Military Times NOW hosts the HomeOfHeroes  Awards & Citations Database

 

Stories of American Heroes - Brought to you from the "Home of Heroes" - Pueblo, Colorado

The Brotherhood of Soldiers At War

Breakout From The
Frozen Chosin

As it became apparent that the soldiers and Marines at the Chosin were facing an enemy that had surrounded them and outnumbered them more than 10 to 1, and in the face of similar opposing forces facing the 8th Army in the west, the drive to the Yalu halted and a withdrawal was finally ordered.  Hagaru-ri would do its best to hold while the 5th and 7th Marines withdrew from Yudam-ni, then they would continue together with the forces from Hagaru-ri on the 12 mile stretch of the MSR to Koto-ri.  From there the combined forces would move on to evacuation ships waiting in the Sea of Japan at Hungnam.

  chosin_map_jpg.jpg (61001 bytes)

Back home the news media began referring to the withdrawal as a "RETREAT", something no Marine, much less any survivor of the battle at the Chosin Reservoir would ever utter.  A retreating force usually withdraws in panic, soldiers running in all directions without order, seeking to save themselves.  That didn't happen at the Chosin.  Instead of running from the enemy, soldiers and Marines had repeatedly fought their way INTO the trap, with full knowledge of what lay ahead.   On Fox Hill Bill Barber had placed his company in the middle of the opposing force, simply because he knew how critical it was to keep the MSR opened.  In the east the column from Task Force Faith was fighting its way back towards the embattled soldiers at Hagaru-ri.  From Koto-ri, Task Force Drysdale had jumped "from the frying pan into the fire".  Rather than withdrawing to Hungnam, the Marines in Captain Sitter's company had literally fought their way into the surrounded camp at Hagaru-ri.   Before the Marines could fight their way out, they had to FIGHT THEIR WAY IN...to link up with their surrounded comrades.

At Hagaru-ri General O.P. Smith quickly pointed out that the Marines weren't retreating, they were simply:

 


"Attacking in a Different Direction"

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel Raymond G. Davis assembled his 800 men for a dangerous trip.  It wasn't a withdrawal, they were going to fight their way into the middle of the mountains where the CCF forces waited in their hidden sanctuary.  High above Toktong Pass, Bill Barber and the remnants of his valiant Marines were cut off, surrounded, and taking new casualties nightly.  If there was going to be a withdrawal, no one, including Bill Barber, would be left behind.

chosin_davis_rescue.jpg (29606 bytes)

Even as Captain Sitter's tired Marines were bedding down after their 12-hour battle to reach Hagaru-ri, Davis' Marines were preparing for a cold night in the North Korean mountains.   No one knew if Barber could hold out one more night, but Davis would do his best to break through to pick up whatever "pieces" remained of Fox Company.

Meanwhile Task Force Faith continued to move slowly towards relief, facing constant enemy roadblocks and attacking fire.  When Lieutenant Colonel Faith ordered the withdrawal at 2:00 A.M., the ragged column had begun to assemble for the trek to safety.  What remained of Task Force Faith was held together only by sheer "guts" and the valiant leadership of the commander for whom the force was named.

With daylight on the morning of November 30th, it seemed that every Marine was either trapped and surrounded, or fighting his way into that trap to rescue his brothers.  At Hagaru-ri the exhausted Captain Sitter was awakened with new orders.  "Take EAST HILL!"  

After a 12-hour fight the day before that had almost cut the company in half, it was a formidable order.  But Sitter knew that somewhere out there on East Hill, surrounded and fighting for survival, was Major Reginald Myers.  He rousted his exhausted Marines from their sleeping bags and moved out with the dawn.  Somewhere around noon his force found what remained of Myer's rag-tag force and linked up with them.   Then, under the direction of Myers and Sitter, the soldiers and Marines continued their assault on the enemy. 

hagaru1.jpg (75419 bytes)


By nightfall, Sitter believed he could control enough of East Hill to keep the Chinese from mounting a successful attack on Hagaru-ri.  His Marines dug in for the night, prepared to hold out against whatever the enemy threw at them.  They were the last line of defense for Hagaru-ri, already stretched thin and surviving only on "grit and determination".  The enemy came, not just in force, but in waves.   The continuous attacks through the night quickly depleted the dug-in Marines ammunition.  Sitter sent an element down the hill for more, then continued to fight through the night.  Wounded repeatedly, Sitter was determined to preserve what remained of Company G, and keep control of East Hill as well.  It was an impossible task, but somehow, he got it done.  Daylight found his valiant force had done the unthinkable.  It was the morning of December 1st, and Sitter would hold out for four more days before being relieved.  When he finally prepared to leave Hagaru-ri, only 96 men remained to move out to safety with him.

Amazingly, Barber too, had survived a fourth straight night of attacks at Fox Hill.  Davis continued to lead his rescue force through the mountains, engaging the enemy throughout the day.  By nightfall he was close, but not close enough.  Barber would have to hang on for one more night.

