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The FReeper Foxhole Revisits - Remembering Task Force Smith - Korea 1950 - Jan. 10th, 2003 ^

Posted on 01/10/2004 4:29:25 AM PST by snippy_about_it


Keep our Troops forever in Your care

Give them victory over the enemy...

Grant them a safe and swift return...

Bless those who mourn the lost.

FReepers from the Foxhole join in prayer
for all those serving their country at this time.

...................................................................................... ...........................................

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Task Force Smith


Task Force Smith
‘What we carried was all we had.’

On July 5, 1950, the morning dawned rainy and windswept in the bleak hills of Korea between Suwan and Osan. Atop three of those hills that straddled the road between the two towns, 406 soldiers of Companies B and C of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, 24th Infantry Division were arrayed in a mile-long position astride the main road and railway connecting Seoul and Pusan. They had spent a miserable, rain-soaked night in the hills, after previously arriving on a hasty night flight from Japan followed by four days of truck and train travel from Pusan.

As the soldiers roused, some opened their C-Rations while others attempted to dry out themselves and their equipment. They soon found their radios inoperative because of the rain. Some of their equipment, most notably their ammunition, was still stacked by the side of the road at the bottom of the hills. About a mile to their rear, similarly wet and miserable soldiers in Battery A of the 52d Artillery Battalion were supporting with six 105-millimeter (mm) howitzers.

Under the command of LTC Charles "Brad" Smith, these US Army units, dubbed "Task Force Smith," represented the farthest forward US ground combat force on the Korean Peninsula. To their rear, the rest of the 24th Infantry Division was hurriedly organizing a defensive line to stop the North Korean attack.

Aside from the 105-mm artillery, the commander had two of his four 75-mm recoilless rifles that few of his soldiers knew how to use, six obsolete 2.36-inch "bazooka" rocket launchers (none of the newer, more effective 3.5-inch launchers in the Army inventory had been issued to Far East units), and two mortar platoons armed with four 60-mm and two 4.2-inch mortars. Because of weight constraints on the C-54 aircraft, the rest of the 4.2-inch mortar platoon was left behind for later shipment. Somewhere to the northwest, in the direction of Seoul was the North Korean People’s Army.

The North Korean People’s Army was on a roll. The North Korean People’s Army had invaded the Republic of Korea in South Korea only 11 days earlier and overwhelmed the ill-equipped Republic of Korea armed forces. The North Korean People’s Army steamrolled into Seoul, driving refugees and regrouping Republic of Korea Army units before it, clogging roads and throwing the countryside into a panic.

Their invasion caught General Douglas MacArthur and his Far East Command and Eighth Army by surprise, despite recent intelligence reports that North Korea was planning for an attack on the Republic of Korea. General MacArthur had disregarded the reports, saying he did not believe war with North Korea was imminent. In fact, both the Far East Command analysis and the US National Security Council analysis did not include Korea as one of the US Far East interests. Earlier, in 1947, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had declared Korea "a military liability" and directed withdrawal of all US troops by June 1950. By June 1949, the only US military presence in Korea was the 472-man US Korean Military Advisory Group. The Far East Command was responsible only for support to the US Korean Military Advisory Group.

The Republic of Korea Army of 1950 was a 64,600-man force advised by the US Korean Military Advisory Group and equipped with US surplus equipment, mostly small arms and light artillery. No tanks, heavy artillery, aircraft or ships were allocated the Republic of Korea by the US because of the Republic of Korea military’s "peaceful purpose." A US Korean Military Advisory Group advisor observed: "It (Republic of Korea Army) could have been the American Army of 1775." Also, the Far East Command assessed Korea as "not tank country."

In contrast, the North Korean People’s Army had over 130,000 soldiers and 3,000 Soviet advisors with the Soviets providing a full array of heavy weapons, aircraft and, notably, the formidable T-34/85, arguably the best tank to come out of World War II. On the morning of July 5, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army was a proven, battle-tried combat force.

On the US side, the nation’s military was still in the throes of the post-World War II drawdown, going from a force of 12 million to a congressionally mandated force strength of 1,070,000 from 1945 to 1947. The Far East Command’s US Army Command, Eighth Army, had four divisions - 1st Cavalry, 7th Infantry, 24th Infantry and 25th Infantry - totaling 50,000 soldiers. These divisions were all based in Japan on constabulary duty as occupation forces. Though this looked good on paper, these units were manned with poorly trained draftees and a cadre that put little emphasis on training or readiness during what one observer called the "unabashed sloth" of occupation duty. Of these soldiers, only one in six had seen combat duty in World War II. In fact, by June 1950, unit strengths for combat units had fallen to 48.8 percent, and combat service support units had sunk to 25.9 percent. For combat service support units, this meant an increasing dependence on local civilian labor and facilities for routine combat service support activities and total unpreparedness for wartime mobilization.

