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Posted on Nov 25, 2005 in Front Page Features, War College

Chosin Reservoir ’50

By Wild Bill Wilder

Faith Takes Charge

The men had a rough day. No food could be brought up until dark because of the Chinese harassment. When it did arrive, it was nothing more than frozen C Rations. During the night, the Chinese launched another attack and reduced Colonel Faith’s perimeter even more. By that time, word came up that the orders had been suddenly changed. They were to now withdraw back into the perimeter with the rest of TF MacLean. They would have to abandon all unnecessary equipment and vehicles, load the wounded and fight through the Chinese roadblock to their rear.

Shermans of the 1st Marine Tank Battalion warm up their engines near Koto-ri during the Chosin Reservoir fighting.  Date is 8 December 1950.

When the men got close to the perimeter, the Chinese again opened fire. Colonel MacLean, thinking his own men were firing stepped onto a finger of ice to stop them. The Chinese fire was accurate and the men of the 1st Battalion watched in horror as the Colonel was hit four times. They saw his body shudder each time a bullet hit it. He began staggering back, but suddenly disappeared from view (he was captured and later died in captivity). Once Faith and his men were in the larger perimeter, he discovered that he was the senior officer. Everyone else of his rank had been killed or put out of action. Now it was to become Task Force Faith.


On November 29th, the remnants of the Task Force huddled together in an area of about a mile long and 500 yards wide. They were cold, scared, low on food and ammo, and surrounded by thousands of Chinese on the hills around them. During the day of November 29th, three airdrops were made. The Chinese got two of them, but the GIs got one of them back by force. Corsairs kept the Chinese at bay, and when darkness came, special F-82 (Twin mustangs) and specially equipped B-26 Invader bombers also attacked the enemy.

On November 30th, a task force made up of tanks of the 31st Company headed toward them in a rescue attempt (see Scenario #6 in this series), but were stopped by the Chinese with captured American bazookas and human wave attacks. The 2nd Battalion of the 32nd was ordered to go to their aid, but was given no transport. When it did arrive, the battalion was sent to protect the withdrawal route for the Marines at Koto-ri. Tank Force MacLean/Faith was on its own.

Late that night, the Chinese assaulted the positions five times. Once they broke completely through. Lieutenant Robert D. Wilson asked for volunteers. He got thirty. Wilson led them up the hill as dawn broke. Suddenly three bullets hit the young lieutenant and he died instantly. Sergeant First Class Fred Sugua took over the attack. He was killed two minutes later. The volunteers nevertheless retook the position and drove the Chinese off the hill.

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  1. Looking for any info on Sgt. Chester L. Williams, RA33110506,B Battery,57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division.

  2. That’s a terrible story and I think it’s impossible not to blame Gen. Almond for not knowing how powerful the Chinese troops already were (what was doing his G-2 all this time?), and also for the unbelievable order to Col Faith to attack instead of retreating, even seeing by himself how desperate already was his position.