The Frozen Chosen The 1st Marine Division and the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2016-07-19
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing

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The Frozen Chosen is an account of the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea by the First Marine Division from November to December 1950, following the intervention of Red China in the Korean War. Fought during the worst blizzard in a century, it is considered by the United States Marine Corps to be “the Corps' finest hour.” Fourteen Medals of Honor, a record for any American battle, and eighty-five Navy Crosses--many awarded in lieu of an original nomination for the Medal of Honor--attest to the intensity of the battle.

Based on first-person interviews from surviving veterans who came to be known as the “Frozen Chosen,” this is the incredible story of heroism and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, as a handful of Marines fought desperately against wave after wave of Chinese forces. Sometimes forced into desperate hand-to-hand fighting in intense cold, cut off from reinforcements, and with dwindling supplies and ammunition, the fighting retreat from Chosin marked one of the darkest moments for Western forces in Korea, it but would go on to resonate with generations of Marines as a symbol of the Marine Corps' dogged determination, fighting skill, and never-say-die attitude on the battlefield.

Author Biography

Thomas McKelvey Cleaver is the author of Aces of the 78th Fighter Group and the forthcoming F4F and F6F Aces of VF-2, both published by Osprey, and Air Combat Annals and Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Saga of Carrier Air Group 15. He has also written articles for publications such as Air Enthusiast, Air Force Magazine, the US Naval Institute's Proceedings Magazine, Flight Journal, Aviation History Magazine, World War II Quarterly, Vietnam Magazine, and Military History Quarterly.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1: “Brother's Keeper.” Lt(jg) Thomas Hudner deliberately crash lands in an attempt to save his fellow flyer, Jesse Brown Jr., the Navy's first African-American Naval Aviator. Introduction to the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.
CHAPTER 2: “Background to a War.” Last-minute decision by the United States to participate in the occupation of Korea in 1945. Korea had been an oppressed Japanese colony since 1910. The confrontation between communists and non-communists in building the new Korea.
CHAPTER 3: “Disaster.” The North Korean Army takes the entire Korean peninsula except for the Pusan Perimeter. American forces and leaders are shown to be far from battle-ready. The First Marine Division is reconstituted at Camp Pendleton and ships out for Korea.
CHAPTER 4: “Success.” Un Forces successfully invade Inchon and liberate Seoul, the North Korean People's Army reels out of South Korea.
CHAPTER 5: “Crossing the Line.” American leaders allow MacArthur to invade North Korea. The Chinese threaten intervention if UN forces enter North Korea and are ignored. Mao Zedong decides to intervene.
CHAPTER 6: “An Army of True Believers.” The equipment and organization of the Chinese Peoples' Volunteers, veterans of the Civil War, the cream of the People's Liberation Army.
CHAPTER 6: “We Are Fighting A Different Army.” The First Marines and U.S. Army 7th Division move into the Korean high country and confront an unknown enemy, finally identified as Chinese. MacArthur refuses to believe the Chinese are in North Korea. The bitter relationship between X Corps Commander LGEN Ned Almond, MacArthur's favorite, and the man he considers a “plodder,” Marine Major General O.P. Smith. The Chinese People's Volunteers probe UN forces and find them “a pushover.”
CHAPTER 7: “A Hot Thanksgiving Dinner For Every Man in Korea.” Turkey with all the trimmings turns out to be boiled hunks of still-frozen turkey, symbolic of the American leadership in Korea. Oliver Smith has doubts about the coming offensive.
CHAPTER 8: “We're Going To The Yalu.” MacArthur orders the general UN offensive to secure all of North Korea, to begin 27 November 1950. Almond and Smith clash over Smith's strategy of securing the route. Almond refuses to accept intelligence of a large enemy force in the surrounding countryside.
CHAPTER 9: “General Winter Intervenes.” The largest Siberian blizzard in a century blasts the Korean peninsula for four days, 24-28 November. General Smith sends Fox Company to “bar the door” at Toktong Pass. The 7th Division Regimental Combat Team on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir meets the Chinese.
CHAPTER 10: “Bugles In The Night.” The Chinese Ninth Army attacks the First Marine Division at every point from Yudam-ni in the Chosin Reservoir south to Koto-ri at Funchilin Pass. Desperate hand-to-hand fighting in the night holds the enemy at bay.
