I’m fairly sure I’ve read all of Jeff Shaara’s novels from his two novels about Gettysburg up to his novel about the Korean War The Frozen Hours. Before I read it, I had already included a backstory about two characters in my Florida Folk Magic Series that included service in the 1st Marine Division in Korea. Since my work in progress, Pollyanna Hoskins includes these characters, I’ve placed one of them with Fox Company tasked with guarding a strategic pass.
Here we have 234 marines holding off 10,000 Chinese soldiers. This is mentioned, of course, in Shaara’s book that covers the entire war. I wanted more specific information about the brave and determined men of Fox Company. There’s plenty of information online, but The Last Stand of Fox Company is very specific about Captain Barber’s three platoons and how they faired day by day against a vastly superior force in a harsh Korean winter when the temperatures were -34 °. While water and food and feet were frozen, the low temperatures saved some of the wounded whose wounds were frozen, keeping them from bleeding to death.
The entire campaign around the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea is called “frozen Chosin” for a reason.
Using the terminology of the day, my character is still “shook” in his life in the years after the war. “Shook” meant “to go mental,” later described as shell shock and then PTSD. After reading the account of Fox Company’s defense of a major road at Toktong Pass, I’d expect all of them, the few left standing to be shook.
From the Publisher
November 1950, the Korean Peninsula: After General MacArthur ignores Mao’s warnings and pushes his UN forces deep into North Korea, his 10,000 First Division Marines find themselves surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered by 100,000 Chinese soldiers near the Chosin Reservoir. Their only chance for survival is to fight their way south through the Toktong Pass, a narrow gorge that will need to be held open at all costs. The mission is handed to Captain William Barber and the 234 Marines of Fox Company, a courageous but undermanned unit of the First Marines. Barber and his men climb seven miles of frozen terrain to a rocky promontory overlooking the pass, where they will endure four days and five nights of nearly continuous Chinese attempts to take Fox Hill. Amid the relentless violence, three-quarters of Fox’s Marines are killed, wounded, or captured. Just when it looks like they will be overrun, Lt. Colonel Raymond Davis, a fearless Marine officer who is fighting south from Chosin, volunteers to lead a daring mission that will seek to cut a hole in the Chinese lines and relieve the men of Fox. This is a fast-paced and gripping account of heroism in the face of impossible odds.
When I was in elementary school, I saw many headlines in the daily papers about the Korean War. Needless to say, I didn’t understand the big picture. But the war has fascinated me in part because it’s more or less forgotten. But, it occurred just a few years before my novel-in-progress Pollyanna Hoskins is set. So, one way I’m adding depth to my novel is by including characters who were in Korea, the man as a marine corporal, and the woman (Pollyanna) as a marine nurse serving in MASH units and field hospitals.
The title of Jeff Shaara’s book comes from a poem by one of the marines on Fox Hill:
The long nights. Too long.
Time stops, frozen in place.
I beg the frozen hours for the
Too many many memories
Ice and Death
I’m ready to join my friends.
And so, I can’t help but include bits and pieces of this war, partly because the heroism there has been mostly forgotten and partly because it’s a major factor in the world where my characters lived in the early 1950s.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Vietnam War Novel “At Sea.”