View Full Version : Reliability of US Weapons in Korea andModern Weaponst about Current Weapon

Hard Ball
January 9, 2000, 06:47 PM
As a result of a recent book about the US Marines at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea during the winter of 1950. The book states that the Marines said that almost all US militayy weapons un use including the .30 carbine, the BAR, the Colt 45 automtic and the Browning machine guns were useless becauseof the 10 to 30 degree weather encountered at the Chosin reservoir. Massad Ayoob and some other gun writers have accepted this uncritically and used it to attempt to evaluate the reliability of current guns.

Since several people I know have asked about this and it came up in Short Bursts threadon the effectiveness of the .30 calober carbine I am posting spme information on the actul facts.

What happened at the Chosin was a series of battles as the Chinese IX Army Group attacked and attempted to destroy the US Army X Corps.
The X Corps consisted of three divisions, the 1st Marine Division, the 3rd Infantry Division, and the 7th Infantry Division. The 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division were at the Chosin. The 1st Marine Division fought on the west side of the reservoir, and the 7th Infantry Divison foight on the east side.
The Chinese committed nine divisions against them. THe weather was very cold. The battles were fought between November 27-December 10, 1950. During this period the temperature seldom rose above zero and fell to 20 to 30 degrees below zero at night.
What is significant about this is that the the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division fought in the same environment at the same time. The conditions were the same for both divisions. Both used the same weapons: M1 Garands, BARs, M2 carbines, Colt .45 automatics, and Browning machine guns. Both used the same ammunition. Both were heavily engged. The The 1st Marine Division suffered 2,621 casualties, and the 7th Infantry Division had 2,760 casualties.
This is critical in evaluating the weapons problems reported by the Marines. They reported major problems with their BARs, carbines, .45 automatics and, Browning machine guns, stating, in fact, that all their infantry weapons were almost useless except for their M1 Garands. This certainly happened, but the 7th Infantry Division did not have the same problems. For that matter neither did the Chinese who used a mixture of American, Russian, German, and Japanese weapons. The question is why?
It's a matter of historical record that no large Marine Corps units had ever fought in severe cold weather before the Chosin Reservoir. The 7th Infantry Division had fought in cold weather in the Aleutians during World War Two a few years before. Many of its officers and NCOs were experiencd in the special kinds of maintenance needed to keep weapons functioning in sub-zero weather.
It's worth noting that the 1st marine Division stayed in Korea for the rest of the war and fought during the wunters of 1951, 1952 and 1953. They used the same types of weapons and ammunition as they had used at the Chosin. They did not report the problems they had encountered in 1950. Obviously something had changed.
The reason that the Marines had their problem and the Army division did not would appear to be that the Marines had not been trained in the proper techniques. If this was not the cause, we must come up with some other explaination; and I have never seen one proposed.
This is not a criticisim of the Marines who fought at the Chosin. They fought effectively and inflicted heavy casualties on the Chinese and broke out of the trap. If there was a failure in their training, that was not the fault of the Marines who fought at the Chosin.

Art Eatman
January 9, 2000, 07:08 PM
If I had to guess at a cause, I'd say the Army guys kept their guns free of oil. Any cleaning might have been with gasoline.

I vaguely recall keeping my carbine fairly "dry" during my 1954-1955 occupation-duty tour, there. I DO remember the misery of guard duty at 17 below zero, with a 20mph wind.

And for a nickel, you can have whatever share of Frozen Chosen I might retain. And I'll finance.


January 9, 2000, 07:59 PM
First the WWII was the first time a division of Marines ever fought. In the WWI although 1 division of Marines exsisted, because of political pressure were broken down into brigades to fight within Army divisions, Gen John A LeJeune actually commanded the 2nd (Infantry)Division. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War a Regiment of Marines were sent to Iceland to act as defensive force in case the Germans decided to invade. Another problem the Marines might have experinced is the fact that their weapons were mostly worn out. As just about ever Marine knows our weapons are normally old, worn out and in need in replacement. I do buy the lack of cold weather lubricant, the supply system within the Marine Corps is not the best, and often requires "procurement" from others.
An additional factor, if my memory serves me correctly the Army units involved in the encirlcement, basically broke and were routed while the Marines fought all the way back to the sea, and acquired a lot of the Army's gear that was left behind because it slowed their movement to the rear.

