In November, 1950 eight thousand fighters, most of them United States Marines, struggled to survive the coldest winter in 100 years in North Korea. Surrounded by 120,000 Chinese soldiers, their only lifeline was a 15'-wide, steep mountain road they called the M.S.R. (Main Supply Route) that led to the port city of Hungnam. From Yudam-ni at the north west corner of the Chanjin Reservoir, the MSR was a dangerous, 78-mile journey to the Sea of Japan. The trip was made far more difficult by the massive enemy force surrounding it. The withdrawal, the longest in American military history, would take 13 days and cost many lives. Those who didn't understand what was happening called it a "retreat", while one American general simply said, "We're attacking in a different direction." How you access what happened over those two freezing weeks in North Korea depends on your perspective.
It is adversity that demands valor, trial that demonstrates the highest levels of brotherhood. The Marines at the Chanjin Reservoir, identified on Japanese maps as the CHOSIN Reservoir, pulled together to insure the success of the withdrawal. What many people might have considered to be the darkest two weeks in Marine Corps history, may have in fact, become the Marine Corp's DEFINING MOMENT. With their backs to the wall, the men of the 1st Marine Division pulled together to accomplish the impossible. Their teamwork cemented a band of brothers who came to call themselves:
Theirs Not To Reason Why
While the 8th Army was moving up the western edge of North Korea, on the east coast. the port city of Wonsan was taken, followed by the city of Hungman. From there, members of the 1st Marine Division would move northwest on the MSR to the vital Chosin Reservoir. The village of Koto-ri was almost mid-way from Hungnam to the north edge of the reservoir, and the 4,200 Marines of the 1st Marine Regiment set up there. The 1st Marine Division Headquarters was established at Hagaru-ri, a small village at the southern tip of the reservoir. By November 27th 3,000 Americans inhabited Hagaru-ri, most of them engineers, clerks, and supply personnel.
MAO ZEDONG's orders to Chinese General Song Shilun
"Give Me Tomorrow."