It's A Veteran's Voice that took part in one of the toughest battles of the Korean War. Arthur Gentry enlisted in the United States Marines in 1948 and like many recruits, at the time he was following his brother into the Corps. It was a chance to see the world. An opportunity that came quickly and one he wouldn't forget.
Arthur Gentry was riding in style during this year's 100th Veterans Day Parade in Bakersfield. It wasn't the first time this "grunt" was in the spotlight having "starred" with dozens of other Marines as extras in the John Wayne movie Sands of Iwo Jima in 1949. He portrayed a casualty on the beach. But this local veteran is very much alive, riding through the streets of Bakersfield in a restored 1949 Wiley's Jeep during the parade.
The Chosin Reservoir was one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history. A frozen clash between United Nation's forces and Chinese troops that raced across the border in support of North Korean forces, 6,000 miles from the warm Southern California streets he grew up on.
Gentry was 17 and growing up in El Monte. He signed up and attended boot camp in San Diego with advanced training at Camp Pendleton. He said it was there that a grizzled Marine captain got them ready for battle not long after the end of World War II.
The games didn't last very long. In June of 1950, General Douglas MacArthur volunteered the 1st Marine Division for combat duty in Korea. Art was a bazooka man in the anti-tank infantry, 5th Marines, 2nd Battalion, Easy Company.
The Marines arrived in Posan in August 1950 after South Korean and U.S. forces had been driven back to the edge of the peninsula following a surprise attack by the North Korean army.
Gentry was part of the amphibious landing at Inchon on September 11, 1950. From there the Marines pushed on, driving North Korean forces to the Chinese border right before Thanksgiving. General MacArthur arrived telling troops they would be home for Christmas when the north received a gift from China: 140,000 troops.
The Chinese army sprung their attack at the Chosin Reservoir on November 27th. But they weren't gone. Over the next two weeks, Marines and U.N. forces engaged in fierce fighting, surrounded on all sides in 40 below temperatures. The enemy blew up a bridge to try and trap American forces, but a risky airdrop and some ingenuity helped the allies to break free.
Allied forces suffered thousands of casualties. But the losses among the Chinese troops were even higher. According to History.com, "Hastily mobilized from Manchuria for deployment in Korea, [Chinese troops] lacked any winter clothing or sufficient food. With similarly faulty information, Chinese military leadership made crucial mistakes that cost troops’ lives and gave U.S. forces time to retreat. Some 30,000 Chinese soldiers perished from cold alone, along with about 20,000 combat casualties."
There were 17 Medals of Honor awarded during the battle, the most in any single engagement.
Art has the honor of being called one of the "Chosin Few." A survivor. And he's not alone, but that number is dwindling. Now at 89 Art was riding in the Veterans parade for just the third time. A relaxing cruise through downtown for a man who earned it almost 70 years ago.