Story of the Month – October 2014

The “Chosin Few”


My grandfather, Robert L Gaines, served in the United States Marine Corps from 1948-1968. During his 20 years on active duty he was stationed in China, fought in the Korean War in North Korea, and was an embassy guard in Jordan amidst other assignments

The Chosin Reservoir campaign from November 27 to December 13, 1950 was decisive in the Korean War’s outcome because it allowed United Nations forces to gain a permanent foothold in Korea and the communist forces were never able to sufficiently recover and gain the upper hand. 15,000 UN forces, called “The Chosin Few,” under General Almond were surrounded by over 120,000 Chinese troops under Song Shi-Lun. Because Almond refused to retreat and simply “attacked in another direction,” the “Chosin Few” were able to successfully stall the Chinese advance, inflict heavy casualties, and extricate themselves and their equipment. This defeat proved crippling for the Chinese because Song Shi-Lun was forced to resign and they lost massive amounts of soldiers and resources they were never able to replenish.

My grandfather was part of the Chosin Reservoir Campaign and participated in the aforementioned events that were crucial in the outcome of the Korean War. He often recalls the story of how the Tootsie Roll saved his life.

During the bitterly cold winter of 1950, my grandfather was guarding a road at the Chosin Reservoir so that men and supplies could get through to where they were crucially needed. Every time he made even a slight movement a bullet would whistle by his head. When he turned to face the direction the bullets were coming from, the shots would stop. He decided to stay still as much as possible and hope that the person shooting would stop or give up. After a time, he decided he was hungry. Because of the limited rations and freezing cold conditions troops would often eat Tootsie Rolls as a sugary snack that could be sucked on and warmed up. First Sergeant Gaines turned over and slipped the pack off his back to get to the Tootsie Rolls. As he reached for the Tootsie Rolls he noticed air panels he had strapped to his pack. This reflective equipment was an easy target for the sniper and my grandfather quickly removed the panels before retrieving the Tootsie Roll. He got his snack and was able to continue guarding the road in relative “peace”.

While this story is only one of my grandfather’s experiences, he made countless other sacrifices during his time on active duty as well and after the fact. His unit was crucial in the Chosin Reservoir Campaign and the turning point of the war; to this day still deals with the long term effects of these sacrifices on his body from the conditions and extreme cold of Korea. My grandpa remained strong in his faith and was selfless in his service to our country and has sought to instill these values in his children and grandchildren.

I have chosen to major in American Sign Language Interpreter Studies and double major in Theology at Quincy University (QU) in Quincy, IL. With my grandfather’s example and encouragement I have been very involved in my church and my faith is very important to me; whatever I do in life I want to serve and I believe a higher education at a Catholic institution will allow me to continue to do so.

There are very few schools with a sign language interpreting program, and even fewer options with my desire for a Catholic school. The program at Quincy University is an Interpreter Training

Program. Not only will I learn Sign Language and the ethics and practice of interpreting, but I will also be ready to take the certification exam upon graduation. I received an academic scholarship from QU, however my family cannot afford the rest of the expense of a private education, so I am turning to outside scholarships to cover the other $20,000.


Katherine3 Katherine2