[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
"Force Protection Implications: TF Smith and the 24th Infantry Division, Korean"
Force Protection Implications: TF Smith and the 24th Infantry Division,
Lieutenant Colonel Edwin L. Kennedy Jr., US Army, Retired
"They were Task Force [TF] Smith, which [General Douglas] MacArthur termed
an arrogant display of strength, sent ahead into Korea to give the
Communists pause. [Major General (MG) William F.] Dean had been ordered to
move his entire 24th [Infantry] Division to the peninsula, but it was
scattered the length and breadth of Japan, near six separate ports, and
there were no ships immediately available. It would have to go in bits and
pieces, of which Task Force Smith was the first."1
Since July 1950, TF Smith and the 24th Infantry Division (ID) have been used
as examples of poor tactical combat performance. However, instead of serving
as an indictment, their actions should be reminders of the results of
operational, national and strategic failure.
Poor operational and strategic intelligence; poor operational planning; and
a lack of operational mobility and transportation were as much to blame for
initial US failures in Korea as any problems tactical units might have had.
The finger should have been wagged at senior leaders all the way up to the
National Command Authority.
In retrospect, TF Smith performed reasonably well, considering what it
faced. Survivors of TF Smith have related, and analyses indicate, that even
a larger, better-prepared force would have still failed, given the 4th North
Korean People's Army (NKPA) Division's strength.2
Despite the tremendous setbacks in July and August 1950, TF Smith and the
24th ID played key roles in slowing North Korean forces in the drive to
Pusan. The North Koreans were thrown off schedule, which permitted the US
military to establish the Pusan perimeter and led to the NKPA's eventual
defeat. This is often conveniently overlooked to prove the high cost of
tactical unpreparedness. However, TF Smith and, subsequently, 24th ID
elements, successfully conducted what was once called a highrisk delay.
Operational implications of committing occupation forces in Japan to combat
in 1950 offer relevant lessons for today. With reductions in unit strengths,
training readiness and capabilities of current US forces, the Army would do
well to reexamine historical precedents regarding incremental application of
force to a conflict.
The situation that faced the 8th Army in Japan bears many similarities to
situations the Army now faces in force projection. Most notable is the
severe shortage of strategic transportation assets available for timely
response.3 This specific problem directly affected the operational concept
of how the Advanced Command (ADCOM) and 8th Army conducted initial missions
in the 1950 delay to the Naktong River.
Given the US Armed Forces' current capabilities, force-projection doctrine
might have to be practiced under circumstances similar to those of July
1950. Deployment to Saudi Arabia in Autumn 1990 occurred before downsizing
fully affected the US military. The problem is more critical now with aging
aircraft and a severely deflated military.
Had the Iraqis taken advantage of the situation early during Operation
Desert Shield, the 82d Airborne Division's history during that time might
read more like TF Smith's. The major difference for the Army units was that
Desert Shield soldiers had received high-quality training and equipment.
Specific analysis of TF Smith and 24th ID actions shows that incremental
deployment of the 24th ID, especially TF Smith, was the 8th Army's only
proper operational course of action. Unfortunately, some historians, such as
author Clay Blair, give their actions short shrift: "The Americans had
achieved little in this piecemeal and disorganized waste of precious lives
and equipment. At most they delayed the NKPA a total of three, possibly
Taken out of operational context, three to four days might seem
inconsequential, but the 24th ID was only part of the delaying force. The
1st Cavalry and 25th ID deployed in depth behind the 24th ID. Proper
analysis must consider the entire delay.
Deploying units from Japan was key to the 8th Army's ability to establish a
contiguous defensive perimeter before the North Koreans arrived in force.5
Therefore, US forces' initial deployment from Japan was time-sensitive
because of the relatively short distance from the demilitarized zone (DMZ)
to the southern end of the peninsula. Also, the lack of defensible terrain
and the presence of natural barriers stymied tactical units' dispositions.
These factors limited MacArthur's options.
