Tuesday, March 24, 2020

TF Smith: 540 GIs first to defend against Korean invasion

Task Force Smith Memorial, near Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, 1999. Presented by VFW Post 2016, Songtan, ROK
This is an astounding story. Task Force Smith (TF Smith), about 400 infantry and 100 artillery troops, were told to hold off a North Korean invasion force, around 90,000 strong in all, about two regiments to start, over 10,000 before forced to withdraw. General Douglas MacArthur, USA, would later call this plan "an arrogant display of strength."

Arrogant on the part of the overall US military leadership perhaps. But TF Smith met the enemy and, to paraphrase General MacArthur after it was over, wrought a miracle on the United States. 

The story began with Captain Joesph Darrigo, USA, on June 25, 1950, a Sunday, the only American on the 38th parallel separating the Koreas. He was in spitting distance of the 38th parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea. Shelling woke him up. He immediately concluded it was weapons fire. It sounded like thunder, and it was very close.

Darrigo and his houseboy drove from his quarters just north of Kaesong, at the time under control of South Korea, and into town. They spotted a regiment or so of North Korean People's Army (KPA) soldiers disembarking from the train. So they skedaddled out of town pronto.

The lone Army captain crossed the Imjin River and made it to the headquarters of the 1st Division, Republic of Korea Army (ROKA). The KPA was about to overrun his headquarters. Darrigo made it  to safety.

Darrigo was the first American to see the KPA invading the ROK. The KPA invaded across the breadth of the peninsula, with 90,000 troops, about 10 divisions, one armored brigade and one mechanized infantry brigade. The Korean War was on.

The KPA cut through the ROKA like a hot knife through butter. It captured Seoul, the ROK capital, in three days, by June 28. It also crossed the Han River just south of Seoul. The rest of the ROK laid before it, ready for the taking.

The Americans had no ground forces in country The US 8th Army was in Japan with General Douglas MacArthur, rebuilding and occupying Japan after WWII. They were no in shape to fight. Furthermore, it had lost its fighting edge.

So now what coach?

Task Force Smith, that's what.

Time was of the essence. The idea was to get some kind of American ground force to the ROK to delay, perhaps even stop the KPA invasion. The thought was the KPA would not fire on US ground forces. They would likely turn around. That notion was wrong, dead wrong. General MacArthur would later call this "an arrogant display of strength."

Lt. Colonel Charles "Brad Smith, USA, commander 1-21 Infantry was told the following by multiple colonels and generals:

“The lid has blown off, get on your clothes and report to the CP (Command Post).”

"We want to stop the North Koreans as far from Pusan as we can. Block the main road as far north as possible. Contact General Church. If you can't locate him, go to Taejon and beyond if you can. Sorry I can't give you more information. That's all I've got. Good luck to you, and God bless you and your men ...No commander likes to commit troops piecemeal, and I’m no exception.”

"We have a little action up here. All we need is some men up there who won’t run when they see tanks. We’re going to move you up to support the ROKs (Republic of Korea)."

Colonel Smith was told to organize a delaying force and get over to the ROK and meet the enemy head-on as far north as he could. Task Force Smith (TF Smith) was born.

Task Force Smith of the 24th Infantry Division arrives at Taejon railroad station on July 2, 1950.
Smith could take only about half his battalion, two understrength rifle companies, reinforced by two 4.2 inch mortar platoons, and one 75 mm recoilless rifle platoon. Each man in the rifle companies would be issued 120 rounds of ammo and two days C-rations.

He also got some officers from the 3rd Battalion, a medical platoon commanded by Captain Edwin Overholt, and an element of the 52nd Field Artillery (FA) battalion, commanded by Lt. Colonel Miller Perry, shown here. Everyone was at the time in Japan.

TF Smith got to the port at Pusan, southernmost ROK by air on July 2, 1950, the 52 FA by sea on July 4.

They all had to take trains and commandeer Korean vehicles to get to where they had to go. The trips to the ROK and within the ROK were challenging to say the least.

