Don Moore's

One of ‘The Chosin Few’

In Korean War, Purple Heart, World War II on June 21, 2010 at 6:00 am

Sgt. Joe Quick, an Errol Flynn look-alike, is pictured before he shipped overseas at the start of the Korean War in June 1950.

Joe Quick is one of “The Chosin Few”.

He’s one of the members of the 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division that led the way up and back from the Chosin Reservoir during the early months of the Korean War. For nearly eight long weeks, Quick and 20,000 other U.S. Marines braved overwhelming enemy odds in sub-zero weather fighting day and night, often completely surrounded by Chinese and North Korean forces.

As the 54th anniversary of Chosin approaches in early November, Quick reflects on the largest Marine engagement of the Korean War. “It was a fruitless exercise that accomplished little militarily,” he said with a feeling of disappointment.

As a 17-year-old leatherneck, Quick first went ashore with the 6th Division five years earlier on Okinawa, the last major battle of World War II. His company was reactivated when the Korean War broke out in June 1950. Fighting in Korea at 22, he soon became an “old man.”

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of all United Nations forces, landed at Inchon, South Korea, on Sept. 15, 1950, with the 1st and 5th Marine Regiments of the 1st Marine Division. The Marines devastated the enemy troops in its end run around offensive.

A week later Quick, a member of the 7th Regiment of the 1st Division showed up at Inchon. His regiment rounded out the 20,000-man, reinforced Marine division. The 1st Division was ordered into North Korea to attack the enemy.

Sgt. Quick (right) bandages a Marine buddy’s leg during the Chosin Reservoir campaign in Korea.

MacArthur decided he could defeat the North Koreans and Chinese and run them back to China with a thrust by the Marines up the east coast toward the Chinese border. At the same time, he had the U.S. Army march up the west side of the peninsula toward China. If UN forces were successful, it could lead to the reunification of Korea with a democratic government, the general believed.

‘Because the 1st and the 5th regiments led the invasion of Inchon, the 7th was given the task of spearheading the 1st Division’s offensive up and back to Chosin,” Quick said. “We jumped off at Hungnam for the march to the reservoir.

“Gen. O. P. Smith, our commander, complained it was an absolute mistake to send the Marines to Chosin. We were never trained for something like that.”

Leathernecks in the 1st Marine Division march north to the Chosin Reservoir and their destiny with history

It’s approximately 80 miles from Hungnam, on the coast, north along a winding, narrow road to the reservoir. There are sheer cliffs down to the Sea of Japan on one side of the road and high mountains on the other.

“We hadn’t gone far when we ran into Chinese soldiers on Nov. 4,” Quick recalled. “Back at MacArthur’s headquarters in Tokyo, they wouldn’t believe we were facing Chinese divisions even though we captured Chinese POWs.

“We kept killing more and more Chinese soldiers, but they kept charging us in frontal assaults. We were up against 150,000 Chinese, and that didn’t taken into account North Korean enemy troops,” he said.

“Snow began falling. It dropped to 35 degrees below zero at night. We were completely surrounded by the enemy much of the time. Our only supplies were parachuted in. There were no Marine replacements. We were it.

“We were on 100 percent alert, fighting day and night. We had very little sleep and nothing but frozen C-rations to eat.”

Many Marines ate the frozen food by sticking it on their bayonet like a Popsicle.  Eating frozen chow gave a lot of them dysentery.

Resourceful leathernecks heated their cans of food on the manifolds of running tanks and trucks. They had to keep the engines of their vehicle going day and night so they wouldn’t freeze in the sub-zero cold.

At one point, during the march north, Quick’s mortar squad became part of a perimeter defense, securing a hastily bulldozed air strip atop a mountain near Hagaru-ri. The Marines used the runway to fly in supplies and fly out wounded.

Sgt. Joe Quick of Port Charlotte is reflected in the glass cover on a shadowbox of medals he received and shoulder patches he wore in World War II and Korea as a Marine. Among the medals are the Bronze Star, with ‘V” for Valor, and the Purple Heart for shrapnel wound he suffered in Korea. Sun photo by Jonathan Fredin

In the midst of building the airstrip while his company was defending construction crews farther up the mountain, one Nov. 30 the Chinese and North Koreans unleashed human wave attacks on Quick’s position.

“They would come at us like fire ants—wave, after wave of enemy soldiers. You’d burn the rifling out of your M-1 shooting at them. Our machine-guns would overheat form all the firing,” he said.

It got so bad Quick dropped mortar shells almost on his own line to stop the enemy soldiers’ assault. A nearby 105 millimeter howitzer unit fired straight ahead into the Chinese as they charged their guns,” he said.

“We were stacking up dead Chinese soldiers in front of us and using them as shields to fire behind. We’d work in relays. Killing people was a tiring business. It was pure hell,” Quick said.

Hundreds of enemy soldiers lay dead before them when daylight came. It had been a Chinese slaughter. A number of Marines were killed and wounded in the attack, too.

