Philip Lenczycki, DCNF
- A sequel to Communist China’s highest-grossing film to date was released at select theaters in the U.S. on Feb. 11, in what many view as a continued propaganda drive to rewrite the history of the Korean War.
- The first film in “The Battle at Lake Changjin” franchise has grossed over $1.3 billion since its September 2021 release.
- In response to Communist China’s propaganda, Marine Corps soldiers, including a Korean War veteran, want to set the record straight.
Soldiers of the Marines Corps want to set the record straight following a volley of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda films set during the Korean War.
After record 2021 box office receipts for “The Battle at Lake Changjin” proved the Korean War to be both a profitable and capable vehicle for CCP propaganda, two subsequent films set during the conflict have hit theaters: “The Battle at Lake Changjin 2″ and “Sharpshooter.”
Beijing’s new war films serve to bolster what the PRC dreads is flagging Chinese masculinity ushered in by effeminate Gen Y and Gen Z celebrities, whom state-run media have dubbed “sissy idols” and “little fresh meat.” Wu Jing, the leading man behind “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” embodies Beijing’s cause, having publicly stated he would “slap” his son “in the mouth” if he became a “sissy,” during a 2015 exchange with reporters.
Although Beijing’s new films bear certain superficial differences — “The Battle at Lake Changjin” franchise being set in 1950 during the infamous Battle of Chosin Reservoir and “Sharpshooter” being set later in what the PRC calls the Cold Gun Cold Cannon Movement — all three films present a unified political narrative which frames the American military as a powerful, yet ultimately surmountable foe.
Outlets such as The Guardian have described the “recent Chinese blockbusters” as boasting a “collectivist we-all-suffer-together message,” with films in the campaign aiming to assert “the moral superiority of the Chinese soldier.”
“We are now a great major power,” a Chinese fan of “The Battle at Lake Changjin” series told state-run media Global Times, “we have no reason to be worried about the situation we face today.”
Three Marine Corps soldiers communicated their indignation to the Daily Caller News Foundation, including a Korean War veteran, who detailed his combat experiences during an in-depth interview.
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir, which serves as the setting for “The Battle at Lake Chanjin” series, was a remarkable event for U.S. forces, Marine Corps spokesperson Capt. Ryan Bruce told the DCNF via email.
Quoting General Randolph McCall Pate, Capt. Bruce wrote: “The breakout of the 1st Marine Division from the Chosin Reservoir area will long be remembered as one of the inspiring epics of our history … The ability of the Marines to fight their way through twelve Chinese divisions over a 78-mile mountain road in sub-zero weather cannot be explained by courage and endurance alone.”
A Marine helicopter pilot and Vietnam veteran, who wished to remain anonymous, told the DCNF: “There’s an old Jim Croce song about the dire consequences of stepping on Superman’s cape or spitting into the wind. One would be wise to add slandering the Marines who fought their way out of the Frozen Chosin’ to the list of foolish acts.”
“U.S. Marines have fought our enemies for 250 years. Iwo Jima. Belleau Woods. Brutal, bloody, soul killing violence. And the combat withdrawal of the Marines at the Chosin Reservoir ranks with those epic battles. Every Marine knows the story of unthinkable combat pain and misery exacerbated by cold which could freeze fire,” the Marine Corps veteran said. “It might be the greatest mission failure in the history of the Chinese army. They were ordered to surround, engage, and destroy the vastly outnumbered Marines. They couldn’t, and they didn’t.”
Marine Corps veteran, Sgt. Samuel Gilbert Garcia, 89, is one of many Marines whose service during the Korean War defies Beijing’s ahistorical propaganda.
Contrary to depictions within Communist China’s new films portraying an American fighting force composed of all caucasian soldiers, following President Truman’s 1948 executive order, the Korean War became the first U.S. conflict fielding a desegregated military.
Raised in “The Harlem of the West” — Denver’s historically black Five Points district — Sgt. Garcia self-identifies as hispanic, claiming Spanish ancestors hailing from Barcelona, and notes his path to Korea began long before the drums of war.
Sgt. Garcia told DCNF how his love for playing the trumpet put him on a path to war. “In junior high school, during an assembly, our band director played for us. I just fell in love. I went home and told my mom I have to play. And trumpet has been my life ever since.”
Citing musicians such as Harry James and Louis Armstrong as childhood heroes, Sgt. Garcia said, “My parents could not afford college, but I was looking for a way to get a degree.”
After seeing recruitment flyers advertising the GI Bill, Sgt. Garcia enlisted with the Marine Corps, arriving on the Korean Peninsula Jan. 1952. “It was cold and smelled terrible,” Sgt. Garcia said. “All we heard all night long was cannon fire, big weapons, machine guns, hand grenades. It took me about a month before I could sleep.”
Assigned to the 1st Marine Division, Sgt. Garcia’s platoon was stationed north of Seoul. “Our objective was to protect our general,” he said.
“Your instrument is not going to be the trumpet. That M1 you have in your hand is,” Sgt. Garcia’s lieutenant told him upon arrival, but that wasn’t how it played out.
“In spring, other guys went to the front, but I made the jazz band: 18 kids, saxes, trombones, trumpets, rhythm. To boost morale we’d go and play concerts at the front,” Sgt. Garcia recalled.
Whereas Communist China’s new propaganda film paints a picture of ideologically-committed Chinese soldiers, Sgt. Garcia said in his experience many Communists secretly hungered for the forbidden fruits of the West, such as jazz.
“Our jazz band played Second World War tunes like “Over the Rainbow” and “C Jam Blues.” On more than one occasion when we played, the enemy would just stop and listen to us because they wanted to listen too,” said Sgt. Garcia.
Other times, the enemy saw an opportunity to attack.
Preparing for one performance, the band arrived at the front around noon. “The brass players had to find some shade and the master sergeant told everyone to set up by a tree, so we went to work until suddenly someone yelled, ‘Incoming mail!’ and we jumped back in the truck and sped off before the mortar landed, blowing that tree away.”
“Our gig was canceled,” said Sgt. Garcia.
Sgt. Garcia recalled more than a few performances were disrupted midway, transforming both band and audience instantly back into soldiers.
Pointing to his hip, Sgt. Garcia said, “when I played the horn, my .45 was right here.” Pointing to his chest he added, “my hand grenade was right there.”
When Sgt. Garcia wasn’t raising morale, he was serving in the defense of the Marine HQ position near Seoul.
In February 1952, Sgt. Garcia’s platoon was positioned overlooking the banks of the Han River north of headquarters.
“We had six outposts, six guys to each outpost, facing north,” Sgt. Garcia said, while drawing a rough sketch of a U-shape on some scratch paper.
After midnight, radio operators warned the Marines of approaching enemies and authorized them to “fire at will.”
“I wasn’t thinking about home, just what we had to do,” Sgt. Garcia recalled. “We made sure each machine gun had two canisters of ammunition ready and four or five others nearby just in case.”
Sgt. Garcia told the DCNF that 20 minutes later hundreds of Communist troops appeared.
“They’d waited until the moon was full, all dressed in white uniforms, sewn real thin, tennis shoes on, no gloves,” Sgt. Garcia recalled.
In contrast with how Communist China’s new propaganda films portray the nation’s troops during the Korean War as morally superior and strategically capable, Sgt. Garcia said from high ground atop the embankment he could only watch in disbelief as the Communists made for the dead center of the Marines’ U-shaped kill zone.
“I guess they just figured they had more men than we did,” said Sgt. Garcia.
At 100 yards, the Marines opened fire with their Browning .50 caliber machine guns.
Sgt. Garcia stressed to the DCNF that there was nothing cinematic or glorious about how the communist soldiers died. “It was slaughter,” he said. “Total slaughter.”
An hour later a cease fire order came, but the platoon would keep watch all night for movement which never came.
With the light of the morning, the Marines beheld the dead.
Far from discovering muscle-bound leading men, such as PRC action star, Wu Jing, instead the Marines found child soldiers armed with looted American Thompson submachine guns, which Sgt. Garcia described as being “far superior” to the weaponry the Communists were typically issued.
“I don’t think there was anybody older than 15,” Sgt. Garcia said, stressing the incident illustrated “what the Communists stooped to” in sending children to war.
“It was kill or be killed,” he said, reflecting on his service in the Korean War. “There were about 75 guys in our platoon at the start, but when we came back there were only 33 of us.”
By war’s end, Sgt. Garcia had reached the rank of meritorious sergeant, whereupon he swapped rifle for horn one last time, heading for college and a 45-year-career teaching music.
“I was very shy in high school,” Sgt. Garcia said, “but when I got out of the Marine Corps, I was a leader of men.”
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