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.