Postwar budget cuts had severely shrunk the key logistics capabilities of the other services too. The US Air Force maintained only two dozen C-54 aircraft in Japan. At the time of Task Force Smith’s deployment, several were undergoing maintenance and only six were available. The US Navy’s sealift was also a victim of budget cuts that left the 24th Division "scrounging" for ships in which to deploy. The rest of the 1/21 Infantry, for example, had to commandeer civilian freighters and some US Navy LSTs (landing ships, tank) that were on loan to the Japanese Self Defense Force in order to sail to Korea to link up with Task Force Smith. As one commander put it: "It was a hell of a way to go to war."

In The Korean War, author Max Hastings writes that General MacArthur’s "absolute lack of attention to the combat training of the divisions in Japan can be explained by his conviction that they would not be called upon to fight." The general’s staff also had a condescending attitude toward what General MacArthur called "a barefoot Asian army." Ordered to counter the North Korean invasion, General MacArthur thought sending the 24th Infantry Division - as, in his words, an "arrogant display of strength" - would suffice to intimidate and ultimately stop their advance.

General MacArthur ordered the 24th Infantry Division to mobilize and prepare to move to Korea. Its mission was to secure the port of Pusan and insert a delaying force by air north of the port. The 1/21 Infantry was the designated delaying force and was hastily loaded on six C-54 transport aircraft. Only enough aircraft were available to load out two Infantry companies and some selected equipment. The rest of the battalion, Companies A and D, along with other heavy equipment and weapons, were left behind in Japan to follow-on by sealift. The rest of the division with its organic tank battalion would also deploy by sea.

Task Force Smith landed at Pusan on July 1-2 and began a three-day journey by truck and train to its battle position. The roads were clogged with refugees and retreating Republic of Korea units, and the road surfaces were churned to a quagmire by the rain and traffic. Troops slept in sidings and school houses along the way. Some became sick from drinking from local water supplies. As they neared the front, the civilian drivers refused to proceed, and the soldiers drove the trucks the rest of the way. When they arrived at the position on July 4 in the darkness and rain, the Republic of Korea Army unit that was supposed to link up with Task Force Smith was not there. Supplies were offloaded but not all moved uphill into the battle positions.

While Task Force Smith was moving into position, Pusan was struggling to transform itself into a major supply base. At the southeastern corner of the Korean Peninsula, Pusan was 185 miles southeast of Task Force Smith and 275 road miles away, separated by two mountain ranges. The Pusan Logistics Command was still organizing, finding the port facilities underdeveloped and the rail and motor transport systems in a state of confusion. Many of the networks had been damaged by air strikes from both sides. There was no centralized system of asset management, and no one was quite sure of supplies on hand. By July 5, 7,600 tons of Class V (ammunition), and 3,200 tons of general supplies had been offloaded, but there was still no coherent system to move the supplies forward.

Back at the Far East Command, the staff was acting as the combat service support staff, trying to mobilize the available forces without a theater logistics plan. The staff had neither identified a communications zone (COMMZ) nor organized support architecture. There was no plan to synchronize the deployment of combat service support units with the combat units. Because of the perceived superiority of the US forces, no preparations had been made for the retrograde, resupply or reinforcement of Task Force Smith.

The soldiers of Task Force Smith were minimally supplied, also based on the anticipation of their mission as a short "police action." They had been issued two days’ C-Rations and about the same amount of ammunition (120 rounds per man). According to LTC Smith, "What we carried was all we had." There were no barrier materials or mines available. Many of their 2.36-inch rockets were deteriorated and old, as were the mortar rounds.

At 0700 on July 5, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army attacked Task Force Smith with a lead element of eight T-34/85 tanks. The tanks moved through an initial barrage of A/52 Artillery unfazed. The 75-mm recoilless rifle gunners engaged the tanks, but did not score a single kill despite many hits. Task Force Smith bazooka gunners also fired many rounds at the tanks, likewise with little effect. One gunner fired over 20 rockets at the tanks at close range without managing to inflict any serious damage. A 105-mm howitzer, firing in direct fire mode, managed to knock out one tank. By 0900, more than 30 tanks had driven through Task Force Smith’s position, cutting the single communications line between the task force and A/52 Artillery. At 1100, two regiments of North Korean People’s Army infantry assaulted Task Force Smith. With LTC Smith’s radios inoperative as a result of the rain, he had to use runners between his elements.

