This is how the first Asian-American Marine officer saved 8,000 men
Brutal cold, rough terrain, and intense firefights were just some of the dangers the Marines dealt with on a daily basis while engaging enemy forces in the Korean War.
Now, imagine possibly sharing the same bloodline with an enemy force your orders say you must fight and kill. That’s the real narrative for Kurt Chew-Een Lee, who served as the first Asian-American Marine officer during the multi-year skirmish.
Although he stood only at 5 feet 6 inches tall and 130 pounds, Lee was out to prove his leadership to his men and himself.
Lee would do just that.
On the night of Nov. 2, 1950, while the San Francisco native was in charge of a machine-gun platoon in Baker company, chaos broke out as Chinese forces shot curtains of gunfire at the 8,000 men stationed in the area.
Lee’s Marines found themselves stuck in the middle of an incredibly loud and hectic situation.
Then, an eerie silence fell over the battlefield. Lee instructed the Company Gunny to keep his eyes peeled and be ready to take contact.
Lt. Lee then ventured out deep into the thick darkness to locate the Chinese’s position.
“Too many people think they can save lives hiding behind a boulder and not firing,” Lee explains in an interview. “In order to accomplish the mission, you got to keep moving forward.”
As Lee courageously went on his single man reconnaissance mission, he managed to fool the Chinese by firing his weapon at different cyclic rates from a variety of locations making it appear as if a massive force were advancing.
The plan worked. The Chinese returned fire exposing their fortified position. As Lee continued his approach, he used a weapon that none of his fellow Marines possessed — a second language.
By speaking Mandarin, he confused the enemy and earned himself enough of a distraction to toss his remaining hand grenades. Amidst his improvised plan, Lee discovered an enemy post that led to a single victory, saving countless Marine lives.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video to hear this epic story from the Marine legend himself.