The NKPA had the advantages of initiative and momentum. This was especially
true after it crossed the Han River south of Seoul where organized South
Korean resistance crumbled in the western corridor. Spearheaded by armor
forces traveling on Highway 1, the main avenue of approach from Seoul to
Pusan, the NKPA intended to move swiftly to Pusan, then consolidate with
followon forces. The 4th NKPA ID led armor and truckmounted infantry units
as they advanced along this axis.6
The 4th NKPA ID followed the Soviet model when planning operations. There
was a strict timetable for daily advances, and subordinate units received
march objectives. If all went well, the 4th NKPA ID hoped to advance an
average of 20 kilometers a day once it broke through South Korean defenses
north of the river.7
Meanwhile, in Japan, MacArthur's choices for committing ground forces were
limited. Although the landing at Inchon was in the planning stage, no ships
or US Marine Corps troops were available for a seaborne invasion. Like
today's strained US military, the US Air Force (USAF) did not have enough in
theater lift capability to fly necessary forces to Korea from Japan. Nor
were airfields sufficiently developed to handle heavier aircraft even if
they had been readily available.8
MacArthur had to decide quickly whether to send a force—any force—or to
wait, organize and fully equip an element of the understrength occupation
forces. Sending units piecemeal into combat is desirable but is what
happened in Korea as a conscious decision. The decision to send a small
detachment of US ground troops was based on ration-al suppositions. Acting
decisively and participating in the ground conflict immediately would
demonstrate US resolve to deter communist aggression. And, the NKPA would
not continue the fight if it knew it was fighting a world power in ground
combat. In retrospect, this assumption was obviously faulty.
The operational implications were fairly clear—establish a presence on the
Korean peninsula quickly with whatever force was available; slow the NKPA's
advance; then reinforce forces on the ground deployments from Japan. Failure
to perform these actions would result in lost seaports and would require
forced entry from the sea to regain a foothold on the peninsula. Time was
critical; the last substantial obstacle to the NKPA's southward advance was
the Naktong River.
The solution in 1950 provides a classic example of what might occur for the
US in the future. The 8th Army was to deploy a regiment of infantry
immediately. The 24th ID was the closest Army unit in southern Japan to
ports of embarkation. It was to send a unit by air as quickly as possible
with the balance of the force to follow by sea.9 Thus began the events that
placed the ill
equipped and undermanned TF Smith in its predicament.
Military leaders clearly understood the implications of committing forces to
combat piecemeal, and they willingly took the risk that the unit might be
defeated in detail. Quantitative analysis of ADCOM and 8th Army's delay to
the Naktong River shows that the operational objective was met, but at a
MacArthur and Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker accepted the risk. Figures
relating to time and distance factors, the method of measuring success in
this case, are so complex that to limit the study of the delay to the
Naktong River alone might easily lead to simplistic conclusions. However,
numbers clearly show that the North Korean advance was exceedingly slow
under the circumstances and that the incremental application of US combat
power definitely caused the North Koreans to fall behind schedule.
The July 1950 operational considerations also relate to current
force-projection scenarios. Timely, incremental deployment into a theater to
retain a foothold and a less-timely application of greater combat power were
essentially the tradeoffs the 8th Army faced. Then, as now, strategic lift
capability was a limiting factor that frustrated planners at all levels.
Along with ADCOM and 8th Army defenses, other factors slowed and prevented
NKPA units' timely crossing of the Naktong River. From what verifiable facts
support, a combination of internal and external factors—the friction of
war—delayed their advance. Internal factors included poor command and
control, limited communication means, rigid tactical doctrine and artificial
restraints in their operational plans. External factors included effects of
weather and terrain, opposing ground actions and direct application of UN
The results of the 8th Army's delay to the Naktong River can be
quantitatively assessed and contradict assertions that TF Smith and the 24th
ID's initial actions were of no consequence. Simple mathematical analysis
supports a generalization regarding the operational conduct of the delay and
whether the example offers legitimate lessons. Because we know the NKPA's
doctrine and have access to captured NKPA orders for the offensive, this
information becomes control data with which to evaluate the NKPA's actual
performance. We can compare the effect of US operations against NKPA units
with the actual communist plan. We can make logical assumptions to determine
what would have happened had ADCOM and the 8th Army not fought as it did
along Highway 1—for example, if the force had waited for sufficient combat
power before moving against the North Koreans.
On 1 July, Dean's 24th ID was alerted to send elements to Japan immediately
by air.11 The commander of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment,
Lieutenant Colonel Bradley Smith, quickly cobbled together a task force and
flew to Pusan on 2 July. Smith, a former Infantry School instructor, was a
World War II combat veteran of the South Pacific.12 His battalion was one of
the best-trained infantry battalions in the 24th ID, despite personnel
shortages, a lack of serviceable equipment and an unavailability of good
maneuver areas for training.
