Chosin Reservoir - Ray Vallowe Research

Chapter 8 - Press Coverage
Propaganda or Good Press?

Author's Background | Prologue | Chapt 1 - Budget War | Chapt 2 - Inchon | Chapt 3 - Capture Seoul
Chapt 4 - Inchon to Pusan | Chapt 5 - Fateful Journey into N Korea | Chapt 6 - Inter-service Rivalry-1
Chapt 7 - Inter-service Rivalry-2 | Chapt 8 - Press Corps | Chapt 9 - Secret/Classified Mission
Chapt 10 - Circumstantial Evidence | Chapt 11 - Mission Change | Chapt 12 - The Tank Withdrawal
MIA/KIA East of Chosin | Postscript | Important Maps | Declassified Documents| Reader Comments

The main problem encountered within the first five months of the Korean War related directly to the press corps in having the complete freedom extended to their correspondents to report as they elected between the start of the war until December 20, 1950. This latter date was the date "press censorship" (since World War II) was once again imposed on them. What was thereafter considered as press censorship was only an attempt to control or stop run away "propaganda." General MacArthur had overruled censorship in Korea from day one, so as contradictory as it may seem, the press corps itself pressed for that censorship as serious security leaks had been reported. "The Inchon Invasion, for example, was reported in American newspapers while the troops were still at sea." [1] However, some distinction should be made between the two terms "propaganda" and "good press". In order to separate one from the other, one should define the terms, then look to facts and try to reconstruct the scenes to isolate the truth from any exaggeration.

In Webster's Dictionary, the word "propaganda" is defined directly as "The propagating of doctrines or principles: the opinions or beliefs that spread." And a "Press Agent" is "One employed to advertise and secure publicity for any person or organization." Both definitions were totally devoid of any relationship concerning the truth or known facts.

One of the very first doctrines spread about the Korean War was over the degradation of this action as merely a "police action." That phrase originated from a response to a question put before the President of the United States. The question: "Mr. President, everybody is asking in this country, are we or are we not at war?" The President replied, "We are not at war... The members of the United Nations are going to the relief of the Korean Republic to suppress a bandit raid on the Republic of Korea." And again the follow-up question, "Would it be correct under your explanation to call this a police action under the United Nations?" The answer: "Yes, that is exactly what it amounts to." Here a doctrine was created and spread without fact. For President Truman had never originated or used the word himself. Neither had the United Nations. But that phrase stuck, and was even more reinforced by those very same correspondents that spread this doctrine.  They did not belittle themselves or their reports with that label. How many reports are there on record from these correspondents highlighted as a "police action correspondent" rather than a "war correspondent"?

It should be noted here that Korea was also the last war covered exclusively by print journalists. On July 5, 1950, there were some 70 reporters in the country.  By September there were some 238 American and foreign reporters. This increased to 270 during the course of the war. As I have stated within this research, my purpose here is to look at events of the United States Army and the propaganda and innuendoes directed against its members, regrettably slanted in favor of the United States Marine Corps.

This is clearly evident in events at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. There, General Smith was in critical need of press coverage and the creation of another Marine legend to bury all the discrepancies surrounding his controversial actions--and inactions--at Hagaru-ri and all points east and west of that reservoir. Therein lies our Army drama and the fateful neglect of any press coverage concerning the Army Task Force Faith. Therein lies the restricted information of Task Force MacLean's RCT even being there in the first place. Therein lies our mystery. Was this Army participation merely a "secret mission" or was it merely the intended withholding of important vital truths and vital facts? The Army's total silence over the years concerning these events suggested its full acceptance of published reports as being the truth. But as this research will reveal, those published reports were far from factual.

While President Truman's answer to the question about a "police action" became a doctrine, his following direct statement created a furor within the Marine Corps. "The Marine Corps is the Navy's police force and as long as I am President, that is what it will remain.  They have a propaganda machine that is about equal to Stalin's." Within this statement, is Truman's direct reference to a "police force." Yet, the force that it was aimed at was highly offended because his remark degraded them. This doctrine was swiftly suppressed as being discourteous, as was General Omar Bradley's reference to interservice rivalries unresolved by the unification provision of the National Security Act of 1947.  He said, "This is no time for fancy Dans who won't hit the line with all they have on every play, unless they can call the signals."

Be that as it may regarding the truth or facts over those opinions, the Marine Corps reacted in kind. However, the following Marine doctrine was accepted and often repeated by the press (as agents) and became a new legend in the Marine Corps relating to their action at Chosin. The correspondent in question had just been flown into Hagaru-ri to cover the ten-mile withdrawal from Hagaru-ri to Koto-ri. The next day a British correspondent asked Smith for help on an article he was writing. Should he call the Marine movement a retreat or a withdrawal? "I just pointed out to him that since we were completely surrounded, we could neither retreat or withdraw, but had to fight our way out." The press quote that emerged, which Smith did not challenge, was "Retreat hell, we're simply attacking in another direction." Here, General Oliver P. Smith, like President Harry S. Truman before him, had not coined the original phrase. Here, just as "police action" became a doctrine by the press, so too "retreat hell" also became one.  Only here, the press acted as a press agent for the Marine Corps, "to advertise and secure publicity for any person or organization." In contrast, only one spokesman was designated to disseminate the official Army response to news reporters due to the fact that they might misquote an answer (as evident within the above examples). Still, those statements produced in print during that time period continued to live on into the future, and will continue to do so unless some reasonable consideration is given to review new facts as they come forth.

In her book, The Korean War, Marguerite Higgins wrote: "I have read President Truman's accusations that the Marines have a propaganda machine equal to Stalin's. Actually they have almost no organized propaganda at all.... The Marine as an individual is extremely proud of his origination. He welcomes correspondents because they are there to tell the rest of the world about the job he is doing. Also, since they are a smaller organization than the Army, the Marines are less stuffy and less involved in red tape. It is easier for them to help you out." [2]

The Marines are, indeed, a smaller organization than the Army, and that is understandable of their hunger for headlines. However, in Korea their firepower and manpower eclipsed that of any one of the other six Army divisions in November of 1950, indicating that, division for division, the Marines overall were larger.[3] No one wanted to deny them what was rightfully theirs, but the main point of contention is why the press reporters degraded the Army by elevating and comparing the difference in operations between the two services. Those reports were even picked up by others and repeated. One example was General Ridgway. [4] While he was not yet in Korea at the time of the action he refers to, he commented on the 7th Division reaching the Yalu River (45 miles above Chosin) at Hyesanjin, saying  "Fortunately, Chinese resistance, as contrasted to what the 1st Marine Division would encounter, was light and sporadic." [5] He had not been there, nor had the Marines. However, if one knew the situation whereof he spoke, his words "as contrasted to what the 1st Marine Division would encounter," his "would encounter" indicates the Marine action at Chosin followed the 7th Division achieving their mission to advance to the Yalu River.

Since three Army battalions were also inclusive of that Marine division action at Chosin, Ridgway himself became easy prey to press propaganda against the Army forces.  So an unreliable comparison? He also failed to state two important facts, one of which was unknown to him at the time.  One was that the large death toll (KIA) of that small Army Phantom Force at Chosin from this very division ‘exceeded' that of the entire 1st Marine Division.  So his division comparison is invalid. The second point is that the rest of the 7th Division had traveled twice the road miles that the Marines had traveled, and their Army areas were totally lacking any left flank Marine coverage.  This last was a major concern of the 1st Marine Division commander. His complaint was that his Marine division had no flank support from Eighth Army. My point is that, if one is going to compare, compare it all--not just parts of the operation.