Colonel Smith took a Jeep from Pyongtaek to scout locations for his TF. Perry accompanied him on a second trip, liked the position, and chose where he'd put his artillery.

TF Smith along with the 52 FA then commamndeered trucks to drive from Pyongtaek to their fighting positions. Everyone dug in.

This is a photo of the position selected for TF Smith to dig in. Note the road. It goes to Suwon, visible for eight miles from the TF position on the ridgeline above.

This map is tough to read, but it's a good one nonetheless. Note the town of Osan in the lower right quadrant, and then the road heading to the north. That is the road you see on the photo going to Suwon. Those blue lines in the top half of the map reflect the positions taken by TF Smith, four in all, one to the west of the road, three to the right, described as a road running through a "saddle of hills." The idea was to draw the KPA into the middle and stop them.

One platoon of Bravo Co. was placed on the west side of the road, the other two platoons on the east side. In the next line to the east were two platoons from Charlie Co. Its third platoon was to the side to protect the right flank. A very small group of men was positioned to the rear. One 75-mm recoilless rifle was with B Co. on the east side, and C Co. had the other. Four .50-caliber machine gun positions and four 2.36-inch bazooka teams joined with the infantry. Lt. Carl Bernard, a former enlisted Marine, and airborne qualified, was in charge of the 2nd platoon, Bravo Co. He had just joined the 1-21 and didn't know anyone. Lt. Phil Day was with Charlie Co. Capt. Charles Dashmer commanded Charlie Co.

Capt. Overholt, the physician, chose to put the aid station on the back slope of the same hilly area that the combat troops occupied on the front slope. He wanted to be close to the troops who were fighting. 

The blue arrow on the above map points to where the 52nd FA set up, about 2,000 yards behind the infantry. Perry's men pulled up four howitzers by jeep, and kept the jeeps there, near a cluster of homes, in battery position. The fifth howitzer was positioned so it could engage the enemy with direct fire. 

I think this one was about 1,000 yards behind the infantry. A sixth howitzer had to be left behind in Pyongtaek. 

Get your bearings: Pyongtaek red arrow; Osan green arrow; Suwon, blue arrow. Note Seoul up to the nmorth, and the Han River just below it.
Perry also positioned the 4.2-inch mortars just barely on the reverse south slope of the ridge, about 400 yards behind the center of B Co.'s position. 

Major Ambrose Nugent, USA, serving as Perry's forward observer, was up with the infantry and in charge of three .50-caliber machine guns and three 2.36-inch bazooka teams. This photo shows him as a KPA POW.

About 1,000 ROKA troops, who had been fleeing and fighting, stopped at positions south of the artillery, to watch and see how things might go.

Raymond Lech wrote that Major Nugent felt the men were confident. Lech quoted him saying this:
"Every one of the Americans there were convinced that we were going to hold them up until such time as other elements of the 24th Division could pull in."
Nugent felt they had excellent position. Sgt. First Class Billy R. Smith, then an ammunition bearer with a recoilless rifle team, reflected Nugent's confidence when talking to Stars & Stripes in 1968:
"The general feeling at the time was that the North Koreans would turn and run the other way as soon as they saw us. It felt like we were going on a picnic and we would be back in Japan in a couple weeks."
What they did not know was that there were only about 2,000 men from the 34th Infantry of the 24th Division tasked to reinforce them. They would remain south of the TF's positions in the Pyongtaek area.

TF Smith was on its own.

The red arrows show the KPA infantry thrust, while the dotted red line shows the KPA armored thrust that led the way. The solid blue lines with arrowheads show the ultimate path of withdrawal for Task Force Smith. 

Overholt said that prior to July 5, 1950, he only saw a few patients, "a few fractures etc." If he had to send an injured trooper out, he put him on a South Korean truck that was heading south with appropriate identification.

