News: Remembering the battle at Chip’yong-ni
Story by Sgt. Sarah Enos
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Sixty-two years ago during the Korean War, troops from the 23rd Regiment, alongside United Nations forces, fought hand-to-hand combat against the enemy to defend their strategic positions around the snow-covered village of Chip’yong-ni, resulting in victory.
Fifty-two U.S. soldiers were killed and 259 wounded. Forty-two men went missing and 51 troops had noncombat injuries, mostly frostbite.
In remembrance of that battle, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment “Tomahawks,” 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division soldiers and honored guests assembled near the battleground stones outside its headquarters building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in an annual memorial ceremony Feb. 13 to commemorate the victory in remembrance of their fallen soldiers.
Two of the soldiers who fought at the battle of Chip’yong-ni were present for the day’s ceremony.
Retired command sergeants major Charles D. Main and Jim Steinthal, along with current battalion command sergeants major from the regiment, placed a wreath at the Chip’yong-ni rock in memory of those who fought there.
Main brought the audience back to February 1951 as he told the story of an 18-year-old boy who found himself alone in a foxhole on a barren smoke covered hill.
“He looked down the finger (of a ridge) that he was supposed to protect and hundreds of Chinese soldiers were coming up that finger, most definitely not to wish him a happy Valentines Day,” Main said.
He followed his story with a poem by George L. Skypeck, changing the ending to fit the regiment.
“We have suffered pain and hope, but most of all we have lived in times others would say would be best forgotten,” Main read. “At least some day we will be able to say that we were proud of what we were, an American soldier and Tomahawk.”
Steinthal said that in addition to remembering Chip’yong-ni, he was also at the ceremony to honor the current soldiers of the 1-23 Infantry.
“A lot of these guys now have been with the regiment four or five years and are adding to the history of the 2nd Division,” Steinthal said. “This is something you never forget. It’s tough to lose people in combat who have become part of the family.”
Following the ceremony, inside the battalion headquarters building, regimental toasts were conducted and a conference room was dedicated to the Main family.
“Command Sgt. Maj. Main is our honorary regimental sergeant major who served with us during the Korean War,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Volk. “His grandfather served in A Company 1-23 Infantry World War I and his father, during World War II.”
Displayed on a table in the room was a silver “Korea” punch bowl with matching cups made from the metal of 5,610 combat infantry and medic’s badges earned and donated by 23rd Regiment soldiers during combat, two of which were donated by Main and his father.
Volk began the toasts by raising a silver cup in the air.
“To all Tomahawk soldiers, past and present,” Volk said.
Staff Sgt. Michael Rosenthal, human resources noncommissioned officer for the battalion, took the role of a Korean War soldier by wearing the uniform American soldiers wore then and spoke of the historical artifacts that lined the walls.
“It’s actually really interesting to learn about the 23rd Infantry Regiment,” Rosenthal said. “Because it doesn’t really connect until you actually become a part of it.”
The annual memorial ceremony and monument stones from the Chip’yong-ni battleground remain a constant reminder of the 23rd Regiment heritage and a legacy for soldiers to follow.