OSAN, South Korea -- On July 5, 1950, Eighth Army’s Task Force Smith joined South Korean Soldiers in a fierce fight against North Korean forces in what is now Osan City, South Korea. The Battle of Osan would be the first battle in the Korean War involving United Nations forces and the beginning of an alliance that has lasted decades.
Current Eighth Army Soldiers joined Republic of Korea Soldiers, veterans and government leaders 69 years later to commemorate that first battle in a ceremony held July 3 in Osan.
The 69th Task Force Smith Memorial Ceremony was held at the Jukmiryeong U.N. Forces First Battle Memorial.
Soldiers from throughout Eighth Army listened to speakers who reminisced about that pivotal battle, which slowed down the North Korean advancement south, setting the stage for a war that would last three more years.
“Those U.N. forces — a small, understrength American infantry battalion task force — held this ground for seven hours,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, Eight Army deputy commanding general – Operations. “Task Force Smith was a small outfit, but it was the vanguard of 16 nations. It was the physical embodiment of the will of free peoples the world over to thwart the communist desire to subjugate the free Koreans by violence.”
Additional speakers from civic leaders and ROK veterans also expressed their appreciation for the sacrifices of Task Force Smith and yearned for the day that peace would once again fall on the Korean Peninsula.
After the speeches, government and military officials, veterans and city leaders were called up to place flowers on a wreath as a tribute to Task Force Smith and the ROK Soldiers who fought gallantly almost 70 years ago.
According to historical accounts, Task Force Smith was named after Lt. Col. Charles Smith, who led a makeshift battalion of the 24th Infantry Division to Korea from Japan upon orders from Eighth Army through Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
The task force was made up of 406 Soldiers, which saw 150 of them killed or missing. They were the first Army maneuver unit to see battle in Korea.
“When the fighting on this hill was done, Task Force Smith was no longer an organized unit, but they were the first of the mighty army of men and women from across the globe who would assemble and who drove back the agents of aggression – it started here,” said Donahoe.