Task Force Smith honored at ceremony in South Korea
July 3, 2012
OSAN, South Korea (July 3, 2012) -- The lightly armed and heavily outnumbered task force that fought in the first U.S. ground battle of the Korean War was honored here today, at a 62nd anniversary ceremony.
The day before America's 236th birthday and a week after the 62nd anniversary of the start of the Korean War, U.S. and South Korean government officials, military leaders and veterans organizations gathered on the ridge line where Task Force Smith made its gallant stand against enemy forces on July 5, 1950.
Arriving by air from Japan, Task Force Smith was the first U.S. combat unit to take on invading North Korean forces.
With 540 U.S. Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry and A Battery, 52nd Field Artillery Battalion, 24th Infantry Division, the combat task force was named after its commander, Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith.
American Soldiers were outnumbered almost 10 to 1 in that first fight, called the Battle of Osan. U.S. Soldiers attempted to stop a Goliath-sized force of nearly 5,000 advancing enemy soldiers and 34 Soviet-built tanks, with a limited amount of anti-tank weaponry.
Hastily assembled, ill-equipped and inadequately trained, Task Force Smith dove head-long into the breach, fighting tanks with weapons that couldn't pierce their armor.
Task Force Smith eventually had to withdraw south to Taejon where it merged with the 24th Infantry Division and reengaged the enemy. Their brave stand delayed the enemy advance and bought United Nations forces much needed time.
Following the six-hour battle, nearly a third of Task Force Smith, 165 Soldiers were killed, missing or wounded.
Osan City Mayor Kwak Sang-wook said the city will soon open a United Nations Forces First Battle Memorial Hall next to the UN monument where the ceremony was held to remind future generations about the sacrifices of the American task force.
"By reliving the value of their sacrifice, we hope to utilize this memorial site to build and strengthen the national security awareness of the future generations to prevent any further acts of war on the Korean Peninsula and around the world," said Kwak.
Gyeonggi Province Vice Governor Lee Jae-yul said the battle marked beginning of the United Nations intervention that repelled communist aggression and enabled South Korea to become one of the world's leading nations.
"The sacrifices made by the members of Task Force Smith made it possible to protect the freedom and peace on this land," said Lee. "Because of these brave souls, the Republic of Korea was given the opportunity to become a true democracy, and our citizens shall never forget this."
Conboy said the task force was given an impossible mission but rose to the challenge anyway.
"The 540 men of Task Force Smith bravely faced the onslaught of thousands of North Korean troops," said Conboy. "There was no reserve or reinforcements for Task Force Smith or even the promise or hope of such support."
"The Soldiers of Task Force Smith did their duty and they fought valiantly," said Conboy.
The Eighth Army deputy commanding general said Task Force Smith should always be honored but never repeated.
"The best way to honor these heroes is to ensure that today's service members are instructed about what we have learned from our past and that we are always ready to face the challenges of tomorrow," said Conboy.