Lewis was 19 years old in 1950, and was a Corporal at Chosin with I Co. Lewis wrote home often and his mother always shared his letters with the local newspaper. Thanks to Shannon, here's one of his letters written right after his ordeal at Chosin. Letter dated 12/16, from Pusan, Korea.
"I'm seated in the galley of the ship, General Freeman, thinking of the past and yet tryin to forget. We were just evacuated from Hamhung.
Our battalion was moved from the hills around Iwon to the east side of Chosin Reservoir, then all hello broke loose. We thought the whole bugle blowing, whistle tooting Chinese Army was upon us.
The first day we lost some ground, but in the afternoon we counter attacked and retook all we lost. We counted 600 of the enemy dead, which was but a small portion of what we got. 'K' company had only 50 men left the first day. Out of our company we lost about 10 men and 15 were wounded.
Something happened to my equipment, so knowing, I would freeze that I would freeze that night, I asked the first sergeant permission to stay in one of the houses. I moved in a house with seven of our wounded. None of the others had guns so I loaned one of my 45 caliber pistol. That night the enemy blew their bugles and started their banshee attacks again. During the night there were many new holes in the house and two wounded men were hit again.
Sometimes early in the morning we were forced to withdraw about 50 yards to out Battalion headquarters. We found we were surrounded and we all hoped someone could break through to us."
"The 1st Battalion of the 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Division, was in the same situation as we consolidated our perimeter.
Supply of food and ammunition was dropped by airplanes. Some of our wounded (4) were flown out by helicopter. We heard our regiment commander(Col MacLean) got killed. The third night was about the quietest it ever was, probably because it was so clear.
The fourth day after almost running out of ammunition it was decided we would destroy everything we couldn't take and try to fight our way back to the rear toward Hagaru-ri where the first marines were. When we got back, there were only 105 men left from the third Battalion, my outfit...
Out of the company (I), there are only about 20 left of a company 280 strong.
I brought back one buddy (Scalph) who was shot in the back and foot, who had frozen feet and hands and who couldn't fire a gun anymore.
They will never make medals worthy of the bravery a lot of men showed. I hear the are 1,700 men unaccounted for. The enemy gave about 20 men to each man we lost. We killed them by the hundreds and thousands but they kept on coming. What a mess!
From what I can find out around here we will get off tomorrow and proceed to Taeju somewhere in South Korea. While we were in Hamhung we received 30 some replacements so have a company of 47 men. A First Lieutenant is company commander. We haven't formed our company yet, but from what I hear, I'll probably be a squad leader.
It's kind of hard to say what religon I prefer, but I did quite a bit of praying in the mountains of Korea.
I guess I've lost some weight and my toes don't feel right. I'm lucky, as there were a lot of men who froze theirs. Mine are numb, probably frostbitten. I'll have to check the first thing in the morning, at the dispensary.
I'm going to church tomorrow morning and I plan to from now on.
I'm going to check when I can on one of my buddies and see if he got out alive. He and I promised each other if anything happens to one of us the other would see his family. He has a girl in Japan with whom he has been doing with since 1946, so I'll have to see her, too, because I must keep my promise. He had intentions of marrying her.
If you get this letter around Christmas, I'm wishing to a Merry Christmas."
NOTE - Lewis Shannon passed away on August 18, 2001.
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