Review: Uncommon Courage:Breakout At Chosin

On Memorial Day, Smithsonian
Channel present s a one-hour
special, Uncommon Courage: Breakout at Chosin, about a remarkable
and unlikely hero of the Korean War.

Few may know the story of U.S.
Marine Lt. Chew-Een Lee, who led
500 troops in an incredible overnight
march to protect a key pass
and guard 8,000 Marines retreating
from overwhelming force at the
Battle of Chosin Reservoir in late
1950. That makes him a little-known
hero from “The Forgotten War.”
After seeing this documentary,
though, few would argue with the
film’s contention that Lee should
be awarded the Congressional
Medal of Honor for his leadership
at Chosin.

Lee, the film tells us, was the first
commissioned U.S. Marine regular
officer of Chinese descent. His ethnicity
was a barrier early in his career:
As a young recruit, he was assigned
to Japanese-language school instead
of a combat post in the Pacific
during World War II. When the Korean
conflict came, as a first lieutenant,
he insisted on being at the front.

In battle against Chinese forces,
his knowledge of Mandarin helped
him deceive the enemy on occasion,
including during a one-man
raid against a machine-gun bunker
that won him the Navy Cross.

His bravery, and the discipline
and respect he instilled in his men
going back to training in Camp
Pendleton, got them through their
daring mission at frozen Chosin
— and got them home.

Smithsonian Channel premieres Uncommon Courage: Breakout at Chosin on May 31 at 8 p.m.