American Portraits

Fox Company at the Chosin Reservoir and Self-Sacrifice

In this lesson, students will learn about the actions of Fox Company during the Korean War at the battle of the Chosin Reservoir. They will explore how Fox Company’s selfless actions helped to preserve the United States and United Nations forces against massive Chinese assaults. Through this example, they will learn how they can act selflessly in their own lives.

Founding Principles

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.

Narrative

On the morning of November 27, the 218 Marines and corpsmen of 1st Marine Division, 7th Regiment, Fox Company moved out “griping openly and vociferously.” Some were able to catch a ride on a truck, but most walked carrying a sixty-pound pack for a seven-mile journey in bitterly cold temperatures of at least ten degrees below zero, falling snow, and winds whipping off the nearby Chosin Reservoir. They were disappointed because they would rather be marching with their fellow Marines to where the expected action would be in Yudam-ni rather than guarding a road….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can the example of Fox Company inspire you to sacrifice or moderate your own needs for the needs of others?

Virtue Defined

Self-sacrifice is purposeful action exchanging personal loss for the good of others.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about the actions of Fox Company during the Korean War at the battle of the Chosin Reservoir. They will explore how Fox Company’s selfless actions helped to preserve the United States and United Nations forces against massive Chinese assaults. Through this example, they will learn how they can act selflessly in their own lives.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze Fox Company’s actions during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.
  • Students will understand how acting selflessly can benefit those around them.
  • Students will understand how they can act more selflessly in their own lives.

Background

On June 25, 1950, North Korea launched an invasion of South Korea and rapidly swept through the nation until it controlled all but a small perimeter around the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. A United Nations coalition of forces led by the United States under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur counter-attacked and gained back much of the territory. On September 15, 1950, the U.S. Marines landed behind North Korean lines with an amphibious landing at Inchon and quickly took back control of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Not satisfied with regaining control of South Korea, General MacArthur sent American troops past the 38th Parallel and into North Korea.

On October 5, Chinese Foreign Minister Chou En-lai warned that if U.N. troops crossed the 38th Parallel, China would intervene in the war. MacArthur shrugged off the warning, and U.S. Army forces and their allies took the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang, two weeks later. MacArthur then sent forces further north toward the Yalu River, the border with China. China responded by sending approximately 300,000 troops to battle U.N. forces and drive them out of North Korea. Almost 10,000 Marines of the 1st, 5th, and 7th Regiments, supported by the 1st Marine Air Wing and the 11th Artillery Regiment clashed with nearly 120,000 Chinese forces around the Chosin Reservoir in November and December of 1950. MacArthur visited the area and called it a “merciless wasteland…locked in a silent death grip of snow and ice.”

The Marines fought their way to the village of Hagaru, where Marine engineers were building an airstrip and base at the southeastern tip of the reservoir. Other Marine infantrymen of the three regiments marched to the village of Yudam-ni, fourteen miles away to the west. Fox Company was tasked with the critical job of occupying a hill next to the only road, the Toktong Pass. The Toktong Pass linked Hagaru to Yudam-ni and was essential as it prevented their fellow Marines from being cut off from supplies. The 218 Marines and corpsmen of Fox Company would face an estimated 4,000 Chinese soldiers in a desperate battle to hold the hill and Toktong Pass.

Vocabulary

  • Perimeter
  • Coalition
  • Amphibious
  • Corpsmen
  • Groused
  • Tenacious
  • Foxhole
  • Satchel charge
  • Frostbite

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

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Questions

Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • What was Fox Company?
  • What was the Fox Company’s role during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir?
  • How did the selfless actions of Fox Company help to shape their identity?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

  • Drury, Bob and Tom Clavin. The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat. New York: Atlantic, 2009.
  • Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.
  • Hastings, Max. The Korean War. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
  • Russ, Martin. Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korean 1950. New York: Penguin, 1999.

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