By daylight July 5, Task Force Smith was just about dug in, having taken defensive positions on the ridge overlooking the main road. Col. Perry had his artillery set up. Theodore Reed "T. R." Fehrenbach has written:
“From the highest point of the ridge, some three hundred feet above the highway, Smith could see almost into Suwon.”
Artillery-wise, Perry’s men had about 1,200 rounds, mostly high explosive (HE). However, they had only six rounds of high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. There were only 18 such rounds total in Japan, and Perry was only given six. Smith had no anti-tank mines. Furthermore, the task force had no air and no naval support.

All together, the first American ground combat forces to fight the enemy in Korea consisted of 540 officers and men, 406 with Task Force Smith, 134 with Perry’s artillery. They occupied about a one mile front. It was raining. They took a break for a C-rations breakfast.

Smith spotted the enemy tanks near Suwon during the early morning hours of July 5, 1950, up the road, eight tank columns, moving in single file, a magnificent target for fighter aircraft had there been any in the area. They were Soviet-made T-34 tanks. Too bad he had no anti-tank mines, because they had the time to set them up.

The tanks just kept rolling, and approached Task Force Smith's positions, coming as four columns of T-34 tanks. Many of the men were surprised, some shocked, some resigned, and some knew they would be there.

I will try to describe the attack. I have used numerous sources to construct the events, and have tried hard to get them in the right order. However, there is a chance some events are out of sequence, though I am confident I am pretty close.

Army records say that the first American artillery fired at the KPA was fired at 8:16 am, July 5, 1950, all 105 mm howitzer rounds, with Major Nugent as forward observer helping to adjust fire. Perry’s men laid down the first rounds about 4,000 yards out, which was about 2,000 yards in front of Task Force Smith. 

Adjustments were quickly made and rounds began falling among the enemy tanks, on top of them, with no effect, except that they killed the few infantry riding on the tanks and in trucks.

Working with Major Nugent, Lt. Scott's men put rounds on the lead tank. The 105s did not deter the enemy tanks. They just kept rolling, firing their 85-mm cannons and 7.62-mm machine guns. There was nothing wrong with the 105s. The 52nd lacked the right kind of munitions. Nugent's bazooka teams fired anti-tank rockets, and they just bounced off as well.

Spc 5 Gerald T. Jackson was an 18 year old communications wireman, and said simply that the artillery fired at the tanks was like "shooting at them with a slingshot."

The tanks stopped, turned toward the ridge, and started firing their cannons.

Smith held the 75 mm recoilless until the enemy was within 700 yards, in order to save ammo. Lt. Phil Day and one of the two 75-mm sections maneuvered their heavy weapon to a position overlooking the road and fired. Their round hit a hill, covered the gun with mud, and the men were forced to clean it. Once done, they resumed firing. Some shells were duds, some were smoke, and others just bounced off the tanks, direct hits that did zero damage and did nothing to stop the tanks from simply rolling along.

One tank was hit in the tracks, and spun off the road. The tanks with him simply opened fire on the hill, and scored a hit in the close area of the recoilless section, throwing the men back, some with minor injuries, all startled. The gun was untouched. 

An enemy tank trained his cannon on the rifle's position, and, as a result, the men did not resume firing at the tanks. The problem was with the 75-mm munitions; the gun was good, the munitions were the wrong kind for this kind of fight.

The 1-34th Infantry had come from Japan. It was alerted that it was likely to encounter an enemy breakthrough. The 1-34 was to reinforce TF Smith. But its position was just north of Pyongtaek, southeast of Osan. The 3-34 also arrived, and positioned just to south. All together, the 34th Infantry brought about 2,000 men but no tanks and no artillery. A combined USA-ROKA front was trying to set up to the south of Task Force Smith.

Lt. Colonel Thomas J. Vance, USAR, described the battle this way:
“One American lieutenant (2nd Lt. Ollie D. Connor) fired 22 rockets (from a bazooka) at the advancing tanks. From as close as 15 yards, he scored direct hits, but he could not stop the tanks, let alone destroy them. Courage, rifles and bayonets were no match for the tanks and the wave of North Korean infantry behind them.”
It was well known among the troops that the bazooka would be no good against tanks. Connor tried his best to get behind the tanks, where their armor was weakest. The bazooka munition was ineffective, though firing 22 rockets (2.36-inch) in a blaze of glory, young Lt. Connor did manage to disable two tanks. 