The lack of air transportation reduced battalion personnel initially
deployed to a relatively small, two
company, one-artillery battery task force pared out of the 1st Battalion,
21st infantry. On 2 July, these forces were sent north from Pusan with
orders to block NKPA units moving south out of the Seoul area on Highway 1
toward Taejon.13 Highway 1 runs from Seoul to Taejon then to Waegwan through
the mountains that parallel a rail line. This small but primary avenue of
approach runs diagonally across the southern peninsula from the northwest to
the southeast, terminating at Pusan. Based on poor intelligence and broad
guidance, Dean intended to conduct a series of delays along this major
corridor to aid the arrival of his remaining his force.
Smith emplaced his forces along the high ground dominating both Highway 1
and the rail line, which ran through a relatively long tunnel under the
extreme right flank of his position. Highway 1 bisected a saddle in the hill
known as Juk-Mi Pass. The task force's two infantry companies were situated
abreast about four kilometers south of the pass on each side of the highway.
One platoon was sited west of the highway, but the majority of the infantry
troops were sited east of the road. An artillery battery was disposed to the
rear.14 The terrain was undeniably the most defensible available.
The 4th NKPA ID and the 107th Tank Regiment were approaching TF Smith.
Having crossed the Han River on 1 July, these units were leading the advance
down Highway 1. Between 14 July, the 4th NKPA ID fought the remnants of the
1st and 7th IDs that were defending the Han River's south bank.15 By 4 July,
the North Koreans had overcome South Korean resistance, entered Suwon and
were visible from the hills adjacent to JukMi Pass.
The North Koreans had moved 30 kilometers in four days, much less than the
planned movement rate of 20 kilometers a day. However, they had to break
through the South Korean main line of resistance, fight numerous actions
north of the Han River, cross the river and move up initial logistic support
from the DMZ. Under the circumstances, these movement figures are well
The distance from Suwon to Osan is just over 10 kilometers. The 4th NKPA ID
left Suwon early on 5 July about the time TF Smith was settling into
position on the hillside at JukMi Pass. Tanks led the North Korean movement
followed by motorized infantry then dismounted infantry. To maintain order,
the armor and motorized infantry moved slowly so the dismounted infantry
could follow closely. Still, by the time the North Koreans encountered TF
Smith, a gap had developed between mounted and dismounted elements.
Movement was confined mostly to main roads because of poor traffic-ability.
Most of the countryside was covered with rice paddies. Off
road movement was difficult for infantry and virtually impossible for
armored vehicles. Smith knew this and disposed his antitank (AT) weapons to
cover Highway 1 and the rail line.
The battle began at 0816, 5 July. North Korean tanks initially broke through
US positions and continued to Suwon without slowing appreciably. With the
exception of the artillery battery's direct fire on the tanks, the North
Koreans suffered no losses. The old, understrength bazooka and 57-millimeter
recoilless rifle shells just bounced off the Soviet-designed armor. After
two heavy engagements, TF Smith began a withdrawal under pressure at 1400.
Unfortunately, the direct support artillery battery, A Battery, 52d Field
Artillery, was defeated. The tanks cut the landlines to the forward
observers, and all radios went dead. The tanks continued engaging the
105-millimeter guns in direct-fire duels. The 4.2-inch heavy mortar section
ran out of ammunition. After the initial engagement there was no indirect
fire support. Close air support (CAS) was nonexistent. Because of recent
fratricide incidents, CAS was restricted from operating south of the Han
River. This prohibition effectively hobbled US ground maneuver elements and
gave communist forces a distinct advantage.
A withdrawal in contact is probably the most difficult tactical maneuver to
conduct even for well-trained units. For untrained units, the sequenced
withdrawal quickly degenerated, becoming a rout. Grossly outnumbered US
soldiers were overrun. The entire fight lasted from six to seven hours,
actually a reputable showing based on simulations. By about 1500, organized
resistance ceased, and TF Smith scattered.16 After executing captured US
wounded, the 4th NKPA ID continued to Osan where it reorganized after
covering approximately 15 kilometers.
>From Osan to Taejon
While TF Smith was fighting to the north at JukMi Pass, the 1/34 Infantry,
24th ID, was digging in about 10 kilometers south of Osan. Their positions
were about halfway between Osan and P'yong'taek. The 34th Infantry Regiment
had followed the 21st Infantry Regiment to Korea and was rushed forward
along Highway 1 to back up TF Smith.