CHAPTER 11: “Toktong Pass.” Held by Fox Company, 2/7 Marines, a group of hard-luck reservists under the command of a hard-bitten Marine regular they aren't sure they can trust, the 238 Marines lose half their number the first night of battle. Over the next three nights of combat they hold the position. Colonel Ray Davis puts together a scratch battalion of cooks and clerks, “every Marine a rifleman first” to rescue them. In 96 hours of battle, Davis' men save Fox Company. On 2 December, 54 men, all wounded, walk or are carried off the hill. Fox has taken 100 percent casualties in the bloodiest small-unit action in American history. The Marines in the Reservoir are saved. Overcoming constant enemy opposition in the withdrawal, the first units of the 5th Marines arrive in Hagaru-ri, with the remainder of the 5th and 7th Marines arriving from Yudam-ni by nightfall of 4 December.
CHAPTER 12: “Saving Hagaru-ri.” Hagaru-ri, HQ of the Marines, is lightly held by two battalions from the 1st and 7th Marines with engineers and rear support units from the Army and Marines. On the night of 28 November, the PVA 79th Division of the 27th Army finally assaults Hagaru-ri. Fighting in the hills surrounding the airfield is close and vicious. It is crucially important because it has an airfield. Over three days and nights while Fox Company holds at Toktong Pass, construction crews who thought they were going to build General Almond's new headquarters work under fire to extend the runway so that C-47s can land.
CHAPTER 14: “Hellfire Valley.” Hagaru-ri is badly in need of reinforcement. On 29 November Task Force Drysdale, 41 Independent Royal Marine Commando, are sent the 10 miles from Koto-ri to Hagaru-ri in what is known as “The Battle of Hellfire Valley.” What had been expected to be a movement lasting only a few hours stretched throughout the afternoon into night. The force was split by Chinese attacks and only the forward unit managed to make it into Hagaru-ri that night, adding 300 defenders; over 400 were killed and 150 taken prisoner by the Chinese.
CHAPTER 15: “The Crucifixion of Task Force Faith.” The 7th Division Regimental Combat Team 31 is decimated by the Chinese. LCOL Don Faith, assistant battalion commander of the 32nd Infantry, assumes command of the survivors and attempts to retreat back to Hagaru-ri. On 1 December, RCT-31 is forced to retreat from Sinhung-ni and suffers high casualties. LCOL Faith is killed in a firefight and the unit broken up. Surviving stragglers fought along the east side of the reservoir under continuing attack. 1,050 men of 2,500 finally make it into Hagaru-ri by 3 December, of whom only some 320 are fit to continue fighting.
CHAPTER 16: “We're Advancing In A Different Direction.” On 6 December, the breakout from Chosin begins with the 7th Marines as the vanguard and the 5th Marines as the rearguard. By the night of 7 December, after large scale fighting across the plateau between Hagaru-ri and Koto-ri, the UN forces were all at Koto-ri.
CHAPTER 17: “We Need A Miracle Here.” On 9 December, the Marines take Hill 1081 at Funchilin Pass in a daylong assault. The treadway bridge across the chasm has been blown by the Chinese. With the path to Hungnam blocked, eight C 119 Flying Boxcars are detailed to drop portable bridge sections by parachute. There are only eight in the entire far east and a minimum of four are needed to create the bridge. They have never been airdropped before. The first is destroyed in a test. Two are successfully dropped while one falls into the chasm. The next one is successful but the following two go into the chasm. The last plane circles for its drop. The bridge hangs up halfway out the plane! Nearly out of control, the pilots dive into a box canyon and recover flying speed, getting out of the canyon at the last minute as the men in back recover the bridge section. They come around again, and drop the section right on target. With four sections the bridge is made and the retreat continues. The PVA 58th and 60th Divisions try to slow the UN advance with ambushes, but the two divisions combined have only 200 soldiers left. After suffering thousands of losses over the ten days of battle, the Peoples' Volunteers lack the strength to prevail. The first units of Marines arrive at the Hungnam perimeter the night of 11 December 1950.
CHAPTER 18: “Aftermath.” While X Corps withdrew in good order from Chosin, the U.S. Eighth Army had been defeated by PVA forces at the Battle of the Ch'ongch'on River. In what British historian Sir Martin Gilbert termed “the most thorough defeat of a previously-victorious army in history,” the Eighth Army retreated out of North Korea, losing the majority of prisoners that would be captured by communist forces in the whole war, losing much of its equipment as it finally held south of the 38th parallel. With the entire UN front collapsing, the race to the Yalu was ended and the Chinese PVA recaptured nearly all of North Korea. In the aftermath of defeat, Truman fires MacArthur. After a series of battles in the spring and summer of 1951, the front is stabilized roughly along the 38th Parallel. The Korean War would drag on in stalemate for another two and a half years before the armistice was signed on 27 July 1953.

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