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11/1/09

"LITZ'S BLITZES" *



The Chosin Reservoir Breakout,
27 November - 13 December 1950

In the North Korean mountains a division of Marines,
Trapped and taunted by the weather and the foe,
Stood and fought among the frozen ridges and ravines,
Facing all but certain slaughter in the snow.

The gray old colonel summed it up, "We're battered and we're bent,
They claim we're whipped, and by the book, they're right.
But we're marching out together as a fighting regiment--
Now let's show these fellows how Marines can fight!"

They burrowed in their foxholes, siting guns and laying wire,
Like mountain lions briefly brought to bay;
In the night they heard the bugles, as they faced the deadly fire,
And wondered if they'd live to see the day.

Round their iron-edged perimeter the Chinese beat in vain,
Their attacks rolled in, were hit and fell apart,
As the Blitz's leader met them with a calculating brain,
Well-supported by a firm and fighting heart.

Then they formed a walking circle round their vehicles and tanks,
Driving back along the road to Hagaru,
The Chinese Dragon broke its teeth against those iron flanks,
Till its bloody jaws relaxed and let them through.

(A single rifle company had held the vital Pass,
Where the road snaked far and high among the rocks,
Attacked by whole battalions, it had cut them down en masse,
And the hill they held was named for "Fighting Fox".)

Though the weather and the enemy made desperate attacks,
They marched out together, as the colonel said,
With all their gear and vehicles, their rifles and their packs,
And Marine and Navy aircraft overhead.

Down, down the rugged mountain road from burning Yudam-ni,
Neither enemy nor bitter winter blast
Stopped the First Marine Division in their journey to the sea,
And three army corps lay shattered where they passed.

There's few men to remember how they broke the Mongol Tide,
Their "march to glory" happened long ago,
Now some are raising families, and some have simply died,
And some are gone where none of us may know.

But none who lived them will forget those nights of death and flame,
Of rejoicing just to see the morning sun--
They called them "Litz's Blitzes", but it's just a fancy name,
'Til you learn the way that gallant name was won!

RR 10-70

* NOTE: I am well aware that the name "Litz's Blitzes" applied only to then-colonel(later Lieutenant General) Homer Litzenberg's 7th Marines, dug in around Yudam-ni,northwest of the Reservoir. And as I don't wish to have a mob of irate "Frozen Chosin"veterans at my door with torches and pitchforks, I hasten to add that this verse is meant to let the part represent the whole. Every man Jack of Major General O. P. Smith's 1st MarDiv acquitted himself with incredible hardihood and courage, and to mention one outfit is not to shade the achievements of any other. In this regard, "Fox" Company, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, "The Ridgerunners of Toktong Pass", under the indomitable leadership of Captain William Barber--later awarded a Medal of Honor for his heroism-- and supported by artillery and air strikes, held out for five nights and four days in their isolated position. And as a footnote, General Smith recalled that at one point, when prospects seemed dark, he was greatly heartened by the sound of some Marines in warming tent near his CP, loudly singing "The Marines' Hymn". "With men like that in my command" he wrote, "I knew we could not fail."

(Incidentally, in 1959, while I was stationed at Marine Barracks, Clarksville Base, Tenn., Litzenberg, then Inspector General of the Marine Corps, paid us an official visit. Our colonel made it a special occasion, with a Mess Night--Dress Blues, fancy menu, brandy, cigars and toasts-- the works. After dinner General Litzenberg, in an expansive mood, asked someone to sing a "good old song", and 1st Lt Raymond obliged with a Plebe Summer version of "The Armored Cruiser Squadron". The general was delighted, and capped it with a couple of mildy racy verses of his own. PS: The well-remembered 1stLt N. G. "Dusty"Rodes also made the march to Hungnam, as once reported by Salty Sam.)

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