The North Koreans moved out of Osan early on 6 July and encountered the
1/34th Infantry between 0600 and 0800. On 6 July, the 107th Tank Regiment
led the movement south, only to find a blown bridge north of P'yong'taek.
The 1/34th Infantry encountered the same problems as TF Smith had: they had
no AT weapons that could stop T34s, and more important, they could not
tie-in flank defenses. They fought no more than three hours before
withdrawing.17 Meanwhile, the 34th Infantry Regiment was falling back to
Ch'onan, about 20 kilometers south of P'yong'taek. The North Koreans spent
the remainder of 6 July repairing the blown bridge and finding fording
Fearing envelopment, the 3/34th Infantry, which was supposed to defend
Ansong in a parallel position to the east of the 1/34th Infantry, withdrew
without fighting. The 4th NKPA ID moved against relatively light resistance
and covered the 20 kilometers expected of it during the day's march. On 7
July, the 4th NKPA ID left P'yong'taek moving south toward Ch'onan 20
kilometers away. By evening the North Koreans were in Ch'onan. The 3/34th
Infantry succeeded in engaging only the 4th NKPA ID reconnaissance elements
north of the town, then withdrew into Ch'onan.
While the North Korean march figures for 6 and 7 July do not belie the total
picture, traveling 20 kilometers a day was costly. They were getting farther
from their base of supplies. Their artillery required bulky ammunition, and
their vehicles needed fuel, which had to be transported over roads
increasingly interdicted by UN air power. Also, the 4th NKPA ID was forced
to fight, causing them to deploy and reorganize along Highway 1 after each
engagement. These timeconsuming deployments slowed them down and broke their
momentum. To continue to meet the goal of 20 kilometers a day they would
have had to press soldiers who were already suffering from the physical
effects of combat and constant marching in the monsoon heat.
Small engagements and battles occurred that continued in a similar manner
for other elements of the 24th ID as they were committed piecemeal against
the North Koreans. On 9 July, the first elements of the 25th ID arrived in
Korea. At Chonui (10 July), Choch'iwon (1112 July), the Kum River Line (1516
July) and Taejon (1920 July), US units engaged and slowed the North Korean
advance. The fights from Osan to Taejon covered about 100 kilometers and
took the North Koreans 15 days. While these desperate battles were being
fought, the 1st Cavalry Division boarded ships for Korea on 15 July. In
Toyko, MacArthur's staff began plans for an amphibious assault to conduct an
operational envelopment of the North Koreans.19
The North Koreans moved the greatest distance during the campaign to the
Naktong River in the two days following the battle at Osan—20 kilometers
each day. On both days they fought engagements before continuing. However,
for the following 13 consecutive days, the North Koreans covered only 60
kilometers, fighting three more battles en route. This movement to Taejon
averaged only 4.6 kilometers per day. This was a substantial decrease in
march tempo, which appears to correlate with the increasing application of
air power and the resistance encountered from newly arrived 24th ID units.20
After the battle for Taejon on 20 July, where Dean was captured, the North
Koreans faced 1st Cavalry and 25th ID elements that took up the fight from
the 24th ID along the TaejonTaegu corridor. The 1st Cavalry and 25th ID
continued to delay the North Koreans as additional US units arrived. The
24th ID was withdrawn behind Taegu to refit and reorganize. The 25th ID also
blocked the Chunchon/Wonju approach, the route of a North Korean supporting
attack toward Taegu.
On 31 July, the 2d ID arrived, and on 2 August the 29th Regimental Combat
Team arrived. US strength was building slowly and forces were being deployed
into the line along the Naktong River. On 1 August the 1st Cavalry withdrew
over the river at Waegwan and destroyed the bridges.
TF Smith's Value
Numbers prove that Blair was only partially correct in his analysis of the
24th ID's contribution to the delay of the North Koreans. His overall
assessment is questionable. First, the physical and mental effects of
numerous engagements and battles took the edge off NKPA forces and
physically tired them. Also, the constant losses in personnel and supplies
degraded the NKPA's fighting potential. How then can we ascertain whether
the operational decision to hastily commit the 24th ID piecemeal into Korea
was the correct decision? It becomes a costbenefit analysis.
If the North Koreans planned to move about 20 kilometers a day along the
route from Seoul to the Naktong River, and the route is approximately 230
kilometers by road, then the NKPA should have reached the Naktong River in
approximately 11 to 12 days. This assumes they were conducting an
exploitation after initially defeating ROK forces that were defending well
forward—north of the Han River.
