While doing research for the book For the Cause I read a number of the books that have been written associated with the Korean war. One of the books is The Last Stand of Fox Company. Below is the review I wrote for The Last Stand of Fox Company. I gave the book three stars
Authors; Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
The Last Stand of Fox Company was read and reviewed by a book club I belong to. During the review we had a member of Fox Company present who participated in the battle described in The Last Stand of Fox Company. My review reflects both the reading of the book andthe Fox Company veteran’s memories of the battle.
The book begins as the Marine 7th Regiment, part of the 1st Marine Division moves inland after landing at Wonsan, North Korea. Other than a clash at Sudong Gorge the marines did not encounter resistance as it moved up a single primitive mountain road in an advance toward the Yalu River. The war with North Korea had been considered over except for some mopping up by the MacArthur’s headquarters in Tokyo. The marines advancing into the mountains weren’t so sure. There were persistent rumors and signs of Chinese during the advance. North Korean natives said there were many Chinese in the vicinity of the advance. The soldiers encountered at Sudong were identified as Chinese. The presence of the Chinese was ignored or discounted by the Tokyo headquarters. The marines continued the advance into the mountains seventy eight miles and reached a hamlet called Yudam-ni. The road going to Yudam-ni went through Toktong Pass, a narrow twisting path cut through high mountains. Fox Company with 234 men was dropped off to guard Toktong Pass as the 7th Regiment passed through. Fox Company came under attack almost immediately after taking up positions at Toktong Pass. At the same time the marines that had reached Yudam-ni came under a massive attack as the Chinese sprung the trap they had set to destroy the 1st Marine Division. During four nights and five days Fox Company withstood attack after attack by battalions of enemy soldiers. Three quarters of the Fox Company marines were killed, wounded or captured before they were relieved by a daring overland rescue mission. Three Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded and the Fox Company stand is considered one of the signature Marine Corps actions in the twentieth Century. These were Belleau Wood during World War I, Iwo Jima during World War II, Khe San during Vietnam and Fox Hill.
The Last Stand of Fox Company book describes the Fox Hill battle in part by describing the actions of about two dozen officers and men that participated in the battle. The narrator intersperses this information with descriptions of higher level actions on the company and battalion level and with overall battle strategy by the enemy and marine forces. The reader will not become attached to any of the these battle participants as the narrative jumps from one individual to another or to some higher level action without going to any depth on any part of the action. The technique provides a realistic battle experience where each individual involved sees the battle from a different perspective and fights the war he sees. Sometimes the jump from one action to another is jarring and it takes a moment to become reoriented. That said the story held my attention. The books descriptions of the ferocity of the fighting, and the terrible cold weather and its effect on everything were excellent.
During the book club review the Fox Company veteran pointed out some instances where his memory of events differed from the books description. Sixty year old memories can vary so who knows what the facts are. The book picked up on a number of the Chosen Reservoir clichés, including the Fox Company forming up and singing the Marine Anthem when they came into Hagaru and another about getting a small dick out of multiple layers of cloths. Every story about the Chosen Reservoir seems to include those tidbits. This brings into question non-fiction based on the sixty year old memories of a number of individuals and an assist by the author’s imagination. Maybe it should be labeled an enhanced true story. In any case the book is assumed to be non-fiction and certainly the battle was very real.
One thing the The Last Stand of Fox Company does do is help make people more aware of the history of the Korean War. The Korean War is called the forgotten war. This book will help keep the memory of that war alive.
The above map shows the extent of the marine advance and the Chinese divisions that attacked them during the withdrawal
Bitter fight, bitter weather