View Full Version : The other side of the Reservoir
James F. Owings
02-28-05, 09:48 PM
My father was regular Army but held the Corps in the highest regard. This dated from late 1950 at the "Frozen Chosin..."
He had been with the 3rd Division in WWII, seeing action in North Africa, Sicily, Anzio and France. After the war he was commissioned an artillery officer at Fort Sill.
In late 1950 he was a captain, serving on the other side of the ice from the First Marine Division. He was part of Task Force Faith (I think it was called) and was tossed in a truck with wounded and sick (he had a relapse of malaria from his North Africa days...
At night the Chinese shot up the front of the column and many drivers fled on foot, abandoning the helpless soldiers in the back of their trucks. Some Chinese were humane and spared the wounded, but many other Chinese shot and bayonetted the men in their trucks or on the ice.
My father was crawling away with little hope when a Marine patrol picked him up. As he told my mother, "I am bitter at us being left behind... this would never have happened in the old Third Division..." He went on to say, "If our son (I was 1...) ever serves, I hope that it is in the Marines... they don't leave their people behind..."
When he recovered he found himself with good troops... being made liaison officer to the Ethiopian battalion... a mean smelly outfit...
When I was 18 I joined the Marine Corps.
02-28-05, 10:43 PM
If I understand history correctly, Chesty Puller brought out Army trucks with dead, (and maybe wounded). He was ask by the Army to return the trucks. He pretty much said, "You can have your dead but I'm keeping the trucks".
I hope some "Frozen Chosin" step in here. I would love to hear their story.
I have two that live near by. One is one house down and the other is three doors down the other way.One made the fight out and the other was in a support unit.
If we Nam Vets think we didn't get credit for what we did, just consider the lack of acknowledge that the Korean Vet got.
Thanks for the story James.
03-13-05, 09:39 PM
I just watched last week the Military Channel documentary of the Korean War (all 3 hrs). They told about the Army abandoning their dead and wounded. Even their "higher ups" were appalled. They went on to say that the Marines REFUSED to abandon theirs and went back in to retrieve them even when told not to go back... but they would NOT abandon their brothers. My dad was there at the Chosin Reservoir, was wounded and sent back. I wish I could ask him about those days, but he passed away a few years ago. However, I am very proud to claim the title of the Daughter of a US Marine... and now my daughter is married to an infantry Marine who has already served one tour in Iraq and will go back again this summer. Oorah Jim! So glad your father made it out alive!
03-14-05, 05:14 AM
:marine: is the best book on how the 1st Marine Division FMF fought their way out from the Reservoir to the shoddy port of Hung-Nam, North Korea...the author is Sgt Martin Russ [a Marine historian and a combat vet in Korea]...he alludes profusely in his book about the ineptness of the hundreds of US Army troops which they saved in that perilous fight...he has been vilified by both US Army and civilian readers who weren't even at Chosin...what Russ relates is corrobarated by the US Marines who did the close combat vs overwhelming Gook/Chinese troops who took great glee in slaughtering the US ARMY's 2nd Division-3rd Division-7th Division...the US Army's 2nd Division especially, it's 24th Regiment, were the worst buggouts in the 3 years of beastiality/combat on that pennisula...Russ is held in high esteem by his fellow Marines..our 1st Marine Division cut to ribbons over 30,000 gooks on it's heroic fighting withdrawl; indeed, the US Army stragglers who made it into Marine lines owe their lives to the gallant USMC...they had no weapons and no fight in them and were ordered to stay with the Main Body while Marine grunts carried the fight for 18 freezing/brass monkey cold days/nites it took to get to Hung-Nam...I served with combat Marines who made the Inchon-Seoul-Reservoir campaigns, and to a man, we learned plenty from them...the US ARMY was always portrayed as "not much" and to never rely on them on the MLR...read the book: "BREAKOUT" and as a US Marine yourself...tell me what you think about Sgt Martin Russ' book on what went on at the Chosin Reservoir [late Nov50 to mid-Dec50]...it's a grim/bloody/savage testamonial to our valorous 1st Marine Division FMF in the field vs America's enemies. Semper Fidelis:marine:
03-14-05, 05:31 AM
:marine: Thank you for your post...your gallant father gave you insightful advice to what he had to endure in that freezing hell of a Korean winter war and most of all his ...LOVE...of the US Marines that saved his life...your being a US Marine was his parting legacy to keep you in good stead for the rest of your life...Marine:James F. Owings...God speed!!....Gung-Ho:marine:
03-14-05, 08:30 AM
Another great book about this epic is 'Chosin' by Eric Hammel. The first time I read it, I think I just about wore it out referencing the maps/charts.
