Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Tag: Chosin Reservoir

The Chosin Few: General Raymond Davis and Henry Danilowski


General Raymond Davis, Hartell House, November 2000


Henry Danilowski, Knight Field, November 2000

Just finished reading a superb book on the Korean War and the fighting which took place at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea: The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of US Marines in Combat.

I’ve read a number of books about the fighting at the Chosin Reservoir such as Eric Hammel’s, Chosin: Heroic Ordeal of the Korean War and Joseph Owen’s, Colder Than Hell and like any account of the war, it is hard for readers to imagine what it must have been like for the Marines and soldiers who found themselves at places like Chosin and Kunu-ri in the autumn of 1950. Bob Drury and Tom Clavin get as close as two authors can to describing the horrors of battle and the heroic stand the men of Fox Company made:

Of all the accounts of specific battles of the Korean War, none are more vivid, riveting, and intense as the one described in The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of US Marines in Combat. The authors place you right there with the Marines on Fox Hill in one of the most gallant, heroic stands of the Korean War. Although there have been numerous firsthand accounts of the war, specifically Martin Russ’s The Last Parallel: A Marine’s War Journal and Joe Owen’s Colder than Hell, The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of US Marines in Combat deserves a place among these classic accounts of the conflict.

To be sure, the authors describe the horrors of those days and nights on Fox Hill from the perspective of the men who fought, survived, and died there. You shiver when you read how cold it was for the men; you almost can hear the bullets whizzing overhead, smell the cordite in the air and breathe a sigh of relief when the men of Fox Company survive another night. The authors excel in their detailed accounts of battle that allows readers to have some basic understanding of what it was like for the Marines on the hill as they fought to stay alive, surviving one attack after another, until help arrived.

In 2000, as a feature writer for the Korea Times, the oldest English language newspaper in Korea, I had the honor to meet two of the men who survived that ordeal: General (ret.) Raymond Davis, who led the rescue mission from Yudam-ni, and Henry Danilowski, who was a member of Fox Company. I was covering one of the Korean War commemorative events, which just happened to fall on a frigid Veteran’s Day, in the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul. Davis talked about how treacherous it was for him to lead his men, the ridgerunners, over those frozen, craggy ridges to rescue Fox Company. The soft-spoken Davis, stopped a few times as he recalled that mission and that night, his voice filled with emotion when he described how the sudden appearance of a star in the sky on that very dark night was a sign that he and his men would reach the beleaguered men of Fox Company and survive that night as well as how he hoped he could return to Hagaru-ri one day and bring back the Marines still buried there.

If you want to remember and honor those men who fought in this so-called “forgotten war” this is one book that should be at the top of your list.


What was most interesting for me reading this book was of course the detailed account of General Raymond Davis leading his men to rescue the men of Fox Company as well as seeing Mr. Danilowski’s name in the Fox Company roster at the end of the book. I still vividly remember meeting both men in November 2000 during a ceremony on Knight Field located inside the Yongsan Military Garrison. After the ceremony, I had the chance to interview Davis in the Hartell House. That interview and my coverage of the commemorative event is one of the essays in Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm.

Welcome Home, Cpl. Clyde E. Anderson

Another soldier returns home from a “forgotten war.”

The remains of Cpl. Clyde E. Anderson are being returned to his family. The Korean War veteran will be buried with full military honors on Saturday in Blanchester, the Department of Defense announced.

Anderson, 24 when he died, had been listed as missing in action since his disappearance near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, U.S. military officials said. Anderson was last seen on Nov. 28, 1950, driving a Jeep in a convoy that was ambushed by communist forces, American officials said.

He was with the 31st Regimental Combat Team that was advancing along the eastern bank of the Chosin Reservoir, according to the Defense Department. His unit came under attack and withdrew to positions near Hagaru-ri, south of the reservoir.

Read the article here.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, these stories about a Korean War soldier or Marine finally coming home from the war always get to me. I always think about the closure that some family will finally have because their father, brother, or uncle has finally come home.

