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Chosin Reservoir veterans named recipient of Camping World Independence Bowl Spirit of Independence Award

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The Camping World Independence Bowl has selected Veterans of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir as the recipients of the 2016 Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award.”

“Some Americans may not appreciate the significance of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in Korea, but I guarantee you the veterans who fought there and those who came after them certainly do,” 2016 Camping World Independence Bowl Chairman Eric Barkley said. “The Independence Bowl Foundation is honored to remember the sacrifice and hardships made in such brutal conditions by the veterans of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

“Recognizing these great Americans is special for us because it is the first direct recipient of the Spirit of Independence Award from the Korean War, and with the 1st Marine Division’s heavy involvement, it is the first recipient honoring a specific unit of the United States Marine Corps.”

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir took place in late November and early December of 1950 during the Korean War, as the Chinese launched an offensive against United Nations forces, mainly the 1st Marine Division of the U.S. X Corps.

The X Corps, consisting of the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division, as well as other US Army units, under the command of Major General Ned Almond, marched 55 miles to the Chosin Reservoir – a man-made lake located in the mountainous region northeast of the Korean Peninsula – on the orders of General Douglas MacArthur, commander of all allied forces in the United Nations Command.

The X Corps not only had to battle the Chinese, but also the terrain and bitterly cold temperatures, as North Korea experienced the coldest winter in 100 years. China dispatched the Ninth Army Group to eliminate the 1st Marine Division at various strongholds surrounding the Chosin Reservoir.

Outnumbered 8-to-1 and enduring the elements, the X Corps held its positions during days and nights of intense fighting. Almond and MacArthur met in Tokyo and made the decision to have the X Corps retreat to the nearest port to preserve the unit’s fighting strength.

The units began to fight their way south to the coast after airlifting out the most critically wounded. The Marines set off on a 78-mile journey to the Sea of Japan to reunite with American forces. During the 13-day trek, the Marines fought through 10 Chinese infantry divisions.

Though the Chinese were able to fight the X Corps out of the Chosin Reservoir, they took estimated losses between 40,000 and 80,000. The 1st Marine Division lost 4,385 men to combat and 7,338 to the weather conditions, while the rest of the X Corps lost an estimated 6,000 men.

The X Corps, however, maintained much of its fighting strength and later rejoined the war effort in Korea. The men of the 1st Marine Division received a Presidential Unit Citation, and all of the UN troops who fought would later earn the nickname, “The Chosin Few.”

Accepting the Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award” on behalf of the Veterans of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir will be Shreveport-Bossier City residents Lieutenant Colonel Edgar H. Gleason, Jr. USMCR retired, Gus Marcotte, Charles Higgs and Kenneth Darnell, among others.

Since the award’s inception, this honor has been bestowed upon outstanding American citizens, or organizations, which symbolize the spirit of freedom and independence on which our country was founded. Some past recipients include: John Wayne, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan, and recently, the Doolittle Raiders, Tuskegee Airmen and the Berlin Airlift Veterans.

— Stefan Nolet, Camping World Independence Bowl