Then the enemy pulled back and things got quiet. That’s when we knew they were encircling us again,” he said.

At 74, Joe Quick in his full dress Marine uniform is the embodiment of a leatherneck. He was in the Marine Corps during two wars and received a chest full of medals for service to his country. Sun photo by Jonathan Fredin

Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, commander of the 1st Marine Regiment put it this way: “We’ve finally found them. We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem of finding these people and killing them.”

Even while the killing was going on all around them, there were a few amusing moments. The beleaguered Marines received thousands of condoms during one air drop that caused them to chuckle.

Puller, known in the Corps for his colorful language, told the Marines in his regiment exactly how they were going to use the condoms on the enemy to break out of their ring of death. His men loved the colonel’s latest unprintable strategy.

“A few days  later, I was hit in the butt, back and legs by shrapnel from an enemy mortar,” Quick said. “The only thing I remember is leaving the ground when the incoming round hit.

“When I woke up I was in a blacked-out tent in a rear area with the dead, the dying and the wounded. I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear a Catholic chaplain giving a Marine his last rites.

“A few minutes later the chaplain crawled over to me.

“Father, I’m not a Catholic, I’m a Baptist,” I told him.

“’Son, do you believe in God?’ he asked.

“’Yes sir,’ I said.

“Let’s say a prayer together,’ the priest suggested.

“I lay there  praying in the dark with the chaplain.

“After he left, I said an extra little prayer of my own.  I told God, ‘If you’ll get me out of here alive, I’ll never use your name in vain again.’ To this day, 54 years later, I haven’t That’s pretty damn good considering how salty a Marine’s language can be.”

Eventually, Quick was taken to the 101 Evacuation Hospital. While in recovery, about a week later, word went out that the walking wounded were desperately needed back on the front lines.

“I didn’t want to go, but by the same token, I’m a Marine. I couldn’t leave my buddies up there fighting the enemy. They needed ever rifleman they could get and I still had two arms and two legs,” he said.

By this time Smith, the division commander, was advised by his superiors that it might be possible to rescue his men using the mountain-top airstrip they built. They could fly them out in transport planes, provided the general left his dead and his equipment behind.

“Hell no. We’re not going to leave our dead and abandon our equipment. We’re going to come out as Marines or we’re not coming out at all,” Smith told his superiors.

“This got our adrenalin pumping,” Quick recalled. “We decided nothing was going to stop us now. We began to kick ass.”

By the time the 13-day-long final string of battles were over and the 1st Division fought its way back to the coast, 719 Marines had been killed, 192 were missing, 3,508 were wounded and hundreds more suffered from frostbite.

The Marines had 6,000 killed and wounded plus another 6,000 who suffered frostbite during the entire battle. To understand the magnitude of the fighting, 10 Medals of Honor and 70 Navy Crosses were awarded members of the division following the engagement.

According to Marine historian Maj. Allan Bevilacqua, the 1st Marine Division engaged and decisively defeated seven Chinese divisions along with elements of three other divisions. Five of these divisions were completely destroyed. It cost the lives of more than 25,000 enemy soldiers.

The Chinese also sustained 12,500 casualties and 30,000 more troops suffered frostbite. Total enemy casualties were estimated at 72,300.

“When we finally reached the coast at Hungnam, we came under the protection of naval gun fire. As we came into sight a Navy band struck up the Marine Corps Hymn,” Quick said.

“It made you proud to be a United States Marine,” the 77-year-old man said as he sat at the dining room table in his Port Charlotte, Fla. home with tears in his eyes remembering a war so long ago.


Quick’s File

Name: Joe Quick
Age: 77
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Address: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: Feb. 15, 1945—Feb. 13, 1950
Discharged: Dec. 15, 1947—April 28, 1952
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Unit: 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division
Commendations: Purple Heart, Bronze Star with ‘V’ for valor, Presidential Unit Commendation Ribbon with one bronze star, Republic of Korea Service Medal with four bronze stars, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, United Nations Service Medal, Defense Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star, China Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal.
Married: Shirley Welty
Children: Dan and Gerald Quick


This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida and is republished with permission.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.

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Old Marine gets Chosin Few jacket – Joe Quick receives unexpected gift
Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL) – Thursday, July 14, 2005

DON MOORE

Joe Quick got an unexpected surprise. He received a dark blue windbreaker with a large white, round patch on the back depicting Marines fighting through the frozen wastelands of North Korea as part of “the Chosin Few.”

The old Port Charlotte Marine was one of the Chosin Few a lifetime ago. He was a member of the 1st Marine Division that fought their way up and back from the Chosin Reservoir along the North Korean-Manchurian border against overwhelming enemy forces in the early months of the Korean War. Quick and his fellow Marines not only fought an enemy many times their strength, but they also battled against severe cold that resulted in the deaths of many Leathernecks as well as Chinese and North Korean soldiers.