Lt. Jansen Cox, shjown here, edged his bazooka over, fired broadside at the tanks, again with no effect.

Critchfield led the forward 105 mm howitzer and had the HEAT rounds. Critchfield was chosen to lead this gun as chief of section because of his Marine Corps experience in WWII. Critchfield waited until three tanks rounded the bend. Two tanks paused, perhaps because of some problem created by the bazooka fire. Critchfield ordered use of the HEAT rounds. His men fired and spun out one tank. It stopped. They reloaded and fired at a second tank, and it too spun out. Both tanks were able to pull off to the side to allow the others to pass.

One of the wounded tanks burst into flames. Two enemy jumped out ready to surrender. A third jumped out with a burp gun, and opened fire on an American gun in the ditch, killing the assistant gunner. His name was Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick, 19, Skin Fork, West Virginia.

A note on Shadrick. He was part of Task Force Smith, and manned a bazooka with a bazooka squad. Time magazine, July 17, 1950 edition, reported his death this way:
"Private Kenny Shadrick and his buddies were a bazooka squad in a graveyard near the town of Sojong, close to the advancing North Korean Reds. Kenny aimed a bazooka rocket at an enemy tank, counted three while the rocket lobbed toward the target, then stuck his head and shoulders above the gun pit to watch. The tank's machine gun chattered and Kenny Shadrick tumbled backward, a bullet through his right arm, another through his chest."
In the mean time, Critchfield's men loaded up again and fired at the third tank, but could not see the results through the smoke and obstacles of elevation. The next round jammed. The section then began to receive heavy fire, Critchfield decided it was too dangerous to dislodge the jammed round, so he ordered everyone back to the main battery.

Incredibly, the enemy tanks just kept rolling, every once in a while swinging their turrets to put the Task Force under fire, but the men of Task Force Smith, dug in, watched the enemy column move right by them on their way to Osan as though the Task Force were not even there. They passed through Task Force Smith’s positions by 9 am. Enemy tank fire had by this time killed or wounded about 20 of Smith’s men.

The enemy tanks were now moving toward Perry's artillery. The KPA did some firing at the artillery positions, but appeared to be confused, and simply kept on trucking right by the artillery positions as well. Perry’s crews fired their 105 howitzers at ranges of 150-300 yards as the tanks drove by, with no effect. Their shells simply bounced off.

Learning that the tanks were breaking through Task Force Smith's infantry lines, Col. Perry and Sgt. First Class Edwin A. "Cotton Eddie" Eversole, the Chief of Firing Battery, grabbed bazookas, joined three bazooka teams located near the road, and fired at the tanks, again with no effect.

Robert H. Hallahan, in his book All Good Men, described Eversole this way:
"More commonly referred to as the Chief of Fire, Eversole was one of those old Army sergeants, tough and rugged, a natural leader, and the kind of man you want on your team in the heat of combat. The men of A Battery had great respect for their Chief of Fire."
Their bazooka fire was without effect. But a tank driver didn't like the fire, and opened up with 85-mm cannon fire good enough to drop a telephone pole on top of Eversole, who fortunately was hidden in a drainage ditch. Eversole jumped up and raced across the paddy to rescue wounded comrades.

A tank was stopped by a 105 mm shell hitting the tracks. The rest of the tanks kept going through. Perry and an interpreter went up to the immobilized tank, ordered the enemy to come out, they would not comply, and Perry called in his howitzers. The 105s hit the stricken tank three times, with no effect. Two enemy jumped out shooting, and Perry was hit in the right leg. The two kept running to a drainage culvert. Perry sent some troopers after them and they killed them both. Perry wrapped what he had around the wound, refused to evacuate, and kept on fighting. His four howitzers remained operational.

The next wave of tanks now approached in ones, twos and threes, showing little organization. Some of the US howitzer crews abandoned their weapons. Officers started loading in their stead, while the senior non-coms fired the howitzers.

