On Thursday, May 4, 2017, a formal dedication was held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico to commemorate the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. The primary purpose of our members to attend was to share with Bill Howrilla, master wood carver, as he presented his carving depicting a Marine from the ‘Chosin Few’ Battle to the Museum. Also attending from our detachment was Karl and Donna Wilzer, Tom and Audrey Szmed, Joe Wadlow and Ed Peters.
Among the many distinguished speakers and honored guests, Lt. General Richard E. Carey, USMC (Ret) shared some of the events he experienced during the battle where he and his comrades endured the most treacherous winter conditions ever in the history of Korea.
Another honored guest speaker was General Joseph Dunford, Jr., Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Dunford is the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense and National Security Council. Previously, he served as the 36th Commandant for the Marine Corps. Gen. Dunford graciously took time to meet our members who attended the dedication.
(left to right) Past Commandant, Joe Wadlow, Sgt. At Arms Ed Peters, General Dunford, Past Sr. Vice Bill Howrilla, Commandant Karl Wilzer
In the winter of 1950, with freezing snow and intolerable temperatures of minus 25 to 65 degrees F weather at night, 15,000 Marines of the 1st Marine Division with various other military allies were surrounded near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea by over 120,000 Chinese Communist troops whose only purpose was to annihilate all enemy forces.
Jeep batteries were frozen and split, C-ration cans frozen solid, morphine packets and blood plasma were frozen and useless, automatic weapons wouldn’t cycle; resupply could only come by air.
The 60mm mortars were the only effective weapon during these battles and with supplies running dangerously low an emergency radio request was made for “tootsie rolls,” the Marine code name for the ammunition. Unfortunately, the receiving operator did not have the code sheet and did not question the extremely urgent request from command authority. When supplies were delivered, dozens of parachutes with pallets of actual tootsie roll candy descended on the freezing and starving Marines.
The Marines turned a desperate situation into survival. They learned they could warm the candy in their armpits and plug bullet holes in fuel drums, gas tanks, cans and radiators and when refrozen became solid sealing the leaks and allowing the troops some much needed mobility. The tootsie rolls also provided energy and the only nourishment for many days.
This was the inspiration Bill Howrilla had to create masterful carvings of a typical Marine at this battle.
Bill is a life member of #310, past Sr. Vice and Master Wood Carver. Over the years, Bill has carved over 600 master pieces for various military, political, corporate and private organizations.
Bill’s interests have always been in drawings. One Christmas years past, a family member received a small crude carving of a European style Santa. Family members remarked how unique it was but still very amateur looking. Bill knew he could make a more detailed and professional looking carving which started his life-long passion.
Bill was invited to attend the dedication of the Chosin Few Memorial at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico where he would present and donate the Chosin Few Marine wood carving.