Skip to main content

Yalu: An Aerial View

June 2024
1min read

The author of the original article, James H. Dill, replies: Task Force MacLean, named for Col. Alan MacLean of the 31st Infantry, included, among other units, one battalion of the 31st Infantry and one battalion of the 32d Infantry. At the start of the Chinese attack, the battalion from the 32d was some distance north of the remainder of the Task Force. Colonel MacLean himself happened to be with this battalion. The Chinese quickly occupied the ground between the two elements, and the 32d first had to fight its way south to the main body.

As I recall a long conversation with one of the forward observers who was with the 32d, they had to fight every foot of the way, but eventually they reached the north side of a wide and frozen inlet. The rest of the Task Force was perimetered just to the south of the inlet and was under constant attack. At this point the Chinese had their main blocking position. Your remark about the convoy being pinned down between a ridge and the Chosin Reservoir jogged my memory of that long-ago talk. Colonel MacLean ordered my observer’s company to take the ridge at all costs so the rest of the battalion could pass around the inlet. Colonel MacLean had no infantry officer available and gave the artillery lieutenant command of the company with positive orders to start the attack at once. The observer did take the ridgeline and held it long enough for the vehicles to resume the movement south. I told him he deserved the Distinguished Service Cross at least, but he said everyone who knew anything about the affair was dead except himself.

Colonel MacLean was killed a few minutes later by Chinese firing across the inlet from the south shore. Lieutenant Colonel Faith of the 32d then led a charge across the ice. Most of his men made it, and they cleared the south bank after heavy fighting. It was one of those rare instances in modern war in which bayonets were used. The two elements were then able to unite.

I believe from your account that your sorties took place immediately before the two attacks just described. It is not too much to believe that you distracted the Chinese long enough to enable both assaults to succeed, and so you enabled the 32d to rejoin the main force.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.

Donate