A BATTLE WON BY THE “CHOSEN FEW”
Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. (September 29, 2022): It was the defining moment of the Korean War, a bloody battle between 30,000 Marine, Army, and South Koreans against approximately 120,000 Chinese regulars resulting in over 10,000 allied battle casualties. Thirteen Medals of Honor were awarded to participants in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, among them was 21-year-old Marine Private First-Class Hector A. Cafferata Jr.
Outwardly, there was nothing special about Hector Cafferata. He was born in Queens, New York and was raised in New Jersey enlisting in the Marines when he was 19. He graduated from Boonton High School and worked for the Sun Dial Corporation until his nation called up men for the Korean conflict. He was assigned as a rifleman to Company F, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines of the First Marine Division and shipped off to Korea.
He could not imagine what lay ahead.
Fighting in the brutal winter of 1950, men endured frostbite, little sleep, and both mental and physical exhaustion. Freezing temperatures, some as low as 30 below zero, icy roads, and winds whipping through steep mountain passes made every engagement with the enemy a living nightmare.
At the Chosin Reservoir, thousands of young Americans fought “belly button to belly button” with well trained, determined Chinese troops attacking in waves that never seemed to end. In brutal hand-to-hand combat, Allied forces slugged it out with tens of thousands of white clad Chinese regulars who attacked every night to the terrorizing blare of trumpets, clashing cymbals, and screeching whistles. Just before dawn on Nov. 28, 1950, the Chinese staged an assault at Toktong Pass that caught the Americans by surprise.
PFC Cafferata leapt out of his sleeping bag firing at the enemy point-blank while wearing only his socks and a light jacket. Armed with only with his rifle and grenades, Cafferata filled the gap in his company’s perimeter forcing the enemy to retreat.
Medal of Honor citation tells the rest of the story.
“Making a target of himself under the devastating fire from automatic weapons, rifles, grenades and mortars, he maneuvered up and down the line and delivered accurate and effective fire against the onrushing force, killing 15, wounding many more and forcing the others to withdraw so that reinforcements could move up and consolidate the position.”
Later that morning, a grenade landed in a shallow bunker occupied by fellow Marines and Cafferatta “rushed into the gully under heavy fire, seized the deadly missile in his right hand and hurled it free of his comrades before it detonated, severing part of one finger and seriously wounding him in the right hand and arm.”
Cafferata was later shot by a sniper and evacuated from the field.
His commanding officer credited him with killing as many as 100 Communist Chinese troops but reduced the number in the medal recommendation to 15 because he feared the actual count would not seem credible.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House by President Harry S. Truman on Nov. 24, 1952. He died recently at the age of 86 in Venice, Florida, and was buried with honors at the Marine’s National Cemetery at Quantico, Virginia.
The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir is still commemorated today as one of the signature battles for the United States Marine Corps, and those who fought in the battle became known as the “Chosin Few”. In all, 146 military personnel received the Medal of Honor during the Korean War, 103 of which were awarded posthumously.
We can never repay heroes like PFC Cafferata for the sacrifice they made for our freedom. What we can do is provide material support to our active-duty military deployed around the world. That is where Support Our Troops comes in. Please consider showing your support for today’s servicemembers deployed overseas by contributing funds to Support Our Troops’ Patriot Brigade®. Here you will join thousands of patriots who make monthly donations to improve the lives of our servicemembers and their families. Please go to our secure website https://supportourtroops.org/donate to contribute to America’s finest today!