|I have reviewed the recently published book, The Gentle Warrior: Oliver P. Smith, USMC, by
Clifton La Bree. I wrote to him about my views on his subject, and we had an exchange of opinions. I
enclosed a comment on the declassified Operational Order #25 that states that Mupyong-ni was reassigned to
the 7th Division. He replied that it was "beyond the scope of his research." Like other authors before
him, he writes the one continual, redundant thread throughout all the books on Chosin: that MG Smith
"delayed" his orders. Only one author, Clay Blair, ever stated that Smith "refused" to move forward on
the east side of Chosin prior to 24 November.
This latest book by La Bree goes even further, including a
quote that states that General Smith "disobeyed orders." I am amazed that this author would include that
statement as a supportive defense of the career assessment of an elevated four-star general's career,
calling Smith a "gentle warrior" rather than a controversial one. On February 21, 2002, I received
this comment from Clifton La Bree: "Your defense of Almond and criticism of General Smith defies logic and
is contrary to opinions taken by most historians familiar with the subject."
Yet opinion is often contrary to reality. No historians as of this writing, including La Bree, have ever
admitted any knowledge of Opn O 25 in their reports.  That information is a vital piece of the Chosin
puzzle. Most historians do agree that Smith was dragging his feet, however no historian has ever stated that
he was the only division commander in the Chosin Reservoir campaign to do that, or that it was an honorable
thing for him to do. On page 219 of La Bree’s book, it states that "...it is not generally known that one
reason that the division could be saved was that General Smith disobeyed orders."  If this was true, he
could well have been charged with a court martial offense. Any defensive statement would have to be weighed
within a trial for his dereliction of duty. However, no such charges were ever filed. Therefore, no
record exists of MG Smith disobeying any order. Instead, there is implied praise by most historians because
he did so. To what end? It is difficult to understand whether this quote was intended to praise or degrade
General Smith over that disobedience. Does that defy logic? So one should search for a reason and some
supportive fact behind this statement.
I am not a noted author, nor do I pretend to be. However, I believe that there are some mistakes that
need to be pointed out about LaBree’s book. Early in his book, he stated on pages 165-166 that:
"During the forty-five years since Smith wrote his Korean narrative, more information has become
available regarding the performance and fate of the RCT 31...The loss of all records and most of the
officers and noncoms had contributed to a lack of appreciation for the contribution that the unit
made...certain facts should be pointed out, because they directly relate to O.P. Smith's performance as
"When Smith assembled what he called his 'aide-memoire,' he was not aware of the significant role
played by the army units east of Chosin. As a matter of a fact, he was probably influenced by Colonel
Beall, who had been responsible for the rescue of hundreds of survivors from RCT 31. Ironically, in 1953
Colonel Beall submitted a scathing report against the army in the Chosin campaign, which calls to question
his powers of observation and his integrity.... It is now clear that RCT 31's actions spared the 1st
Marine Division the heavy casualties that the Chinese would have inflicted if the army units had not
delayed their attack. It is possible that RCT 31 saved the division from destruction."
How does the observation that it was "possible that RCT 31 saved the division from destruction," tie into
the total destruction of the RCT 31 via the La Bree statement, "because they directly relate to O.P. Smith's
performance as commanding general...."
The reality is that the reassignment of the original Marine mission to the 31 RCT and its ultimate
destruction did "directly relate to O.P. Smith's performance as commanding general....," as did his utter
failure to reinforce Hagaru-ri on 26 November with his 5th Marine Regiment--now freed of their mission and
replaced by the 7th Division orders. This reality, in fact, unraveled on 270800 November 50, which was
the scheduled hour of the stated Marine advance towards Mupyong-ni. Did General Smith disobey an order to
send his forces forward in defiance of any X Corps order on that date? Supportive evidence by Marine history
and most historians is that he did not. In fact, their records indicate Smith over-reacted in a near state
of panic to realign his 5th Marine Regiment as his lead forces at Yudam-ni to conform to that order.
"In planning the advance, Smith had assumed the full relief of the 5th Marines east of the reservoir by
noon of the 26th. He apparently expected the entire 7th Division combat team to arrive by that hour, but
General Barr had called for the relief of the Marines by a minimum of one infantry battalion, an order
satisfied by the arrival of the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry. In any event, the remainder of Colonel
MacLean’s forces did not reach the new zone by noon on the 26th or by 0800 on the 27th, the scheduled hour
of the Marine advance. The full 5th Marines consequently did not reach Yudam-ni on the 26th, and the plan
had to be changed since Colonel Murray was with his forces east of the reservoir. Colonel Litzenberg,
commanding the 7th Marines, took charge of the opening effort." (Mossman, Ebb & Flow, pages 89-90,
per Marine history)
Smith is credited with an urgency in moving his forces toward Mupyong-ni westward at Yudam-ni,
contradicting any claim that he disobeyed or delayed any order. MG Smith’s forces were where his command
(not Almond's) had placed them when the enemy hit at Yudam-ni. The effort to establish as fact that
"Smith saved his command by disobeying orders," at Chosin falls short of reality. That action cannot
be proven. (Call to mind the General Billy Mitchell case supportive evidence: "conduct prejudicial of good
order and military discipline." He was charged and found guilty.)
Reality must therefore point to some earlier event at Chosin--Smith's delay in moving his forces on
schedule. It is common, publicized knowledge that earlier than 24 November, General Smith delayed,
stalled, refused, or dragged his feet. The opinion that MG Smith used delaying tactics has been put forth by
most historians of the Chosin Reservoir campaign. This can be proven via schedules. But, again they were
refuted and invalidated by Almond’s reassigning those delayed missions to the 7th Infantry Division.