If the North Koreans had moved unimpeded by ground combat to the Naktong
River, they might have been able to launch a large-scale, coordinated attack
from the march. Overwhelming the defenders along the Naktong River would
have allowed them to secure a bridgehead quickly. Instead, they arrived
tired and offbalance from the numerous contacts they had experienced during
Instead of arriving at the Naktong River within 12 days of leaving Seoul,
the North Koreans did not arrive in strength until after 1 August, 24 days
after their first engagement against TF Smith. The 24th ID was directly
responsible for delaying the North Koreans about half the distance from
Suwon to the Naktong River, approximately 90 kilometers from Osan to Taejon.
The North Koreans took 15 days to cover this distance, more than three times
as long as it would have taken them to reach the Naktong River crossings
near Waegwan had they achieved their goal of 20 kilometers a day.
Those 15 days allowed more than two additional US divisions to arrive in
Korea. If the North Koreans had not been slowed and attrited before they
reached the Naktong River, UN forces would have lost the chance to establish
a reasonable defense along the last natural terrain barrier en route to
Pusan, which would have been catastrophic. Instead, the North Koreans were
forced to conduct an opposed river crossing after their momentum had been
broken. Instead of crossing on about 18 July, they did not attempt a major
crossing until 26 August.21
What contributed to the North Koreans' failure? Poor communications and a
desire to maintain strict command and control were two reasons. Reporting
was poor, largely because not enough radios were available for timely
reports. For example, at Osan the 4th NKPA ID's advance guard was engaged,
and the infantry was separated from the tanks. Later, two North Korean
regiments of the division's main body marched into the area without having
received any communication about TF Smith's location.
On 7 July, air interdiction also began taking a serious toll just when the
North Koreans' momentum seemed to be building. Between 7 and 9 July, during
the battle of Ch'onan, North Korean columns moving down the western axes of
advance received a tremendous blow. UN fighterbombers caught North Korean
armored and motorized columns on the roads, destroying an estimated 44 tanks
and 197 trucks. On 10 July, during the battle at Chonui, North Korean
followon and logistic elements were caught in march column on the roads near
P'yong'taek and were devastated. USAF fighterbombers were credited with
destroying 38 tanks, 7 armored carriers and 117 trucks. Interestingly, the
vehicles were backedup at the bridge, which withdrawing 34th Infantry
Regiment forces had blown up on 7 July.
There is no doubt that continued destruction of roadbound North Korean units
greatly helped relieve the pressure on 24th ID units. While air power was
not directly decisive against the large numbers of infantry forces in the
North Korean army, it certainly appears to have helped slow them down by
indirectly affecting their support.
Several other factors must also be considered. The North Koreans were forced
to follow Highway 1 in column because offroad mobility was impossible. Once
dismounted infantry deploy tactically, reorganizing for renewed movement
becomes time consuming. This was especially so for the North Koreans who had
to rely on vocal, whistle, and hand and arm signals to communicate with
troops moving through rice paddies.
The 4th NKPA ID deployed not once or twice, but as many as eight times
against 24th ID delay positions. Cumulative effects of smaller deployments
cost the North Koreans more time than one or two larger deployments.
Everyone in the followon elements had to stop and wait while lead forces
fought through. While the 8th Army might not have specifically intended for
this to occur, it was a welcome byproduct of piecemeal commitment of
battalions and regiments.
Under these circumstances, 24th ID deployments of battalion-size forces
provided the depth to blunt an armored attack and prevented the North
Koreans' allout pursuit. Had the North Koreans defeated one or two large
units in delaying positions, they might have been able to envelop, bypass
and move to the Naktong River before US troops could prepare another
delaying position. Fighting a number of smaller engagements tired the North
Koreans, hurt their efficiency and slowed their momentum.
It might be presumptuous to assume that quantitative analysis of the North
Korean's movement to the Naktong River can reveal hard evidence that TF
Smith and the 24th ID decisively affected the North Korean advance. However,
numbers show that TF Smith and the 24th ID's efforts were critical to
successfully establishing a defense on the Naktong River. If the 24th ID was
successful, then TF Smith was integral to that success. TF Smith's actions
were the first in a series of actions. When taken together, these actions
caused the North Koreans to fail.
The implications for operational planners at higher levels are evident.