When the Marines arrived in Korea at Inchon, the press reporters were busy tearing down the Army occupation forces from Japan as "green troops", again compared to the Marines from the States.  They were a mixed collected group of men from both sides of the oceans.  Since it was not an intact division at the time, how could one compare? There were also those full Army divisions stationed in the United States and Germany. So what standard was used to compare? The statement concerning the occupation forces as living the "good life" is a statement without any depth. We had no idea how to equate the two.  One group was on active duty and the other was in reserves. The active duty forces surely were more physically fit than those in the reserve units. Here again was a fact omitted which reflected on the condition of the press correspondents as well. There had been no war to cover for over five years, thus no need to move with the armed forces to stay fit. Below is some background listing on this.

On June 30, 1950, Congressional action granted the President authority to order units and individual members of the Organized Reserves Corps and units of the National Guard into active federal service for 21 months. When this first order was issued for involuntary recall of individual reserve officers, no real distinction could be made between the inactive and the volunteer reserve since so many were not in the volunteer reserves and were therefore rated as inactive. Compare this to the confusion that would exist if the draft system was ordered overnight in the year 2005.  Who knows the medical condition of those men signed up for the draft, and where are they in relation to when they signed up?

The first recall program authorized by the Extension Act of 1950 of the Selective Service Act of 1948 specified that officers be recalled from either the volunteer reserves or the inactive reserves without establishing a priority between the two categories. The Army had no clear picture of the physical condition of those available for duty. On June 30, 1950, it had numbers only: 416,402 in the inactive and volunteer reserves, and 184,015 in the organized reserves. Yet, the Army did not know how many of these reservists were qualified for duty. The required periodic physical examination for reservists had been suspended in February of 1947.  This required calling up a larger number than needed because of the many found physically disqualified. Also, many reservists had changes in status after entering the reserves, providing numerous exemptions. Records of reserve officers were not current, and many did not exist for enlisted men. All this a recall did not set well with the public or the press, and the Congress, since there existed no proclamation of a national emergency (December 16, 1950).  This indicated that there was no great need for any additional forces.

On July 22, 1950, the day General Walker withdrew 100 miles into his "Stand or Die" line in the Pusan Perimeter, the Department of the Army appealed to reserve officers to volunteer for active duty.  So few did that the Army recalled 7,862 reserve officers--captains and lieutenants from both the volunteer and inactive reserves. That the nation was not ready for its commitment into this action was well evident, and the burden on the active duty forces was primal. To even suggest that any reserve units was on a par with an active division was stretching the truth just a fraction, not to mention that we were all America had at the time and this action of words only degraded our own country's defense forces without any corrective action in the works.

Green forces or otherwise, this was all America had on the eve of the North Korean invasion, and for the press corps to attack them from the rear was without merit. That these so called "green troops" sent into Korea very soon would be exploited to a baptism of fire, thus to become veterans--many of whom were disabled for life--was not an issue. Grass is green, but when exposed to wear and tear or without any care and water, it dies. Thus was the case with these so-called "green troops" sent to Korea. Is it any wonder that this was a "Forgotten War" from start to finish? Who really cared what difficulties the forces faced in Korea? The Army itself could not adequately support and defend them, and the so-called Press Corps could, but would not. MacArthur tried over and over again to get more forces, but he was continually denied them. Yet, history records we are still there in Korea, never having been driven out by an enemy. Results.  There is the answer.

American sons had to fight this war on the cheap.  The store houses were empty of men and material. The four occupation division forces, many of them now outside the States for more than two years, had to be recycled until unfit for combat, even that man just entering the battle lines beyond his discharge date--the same one that should have been headed back towards the States, sorry his enlistment was now extended by one year. (Tough. One punch for their TS Card.) When the Korean War broke out, all of these men had to turn their faces towards battle in Korea. 

Here on occupation duty contributing to that ‘good life', we received $95 per month plus an additional $8 for overseas duty.  With the "good life" status, it would seem we should have returned that $8 to ease our own conscience. That huge pay increase began in 1948.  However, those in the military were required to pay federal and state income taxes on their service pay.  There was a new clothing allowance, too--another first for the military.  All of that was supposed to justify that huge pay raise. There was no additional pay for combat time.  After all, that was what the big bucks per month were for.  But we could receive a tax deduction for those months we were in a combat area, providing, of course, we survived to file for it. This was the very first war fought by forces paying their own way and contributing from their own pay for their own equipment. It gave an entirely new meaning to the term "contributing to the war effort".

Where was all of this equipment we were paying for? It was certainly not there in the Far East Command. Where were those additional forces for the replacements we needed so urgently? They were not t here. We were "it"--those "green troops" on line.  Under MacArthur's roll-up program, we were to reuse ancient (World War II) equipment in a new war in Korea that was degraded to a "police action."

News reporters in Korea at the beginning of the war were the eyes and the ears of the Korean War, and that was the one saving grace of it becoming a "forgotten war." For in reality, those reporters were not totally effective with all their negative reports. Why?  Because there were far too many World War II veterans scattered around that knew first-hand the trial and misery of war.  Just a few years before, they were also green troops themselves and in 1950 were busy moving on with their lives and would not care for negative reports. This eases some of my own bitterness. For I personally would rather have the Korean War forgotten in that sense rather than to be remembered through innuendo and degradation of the forces and the actions covered. Some of the reports I refer to were written within the first six months of the war. They said that low IQs would not hold the line. They bugged-out, and they implied that wounds were greater than they were. The reports said that the green troops exhibited shameful conduct under fire. They said that these troops had had the "good life" in Japan. I have a comment on each one of these.

Green Troops

In matters of heath, Japan only slowly pulled ahead of Korea. "Japan was twenty years behind that of the United States. Such diseases as smallpox, cholera, diphtheria, typhoid, and paratyphoid would spring into epidemic's overnight. Tuberculoses was evident everywhere. Contrary to popular belief in the west, the Japanese were seriously lacking in modern hygiene." [6] But five years later at the start of the Korean War, Japan was still far behind in modern hygiene, except on an Army base.  To establish showers and provide clean running water on bases was a task in itself for the first forces setting down in Japan.  The familiar latrine field ‘slit' trench in a combat area was little more than a step up to those Japanese barracks.

At Camp Drake just outside of Tokyo, the barracks were drafty old two-story high Japanese block-long buildings housing between two and three hundred men. Commodes and sinks were put in, but the outhouse concept was still there. To do the required morning four "S's" (GI jargon for shit, shave, shower and shampoo), one had to leave the main building and go outside under a covered but unheated walkway to the heated latrine.  While doing one of the four "S's" one could look out the window and see "the honey bucket brigade" at work, loading human feces into wooden buckets. Our occupation forces had been inoculated against all known diseases, with one exception.  "Even dysentery, for which there is no known immunization agent, was reduced 86%." The occupation forces were continually cautioned about eating the vegetables grown with Japanese home-grown human feces fertilizers that were distributed by ladles on rows of vegetables by the honey bucket brigade.

Recalling memories of old,  green troops and the good life had to be grouped together. For any veteran that had served in the European theater, there was one outstanding feature of Japan and Korea that was common to both, in the late forties and early fifties.  Even General Matthew B. Ridgway was totally "green" to this "good life". I am referring to the smell of both areas. Those who served there instantly know what I am referring to when I say "the honey bucket brigade."  As General Ridgway commented, "There is one feature of Korea that every fighting man will remember--the smell....a fragrance so overpowering that the soul at first rebels." He did not have that problem in Europe. In that respect, the rating scale of smells in Japan and Korea was equal.  Walk down a back alley in Japan in the early fifties where they were butchering a pig.  Add to that the odors from each house that was sun-drying fish. In that respect, we were true veterans of those pungent smells in Japan. Score one point for the occupation force and the "good life." 

