Remembering the Marines who died at Chosin Reservoir

Veterans Voices

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — Richard Seeley served in the Korean War, 1st Marine Division. But before joining the Marines at the age of 18, he worked as a coal miner in Pennsylvania.

“And I said, ‘there’s got to be something better than this,’ and my father was a Marine in the first World War,” said Seeley, “When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was join the Marine Corps.”

He joined the Marines, going through boot camp, shipping off to Guam and spending about a year in the Philippines. Then the Korean War started.

On June 25, North Korean troops cross the 38th parallel into South Korea. The first U.S. ground combat troops didn’t arrive ’til the first of July.

In the dead of winter, Seeley and his division were placed in a bad situation at Chosin Reservoir while up against Chinese forces.

“We thought we were going to cut them off. But when the communist regime got in there, they come down — pushed us way down, almost out of Korea.”

Amid retreating, the cold temperatures and brutal winds rendered the first division’s trucks inoperable.

“Our troops were freezing to death first of all. They would go through the trucks, see if anyone was still alive in there. Kick ’em and make sure they were dead and if they weren’t, they’d kill them. We were just in a situation — a no win situation, it looked like.”

Seeley and a handful of troops were able to escape; but, it wasn’t easy. But despite escaping, that wasn’t the last time Seeley found himself at Chosin Reservoir.

“We were back up there again. And that time was really the worst because we were up on top of a hill. You could see all the Chinese coming down through there. You could shoot all day, and they kept on coming.”

Seeley says the 1st Division was better prepared that time around.

“The trouble was Truman didn’t want us to go any farther. If they let us go, we could’ve run right into china. The buck stops here.”

On July 27, 1953, an armistice was signed, drawing the border between North and South Korea. As for Seeley, he had to spend some time in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital.

“I met my wife up there, in Philadelphia. We got married, we were married for 60 years.”

It was life after war for the Seeley’s, moving around and taking up different jobs. Seeley lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia, volunteering three days a week at the VA Medical Center.

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