"The Tech Rep" By James Michener; Continued:
"It was on ordeal. A newspaperman, who had come upon the unit when it was one day out of Hungnam, wrote a glowing account of the bravery these men were exhibiting even then. He could only guess what it must have been like further north. The high command made Holt a captain. It was of this experience that he once told me, I OWE MY LIFE TO SERGEANT SCHUMPETER, for apparently when the days and nights of the retreat became intolerable-truly more than one man could bear-he had recalled the bellowed advice of Schumpeter: KEEP YOUR MEN TOGETHER. KEEP TO THE HIGH GROUND EVEN IF IT KILLS YOU. IN FREEZING WEATHER WRAP A CLOTH AROUND YOUR BREECHLOCK AT NIGHT. DON'T BOTHER TO MELT SNOW TO DRINK IT. EAT THE SNOW. YOU'LL GET THE WATER. And so on, through the litany of accumulated experience that runs a straight line back to Hannibal and Scipio.
When the memory of the disaster had faded, masked as much as possible by clear propaganda releases, the agencies of public opinion swung into action to convert the Hungnam retreat into victory.
The riposte of a marine colonel was widely broadcast: RETREAT, HELL. WE'RE ADVANCING IN A NEW DIRECTION. Even a movie was made with that title, its flamboyant heroism sparking a new faith in the marines. It now became fashionable to speak of the retreat as a glorious feat of arms, planned for in advance and proving the superiority of American troops.
Holt knew different. It was a disaster, a crushing defeat. An ill-led and ill-prepared American army had been overwhelmed by a well-led and well-prepared Chinese army, and if there was any glory in the affair, one had to fall back upon strange definitions to substantiate it. Heroism, yes. Glory, no. Unless there is glory in completely botching a job and escaping with more men than chance would have dictated.
In later years Holt tried to get his Korean experience into focus. The fact that it had been so sorely mismanaged did not disqualify the marines. They were following orders, and although they did look pathetic when the Chinese hit, they had quickly reestablished themselves and had even shown a certain grandeur in their ability to absorb defeat and still withdraw in order and not in a rout. In Holt's reappraisal the ordinary marine did not suffer."
To be continued:
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