HomeNewsFeatures

Feature Search

Cultural Insight: Memorial honors 'first to fight'

Just north of Osan city lies a monument honoring the men of Task Force Smith, the first U.S. forces to engage North Korean forces following the North’s invasion of the Republic of Korea on June 25, 1950. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Matt Summers)

Just north of Osan city lies a monument honoring the men of Task Force Smith, the first U.S. forces to engage North Korean forces following the North’s invasion of the Republic of Korea on June 25, 1950. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Matt Summers)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Just north of Osan city lies a seldom-visited monument honoring the men of Task Force Smith, the first U.S. forces to engage North Korean forces following the North's invasion of the Republic of Korea on June 25, 1950.

The monument, built in 1982, depicts U.S. Army infantrymen and a 2.36-inch bazooka team preparing to fire on one of the 33 Russian-built T-34 tanks used by the North Korean Army.

Two metal signs give details of the battle and include a map of both U.S. and enemy positions during the battle. In front of the monument the flags of all the United Nations member countries that took part in the defense of the Republic of Korea are flown.

Directly across the highway a stone pillar, constructed by Companies B and C of the 3rd Engineering Battalion, 24th Infantry Division, and refurbished in 1972, pays tribute to the first American soldier who gave his life in the valley.

On July 5, 1950, the task force, led by Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith, numbered 389 enlisted and 17 officers among the infantrymen and 125 enlisted and nine officers among the artillerymen.

They faced two regiments of the North Korean 4th Division. Despite the lack of armor, effective antitank weapons or air support, the Soldiers delayed the enemy for critical hours while U.S. forces continued to deploy to the peninsula from occupation duty in Japan and bases in the United States.

The day following the battle, Colonel Smith could assemble only 250 men, half his original force.