Task Force Smith

separator-rwb.jpg (3623 bytes)

On July 4, 1950, two rifle companies, B and C, one-half of Headquarters Company, one section of 75mm recoilless rifles, and two 4.2 inch mortars, under their battalion commander Lt. Colonel Charles "Brad" Smith, were air-lifted from Japan to Pusan, Korea.  They were from the 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Division, on Japanese occupation duty.  A train took them north where they were deployed near Osan, about 35 miles south of Seoul.  They were joined by a battery from the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion.  Riflemen had 120 rounds of ammunition and each man had two days of "C" rations.  They stood 540 men strong.

Their mission: make an arrogant display of force and delay the main advance of the NKPA until more U.S. troops arrive.  Brad Smith was 34.  Most of his men were twenty years old or younger.  About one in six had combat experience.

Many were draftees, while others had volunteered for the draft in order to get their service obligation behind them.  Some had joined to "see the world."  Fighting?  Why should there be any fighting?  We beat the Germans and Japanese, didn't we?

From a soft life in Japan, with servants to wash their clothes and shine their boots, these American youth were suddenly uprooted and flung into harm's way.  There was no "Remember Pearl Harbor."  Why were they there?  Some bandits had crossed the border and would flee as soon as they saw American uniforms, was the circulating story.

The next morning at 7:00 a.m., NKPA troops appeared in the distance.  They were elements of two regiments, about 5,000 men with thirty-three T-34 tanks.  Artillery and recoilless rifle fire had no effect on the advancing tanks.  The 105mm howitzer was not an anti-tank weapon; however, a special HEAT (high explosive anti-tank) round had been developed for emergency purposes.  One field piece had been deployed well forward for direct fire down the road.  The crew only had six HEAT rounds, which was 50% of the allotment for the Far East.  The rest had been shipped to Europe, which had priority.

These teenagers were able to destroy two tanks before running out of HEAT rounds.  The next tank knocked them out.  As the remainder of enemy armor ran through their position, Lt. Ollie Connor fired 22 rounds from a 2.36 inch rocket launcher into the rear of the tanks at very close range, with little appreciable effect.  The ammunition was old and many rounds failed to explode.  The weapon had been found to be ineffective against German armor in 1943.  The T-34s shot up the Americans' vehicles parked in the rear as they continued southward down the road.

The NKPA infantry with three tanks now approached.  Heavy fire from Task Force Smith halted their frontal attack.  While continuing a steady fire into the defender's position, the North Koreans began moving large forces around each flank.

As the ammunition supply dwindled, LTC Smith gave the order to withdraw at 2:30 p.m.  It didn't reach one platoon and the task force suffered most of its casualties during this phase.  Panic seized some as they fled to the rear, weaponless but careful to skirt the village where the enemy tanks were.

These American youngsters had held up the enemy for almost a day and inflicted 130 casualties while losing 185 of their own.  Brad Smith reported that the fighting qualities of the NKPA had been greatly underestimated by U.S. intelligence.   The 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Division was the next U.S. unit to engage the invaders.  The equipment furnished the regiment was a national disgrace, according to the operations officer (S-3), Major John J. Dunn, who claimed that between 25% and 50% of the small arms were under serviceable.  Sergeant Roy F. Collins found in their first combat that twelve of the thirty-one rifles in his platoon were defective.  Mortar ammunition was so old that, in some cases, eight out of ten rounds failed to explode.  Few radios worked.

In order to get to Korea, the rest of Task Force Smith's regiment had to commandeer three rusty Japanese freighters and a couple of war surplus LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) before they could embark.  One GI said, "It was a hell of a way to go to war."

Return to Previous Page

  Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library  

Of Interest to Korean War Veterans

Remember Our DMZ Veterans

What Happened to Your Vet?

Reference Desk

Vietnam Issues

Public Service Announcements

Respect Your Flag

Search Here



Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library

Home Page                  Guest Book