At the same time, I am very proud of my Korean War novel War Remains and the story about the search for war remains. That’s why I hope more people will read my novel and never forget those men who haven’t come home yet. The story is one that resonates strongly in the hearts of all those family members still waiting for their loved ones to come home from this so-called “forgotten war.” When you read the last couple of chapters you will understand exactly what I am talking about. Just make sure you have a box of Kleenex nearby.

The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.

Calvin Coolidge

Welcome Home, Cpl. Clyde E. Anderson.

Rest in Peace, Sir.

War Remains Search Suspended

I was sorry to read this news today:

The United States has suspended plans to send a team to North Korea to search for U.S. war remains because of Pyongyang’s decision to launch a rocket next month marking the centenary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birth, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

United Nations resolutions bar North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests, and the United States said Pyongyang’s plan to send a satellite into space aboard a rocket would violate its agreement last month to stop long-range missile launches.

Read the rest of the story here.

There are still over 7,900 service members still listed as missing in action from the Korean War and many of these remains are in North Korea: in the area around Unsan and Kunu-ri where the 1st Cavalry Division and Second Infantry Division were hit hard in October and November of 1950 and in the area around the Chosin Reservoir where the 1st and 3rd Marines were hit hard by Communist forces.

The Accidental Journalist, Part 19 — An Unexpected Journey

The Story Behind the Story


This is actually a “story behind the story” of another story.


In addition to attending some of the major Korean War Commemorative Events in the summer and autumn of 2000, I was still writing weekly book reviews on books about the Korean War.


And once again it was a book that had me on another journey. This time I was on a journey that took me from Korea to Indiana and then back to Korea.


I was surprised that in 2000, the 50th anniversary of the start of this conflict why the Kyobo Bookstore, the largest bookstore in Korea (with the widest selection of English-language books) had very few books on the Korean War. As such, I spent a lot of time ordering books from Amazon and building up quite the collection of books on the Korean conflict—including many new releases that I quickly read and reviewed.


One of the books that I ordered, read and later wrote on review on that autumn was Unexpected Journey, A Marine Corps Reserve Company in the Korean War by Randy and Roxanne Mills. The book told the story about some Marine Reservists who were called up during the Korean War and who would see action around the Chosin Reservoir in November 1950.


What was most interesting about this book was how it came to be written—the story behind the story. According to a telephone interview that I had with the authors—both of who were university professors in November 2000 for the book review I was writing—they were cleaning out the attic of an old house they had bought when they came across this old photo of some young men in Marine uniforms. They were curious as to who these young men were, and after doing some research and a little investigative work they found out that all of these men had served in the Marines and had been called up to join regular forces in the autumn of 1950. Even more interesting they later discovered was that many of these men were still alive and living in the community. They contacted these veterans, arranged for some interviews and from them wrote this book.


And that’s where I came in. After I read the book, I thought it would be interesting to contact the authors and see if they would be willing to do an interview as well as ask them how I could contact some of the veterans they had interviewed. I thought it would be nice to include a few quotes in my book review. So, on Thanksgiving Day in Korea, I am having a telephone interview with Randy and Roxanne Mills. They were very kind and gracious and helped me contact some of the veterans they had interviewed. It was one of the nicest interviews I had, and it seemed ironic that I was having this interview 50 years to the day that the events they had written about in their book had taken place.


The veterans they put me in contact with were equally gracious and kind. You know, one of the things that I learned early on—when I started interviewing all these Korean War veterans was how kind, gracious, and humble they were. They really wanted to talk about the war and talk about what it was like for them. They had stories to tell and just wanted an audience. Time and time again I would discover that these were just ordinary men who had been called upon to fight in extraordinary circumstances. All they wanted, at least the veterans I talked to when I was writing all these stories was not to be forgotten for what they had been through.


Many did forget about the war themselves when they returned home and carried on with their lives; it was only in later years when they felt compelled to seek out other veterans and if given their chance to talk about their experiences.