How about these: No overnight passes.  Lights out at 2200 hours.  Bed check was at 2300. Occupation duty was to maintain order, not for individual men to be unaccounted for after hours. May 1 was Communist Day.  No one--but no one--was allowed in town.  All forces were ordered on standby alert with full field gear, backpacks ready with rifle and bayonet in case of trouble.  An alert this day each year--no trouble. How many reservists in the States were ordered home each night at ten? Score one more point for the good life.

An important point about food and water off base is that long before being sent to Korea, the occupation forces had their bouts with dysentery and diarrhea. The forces coming from the States just returning from that good life there were plagued with the dysentery virus, especially the 1st Marine Division on board ship, during Operation Yo-Yo. Score one more point for us.  That makes three.


This picture was taken in Sapporo Japan, January '50. Intent to show the amount of snow. The three men in the photo, left to right, Eldon Ervin and Charles J. Smith, both Killed in action early morning 28 November '50 at the Chosin Reservoir. The man on the left is Ray McVey. All with HQ's Battery 57th Field Artillery. The 31st Infantry Regiment was also located here, at Sapporo, their unit having the nickname, and also the Polar Bear as their unit crest. It was known as a cold weather related division.

The 1st Marine Division was also plagued with frostbite in excess, more so then the 7th Division. Why was that? We had different equipment in gear and winter training.  We had winter maneuvers with the "Polar Bears" (31st Infantry) in Hokkaido.  There was much snow there, piled to three feet at times.  The snow was great for building a shelter.  We just had to carve out a square hole in the snow to the ground, take two tent shelter halves, button them together, place it over tree branches stretched over a hole, then cover the shelter halves completely with snow.  When we crawled inside with our winter sleeping bag, we were as warm as toast and completely out of the wind.  It could even be used as a fox hole, and it slept two. We also took many road marches across the snow with oversized tennis rackets (snowshoes).

We had summer heat, smells, and winter cold training. Most of us from Sapporo, Japan, had and preferred the World War II combat boot in Korea, while the Marine division had the newly-designed ‘arctic boots.'  The sweat inside froze and invited frostbite to their feet while at rest. Our leather boots could breath and evaporate that water and sweat. To keep the water out, we supplemented with the rubber overshoes. Score another one in our column. That Marine arctic boot could have been tested in Hokkaido, an ideal winter area, prior to its use in Korea. That alone could have saved some misery for the Marine Corps.

RED FLAG: General Smith went on the defensive over his own excessive frostbite cases at Chosin, implying they were Army ones instead of his higher Marine number. He downplayed and shifted the focus of a higher Army death total to defend (damage control) his own majority of wounded and frostbite cases. In the same interview in which he made remarks about the "Army jokers,"  one can see a major shift in his logic between the two standards he held for the Army and his Marines. [7] Consider this: When the Army survivors returned to Hagaru for evacuation, he stated, "What these jokers would do is, some of them might have frostbitten fingers, something like that. They would go down to the strip and get a blanket and a stretcher and the(n) groan a bit.  The corpsman came along and put them on a plane....Nobody after that got on a plane without a ticket."

Camp Crawford, Sapporo, Japan
This picture of me showing the height of the snow up to the windows. This area between the two barracks -- the one I'm facing -- was not cleared for a pathway, Also taken in January '50. Important point here, Sapporo is located on Hokkaido, that northern island of Japan, it shares the 44th latitude parallel, an area just slightly north of its parallel line at Hudong-ni in North Korea. Ironically, this same parallel line became the killing field for the final phase of Task Force Faith's convoy of wounded and its total demise on the early morning hours of 2 December 1950.

There are two points of interest here as I see it, and here is my analysis of both of them. Number one - a timeline: "Nobody after that got on a plane without a ticket." This indicates that the system was tightened up before any Marines returned from Yudam-ni. Therefore, only serious cases of frostbite were allowed on planes. But no man that was at Chosin can deny the fact that any man that was wounded also had severe frostbite to the point of gangrene. Bullet wounds cut vital large and small blood vessels that nourished exterior limbs, and thus that part froze and died over time. Blood loss could not be replenished due to frozen blood plasma. In most cases it took longer for the frostbite to be treated, in many cases months longer then that of the wounds themselves.

Second point - that the medical staff in Japan would be highly critical of these excessively severe cases of frostbite which required the amputations of fingers and toes. The medical staff there was totally unaware of the combat situation which caused the cases of frostbite to be so severe due to neglect. The doctors in Japan thus criticized those in command who allowed them to happen. My own case is an example.  A missile cut the blood vessels in my upper arm.  After five days in freezing weather, blood was deprived to my lower arm extremity and the fingers of my right hand. I had already been transferred to a second hospital in Japan, with only the missile wound being treated.

The second doctor was not concerned about the wound, for nature had also frozen and sealed the blood around the entry and exit wound. But the frostbite below that wound was a different case. Large fluid blisters had formed on each finger, and colored streaks of red, blue, and black were shading the skin under those blisters. The doctor quizzed me on how and why this happened.  He wanted to know, "Where was our medical team?  Why weren't those blisters lanced before reaching this stage?" I never knew the answer until thirty years later. Our main medical team had never gotten through to us.  It was ordered back to Hagaru along with our full 31st RCT tank command of 16 tanks from Hudong-ni. Our forward surgeon was a casualty, and we were fully cut off from Hagaru as well. My case was just one of hundreds as the survivors of the Chosin Reservoir campaign flowed into hospitals and hospital ships. Our medical teams and combat corpsmen could not be faulted in any way.  They also were overworked, overburdened, and suffered frostbite as well. In my opinion every single one of them deserved a Medal of Honor. MG Smith stated about the Army wounded in his interview, "I am afraid that some of these 900 Army troops which were evacuated shouldn't have gone out, because over in Tokyo GHQ looked over some of these cases that were coming into the hospitals with only minor frostbite. And GHQ sent over a directive---sent it to Admiral Joy--for the Marine Corps." [8]

In the directive, the GHQ (Surgeon General) strongly admonished the generals in charge of these men, stating that there was a lack of leadership because there shouldn't have been this frostbite if there had been good leadership.  "That made me mad as a hatter.  I wrote General Cates. I said, this just didn't make sense at all. What are you going to do? Here I have just given a Silver Star to a sergeant who pulled off his mitten in order to heave a grenade and he got frostbitten fingers. Are you going to court-martial that man for not taking proper precautions against frostbite? Are you going to court martial his battalion commander, his regimental commander, his division commander?" In Smith's interview, he took these reports passed through the Navy to him as a personal affront on allowing these frostbite case to get to that state.

Back to point number one, if they were only Army personnel, why his concern? The fact is, his frostbite cases were in the thousands (verified at 7,313). The Marines' complained that the arctic boots were worthless and added to, rather than decreased, their rate of frostbite. For the wounded men, so did the extra three days on line when their regimental officers followed Smith's direct order to return to Hagaru, but his Yudam-ni force ignored it, remaining there three days longer after being ordered out.  This has to be considered in Smith's letter to Commandant Cates about his own regimental commanders. He ignored any follow-up action in this case rather than issue a reprimand to his two commanders for their delays and passing a copy on to his commandant (action taken-case closed), referring the question to his commandant, "What are you going to do?"

MG Smith's timidity to act shows here. Out of 4,500 men flown out of Hagaru, 3,500 were Marines. It stands to reason that the majority of the frostbite concern had to be over those Marines. One could only surmise why MG Smith referenced the term "court-martial" twice. Might this have been a hang-over from the pressure applied after his last objection to move the 7th Marines into Yudam-ni in the first place? [9] Also, was this guilt over his utter neglect to order his own 5th Marine Regiment to protect Hagaru?

