General_Ray_Davis

General Raymond Davis, Hartell House, November 2000

Henry001

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.