At first I was going to have this interview accompany the book review; however, after I looked at all my notes I realized that I had enough material to write a feature article. The managing editor at the Korea Times agreed and the interviews that I had with the veterans would become part two of a two-part story on the Chosin Reservoir and the Chosin Few.


As for my writing, it was a lot of on-the-job-training as it were figuring out what I wanted to say and then, how to say it. I hoped that with each story I would get better and that I would do all these veterans a great justice and honor by remembering them and telling their stories.



Chosin Few” Remembered, Part 2
Marine Reservists Recall Horrors


This past week marked the 50th Anniversary of the Chinese offensive against U.S. – ROK and U.N. Forces in North Korea—an intervention that abruptly turned the tide of the war.


What had been MacArthur’s brilliant and grandiose plan—to push all the way to the Yalu—would become the subject of much debate and scrutiny over the years when these U.S.-ROK and UN forces were smashed, battered and pounded on the hills and in the valleys in North Korea.


Many of the Marines who ended up around an area known as the Chosin Reservoir were reservists who had been called up just weeks before. They would soon be fighting for survival in places like Yudam-ni, Hagaru-ri, and Koto-ri. Some were shipped over to Korea—with no more than two weeks of training—in time for the liberation of Seoul and a trip north to Wonsan. Others, who arrived later—after a month of training—went directly to the reservoir.


The story of some of these reservists as documented in Unexpected Journey, A Marine Corps Reserve Company in the Korean War by Randy and Roxanne Mills is a remarkable one of heroic proportions. Their story is just as much dramatic, as it is heartwarming and inspiring. Although many of these men had seen action during WWII, most of the reservists who were shipped to Korea were either recent high school graduates or still in high school.


Fighting alongside their “regular” Marine brethren, they would prove themselves countless times in the valleys, hills, and mountain tops in North Korea during those fateful, bitterly cold days and nights in November-December 1950.


Paul McDaniel, a veteran of the 3rd Marine Division during WWII, was one of those reservists who became a member of the local Marine Reserve in Evansville, Indiana in 1947. The twenty-five dollars he made each month came in handy. When his unit was activated in 1950, he was one of the first reservists sent to Korea.


“Three hundred of us went from Camp Pendleton to Travis AFB by train,” recalled McDaniel. “Some Pan Am planes had been commandeered to fly us over.”


After stops along the way—Honolulu, Wake Island, and Tokyo—they finally arrived at Kimpo in a C-47.


“The North Koreans were firing at our plane. We had to circle around and around for awhile before we could land,” said McDaniel.


McDaniel had arrived in Korea in time for the liberation of Seoul.


Once in Seoul, he became a member of the 1st Marine Division. It wasn’t easy being a reservist, though. “The regulars resented us at first because we had more rank and more experience,” said McDaniel, but in the end, “they finally accepted us. Everybody becomes a brother when things get rough.”


David Graham, another reservist from Evansville arrived in September 1950. He had joined the reserves “because they [the Marines] came to my high school, Bosse High School, and recruited students.


“Some of my friends joined and at that time it sounded exciting. We got a uniform and we got paid for our training. It was probably the macho thing at the time,” recalled Graham.


His first impressions of Korea were being, scared to death, having no idea what to expect or what may lie ahead The second day he was in Korea one of our group from Evansville, was killed, Corp. John Elliott, whom we were looking to be our leader, recalled Graham.


Soon after Seoul had been liberated, McDaniel, Graham and others would board a troop ship and head toward Wonsan as part of X Corps. MacArthur had crossed the 38th Parallel. The push to the Yalu was on. After MacArthur’s Inchon masterstroke, liberation of Seoul, and the fall of Pyongyang, many believed that the war would soon be over. Indeed, MacArthur even went as far as to declare that the “boys would be home by Christmas.”


“We were told we would be home by Christmas, but I didn’t believe it,” said McDaniel who eventually ended up near the tiny village of Yudam-ni. “A lot of troops were moving in.”


Fellow Evansville reservist and WWII Marine veteran William Wright landed at Wonsan on Nov. 10, the Marine Corps’ birthday. “We saw a lot of North Korean prisoners,” recalled Wright, “but we took it lightly. However, when we saw our first dead Korean, it shook us.”