General Smith seemed highly upset, but here is a typical red flag--a Catch 22--"frustrating situations involving contradictions." General Smith seemed to have his own guilt trip over the excessive frostbite cases, and he seemed intent to try easing his conscience by highlighting the Army men being evacuated. For once again within this very same interview, he commented on his stenographer.  He was a man within the unit Smith ordered and created--Task Force Drysdale's column.  He was wounded and took refuge in a hut. The force returning to Koto-ri found him. "He had on his parka and his shoe-pacs and everything, but he'd been wounded and had lost blood and circulation and his legs were frozen. We got him to Koto-ri and flew him out to Japan. They had to amputate both legs." There was a strange self-contradiction in the Marine general's interview. He vacillated between  irritation over the frostbitten fingers of Army troops, while at the same time being highly defensive of his own Marines' frostbitten finger cases, calling them heroic and highlighting the severe symptoms of frostbite.  His rational concerning frostbite is thus hard to understand.

Stars and Stripes News Article - January 1951
Marines Rescue 300 Shot Up GIs from Chosin Ice

by Charles Moore, with 1st Marine Division (UP)

Marines told Monday how they rescued some 300 GIs--most of them survivors of a Communist ambush against a convoy of wounded men--from the frozen surface of Chosin reservoir and from Korean huts along its edge.  Some soldiers, horribly wounded, had been in the open as long as five days. The most fortunate had spent at least one night on the ice and almost all had frostbitten hands or feet in addition to wounds.

A handful of Marines and courageous North Koreans worked together under Chinese Communist machine-gun and rifle fire to bring in the men of the 31st and 32d Regiment of the 7th Division.  The Marines were Col. Olin L. Beall, 50, of McGueenie, Texas; Lt. Fred Van Brunt of Cucamonga, California; CWO Russell J. Waggoner of Concord, California; Lt. Robert J. Hunt Jr. of Coronado, California, and PFC Ralph A. Militon of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. All of them minimized their own part in the episode and I got the story only after being told by others what had happened.

They brought in most of the wounded Saturday, but got half a dozen more Sunday from Korean huts along the reservoir's edge and were still checking leads from the natives as to the whereabouts of others.  Most of the men got out on the ice after Chinese Communists ambushed a convoy of wounded soldiers on Friday night. The Chinese riddled the trucks with submachine guns and grenades, overturned some, and set others afire with men in them.

Van Brunt said the men were located about 2 1/2 miles north of the southern tip of the reservoir.  "They were scattered over the ice almost as far as I could see," he said. "It was the most horrible sight I've ever seen. Many were crying and hysterical. Some were sick and vomiting. Some had so many wounds you could hardly touch them without touching a wound.  The Chinese would not shoot at the wounded on the ice, but would shoot at us when we started toward them. We drew fire all the time and water would spurt three feet high when a bullet went through the ice.  The men's hands were black with frostbite. Some had no shoes. The Chinese had taken them. Some of those able to walk were so dazed they didn't know where they were and just walked in circles.  Some of them were practically dismembered. One man had an eye shot away. It makes you want to cry to see our people shot up like that. All of them had been wounded before the Chinese hit them again in the convoy.  We took them to a field hospital and many went directly onto planes from there. They had got hold of themselves by then and I didn't see one man make a move for a plane until told to get on."

Beall said, "We went out there, saw some men on the ice, and went ahead getting them in. All day we got at least 300. Lot of them were in very bad shape. The Chinese had thrown grenades into the trucks and many had fresh fragment wounds. Some had their faces blown to pieces.  Others had their hands or feet blown off. At least 50 of them had no shoes."

The Chinese took all their food and a lot of their clothing.  "The Chinese would shoot at us if we'd pick up the wounded and start to carry them. Then we would crawl up to them and when we did that, the Chinese would not shoot. Maybe they thought we were wounded too.  I saw a lot of brave men yesterday. There was one man pulling himself along the ice with his arms. 'Don't bother with me,' he said 'get that man there. He can't move.'  He could even joke about himself. He started across the ice as fast as he could go pulling himself with his arms and asked. ‘Did you ever see a man double-time like this on ice?'  There were men with good arms and wounded legs and men with wounded arms and good legs. They would help each other.  There were Americans helping ROKs and ROKs helping Americans. There was a man with a belly wound 24-hours old and still helping his buddy.  That is something I'll always carry in my heart."

For his own part in the rescue, Beall said, "I had no idea I'd find what I found. When I did I stayed until it was over. That is not something you do for the record.  Anyone would have done it."  Van Brunt said Beall worked until completely exhausted and paid no attention to Chinese bullets. "He worked until his legs buckled under him when he tried to pick up a wounded man."

Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith commander of the 1st Marine Division, had high praise for all of them from 50-year old Beall to jeep driver Milton who drove back and forth over the ice under fire all day.  Beall is commanding officer of a motor transport battalion and in Smith's words "as good an infantryman we have."

"I Saw a Lot of Brave Men Yesterday"

High praise indeed, and it came from a Marine colonel--a man who personally brought in some of the wounded.  There was valor beyond searching for publicity. It was just something one did.  It showed the mix of ROKs and Americans helping each other.  "We took them to a field hospital and many went directly onto planes from there. They had got hold of themselves by then and I didn't see one man make a move for a plane until told to get on," Brunt recalled.  But the Marine commander was not nearly as compassionate as these men that directly participated in the rescue operation.

It was, indeed, a tragic scene.  But sadly, the above article that told about it was the only thing in print to my knowledge about what happened. I came across this article in the hospital in Japan, and it was the only real information I had for some 30 years.  But as I mentioned earlier, it is devoid of why these men suddenly and mysteriously appeared in the middle of the Chosin Reservoir. And, as reported earlier, the reporter missed the gist of the story. What was reported in the Stars and Stripes was the disaster of a battle, with no substance or subject of the battle itself. It mentioned that, "They had been in the open as long as five days." Surely there should have been a follow-up.  What were we doing those five days? But history was elusive here as it had been so many times in the past concerning the first six months of the Korean War. Of the many print journalists in Korea, most of the reports were entirely negative towards the American Army forces fighting there. Also, the logic of reporters' implication that the reserve forces would be better trained--or a veteran of World War II jungle fighting could better handle winter condition in Korea escapes me. There was one main complaint by General Smith to his commandant.  He felt the winter conditions in Korea were too much to ask of his Marines.  So score one more for the Army's "green" troops.

To compare the Chosin campaign to another battle in our nation's history--the "Battle of the Alamo," neither defeat was the main event. The defeat was only the end result of a gallant battle to buy time for others. Such was the relationship between that historical event in American history and the action east of Chosin.  There was a shorter span of time, perhaps, but buying time for others nevertheless was an important aspect of both battles. Although not mentioned as such, the fact is irrefutable.  For had Task Force MacLean and Faith failed to buy those five additional days, the Chinese troops would have had easy access to reach Hagaru-ri in great force, placing it in severe jeopardy.

The Stars and Stripes article mentioned, "Some 300 GIs-most of them survivors." This number was one-third of the wounded that were evacuated, meaning another 600 other "survivors" were wounded (325 able-bodied).  Some suffered from intestinal problems from eating frozen C-rations.  Some of the men had pneumonia.  All had some degree of frostbite. Some survivors had severe burns from earlier friendly fire air drops of napalm on this force. Some had burns because of the enemy setting fire to the convoy.  As with the burns, here were degrees of frostbite--1st (nip) 2nd (blisters) and 3rd degree (death of tissue).  Yet those survivors attached to a provisional unit assisted in the Marine withdrawal to the coast.  But the press agents still got a little more mileage out of this group, for they reported, "The Marines even brought some Army wounded out with them." The very group that had already made the biggest commitment of lives lost to the defense of Hagaru-ri still "assisted the Marine withdrawal" to Koto-ri and Chinhung-ni. And the reporters applied their own negative spin on that as well.

