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
     
 

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Joe Owen tells it like it was in this evocative, page-turning story of a Marine rifle company in the uncertain, early days of the Korean War. His powerful descriptions of close combat in the snow-covered mountains of the Chosin Reservoir and of the survival spirit of his Marines provide a gritty real-life view of frontline warfare. As a lieutenant who was with them… See more details below

Overview

Joe Owen tells it like it was in this evocative, page-turning story of a Marine rifle company in the uncertain, early days of the Korean War. His powerful descriptions of close combat in the snow-covered mountains of the Chosin Reservoir and of the survival spirit of his Marines provide a gritty real-life view of frontline warfare. As a lieutenant who was with them from first muster in California, Owen was in a unique position to see the hastily assembled mix of some 200 regulars and raw reservists harden into a superb Marine rifle company. From steamy rice paddies to frozen mountaintops, the action and narrative move fast as the company learns to fight under enemy fire, eat frozen rations, and keep moving forward when its wounded and dead go down. There are examples of Medal of Honor gallantry; bitter, bloody losses; enemy night assaults; foxhole fights; and patrols through Chinese lines. This book includes the accounts of many Inchon-Seoul and Chosin survivors, woven together and told proudly by one of their own on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the war. In addition, the author provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at the frantic race to prepare American fighting forces for combat in Korea and offers lessons in leadership for today's Marines and soldiers.

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804116978
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/28/1997
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
282
Sales rank:
352,699
Product dimensions:
4.17(w) x 6.83(h) x 0.87(d)

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