General Smith was never charged with any misconduct. Nor were any charges of "dereliction of duty" ever
filed against him. Therefore, no official record of his disobedience exists. Instead there is only implied
praise that he did so by most historians. Again, to what end? One must search for reason and fact
behind this statement as well.
It is a fact that since ancient times silence has been viewed as approval over any event when
ignored by others involved. Reality: [RED FLAG] CG Almond did respond to Smith's various delays at
Seoul, the Fusen Reservoir, at the relocation of the 3rd Infantry Division to Sach’ang-ni, and at the Chosin
Reservoir by removing MG Smith’s zone of responsibility and transferring those zones to the 7th Division.
That is the reason Lt. Col. Faith was at Fusen and was the closest unit to relocate to Chosin.  Smith's
delays were never condoned by Almond's silence. He was merely reassigned. While most historians have
collectively established a legend for General Smith, it is a legend that has no supportive evidence. Again,
to what end did they create the legend? It was their way of giving credit where they felt that credit
was due--that MG Smith saved his division by "disobeying orders"  and not having forces further into
But the reality was that all UN forces were already deep within enemy territory. The 7th Division
was already 45 miles north of Smith's forces. There was enemy ahead, behind, and right and left of us. We
were no more venerable to attack than our pursuit of the North Korean enemy within their own territory. This
offsets opinions that state that attacking the enemy earlier would have saved all commands by upsetting the
enemy timetable to engage us. MacArthur’s stated opinion (similar to President Lincoln’s opinion in the
Civil War) was, "By delay the enemy will gain on you." Different opinions on the same issue. What was
the most rational approach?
Similar charges have also been leveled by most historians against General Almond of X Corps in Korea.
They state that he had "total disregard for his forces," yet no charges of "conduct prejudicial of good
order and military discipline" were ever officially filed against him. Still, Almond's so-called
cavalier attitude with regards to the safety of the troops is a common legend publicized by most historians
of that day, as well as by some of the subordinate Army commanders who carried out his orders. In spite of
his purported reputation for having disregard for troop safety, Almond continued in command (silent
acceptance of his authority) under General Ridgway, even after Ridgway replaced General MacArthur in April
1951. CG Almond gave MG Smith a Distinguished Service Cross for his service at Chosin. Those historians who
defend the validity of that medal, must surely, although perhaps unwittingly, defend the X Corps Commanding
General's established right, authority, and integrity to issue that medal. Whether outside of military
regulations stating the criterion to qualify for it, is another matter.  They cannot support both views
I have my own opinion and version of what happened at Chosin concerning the forces I served with. My
version may deeply offend others, as other versions offend me. The right to have differing opinions is
a protected freedom in this country. Silence over Smith’s alleged delays does not rule out the rationality
of other military options left open to Almond. He, with MacArthur's permission, could remove the 1st Marine
Division from its mission, place them in reserve status, and go around them. Implying that events and delays
caused MG Smith to dominate the Chosin Reservoir Campaign over CG Almond is beyond the reality of the urgent
situation of set timetables for that combined offensive to go forward on 0800 November 24th. The many
excuses supplied in support of MG Smith's actions or inactions will not withstand extensive scrutiny. Having
been relieved of the attack westward from Yudam-ni, why did he fail to fully relocate his 5th Marine
Regiment into Hagaru-ri, instead ordering them an additional 14 miles beyond Hagaru into Yudam-ni (in front
of, rather than behind) the 7th Marine Regiment already there?.
If we are ever to obtain closure for the Korean War, events must be placed in perceptive. Legendary
opinions must be replaced by the reality of that day. Established documents must come forward to place
forces where they were and a reasonable explanation must be given to explain why those forces were there.
Let the chips fall where they may, regardless of who may be offended by reality. If legendary figures must
fall, so be it. Reality will never completely erase the shadow those legendary figures have cast over the
years, but full light will allow history to flourish and spread, nourished by that light. Where is that "one
historian" explaining the reason why the 7th Division was at Chosin in the first place? The statement,
"because General Almond wanted them involved," is a little inadequate. Anyone who believes that Almond (who
was known to have an aggressive nature) would fail to react, is missing the truth about the great drama that
took place at Chosin.
The reality is that Almond inserted Task Force MacLean into the mix, and Lt. Colonel Faith was officially
attached on 29 November to the 1st Marine Division. Thus, any benefit Smith derived from these forces
and Task Force Dog cannot be overlooked in Army forces involved in "the saving of his division." Almond had
his own delayed plans for history about Chosin, via the 7th Infantry Division, 31st Infantry Regiment, OPN O
25, classified and secured in the National Archives. Regretfully, someone uncovered it in 1979, but placed
no value on that information. I obtained a copy of it in 1991. Its contents peaked a unique interest
for me because, as an Army survivor of the drama that took place east of the Chosin Reservoir, I understood
its value to Frozen Chosin history. - Ray Vallowe
 This document was copied on 1-9-79, indicating that someone had it from the National
Archives and in the public domain after that date. Why it was not commented on by "most historians" is
unknown to me.
 Smith’s biography, The Gentle Warrior, page 219.
 Col. Faith some 45 air miles south of his parent regiment, located near Samsu, near
the Yalu River.
 The Gentle Warrior, page 219. Source: The New York Times
editorial for Thursday, 1 September 1955.
 3-7. Distinguished Service Cross: a. The Distinguished Service Cross, section 3742,
title 10, United States Code (10 USC 3742), was established by Act of Congress 9 July 1918 (amended by act
of 25 July 1963). The act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved risk of life so
extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades. Since Smith stated that he never
got the citation that was required and that stated why he was awarded that medal, its legality is in
doubt. Nevertheless, it is listed to his credit. That criterion required to receive it is lacking. When
did he "involve risk of life so extraordinary" as to set him apart?