The Breakout Of The 1st Marines From The Chosin Reservoir: An American Epic Of Courage – Part 4

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Another reason some think “Chesty” Puller commanded the First Marine division in the breakout is Lt. General Puller towers over the history of the US Marine Corps and well he should. He was a Marine’s Marine. Passionate about the Corps. Colorful. Profane. An officer who looked after his men and “led from the front.” A great leader and a man possessed of extraordinary physical courage.

Writes Martin Russ in Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea, 1950:

Puller could hardly open his mouth without delivering a quote. Soon after the onfall [of Chinese soldiers attacking and surrounding his regiment] he said, ‘We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.’

Puller made a similar quote some days later. Seems Puller, whose unit was still engaged in combat with the Chinese, was having a radio conversation with the commander of a Marine unit to the south of him. That commander asked Puller how it was going. “Fine,” said Puller. “We have contact with the enemy on all sides.”

(In World War Two, the daily Wehrmacht communique employed the following euphemism when German troops in Russia were surrounded. “German units are attacking fiercely in every direction.”)

In the midst of Korean fighting, bakers of First Marine Regiment turned out an elaborate 100-pound cake for Marine Corps birthday on Nov. 10. Colonel Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller delighted his men by slicing it up with captured North Korean sabre after reading traditional message of rededication to service of the United States. Moments later, the Marines were on their way to battle once more.

Puller enlisted in the USMC as a private in 1918 and ended his career in 1955 as a Lieutenant General (three stars). While he served for thirty-seven years, he planned to serve longer. In 1955 he suffered a stroke and ill health forced his retirement. He died in 1971.

[Source: Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea, 1950 by Martin Russ. Image courtesy of Defense Imagery.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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