During the brutally cold winter of 1950, it seemed the Korean conflict was all but over, then in November a force of Chinese volunteer fighters - armed with little more than rice flails and scythes - poured over the Yalu river, encircling the 30,000 UN troops at the Chosin Reservoir, including royal marines, and the U.S. 1st Marine Division. For the first time, the story of what followed is told by the men in foxholes, tanks, outposts and command posts: the harrowing account of the soldier's breakout in battle against theory opponents, and the struggle to reach safety and survive in hostile territory in a winter of -15 Centigrade.Seasons military historian Hammell describes the errors and miscalculations by American higher-ups , including General Douglas Macarthur, that left the 1st marines strung out at the narrow end of a road scores of miles from he sea and possible evacuation at Hungnam port. Then follows and astonishing, terrifying description of the action: Chinese forces massing, the punishing climate and terrain, the arrogant over-confidence that crippled American judgment, and the overpowering Chinese assault.His account provides a wealth of tactical and human detail and small unit action: an intelligence officers efforts to cohesively conflicting reports, engineers desperately improvising a bridge form logs and snow, Marines marching to POW camps, a battle-weary messenger's discovery of headquarters staff setting down to a full-course dinner in formal dress, safely behind friendly lines.
The result is the most complete book written on this heroic battle, a masterful narrative from the perspective of those who fought it.
Eric Hammel is a critically acclaimed military historian and author of more than thirty combat and pictorial histories, including the extremely popular "Iwo Jima: Portrait of a Battle" (Zenith Press 2006). He lives in Northern California.