Wright, who would eventually see action around Hagaru-ri, was impressed with the gorgeous mountain ranges and how peaceful it was there. “The war would soon end the serenity,” recalled Wright sadly. “Something beautiful would turn into something horrible.”


McDaniel recalled it being “terribly cold.” Although they had winter clothing, it wasn’t enough.


“We were issued these shoepacs which were supposed to keep our feet warm. Trouble was your feet would sweat,” said McDaniel. “Then, when you stopped moving around and sat down, ice crystals would form between your toes.”


Warming tents were made available for the Marines who came off the line for 10-15 minutes. McDaniel and another Marine had just come off this hill, but they would not have time to warm up.


“All at once bullets started flying in through the tent. The Chinese had climbed up the hill where we had just been at,” recalled McDaniel who had to crawl out of the tent with the other Marine. “It was one of the most hellacious nights I’d ever spent.”


Although the Marines managed to get through the night, they soon found themselves surrounded. It would be an occurrence up and down the MSR (Main Supply Road).


“The only way out was to fight our way out,” said McDaniel, “so we tied the wounded and the dead to the hoods of our trucks and started out. We made it about two to three city blocks when the hill erupted with fire and brought us to a stop. Colonel Taplett came up to us and said ‘boys, we’re not getting out of here unless we can get rid of those troops.’”


McDaniel and others fought their way up that mountain to clear off the Chinese. McDaniel recalled the “bullets splattering all around us” as they went up the mountain. They started at 10:00 in the morning; by 7:00 at night, they had only made it three-fourths up the snow and ice-covered mountain.


“Then it got dark, real dark,” remembered McDaniel.


The 157 Marines who made it up that mountain formed a tight perimeter and prayed that it would hold through the night.


“We made a big circle and waited for the Chinese. They came running through us. A lot of hand-to-hand fighting. A lot of mayhem going on.”


The battle raged all night and McDaniel was wounded at some point. (A bullet entered his left ankle and came out his right.) In the morning, there were “dead Marines and dead Chinese all over the place.”


Once off the mountain, McDaniel was loaded on a truck along with other wounded and dead Marines. It took them three days to travel 15 miles from Yudam-ni to Hagaru-ri.


“The Chinese were shooting down at us; swarming over the hills,” recalled McDaniel. “Every so often the convoy would stop. Then the Colonel would say, ‘boys, I hate to tell you this, but they’ve got us hemmed in again.’


“Then these men, no food for two days and all frozen would go trudging off in the deep snow to clear the roadblock. They would come back with some wounded, load them in the back of the truck with the rest of us, and we’d continue on our way.”


(Paul McDaniel would eventually be flown out of Hagaru-ri. Interestingly, one of the Marines who worked around the clock to scrape a runway out of the frozen ground was a reservist from Indiana.)


Further down the road in Hagaru-ri, Wright was stringing some communications wire when he spotted the Chinese. “I was on a telephone pole when I saw the Chinese coming. From then on, I was a rifleman.”


Wright’s most vivid memories of those days and nights in November-December were the cold and the “multitudes of Chinese.” However, it would be the “brutality of war” which would have a lasting effect on his life.


“Everything went so fast,” recalled Wright.


Like McDaniel, Wright was also part of an effort to clear a mountain of Chinese.


“We fought day and night,” said Wright. “We lost a lot of men.”


In one of Wright’s most terrifying moments of the battle, he and six other Marines had to lie on their stomachs all night and hold their position on the hill.


“We could not fire our weapons. Then the Chinese would know how many of us were there. We could see the Chinese coming down. They would come down two or three at a time. They could see us, but they didn’t know how many of us were lying there. In the morning we were relieved by another company and we went on to the next hill.”


Wright, like countless other Marines and soldiers would suffer one of the battle-casualties common to the fighting around the Chosin: frostbite. It has been reported that more casualties were caused by frostbite than from being wounded in action.