Committing the 24th ID piecemeal, employing the division unsupported on
either flank and failing to provide proper joint or combined arms
requirements caused the 24th ID and the 8th Army to pay a severe price.
During the delay from Osan to Taegu, the 24th ID lost almost 2,000 men
killed, wounded and missing during 18 days of combat. The division was
reduced to about 4,000 men by the time it was withdrawn from Taegu and
replaced in the line.22 Yet, the 24th ID did what it was supposed to
do—delay the North Koreans along the most dangerous avenue of approach to
No More TF Smiths
Former Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) General Gordon R. Sullivan's
statement, "No more Task Force Smiths!" is a metaphor intended to reflect
the US Armed Forces' condition rather than being a specific criticism of TF
Smith. Unfortunately, many misinterpret Sullivan's quote as a specific
criticism of TF Smith. TF Smith's performance is often attributed solely to
equipment, training and troop fitness factors. These contributing factors do
not change the fact that US soldiers had to fight an overwhelmingly superior
enemy force under terrible conditions.
Computing rough force ratios shows the disadvantage under which TF Smith and
the 24th ID labored. Still, they slowed the North Korean advance until two
other divisions could arrive in the Pusan perimeter. In fact, the 24th ID's
contribution must be measured in hours and days. In the end, the delay by
the 24th ID, 1st Cavalry Division and 25th ID directly contributed to North
Korea's failure to reach the barrier the Naktong River provided.
At a high cost, TF Smith and the 24th ID accomplished their missions.
Colonel James T. Stewart's view differs from Blair's in this regard: "The
NKPA around Pusan perimeter was nothing more than a skeleton which had been
depleted by direct destruction and starved by the air interdiction
program."23 The earlier tragedy in no way reflects poorly on soldiers of a
neglected army that had been serving as a constabulary occupation force.
Situations confronting the US Army today have the potential to repeat at
least some of the actions of 1950. As the Army prepares for conventional
missions and takes on the competing requirements to act as an international
police force, it suffers from diminishing resources, is subject to
shortfalls in strategic deployment transportation and, consequently, suffers
Committing lightly armed or grossly outnumbered delaying forces is a
possibility senior commanders and planners must consider during risk
analysis. The risk assessment might not allow a bloodless operation, which
many leaders, soldiers and citizens expect. US forces might not have the
luxury of a 6-month buildup like that which occurred before Operation Desert
Is the US Army prepared psychologically, and has it prepared the nation
psychologically, for the costs of a conflict in which our military does not
hold the initial advantage? It happened before. What makes us so sure it
will never happen again? While we hope we can trade space for time when
outnumbered, there might be little or no space to trade, in which case force
attrition might be the result. In this regard, "No more Task Force Smiths!"
1.T.R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedeness (New York:
Macmillan, 1963), 98.
2.Brigadier General (Retired) Bradley Smith, in a 16 November 1990 letter to
me, states: "Without AT mines and 3.5-inch rocket launchers, my whole
battalion would not have done much better than we did with two companies."
Smith's dispositions would have met today's standards for infantry battalion
defensive positions. The units and weapons were best sited to take advantage
of elevation, fields of fire and observation. Task Force Smith's ability to
delay as long as it did is remarkable. TF Smith members interviewed for this
article include retired LTC Duane Scott, commander, Battery A, 52d Field
Artillery; retired COL Jack Doody, heavy mortar platoon leader; retired COL
Philip Day, rifle platoon leader, C Company; and retired COL William Wyrick,
platoon leader, C Company. I also corresponded with retired BG Lynch, rifle
platoon leader, B Company.
3.Robert Frank Futrell, The United States Air Force in Korea 19501953
(Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1983), 67. The USAF had
limited lift capability in June 1950. The 8th Wing, 5th Air Force, had 12
C54s at Ashiya Air Base, Japan. The 374 Troop Carrier Wing at Tachikawa had
two squadrons of C54s. The 21st Troop Carrier Squadron at Clark Field,
Philippines, was also alerted. In a telephone interview on 18 November 1995,
Day said the C54s could carry 50 troops or a limited number of troops with a
couple of jeeps and trailers.
4.Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953 (New York:
Times Books, 1987), 115. Actually, 8th Army elements slowed the North Korean
advance three times longer than Blair gives them credit for.
5.William Glenn Robertson, Counterattack on the Naktong, 1950 (Washington,
DC: US Government Printing Office, 1985), 9.