After fighting through the night, Task Force Faith was almost decimated.  The battle didn't end with the dawning of daylight that first day in December.  Roadblocks met the column at every turn.  From the mountains on either side of the battered soldiers, Chinese Communist Forces fired indiscriminate death on Task Force Faith.  It was especially dangerous for the wounded, laying unprotected in the few remaining vehicles and unable move to cover when a new volley of lead rained in.  At one roadblock Faith called for air support.   Errant napalm fell on some of the American soldiers creating panic and death.   As the column struggled for any sanctuary, Faith was wounded, and died that night.   In full-scale panic his force disintegrated and ran into the mountains.  Over the following days some stragglers managed to find their way to Hagaru-ri...in all, perhaps 500 of them.  Five out of every six men in Task Force Faith was either killed or captured.  Those captured were never heard from again.


Late in the afternoon on 1 December 1950, because enemy aggressors at Yudam-ni surrounded his company, they Marines were ordered to move toward Hagaru-ri.  By the time they reached Hill 1520 (Hill number shows elevation in meters), three miles southeast of Yudam-ni, it was very dark and the temperature averaged a minus 40 degrees.  The companies relocated a few times, and then back to a knoll between two rugged mile-high mountains where grenades, machine guns and rifle fire bombarded them.  Staff Sergeant William Windrich led a rifle squad of twelve men to meet the enemy head on, armed with a M-2 carbine.    Seven of his men were wounded or killed before they reached the forward position they were to defend.  

Windrich was also wounded in the head by a bursting grenade.  As blood gushed down his shoulder and back he moved his remaining men into a tight fire group.   Then he ran to the company command post, drafting a small group of volunteers, and led them to evacuate the dying and wounded.   Assuming command of what was left of a platoon, Windrich once more took up defensive positions.  Now shot in both legs, he kept fighting, always refusing medical attention.  For a long time he crawled in the snow, back and forth between his men shouting words of encouragement, deploying his forces and helping to throw back the attackers. 

Only after the communist had been beaten off on the morning of December 2 did Staff Sergeant Windrich collapse and die due to the bitter cold, excessive loss of blood and severe pain.  In the end two officers and eighteen enlisted men lived, to stagger down the mountain to be with the rest of the column headed toward Hagaru-ri.  Windrich was not there!  They could not take his body down the treacherous mountain terrain.*


From a distance Lieutenant Colonel Davis could hear the sounds of battle throughout the night of December 1st and into the morning of the second.  He hoped and prayed that Barber could hold out one more night, sure that if his own force could survive the constant attacks of the enemy, they would reach Barber with daylight.  Somehow Barber did survive that fifth night, and shortly before noon on December 2nd he welcomed Davis and his Marines to Fox Hill.  From its heights the two could look down on the MSR as 8,000 men from the 5th and 7th Marines moved from Yudam-ni to Hagaru-ri.  It had been a costly effort, the mission to secure the Toktong Pass, but as those Marines struggled down the road to safety, Barber knew it had been worth it.

Despite the presence of Barber and Davis on Toktong Pass, the movement to Hagaru-ri was not easy.  For the entire 14 mile mountainous route, the Marines had to fight for every inch of progress.  The Chinese weren't content to see the First Marine Division leaving, they wanted to wipe them out to-a-man.   Dressed in the uniforms of friendly forces, one CCF force attacked near a position held by Sergeant James E. Johnson of Company J, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.  Johnson rallied his men to resist the opposing force, then placed himself in a position to provide covering fire for his men.  It was obvious that he had stationed himself in a no-man's land from which there could be no rescue.  Still he fired on the enemy as the Marines withdrew, buying them precious time before his own time ran out.  With his own life he purchased "tomorrow" for many Marines.

 

On Tuesday, December 5th the first units from Hagaru-ri began the dangerous 12-mile journey to Koto-ri.  Every step was a battle but the survivors of the Chosin Reservoir fought their way out of the frozen lake none would be sorry to leave behind.  Back at Hagaru-ri, a mass grave held the remains of far too many comrades who hadn't "reasoned why", but simply gone where they were told, did what duty demanded, and ultimately given everything they had.

chosin_breakout.jpg (24174 bytes)

chosin_msr.jpg (19799 bytes)
By mid-day on December 7th, that last men from Hagaru-ri arrived, nearly 25,000 frozen, starving, wounded, battle-weary Marines and their supporting elements from what was left of the Army's 7th Infantry Division.  Over the following days the dangerous withdrawal continued along the 53-mile distance from Koto-ri to the port at Hungnam.