Other terrifying and vivid moments experienced by the men up and down the hills and valleys were the cacophony of sounds and noise the Chinese made when they launched an attack.


“The noises the Chinese made before they attacked, the bells, whistles, and bugles still raises the hair on the back of my neck when I think about it,” recalled McDaniel. “Of course, once the firing started you couldn’t hear anything else.”


Raleigh McGary, who was at Chinhung-ni, also vividly remembered the cold and the noise among other things.


“My most frightening time was the breaking of the trap to allow the 1st Marine Division to exit the Chosin Reservoir area,” recollected McGary  “We suffered many casualties and I not only feared for my well-being but that of all those around me. The horrible conditions may have worked in our favor in that we didn’t have time to be afraid because we were battling the elements all the time.


“My most vivid memories concern the cold and how miserable we were. This is fairly common with Chosin Survivors. Remembering the bodies and body parts of young men littering the road as we advanced still haunts me.”


The plight of the refugees was another vivid memory the men had of the Chosin Reservoir. McGary remembers “thousands of refugees streaming down the MSR with no place to get out of the cold.”


Wright was also deeply touched by the human tragedy caused by the Korean War. Even today, 50 years later, he is still torn by the brutality of the war and its effect on the Korean people.


“I had such compassion for the people,” said Wright. “The kids were crying all the time. They were involved, too. They were scared and would come to us. There’s so much of that in war. People don’t always realize that.


“The Korean people are such good people. I felt deeply sorry for them and what little some people had. They suffered so much from that war. It’s one thing that you never forget. I did as much as I could. It really hurt me to see how brutal the war was to the Korean people.”


Looking back on the Korean War, most veterans agree that it was worth it. Even though the war was not “won” as it were, many believed that it stopped, or at least slowed down the spread of communism.


“It was well worth it,” said McDaniel. “It was too bad the Chinese had entered, though.”


McDaniel felt that if the Chinese hadn’t entered the war, perhaps Korea could have been unified then.


Wright concurred. “Absolutely it was worth it. We did not win in Korea, but we didn’t allow Communism to take over, either.”


McGary, looked at the bigger picture, too. “The Korean War was the first challenge to the spread of Communism.”


On the other hand, Graham looked at things differently. “I was able to do what I did, but knowing now the way things are today, I would not do it again. This generation would not do what we had done,” said Graham.


Although the Korean War has often been referred to as the “Forgotten War,” McGary believed that it was natural, at least for the veterans to forget about it initially.


“There was no time to dwell on it when I got home. Most men went about their jobs. I returned to college for my senior year, graduated in June 1952 and began my career as an elementary teacher.”


McDaniel, after months of hospitalization, went back to work for the Whirlpool Corporation. He would become a chief illustrator for the Whirlpool catalog. He retired in 1984. Wright, who rotated back to the States in August 1951, ended up working for a telephone company for 41 years.


Even though the men were rotated back to the States—either from wounds or having completed their tour of duty—many would have gone back.


“Almost all of us would have gone back,” said McGary, who went home in May 1951, “if we had been needed.”

The Accidental Journalist, Part 17 — The “Chosin Few” Remembered

These days I have been reading The Coldest Winter – America and the Korean War by the late David Halberstam that looks not only at America’s involvement in the Korean War during the first six months of the war, but also what took place in and around the Chosin or Changjin Reservoir in North Korea. It was back in October-November 1950 when U.S., South Korean, and UN forces had the North Koreans on the run. It looked as though the war would soon be over; in fact some were so optimistic that winter clothing and gear was not ordered. Then the Chinese entered the conflict and the tide of the war changed within days.


I was interested in this book for a number of reasons not the least of which are that Halberstam was one of my favorite authors and that back in 2000 I had the chance to meet some Korean War veterans who fought in that campaign and who are collectively known as the Chosin Few. I also had the chance to meet Medal of Honor recipient Gen. Raymond Davis who led his men across the frozen mountains at night with the Chinese attacking them from all sides.


Back then when I was covering these Korean War Commemorative Events for the Korea Times, I was fortunate that the Public Affairs Office (PAO) that dealt with the media appreciated what I was doing and always tried to help me whenever possible. For that I will always be most grateful.


