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Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir

Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir

4.8 6
by Joseph R. Owen, Raymond G. Davis (Foreword by)

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"A MUST READ . . . This book [is] one of the best on that war in Korea. . . . A wonderful account of common, decent men in desperate action."

During the early, uncertain days of the Korean War, World War II veteran and company lieutenant Joe Owen saw firsthand how the hastily assembled mix of some two hundred regulars and raw reservists


"A MUST READ . . . This book [is] one of the best on that war in Korea. . . . A wonderful account of common, decent men in desperate action."

During the early, uncertain days of the Korean War, World War II veteran and company lieutenant Joe Owen saw firsthand how the hastily assembled mix of some two hundred regulars and raw reservists hardened into a superb Marine rifle company known as Baker-One-Seven.

As comrades fell wounded and dead around them on the frozen slopes above Korea's infamous Chosin Reservoir, Baker-One-Seven's Marines triumphed against the relentless human-wave assaults of Chinese regulars and took part in the breakout that destroyed six to eight divisions of Chinese regulars. COLDER THAN HELL paints a vivid, frightening portrait of one of the most horrific infantry battles ever waged.

"Thoroughly gripping . . . The Chosin action is justly called epical; Lieutenant Owen tells the tale of the men who made it so."

Editorial Reviews

Lieutenant Joe Owen offers this close-in and gritty account of combat in the Korean War from the perspective of a Marine rifle company. From the fresh reservists training in California to the hardened soldiers who move on as their dead go down in combat in the snow-covered mountains of the Chosin Reservoir, Owen recounts the tales -- his own and other survivors' -- of the of real life in the Marine Corps in Korea.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The morning of December 8, 1950, found Marine lieutenant Owen, along with the rifle company he led, fighting his way through "blood-splotched snow" with the temperature at 25 degrees below zerothe beginning of another day in North Korea. Owen's dramatic account of that morning begins this close-focus combat memoir. Rifle company Baker-One-Seven, Owen tells us, "functioned at a primal level: they ate, slept, and fought, and they tried to get warm." What Owen presents here is an extraordinarily detailed and realistic account of combat at the level of individual soldiers and small units, covering the role of infantrymen in war, the dangers they are exposed to, the relations that form among them, what keeps them going, their ingenuity and their daring. Only occasionally and in passing does the author put the action of his rifle company into broader perspective, or refer to nonmartial matters such as his wife and two young daughters back in the States. Owen's journal-like account can be repetitive, but it's never monotonous. By offering an extended look at deadly combat taking place on snow-covered mountainous terrain in bone-jarring cold, Owen highlights the hardships and tactics characteristic of the war in Korea. Photos; maps. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
A splendid first-person account of what was arguably the most remarkable engagement of the Korean War.

When word came that North Korean troops had invaded the partitioned south in mid-1950, Owen (a WW II vet who had returned to the Marines as a second lieutenant after graduating from Colgate) was lolling on a North Carolina beach at Camp Lejeune with his wife and two young children. He soon joined Baker Company of the 1st Marine Division's Seventh Regiment and was put in charge of a mortar platoon. Arriving in Korea shortly after the Inchon landing had given UN forces the initiative against their Communist adversaries, Owen and his men (a motley crew of raw recruits, inexperienced reservists, and salty regulars) fought their way inland, headed north toward the Yalu River. Strung out along narrow roads in mountainous terrain with winter coming on, the marines encountered unexpectedly strong opposition from the Chinese army, which had entered the conflict in October. Battling the elements as well as the Chinese, the regiment withdrew from the Chosin Reservoir (hard by North Korea's border with China) in good order and inflicted terrible punishment. But the butcher's bill was high on both sides: All but 27 of the 300-odd enlisted men and officers in Owen's Company were wounded, captured, or killed during the withdrawal. Owen himself was badly wounded before the final breakout. During his violent and bloody sojourn in Korea's frozen wastes, the author amassed a wealth of telling detail on the grim realities of mortal combat.

Owen's flair for narrative and his gut-level perspectives on life and death in the front lines make for an eloquent tribute to the disciplined courage and esprit de corps displayed by his comrades in arms.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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4.17(w) x 6.83(h) x 0.87(d)

Meet the Author

Joseph R. Owen, 1st Lieutenant, USMC (Ret.), commanded the mortars and a rifle platoon in Baker, 1/7, one of the rifle companies that spearheaded the breakout from Chosin Reservoir. A 1948 graduate of Colgate University, he served on active duty in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946 and from 1948 to 1952.

Owen has been active in Baker, 1/7, reunions and has written articles on the company's wartime experiences for the Marine Corps Gazette and short stories for Leatherneck Magazine. Now retired from his own marketing business, he and his wife divide their time between Skaneateles, New York, and Naples, Florida.

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Colder than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Owens does an excellent job of describing the flavor of close combat - lobbing mortars at Chinese soldiers so close to Marine positions that the enemy can be heard plotting the assault. While the style of writing reminds one of a journal account, soon the reader is engrossed in the throws of battle and can picture himself crouched on an icy hillside fighting with clenched teeth. The description of squad tactics would make this book a valuable teaching tool to young NCO's and 2nd Lts. Every Marine serving or having served since this era of combat should take note: we know nothing of true sacrifice. I take great pride in knowing that those Marines who served before me fought so bravely against foe as well as harsh weather conditions to break out of the Chinese death grip. Owens should also be commended for his insights into the US Army leadership/intelligence and as my dad always said, 'McCarther was a Son-of-a-*%#!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book that describes where the U S was after WW2 and how costly it was in American lives to have become so complacent. The parallels of where we are right now as a country is scary. What a human being can endure is amazing and how any of these Marines survived is almost unfathomable. We were taught so little about this conflict in school and I found this book very helpful in filling in some of the educational gaps for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What these Marines went through is incredible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is one of the best books ever writtem on the marines in Korea. When reading this book I really felt like I was there in the heat with the Marines.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author's writing style is excellent. The book is readable, much more so than other fact-based accounts of the Korean War. I basically agree with the last reviewer, but would like to add that the courage of these men was remarkable. They risked their lives on an almost daily basis.