The Breakout Of The 1st Marines From The Chosin Reservoir: An American Epic Of Courage – Part 29

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The photography of David Douglas Duncan

Two US Marines of Co. B, 1st Brigade, 5th Regiment grimly advancing along a ditch past an enemy corpse during the fighting in the Naktong River area in August 1950.

Writes Time-Life in their retrospective on the photographer:

Capturing the troops’ terror — and their will to live — remains a hallmark of his work. One of his most haunting images comes from September 1950. Two US marines are seen running through a ditch past an enemy corpse near the Naktong River in South Korea. “The North Koreans were firing machine guns at them from a couple of hundred meters behind me,” Duncan says. “They both died shortly after the photograph was taken.”

US Marine crouching down next to his jeep while leading a convoy of vehicles during the 1st Marine Division’s retreat down canyon road they called “Nightmare Alley,” after being cut off by the Red Chinese and under fire from nearby hills in December 1950.

Duncan was trapped at Chosin like the Marines he was photographing although once they had pulled back to their assembly point for the breakout he could have gone out by air yet he chose not to. In an interview with Time-Life he said:

It was 40 degrees below zero, and the wind was coming down out of Mongolia. I was freezing.

[Images courtesy of Time Magazine.]

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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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