We Knoxvillians experience so much cold this past week, as we entered into the newyear.
I happened at this same time to be an attendee of a wedding on New Year’s Eve in Neenah, Wisconsin.
The highs for the day were averaging 1 degree down to the negative teens at night with wind chills down to -20 to -30. I wanted to experience the real winters our northern cousins experienced every year. But, I had another motivation. I wanted to feel what our soldiers felt during the battle at the Chosin Reservoir in late November and early December of 1950. The only way I knew how to do this was to try and partially re-enact the situation.
I wanted to feel the bite of the cold air, and experience it for longer that common sense would recommend. I ventured outside. I wrapped myself up in several layers of clothes and gloves and head gear and ventured outside into the frigid air. First thing I did as I began my walk , I removed my gloves, after about 100 yards my fingers were hurting from the cold. I put my gloves on, but not before removing my scarf, and hat, it did not take long for my face to hurt from the cold. The next thing I did when I got to a street corner, was I stopped to feel the wind.
It cut through my clothes, and as the velocity of the wind began to grow the cold reach down into my very being, warning me to stop the experiment and to go inside. Looking at my watch , I was outside for 35 minutes.
These were the conditions the American and Chinese soldiers were forced to endure in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Many of the American Soldiers were caught sleeping with their shoes off, and fought for hours in socks or bare feet.
I was also fortunate enough to get to go onto the frozen Winnebago Lake. Many of the American Soldiers in order to escape the Chinese onslaught had tried to cross the frozen Chosin. There is nothing to slow the cold air on a frozen lake. BRRRRRRRR!
Chapter 32 of the book, CHOSIN THE HEROIC ORDEAL of the KOREAN WAR describes the soldiers on day 5 of the battle like this. Yes, five days, and my experience lasted only 35minutes.
There was the soft crunch of rubber-soled feet on the hard packed snow. The soft jingle of metallic equipment. The soothing shirring sound of cloth-encased thighs rubbing together in mindless rhythm. The muted oaths and sighs of tired, struggling men. The labored, whistling rasp of breath drawn painfully between clenched teeth. The freezing saliva upon the roof of the mouth. The burning of cold number ears. The painful clinching of fists and toes. The boring mindless pace. The heightened sensation of imminent danger and the progressive grip of underlying terror. The throbbing discomfort of overtired eyes darting swiftly upward to check progress. The bobbing gait of seven hundred frozen men struggling against the worst nature could hurl into their faces.
I never was a soldier,
No frozen feet
Nor Bombs ever fell on me.
I will stand and place my hand on my heart when I hear the National Anthem.
What say you?