Support our mission
 
South Korean officials place flowers Tuesday at the foot of a monument to Task Force Smith. The ceremony marked the 55th anniversary of the battle between the outnumbered task force and columns of enemy tanks and infantry.
South Korean officials place flowers Tuesday at the foot of a monument to Task Force Smith. The ceremony marked the 55th anniversary of the battle between the outnumbered task force and columns of enemy tanks and infantry. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
South Korean officials place flowers Tuesday at the foot of a monument to Task Force Smith. The ceremony marked the 55th anniversary of the battle between the outnumbered task force and columns of enemy tanks and infantry.
South Korean officials place flowers Tuesday at the foot of a monument to Task Force Smith. The ceremony marked the 55th anniversary of the battle between the outnumbered task force and columns of enemy tanks and infantry. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
This monumment in Osan City honors Task Force Smith, the U.S. Army unit that fought the first ground engagement against North Korean invasion forces in the Korean War.
This monumment in Osan City honors Task Force Smith, the U.S. Army unit that fought the first ground engagement against North Korean invasion forces in the Korean War. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

JOONG MI PASS, South Korea — U.S. military brass and South Korean officials gathered Tuesday near where greatly outgunned U.S. troops paid “a terrible price” 55 years ago to slow an advancing North Korean army.

As a South Korean army band softly played hymns, a succession of officials placed flowers at the gray stone base of a monument in Osan City to mark the Korean War’s first ground engagement between U.S. and North Korean forces: the July 5, 1950, battle of Joong Mi Pass.

The monument honors Task Force Smith, named for its commanding officer, Army Lt. Col. Charles B. “Brad” Smith. The task force was part of the 24th Infantry Division, with soldiers drawn from 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment and supported by Battery A, 52nd Field Artillery Battalion.

The task force sent more than 400 troops into the battle at Joong Mi Pass, where it suffered more than 100 casualties.

When North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, the 24th Infantry Division was rushed to Korea from peacetime duty in Japan. It was among the first U.S. units to arrive.

By July 1950, North Korean tanks and infantry were pushing south along a highway toward Osan.

On July 5, Task Force Smith, the forward-most U.S. unit on the peninsula, moved to slow the North Korean advance, setting up a blocking position around 3 a.m. at the pass.

But when the North Korean force appeared that morning around 7 a.m., Task Force Smith’s recoilless rifles, mortars, 2.36-inch bazookas and 105 mm howitzers were unable to stop the Soviet-made T-34/85 tanks.

North Korean infantry assaulted the outnumbered Americans. By the afternoon, the task force fell back toward Taejon.

There, on July 20, the remainder of the 24th Infantry Division again tried to stop the North Koreans but was pushed back behind the Naktong River into what became known as the Pusan Perimeter.

The delaying action, “although at a terrible price … had bought time for the remainder of the 8th U.S. Army … to move from Japan to Korea,” Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Martz said in brief remarks at Tuesday’s ceremony. Martz is an assistant 2nd Infantry Division commander.

Acting Osan City Mayor Lee Jung-yeol said: “I give the warmest tribute to the memory of brave souls who gave their precious life for the preservation of peace and freedom.”

Migrated

Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up