RTFU

Chosin

By
Updated: May 18, 2010

I stood there in a teary-eyed haze as my palms added to the thunderous applause resonating through the theatre. Pride, sadness, revulsion, and raw amazement ran through me in a maelstrom of emotion. I had just encountered a work of art that moved me in a way I had never expected, and every soul in this packed auditorium at the 2010 GI Film Festival felt the same way.

I had just experienced Chosin. Chosin, a documentary chronicling the Korean War Battle at the Chosin reservoir, is the production debut of Marine Captain Brian Iglesias and Marine Captain Anton Sattler and the directorial debut for Iglesias. The entire magnificent film is created using first person accounts from the living survivors of the battle. To some of you, this concept may not seem extraordinary. I’ll be the first to admit I can sit in front of the history channel for hours and enjoy a documentary after documentary because I love the knowledge I glean, but this was a different experience. I was held rapt from the instant the title screen arrived until the moment I lurched to my feet to give these two gentlemen and the thirteen Chosin veterans they had flown across the country to the premiere the standing ovation they so rightfully deserved.

Every aspect of the film was spectacular, but what truly set it apart was the raw and honest nature of the comments from the Chosin veterans. Thirty-three minutes into the film I stopped myself from sobbing as a man that could easily be any of our grandfathers teared up as he described his experience. His perimeter had been overrun with Chinese as his battle buddy died in his arms from multiple bullet wounds. The incoming fire was so heavy that he instinctively placed his dead friend in front of him as a sand bag. You could see the pain in his eyes. You could imagine yourself in that situation. For an instant, you were almost there with the Chosin Few, as they often refer to themselves. You almost understood. An instant later you realized you could never understand, and you thanked God for it.

Brian talks to Ed Reeves while Anton films



I found myself amazed that they had managed to get these men to talk about their experiences. The Korean War, often referred to as the Forgotten War, was treated as little more than a police action at home in the United States. While the warriors that returned did not suffer indignities as their brothers in arms would in Vietnam, they returned with no fanfare. As such, perhaps more than any veterans in our nation’s history, they are notoriously tight lipped. That fact coupled with Hollywood’s apparent lack of interest over the Korean War, in favor of the easier “good versus evil” storylines of World War II or the “damn the man” storylines of Vietnam, made such a documentary impossible. The interviews simply did not exist. The information did not exist, except in the minds of the few dozen gentlemen still alive.

Hollywood producers would never get this story. Thank God Iglesias and Sattler are not Hollywood producers. The two Marines, both two time-Iraq combat infantrymen, left active duty and transferred to the reserves with one solitary vision – they were going to tell the story of Chosin. They didn’t have money. They didn’t have connections. They simply had a mission and they refused to fail. The two rented a van, were given boxes of MREs from their units, and tracked down one-by-incredible-one the remaining Chosin survivors. For one year and two months they toiled, sleeping in the van every night unless a local VA was willing to give them some floor space for their sleeping bags, and met our forgotten heroes. When they ran out of money, they waited until their next drill and then went back to the road. At the end of it all they gathered more than 250 hours of video that they are preparing to donate to our national archives.

Hold Fast

The Chosin Few spoke to Iglesias and Sattler in a way they never would to others, because while the generations and the battlefields they served on were worlds apart, these heroes from the Chosin campaign saw in them combat infantrymen. Iglesias and Sattler were not simply interested in making a movie. They felt every single word, imagined every single round, could see every lost Marine, and wanted to honor the men who had come before them – the men that helped give the words United States Marine the meaning it rightly deserves today.

As the film comes to its two-hour conclusion, the men who have been telling their stories so graciously to us answer, one-by-one, the same question: how many did you lose out there? The answers come and with each response my heart sinks further: 17 out 235 men in combat infantry company returned, 35 out of 240 returned in the next, only five returned in a rifle platoon… Each man’s story was different, but yet horrifyingly similar. I sit and wonder whether I would even have the strength to live if I had lost 35 of my men as a platoon leader. My mind goes to Bill Maher, a soldier who was taken by an IED months after I left command of the mortar platoon. I feel the weight that loss still has on me, on all of us. I think about losing all but four of my men and what that would feel like. I know I am not strong enough. I know it.

There is a brief pause on screen. We hear Iglesias’s voice for the first and only time throughout the entire film, which is told entirely in the voices of the Chosin Few.

“Thank you”, he says.

Finally, someone said it.

Purchase Chosin here. Ranger Up believes so strongly in this film that all purchasers will receive a $5 gift certificate to Ranger Up with their DVD.

Join Chosin the Movie’s facebook page here!

Brian and Anton at the GI Film Festival

Comments

comments

10 Comments

  1. andyinsdca

    May 18, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    I’ll have the chance to visit Korea a few times in the next year or so and I will try and make it to this hallowed ground (as well as see the movie). A helluva sacrifice these men made in a forgotten war.