Faced with being overrun and caught between the North Korean troops and tanks in the rear, LTC Smith ordered a phased withdrawal beginning with Company C on the right flank. Company B, holding the left flank position and straddling the main road through which the tank attack came, saw the withdrawal of Company C and began to fall back on its own. The withdrawal turned into a rout with soldiers stumbling through the rice paddies and abandoning weapons and equipment. Of the 406 Task Force Smith soldiers who started the battle, only 185 could be mustered a week later after reaching friendly lines.

Task Force Smith’s mission was doomed to failure for many reasons, but foremost was the failure by General MacArthur’s Far East Command and Eighth Army to anticipate the threat. Given the proximity of communist and Soviet influences in the theater of operations, leaders should have had contingency plans in case hostilities erupted. These plans should have also contained logistics support to include prepositioned reserve equipment. Anticipating the threat also would have prompted the staff to develop training that supported contingency plans instead of allowing the deterioration of both combat and combat service support forces.

On the plus side, the decision to secure Pusan was crucial to establishing a support base for reinforcing the Republic of Korea Army and ultimately deploying heavy ground forces and attendant combat service support. Having "friendly" port of entry into the theater was better than forcing a lodgment on hostile shores.

After Task Force Smith was committed, no plan for its continuous support was evident. Given the state of training and readiness in Eighth Army, effective execution of a combat service support plan was questionable, even if such a plan had existed. This must have been obvious to the soldiers of Task Force Smith, after their experiences just before the battle. Their lack of training, frantic deployment and poor outfitting, followed by their sporadic and haphazard movement into position could only have been viewed as harbingers of the future, hammered home by North Korean People’s Army on the morning of July 5, 1950.

The events that unfolded on the Korean peninsula some 45 years ago offer a telling reminder of what happens when a force goes to war unprepared. Disaster lurks around every bend. There are lessons here especially pertinent to the logistics community.

The Army either learns from its history or runs the risk of repeating past mistakes on some future battlefield. This is what General (Retired) Gordon R. Sullivan meant when he said repeatedly throughout his tour as Army Chief of Staff: "No more Task Force Smiths."

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General Douglas MacArthur ordered the Eighth Army’s 24th Infantry Division from Ford Wood, Japan, to Pusan, Korea, after President Harry S. Truman committed US ground forces to stop the North Korean invasion of South Korea. The July 1, 1950, operations order provided for a delaying force to go to Pusan, Korea, by air immediately. Named for its commander, LTC Charles B. "Brad" Smith, Task Force Smith was assembled June 30 and then trucked to C-54 aircraft at nearby Itazuke Air Base for flight beginning at 0845 on July 1. This initial commitment of US ground troops in the Korean War consisted of two understrength rifle companies, half a battalion headquarters company, half of a communications platoon, a 75-mm recoilless rifle platoon with two guns, and two 4.2-inch mortars. Also, the two rifle companies had six 2.36-inch bazooka teams and four 60-mm mortars. Each man carried 120 rounds of .30-caliber ammunition and two days of C-Rations.

Only five years after the end of World War II, less than one-sixth of Task Force Smith had combat experience. After the 406 men arrived at Pusan, Task Force Smith was trucked through cheering crowds to the train station for its trip north. This send-off in South Korea boosted the already high morale of the soldiers who thought that the North Koreans would stop in the face of the "invincible" US Army. LTC Smith chose an excellent infantry position three miles north of Osan to set up a road block for the first engagement on the morning of July 5, but he did not have the firepower to stop the Soviet-made T-34/85 tanks. General MacArthur had called this small, ill-equipped unit an "arrogant display of strength." Like everyone else, the general thought that the mere presence of US troops would "chill the enemy commander into taking precautionary and time-consuming" actions.

