Posts Tagged ‘1645’
By Rear Adm. Rick Williams
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
Our recent change of command aboard USS Chosin (CG 65) here at Pearl Harbor was another occasion to reflect on the ship’s namesake – Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 64 years ago this week.
In that battle, the Navy provided firepower support off the coast of Korea to assist Marines, Soldiers and other United Nations troops fighting ashore.
Those warriors, led by Marine Generals “Chesty” Puller and Oliver Smith, give us perspective for the present and a sense of purpose for the future.
Here at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, on historic Marine Barracks property, stands the venerable old building known as Puller Hall, named after Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.
Gen. Puller is a legend in American military history. His record of five Navy Crosses and an Army Distinguished Service Cross in a career that spanned nearly forty years is unmatched in the annals of the U.S. Marine Corps.
His fifth Navy Cross was won during the Korean War as the commanding officer of the First Marine Regiment when then-Col. Puller led his Marines in the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir.
On Nov. 24, 1950 American forces began the final drive toward the Yalu River on the border between China and the Korean Peninsula. Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur believed that this offensive would shatter the North Korean army and effectively end the Korean War. American troops looked forward to being home by Christmas.
But on Nov. 27 approximately 65,000 enemy troops began pouring over the border and 15,000 U.S. Marines found themselves surrounded in the Chosin Reservoir, with only a thin and winding mountain pass between them and escape through the port of Hungnam some 60 miles to the east. Thoughts of Christmas carols and relaxing by the fire turned to simple survival and the relentless focus on keeping the road to Hungnam open allowing the Marines out of the suddenly perilous dilemma.
The weather didn’t help the situation, with a Siberian cold front and 60-knot winds dropping temperatures to minus-35 degrees. Many of the casualties during the battle were a result of the exposure to what was considered the coldest winter Korea had seen in 100 years.
At this critical moment in the Korean War leadership, teamwork and courage won the day. On Dec. 6, the breakout from Chosin began. Maj. Gen. Oliver Smith, the Commander of the First Marine Division, is quoted as saying, “it is not a retreat; we are attacking in a different direction.”
For his part, then-Col. Puller led his regiment in the rear guard of the withdrawal, defending the perimeter and keeping the vital supply main supply route open for the movement of the division. Col. Puller is reported to have said to a journalist, “We’ve been looking for the enemy for several days now. We’ve finally found them. We are surrounded. That simplifies the problem.”
With the steady hand of leaders like Smith and Puller and the tenacity and courage of the troops under their command, the breakout was successful and the majority of the U.S. troops trapped at Chosin were able to reach Hungnam by the 13th of December.
In the final phase of the battle Navy and Air Force aircraft flew missions to defend the Hungnam perimeter and ships like the USS Missouri off the Korean coast laid down covering fire for the Marines as amphibious craft sealifted thousands of military personnel and civilians to safety.
Gen. Smith’s quote about an attack “in a different direction” reminds us of the importance of perspective.
It has been said that, “great opportunities are often disguised as impossible situations” and it requires perspective to turn the tide.
The epic Battle of Chosin, fought and won 64 years ago in the most adverse conditions and implacable odds, reminds us that adversity often requires leaders to keep a cool head, take a fresh look at a problem and attack the issue from a different direction.
Retreat does not always mean defeat.
The withdrawal from Chosin may have led to a disaster and the destruction or capture of thousands of American troops. Instead they fought their way out of the impending catastrophe and instead inflicted as many as 25,000 casualties on the enemy while evacuating the bulk of their strength to rejoin the fight on another day.
As I said in my commentary on NavyLive blog last year: Looking back more than 60 years later, we know the Korean War preserved freedom and democracy for South Korea and provided a better way of life for millions of people over many generations. The U.S. Navy had a critical role in supporting Marines and UN Allies throughout the war.
Naval forces provided the key strategic advantage. Our surface ships, submarines and aircraft provided sea control, effectively blockading North Korea’s coastlines and denying enemy shipments while ensuring mobility of sea lanes for our side. Aircraft from Task Force 77 carriers and escorts provided strikes and support. Cruisers, destroyers and other ships put a barrage of fire between our troops and the enemy during the war. Pearl Harbor’s own Mighty Mo, battleship USS Missouri (BB 63), added the weight of her 16-inch guns to the fight.
For our own perspective on what we fought for in Korea, just consider the powerful ally and friend we have today on the southern half of the peninsula. The Republic of Korea navy regularly visits Pearl Harbor and was here for RIMPAC last summer.
ROK sailors and marines work with their American counterparts as partners for a common defense. That perspective leads to our sense of purpose: building and maintaining cooperative partnerships as we support Adm. Harris and the U.S. Pacific Fleet in the rebalance to Asia-Pacific.
