Task Force Faith veteran remembers heroic leader
March 29, 2013
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea (March 29, 2013) -- Former U.S. Army Cpl. Ray Vallowe vividly remembers the bitter cold and the fierce fighting at the Chosin "Jangjin" Reservoir.
The East St. Louis, Ill., native was a member of Task Force Faith, an appropriately named combat formation that had little else to rely on than faith during the Battle of Chosin "Jangjin" Reservoir.
The former U.S. Army corporal recalls the powerful impact that Task Force Commander Lt. Col. Don Carlos Faith had during the storied battle.
Faith exposed himself to heavy enemy fire many times and led counterattacks on enemy positions. He inspired his men by leading from the front until he was killed in action during the battle.
Task Force Faith was made up of American Soldiers and Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army from the 7th Infantry Division's 31st Regimental Combat Team.
Task Force Faith's story unfolded during the longest strategic retreat in U.S. military history, a treacherous 78-mile trek through frigid, rugged and fiercely contested terrain around the frozen Jangjin "Chosin" Reservoir. The U.S. forces who fought in the battle have since been colloquially referred to as "The Frozen Chosin."
The reservoir is often called the Chosin Reservoir because United Nations forces were using outdated Japanese maps at the time. The correct Korean name for the reservoir is Jangjin.
The Communist Chinese forces came to the aid of the defeated and fleeing North Korean forces after UN forces had chased them all the way to the Chinese border, following Eighth Army's successful defense of the Pusan Perimeter and the 1st Marine Division and X Corps' amphibious assault at Incheon.
Vallowe came ashore with the 31st Regiment during the Incheon landing where he climbed down the swishing web netting onto the moving landing craft. After capturing an airfield in Suwon, the 31st Regiment linked up with the 1st Cavalry Division. The 31st Regiment troops then moved south to Pusan, boarded another ship and conducted an amphibious landing in Iwon, North Korea.
At the reservoir in North Korea, more than 100,000 enemy soldiers encircled 30,000 UN troops during one of the coldest winters in the history of the region where 40 below temperatures caused weapons to malfunction and made the frozen ground too hard to dig foxholes.
Completely surrounded and vastly outnumbered, American Soldiers and Marines outmaneuvered and outfought the Communist Chinese People's Volunteers. Prevailing in intense combat and overcoming numerous obstacles, U.S. troops defeated eight Communist Chinese Divisions, broke through the siege and made it to the North Korean port of Hamhung where they helped to evacuate more than 100,000 North Korean refugees. The epic battle lasted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 13, 1950.
Vallowe said Faith's leadership was pivotal during the battle. "Dedication" is the word he uses to describe Faith's actions at the reservoir.
"I felt his leadership and overwhelming desire to save his Task Force," said Vallowe, who was evacuated from Hagaru-ri on Dec. 2, 1950, after suffering injuries and severe frostbite.
For conspicuous gallantry during the battle, Lt. Col. Don Carlos Faith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in August 1951.
Faith's remains were recovered in North Korea and accounted for in October 2012 nearly 62 years after the battle.
Thousands of miles away and more than six decades later, Faith will soon take his rightful place alongside other heroes from other wars. The Medal of Honor recipient is scheduled to be interred at Arlington National Cemeter, Va., April 17.
Vallowe said he was tremendously relieved to hear that Faith had been found. He said his former commander's return to his native land gives him a sense of closure. Vallowe plans to attend the ceremony to say goodbye in person.
Expressing his gratitude to the American Soldiers serving in South Korea today, Vallowe said he is pleased to see how well South Korea has done since the Korean War Armistice was signed in 1953, rising from ashes of war to become the world's 13th largest economy.
Vallowe said this progress "gives a sense of purpose to what we did."