6.General Headquarters, Far East Command Intelligence Section, Intelligence
Summary, 4th North Korean ID, 4150. Declassified 20 August 1975. Document
provided by Joe Bermudez. The 4th NKPA ID was TF Smith's primary antagonist.
With 3d NKPA ID elements, it fought the 24th ID until 22 July. The 4th NKPA
ID, organized as a typical North Korean division, was composed of the 5th,
16th and 18th Infantry Regiments and the 4th Artillery Regiment. T34s that
preceded the 4th NKPA ID were from the 107th Tank Regiment. The 4th NKPA
ID's total strength at the outbreak of the war was approximately 11,000 men.
It suffered about 3,400 casualties in the opening week of the war and was
given the honorific title Seoul Division for its part in the capture of
Seoul. On 3 November 1950, US forces destroyed the 4th NKPA ID, the remnants
dispersing into the hills.
7.Operations Order No.1, 4th ID (NKPA), 22 June 1950. ATIS Translation No.
200045, 30 October 1950. Provided by Joe Bermudez.
8.Charles E. Miller, Airlift Doctrine (Washington, DC: Air University Press,
1988), 195. Except for those near Seoul, the few airfields in Korea were not
suitable for large operations. Unfortunately, by the time TF Smith arrived,
the North Koreans already occupied them. The Pusan airfield deteriorated
rapidly under the weight of the C54s that delivered TF Smith. The smaller,
less capable C47s, which could carry only 18 troops, had to be substituted
until repairs were made.
9.Top Secret message from LTG Walton H. Walker to MG William Dean (Eyes
Only), dated 30 June 1950, declassified 4 January 1953.
10.Until 8th US Army headquarters arrived in Korea, BG John Church was the
commander of the advanced elements. On 15 July, 8th US Army headquarters
took command of all ground units.
11.Robertson, 6. The tasking for 24th ID to send a regimental combat team to
Korea was based primarily on the proximity of division elements to air and
sea embarkation ports. The division's initial elements were sent by air;
large elements followed by sea.
12.In a telephone conversation with Smith on 10 September 1990, he said the
Osan position was the last in a series of five he reconnoitered on 4 July en
route north from P'yong'taek toward Suwon. Smith had no illusions about what
he was up against. Not knowing the enemy's location, his leader's
reconnaissance was as much contingency planning as anything.
13.John Toland, In Mortal Combat: Korea, 1950-1953 (New York: Morrow, 1991),
15.Roy E. Appleman, South to the Naktong North to the Yalu, JuneNovember
1950, US Army in the Korean War (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of
Military History, US Army, 1961), 82.
16.Interview with retired LTC Duane Scott, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Smith
was the commander of A Battery, 52d FA, TF Smith, on 5 July 1950.
18.VFW Magazine (June-July 2000), 13-14.
19.Robert Jackson, Air War Over Korea: Sixteen Stories of Heroism in the Air
(New York; St. Martin's Press, 1973), 19.
20.James Stewart, Airpower: The Decisive Force in Korea (Princeton, NJ: Van
Nostrand, 1957), 19.
21.Stewart, 9. While I believe Stewart's title is exaggerated, he provides
an interesting alternative perspective of air operations. In a letter to me,
Wyrick claims that USAF kills tended to be overrated. They "spent a lot of
time shooting up dead tanks" in the middle of his company's positions. This
occurred after the battle at Osan since ADCOM had asked GEN George E.
Stratemeyer, commander, Far East Air Forces, to temporarily suspend
operations south of the Han River after 3 July because of fratricide and
civilian casualties caused by uncoordinated fighter bomber attacks. An
ammunition train alongside TF Smith was mistakenly strafed as it arrived in
P'yong'taek on 3 July. These factors, plus the lack of good weather were the
prime reasons air power was not used at Osan. And, even if air power had
been available, TF Smith had no forward air controllers.
22.The cost computes to about 111 men a day, roughly an understrength 1950
rifle company. Another way to express the cost is about 20 men a kilometer
from Osan to Taegu.
LTC Edwin L. Kennedy Jr., US Army, Retired, is the Senior Army Instructor,
Leavenworth High School JROTC, Kansas. He received a B.S. from the US
Military Academy, an M.A. from Webster University and an M.M.A.S. from the
US Army Command and General Staff College. He is also a graduate of the
Israeli Army Armored Corps Commanders Course. He served in various command
and staff positions in the Continental United States, Korea and Germany.
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp