Historians often call Korea the “Forgotten War.” This would explain why so few movies have been made about it. Specifically, there are few movies in comparison to those about WW2 and Vietnam. One Korean War story, in particular, deserves to be brought to the big screen.
Major Kurt Chew-Een Lee was a trail blazer. He was the very first officer of Asian descent in the Marine Corps. When the Korean War began, he suffered unfair prejudice. Lee had already proved himself as an enlisted man before commissioning. Regardless, his patriotism never wavered.
He was awarded the Navy Cross, and Silver Star, for heroism in Korea. Then First Lieutenant Lee was also awarded two Purple Hearts for inures sustained in battle. He fought at the legendary Battle of Inchon, and the harrowing “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir.
Lee is also considered to be the first person on the front lines to realize China had entered the conflict on behalf of North Korea. Lee was conducting nighttime reconnaissance patrols in the blistering cold, by himself. He fired multiple weapons systems from different positions to confuse the enemy.
He continued to advance in the unforgiving terrain, gathering intelligence. Being Chinese-American, he recognized the Mandarin being spoken by an enemy outpost. He called out to them, claiming to be a lost Chinese soldier. When they beckoned him near, he killed them all with hand grenades. He always insisted he was never conflicted by this. Furthermore stating he was a US Marine before anything else.
Korean War: Grand Theft Auto
Lee would later be injured by sniper fire, and transferred to a field hospital. However, the Mustang Officer refused to leave his men. The Marines Corps stated, “Lee and another wounded Marine took possession of an Army jeep and drove back to his unit. On the way there, the jeep ran out of gas and Lee walked the last 10 miles.”
Break Out: Frozen Chosin
The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir could be 6 movies on its own. It is the quintessential example of the indomitable American spirit. Our boys were surrounded, outnumbered, and in subzero temperatures. A company of Marines had been holding a vital pass against enemy advance. This route would be crucial in any attempt to egress to safety.
Lee was tasked to lead the reenforcement of this vital hill. Lee led 500 men through 5 miles of brutal terrain in -2o°F temperatures. He navigated through a blizzard at night! Mind you, GPS did not exists then. He is credited with saving over 8000 lives with his efforts. Many believed his actions warranted the Medal of Honor. Later, Lee would also serve in the Vietnam War.
Major Lee passed away in 2014, and was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak in 2009. Although, I would still love to see the story of this American hero on the big screen.
“I never expected to survive the war. So I was adamant that my death be honorable, be spectacular.”- Lt. Kurt Chew-Een Lee
This is a follow up to our Vietnam edition which can be found by clicking here.