The Chosin Reservior campaign is one of the finest moments in American military history. Marines from the 1st Marine Division, and an attached regiment of Army troops (the 31st Infantry Regiment), fought their way out of being surrounded by a much larger Communist Chinese force of ten divisions in the midst of mountainous terrain in the early stages of the winter of 1950-1951. These 15,000 American fighting men did not only manage to take out two Chinese Communist divisions – they managed to evacuate 98,000 refugees. Three thousand fell at Chosin, and the rest were either wounded or suffered permanent frostbite injuries.
However, in what can only be described as a shocking oversight, no effort was made to collect the first-hand stories of the American soldiers who took part in this battle on film – even though the Marine Corps helped Paramount film the 1952 movie Retreat, Hell! in 1952. Former Marine Brian Iglesias, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom whose service included the fighting in Ramadi, has stepped in to fill the void, with a superb documentary, Chosin.
Iglesias and fellow Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Anton Sattler’s eight-month road trip in 2009 was done on a shoestring. Iglesias and Sattler, both decorated for heroism in combat while serving in Iraq, interviewed over 180 of the “Chosin Few.” While Chosin is a great start in getting the story out- in a very real sense, it has just begun to tell the tales from this incredible campaign.
Only twenty of those veterans appear in the film – and while Iglesias and Sattler have given them the gift of recognizing their service and preserving their stories, it pales when compared to the gifts these men have given to both America and the world. Korea is long considered the “Forgotten War” – and in many cases, it is considered a draw. However, the veterans feel that they won – and there is a good case to be made for a victory in Korea: Communist aggression was contained on the Korean Peninsula.
Chosin is a powerful documentary film – one that is well worth the price of the DVD. One cannot help but feel gratitude for the heroism of the courageous men interviewed by Iglesias and Sattler, and pride in what they accomplished. This is a must-have for any video library. If there is one negative to this film, it is that more of these veterans’ stories could not fit into this documentary. However, there is always the possibility of sequels.
Chosin is currently available via the website www.frozenchosin.com, costs $24.99. Runtime is 86 minutes. Directed by Brian Iglesias. Written and produced by Brian Iglesias and Anton Sattler.