Today's Educational Sources and suggestions for further reading:
1 posted on 01/10/2004 4:29:26 AM PST by snippy_about_it
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To: All
On June 25, 1950, communist North Korea invaded their southern neighbor, the Republic of Korea. After their artificial separation following World War II, both nations had contemplated reunification by way of invasion, and border clashes were common. Knowing this and underestimating the North Korean army, the United States refused to supply the South with heavy weapons, including tanks and artillery. The ROK Army initially offered stiff resistance, but it lost vital battles north of Seoul and lost many men and important equipment when a bridge over the Han was prematurely blown in Seoul.

US defense spending had reached a modern day low after World War. The military was ill-prepared and those in authority embaced questionable doctrines. The usefulness of the tank in World War II had been lost to those in charge, and the Army had only a single armored division. The weaponry of World War II had not been significantly improved upon. Aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare were thought obsolete in the nuclear age, and the A-Bomb was seen as a serious deterent to ANY enemy aggression.

In Japan, US occupation forces were prepared for quick shipment to Korea. A 540 man battalion sized task force of the 24th Infantry Division under Lt. Col. Charles Smith was rushed to Korea on transport planes and moved north through hordes of refugees and retreating ROK Army units to block the enemy advance. They were told the communists would flee at the sight of American soldiers.

Early on the morning of July 5th, Task Force Smith took up position a mile long just north of Osan on ridge 300 feet above the plain to the north. A platoon of B Company occupied a knob to the west of the road while the other two platoons as well as the two platoons of C Company occupied the ridge to the east. Two mortar platoons were 400 yards to the rear and five 105 mm howitzers were 2,000 yards to the rear.

At around 7:00 AM the approaching enemy was sighted, and at 8:16 the artillery began firing on the advancing enemy. Leading the North Korean advance was the 107th Armored Brigade equipped with T-34 tanks. Not bothering to deploy, the tanks advanced straight up the road toward the American position.

Fire from two American 75 mm recoilless rifles did not damage the advancing T-34s. No anti-tank mines had been brought along, and anti-tank guns, a vital part of World War II armies, were no longer used. As the tanks continued, the Americans opened up with the 2.36 inch bazookas. These weapons were quickly obsolete in World War II and predictably could not penetrate the T-34s' frontal armor. They were even of questionable use against the weaker areas of the tanks. One of the 105 mm howitzers fired HEAT rounds as the tanks crested the ridge, and the front two tanks were disabled. The remaining 33 tanks continued down the road, firing as they went. The tanks tore up the communications wire as they went and bypassed the howitzers, whose rounds stopped only three of the T-34s.

Before noon, 1,000 men in two regiments of the North Korean 4th Division supported by three tanks deployed to attack the ridge. The Americans held off attacks to their front, but the enemy began moving around both flanks. At 12:30 PM, the North Koreans occupied a hill overlooking the American position west of the road, so the American platoon fell back to the east side. Running low on ammunition and with the enemy around both flanks, Smith ordered a withdrawal at 2:30. The retreat was confused and the guns were abandoned. Although they had inflicted 127 casualties, the task force suffered 181 casualties and was so scattered it would be largely ineffective. Over the coming months, additional US troops were sent to Korea, and the battlelines finally stabilized at the Pusan Perimeter, where UN troops fought off desperate human wave attacks. In September, landings at Inchon would turn the tide in favor of the UN.

The battle at Osan is a low point in American history. It symbolizes the price in blood our troops pay for ill preparedness and inadequate defense spending. Has America learned this lesson? Other than Korean War veterans, how many people have heard of Task Force Smith?

2 posted on 01/10/2004 4:30:14 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: All
'Honor our brave soldiers of Task Force Smith -- and those who followed them to hold the line in Korea. They sacrificed and rendered selfless service in the cause of freedom. They deserve our respect as much as those who fought in Vietnam, World War Two, and World War One.'

--Lt. Col. Thomas J. Vance, USAR

'No more Task Force Smiths.'

--Gordon R. Sullivan, Army Chief of Staff

3 posted on 01/10/2004 4:30:33 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: All
Special Certificate of Valor
United States Army

awarded to:

This is to cite the individual members and to officially recognize and pay tribute to a gallant organization, whose heroic achievements have added luster to the annals of American arms.