Hard Ball
January 9, 2000, 09:56 PM
You are right on Art! The basic cold weather maintenance technique used in cold weather in Korea was to remove all oil and grease from the weapon's metal parts and clean when required with gasoline. The only exception was the Garand M1 rifles. They required a small amount of lubriplate on the bolt's locking lugs. All Army duvusions used these methods and I believe that the 1st Marine Division used them after the Chosin reservoir.

James K
January 9, 2000, 11:42 PM
Just a note.

A friend of mine was at "frozen Chosin" with the Marines. He lost the toes of one foot to frostbite and his hands were frozen so badly that he wears gloves even on the hottest summer day. And we think we have it tough if the beer is warm.


Gale McMillan
January 10, 2000, 08:13 AM
We didn't have enough trouble to keep us from stacking the Chinese six feet deep and 30 feet wide in front af the firing points. As has been said there are several reasons for ineffectiveness of small arms in cold weather. One thing being when temp gets below 0 the powder doesn't develop a lot of pressure and is hard to ignite. A round like the 30 carbine is marginal in pressure and when sub zero temp makes you loose some of that then you can have trouble. I had some 50 caliber sniper rifles at 22,000 feet up on the pass between India and Pakistan and it was 40 below and the Ammo wouldn't fire half the time and when it did the effective range was about a third what it was down in the valley You can see why I had a bunch of unhappy customers!

Alan B
January 10, 2000, 02:48 PM
Wasn’t there but from what I have read

Problems the Marines and Army suffered at Chosin had nothing to do with training them to maintain their weapons in cold weather, and everything to do with the COLD... The cold affected the propellants in all the small arms, artillery and mortars. The propellants in artillery and mortars did not burn consistently so rounds fell short as often as they fell on target. The lubricant in the recoil mechanism on artillery pieces was so cold sometimes it took a minute before the gun returned to battery. (result of all this trouble is, they tried not to call for artillery support unless they were desperate) I have also read where the primers and powder used in the rifles and machine guns was adversely affected too.. Sometimes the primes failed to ignite the powder charge and sometimes the powder wouldn't burn completely causing the rifle to malfunction. It was the first time that any US units tired to fight in the -40 deg. F or below temperature range, the weapons, propellants and lubricants had never been tested that cold before.

As far as the Marines having more trouble than the army who knows … I do know that there were several Marine Ncos and Officers who fought at Chosin who had also fought in the Bulge with the army, and knew quit a bit about cold weather effects. One thing I do think would affect the seemingly different reported failures between Army and Marine Division around Chosin is that the entire 1st Marine division was there while only about half of the 7th Division was present. If I remember right, 1 Battalion of both the 31st and 32nd regiments had not joined up yet and the 17th regiment was on the Yalu river. Since the army units had a lot higher casulity rates, did this “kill off the soldiers who would have later reported those failures” Also If I remember right wasn’t 40% of either the 31st or the 32nd Regiments composed of Korean conscripts or both.

Having grown up in the rural Mid west and living through a few winters where the Lows stayed in the –20 deg F range I can say not much works right a –20 let alone -40

January 10, 2000, 05:23 PM
AR15.com has a thread about cold weather shooting @-15 in Minnisota I think. Currently the best way for these rifles is dry or a bare minimum of CLP. Have a friend who was Navy medic with Marines, I admire him/them/all who were there.

Art Eatman
January 10, 2000, 11:06 PM
STLRN: You'd need to go to a map of Unit locations, but as I recall, the First Cavalry Division was next to the 1st Marine Division, with a Republic of Korea (ROK) Division flanking the First Cav. The Chinese attack quickly rolled up the ROK Division, thus flanking the 1st Cav. When they rolled up, that put the Chinese on both the front and (I believe) the east side of the 1st MarDiv. I don't recall if it was the 2nd Infantry Div. or the rebuilt 24th and 25th Divisions on the other side of 1st MarDiv from the 1st Cav.

I think it was the 1st Cav which was broken the worst, of American units. They lost their colors when their HQ was destroyed.

Weather, bad Intel, surprise, huge numbers of Chinese--it was a mess.

All that led to a song, "The Bug-Out Boogie", sung to the tune of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On". Most of the lyrics are too obscene for a family forum.

Remember that in 1950, the Army's motto was, informally, "Join the Army, see the world, and get an education" (GI Bill). Training was lax, weapons were WW II and well-used. The 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions were torn up in the first North Korean push. The 1st Cav, stationed at Sendai, Japan, needed re-training before they could be sent to Korea. Rough way to get on-the-job training!

There's a lesson, there.

Regards, Art

Danger Dave
January 11, 2000, 10:58 AM
I recall hearing similar stories about the infantry sent to kick the Japanese off of the Aleutian Islands off Alaska during WWII. They had problems with the Garands functioning, too. The old '03's functioned, though. I've been told the cold weather problems with the Garand were the main reason that the roller was added to the bolt on the M14 & Baretta BM59. Don't know how true that is though.

Of course another problem was that they sent troops fresh out of basic in Southern Calif. to Alaska in winter. We lost more people to the cold than to combat.

Alan B
January 11, 2000, 12:22 PM
you are correct that the 1st Cav was the next formation west of the 1st Marine Division but there was 75 miles of mountains in between, full of Chinese. "Gen Almond expected the 1st Marine Div to close that gap by its self"


The unit on the east side of the Marine Division were parts of the 31st and 32nd Infantry Regiments of the 7th Infantry Division

Yes the 1st Cav lost their colors, but not due to enemy action, because they flat out ran. They left in such a hurry they left the colors in the Division SGMs tent. I have met a few guys who were in the ASA that were there when the 1st cav left in such a hurry. They didn't bother to tell the ASA or any of the other supporting units attached to them, they found out when they came off radio watch early the next morning to find themselves all alone. The 7th infantry Division was mauled the worst but at least they stood, fought and died like soldiers. The Marines were mauled pretty bad too, but the at least they marched out, they didn't run.

The Divisions in 8th Army bugged out 3 days before they bothered to tell
the 10th Corps about it. Basically the 8th Army let the Chinese sucker punch 10th Corps. Gen. Almond CO of 10th corps didn't make matters any better with his laundry boy speech to 7th infantry just before the ceiling fell on them.

I agree there is a lesson here more than one it seems and it looks today as if we haven't learned it. We are in the same run down condition again and the same people are making noise again. Maybe they are ready for a rematch. Also I think Gen Almond had the "home by Christmas fever" and pushed his units too far too fast over poor roads with out proper support or supplies. Sounds familiar like the Ardennes in 1944.

This brings up an interesting question how would the M-16 fare in this type of environment, colder that hell? The way the bolt on a M-16 locks the only way to unfreeze it if it froze up would be to put it some place warm. Can’t see how you could knock it loose like a M-1/M-14 or any other rifle that has a strong handle attached to the bolt.

[This message has been edited by Alan B (edited January 11, 2000).]

January 11, 2000, 12:26 PM

Troops sent to the Aleutians had been trained for combat in North Africa. As Invasions went it was a mess. More troops fell to frostbote than to enemy bullets. national Geographic had a nice article on this forgotten invasion years ago.. complete with photos of Jap mini-subs and the sub pens captured in the action.

For the record, elk hunting in 3rd season in colorado my Dad's remington 760 froze up on him and would not fire. It was a bitterly cold day (below zero, hard blowing winds) and we suspected a combination of overlubrication and condensation in the reciver to cause a hangfire in the field. Luckily dad cleared the round and dropped the magazine, the firing pin spring eventually unfroze and we were good to go again. Unfortunately Dad was looking for a couple of lost hunters at the time (who were busily building a shelter in a blizzard). Luckily everyone made it back to camp safe and sound.. but since then when we go in the woods our weapons are carried "dry". These sorts of conditions led me to purchase a stainless and plastic stocked rifle (to ward off rust, warped stocks, etc.)

I was watching that "navy seals" thing on Discovery and they mentioned that the m-14 was used in artic conditions because it operated well in adverse conditions (the m-14 is an improved garand action right?).

