes were too small to hold the weight.

Next, the Army's 2348th Quartermaster Airborne Supply and Packaging Company under Capt. Cecil Hospelhorn flew in from Japan with a supply of 48-foot parachutes.  Hospelhorn had argued for using two large parachutes instead of six smaller ones.  Another trial drop proved him right.  Hospelhorn's riggers worked all night to attach the big parachutes to the bridge sections.  Army and Air Force officers decided the drop into a 300-yard-long zone would be made from 800 feet.  They hoped that dropping eight sections, double the number needed, would guarantee success.  Eight twin-engine C-119 Flying Boxcars were to carry one section east.  The C-119s were so new their weight and balance data had not been published.

Since there was no precedent to follow, the Boxcar crews had to devise their own scheme.  They decided that once airborne, they would untie the spans and push them backwards on rollers until seven feet extended beyond the aircraft's cargo bay which had its doors removed, and tie them off again.  This, they figured, would shave two seconds off the ejection time.

Arriving over Koto-ri on December 7, the C-119 pilots reduced power, descended to 800 feet, and as the 300-yard long drop zone approached, hit the throttle, pulled back the yoke, and nosed up briefly. Simultaneously, the loads were cut loose. Ponderously but rapidly, they rolled on wooden pallets out the open end of the aircraft.  Static lines tripped the parachutes. Six of the sections landed intact as the planners had hoped.  One was damaged beyond repair and another fell into enemy hands. 

The next morning in what would be a day long snowstorm, Marine and provisional Army units attacked down the road and over the mountain ridges, rooting out and destroying Chinese forces around the blown bridge, eventually assuring the safety of the site.

On December 9, which dawned clear but brutally cold, Lt. Col. Jack Patridge, commanding the Marines' 1st Engineer Battalion, sent 1st Lt. E.A. "Ozzie" Vom Orde and his platoon of D Company engineers down the road for a close-up look. At first glance, Vom Orde thought it would be an easy fix.  But there was a problem.  "When we measured the distance across, we determined the bridge spans would be seven feet too short," Vom Orde recalls. (Vom Orde, 81, was interviewed from his home in Reno, NV.)  "But on the far side, the Chinese were good enough to leave us a little shelf about 8 foot wide a short way down inside the gap. It wasn't much, but enough to give us hope."

Two weeks earlier, his engineer platoon had been with the 5th Marines when they went up the Chosin Reservoir's east side before being relieved by the Army's RCT 31.  They had come across a sawmill at Sasu-ri [on the east side of Chosin Reservoir] with precut 4x4s and 8x8s lying around. Thinking "we might need this stuff sometime," Vom Orde had his troops haul off a truckload. [Lumber they used to build an abutment on the base of the tiny outcropping, which was quickly turned into a sandbag filled crib.] "Like good engineers," he says, chuckling at the thought, "we always steal everything we can.  Besides, there was no one around to pay." 

The engineers offloaded the "liberated" lumber and set about building an abutment on the base of the tiny outcropping.  After they stacked alternating layers of timbers as a crib and filled it with sandbags, they would lay the steel treadway from one side to the base on the other.  "It took about three hours," says Vom Orde, "and it looked pretty solid."  It needed to be.  A lot of traffic was going to come across.

Next question: How to transport four 2,550-pound steel spans to the gap on the twisting, narrow road?  Luckily, the Army's 58th Treadway Bridge Company had sent four of its six-ton Brockway trucks to Koto-ri. They were transporting construction materials for the X Corps forward headquarters.  The brawny Bockways carried gear to lift the heavy treadway spans, two to a truck, and place them where needed. 

Only two trucks, however, were operable and they were pointed south with the withdrawal column. Commanded by Lt. Charles Ward, they moved up to do their thing. They loaded the precious treadway spans at the drop zone and headed down the Pass. But the six-tonners needed to place the spans from a backed-up position and they were too long to turn around at the bridge site. Up the road a ways, however, was a turnaround just wide enough to allow the maneuver. So the trucks backed up, turned around, returned backwards, and deposited four spans over the gap, two on each side, parallel to one another.

Next, heavy plywood panels four inches thick and reinforced with timbers—also airdropped—were run out on the lips of the spacing bars. By late afternoon it looked like the bridge was in business.  First to cross were engineers with their vehicles.  They'd move on to repair other bridges and fill holes blown in the road.  Infantry units also moved ahead to fend off enemy attacks.  There was much fighting still to come, but the road to Chinhung-ni was, if not wide open, at least ajar.

Then, another problem.  A bulldozer pulling a bulky earth pan started across the bridge and slipped off the steel beams. The weight of the huge earthmover broke through the plywood and the 'dozer sank in the crack.  If the bridge beams were pushed very far out of line, the structure would collapse into the chasm.  But a steel-nerved tech sergeant, Winfred Prosser, climbed aboard and inched the tracked beast back to solid ground. Some spacing adjustments had to be made, and they were hair-raising.  The beams were shifted to a width of 136 inches, which left but two inches of purchase on either side for the Pershing heavy tanks waiting to cross.  But jeeps would have no more than a half-inch of purchase on the metal beams.  This was no time for shaky hands on the steering wheel.

At last, around 1800 hours, the lengthy column began to move slowly down through the Pass and across the bridged gap, continuing all night long without major incident, and on along the winding road toward eventual safety.  By 0245 on December 10 the head of the column reached Chinhung-ni.

Lieutenant Ward was instrumental in this collaborative effort. Although not an engineer, he'd had bridge-laying experience in Italy during World War II. He was well-regarded by the men serving with him and Vom Orde remembers him as a "fine man." Robert Edwards of the 58th served at Ft. Belvoir when War was there as a sergeant.  Ward got a battlefield commission in World War II and when he went to Korea his reserve commission was reinstated.  Edwards, 75, is a 21-year army veteran and an Army Chapter member.

During the withdrawal, members of the 58th Company were scattered from Hamhung to the Pass to Koto-ri and Hagaru-ri.  Veterans of the 58th, almost to a man, proudly characterize their company as a "bastard outfit," meaning it had no permanent attachment to another unit.  There was a reason.  Its platoons were sent wherever needed, and they were always needed.

Today, those veterans remember their experience at Funchilin differently, depending whether they were north or south of the gap.  For instance, take Weldon Oakley and Nathan Burgess, both Army Chapter members.  They each drove a deuce-and-a-half, the Army's all-purpose 2 1/2 ton truck, from Hungnam to Hagaru-ri loaded with Quonset huts for the X corps forward headquarters that was never to be.  Instead, the Quonsets were unloaded at Hagaru-ri and taken to a bonfire of equipment deemed expendable by the withdrawing units.  The freed-up truck space was needed for the wounded and in some cases, the dead.

Oakley's truck, however, was loaded up with Chinese prisoners.  "Our guys were walking out there," he says.  "Some of them were wounded but still walking, and I'm giving a ride to POWs."  He still wonders today if it was really necessary.  It's a memory that haunts him.  Oakley, 71, has served on his county's Veterans Services Commission for 23 years and he hosted the 58th Company's September reunion in his hometown of Sidney, Ohio.

Burgess recalls taking enemy fire during the withdrawal.  He wasn't hit but his truck's gas tank was holed.  When he eventually ran out of gas and stalled, his motor officer chewed him out for the "damage" to his vehicle.  His truck was equipped with a ring-mounted .50 caliber machine gun.  When a Marine officer asked to borrow it, Burgess said okay ("you can't very well fire a machine gun while you're driving"), certain he'd never get it back and would probably be charged for its cost.  But as fortune had it, the borrower tracked him down at Hungnam and returned the gun.

Neither driver clearly recalls crossing the bridge in the middle of the night. "We were using our 'cat-eyes' (lights that allow only a sliver of illumination)," says Burgess, "and guides with flashlights were helping us across." It's just as well that drivers couldn't see the gap they were crossing.

Allen Boddie, another AC member from the 58th, was in the Funchilin Pass-armed with a pneumatic drill.  He worked on a compressor truck and was breaking up rocks so the road could be widened.  He never got up to the gap, but remembers wishing good luck to passing GIs headed north.  He declined their invitation to join them.  Now 73, Boddie says he's had cancer but, "I've got it beat."

Lt. Matt Wood, an ROTC graduate with an engineering degree from Clemson University, also never got to the gap, at least not in time to help put in the treadway spans.  "I was the 58th's bridging officer," Wood explains, "and Ward was in charge of assault boats (for river crossings).  He was there (at Koto and Hagaru) on a logistics mission; no bridging operation was involved.  That's why he had no treadway sections with him."

Wood and his jeep driver, Allen Wiley, made their way toward the Pass but by the time they neared the bridge site, troops were already coming down the road.  "They told us to turn our jeep around and get out of there," recalls Wiley.  In a further recollection, Wiley says Lt. Wood liked to drive himself.  When asked about it, Wood laughs and says, "Yes, we had a few problems with speeding tickets."

Now a retired colonel, Wood, 75, is an avid hunter in "great health" living in Columbia, SC.  Wiley is 72 and lives in Radford, VA.

At a military base somewhere, perhaps in an orderly room or over the entrance of a unit's headquarters, this sign may be found displayed prominently and proudly:

"The difficult we do immediately;
the impossible takes a little longer."

It seems to summarize the saga of the gap at Funchilin Pass.

Sources

Sources for the "gap article, in addition to personal interviews, were: "Escaping the Trap," 1990, Roy Appleman; "Chosin," 1981, Eric Hammel; "Breakout From Chosin," "Air and Space" magazine (Smithsonian), July 2000; "changjin Journal" (10-30-00, 5-1-03, 9-20-03), Col. George Rasula (USA, Ret.); "The Korean War: An Encyclopedia," 1995, ed. Stanley Sandler; "Ebb and Flow," "Concentration at Hungnam," Billy Mossman; "The Quartermaster Review," March-April 1951, "Quartermaster Aerial Supply in Korea," Cecil Hospelhorn; "Frozen chosin," 2003 Brig Gen. Edwin Simmons (USMC, Ret.)  The 58th Company members and Byron Sims tried to locate Ward, the drivers of the Brockway trucks, and the 58th's company commander, Leonard Weber, but were unsuccessful.  Ward is assumed to be deceased.  If anyone has further information, please contact Sims via the KWE.


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Hungnam Evacuation - Wanted

Jarmo Siimento
Researcher
HCo Production Group
1070 Marina Village Pkwy Suite 202
Alameda, CA 94501
Tel. 510.865.6756

Greetings:

We are writing from HCo Production Group, and are currently developing a project focused on the Korean War. Through our preliminary research, we are learning about the great suffering and valor of the Chosin Battle, where 15,000 allied ground troops were pitted against 120,000 Chinese infantry men; we are learning about the Hungnam evacuation, where hundreds of thousands of personnel, vehicles and cargo created the largest sealift in warfare history; we are learning about the savage battle against the relentless cold. What we are missing now is you – you and your stories.

Your stories, no matter how big or small, are an integral part of this project. We are looking for the personal, humanizing details, things that might have been left out of the history books. Our project will have the themes of hope, love, compassion and newfound camaraderie all embedded in the reality of a cold, hard war. We believe documenting your stories is important for this project, and for the preservation of United States history. We want to safeguard and memorialize your experiences, not only for your great-grandchildren, but for the great-grandchildren of the world.

If you are interested in this opportunity to tell your personal story about any experience in the Korean War we would love to talk to you in a simple, conversational phone interview.  If you are interested, please contact Dantia MacDonald at: 510.865.6756 or dantia@hcoproductiongroup.com.

[Posted on the KWE March 15, 2006]


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Hungnam Evacuation - Meredith Victory

[KWE Note: The following article was submitted to the Korean War Educator by Paul Files, USAF (Ret).]

Hungnam Harbor, North Korea
December, 1950

An Unsung Hero

The Marines came down from Chosin Reservoir and the Third Infantry Division held the gate open as they marched to the waiting ships. Out in the harbor, USN warships lay at anchor to provide long-range gun support as the circle around the port tightened. US merchant marine ships were in Hungnam harbor to pick up materiel and men to take south as the evacuation came to an end. One of those ships was a World War II "Victory" ship called "Meredith Victory." She was one of hundreds that rolled off the line in the war to supply our troops overseas.

High overhead in an L-19, Major General Ned Almond, X Corps Commander, observed the evacuation. Much to his surprise he saw hundreds of Korean civilians standing waist deep in the icy water, seeking evacuation from certain Communist massacre when the Chinese arrived. He at first thought refugees should not be taken south, but soon changed his mind. Almond allowed them to leave, and eventually over 90,000 reached safety in South Korea and freedom.

The veteran skipper of "Meredith Victory," Captain Leonard LaRue, ordered his 47-man crew to take aboard all the refugees they could, within the bounds of safety. They clambered aboard, up the cargo nets to friendly sailors who helped them aboard. LaRue watched more and more board his 7,500-ton ship. They filled her holds and decks and any available space. Finally, "Meredith Victory" could hold no more.

LaRue pulled anchor and turned east through the crowded harbor, packed to the gunwales with Korean civilians in the bitter December wind. There was little food and water, no doctor, and no interpreter, but the refugees huddled tightly together to combat the wind out of Siberia, and were on their way to a new life.

With Christmas approaching, LaRue looked down from his bridge at the crowded ship. He was reminded of another journey at this time of year over 1900 years ago, when the Holy Family made their way to Bethlehem, also without food or shelter.  He paused and then made a note, "Like the crucified Christ, these good people suffer through the actions of guilty men." Then, on Christmas Eve, she dropped anchor at Koje Island off Pusan, and discharged her passengers. LaRue found there were five more than had boarded in Hungnam. These babies were born on their way to freedom. "Meredith Victory" did not lose one refugee on that three-day trip down to South Korea.

Fifty years later, Guinness Book of World Records uncovered her story. They called this heroic evacuation "The largest rescue in the world by a single ship," and then named old "Meredith Victory" "The ship of miracles." Why? Because a 7,500-ton freighter brought 14,000 refugees to freedom!

After Korea, "Meredith Victory" went into the reserve merchant fleet and anchored peacefully with her sisters in a quiet harbor. But in 1966, there came another call for her, and "Meredith Victory" was on her way to her third war, this time in Vietnam.  She pulled into Seattle harbor. There, Senator Warren Magnuson came aboard to present her with a plaque from a grateful US Congress who called her "a gallant ship." She left Seattle and headed west to Vietnam.  Her former captain, LaRue, became a monk in a Benedictine order in New Jersey. When he found "Meredith Victory" would go to war again, he wrote a letter telling how she again in time of crisis helped stem the scourge and evil of Communist aggression. He blessed the old ship and her crew.

Little more was heard of "Meredith Victory" until recently. A respected Korean editor was furious when he found her eventual fate. He saw the memorial to her and the refugees on Koje Island, but where was she? She should have been preserved, probably in a Korean harbor, as a lasting memorial.  But it was not to be. She had been scrapped in 1993 in a Chinese shipyard. He summed his frustration by paraphrasing Lord Chesterfield, "Nations that do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it."

Perhaps this is not quite the case. No doubt at Christmas time in Korea, many families take a moment to reflect on "Meredith Victory" that December a half century ago. They might light a candle and say a prayer for a caring skipper, a brave crew, and especially for that old ship that brought them freedom and flew the Stars and Stripes--a ship that exists only in their memories.

Written and submitted by Paul Files

Source: One major source was a US Maritime Commission public announcement for the media in 1966.

About the Author

Paul Files retired from the Air Force after 22 years of active duty, with eighteen years overseas, including Vietnam. He became a stockbroker earned a graduate degree in business, and retired again. Mr. Files finished a draft manuscript called "They Never Turned Back," the saga of a missing in action World War II aircrew, which received excellent reviews in draft before submission to the publisher. He is an active writer and book reviewer for a military magazine. He resides in the Palm Springs area.

 

 

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