The jacket saga began back in May in Canastota, N.Y., when Jerry Brophy, a member of the American Legion Post 140 in the same town was selling his home in New York and moving to California. In the process, he came across a box containing the three Chosin Few jackets he had long ago forgotten. They had originally belonged to Bob West, a post member and a member of the Chosin Few who had passed away.

Brophy called Jack Rogers, a columnist who writes veterans news for the Canastota Bee Journal, the local paper, and told him about the Chosin Few jackets. He explained that he wanted to see that they were given to someone who had fought in the battle. Rogers knew a couple of 1st Marine Division vets who had been in the fight at the reservoir who he thought would appreciate them.

He found homes up there for two of the jackets almost immediately. Then he wrote a column about the one remaining in which he told the history of the jackets and concluded: “If you know a former Marine who is a Chosin Few survivor who wears a medium-size jacket, please contact me.”

This is where John Relyea of Port Charlotte enters the picture. It seems Relyea had been a member of that legion post in New York before moving to this area and becoming active in American Legion Post 110 of Port Charlotte. He still subscribes to the Bee and reads Jack’s column religiously.

Relyea though Quick was a member of the Chosin Few but he wasn’t certain so he called Clyde Prier, active in all things relating to local veterans. The vintage Korean-era Marine assured Relyea that Quick was one of the Marines who fought at Chosin .

Relyea called Jack and the writer sent him the jacket. After a Fourth of July ceremony at the Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans nursing home, Relyea presented Quick with the windbreaker.

“I’m very happy to get it,” Quick said. It fits, it’s made in the USA, and that’s what counts. I’ll never forget Chosin .”


Joe B. Quick , 80, of Port Charlotte, Fla., died Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007, at his residence.

He was born Nov. 8, 1927, in Greenfield, Mo.

Joe and his family moved to Port Charlotte from Lee’s Summit, Mo., in 1969. He was a retired field superintendent for General Development Corp., the company that developed Port Charlotte. During his career with General Development, he managed the construction of the original water transmission pipeline connecting Port Charlotte and the Peace River water plant. His professional career included service as a deputy sheriff in Sedgwick County, Kan., and a credit manager for Allied Department Stores in Kansas City, Mo., and Lake Charles, La. Joe was a member of Murdock Baptist Church, the Marine Corps League Charlotte County Detachment, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5690 and Disabled American Veterans Chapter No. 82, all of Port Charlotte. He was also a member of John C. Ayers Lodge No. 437 F&AM of Lake Charles.

Joe was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Sgt. Joe Quick was one of the ” Chosin Few” as a member of the 7th Regiment, First Marine Division that led the way up and back from the Chosin Reservoir during the early months of the Korean War. He received many commendations, including a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars.

He is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Shirley A. Quick of Port Charlotte; three sons, Danny Joe Quick of Punta Gorda, Gerald Quick of Port Charlotte and Gary Welty of Wichita, Kan.; brother, Wayne Quick of Tempe, Ariz.; and six grandchildren, Jason, Tiffany, Kara Lee, Kayla, Ryan and Patrick Quick .

Visitation will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3, 2007, at the funeral home. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 4, 2008, at Roberson Funeral Home, Port Charlotte Chapel. The Rev. Bob Carlson will officiate. Interment with military honors by the Marine Corps League of Charlotte County will follow at Restlawn Memorial Gardens in Port Charlotte.

Memorial contributions may be made to TideWell Hospice and Palliative Care, 5955 Rand Blvd., Port Charlotte, FL 34238. Friends may visit online at http://www.robersonfh.com to sign the guest book and extend condolences to the family.

Arrangements are by Roberson Funeral Home, Port Charlotte Chapel.


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  1. An amazing man with an amazing story!

  2. I stumbled upon this while looking up the Chosin few/Korean war. My grandfather was a proud Marine who served at the Chosin Reservoir. He lived by “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Of his troop, he was one of the last survivors(he passed away 8-25-10). God bless you and your family…and Semper Fi

  3. Joe Quick was my grandfather and, to me, always the embodiment of the Marine Corps. He always said that when it came down to it, he and his men fought for each other. That is exactly what he did until his tour in this life was completed. I would say his mission was accomplished and his legacy will not be forgotten. I would like to thank Don Moore for his excellent work on this website that serves to honor all of our veterans by its very existence.

    • Jason,
      Your grandfather, Joe Quick, was one of the tough Marines in the 1st Marine Division that fought their way up to the Chosen Reservoir, along the Manchurian Border during the early months of the Korean War. He was a Marine’s Marine who survived the severe cold and an overwhelming number of North Korean and Chinese soldiers. His devotion to duty at the Reservoir added to the Corp’s long history of important engagements the Marines have fought in. He is a credit to his unit and his country.
      Regards,
      Don Moore
      Sun Newspapers

  4. [...] on it. Those guys went through hell. Here is a link to that story for anyone that's interested. One of Reply With [...]

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