Col. Perry remained. He and Lt. Scott and some senior NCOs convinced their men to return to their positions, a true testament to leadership by example. They continued to fire, again with no effect. The tanks simply drove by. They did stop one tank, again hitting the tracks. There were not many KPA infantry accompanying the tanks. Those who did largely were killed. Hallahan, in his book All Good Men, said this:
"When a superior enemy force passed through the infantry and attacked Scott's battery with tank, mortar and small arms fire, (Scott) refused to withdraw his unit and ordered the howitzer sections to place direct fire against the tanks. Enemy fire destroyed the fire direction center."
One of the tanks hit a building holding US artillery shells and gasoline and blew up about 300 rounds. One howitzer was also disabled. Fortunately, the supply guys had some smart NCOs who had their men dig in foxholes and they were able to get out of there and join the rest of those withdrawing.
Hallahan said that Lt. Scott would receive the Silver Star "by furnishing the example by moving throughout the position giving instructions and encouraging his men."

The second wave passed through the artillery positions by 10:15 am. In the midst of all this according to Time magazine, Yak aircraft strafed Task Force Smith for about 25 minutes.

Throughout the fight, Capt. Overholt was able to do resuscitative surgery, he and his medics doing their best to keep his men alive. The medics kept digging their hole for the aid station more and more during lulls. Overholt said he got the walking wounded to head south through the rice paddies. These would include men with fractured arms and hands from bullet wounds, but the bleeding had stopped and the arms had been splintered, and those who had relatively deep soft tissue wounds but were not in shock and had use of all four extremities. Overholt reported that about 25-30 such cases headed south.

Once the tanks had passed, there were moments of spooky quiet. But Smith knew, first tanks, then infantry. He was right.

After about an hour, Smith spotted a thousand or so enemy infantry soldiers on their way in from Suwon, led by three tanks. He didn't know it at the time, but two regiments of the KPA's 4th Division were coming down the road, about 10,000 men in a long trail formation. It took about another hour for the first enemy to reach Smith's positions.

Once within about 1,000 yards, the tanks opened up on the ridgeline with cannon and machine-gun fire, and the infantry forces departed their trucks and moved into positions, some coming directly at the Task Force, others heading to flanking positions. There was now a real risk of being surrounded.
Smith's men opened up with rifles, machine guns, and mortars. They scored solid hits, blowing up trucks, killing enemy. 

The KPA force had allowed itself to get bunched up on the road, its communications and command and control were not good, and they started to take a beating, reacting with confusion. That's the good news. The bad news was that Smith had no way to stop those three tanks. They closed on the ridges and opened up with cannon and machine gun fire from 200 yards. Smith's men then started receiving artillery fire. Soldiers were dying. Smith had no communications with Perry, and could not call in any artillery. Perry tried to repair the communications, but to no avail. My sense is the communications lines they had set up broke down very early in the game. Nugent complained that it was raining very heavily and "it was impossible to get communication with the artillery."

Enemy infantry then began to assault Smith's positions, but Smith's men were able to beat them back. This had largely been a frontal assault. Now the enemy moved to Smith's left flank, forcing Bravo Co.'s platoon there to move over to the other side of the road. At least all Smith's men now were on the east side of the road, but their front was now down to 400 yards in breadth.

The battle intensified and the fight ensued for about three hours. Capt. Dashmer wanted to get out of the area. Lt. Berthoff, shown here, commanding the headquarters company, agreed. Smith was reluctant, because he feared they would only end up meeting up with the tanks that had already gone down the road. But he was losing men, running out of ammo, and was now, by noon, flanked on two sides, still no communications with Perry's artillery and therefore no supporting fire. And, of course, he had seen how outnumbered he was.