After reading Gale's post i was reminded that in khashmir, the Indians and Pakistanis have been fighting battles WELL ABOVE tree line for years. The leading cause of casualties is Altitude sickness (again sourced from national geographic) and frostbite/hypothermia.

Can't IMAGINE how inhospitable Chosin must have been though I've read about the battle a number of times.

Just goes to show you how adaptable we are, and how with proper training what we can overcome.


January 11, 2000, 09:47 PM
I remember doing cold weather training a few years back. My M-16 froze, but it was not because of the Lube on it, it was because, the transition from inside the cquad shelter to outside, caused condensation, that froze the bolt shut. The remedial solution, urinate on the weapon to heat it up, strip the weapon completly and dry it, I know sounds funny, but that is what the instructor told us to do. On the issue of Koream I agree the army was nex to the Marines but the official Marine history (I know it is the Corps version of propraganda) the army units were routed. There are numerous acounts of entire units running because of panic that spread by unit survivors passing through units not in contact. That is how the Marine gained a lot of equipment, it was left by army units in a full flight

January 11, 2000, 10:29 PM
When I was stationed at Minot ND we really wondered if our M16a1's would work in the sub zero weather. Me being the jerky boy I am I went and stuck my A1 outside in a blizzard where the ground temp was about -60F and the wind chill was approx -120F.

The M16 had a real light coat of CLP on and was left out all night. Had to dig it out from under a rather big pile of snow in the AM.

Could not fire the rifle at all (bad juju to fire it on duty) but it dry fired fine and had no problems when we function checked it.

Art Eatman
January 12, 2000, 12:13 AM
This thread has split into two parts: The gun, and people. ("Bifurcated", if you want a six-bit word.)

I think we're generally in accord that if you think about your weather conditions ahead of time, you can prepare for it. You gun will then function reliably. "Prior planning prevent p-poor performance".

What should become obvious about the human factor is that training is far more important than many folks think. It holds true for your participation in IPSC/IDPA as well as in hunting deer or hunting people.

As I said before in an earlier post, many Army units were mostly composed of "newbies", whether officer or enlisted. A newbie tends to think, "This can't be happening!" and may break and run. A veteran thinks, "BOHICA." and makes sure his ammo supply is near to hand.

For those to whom it's new, "BOHICA" is the acronym for "Bend over, here it comes again." Veterans tend to be a bit cynical.

Recommended reading: Bill Mauldin's "Up Front". While it was mostly concerned with the Italian Campaign portion of WW II, the fundamental truths held for Korea and the Nam. And Panama, Grenada and Desert Storm.

And as long as I'm pontificating on how to train your brain, consider most anything by Robert Heinlein, particularly "Starship Troopers" and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress".

Rudyard Kipling's works from 120-100 years ago are still timely. "Soldiers Three" and "Departmental Ditties, Barrack-room Ballads, and Other Verses".

The British soldier was nicknamed "Tommy Atkins". A chorus from "Tommy" goes,
"For it''s Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Savior of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;"--and that's stuck with me for a long, long time...I note that Saviors have been occasionaly crucified.

G'night, all...Art

Alan B
January 12, 2000, 12:14 PM
Ok Lets get this straight... The 8th Army units ran like rabbits. The 10th Corps units (7th Infantry Div and 1st Marine Div) fought their way out. I have never found any claims (documented in a book) that any Army division ran and left their equipment for the Marines (however when South Korean units ran they left every thing behind and I mean every damn thing). (ever wonder where the 7th Division got it nick name as the Bayonet division it was during the Chosin fight) I have heard the stories too, there were only two operational air strips (temp strips just built) for use, and they were used primarily to bring in supplies and evacuate the wounded, so the column would not have to carry them on the trip/fight back. In 10th Corps there were 3 US Divisions 1st Marine, 7th Infantry and 3rd Infantry. 3rd Infantry never was deployed forward during the chosin campaign. Since the 31st and 32nd Infantry Regiments of the 7th Division were damn near vaped I guess they didn't run either. The 17th regiment of the 7th Division was on the Yalu river and was never attacked but they had to beat feat before the chinese cut them off 100 miles in the middle of nowhere (by a different route quite a few miles east of the route taken by the chosin units).

