After four days and five nights of combat in temperatures that dipped to 35 degrees below zero, Jerome M. McCabe’s toes were numb and black from frostbite. His right arm and leg were bleeding from shrapnel wounds inflicted by a Chinese mortar round.

The 23-year-old Maryland native was the fire control officer for an Army artillery unit engaged in what historians considered some of the bloodiest fighting of the Korean War: the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

By the night of Dec. 1, 1950, only 385 of the original 3,000 soldiers remained in the 31st Regimental Combat Team, known as Task Force Faith. About 1,000 had been killed, taken prisoner or left to freeze to death. Another 1,500 were incapacitated or removed from the battlefield.

Then-Lt. McCabe said he was lucky; he was part of a group that called themselves the “Chosin Few.” He went on to a long career in the military, serving a second tour in Korea and one in Vietnam before retiring as a colonel in 1973. He died of pancreatic cancer Aug. 27 at his home in California, Md., at age 84.

His fellow Chosin soldiers — poorly trained, ill-equipped and outnumbered 8 to 1 — were cut off from a larger Marine force on the west side of the reservoir near Hagaru-ri.

The Americans had resisted wave upon wave of communist troops trying to break their perimeter. Finally, by that night, the unit began a large-scale evacuation along a snow and ice-covered road to the Marines’ lines five miles away.

After being struck by the mortar round earlier that day, McCabe lay unconscious in the cold for several hours until he was put in the back of a truck for the convoy headed west.

But the Chinese launched an ambush on the evacuation, blowing up bridges crucial to the American escape. Waiting out the cold in their quilted uniforms and fur hats, the communists opened fire on the Americans, eviscerating the stranded trucks and soldiers with machine guns and mortar fire from above the road.

McCabe scrambled out of the truck and crawled down into a ravine. There, he met up with another group of soldiers and together they hiked the remaining distance to the Marines on foot — despite his bleeding shrapnel wounds and severely frostbitten toes. While his arm and leg wounds eventually healed, his toes never regained feeling.

“So many people did so much more than I,” McCabe said in 2000. “You come out and say, ‘Why the hell did I survive?’ “