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Tom Clavin: The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat

The Marines of Fox Company began October with every reason to hope they would be home for Christmas. But shortly before Thanksgiving, they were among the first to discover that the complexion of the Korean War had changed dramatically.

Sunny pronouncements on the state of the war had been coming from high command in the fall of 1950. The North Korean military had been driven back across the 38th Parallel, the dividing line between North and South, and seemed fearful of any further encounter with U.S. forces. But General MacArthur decided to press on, ignoring threats from the as-yet uninvolved Chinese government against further movement into Communist territory. And by the end of November, MacArthur's First Division Marines were beyond their supply lines, surrounded by mountains and sub-zero temperatures, and suddenly outnumbered more than ten to one by Chinese soldiers.

The Last Stand of Fox Company is the story of a small group of Marines charged with buying time for the rest of the First Division to withdraw. To do so, Fox Company would have to defend a narrow mountain pass overlooking the frigid Chosin Reservoir against an overwhelming enemy force. They were under-supplied, and most were young and unseasoned. Cold turned their rations foul, claimed their toes, and jammed their weapons, although it also froze their wounds closed almost as quickly as they were inflicted. By day, they struggled to survive in temperatures more than twenty degrees below zero; by night, colder still, they fought in close combat, forced to use shovels, rocks, and their bare hands to keep the enemy at bay. While MacArthur demanded permission to use atomic weapons and launch a full-scale invasion of China, Fox Company were making an extraordinarily painful sacrifice for the safety of their fellow Marines. By the time rescue arrived, only 60 of the original 246 could still fight. Three Marines would earn the Medal of Honor for the defense and the rescue – and a new, bloody phase in the Korean War had begun.

Tom Clavin is the author of seven books, including Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue and Dark Noon: The Final Voyage of the Fishing Boat Pelican. He is a former writer for the New York Times, and his work has also appeared in publications such as Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Men's Journal, Parade, and Reader's Digest.