I have an opinion about the remarks of low IQs as well.  IQs are the measurement of one's intelligence as determined by a written test.  But does that test highlight in advance the next Medal of Honor recipient on the battlefield? Who could undermine the country kid of that era?  Compare the infantrymen who grew up in the country to the infantryman who grew up in the city.  Perhaps the country boy had less education, but he generally had an abundance of common sense.  Furthermore, he was raised in the backwoods with a rifle, while the city kid was not.  An RCT is not made up entirely of intellectual experts nor those trained to perform brain surgery.  If they were, there would be very few infantrymen available for the frontline. They would be in technical schools instead. Some of those so-called war correspondents were ex-service men from World War II. I believe that some of them were trying to build on their own egos.  They were trying to compare the battles in Korea with  their memory's eye to the distant battle they may have fought.  Had press censorship been as careless during that war, they too may have been degraded as well.  A quote from MacArthur seems in order here: "Wars are never won in the past."

As to the remarks about not holding the line, and the "bug-out" myth, The reporter had to be positioned somewhere on the high ground to have his own overview of the area of battle and the action, otherwise his report would merely be hearsay. For us as well as the enemy, the most sought out tactical observation position was always the high ground. So logically, his overview of any bug-out action would most likely have to have been above the lower ground. There the reporter himself could have been more valuable as a forward observer for our side. They could have reported the distance between units--that frontline yardage each man was required to cover.  That distance was extremely important. Most of the positions were defended by small task forces (there were 25 task forces by the end of that year) and the frontage was more important in lines not holding, more so than the men manning those lines.

As an example, "There are specific historical statistics that bring into sharp relief the defense picture of the Pusan Perimeter. The yardstick employed was the density per yard on front, i.e. the actual battlefield frontage in relation to total infantry employed thereon.  This line of thought is common to all analytical military literature."


World War I




Front Yards


July 1918





August 1918

St. Die




August 1918





August 1918





Korean War




Front Yards


August 1950


3d ROK



August 1950


Capitol ROK



August 1950


8th ROK



August 1950


6th ROK



August 1950


1st ROK



August 1950


1st U.S.



August 1950


24th U.S.



August 1950


25th U.S.



"This density per yard factor represents a coverage of one or two riflemen every ten yards and nothing behind them... there were mile gaps through which enemy infiltrated... it is a miracle that the perimeter held at all, though caving in locally, here and there, to be patched up by General Walker shunting his weary reserves from one crisis to the next." (Willoughby, "MacArthur"-'41-'51)

"Periodical War Department reports on relative casualties tell their own irrefutable story".*

The dates are unimportant.  The relative percentage remains the same, November 1950 or March 1953


November 1950


Number of Troops

Casualty Percentage










Air Force






Monthly Average = 9,607

March 1953


Number of Troops

Casualty Percentage










Air Force






Monthly Average = 4,085
Army 82% + 77.2% = 159.2% / 2 = Average of 79.6%
Marines 15.8% + 20.1% = 35.9 % / 2 = Average of 17.85%

Remember, these dates are only for November 1950 and March of 1953, with some three months of fighting left to go before the truce was signed. Recall also that the numbers for Seoul had been added as well. But another chart breaks them down in smaller increments. The following is a review of ratio to the final number of dead to the total overall casualties--a percentage of those killed to the total group, wounded, missing, and prisoners of war. These figures bear out the intensity of the fighting.  The number of mortal wounds--those that could not be saved, bear out that fact.  There are various differences in the amounts. The listing is by divisions, from information found in "Facts on File" in the Korean War Almanac. I am listing only the two divisions in question here. (A comparison of the 2nd and 3rd Division will come later.)

"This density per yard factor represents a coverage of one or two riflemen every ten yards and nothing behind them... There were mile gaps through which enemy infiltrated....  It is a miracle that the perimeter held at all, though caving in locally here and there, to be patched up by General Walker shunting his weary reserves from one crisis to the next." [10]

There also exists a controversial analysis by Samuel Lymam Atwood [S.L.A.] Marshall on the ratio of fire in Korea as compared to World War II. The ratio of fire was increased due to reduction of combat squads and platoons within the interim of the last war and the Korean War. Marshall stated that more firepower was laid down by more combat soldiers in the Korean War than in World War II. This seems borne out in the above example, "the density per yard on front," that reduced squad and platoon manpower covering larger areas. Heavier weapons were employed within smaller task force units, each spread thin. There were more air-cooled 30 caliber machine guns, as opposed to the heavy water-cooled guns.

My own experience in advance infantry training with the 1st Cavalry Division resulted in cross training with almost all weapons of employment by an infantry regiment. [11] Most men alternated between infantry and weapon squads. I was transferred to the 7th Division artillery, although my MOS was one of the wire section, laying telephone lines. In Korea, I had the MOS 4812--a Heavy Weapons Infantryman. This was due to the employment of an additional .50 caliber machine gun to my duty of Field Wireman. How again could the reporters who were the eyes and ear of the war miss this coverage? Were they sleeping at the time? This yardage was where most of the missing in action came from and where gaps were created. Why wasn't this detailed?  They missed this event just as they missed the east of Chosin drama completely as well.

About the "Bug-Out" Myth

I recall too a report from the IX Corps, 25th Division, to the effect that "Elements of the 5th Infantry were counterattacked and withdrew." No details were given at all. when I did learn the facts, it developed that what really happened was not a counterattack, but merely an advance by a company-size unit of the 5th Infantry against a hill, followed by a withdrawal under fire on personal orders of the Division Commander, who wanted to put artillery and air strikes on the hostile forces there.[12] Here someone reported something that was not factual, enough so that Ridgway consumed his time to check it out. There are huge discrepancies on the difference in the CCF attack on the 2nd Division as compared to that on the 1st Marine Division.  The deficiencies were in the Marine area, not the 2nd Division's. This is borne out forcibly in the casualty rate for the 2nd Division. When its survivors broke through to the British Commonwealth Brigade lines on December 1, 1950, the 2nd Infantry Division had 4,940 casualties, or almost one-third of its strength. By infantry regiment, the casualties were as follows:

  • 9th Infantry - 1,267 casualties
  • 38th Infantry -1,075
  • division artillery - 1,461
  • engineers - 561
  • 23rd Infantry - 485

The 2nd Division took a bum rap.  It was reported that their was tons of supplies abandoned to the enemy. The war correspondents' report said, "Gasoline was hoarded by motor transport units.  This reserve supply could not be touched because it was 'bug-out gas".

That report was not true.  Instead, it was pure propaganda. To what end? Indeed, as was reported before, that group was operating part of the "Red Ball Express" route.  There had to be a supply of gas at each end of the route.  The trucks ran twenty-four hours a day, according to the Army's official history.  "During September, October, and on into November 1950, 76% of Eighth Army's trucks operated on a 24 hour basis."  Drivers worked 12 to 18 hours straight.  Ordnance companies kept maintenance patrols on the road 24 hours a day.  Aircraft were used to spot disabled vehicles, which were then repaired on the spot or evacuated to the rear for depot repair.  Transportation units' utilization approached 100% of their truck capacities. Those trucks also had to transport some 135,000 prisoners from North Korea back to the southern islands of South Korea. Remember - all of these vehicles were only available from the Roll-up Program.

How did the news reporters think those needed supplies got there from Inchon into North Korea in the first place? Gas was the life blood of the Red Ball Express. [13] It was bitterly cold and there were other needs for gas.  How did those so-called correspondents keep warm, and where did they get the gas they needed to jog around the country for their next story?  Maybe they got their feathers ruffled since they were the ones needing that gas and diesel fuel. One could still siphon gas for personal use such as warming food or mix with earth in a can for a slower, lower, and longer burning rate.  Starting fires and melting ice in canteens was not authorized, but it was done. The gas and diesel fuel was needed, which was the reason that it was high priority, whether that fact was widely known or not.  The same logic applied to an airplane.  If it had to fly as far as it could to the other end of the line and then return to its base, it could only do that if it could be refueled at the other end of its run.  Otherwise it could only go halfway before returning for fuel.

Even the war correspondents had a better system.  Suppose their typewriter ribbons of that era had to be discarded at the end of the spool as they do now.  That was not the case.  Instead, they had a supply built in to return to reverse time and time again to the other end. Not so with a truck.  The heavier the load, the more gas required.

S.L.A. Marshall made this candid appraisal in a letter to a Marine friend: "There were critical shortages which weighed against the defense. There were not enough grenades. No pyrotechnics. Some of the positions had been too loosely organized. The communications were definitely bad. But, for all that, 2nd Division behaved like men.  I am speaking of the line. Perhaps a few ran, but not many. I exaggerate nothing in my statement. Further, anyone who tells you that 12,000 men ran back to Seoul is a lying son-of-a-bitch.... By the time this division lost 4,200 men killed and wounded in the first four days of battle, it only had 6,700 men left.... One shouldn't traduce Americans who fight. The regrettable thing is that our press sometimes takes the lead in this and the country is never wiser." [14]

About Hiding Wounds

It was reported that some men implied that their wounds were greater than they were. Consider again O.P. Smith's statement about "Army jokers." The validity of that statement was very easy to check through medical sources.  Recording casualties was their exclusive job, not the division commander's unreliable opinion. But there were also reports of his group of Marines hiding their wounds and injuries in order to stay with their outfits. They were damn fools with inflated egos, as they were not really helping their unit.  Instead, they had become a huge liability to that unit, and that was against the regulations-at least in the Army.  Also, under the recycle status, one could be patched up and back on line in no time at all. I think these casualties should have been macho heroes on their own time, and that they should not have endangered their own unit survival.

Shameful Conduct

I believe that "shameful conduct" can be applied more accurately toward the early reporters.  "If the Korean War was different in kind from any other which the United States had fought in the past, its press coverage was curiously different too. MacArthur learned this most clearly in the matter of censorship. He had many reasons for the decision he took at the outset of the Korean War to forbid censorship....There had been some wild and hysterical distortions, but this was very much the exception to the rule, and almost entirely traceable to those few who would always warp the truth in order to secure sensational headlines or would unerringly follow a propaganda line.  In cleverly worded propaganda, attributed to anonymous sources but calculated to create the impression of the highest authority, they attempted not only to blame MacArthur personally for Red China's entry into the war, but also to disparage the courage of the fighting qualities of his men." [15] As MacArthur himself stated, "I have always been able to take care of the enemy in my front, but I have never been able to protect myself from sniping in the rear."

After the Chinese entered the fray, the American Army was forced to face odds never before encountered in the military history of our nation. There was nothing remotely comparable, even in World War II. But the press agents were ever prophesying doom and defeat. Their archives, reels, and newspaper articles were not tapped for compatible sources and statistics. "We fought harder in Korea then in Europe, and given the time frame of the first six months, as well as the estimated Chinese forces against us (a small force of six divisions), we fought just as successfully." [16]

The allied campaign in Europe can be compared to Korea. "Some striking similarities existed between the two countries of Italy & Korea. The Italian front was approximately 100 miles as compared to 140 miles in Korea. Italy faced the allies and employed two allied armies--the American Fifth and the British Eighth with thirty-two first class divisions against a variable twenty to twenty-seven Italio-German divisions that were battered and reduced to half the allied strength. Italy was a strategic sideshow. Nothing vital was at stake. The war could not conceivably be won there. "One need not strain one's imagination to guess what thirty-one Anglo-American divisions, instead of nine, would have done to the Chinese in Korea, at any stage of the war..." [17]

Regardless of the needs in the Pacific battlegrounds, the JCS provided "great superiority of men" to the Italian front. These same military high commanders in the JCS were still in power or were advisors to the Korean battlefield. Why they changed their calculations of manpower between Anzio and the Yalu and accepted the staggering odds against our American forces in Korea, only they can answer. Yet one of the oldest maxims of warfare (which the old southern battle-weary sergeant repeated over and over again) was, "Don't bunch up.  One grenade could kill you all." Fact: In Korea per man lost to the enemy, American forces were still economical with the lives they gave.  America again got a bargain from its sons' lives in Korea. They did not deserve the disrespect they got in return.

Let me clarify one point in all of this rhetoric. I personally do not like to compare one battle to any other.  To do that would make me guilty of the reporters' conduct mentioned in this chapter. The comparisons here are those of others, and I do feel they relate to Korea.  The 7th Infantry Division made no claim to fame because of the enemy forces they met or killed.  But the ratio of killed seemed to be a major point with the Marines.  They controlled the press releases from Chosin.  That, again, was a difference between services. With our own overwhelming missing-in-action rate, the Army has never been given credit for our even being there.  We were not concerned about giving an account of the Chinese killed in action ratio or their missing-in-action rate. If America was not concerned about us, why burden them with the enemy losses?  Indeed, to this day there is no accurate report or accurate account of the 7th Infantry Division forces east of Chosin. They remain as a phantom force lost to history.

Keeping track of war statistics is one hell'va ledger-keeping process. The debit is those lives lost in battle.  Since we had our own problems keeping the records straight, why should we concern ourselves with the enemy losses, especially in a retrograde movement from enemy territory? In Korea, as at Pearl Harbor, this was the one and only "hot war" we had going at the time. Those forces available as of November 24, 1950 and in Korea at that time were 178,464.  Of these, 153,576 were Army and 24,928 were Marines. The total U.S. military strength was 1,032,617, with only 372,519 posted overseas.  That was less than half of the forces overseas and about 15% of the total strength committed to Korea. [18]


Reviewing the casualty figures in this chapter, one will find that the percentage of Killed in Action [KIA's] casualties for each division employed ranged from 15% through 50% (15 to 20 men) of those units engaged.  These battle deaths were out of every 100 American men so listed as a casualty. These men were far removed from the reasons and necessity of why they were short of the supplies they needed. They were there in Korea, but adequate supplies were not.  Still, they faced the enemy with the World War II mentality that assumed that America was truly behind them.  They did not realize how very, very far behind the lines American interest was. The haunting phrase, "the Forgotten War" had some base in its origin.

Enemy numbers

No other item is so misstated than the casualties suffered in Korea. And no other division seemed to so highlight and over-exaggerate them than the 1st Marine Division. Nor did it stop there. The number of enemy facing the Marines alone was highly exaggerated by the Marine command as well. While their own history engaged in pure speculation as to where the enemy units were at various times, they never exceeded over six divisions engaging the 1st Marine Division in the Chosin Area. Nevertheless, the Marines established a legend that 12 divisions of 10,000 CCF--a total of 120,000 men--faced the 1st Marine Division alone rather than the larger X Corps.

It has now been over 50 years since the battle of the Chosin Reservoir was fought in North Korea. In military history there is a maxim that states, "The greater the odds, the greater the glory." That "glory" was sought by the Marines by exaggerating the number of enemy forces against the Marine Corps at Chosin. Many medals were awarded to them for their actions on the west side of that reservoir. For over 30 of the 50+ years since Chosin, few (if any) events were recorded about the Army participation in that campaign. The Army's main commitment was on the east side of the reservoir. As new facts were uncovered via Chinese sources and history itself, new light shines on the Army effort. This changes the "odds" retroactive to the beginning of the entire battle, and it deserves to be revisited from Day One.

