OSAN, South Korea -- The 60th anniversary of the first U.S. battle of the Korean War was commemorated July 16 in a ceremony at the Jukmiryeong War Monument here.
Held during a mid-summer monsoonal downpour at the monument on the ridgeline where Task Force Smith made its stand, the ceremony was attended by Osan City Mayor Kwan Sung-wook and 8th U.S. Army Deputy Commanding General Maj. Gen. Robert Williamson.
In that first engagement between U.S. and North Korean forces, the American Soldiers in Task Force Smith were outnumbered nearly 10 to 1.
Named after its commander, Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith, Task Force Smith was one of the first units that arrived in Korea from Japan by air. It consisted of around 500 U.S. Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, and A Battery, 52nd Field Artillery Battalion, of the 24th Infantry Division.
This small but determined group of U.S. Soldiers went up against nearly 5,000 enemy soldiers and 33 enemy tanks with a limited amount of anti-tank weaponry and munitions.
Even though Task Force Smith eventually had to withdraw, their tenacious defense during the Battle of Osan delayed enemy forces for several hours.
"That day and the fight that followed were more than just battles of armor, artillery and infantry. They were the opening shots of a war of ideas that exists even today," said Williamson. "Task Force Smith represents the notion that there is no sacrifice that will not be borne by South Korea and the United States in order to preserve the political integrity and territorial sovereignty of the Republic of Korea."
The Osan City mayor said the Korean people will always remember the service and sacrifices of Task Force Smith.
"Our people will never forget the service of the Soldiers and how they played a major role in saving our homeland, which brought this land freedom and peace," said Kwan.
In a message for the memorial ceremony, U.S. Army Gen. Walter L. Sharp, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, said that the outnumbered task force should always be honored but never repeated.
"It is important that we continue to remember the heroic example of Task Force Smith: to honor the sacrifice of its men, to reflect on its demonstration of commitment by the United States to the Republic of Korea and to ensure that we never again send such an ill-prepared force to fight our enemies," said Sharp. "The best way to honor these fallen is to ensure that today's servicemembers are armed with all we have learned from our past so that they are ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow."
"Today, the forces of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, the strongest alliance in the world, stand ready to defend the Republic of Korea, at a moment's notice, against any threat or provocation," said Sharp. "While we take time today to honor the legacy of Task Force Smith, we also remain resolved to making sure that there are no Task Force Smiths in the our future."