Frozen Chosin remembered after 58
Written by Compiled By Scout staff

This Dec. 11 marked the 58th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, in which the greatly outnumbered group of U.S. Marines and soldiers, faced

As shown in this photo of Marines marching out of Kotori, Dec. 8, 1950, each Marine carried what he considered necessary to live and fight, a considerable load of up to 60 pounds. Some got along with just their sleeping bag slung below their haversack. More carried a horseshoe-shaped bedding roll that could contain as much as a sleeping bag, a blanket, a poncho and shelter half.

200,000 Chinese soldiers.

The Marines from 1st Marine Division were commanded by Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, and fought with 20,000 United Nations Forces during those two weeks. They endured the harsh North Korean winter and were nicknamed the ‘Frozen Chosin’ because of the bitter cold temperatures they faced, sometimes as low as 35 degrees below zero.

After the decisive victory at Inchon in September, UN Forces moved toward the Yalu River unaware of the Chinese activity, despite their surveillance. By late November, they were surrounded and their advance had been halted by the poorly equipped, but overwhelming, Chinese forces.

On Nov. 27, 1950, UN armies began a withdrawal 78 miles south, toward the seaside city of Hungnam. Chinese divisions, along with North Korean soldiers, formed a gauntlet the retreating men would have to fight through.

During the march, the Marines carried packs weighing more than 60 pounds of supplies and ammunition, according to “Frozen Chosin U.S. Marines at the Changjin Reservoir” by Retired Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Simmons.

Smith was quoted when asked if he was retreating as saying, "Retreat, Hell! We're attacking in a different direction," according to
As they withdrew, the Marines were indeed attacking, and under attack by the swarming Chinese. The intense cold took its toll on both sides as the conflict wore on. According to, it was so cold the blood froze to the men’s wounds.

As they escaped, the Marines and soldiers obliterated a full seven divisions of Chinese warriors as they tried to stop them.

On Dec. 11, when the withdrawal was complete, 2,500 UN forces had been killed, 5,000 wounded and 7,500 suffered from frostbite. In contrast, the Chinese had ten times the number of dead, 12,500 wounded and 30,000 frostbit victims, according to

As the UN forces left Hungnam Harbor, they blew up large portions of the city to deny its use to the communists, according to Simmons.
When departing, the Marines are said to have grumbled, "Why in the hell are we bugging out? Why don't we stay here until spring and then counterattack?" according to Simmons.

When the conflict was over, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir would be a defeat for the UN forces, but is remembered as one of the Marines’ finest hours.