View Full Version : Korea veterans get release half-century later

07-23-09, 08:57 AM
Korea veterans get release half-century later

By Craig Smith
Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ed Vogel was a 20-year-old Marine Corps private in November 1950 when he participated in one of the most savage battles in modern warfare at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.

"There are things that you never forget," said Vogel, 79, of Penn Hills. Like the day his patrol walked in front of a battery of Chinese machine guns, but drew no fire.

"The gunners froze to death the night before with their fingers on the triggers," he said.

Vogel will recount his story Saturday to a pair of Iraq War veterans-turned-filmmakers who are racing against the clock to document the 14-day battle in subarctic temperatures at the Chosin Reservoir.

The filming at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland takes place two days before the 56th anniversary of the truce that ended the fighting.

Vogel, who received the Purple Heart after a bullet deflected off his rifle into his shoulder instead of his heart, meets regularly with other Chosin survivors from Allegheny County. The talk inevitably turns to the battle, where as many as 20,000 Marines and Army soldiers struggled to withdraw against 120,000 Chinese soldiers on a treacherous mountain road. Temperatures were as low as minus 60 degrees.

In the end, the allies suffered 12,000 casualties, including more than 3,000 killed. Chinese casualties were estimated at more than 43,000, including 28,000 deaths.

Fourteen Marines and two sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry during the campaign.

"It's kind of hard not to talk about it. It was a nightmare," Vogel said.

The weather and numbers weren't the only obstacles facing the Marines. They also had to battle the military bureaucracy, Vogel said.

"Tootsie Rolls" was code for ammunition, he said. And once, when the troops were running low on ammunition, they requested more Tootsie Rolls. That's just what they got, Vogel said — the candy bars.

"Boxes and boxes of them," he said. "Frozen stiff."

The film project has been a bit of mutual healing.

"These guys are unburdening 60 years of anguish," said Marine Reserve Capt. Brian P. Iglesias, who is making the film "The Chosin Few" with former Marine Capt. Anton Sattler, 29, a Monroeville native.

"They were children of the Depression, some fought in World War II. ... You didn't talk about it. You were supposed to be stoic," said Iglesias, 32, of Hazlet, N.J. "This was the John Wayne era when you had to be a man."

The stories told by 122 survivors so far have touched the film crew, many of whom are Marine veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

Iglesias and Sattler have "maxed out credit cards" and sunk their retirement savings into the film. They hope to distribute it through the Public Broadcasting System, The History Channel or A&E.

They are traveling across the nation to reach as many Chosin survivors as they can, often sleeping in their van along the way.

"We're Marines. We're used to doing more with less," Sattler said.