I read with great interest the article “Winter of the YaIu” (December 1982). At that time I was S-2 for the Marine Air Group supporting units on the east coast. One morning when the Chinese attack was first developing, I was over the reservoir in a Corsair, alone, as I had simply gone out in a staff aircraft to see what was happening. It had snowed the night before, leaving the surface one large expanse of white.
I picked up a call from a forward air controller, “Boyhood 14,” over whom I happened to be flying. Upon observation I found a column of vehicles stopped on a road on the northeastern edge of the reservoir. There were a number of trucks, some tanks, and a considerable body of troops in the vicinity of the vehicles. All the green paint and green uniforms were etched against the white background. Boyhood 14 advised me that these troops were pinned down by the enemy on the ridgeline directly above the road. I skimmed over the ridge at minimum level and saw the Chinese. They blended into the snow from any distance.
Working with Boyhood 14 I expended my bombs, rockets, and gun ammo in repeated runs and was finally reduced to trying to keep the ridgeline troops down by buzzing their heads. It was useless; a single file of Chinese simply walked down the ridgeline to the south, swinging in and cutting off the road below the American unit.
I could not raise any other aircraft on my radio, there was no help. It was the most heartbreaking and frustrating few moments of my life. Usually an airman is divorced from immediate surface activity. In this case I could see it all. At one point I tried to prop down one ridgeline soldier, who stolidly walked through it all with a tripod across his shoulders. I was that close. The American unit broke while I was there—with numbers taking off on foot across the frozen reservoir.
I would be most appreciative of any further detail about this unit.