KOREAN WAR: EX-SOLDIER STILL RECALLS FROZEN FIGHT.
U.S. Marine Pfc. Barry Jones had just dug into an icy ridge near the Changjin Reservoir in Korea when the night blared with the sound of Chinese bugles.
It was 2 a.m. and 15 degrees below zero.
The 18-year-old Marine in Fox Company had little time to step into his boots and begin firing at the hundreds of Chinese shadows attacking from every hillside. Many Marines fought in their socks.
``You could see, when the flares went up, (Chinese) silhouettes with big winter hats. Some were throwing grenades, some were firing,'' recalled Jones, 71, a retired homicide detective now living in Granada Hills.
``Scared. Terrified. I thought I'd either freeze to death or get shot. If you weren't scared you didn't belong there.''
Fox Company held. At dawn, 450 dead Chinese lay scattered around the hill. It was the first day of the fight now known as the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
It wasn't supposed to be this tough.
By November 1950, United Nations forces had pushed North Korean communists almost to the Manchurian border.
Jones, a machine gunner reservist from Pittsburgh with the 1st Marine Division, 7th Marine Regiment, 2nd Battalion, landed on the coast of North Korea with thousands of other nervous Marines.
But instead of the enemy, they were met by Bob Hope.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur was so confidant of victory he promised his troops they'd be home by Christmas. Only he failed to spot hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops flooding in from Manchuria.
Just after Thanksgiving, 15,000 Marines and soldiers at Changjin Reservoir were hit by more than 100,000 Chinese troops.
For six nights, the 240 Marines of Fox Company defended their hill above Toktong Pass. Temperatures sank to 40 below. Winds whipped to 40 mph.
``They'd come in waves,'' said Jones of the poorly equipped Chinese. ``When one guy fell, another picked up his weapon.''
At the end of the battle, Fox Company counted 26 dead and 89 American wounded. With frostbite added to their injuries, only 82 could walk.
``I was walking on dead feet,'' said Jones, whose size-9 1/2 feet still suffer the pains of frostbite. ``(But) I'm glad I wasn't Chinese - those poor bastards had cakes of ice on their feet.
``I've seen 'em frozen solid, sitting up holding their rifles.''
It took the surrounded 1st Marine Division nearly two weeks to battle 78 miles to freedom, suffering 12,000 casualties.
``Gentleman, we are not retreating,'' declared one beleaguered Marine general. ``We are merely attacking in another direction.''
After ``The Forgotten War,'' Jones became a cop in Pittsburgh, then a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department detective.
Today, the great-grandfather belongs to the Chosin Few, a group of veterans that meets to recall the frozen war, and VFW Post 2323 in Chatsworth.
``It was amazing we ever got out of there,'' said Jones, a man of quiet strength sitting in a ``war room'' full of medals and Korean War memorabilia. ``I feel chosen, one of the Chosin Few.''
Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730
(1 -- color) Although it was years ago, ex-Marine Barry Jones still has vivid memories of the battle at Chosin Reservoir.
Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
(2) Marine Pfc. Barry Jones when he was 18.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 28, 2004|
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