ONE BUGLE NO DRUMS: The Marines at Chosin Reservoir by William B. Hopkins

ONE BUGLE NO DRUMS: The Marines at Chosin Reservoir

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A splendid first-person account of perhaps the most stirring engagement of the Korean War. When North Korean troops invaded the partitioned South in June of 1950, Hopkins, a veteran of WW II's Pacific campaigns, was practicing law in Roanoke, Va, He was also serving as a company commander in a Marine Corps reserve unit, The author was soon recalled to active duty, arriving in Korea shortly after the Inchon landing. Assigned to the 1st Marine Division, Hopkins and his men participated in the ambitious advance toward the Yalu River. On the drive, the Marines encountered an unexpected adversary--Chinese infantry whose presence was first denied, then downplayed, and finally exaggerated by General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo. The Marines soon found themselves surrounded in the mountainous terrain around the Chosin (Changjin) Reservoir. Before they could execute their valiant withdrawal, the Marines had to clear the enemy from a high-ground position (known simply as the Big Hill), which overlooked a blown-out bridge, the sole escape route. A daring pre-dawn assault in sub-zero weather mauled the Chinese and drove them from the peak. With a big assist from the Air Force, which supplied essential material by parachute, the Marines were able to restore the vital span and fight their way to safety. Heroes all, they reached an evacuation port with their wounded and heavy equipment. Captain Hopkins, who came through the Chosin campaign unscathed, was severly wounded a month later at Uisong. Invalided home, he spent over a year in the hospital, eventually resuming his law practice and becoming active in state politics (as a Democrat). From a distance of over 35 years, Hopkins is able to comment thoughtfully on many of the Korean conflict's larger issues, e.g., intelligence failures, lessons unlearned about the substantive difference between policing and prevailing, et al. By far the most compelling aspect of his memoir, though, is the eloquent personal tribute it pays to the disciplined courage and esprit de corps displayed by comrades in arms on one of yesteryear's more unsparing battlefields. Appended to the text are two instructive briefings by military historian S.L.A. Marshall. His contemporary reports, which evaluate the performance of the First Marines (vis-à-vis that of the 8th Army) and their Communist Chinese foe, were classified until a few years ago; they are published here for the first time. There also are combat photos and maps (not seen).

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Algonquin