The simplicity of the impossible. Fox Company, 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division at Chosin.
The 1st Marine Division—which included the 1st, 5th and 7th Regiments– more than 20,000 strong—was ordered by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, NATO’s supreme commander in Korea, to march to the Yalu River and back. The distance from Hugnam, along the Sea of Japan, to Chosin was 76 miles. The general’s idea: Run the Communist troops out of Korea and unify the entire country as a democracy.
Before the march was over, the 1st Marine Division would be confronted by 21 enemy divisions, more than 200,000 soldiers. They would kill and wound 37,000 of the enemy. An additional 30,000 Chinese soldiers suffered frostbite. The Marines would lose 6,000 killed and wounded, and 6,000 more sustained frostbite.
“It must have been around 1:30 a.m. I was zipped up in my sleeping bag lying out on the frozen ground behind some rocks and pine trees we’d cut and put up as a wind break. My buddy, Kenny Benson, was next to me in his sleeping bag. We heard some rifle fire and a machine gun open up. I realized this was for real,” said Cafferata, who now lives in Venice, Fla.
“I unzipped my bag and grabbed my M-1 rifle. There were Chinese all around us. I shot five or six right in front of me immediately.
“I said to Benson, ‘What are you doing?”
“’Putting on my boots,’ he replied.
“’Forget the boots. Start shooting,’ I said.”
November 27, Captain Barber decided to “circle the wagons,” keeping the company together as a single unit by placing all platoons in a perimeter defense on Fox Hill. He positioned 2d Platoon on the west side of Fox Hill, 3d Platoon on the north, and 1st Platoon on the east. Barber placed Weapons Platoon in the center of the hill to provide all-around mortar fire support and put Headquarters and Service Platoon near the road on the perimeter’s south side. Machine guns anchored positions where the platoons’ boundaries met.
At 2:07 a.m. on November 28, in bitterly cold, 20 degrees below zero weather, waves of Chinese troops, supported by mortars and heavy machine guns, attacked Fox Company’s entire perimeter, beginning an ordeal that lasted until midday on December 1. During daylight hours, Barber directed U.S. Marine and Australian airstrikes on PVA positions. At night, when most Chinese attacks occurred, 11th Marines at Hagaru-ri provided artillery fire support that helped Barber’s company kill perhaps 1,000 enemy troops.
By the time a relief force from 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, arrived on December 1, only 82 of Barber’s original 220 Marines were fit to walk off Fox Hill – 26 were killed, three were missing in action, and the remainder, including Barber, were wounded. Fox Company’s survivors joined 1st Marine Division’s epic “attack in another direction” along highway NK72, arriving at Hungnam on December 11 for evacuation by sea. One awestruck observer, watching the battered Marines march past, called them those “magnificent bastards.”There is a fairly well-received book out on the topic if you are interested in it in detail: The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat