Battle of Chosin Reservoir

From Academic Kids

Template:Battlebox The Battle of Chosin Reservoir was a battle in the Korean War, shortly after Chinese entry into the conflict. Large numbers of Chinese soldiers swept across the Yalu river, encircling the United Nations (UN) troops at the Chosin Reservoir. A brutal battle in freezing weather followed, ultimately resulting in a pyrrhic victory for the Chinese, as they incurred very heavy losses resisting the fighting withdrawal of the Allied Marines.



By mid-October, 1950, the Korean War looked like it was nearly over. Most of North Korea had been captured by the American-led UN forces. However, on October 19, 1950, China entered the war and huge numbers of Chinese soldiers poured across the border into Korea. The UN troops at Chosin, mainly the US 1st Marine Division, the US 7th Infantry Division, and 41 Independent Commando Royal Marines were soon surrounded by units of the Ninth Army Group of the People's Liberation Army (or Chinese Communist Forces, abbreviated CCF). Starting on November 26, 1950, the UN troops began a fighting retreat to the south, towards Hungnam.


Around 20,000 UN troops, with advanced weaponry and air power, clashed with 200,000 poorly equipped but well organized Chinese soldiers. In extremely fierce fighting that lasted until December 11, there were 15,000 UN casualties (7,500 to cold related injuries) and possibly 40,000 Chinese casualties as the UN forces were badly mauled in their withdrawal to Hungnam.

Following the retreat of the 7th Infantry, during which the division abandoned its equipment, the First Marine Division, along with units of the British Royal Marines and the South Korean Marines, recovered the Army's equipment, turned around, and made an aggressive assault to break out of the reservoir. When asked if the Marines were, like the Army, retreating, Lieutenant General O.P. Smith, the commander of the First Marine Division, explained that their fighting withdrawal through Chinese lines did not constitute a retreat. General Smith's explanation was abbreviated into the famous misquote, "Retreat, hell! We're attacking in a different direction!" (recalling the famous quote from Marine Captain Lloyd Williams at Belleau Wood, "Retreat, hell! We just got here!")

In their withdrawal, the Marines, who enjoyed total air supremacy, were able to destroy or effectively disable all seven Chinese divisions that were holding them in the reservoir.


While the Chinese were able to expel the UN forces from the reservoir, the Marines inflicted heavy casualties on the Chinese as they fought for their own survival. Leaving the reservoir with more equipment than they entered it with, thanks to their recovery of the equipment of the 7th Infantry, the Marines were able to leave North Korea safely, leading to the eventual stalemate along what is currently the border between North and South Korea. To this day, the US Marines consider the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir to be one of the proudest parts of their own history. Likewise, China's People's Liberation Army considers the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir an honor as the first time in a century a Chinese army was able to defeat a Western army in a major battle, despite the heavy losses.

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