Chesty Puller and the ROKs

A while back this story about Lieutenant General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller appeared on the internet. It had been excerpted from the Burke Davis biography of Puller, "Marine" written in 1962. After receiving the story I did my analytical interpretation of the math involved in this exchange for the benefit of non-warrior civilians.


The story

The Korean War, in which the Marine Corps fought and won some of its most brutal battles, was not without its gallows humor.

During one such conflict a ROK (Republic of Korea) commander, whose unit was fighting along with the Marines, called legendary Marine Chesty Puller to report a major Chinese attack in his sector.

"How many Chinese are attacking you?" asked Puller.

"Many, many Chinese!" replied the excited Korean officer.

Puller asked for another count and got the same answer "Many, many


"X*#dammit!" swore Puller, "Put my Marine liaison officer on the radio."

In a minute, an American voice came over the air: "Yes sir?"

"Lieutenant," growled Chesty, "exactly how many Chinese you got up there?"

"Colonel, we got a whole shitload of Chinese up here!"

"Thank God," exclaimed Puller, "at least there's someone up there who

knows how to count!"


An organizational and mathematical analysis of this situation.

You just have to know the terminology to understand this story. "Many, many" is an inexact number, however a "shitload" equals 1000, or a Chinese battalion. A "whole shitload" equals 3000, or a Chinese regiment. And of course you have a "half shitload", which equals 500, or about two reinforced rifle companies (or burp gun companies, as they were called during the Korean War), and a "quarter shitload", which equates to 250, or about a reinforced rifle company. A "mini shitload" referred to a squad, which could normally be taken out with several well aimed bursts of a tripod mounted light machine gun at ranges up to 1000 meters along the Korean DMZ. Although I never actually served with him, Puller was rumored to be a stickler for numbers and was renowned throughout the Corps for his mathematical genius.

And, then you have the "micro shitload", which equates to a fire team. The term "shithead" refers to the individual Chinese soldier, as in, "You shitheads keep off the skyline, or that machine gun will get the entire mini shitload of you!" At the other end of the scale there is the "gigantic shitload" which equals a Chinese infantry division, and the "mega shitload", which equates to a field army. In the case of the situation with Puller as described above, we know that the ROK unit in questions survived the Chinese assault because they were confronted with only a "whole shitload". Had it been a "gigantic or mega shitload", no one would have been around to tell the story as they would have been over run and destroyed.

The question of why a reinforced Chinese rifle/burp gun company (or "quarter shitload") was so much larger than an equivalent US formation can be easily answered. The Chinese "quarter shitloads" were usually reinforced with machine gun teams using the obsolescent Soviet SG43 7.62mm Goryunov Heavy Machine Gun, which was mounted on a heavy steel-wheeled carriage and weighed a ton. Since it took a large number of "shitheads" to move these weapons, the overall head count of the "quarter shitloads" was quite large.

See how easy it is when you know what you’re talking about.

                                                                       "Analysis" by Dirck Praeger