The Breakout Of The 1st Marines From The Chosin Reservoir: An American Epic Of Courage – Part 7

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The country around Chosin was never intended for military operations. Even Genghis Khan wouldn’t tackle it.

– Major General O.P. Smith, USMC

Aerial view of the Chosin Reservoir.

US Marines referred to the Battle of Chosin Reservoir as “Frozen Chosin.” The temperature often dropped so low that if you spit, it froze by the time it hit the ground. Another example: on the afternoon of 11 November 1950, the temperature dropped forty degrees in three hours. As the evening wore on the thermometer went to eight below zero. Add the wind chill factor was thirty below.

Photo by Captain George Rasula looking north from the Hagaru-ri perimeter. Photo made 4 December, about the time the last Marine unit from Yudam-ni arrived on the west side the Hagaru-ri perimeter. There was little or no enemy action at this time with reasonably fair weather, about 20˚ F. The Chinese on the heights of East Hill and other surrounding high ground no longer had the ability to attack this concentration of marines and soldiers, an ideal target for heavy mortars. By this time they had also learned to respect the air power of their opponents.

Wrote Major General O.P. Smith, First Marine Division commander to the Commandant of the Marine Corps:

I believe a winter campaign in the mountains of Korea is too much to ask of an American soldier or Marine, and I doubt the feasibility of supplying troops in the area during the winter or providing for the evacuation of the sick and the wounded.

Capt. Rasula and Lt. Escue with Marine officers at the CP/FDC of H Battery, 11th Artillery, near the Hagaru-ri north perimeter.

[Sources: The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam and Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea, 1950 by Martin Russ. Images courtesy of Chosin Reservoir Photos and The Changjin Journal.]

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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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