By early afternoon, Smith ordered his men to withdraw. There was a corridor of escape available to the south. Sgt. First Class Billy R. Smith recalled:
"When we finally got the word to move out, the enemy was sitting on all sides of us and behind us and they had their automatic weapons zeroed in. When we got up to evacuate the position, they chopped us up."
The withdrawal was disorganized. They took heavy fire during their withdrawal as the enemy got into preferred fighting positions. They took quite a few casualties. Several men were lost because they were so exhausted they could not keep up. They were left behind and either taken as POW or killed.
Overholt said he did not get the word about withdrawal, so he and the chaplain, Lt. Colonel Carl R. Hudson, kept working.

Overholt kept working with his chaplain to help patients. A lieutenant came flying over the hill telling him that two companies had already left. He told the medics to put the wounded men on their backs and carry the more seriously injured on litters. At this point, the aid station started receiving fire, and several of his medics became casualties. Supplies were gone, T-shirts were now bandages. 

The enemy approached and despite all the red crosses, put the medical team and their wounded under fire, causing more casualties. It got so bad the seriously wounded urged the doc and his guys to get out of there. Overholt and his men did the best they could, but they left, and left some behind.

They ultimately were able to join up with Lt. Raymond "Brodie" Adams, shown here, and work with the men to keep them going.

The book, A Defense Weapon Known to be of Value: Servicewomen of the Korean, by Linda Witt, Judith Bellafaire , Britta Granrud, and Mary Jo Binker reported this:
"Colonel Edwin Overholt, the physician assigned to Task Force Smith, described the scene: 'The North Koreans overran us because our weapons were useless against their tanks. I set up an aid station at the rear of our force. I had the medics place the most severely wounded on stretchers, and sent all those wounded who were ambulatory away as fast as they could walk. Unfortunately, by the time I realized that our position was being overrun, I didn't have enough men to carry all the wounded off ... When the North Koreans reached the litter patients and the chaplain who had remained with them, they shot them.'"
Somehow Major Nugent also did not get the word to withdraw, and found himself alone at the infantry command post (CP). He first ran to the south, but seeing no GIs, returned to the CP, was under heavy fire, and hid in the brush, only to witness the enemy overrun it and Overholt's aid station. He estimated some 30 wounded in the aid station. The enemy simply came in and, using their bayonets and weapons, began killing the wounded. Nugent was a WWII vet in the Pacific and Europe. He decided to follow the enemy to the south. He later found some high brush, and decided to hide for the night. The enemy found him, beat him with their rifle butts, fists and feet. By 6 pm he would find himself in a shack were he met up with three other soldiers whom I have not been able to confirm as part of Task Force Smith.

Smith left with elements of Bravo Co., made his way over to Colonel Perry, was astonished to see the howitzers still in good shape, and ordered the artillerymen to withdraw. The mud was so thick, Perry ordered the howitzers rendered useless and left them behind. They walked to Osan, found the artillery trucks, jumped aboard, and headed to Ansong, close to Pyongtaek, thinking the tanks were on their way to Pyongtaek.

Lt. Scott drove the lead jeep with Colonels Smith and Perry, Capt. Carl Simpson, and a Korean liaison officer, Capt. Yoon. They led their small column out, came across a few enemy tanks with the tankers relaxing and having a smoke, abruptly turned around and, at Yoon's recommendation, altered course to avoid further tanks.

Lt. Adams recalled that the men shot off in several directions on their way down the hill. Their vehicles had been destroyed so they were on foot. Their dispersal kept the enemy dispersed when trying to chase them down. However, they emerged from the hills in 3-5 groups and, when they got out of the hills, they were surrounded. Lt. Adams was a pretty good baseball pitcher, and managed to throw a grenade some 40 yards directly into an enemy gun position, right on target and wiped out an enemy machine-gunner.

Adams said the men went through a rice paddy and most were surprised that the tanks just kept on smoking through, with no desire to go after Task Force Smith. The tanks just drove right by them.

By July 6, Task Force Smith had withdrawn to Ch’onan, southeast of Pyongtaek. There was no enemy pursuit, though some of the men met up with North Koreans during their withdrawal.

