TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Bill Lynn is proud to be one of the 'chosin few', one of the marines that held out over overwhelming odds at the Battle of Korea's Chosin Reservoir.
In the winter of 1950, about 16,000 United Nations troops, comprised primarily of U.S. First Marine Division and a U.S. Army Battalion, had driven the North Korean Army to within seven miles of the Mancurian border.
It was bitterly cold with temperatures dipping to 60 below zero.
"You couldn't dig a foxhole the ground was so frozen, you couldn't dig a foxhole, you just lay there on top," says Lynn.
Although U.N. forces had been assured the Chinese would never join the fight and that the troops would be home before Christmas, an estimated 160,000 Chinese communist troops poured across the Yalu River. The marines and soldiers in the Chosin Reservoir were surrounded by the enemy.
The first week of December, a blinding snowstorm brought the battle to a head.
"It got so dark and the snow was coming down so that you could hold your hand up there and you couldn't see your hand in front of you," recalls Lynn.
Because of the snowstorm, the beleaguered men couldn't get the air support they so badly needed but the captain of a carrier docked in the Korean Harbor told them to pray for just one star, signifying the end of the storm and he would send planes out in full force.
"All of a sudden about 12:30 or 1 a.m., all of a sudden that one star came out there. I mean just one star came out and boy it was just as bright as everything," says Lynn. "Everybody started hollering. You could hear it all through the mountains...it's a star...it's a star!"
The sky soon opened up to a canopy of stars and the next morning, just as promised, air support came in and ended the fight. But the next day was also when Lynn was wounded as thousands of Chinese converged on his position.
Lynn pulled the pins on two grenades, but before he could throw them, a mortar hit nearby, knocking him unconscious.
"When I woke up I heard him holler at the corpsman, 'I've got a live one over here but get here real fast, said he's got two grenades with pins pulled in his hands'," remembers Lynn.
Lynn's hands were taped around the grenades until pins could be found for the grenades and they could be removed. In spite of his wounds, Bill Lynn feels the star, which he calls the 'star of Bethlehem', saved his life and the lives of the 'chosin few' still left at Chosin Reservoir.
It also saved the lives of 105,000 North Korean refugees who followed the American troops out of North Korea to the safety of South Korea.
"I've never seen a star that bright, never seen it, so it had to be the Star of Bethlehem," says Lynn.