Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fox News

Marines sleep where they fell after
Battle of Fox Hill, 1950

We are at war against tyranny and aggression.
We do not lose our wars.

--Lyndon B, Johnson, fr.
The Fog of War

The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of Marines in Combat by Drury is a chilling reminder of the cost of ground combat, whether in a conventional or guerrilla /unconventional war environment.

Fox Co. was an
ad hoc defensive group securing Toktong Pass. Their mission was keeping a key section of the main supply route open in order to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. forces, which was to occur under extreme enemy and environmental pressure.

The best weather was -15 degrees, a brutal fact in itself, let alone endured while engaging in armed combat with limited rations, ammunition and lacking medical evacuation resources. The wounded languished for up to a week before receiving anything resembling adequate medical attention; their survival is nothing short of a miracle.

Tactically, the "F' Co. was employed in a masterful fashion due to the experience level of their Company grade officers and NCO's and the personal nature of their leadership. Their tactical and technical proficiency was as deep, factors contributing to their success albeit at a terrible cost.

The lieutenants were exceptional combat soldiers and the Marines, legendary. Their stand was equivalent to that of the 20th Maine at Gettysburg, to the fifth power.

In comparing this battle to today's at places like Wanat and Waygul, the omissions are glaring. The Fox Co. Marines employed organic 105 mm from a range of seven miles, and unit mortars in an exemplary and professional manner. Even the relief forces packed in two 81 mm mortar tubes, with each man carrying rounds in their packs.

They used their indirect fire to break up assembly areas, attack positions and avenues of approach in a classic employment of assets. Fox Co. is estimated to have killed 3,500 Chicom soldiers.
Outfits today are not doing what they did to allow them such success in dire conditions.

The use of Tacair and supporting air assets to air-drop
needed supplies was textbook. The Tacair was as much a morale booster as it was beneficial to the ground commander's integrated fire planning.

Fox Co.'s battle should be studied today by Company and Battalion level leaders as an example of how to fight a defensive operation, and is recommended for anyone who needs to understand the Rifle Company in the defensive.
Current military leaders need to understand and employ present assets as professionally as did the Marines in December 1950. The principles are as relevant today as they were 69 years ago.

The rifle platoon and company lives when they properly employ their indirect fire assets, and die when they ignore these assets.

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

in the RVN, over and over, the skill, and at times, beautiful artistry of our gunners turned the tide.

i saw grunt mortar platoons that had teams capable of lobbing a shell a quarter of a mile into an ice tea glass. not only were they spot on target, they had that innate combat sense of putting their ordinance on target at the right time.

i haven't seen that artistry since.

(chamberlin's stand at little round top was a perfect example, had longstreet's alabamans been able to set up their artillery on that hill, a lot of things regarding that battle would have been very different. buford's stand on the ridge the very first day was another critical factor there. buford's stand the first day absolutely doomed pickett's charge on the third. that man had a good eye for ground)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 1:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous barcalounger said...

I read the book, great read. I was struck by how a lot of the cooks ended up operating LMGs on the perimeter. A lesson going forward might be for commanders to crosstrain the support troops in simple infantry tasks. Never know when that skill might come in handy. Also the aerial resupply by the Marine helicopter pilots. Sheer bravery.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 6:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Serving Patriot said...

Contrast Fox Company's stand with that of the (largely) unknown hammering that the 9th Inf Reg. took at Sinhung-ri on Nov 25-26, 1950.

It didn't go so well for them. Individual examples of extraordinary bravery were also abundant. Halberstam took a good luck at the Army's destruction above the 38th Parallel in his last book, The Coldest Winter.

A worthy read.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 9:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Term Papers said...

Congratulation, to you man, Such a nice post, really interesting, really admire your work, to have some more of it,Thanks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 12:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Not only were the troops cross trained but they were able to perform under extreme weather and enemy conditions.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 12:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

A lot of units got hammered,but my point is that even in a withdrawal under extreme pressure a unit can function at an incredible level if properly employed.
This is the lesson and the point. Contrast this fight with Wanat where a US platoon had difficulty fighting approx 300 insurgents.
When I was a young man I served with a lot of KW vets and was always impressed with them. The cold weather alone imo was an incredible obstacle. Then add the terrain and the en sit and what you end up with was not very desirable.
My hat is off to them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 12:35:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Thanks for the kind words. Believe it or not your encouragement means a lot.
Glad to have you on board and would like to hear your comments.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 12:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Jim: Let's put this in perspective, too.

The Marines of 1950 were within an enlistment's time of having fought for years against a tough infantry force that knew how to dig in deep and had to be blasted out with artillery, mortars, NGF as well as all the nasty tricks of the infantry trade. Most of those NCO's would have been Pacific vets, and even some of the privates, given the long-service Marine tradition hadn't yet been killed in the RVN. And Marine officer training and officer standards were then among the most demanding of the services.

By contrast, the GIs of Wanat were still green troops for all that they may have had NCOs with "combat" experience. It's been so long since we have fought a truly capable enemy that I think our people are coasting on our rep. Every so often we run into a good commander on the "other side of the hill" and he hands us our ass. Ask the Brits about how that worked for them in South Africa back in the Oughts of the last century. The bottom line is that the big colonial power can afford these local failures, the locals can't, so over time the colonial troops were the locals down.

But that assumes that the outsider has a political point behind their military operations, and plans to actually conquer. The real tragedy of Wanat is that the lives lost are probably going to be lost for no reason. At lest the Fox Company guys work managed to save us an ally in South Korea that exists today. I have no such optimisim about our "ally" Mr. Karzai...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 2:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

The Platoon ldrs of FOX were deeply experienced and the rifleman apparently often placed their own fighting positions. One thing is sure is that they had the leadership to pick defensible terrain.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 4:08:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post and comments! Thanks to all!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 11:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

OT re the 15th Alabama at LRT; if they had stopped to fill up their canteens then they possibly would've carried the assault.
The heat and dehydration cleaned their clocks as viciously as did the final defensive fires of the 20th Maine.
Just a little fact.
In the Fox Hill fight the Marines in extreme needed water that was only available at a nearby well. It seems the Chicoms used the well also.
BTW- I've always felt that Buford was the real hero of G burg as well as his breach loading carbines.

Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 11:35:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Serving Patriot said...


Just saw your note on proper employment and concur completely. And I agree with you, Chief and many others (as noted over at MilPub) that we are indeed coasting on our rep and appear to be looking for a serious beat down from someone else. In fact, I could go far and say that at the strategic level, OBL is delivering that beat down now (aided and abetted by the free-riding Chinese).

In any case, all too often the bravery and skill of too many of our troops (at Wanat, at Uson, at Chosin) seem to be wasted -- and often wasted without even the simplest of accountability like a fired commander -- all too often. I'm left in awe that we continue to "find such men" -- and pray that we will continue to find them.


Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 5:00:00 PM GMT-5  

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