When Smith arrived at Ch'onan, only 185 out of 540 men were accounted for. Capt. Dashmer arrived later with 65 men, increasing the head-count to 250. Lt. Bernard and 12 men came from the reserve. All together, Task Force Smith lost about 150 men killed, wounded or missing. Bravo Co. lost 65, Charlie lost 34.

Lt. Colonel Thomas J. Vance, USAR, described the battle this way:
"In this short engagement, 185 young Americans were killed, wounded, and captured. The history of Task Force Smith was burned forever into the memory of our Army.”
Withdrawal is an important and complex military maneuver, and Task Force Smith had to withdraw in a harried and unplanned way. By the time everyone converged, Smith found he had suffered a 35 percent loss. It must be noted here that prior to leaving the Osan area for Ch'onan, Col. Smith asked for volunteers to stay behind to care for casualties. Two medics volunteered: Pfc. Max Meyers and Cpl. Ernest "Frenchy" Fortuna. Lt. Adams would say:
"You do not desert casualties."
If I read his report correctly, both medics were captured, held POW, and ultimately released. Adams also commented that most of the men left in Task Force Smith had dysentery, and were short of food.
Lieutenant Colonel Edwin L. Kennedy Jr., US Army, Retired, wrote a paper entitled, "Force Protection Implications: TF Smith and the 24th Infantry Division, Korea 1950," and said this:
"Smith's dispositions would have met today's standards for infantry battalion defensive positions. The units and weapons were best sited to take advantage of elevation, fields of fire and observation. Task Force Smith's ability to delay as long as it did is remarkable."
Colonel Kennedy also wrote this:
"Despite the tremendous setbacks in July and August 1950, TF Smith and the 24th ID played key roles in slowing North Korean forces in the drive to Pusan. The North Koreans were thrown off schedule, which permitted the US military to establish the Pusan perimeter and led to the NKPA's eventual defeat. This is often conveniently overlooked to prove the high cost of tactical unpreparedness. However, TF Smith and, subsequently, 24th ID elements, successfully conducted what was once called a high-risk delay."
Brigadier General Brad Smith (Ret.) returned to the site of the battle in 1975 and said neither he or his men understood why they had been ordered to take on the North Koreans this way, and then said:
"Now we know that the action here was one of the more important battles in the Korean war ... Although it (the battle) only lasted six hours, it gained time for other units to prepare defense positions to the rear and for further reinforcements to be rushed to the aid of the Republic of Korea."
General MacArthur would announce:
"The enemy have lost their opportunity for victory in Korea by deploying too soon."
He was referring to the stand taken by Task Force Smith and the follow-on forces that got there right behind them.

The Korean War was now underway. Task Force Smith had met up with two regiments of the North Korean 4th Division and 33 T-34 tanks, and gave them a fight. Badly beat up but not beaten, the remnants then joined the rest of their battalion and held out for three days against two divisions in yet another valiant fight.


Lt. Bill Wyrick, the "Chief," paid tribute to this task force on July 5, 1988, at the Task Force Smith Memorial located just off Highway 1 between Osan and Suwon, ROK. He stood facing the North. This is what he told his comrades, KIA and MIA:
"Fellow members of Task Force Smith, it has now been 48 years since we deployed on this hill. We did not realize it at the time, but we were the vanguard of the United Nations Forces who came to help the South Korean people defend their freedom. Our mission was to delay the main enemy forces coming down this historic invasion route Seoul - Taejon - Taegu - Pusan.

"My comrades, 53 of you were Killed In Action here on that day so long ago. Five of you are still Missing In Action. Thirty-four of you died in unspeakable conditions as Prisoners Of War in either South or North Korea. To you I report that we completed our assigned task with honor ...

"There are a number of your comrades here with me today. They marvel at the progress the Korean people have made since we arrived here so many years ago. Your sacrifice undoubtedly played a major role in the defense of their freedom.

"To the Korean people assembled here today, I say thank you for honoring my comrades. Always remember that here, on the fifth day of July 1950, your people and my people became Blood Brothers.

"When you explain the meaning of freedom to your children - tell them about Task Force Smith and the foreigners who died here. Tell them that Freedom is not free!"

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