The title of this harrowing account of the 1st Marine Division's epic withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir in the face of withering fire and the icy hell of a North Korean winter was attributed to General Oliver Smith by newsman covering the now-storied campaign. The deeply religious USMC commander probably didn't curse, but he did say: ""When you're surrounded, it's impossible to retreat."" Wilson, photo editor of the Los Angeles Times, breaks no new ground in his version of the ill-fated drive. Having tracked down hundreds of Chosin vets (including members of Great Britain's unsung 41st Commando), however, he offers as definitive and moving a log as is available. The author first sketches in the background of the UN's so-called police action in Korea and the post-Inchon miscalculations (by the Joint Chiefs as well as Douglas MacArthur) that left ill-equipped Marines strung out along a narrow road in North Korea's highlands--where they unexpectedly encountered strong Chinese opposition. Wilson then plunges into his real story--the day-to-day detail provided by scores of enlisted men and officers who survived the savage combat. From late October on their way to and from Chosin, Marines and their comrades in arms suffered over 4,400 hundred battlefield casualties, plus more than 7,000 cases of frostbite, against a butcher's bill estimated at 37,500 for enemy forces. In the course of breaking out to reach an evacuation port with their dead, wounded, and equipment, members of the division earned 13 Congressional Medals of Honor--and legendary status in the hard-to-impress Corps. Wilson delivers eloquent gut-level perspectives on the sacrifices made by those who battled the elements and a determined foe in a hostile land nearly 40 years ago. The vivid text features helpful field maps and 16 pages of photographs (not seen).