James F. Owings
03-15-05, 04:58 PM
While the Marines at the Reservoir put on the best show since Achilles slew Hector, a few words need to be said about the poor kids in the Army who fell apart...
Under some pressure the Army gutted their training program at the end of WWII and pulled most authority from jr. officers and N.C.O.s. (See T.R. Fehrenbach... THIS KIND OF WAR...) The kids wore uniforms but were not soldiers. Fortunately, Congress ignored the Marine training plan and the Corps was far better prepared to fight and die on the field of battle.
The Seventh Division had it worse than some. They tried putting it together in Japan from soft occupation troops... then a lot of those were scooped up as replacements for the other divisions. A bunch of strangers went into battle. The artillery component of the 7th was excellent, but that was only because they scooped up a lot of the instructor cadre from Ft. Sill.
To drive a final nail in the coffin, the X Corps commander, General Almond flew in by chopper some hours before dark, handed out some medals to Task Force Faith and made it plain that he was ignoring Chinese contact and was shoving the TF towards the Yalu. That night they were destroyed.
Almond would have relieved General Smith of the Marines for such things as dragging his feet past Yudam-ni (which saved the 5th and 7th Regiments) and building an "unauthorized" air strip at Hagaru-ri... Except Smith was a Marine and would be too much trouble... anyway, everybody was going to be home for Christmas, weren't they...?"
Interesting Posts ! I am rereading Russ' BREAKOUT and it is excellent . Roy Appleman's " East of Chosin is also very good.
The 1st Mar Div under Gen Smith and his excellent regimental commanders showed with courage and professional skill how to do the job.
Task Force Faith was a disaster. Many thing went wrong there , scattered units, lack of communication , no support , it was a disaster!
09-28-05, 09:00 AM
I have a cousin that served during Korea. He won't talk much about it though. He isn't much on bragging and speaking of the horrors that were faced. God Bless them all..
James F. Owings,
Thank you so much for the post. It is an inspiration to us all. I am very glad that your dad survived the cornage.
09-28-05, 01:16 PM
Alittle history on Task Force MacLean, after he was dragged away by an enemy soldier.
Command switched to Lt.Col Don Carlos Faith US Army.
He did the best that he could under the conditions as they were.
After General Almond US Army handed out those medals, one being the Silver Star to Lt Col Faith.
After the General got on his chopter and left the area, Lt.Col Faith tore that medal off his chest, all the while cursing the General that handed out that medal.
Thanks for sharing the memories of your father a member of Task Force Maclean later to become Task Force Faith.
Does this do honor to Lt. Col Don Carlos Faith?
After the way it played out.
Besides been undertrained, they also had to deal with ROK troops that had little or no training.
Is its a wonder how it played out East of the Chosin?
Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi
James F. Owings
09-28-05, 06:44 PM
Lt. General Shepard should have been in command of X Corps. But MacArthur had already promised it to Almond. Almond may have been a good soldier, but he either was promoted too high or saw the world thru rose colored glasses.
-If General Smith had been Army he would have been relieved by Almond for dragging his feet (which saved the 1st Mar Div) rather than charging North and West without a care... Also for building strip at Hagaru-Ri when Almond thought was XCorps responsibility and not division... plus waste of time...
-When Chinese first came in Almond did not want to hear about it... and his handing out medals to Faith and others and giving rah-rah speech showed how out of touch he was. Faith just called over a few soldiers for the awards just to get it over with.
-As to Faith himself... Maybe he should have told Almond to relieve him because he could not carry out insane order to "Charge to the North..." By the time of the medal ceremony he certainly had no illusions. He was as much a victim as his men... He could have come up with a BS reason to ride out "for a few hours" with General Almond, but he stayed put and died with his men.
Joseph P Carey
09-29-05, 02:38 AM
Originally posted by MillRatUSMC
"... they also had to deal with ROK troops that had little or no training..."