This commemorative event was held on November 11, Veteran’s Day, which made it all the more solemn and evocative, especially when I had the chance to talk to some of veterans who proudly call themselves the Chosin Few. And then later, one of the PAO staff members helped me arrange for a very quick interview with Gen. Raymond Davis. He was most gracious to sit down with me for a few minutes and share some of his most harrowing reminiscences of the fighting around the Chosin Reservoir.


You can’t help but look upon someone like Davis with awe knowing that this man personally saved the lives of hundreds of men in the heat of battle and temperatures so cold that men had to warm up morphine syrettes underneath their armpits before administering the painkiller to the wounded.


Once again it was no accident that I had the chance to meet Davis and other veterans and then write my articles for the newspaper. I was just doing my own small part to remember this “forgotten war.”


This article originally appeared in the Korea Times on November 12, 2000.



 “Chosin Few” Remembered

—The Fiercest Battle in the Forgotten War—


Recently, Korean War veterans gathered in the Yongsan Garrison to commemorate the Northern Campaigns in the early phase of the 1950-53 Korea War. In a solemn ceremony, the battles fought north of the 38th Parallel were remembered.


It was 50 years ago when Gen. Douglas MacArthur, following his brilliant Inchon masterstroke and liberation of Seoul, pursued a “demoralized enemy” across the 38th Parallel and North to the Yalu. However, the pursuit of the enemy beyond the 38th Parallel was a sensitive, precarious undertaking because it carried the threat of Chinese retaliation.


In less than a month, U.S. – ROK and U.N. Forces had turned the tide of the Korean War. In October, Pyongyang fell to U.N. Forces. Many thought, “the boys would be home by Christmas.”


It seemed that there was no stopping of U.N. forces as they crossed the 38th Parallel and pushed north toward the Yalu River. That is, until the Chinese entered the war. This Chinese intervention would change the complexity of the war and prompt MacArthur’s statement of an “entirely different war.”


MacArthur’s push north has always been the subject of much debate and scrutiny. Invariably, scrutiny lays with his decision to cross the 38th Parallel and the threat of Chinese entry into the war.


“MacArthur was a brilliant tactician,” explained retired USMC Colonel Warren H. Wiedhahn, now Executive Director of U.S.-Korea 2000 Foundation, Inc. “However, he extended his forces too far.”


It was ironic, Wiedhahn suggested, MacArthur had turned the tide of the war in part due to the North Koreans having extended themselves down the peninsula. Now, the complexity of the war was about to change again because MacArthur had extended his troops up the peninsula. Wiedhahn believed that MacArthur “whipped the 8th Army into moving too fast.”


On the other hand, the X Corps advance seemed more methodical and by the book.

Wiedhahn was critical of those historians and pundits who have savaged the Army’s performance. “The leadership made mistakes,” he said, “but those soldiers [in the 8th Army] fought just as hard as the Marines did.”


Nonetheless, there was little resistance in the beginning. “It was like a cakewalk up the peninsula,” Wiedhahn said. “We expected to be home by Christmas. Then the Chinese hit.”


After an initial offensive by Chinese forces in early November, the Chinese disappeared back into the mountains. Before U.S. – ROK and U.N. forces could launch their own offensive, the Chinese struck again. In the West, the 8th Army would suffer staggering losses around Kunu-ri, especially in an area known as the “Gauntlet,” where the 2nd Infantry Division lost over 4,000 men.


In the East, X Corps would find themselves in a fight for survival around the Changjin Reservoir, better known as, the “Chosin” Reservoir. Against great odds and hardships, the men of X Corps waged a fierce battle against the Chinese and the elements, especially the cold.


“More men were evacuated because of frostbite than the enemy,” explained LCDR William Mitchell, a doctor during the war. Mitchell, who had landed with the Marines at Wolmi-do, Inchon, and later set up a civilian hospital in Yongdung-po, before ending up at the reservoir, pointed out that “most Marines would fight you over a pair of dry socks.”


