In the winter of 1950, at the height of America’s ‘forgotten war,’ 15,000 U.S. Soldiers and Marines found themselves surrounded and by an overwhelming force of communist Chinese soldiers in the frozen mountains of North Korea. After 60 years of silence, the men who survived finally tell their story.
The veterans of Chosin take us on a journey back to towering mountains stained with blackened, blood-covered snow. Most of them are just kids–18 or 19 years old–and they are outnumbered and cut off behind enemy lines. As the sun goes down each night, bugles and war-cries echo through the mountains, followed by massive human wave attacks lasting until dawn. Sub-zero temperatures render weapons inoperable and fighting devolves into terrifying nights of savage hand-to-hand combat. Unable to dig into the frozen ground, the Marines build parapets out of dead bodies in order to withstand each night’s onslaught. Despite overwhelming odds, the men never lose faith in each other. They refuse to surrender. Instead, they fight their way to freedom through 78 miles of unforgiving, mountainous terrain and ultimately save the lives of 98,000 civilian refugees.
Following their unbelievable journey, the survivors embark on a lonely homecoming. America is enjoying newfound wealth and relative peace after World War II. The country has lost its taste for war and has no concern for the returning veterans of a “police action.” Surrounded by friends and family who are unable to relate to their combat experiences, our veterans make an uneasy adjustment to civilian life, quietly bearing the burden of physical and emotional scars that they will carry for the rest of their lives. After 60 years of silence, the men express their pride in contributing to the freedom of the South Korean nation, their grief for their fallen brothers, and their hope that the Korean War will not be lost in the pages of history as “the forgotten war.”
The Korean War is barely covered in our school’s history books but the savage three-year conflict claimed the lives of 4-million people, over 36,000 of them American. On June 25, 1950, South Korea was invaded by North Korean forces supplied with Soviet weapons and directed by Russian advisors. The United Nations voted unanimously to protect their South Korean allies, and 16 countries, including the United States, rallied their troops. The term “police action” was used by the U.S. government to avoid panic, but the stakes could not have been higher. If the Allied Forces pushed too hard, they would ignite a third world war. If they refused to act, millions of people would be enslaved under a communist dictatorship. The Chosin Reservoir Campaign marks the pivotal moment when the Chinese Army entered the Korean War, prolonging the conflict for two more bloody years and changing the fate of the Korean people forever.
Today, South Korea is a flourishing democracy with 50-million citizens living free in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. A cease-fire was signed on July 27, 1953. However, no peace treaty has ever been signed between North and South Korea, and to this day, South Korean troops and their American allies man posts on the 31st Parallel in defense of another invasion.