Composed of 406 Infantrymen of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, Task Force Smith landed at Pusan, Korea, on 1 July 1950, and was joined by 134 Artillerymen of the52nd Field Artillery Battalion near Pyongtack on 4 July, with the mission of delaying the main body of the enemy driving into South Korea. Gaining contact with an estimated 20,000 enemy troops in the vicinity of Osan on 5 July, this force exhibited valor on the battlefield worthy of the highest traditions of the Combat Soldier. Faced by a fanatical foe greatly superior in numbers, and penetrated by enemy armor, it coiled in defense and with stubborn determination and exemplary fortitude registered devastation on the enemy. With ammunition almost spent and its position in imminent danger of being completely surrounded, a hazardous but masterly withdrawal was effected. Rushed forward to arrest this massive onslaught alone, the intrepidity and skill of these defenders of the ground can best be gauged by their outstanding success in stemming the enemy advance during this critical period.

The members of Task Force Smith, who fought so nobly on this occasion, have earned the eternal gratitude of the freedom-loving people of the world, and the wholehearted pride and commendation of the United States Army.

Frank Pace, Jr.
Secretary of the Army

4 posted on 01/10/2004 4:31:57 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: StayAt HomeMother; Ragtime Cowgirl; bulldogs; baltodog; Aeronaut; carton253; Matthew Paul; ...

FALL IN to the FReeper Foxhole!

Good Saturday Morning Everyone

If you would like added to our ping list let us know.

5 posted on 01/10/2004 4:33:08 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: All
Rank Location Receipts Donors/Avg Freepers/Avg Monthlies
26 Oregon 325.00

Thanks for donating to Free Republic!

Move your locale up the leaderboard!

6 posted on 01/10/2004 4:35:13 AM PST by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: snippy_about_it

Today's classic warship, Montana (BB-51)

South Dakota class battleship
Displacement. 43,200 t.
Lenght. 684' 0""
Beam. 105' 0"
Draft. 33' 0"
Speed. 23.0 k.
Armament. 12 16"; 16 6"

Montana, a 43,200-ton South Dakota class battleship, was laid down at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, in September 1920. Her construction was suspended in February 1922, under the terms of the Washington Naval Limitations Treaty, and she was subsequently formally cancelled. Stricken from the Navy List and sold in October-November 1923, her hull was scrapped on the building ways.

Battleship trivia: Montana is the only one of the 48 contiguous states for which no commissioned battleship has been named.

7 posted on 01/10/2004 4:51:49 AM PST by aomagrat (IYAOYAS)
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To: snippy_about_it
Good morning, Snippy and everyone at the Foxhole.
8 posted on 01/10/2004 4:58:31 AM PST by E.G.C.
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To: snippy_about_it
Good morning Snippy.

9 posted on 01/10/2004 5:05:15 AM PST by Aeronaut (In my humble opinion, the new expression for backing down from a fight should be called 'frenching')
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To: snippy_about_it
Good Morning FRiends

Coffee's on

10 posted on 01/10/2004 5:21:26 AM PST by GailA (Millington Rally for America after action
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To: snippy_about_it
Good Morning Snippy.

11 posted on 01/10/2004 5:32:19 AM PST by SAMWolf (Ted Kennedy's Bumper Sticker: My other car is underwater.)
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To: aomagrat
Morning aomagrat.

Chances are really good we'll never get to see a BB Montana. ;-)
12 posted on 01/10/2004 5:33:36 AM PST by SAMWolf (Ted Kennedy's Bumper Sticker: My other car is underwater.)
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To: E.G.C.
Morning E.G.C. I guess we need to look out for a Trojan that's going around as a phoney Microsoft E-mail.
13 posted on 01/10/2004 5:35:20 AM PST by SAMWolf (Ted Kennedy's Bumper Sticker: My other car is underwater.)
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To: Aeronaut
Morning aeronaut
14 posted on 01/10/2004 5:35:44 AM PST by SAMWolf (Ted Kennedy's Bumper Sticker: My other car is underwater.)
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To: GailA
Biscuits and gravy again!!! You're gonna spoil me!!
15 posted on 01/10/2004 5:36:23 AM PST by SAMWolf (Ted Kennedy's Bumper Sticker: My other car is underwater.)
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To: SAMWolf
Yes, Microsoft doesn't send patches through e-mails so I'd be watchful about that.
16 posted on 01/10/2004 5:40:49 AM PST by E.G.C.
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To: SAMWolf
Awwww. Thank you Sam. You're up early!
17 posted on 01/10/2004 5:44:49 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: aomagrat
Good morning aomagrat.
18 posted on 01/10/2004 5:47:43 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: E.G.C.
Good morning EGC.
19 posted on 01/10/2004 5:48:19 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: Aeronaut
Hi Aeronaut. Thanks for the flyby.
20 posted on 01/10/2004 5:49:07 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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