As mentioned, earlier Marine reports placed twelve CCF divisions (120,000 men) at Chosin, and they were solely facing the 1st Marine Division. That figure was derived from the total number of CCF massed, but it was not those numbers actually indicated to have engaged Marine forces. Today we know that number was greatly exaggerated and is now reduced by 50% to 60,000 men in eight CCF divisions. The number was reduced further by two of these eight enemy divisions engaging the Army units of the 31st RCT. The Army was originally given one division of these eight CCF enemy forces as its enemy at the Chosin.  Then after 40 years, that figure was raised to over 100% as a second division (81st), and possibly part of another (94th) was added. That is embarrassing to the Marines' glory-wise, as the odds against them in the very beginning were never as great as they claimed. That embarrassment, highlighted forever within their own written history, engaged in pure speculation as to where this extra division of the CCF 81st Division "may" have been located.

Marine history states that there was "no contact reported."  Enough said. They should have left it at that statement.  But someone could not resist an additional comment on where that enemy division may have been and that speculation was, "may have been in Yudam-ni area." And strangely enough, no other force of the X Corps was in that area except the Marines.  History could care less where they may have been in relation to the Marines at Yudam-ni, since "no contact reported" was the criteria concerning any action between them. Still, this 81st CCF Division was engaged with Task Force Faith east of the reservoir. RED FLAG.  But even that requires more speculation and implication in that, when contact was made, it was implied to be against Marine forces at Hungnam. In reality, it was against the 3rd Infantry Division, not the Marines. [19] The ratio of killed is proportional to the time of exposure. *(Willoughby, 360)

Chart 8-3
1st Marines
















7th Division
















Source: Facts Almanac 1989

Note the ironic fact that even though the Marine Division had 30,112 men in their total and the 7th Division had 15,126 men, equating their percentage at 25.8% for the difference in the Killed in Action for the 7th Division was only short by 99 men. Why would that be? Again, "The ratio of killed is proportional to the time of exposure." What is so ironic as well is that the 7th Division supposedly messed up east of the reservoir, were already gone, and the counting had stopped for them two days before the Marines activated Smith's order--issued three days earlier--to return to Hagaru-ri.  This means that the Marine time of exposure in days had to be greater, but their KIA casualty rate was not. Again, why would that be?


Although most MIAs were officially written off long ago as ‘presumed dead,' there are some 8,177 Americans still missing in action and unaccounted for still today. Most are truly ‘missing'--that is, as airmen who went down at sea or in rugged mountainous terrain, soldiers or Marines who disappeared in the confusion of battle and those whose bodies were never recovered.  Although the issue has been raised periodically at meetings of the Armistice Commission at Panmunjom, the CCF and NKPA have denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of these missing Americans for over three decades. [20]

Recall also that Holland Smith's view of frontal assault tactics was they would save more lives. At Chosin, O. P. Smith's division was faced with CCF tactics of the frontal assault and still the formula held the same ratio of KIAs to WIAs for the Marines there. Why anyone would want to hype the KIA figures beyond what they were is a mystery to me. A KIA cannot be returned to duty, and in many cases, his remains are never returned to his home state as well. Certainly any Army division would have enjoyed the 1st Marine Division lower ratio of KIAs to WIAs.

General O. P. Smith seemed overly concerned about the Army wounded arriving at Hagaru. Here are numerous red flags flapping in the breeze. The innuendos about the demise of our truck column of wounded was highlighted and criticized. Still, there was little, if anything, stated in the press about the Marine wounded in their truck convoy. We know as verified by MG Smith that these Marine casualties exceeded many, many times the wounded returning to Hagaru from the east side of the reservoir. Yet there is little, if any, information on Marine progress of evacuating their forces unable to walk out. The distance for Task Force Faith's travel to its final and fatal roadblock was only four miles. It took four miles (and twelve hours) to reach the point where our own 31st Tank Company had been located some thirty hours before. [21]

The only information I find recorded about the Marine truck column is that written by war correspondent Marguerite Higgins. "On December third and fourth the ten mile-long Marine caravan finally broke out of the Yudam-ni valley..... They had cracked half a dozen roadblocks and fixed numerous bridges under fire. Time after time they had fought off the Chinese, who would swoop down on them and throw phosphorus hand grenades into the truckloads of screaming wounded." It seems that the Marines shared the same misfortune and fate of having their trucks attacked as well. The mystery is why this was such a secret. [22] All press reports instead were turned to the Army misfortune on the east side, three days prior to the Marines entering the Hagaru-ri perimeter, though the Marines seemed to have suffered the same fate.  Indeed, General Smith himself stated in a later interview, "The only time I had cause for great concern was when Litzenberg and Murray were fighting out from Yudam-ni and I got a dispatch from Litzenberg along midnight somewhere and he said 'situation grave.'"

Common sense and reality should therefore dictate that the Marines, too, suffered.  Their truck convoy of wounded had to be far, far more venerable than Task Force Faith's ever was. After all, the Marines had those three extra days and ten miles or six miles further than our task force. Could this be what set MG Smith off in his tirade on the Army wounded? MG Smith added to the press coverage by highlighting and degrading the Army wounded caught up in this evacuation event, stating that no "able bodied man" was flying out. But at the same time, he sent out 138 frozen bodies to be "buried by the Army" at Hungnam.  They were his own dead.

Again criticizing the Army, he said that they were kind of careless in identifying these people. Was all his rhetoric just a ploy to raise a red flag and divert attention away from a like tragedy of his own force from the west side? At least one press correspondent reported their tragedy as well, while the Marines left the impression that they had cleared the hills completely of long range firing.  But this did not happen to any degree warranting full press coverage, still given their own claim of the additional CCF mythical divisions attacking them. They could not escape the same like fate of Task Force Faith. By increasing the enemy numbers, they seem to have downplayed part of their own tragedy. They had been on the road longer and there were more of them bunched up in one area, while Task Force Faith was criticized for one single dash without a stopover point. That would have required extra time, and warming tents or barrel fires to keep the wounded warm and safe from hypothermia. We had no warming tents. Still, the three regiments of Marines and their wounded had to be transported ten miles over three days with hills on both sides of the escape route.

MG Smith stated about Task Force Faith, "As near as I could make out, 2,800 were in Task Force Faith..... and we evacuated 900 0f them. We salvaged 385, so there must have been over 1,200 killed, captured, or what have you." His figure was close to the actual ones. Still, the smaller battalion units being inclusive of these 1,200 KIAs exceeded his own division's four regiments: 1st, 5th, 7th, and 11th Marines entire 556 KIA's amount of 100% Marines casualties by a full 216% (see Chart(s) 8-3-4 end of this chapter), that force exclusive of the 7th Division 1/B/31 troops with Task Force Drysdale who were captured and killed to fold into the KIA column. Yet on casualties, MG Smith stated that the 7th Division --other than these men lost--"had none."

Had General Smith held true to his own judgment, objected, and remained defiant against the pressure on him to move the 7th Marines to Yudam-ni in the first place, he would never have had this complex problem. Giving in to that pressure against his own better judgment had tragic consequences for his troops on line. This was as evident as for Task Force Drysdale following MG Smith's orders to proceed forward "at all costs" against his own better judgment. If General Oliver P. Smith had held firm against applied pressure and demanded a written order before he complied (as he did with unloading his supplies at Wonsan), that would have been an historical event in the Korean War. Under the circumstances and with hindsight, no action could have been taken by Almond against Smith, and Drysdale would not have been needed with the 5th & 7th Marines, both located at Hagaru.

In this scenario, the enemy could not have inflicted the casualties they did. History would now record what that pressure was and who issued it, and Smith's wisdom would have been highlighted as brilliant, just as MacArthur's judgment on the Inchon landing. This was just one of many, many, "ifs" at Chosin. But that did not happen in history, and damage control had to replace reality and truth, utilizing the press agents for maximum results.  It has been written, "Truth is the first casualty in battle." [23]

As a private citizen, MacArthur stated in October of 1951 that, "We have just passed another anniversary of the end of the war with Japan. Six years ago with the stroke of a pen, a calm descended upon the battlefields of the world and the guns grew silent." In Korea earlier that year, there was explosive gunfire.  The press once again used mighty strokes of the pen, but this time not to praise--but rather to degrade--American forces committed once again to a new battlefront.

Chart 8-4
Department of the Navy

[Part 5. 7 December 1950–25 January 1951: The Second Chinese Offensive]
(Percentages are mine)

Marine casualties; 27 November - 11 December 1950 [24]

















NBC (non-battle casualty) =3,648 ("the last largely from frostbite." - as recorded in Navy History)

Consider that each and every one of these men had to be checked and so designated as a numbered casualty in each category on this chart. Marine Non-Battle Casualties exceeded their total battle casualties (of 100%) by 38 men. Surely this number had to upset the medical corpsmen and field doctors who had to treat and separate such a large number of non-battle casualties mixed with those of battle-wounded. However, the Navy only listed one-half of the numbers given by General Smith of the Marine frostbite cases as 7,313. What accounted for such a large, excessive number of NBCs in only one division? RED FLAG - If one merely adds the Marine total of 3,610 battle casualties to those non-battle casualties, it totals 7,258.  It seems that Smith was not separating these two categories.

As MG Smith stated about Task Force Faith, "As near as I could make out, 2,800 were in Task Force Faith..... and we evacuated 900 0f them. We salvaged 385, so there must have been over 1,200 killed, captured, or what have you."

Chart 8-5

Army per Smith interview = 2,800 less 385 salvaged = 2,415 Total

1200 KIA + 900 WIA Evacuated + 315 missing = 2,415 total casualties in Task Force Faith
Total percentage = 100%; KIA = 49.69%; Total WIA = 37.26%;Total MIA = 13%

One should keep firmly in mind that these comparisons are only justified due not only to the fact that Task Force MacLean-Faith was removed from the action, but highlighted by the exaggerated claims by General O. P. Smith who said that his one division had taken "all" of X Corps casualties. That is unjust and unsupported by facts and figures--but nevertheless. that is the reality of his claim. So the isolation of this battle at Chosin per one Marine Division highlighted as their sole individual battle is open to comparison from start to the finish date of this campaign between 27 November - 11 December 1950. However, one should also keep in mind the bloodiest battle and loss of American lives by that one individual division was not one within X Corps in North Korea but within the southwestern Eighth Army arena at Kunu-ri. That battle involved the Army 2nd Infantry (Indianhead) Division. But the press agents failed to highlight that battle as well. [25]

Also once again, press censorship was not imposed until 20 December 1950, meaning that the Chosin campaign was within that uncensored timeline to be covered.  The articles already written and published could be expanded and restated. But it was not probed for details or reports given to the press, or if they were, they were ignored or totally suppressed. Now over fifty years after the event, with the new declassified document information and with other source available on the Internet and the era of electronic mail, it is a national disgrace to learn from these media sources that the many families that lost loved ones at Chosin in the Army battles never knew to this very day that their loved one was directly involved and lost his life in this battle east of Chosin Reservoir. The fact is that many who fell there will forever remain one member of this Phantom Force lost to history. Such was the success of the propaganda campaign to bury the Army men under cover of silence or innuendos that these men were disgraceful under fire, although they gave their own ultimate sacrifice and commitment to that battle. Why so much negative press five decades later is given and promulgated about a force totally listed as Missing in Action is of itself a total mystery.

See Ridgway Map and Map 5, also OPN 25, & Map 6, Map 7.  There is one other chart to consider.

Chart 8-6

Casualties - Korea - 1950-1953* (Math % is mine)

Army Troops Engaged

Battle Deaths














Marine Troops Engaged

Battle Deaths














Navy Troops Engaged

Battle Deaths









Air Force

Battle Deaths









Total Troops Engaged

Total Battle Deaths

Total Others

Total Wounds







*Source: 1989, Information Please Almanac (312)


[1] Korean War Almanac, Facts on File, 181

[2] Higgins, The Korean War, p.150

[3] However regiment for regiment, the 1st Marine Division had only three while the Army had twenty-six regiments engaged and three separate individual RCTs.

[4] Ridgway, The Korean War, page 67

[5] Ridgway at the time was assigned to the JCS in Washington, DC, some 7,000 miles away from the action. Neither he nor his forces ever got that far into North Korea to trod that land in which, to this very day, American forces lost in battle there remain buried in NK territory.

[6] Whitney, MacArthur, p. 277

[7] Frank Interview, 1969

[8] The Navy was the proper one to receive it. The Marines are under the Department of the Navy.

[9] Note: MG Smith's use and defense of "frostbitten fingers" as a critique for his Marines. Here he elevated the cause, but used it for criticism of the Army "jokers." Also it seems perfectly logical that any real pressure could be either one of removal from command or a court-martial.

[10] Willoughby, MacArthur, '41-'51)

[11] In spite of reduction to two instead of three battalions per division, recall effective fire power, as 84% for the 1st Cavalry Division, leading all others in Japan. One third reduction in regiments equaled 66% firepower in not beefed up after World War II standard.

[12] Ridgway, p. 118

[13] Red Ball Express was a method used by General George Patton in Europe to move material at a rapid pace to the battlefield as it moved forward.

[14] (W. Hopkins p. 211)

[15] Willoughby, MacArthur, ‘41-'45

[16] Willoughby, p. 403

[17] Willoughby, p. 404

[18] Mossman, Ebb & Flow, p. 13)

[19] Ebb & Flow, page 171, "Parts of the Chinese 81st Division, 27th Army, appeared to have made the attacks on the 3d Division"

[20] Korean War Almanac, Facts on File, 185

[21] The discrepancies between the two withdrawals has to relate to TF Faith's rear tank guard being withdrawn back to Hagaru on orders under Smith's operational control 292039 Nov.

[22] See Appleman, Escaping the Trap, p. 240.  He added some credence to this as well.

[23] Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward was Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, in 1951.

[24] Non Battle Casualty mostly frostbite cases. If system allowed 1% (or .01) to slip through, the figure would have been 3,648=36 NBC Marines flown out. Chart 4, TF Faith = 900 WIA's.  If 1% amount slipped through, 9 Army men at best would have been flown out.

[25] However, SLA Marshall highlighted the Marine battle at Yudam-ni, and I will highlight that in a later chapter.

Author's Background | Prologue | Chapt 1 - Budget War | Chapt 2 - Inchon | Chapt 3 - Capture Seoul
Chapt 4 - Inchon to Pusan | Chapt 5 - Fateful Journey into N Korea | Chapt 6 - Inter-service Rivalry-1
Chapt 7 - Inter-service Rivalry-2 | Chapt 8 - Press Corps | Chapt 9 - Secret/Classified Mission
Chapt 10 - Circumstantial Evidence | Chapt 11 - Mission Change | Chapt 12 - The Tank Withdrawal
MIA/KIA East of Chosin | Postscript | Important Maps | Declassified Documents| Reader Comments

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