Jim Neuman, historian and public affairs specialist, contributed to this commentary.
I suppose something may be expected from me upon this charge that is befallen me, which moves me to speak now to you; yet I intend not to intermeddle in the proceedings of the court, or with any of the persons concerned therein. Only I bless God that I see an issue of this troublesome business. I also acknowledge the justice of the court, and, for mine own part, I am well satisfied, I was publicly charged, and I am publicly and legally acquitted, which is all I did expect or desire. And though this be sufficient for my justification before men, yet not so before the God who hath seen so much amiss in my dispensations (and even in this affair) as calls me to be humble. For to be publicly and criminally charged in this court is matter of humiliation (and I desire to make a right use of it), notwithstanding I be thus acquitted. If her father had spit in her face (saith the Lord concerning Miriam), should she not have been ashamed seven days? Shame had lien upon her, whatever the occasion had been. I am unwilling to stay you from your urgent affairs, yet give me leave (upon this special occasion) to speak a little more to this assembly. It may be of some good use to inform and rectify the judgments of some of the people, and may prevent such distempers as have arisen amongst us. The great questions that have troubled the country are about the authority of the magistrates and the liberty of the people. It is yourselves who have called us to this office, and, being called by you, we have our authority from God, in way of an ordinance, such as hath the image of God eminently stamped upon it, the contempt and violation whereof hath been vindicated with examples of divine vengeance. I entreat you to consider that, when you choose magistrates, you take them from among yourselves, men subject to like passions as you are. Therefore, when you see infirmities in us, you should reflect upon your own, and that would make you bear the more with us, and not be severe censurers of the failings of your magistrates, when you have continual experience of the like infirmities in yourselves and others. We account him a good servant who breaks not his covenant. The covenant between you and us is the oath you have taken of us, which is to this purpose, that we shall govern you and judge your causes by the rules of God’s laws and our own, according to our best skill. When you agree with a workman to build you a ship or house, etc., he undertakes as well for his skill as for his faithfulness; for it is his profession, and you pay him for both. But, when you call one to be a magistrate, he doth not profess nor undertake to have sufficient skill for that office, nor can you furnish him with gifts, etc., therefore you must run the hazard of his skill and ability. But if he fail in faithfulness, which by his oath he is bound unto, that he must answer for. If it fall out that the case be clear to common apprehension, and the rule clear also, if he transgress here, the error is not in the skill, but in the evil of the will: it must be required of him. But if the case be doubtful, or the rule doubtful, to men of such understanding and parts as your magistrates are, if your magistrates should err here, yourselves must bear it.
For the other point concerning liberty, I observe a great mistake in the country about that. There is a twofold liberty, natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and civil or federal. The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures. By this, man as he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do what he lists: it is a liberty to evil as well as to good. This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority, and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil, and in time to be worse than brute beasts: omnes sumus licentia deteriores. This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it. The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic covenants and constitutions, amongst men themselves. This liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard (not only of your goods, but) of your lives, if need be. Whatsoever crosseth this is not authority, but a distemper thereof. This liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to authority; it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. The woman’s own choice makes such a man her husband; yet, being so chosen, he is her lord, and she is to be subject to him, yet in a way of liberty, not of bondage; and a true wife accounts her subjection her honor and freedom, and would not think her condition safe and free but in her subjection to her husband’s authority. Such is the liberty of the church under the authority of Christ, her king and husband; his yoke is so easy and sweet to her as a bride’s ornaments; and if through frowardness or wantonness, etc., she shake it off, at any time, she is at no rest in her spirit until she take it up again; and whether her lord smiles upon her, and embraceth her in his arms, or whether he frowns, or rebukes, or smites her, she apprehends the sweetness of his love in all, and is refreshed, supported, and instructed by every such dispensation of his authority over her. On the other side, ye know who they are that complain of this yoke and say, let us break their bands, etc., we will not have this man to rule over us. Even so, brethren, it will be between you and your magistrates. If you stand for your natural corrupt liberties, and will do what is good in your own eyes, you will not endure the least weight of authority, but will murmur, and oppose, and be always striving to shake off that yoke; but if you will be satisfied to enjoy such civil and lawful liberties, such as Christ allows you, then will you quietly and cheerfully submit unto that authority which is set over you, in all the administrations of it, for your good. Wherein, if we fail at any time, we hope we shall be willing (by God’s assistance) to hearken to good advice from any of you, or in any other way of God; so shall your liberties be preserved, in upholding the honor and power of authority amongst you.