July 5, 2011
By Walter T. Ham IV, Eighth Army Public Affairs
OSAN, South Korea — The first U.S. ground battle of the Korean War was remembered July 6 at a 61st anniversary ceremony on the same ridgeline where Task Force Smith made its stand against enemy forces in 1950.
Along with government officials, military leaders and veterans organizations, the ceremony was attended by Kyeonggi Province Vice Gov. You Yeon-chae, Osan City Mayor Kwak Sang-wook, retired Republic of Korea Army Gen. Paik Sun-yup, Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson and 2nd Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker.
Task Force Smith was one of the first combat units that arrived in Korea from Japan by air. With 540 American Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry and A Battery, 52nd Field Artillery Battalion, 24th Infantry Division, it was named after its commander, Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith.
During that first fight, called the Battle of Osan, American Soldiers were outnumbered almost 10 to 1.
They attempted to stop nearly 5,000 advancing enemy soldiers and 34 Soviet-built tanks with a limited amount of anti-tank weaponry.
Task Force Smith eventually had to withdraw south to Taejon where it merged with the 24th Infantry Division and reengaged the enemy. Their determined stand delayed the enemy advance and bought United Nations forces much needed time to bring in follow on forces.
The Kyeonggi Province vice governor credited Task Force Smith with starting the international intervention that would turn the tide of the war and lay the foundation for South Korea’s future success.
“Without their sacrifice, it would have been impossible for us to preserve our liberty and democracy or to achieve the economic growth widely referred to as the ‘Miracle on the Han River’ here in Korea,” said You. “We will never forget the blood and sweat of the Soldiers of Task Force Smith and the United Nations forces shed here. The very least we can do to prove worthy of their sacrifice is to make Korea rich and strong, a country that contributes to world, and a unified country.”
The Osan City mayor also thanked the task force and U.S. Soldiers for their role in defending freedom on the Korean Peninsula.
“Our people will never forget the service of the Soldiers and how they played a major role in saving our homeland,” said Kwak. “The Soldiers gave their lives and kept the Republic of Korea in the world.”
Paying tribute to the task force’s courage and commitment, Johnson said UN forces rescued South Korea from the dismal and despotic fate of their northern neighbors.
“Task Force Smith’s Soldiers fought against a numerically superior force,” said Johnson. “The leaders and Soldiers did all they could and more … courageously opposing those who would make war on their own countrymen in an attempt to subjugate them and impose dictatorial rule over them.”
The Eighth Army commanding general said Task Force Smith should always be honored but never repeated.
“The Soldiers of Task Force Smith were not ready for what they ultimately faced, but they came and fought anyway,” said Johnson. “The task force stands as both a caution and an example to us today. A caution against forgoing any chance to prepare for future combat, and in doing so, deter our enemies from attacking.”
“An example of what U.S. and Republic of Korea Soldiers are capable of even against incredible odds.”
Johnson said the commitment, determination and bravery of Task Force Smith lives on in combined defense team serving in Korea today.
“Today, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines of the combined defense team know the lessons of Task Force Smith,” said Johnson. “They prepare in earnest for a North Korean attack we pray will never come because in preparation lies deterrence.”
“Our mission on the Korean Peninsula remains unchanged: to deter aggression by our readiness to fight and win,” said Johnson. “And if deterrence fails, once again stand side-by-side, Americans and Koreans, defending freedom and liberty.”