In a final, desperate attempt to crush the First Marine Division, the CCF destroyed a vital bridge over a 1500 foot gorge between Koto-ri and Chinhung-ni ten miles away.  In one of the engineering marvels of modern warfare, the US Air Force dropped eight spans of M2 pre-fabricated bridge.  The two-ton, bulky structures were erected and on December 9th the first soldiers crossed the bridge to safety, followed by thousands more.  On December 11th the last American troops arrived in Hungnam for evacuation.

Despite their best efforts, the Chinese forces had failed to crush the indomitable First Marine Division.  They came out unashamed, bringing their equipment, their wounded, and most of their dead.  They would live to fight another day, and continue the gallant legacy of the United States Marine Corps.   At the Chosin Reservoir, they established their own legacy...not one of retreat...but one of surviving against incredible odds through leadership, teamwork, and the highest degree of brotherhood.

 

 

There were many acts of heroism by thousands of soldiers and Marines at the Chosin that went unheralded simply because they were unseen or unreported.  Twelve soldiers, Marines, and one Naval Aviator received Medals of Honor, seven of them surviving to wear their award.  All would be quick to point out that the award they wear, they do so in honor and memory of the valiant men whose awards went unrecognized.  (Click on their names to read the citations)

S/Sgt Robert Kennemore
USMC
Cpt William E. Barber
USMC
Pvt Hector Cafferata, Jr.
USMC
Maj Reginald Myers
USMC
Pvt William Baugh
USMC
S/Sgt William Windrich
USMC
Ltc Don Carlos Faith
US Army
Ltc Raymond Davis
USMC
Sgt James Johnson
USMC
Cpt Carl L. Sitter
USMC
Lt(jg) Thomas Hudner, Jr.
US Navy
Ltc John Upshur Page
US Army

 

Special Acknowledgement
Background Painting:  "We Band of Brothers" Courtesy of the Chosin Few, Inc.
1991 by Col. Charles Waterhouse, Used by Permission

Sources:
The Story of Ray Davis
, by Raymond G. Davis, by Raymond G. Davis
Korean War Heroes, by Edward F. Murphy
Above and Beyond, Boston Publishing
*The account of Staff Sergeant Windrich's heroism and death is presented as it was written by his daughter Bonnie Windrich Monahan

Personal Interviews and/or conversations with Medal of Honor recipients:
Carl Sitter, Thomas Hudner, Raymond G. Davis, William Barber, and Reginald Myers

brotherhood_bn.jpg (8217 bytes)

 

Copyright 1999-2014 by HomeOfHeroes.com
    
2115 West 13th Street - Pueblo, CO 81003
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Unless otherwise noted, all materials by C. Douglas Sterner

Home Page

Hall Of Heroes

MOH Community 

NEWS

Kidz Page

FEATURE STORIES
  Profiles In Courage | Wings of ValorThe Brotherhood of Soldiers At War | Go For Broke
 Pearl Harbor  | A Splendid Little War | Shinmiyangyo-Korea 1871 | Quick Links to MOH Stories

RECIPIENT WEB SITES
Barney Barnum  |  Jack Lucas  |  Mitch Paige  |  Wesley Fox  |  Sammy Davis
Roger Donlon
Peter Lemon  |  Drew Dix  |  Mike Novosel

Medal Of Honor Calendar  |  Books By MOH RecipientsSteve Ryan MOH Posters

What Does 
A Hero Look Like?

Click on Superman To Find out


FOOTNOTES
In
HISTORY

NEW
Looking for a Hero or trying to verify awards? We have posted the names of more than 120,000 recipients of the highest awards in a BRAND NEW FREE SECTION
DECORATIONS 1862 - Present
.

Military Medals & Awards 

Information and Images of ALL Military Medals
The Purple Heart 
How to Request Records/Medals Earned
  How to Obtain Military Records of a Family Member 

Honor Roll of America's Military Heroes


Brevet Medal


DSC 


Navy Cross 


Air Force Cross 

Distinguished Service Medals

Defense - Army - Navy - Air Force - Coast Guard - Merchant Marine



Silver Star

U.S. History and Information
The History Room | U.S. Flag HistoryHistory of the Flag |
How to Display the Flag
| The National Anthem | The Pledge of Allegiance The American Creed | The Seal of our Nation | Our National Symbol
Arthur MacArthur's Flag | William Carney's Flag | FDR's Flag of Liberation]

FLAG DAY           STATE FLAGS
American Presidents
U.S. Presidents | Inaugural Addresses

God & Country
ROOM

MY HERO Web Page Creator 
(Create a Tribute to the Hero in Your Own Life)

SEARCH
bn_search.jpg (3967 bytes)
OUR SITE

EDUCATIONAL

GAME ARCADE

OR
Quick Quiz

***
Electronic Post Cards
Talking Points 

Remembering 911
The Binch
Citizens Speak Out

BEYOND THE MEDAL

This 5 Disc DVD Education Program has been distributed to over 17,500 Public & Private High Schools and is now available to the public!


 

HomeOfHeroes.com now has more than 25,000 pages of US History for you to view.