This was our own fault! President Truman, and the Powers that be in Washington, DC, only armed the South Koreans with Rifle Companies as a self defense force after WWII, even as the Washington Crowd saw the arming of Kim's Army in the North by the Soviets with Heavy Armor and Artillary and Aircraft. The South Koreans took it pretty much on the chin as they tried to stop Russian tanks with nothing more that Machine gun and rifle round. Again, another Washington FUBAR as per usual.
09-29-05, 04:53 AM
:marine: As an active participant in this brutal WAR, allow me to state the USMC grunts attitude about the way the US Army outfits were perceived. Long before the Chosin Campaign got out of hand, the USMC never was happy to have the Army on either flank, we had no confidence in them. The 1st US Calvary Division was dependable despite their 8th Regiment getting cut to ribbons on the west side of the mountain range separating the US Eighth Army units from the three  Divisions comprising Gen MacArthur's "private army" [10th Corps] in the Chang-gin sectors to the East.This lack of respect for US Army outfits prevailed throughout the entire WAR years in Korea. To a Marine, the most dependable outfits in Korea were the 1st Commonwealth Div[Brits-Aussies-Canadians-New Zealanders], Turkish Brigade, Greek Brigade, of these mentioned we had no fault with their military acumen and zeal.Forget the corrupt ROK Army, as they were buggouts and the best long distant runners to the rear on a steady basis. Let this be known, our own trained KMC Regiment was on par with a steadfast discipline and warrior dash and elan, we wanted the KMCs to be right in amongst our US Marine units [they NEVER buggout]. In many conversions with Sgt Martin Russ before he published, "Breakout" he told it like it was and he received an avalanche of hate mail from US Army GIs. In the aftermath of the Chosin battles, the US Army lost the respect of the combat Marines in the 1st Marine Division forevermore.That's the way it was in the Korea War years. We leveled that country [North and South] in order to WIN, yes, we won in Korea, as South Korea rose from the postwar-torn ashes into the most prolific 7th industrial power status and a strong economy in only 55 years, after centuries of fuedalism and oppressive ocupations by Russia, China and most of all Japan [Code of Bushido].You people read and get 3rd party accounts...those of us Marine survivors of Korea...lived it's misery for the rest of our lives. WE WON in KOREA!! in spite of Harry Truman's flawed foreign policy in the Far East leading up to WAR in Korea in June 1950. In parting, let me say this, the South Koreans love us without any reservations, their only fear is that the United States may forsake them, as told to me by a KMC Colonel, I met at the Mayflower Hotel [DC] just prior to our US official National Welcome Home parade in 1995 [late by 42 yrs], but those of us who remained over the 4 decades appreciated it nonetheless.] ..:marine:
10-10-05, 09:21 PM
I'm a Marine Brat and proud of it!!
My dad was with the "Frozen Chosin", as was his brother.
My uncle was always limping when he got older and I only recently found out he had frost-bite from Korea, my dad didn't fare as bad.
I have seen my uncles' medals-the Corps didn't give medals out easily-and like my dads' medals the ribbons far outnumber and were mostly left off their uniforms "because they're too much to keep up" they both said.
These brothers fought together though indifferent positions, my uncle was a grunt-good thing.
My dad got through PI with an expert badge and got picked up by, I think ?, Donovan from Raiders and shipped to San Diego where he trained and shipped to Korea to end up at the Chosin Reservoir. Rather around the Chosin, my mom let out that he was a sniper in Korea and his buds confirmed this and his nickname "Snake".
I've tried for years to get my dad to tell or write his memoirs or just experiences to no avail, not just Korea but he served 2 tours in Vietnam.
Does anyone know how to get him to tell his story?
I feel that it's kind of family history, good and bad.
Anyway I know my dad and uncle were together because they would talk about just missing each other at one of the passes coming from the Chosin Reservoir.
I'm hoping I might get some ideas, my dad just turned 71-was a lifer-sniper-DI at PI-combat engineer-retired Msgt and still gungho!
My uncle was tough too-gungho-retired Sgtmjr, unfortunately he's guarding the streets of heaven now, so times' a tickin".
Oh yeah-they both would go out of their way to shake the hands of ROK's and Aussies, probably from Vietnam, but I usually saw disgust whenever either of them encountered Army-especially Army officers!