Not to take anything away from the Marines, but since they were the major formation to survive the fight back from chosin they wrote most of its history. But the marines had a serious ax to grind against Gen Almond who in their eyes hung them out to dry and 8th Army who ran, and never bothered to tell them. Its to bad they let these bad feeling influence the way the treated the army formations and personnel that fought with them at chosin. Besides Marines have always chaffed when under the control of an Army general and Gen Almond had earned the Marines ire long before Chosin. Just before the landings at Inchon he had proposed replacing one of the Marine regiments for an army regiment from the 7th division that was 40% Korean Conscripts in the amphibious assault. Almond had pulled the Marines out of the line, so the would not have the privilege of capturing the north Korean capital since they had liberated the south Korean Capital. And last but not least the marines considered themselves (and rightly so) specialists in amphibious warfare and they resented being sent on what they considered a fools errand, of running up to Chosin then 75 miles across the mountains to link up with 8th army (not a decent road the whole way). If the marines had mooved as fast as Almond had wanted they would have been in the middle of those mountain and way up -CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED- cheek when the chinese fell on them and probably wiped out too.

Now since the marines were the major surviving formation, did this have anything to do with the fact most of the weapons failures reported during the Chosin campaign came from Marine units?
Obviously Norma know something about making cold weather ammunition, aren't they from Finland?

January 15, 2000, 12:38 AM
Bring your guns in and out of the cold is a no-no. Condensation on a cold gun will rust them up. If your going to bring them in, you have to empty them, lock the bolts open and warm them till they are nice and dry. In very cold weather leave the guns outside but protected, or in a unheated area. In 50's the lubes were not what we have today. Haven't finished the Chosin yet, but haven't gleamed much in way of tactics or practical problems other than the take care of your feet! The book is OK reading, sure glad I wasn't there!

Art Eatman
January 15, 2000, 05:36 PM
Alan B: I imagine it's a bit much to say the 8th Army ran like rabbits, although if you're attacked head-on and also flanked by a superior force, said running might be wise. I'd bet a very few units actually "bugged out", but most retreated in as good an order as they could. For many, "good order" did indeed mean, "Run like hell!", since the alternative meant dying for nothing.

So much stuff grows with the telling. If you're in snow and shooting, your rifle heats up. Some moisture gets in and then freezes as you move to some new position. And then, "That piece of junk quit on me!" Laying the blame on a "thing" is easy, right?

Regards, Art

Danger Dave
January 16, 2000, 09:30 AM
Thanks, Dr. Rob - I heard about the Aleutian problems years ago on a documentary - I think it was on the Discovery Channel. Guess I didn't retain all the info.

The only person I know that was at Chosin was a friend of mine's dad. He was an army surgeon, not one of the MASH guys, but one of the front line docs. He didn't talk much about Chosin except to say he was there, and he didn't like it. Interesting fellow - only one I've ever seen with a combat medical badge with 2 stars (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam).

Hard Ball
January 20, 2000, 10:06 PM
I'm afraid we got off on a tangent here. I had no intention of putting dowh the 1st Marine Division. There was plenty of hard fighting around the Chosin, more than enough to go around. If either the 7th Infantry Division or the !st Marine Divisiob had not neen there the other division would probably been completely destroyed. As it was they fought against heavy odds, inflicted 29,000 casualies on the Chinese Army and defeated the Chinese plan to destroy the X Corps. THe survivors fought their way out and were evacuated by sea. Let's all be thankfull it worked out that way.

Michael Carlin
January 21, 2000, 12:43 AM
Having spent a few years in the 205th Infantry Brigade, an Army Reserve unit that usually trained the coldest part of January at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. One year the ambient never rose above -25 for five days then it warmed up to -20 for four more. Night time temps pegged my $12 hardware store thermometer at -40. These temperatures are in Fahrenheit, but at -40 it does not matter, as that is the point of coincidence.

An M16A1 must be kept dry and free of oil. Any LSA would impede cycling to the point of malfunction. The poster above whose instructor suggested that they urinate on the weapon to thaw it must have been joking. What a -30 to -40 degree rifle would do to 98 degree urine would be to freeze it into a frozen urine icicle.

