Friday, May 17, 2019

Task Force Smith: The Tip of the Arrow

U.S. Army photo.
Morning, July 2, 1950. Taejon, South Korea. These were the very first American soldiers committed to battle in the Korean War.  They numbered about 540, forming a reinforced company under the command of 34-year-old LT COL Brad Smith. Organized as "Task Force Smith," these men were drawn from the 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division, part of the U.S. occupation forces based in Japan. They flew to Korea on July 1, and immediately embarked by train for Taejon, where they arrived on the morning of July 2.  Their arrival is captured here in this photo.

Korea offered little in the way of creature comforts even during peacetime.  Now at war, the infrastructure such as this train station would be strained to capacity - and eventually destroyed as the war descended upon it. Here we see sleep-deprived Americans at Taejon as they prepare to march north for Suwon. Note the Korean shoe-shine boy to the right, offering his services to whomever is interested.

It's fair to say that the men of Task Force Smith had no idea of what they were getting into.  These boys were young - half were teenagers. They were unprepared for what awaited them.  Their initial clash with North Korean forces on July 5 pitted them against North Koreas who were more numerous, better equipped, and motivated through intense indoctrination. The results proved to be disastrous for the Americans. To this day, U.S. Army infantry training curricula presents Task Force Smith as a case study in how not to conduct war.  

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