Don Geddes who saw action in and around Yudam-ni was one of those Marines who suffered from frostbite. “Frostbite and other wounds put me back to the States.”

Soon, places like Yudam-ni, Hagaru-ri, Koto-ri, and Toktong Pass would pass into Marine vernacular and history.


Wiedhahn recalled being out on one of the listening posts in the freezing cold. “I heard these bugles and whistles,” Wiedhahn said. “What the hell is that, I asked one of my buddies? Suddenly this whole ridge erupted. The Chinese came in hordes. They overwhelmed our firepower. Machine barrels burned up. The Chinese were all around us.”


Marines would be up against innumerable odds. Many would die on those far-off forsaken hills in the freezing cold. Others, when thrust into harms’ way against such great odds, would become heroes.


One such hero was Lt. Colonel Raymond Davis who would end up receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions around Yudam-ni and the Toktong Pass. Against overwhelming odds, Davis rescued a rifle company that had nearly been annihilated at the Toktong Pass.


“Colonel Homer Litzenberg came up to me and said that I had to get to Fox Company,” explained Davis. “I had 20 minutes to come up with a plan.”


Before they set out, Davis noticed a star in the sky that seemed to be brighter than usual.


“Seeing that star…doubled in brightness,” Davis recalled, “I knew the Good Lord was with us.”


Davis would lead his men nearly eight miles along slippery paths in a daring attempt to relieve the beleaguered rifle company and hold the pass so other Marine units would not be cut off.


“We were freezing to death,” Davis said. “We walked single file through the deep snow. After awhile the path turned to ice and the men started slipping.”


He led his men over a series of ridges in continuous attacks against the enemy.

Despite being opposed by numerically superior forces, Davis brought his men within 1500 yards away from Fox Company before daybreak.


“We used a hand crank radio to alert Fox Company,” Davis said. “I didn’t want to end up in a firefight with them. We still had to fight our way in, though.”


Davis also recalled being shocked when he noticed that many of the Marines had used the dead, frozen bodies of the Chinese as barricades. “That was a pretty shocking sight.”


Pfc. Henry Danilowski was one of those survivors of the beleaguered Fox Company at Toktong Pass, one of those brave Marines who now belongs to that proud fraternal association, “The Chosin Few.” He turned 22 while fighting around the Chosin Reservoir. Like many Marines, Danilowski felt he’d be home by Christmas. “Didn’t expect this to happen.”


Danilowski had great respect for the Marine General O.P. Smith. “Smith made sure to stockpile supplies,” recalled Danilowski. Later in the campaign, he remembered overhearing some Marine report to Colonel Lewis Puller and inform the colonel that they were surrounded by the Chinese. “Good,” Puller was reported to have said, “then they can’t get away.”


Later, Davis would organize two task forces to open the pass. Despite repeated attacks by the enemy, Davis and his men would hold the pass until two regiments had been deployed through the area and then moved onto Hagaru-ri with his battalion intact.


At Hagaru-ri, the Marines could consolidate and continue their orderly withdrawal to the coast, first to Koto-ri and then to Hungnam. When asked about this “withdrawal under pressure,” General Smith is reported to have replied that they were not withdrawing, but “attacking in a different direction.”


Back in Korea for the commemoration of the Northern Campaigns, Davis has a deep feeling of appreciation to be back here and to take part in these commemorative events. Wiedhahn has been back here four times this year.


Still, there is some unfinished business.


Davis and Wiedhahn have been fortunate to visit North Korea on two occasions, as part of a group helping North Korean children, once in 1991 and again in 1998. On one such visit, they flew over the reservoir, but, according to Davis, were unable to go there due to “security reasons.” Nonetheless, Davis is confident that he will get back there some day and make it to the reservoir. “I still have men up there,” Davis said sadly.


Likewise, Wiedhahn is also optimistic. Both he and Davis have been lobbying hard and keeping the pressure on. “We’re hoping to get back there next year,” he said.


Perhaps one day, all those men will finally come home.

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