Keeping alive the memory of the Forgotten War

Marine travels country to interview Korean War veterans


AMarine Corps combat veteran has begun a noble journey to document the story of the Korean War veterans who survived one of the most decorated battles in American history.

Korean War veteran Charles Crilly is filmed as he recounts his experiences at the Chosin Reservoir Campaign. A former resident of Jackson is producing a film to commemorate that historic military engagement. For the story, see page 3. Korean War veteran Charles Crilly is filmed as he recounts his experiences at the Chosin Reservoir Campaign. A former resident of Jackson is producing a film to commemorate that historic military engagement. For the story, see page 3. According to U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Capt. Brian Iglesias, the Korean War is typically referred to as the Forgotten War because historically it was overshadowed by the glory of World War II and the bitter divisiveness of the Vietnam War.

“This film project goes beyond

the realm of a simple documentary. This amazing story has been tucked away in our history for too long. We owe this story to the Chosin Few

[and to] America and her future generations. We are losing their story by the minute; time is short and we must take action,” Iglesias said during an interview.

During boot camp, Iglesias studied the Chosin Reservoir Campaign and never forgot it, beginning the film project in February.

Top: Capt. Brian Iglesias decided to film a documentary to honor the service of the veterans who fought in the bitter conflict. Below: Korean War veteran Top: Capt. Brian Iglesias decided to film a documentary to honor the service of the veterans who fought in the bitter conflict. Below: Korean War veteran “This battle specifically is very compelling and important,” he said. “As Marines, we look up to these guys,” said the 32-year-old, two-time Iraq combat veteran who was wounded in 2005. “They’re legends to us. And when they’re gone, their story’s going to leave with them.”

The “Chosin Few” is a featurelength documentary film about the Korean War veterans who fought against Communist Chinese forces in the frozen mountains in North Korea during the winter of 1950, and managed to survive one of the most decorated battles in American history, the Chosin Reservoir Campaign.

Seventeen Medals of Honor and 70 Navy Crosses were awarded to the heroes of this campaign.

Iglesias believes it is his privilege and duty as a filmmaker and a Marine to capture their story before these veterans join their comrades who have passed on.

“This story is important for the history of the Corps, the history of the nation, and the understanding of the future. Most of all, it is important to honor these brave men who sacrificed so much yet quietly walk among us,” Iglesias said.

The film features members of the Chosin Few recalling their experiences at Chosin Reservoir and

speaking about their lives afterward. Interview footage will be compiled along with archival video footage to produce the final product.

The Korean Conflict, often so called because war was never officially declared, pitted the North against the South. The Communist Chinese had stepped in to aid North Korea in its battle with its southern neighbors, who were aided by American led U.N. forces.

Iglesias said that in the winter of 1950, more than 15,000 Marines, soldiers and sailors went into North Korea and were secretly surrounded by approximately 120,000 Communist Chinese soldiers.

Outnumbered, cut off behind enemy lines, and nearly overwhelmed by unceasing human-wave attacks, the Marines fought their way out to the sea.

For 14 days, the Marines miraculously battled their way to safety through the frozen mountains and subzero temperatures, taking their dead and wounded with them through the onslaught of unceasing

Chinese attacks.

“Our troops were outnumbered 10 to 1. In some places the odds were 40 to 1. There was only one road in and out, and our troops held a key part of the road. Wounds would freeze. If you stopped moving, you’d

freeze to death,” Iglesias said.

The Marines had more than 4,000 dead or wounded but still managed to inflict more than 25,000 casualties on the enemy.

Iglesias described the horror that the veterans experienced at Chosin Reservoir.

“Imagine it’s the middle of the night, because they only attacked at night, and you can’t see anything, and then all of a sudden you’d hear their signals of bugles and whistles and screams as 500 Chinese come charging toward you. You can try and keep your weapon warm, but it’s so cold that they freeze, and anyway, you can’t shoot them fast enough, so it came down to hand-to-hand combat for two weeks straight. They actually fought their way out,” Iglesias said. Born and raised in New Jersey, Iglesias attended Jackson Memorial High School and currently resides in Hazlet. He has a film degree from Temple University.

“Someone’s got to tell their story; these guys are in their 80s and they’re dying. As a filmmaker, it’s an interesting story, and as a Marine, it’s part of my heritage,” Iglesias said.

“I have a passion and talent for filmmaking and I obviously love the Marine Corps, so I want to put the two together and do something meaningful to give back to the Marine Corps that raised me and gave me everything that I have,” he continued.

Iglesias explained that making the film is his way of taking care of his own. He is a combat-decorated, service-disabled veteran with 13 years of active-duty experience, rising through the ranks from private to

captain. He deployed twice to Iraq as an infantry platoon commander with

2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. He is currently the president of Veterans Inc., a veteran-owned and -operated media production company based in Red Bank.

Anton Sattler, the film’s producer, is a combat veteran and former Marine captain. He served as an infantry platoon commander and company executive officer with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines and deployed

twice to Iraq. Currently a freelance film producer, he will attend graduate school this fall. Sattler is the vice president of Veterans Inc.

The film crew is made up entirely of fellow Marine combat veterans, many of whom were wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Each crew member also has a film and video background and a dream to create a new life for themselves through filmmaking.

“In the video, [the Chosin veterans] say, ‘You guys know what it’s like; no one else knows what it’s like.’ It’s pretty compelling. They won’t really talk to anybody else, but they’ll open up to us because we’re combat vets,” Iglesias explained.

