The Breakout Of The 1st Marines From The Chosin Reservoir: An American Epic Of Courage – Part 15

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US Marines from New Zealand storm ashore at Guadalcanal in the first Allied counter-offensive of the Pacific war. More than 7,000 Marines died there.

Almost as important as fire power, the US Marines had truly outstanding small unit leadership with most junior officers and NCOs being veterans of the Pacific campaign against the Japanese which had only ended just over four years previous. These men made a critical difference in calmly reassuring their young Marines in the firing line, often by crawling from foxhole to foxhole during a battle as well as participating fully in driving off the Chinese.

Pfc. Kyle Keller, a mortarman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, adjusts the elevation and deflection on an M224 60mm lightweight company mortar system here Dec. 8. Proper adjustments are critical to the accuracy of the weapon. The mortar team participated in a 10-day urban training exercise to prepare for an upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Schmidt)

Another critical factor, the Marines (and other Western forces) had over the Chinese was a superior command and control system. Firepower doesn’t do much good if people aren’t shooting at the right targets or don’t know how to zero in their artillery or mortars.

[Source: Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea, 1950 by Martin Russ. Images courtesy of the US Embassy to New Zealand & Samoa and the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force Website.]

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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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