  2. Justin

    May 19, 2010 at 12:06 am

    my old neighbor was a Korean vet, he has told me some stories…The thing he hates the most about that war is how forgotten he and his men felt about it. There were 36,516 dead (including 2,830 non-combat deaths), 92,134 wounded, 8,176 MIA, 7,245 POWs, yet men from this era feel forgotten. Good men like my neighbor (whom I still see from time to time) are the reason this country is strong, we can never forget them. I contrast this only to Vietnam(which my uncle served in), and second is terrible acts only to such. At least they are expanding the Korean War Memorial.

  3. Jill

    May 19, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Great writing Nick. Very heartfelt. See why I always chose green side as an RN in the USN? Love my Maries. They are much like Rangers.. A Rare Breed.

    Semper Fidelis and Sua Sponte!

  4. Jo Lombardi

    May 19, 2010 at 11:28 am

    thanks for giving this film a boost-My brother-in-law’s father and friend’s father are both Korean veterans. My friend’s father IS a former Marine drill instructor, he sponsors me every year in the WWP Soldier Ride in memory of his buddy who died at Chosin. Never Forget~Honor their SAcrifice

  5. SPC D

    May 20, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Thanks for posting this, I’ll be looking for it in the future. It’s one hell of a story. I can only hope that if the time comes, my generation is capable of the same acts of heroism.

  6. Jill

    May 20, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    ummm I don’t love Maries. My above comment should read ” Love my Marines*” LOL

  7. Jill

    May 20, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    After reading your review yesterday, I stopped by to see my father in law, retired Marine Sgt Major Charles F. Cook USMC (1948-1976) and I mentioned this blog to him and the Battle of Chosin. I had asked him about Vietnam in the past and he said there were some stories that should never be told, but had never asked him about his time serving in the Korean War. He had told me he made the rate of Sgt in 2 years because of the Korean War and that back then, the Marines didn’t have the rate of Lance Corporal. So a Sgt’s rate was E-4. He said they changed it in the early 1950s and added LCpl, so he got promoted to E-5 and was STILL a Sgt. LOL I had recalled that, but when I asked about Chosin (he was NOT at the Battle of Chosin) and his combat time in Korea he referred to “The Final Inspection”, a poem about a Marine standing at the Gates of Heaven waiting to see if he is allowed to enter Heaven and God tells the Marine,

    “Step forward now, you Marine,
    You’ve borne your burdens well.
    Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
    You’ve done your time in Hell.”

    and he added “Amen! You can say THAT one again!”

    He, too had a tear in his eye, but that was all he said and I didn’t press further. Much like you, Nick, I could see a flash of memories cross his face. Memories he isn’t ready to share. I sat there in total awe of this man who joined The Corps at the age of 17 “to get off the damn farm!”, this Marine, this father of my kia Marine husband and this grand father of my Marine son, who spent almost 30 years of his life as a Marine. He has become a successful business man over the years, owning several companies, but the one thing he is MOST proud of is being a US Marine.

    Semper Fidelis

    Interesting foot note: Sgt Major Cook had served in Beirut in the 1950s and had been in the VERY same barracks his Marine son, Cpl Charles D. Cook lost his life in on 23 October 1983.

  8. Wardog

    June 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Nick,
    Nice piece of writing about the “forgotten” ones. I have known two Korean War Marines. One was only 16 when he lied about his age to join the Corps and go to fight in Korea. A short man, he had all the heart in the world to emulate the ones who fought in WW2. The other one was a veteran of Chosin. He was a quiet man who told great stories about the battles he lived through, and he had firm opinions regarding his leaders. His CO was “Dark Horse 6″ who wrote a book of the same name regarding the fighting withdrawal and what it was like in those frozen mountains. We had lunch once a month with a bunch of other local ‘former Marindes” until Bud passed away last year. Bud still bore many of the physical and emotional scars from that time, but he was always proud of what he and his fellow survivors did to bring everyone out with them. The thing I get from my lunches with these older heroes (Tarawa to today) is the steadfastness of their resolve, just like the current generation – we Marines are a pretty hidebound bunch in that regard I guess. I look forward to watching the full movie when I get it.

    Semper Fi,
    Wardog sends

  9. Diana

    November 21, 2010 at 7:53 am

    I just saw this film Friday night in Pittsburgh Pa.
    Humbled, dumbfounded I never knew about this and grateful for the sacrifice of these men.
    What they accomplished, the victory they won, says much to the free worlds position now.
    Hope this makes it to the national media screen.
    Well done Brian and Anton.
    Grateful in Pittsburgh,
    Diana

  10. NavyOne

    August 14, 2011 at 2:22 am

    Hold Fast. . .Great tattoo. . .

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