The poster would stated that weapons must be kept outdoors is absolutely correct. The 3d Bn 3d Infantry SOP was to place the weapons between the tent liner and the tent at the entrance. The temperature here was pretty much the same as ambient. The weapons were never brought into the tent unless we were going to be inside for several hours with the M1949 Yukon stove going.

This NEVER happened in my squad. The 3-4 hours we were not out training we slept, firing the Yuke up to get into the sleeping bags, which we undressed to sleep in. Then we shut it down because my fire guards ALWAYS feel asleep. We fired it up for about 20 minutes or so when we dressed in the morning.

All weapons systems are degraded by the cold. Both the M16 and M60 if run "dry" will function in an Artic environment. Both with blanks, and with ball.

The experiences noted here took place in the period 1981-1985. The equipment we used was for the most part that equipment adopted due to the experiences of WWII and that same tentage and stovery served in Korea in 1950 and as far as I know serves the Artic Infantry yet today in Alaska.

Congratulations to the USAR AGR soldiers who were notified today that they had been promoted! Especially to SFC Patrick Harold Colby, now SFC (P) Colby, another stalwart member of the downsized 205th Infantry Brigade who continues to serve on AGR status.


[This message has been edited by Michael Carlin (edited January 21, 2000).]

January 23, 2000, 09:35 AM
I have heard enough of this BS about the 1st. losing its colors, and running. PROVE it show me the documents. I have known men that were with the Cav. in both Korea and Nam. Not once did the Cav. ever show it's backside and leave an AO. The Marines yell and scream about all the glorious things they have done. At the Halls of Montezuma they held the mules, for the Army. The Marines like all the glory they recieve for the war in the Pacific, my Father-in-Law was one of the first units in the Phillipines. He jumped in with the 503rdPIR. There were Army units in the Pacific right along with the Marines, but they do not recieve any credit because the Marines wrote the book.
The war in Europe for the Army was just as bad and nasty as the Pacific Campaign was for the Marines. In Korea the Army put up a gallant front and was given some of the dirtiest jobs in that conflict, how many of you have heard of Pork Chop Hill? Go preach your Marine propaganda to some who cares. I happen to very proud of the fact that I served in the Army in Nam (69-71) at a time when many of you urban commandos weren't even born. Before you spout off, you had better check the facts.

January 23, 2000, 12:28 PM
Because of the fact I had always listen to the Corps propaganda on the subject I decided to do some additional reading and also discuss the issue with a Armor officer here at USAFAS. He gave me one of his books to read it was called "East of the Chosin" written by a retired army LTC named Applemen. According to the book the Eigth Cav Regt ceased to exsist in about 30 mins, the failed to put out adequete secruity and over half of them were bayoneted to death in their sleeping bag. This units remains are still being found every year and being repatriated to the US. On of the Bn of the 7th ID did a damn good job, its CO LTC Don Faith recieved the postumous CMH, but the unit was overwhelmed and eliminated.
On the battles in the Pacific in the WWII, the only units that fought at the second try at the PI were our Aircraft, providing CAS, because unlike the other services the Marines are the best air force in the world for providing CAS (every Marine pilot has gone through infantry school when he was a LT). The Army units that fought in the pacific did a good job generally, but even they would claim their was a difference in the way the Japanese fought and the Germans. One would generally surrender the other would rather commit suicide or fight to the end.
And actually the assualt force for seizing the citidel at Chapaltepec (SP?) was,made up of a Bn of Marines, the Officers and NCO took over 90% causalities on that day.
Not to take anything from the Army in Korea, but the 5th Marine Provisional Brigade acted as the "Fire Brigade" for the Pusan Perimeter. If the Marines were so ineffective, amazing how they saved the perimeter from a Korean break though.
And for Michael,
The instructors at the Mountain Warfare school let the student get the weapons frozen to prove a point about leaving them outside. As I also said it sounded like BS to urinate on your rifle, but it worked. And as a young LCpl at the time I ask the Sgt about it and he said that was a lesson learned from the Battle of the Bulge, it warms the weapon enough to let you shoot or work the action to clear it.

[This message has been edited by STLRN (edited January 24, 2000).]