Iglesias said many Chosin veterans had never discussed the battle until this project.

Iglesias and Sattler decided that they would begin the project and hope that they would later get financial help.

Several crew members are graduates of the Wounded Marine Career Foundation, a program that trains disabled veterans for careers in media.

“Our journey goes beyond the interviews and enters a realm of mutual connection, remembrance and healing,” Iglesias said.

This is the first big project that Iglesias is producing and directing. He said it is a labor of love.

The crew has been filming across the country and will continue throughout the summer. They will film their last piece in London in September and hope to release the film in January.

The cost of filming is being handled mostly out of pocket. Iglesias received a small grant from the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico, Va., and from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Iglesias and Sattler have set up a nonprofit foundation where people may send donations, which has been successful as well. Filming began in February at Brookdale Community College, Middletown. Since then the crew members have spent much time sleeping in their van and on the floors of various hosts as the film crew travels throughout the United States.

“We eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) in an effort to save money for equipment and travel expenses,” Iglesias said.

The crew works with a veterans organization called The Chosin Few, composed exclusively of survivors who fought in the Chosin campaign.

“You can only get in if you’ve been there. The membership keeps getting smaller. Pretty soon it’s going to be the Chosin One.”

Each state’s chapter of the organization had an overwhelming response to Iglesias’ project and the men eagerly awaited their opportunity to share their stories with the film crew.

Iglesias said the Korean War was the first time that the United Nations went to battle and the first time the United States fought against an intangible ideology: communism. He said it was also the first time the United States was involved in an international police action.

“These guys couldn’t get their Veterans Affairs [VA] benefits for decades or join the Veterans of Foreign Wars because [Korea] was not even considered a war. Yet as many [men] died in three years in Korea as they did in 10 years in Vietnam,” he said.

Iglesias said the veterans have paid for and fought to get their own memorial, which was constructed 33 years after the Chosin battle. The memorial was authorized in 1986 and was built in 1995.

Although nearly 95 percent of Chosin survivors had frostbite, they only started getting benefits about 15 years ago because the VA would not recognize frostbite as an injury, Iglesias explained.

Iglesias said half of the veterans he calls to participate in filming have passed away and he ends up speaking with their widows or children.

“We get a lot of emails from family members thanking us for telling their story. They say, ‘Now I know why Grandpa didn’t talk about it. Now I understand why he was the way he was,’ ” he said.

Iglesias said honoring these veterans of Korea is therapeutic for the families and for the combat veterans as well.

“We have crew members with prosthetics, and I think it’s therapeutic for those Marines now transitioning … to see that these guys survived and did well. There are a lot of parallels to what they went through and what we went through. … It’s a mutually healing project and a nice way for us to pay our respect to these guys,” Iglesias said. “They break down … but we know what they’re going through and it’s good to talk about it.”

Iglesias explained that all of the Marines who came before him set a certain standard and that he and his crew inherited their reputation and must live up to their legacy.

“They’re our heroes and we’re theirs,” he said.

Iglesias said it is tough to come home from war and transition and get a job. He explained that the Iraq veterans have to deal with the same issues that the Korean veterans had to.

“How do you become a normal person when you’re on a hill with 220 people you know and only 12 walk off?” Iglesias asked.

There are a great many horrors that haunt the veterans of the Korean War.

Iglesias spoke of the multitude of bodies that would go in the trucks, and as the Marines drove down the hill, the temperature got warmer and the bodies would thaw and blood would pour out of the truck by the gallons.

“Think about having to live with that. These guys are everywhere. They’re the old guys. I think we as a culture disregard older people. But they really know a lot more than we give them credit for. They lived through the Depression, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, yet we still dismiss their wisdom and experience. I think there’s been a cultural shift,” Iglesias said.

According to Iglesias, Chosin veterans cope by staying together. Some even move to live near each other. The Chosin Few organization is a tight-knit community, and that has helped with filming because Iglesias has a great relationship with the organization that helps him to connect with veterans across the country.

“People that haven’t been in combat don’t know what it’s like. … No one can picture what it’s like except another veteran,” Iglesias said.

According to Iglesias, many veterans of World War II and reservists were drafted for the Korean War, and while they were in Korea, people did not even know they were gone.

“When they came home, America was out of the Depression and nobody wanted to hear anything about a war or a police action. People didn’t realize that a police action meant thousands of people were dying in combat,” said Iglesias. “I think it was a Forgotten War even while it was going on and that it was kind of tucked away in history. It was forgotten then and is forgotten now.”

Iglesias said many of the Chosin veterans are still active. They send care packages to servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq and Afghanistan and raise money for wounded troops. Many of them drive other veterans of all wars to the VA hospital or the VFW.

When the Chosin Reservoir film is completed, Iglesias and Sattler will give the Heritage Foundation the documentary for use in the Marine Corps Museum, along with a suite of compelling media content for use in its exhibits.

Iglesias hopes to air the film on The History Channel, PBS and the Military Channel. He will also donate DVDs to be

distributed to schools across America.

Since Iglesias spoke with Greater Media Newspapers, his documentary has been accepted to the Independent Film Week, which is akin to the Sundance of unfinished


Video clips can be viewed at the Internet website

“Thousands of industry reps, distributors, festival coordinators, agents, TV and film companies will be there looking for the next great film and the next great filmmakers. Needless to say, we are excited,” Iglesias said via email.