Blogs: The Skeptics

Confronting America's Misguided Drone Program

How the Last War in Korea Began

The Skeptics

“Block the main road as far north as possible. Make contact with General Church,” he continued. “If you can’t find him, go to Taejon and beyond if you can. Sorry I can’t give you more information—that’s all I’ve got. Good luck, and God bless you and your men!” That skimpy information was to prove fatal for Smith’s men.

Task Force Smith was ready for action upon their arrival. The battle group consisted of two infantry companies, a small artillery battery of six guns and a few mortars. The higher commander on the ground, Gen. John Church, gave Smith his first mission, telling him “We have a little action up here. All we need is some men up there who won’t run when they see tanks.” The general apparently had a flair for the understatement.

Task Force Smith went into action north of Osan, about twenty-five miles south of Seoul. Even before the first North Korean tanks came into view, Smith was worried. He had only two infantry companies armed with rifles and a few machine guns, but only six small-caliber artillery guns—and those guns came equipped with only six rounds of anti-tank ammunition.

Still, he had been told that Gen. Douglas MacArthur expected the North Koreans to retreat as soon as they realized American combat troops were now in the fight. This was a police action, he had also been told, and he and his men would be home in Japan very soon. More than 150 of his men, however, would be killed, wounded, or missing by the end of that day.

Shortly after dawn on July 5, 1950, eight enemy T-34 tanks came into view, rumbling south. First the artillerymen went into action, showering the tanks with 105mm shell fire. It had no effect. The tanks didn’t even appear to notice the attack and continued towards the American line.

When the first tank got within seven hundred yards of Smith’s men, he opened fire with 75 mm recoilless rifles. There were now a total of thirty tanks visible and heading towards him. The shells bounced harmlessly off the tanks. Still they had not slowed their advance. Fear now began to rise in the American’s minds.

One U.S. lieutenant grabbed a bazooka—a rocket-propelled grenade launcher—and fired twenty-two shells at a single tank. Not one round penetrated the armor, even in the rear of the tank. Col. Smith tried to reach the artillery battery to request suppressing fire, but the wire to the field telephone had been cut by tank treads—and all the radios had gotten wet and not one was functioning. He was now cut off and alone to face North Korean armor.

After several hours of fighting as best he could, Smith observed transport trucks disgorging hundreds of North Korean infantry troops about one thousand yards away. Task Force Smith troops fought with valor and courage, and began to have success in killing many of the enemy infantry troops. But there were too many of them and the troops were running out of ammunition. Recognizing that the battle was lost, Smith gave the order to withdraw before his entire force was wiped out.

On the morning of July 6, Smith was able to account for only 250 of his original contingent of 406 troops. In his seminal work on the Korean War, author T. R. Fehrenbach wrote in This Kind of War, that Task Force Smith, which was “designed to be an arrogant display of strength to bluff the enemy into halting his advance, had delayed the Inmun Gun (North Korean army) exactly seven hours.” The U.S. Army and other military leaders would later recover from this shameful beginning, but for the men of Task Force Smith, the lessons learned would come too late.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments.

Image: 37-millimeter antitank gun during the South Korean evacuation of Suwon Airfield. Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

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Video Interview: How Likely Will America Find Itself in Another Korean War?

The Skeptics

“Block the main road as far north as possible. Make contact with General Church,” he continued. “If you can’t find him, go to Taejon and beyond if you can. Sorry I can’t give you more information—that’s all I’ve got. Good luck, and God bless you and your men!” That skimpy information was to prove fatal for Smith’s men.

Task Force Smith was ready for action upon their arrival. The battle group consisted of two infantry companies, a small artillery battery of six guns and a few mortars. The higher commander on the ground, Gen. John Church, gave Smith his first mission, telling him “We have a little action up here. All we need is some men up there who won’t run when they see tanks.” The general apparently had a flair for the understatement.

Task Force Smith went into action north of Osan, about twenty-five miles south of Seoul. Even before the first North Korean tanks came into view, Smith was worried. He had only two infantry companies armed with rifles and a few machine guns, but only six small-caliber artillery guns—and those guns came equipped with only six rounds of anti-tank ammunition.

Still, he had been told that Gen. Douglas MacArthur expected the North Koreans to retreat as soon as they realized American combat troops were now in the fight. This was a police action, he had also been told, and he and his men would be home in Japan very soon. More than 150 of his men, however, would be killed, wounded, or missing by the end of that day.

Shortly after dawn on July 5, 1950, eight enemy T-34 tanks came into view, rumbling south. First the artillerymen went into action, showering the tanks with 105mm shell fire. It had no effect. The tanks didn’t even appear to notice the attack and continued towards the American line.

When the first tank got within seven hundred yards of Smith’s men, he opened fire with 75 mm recoilless rifles. There were now a total of thirty tanks visible and heading towards him. The shells bounced harmlessly off the tanks. Still they had not slowed their advance. Fear now began to rise in the American’s minds.

One U.S. lieutenant grabbed a bazooka—a rocket-propelled grenade launcher—and fired twenty-two shells at a single tank. Not one round penetrated the armor, even in the rear of the tank. Col. Smith tried to reach the artillery battery to request suppressing fire, but the wire to the field telephone had been cut by tank treads—and all the radios had gotten wet and not one was functioning. He was now cut off and alone to face North Korean armor.

After several hours of fighting as best he could, Smith observed transport trucks disgorging hundreds of North Korean infantry troops about one thousand yards away. Task Force Smith troops fought with valor and courage, and began to have success in killing many of the enemy infantry troops. But there were too many of them and the troops were running out of ammunition. Recognizing that the battle was lost, Smith gave the order to withdraw before his entire force was wiped out.

On the morning of July 6, Smith was able to account for only 250 of his original contingent of 406 troops. In his seminal work on the Korean War, author T. R. Fehrenbach wrote in This Kind of War, that Task Force Smith, which was “designed to be an arrogant display of strength to bluff the enemy into halting his advance, had delayed the Inmun Gun (North Korean army) exactly seven hours.” The U.S. Army and other military leaders would later recover from this shameful beginning, but for the men of Task Force Smith, the lessons learned would come too late.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments.

Image: 37-millimeter antitank gun during the South Korean evacuation of Suwon Airfield. Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

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What Has Trump Learned in 100 Days?

The Skeptics

“Block the main road as far north as possible. Make contact with General Church,” he continued. “If you can’t find him, go to Taejon and beyond if you can. Sorry I can’t give you more information—that’s all I’ve got. Good luck, and God bless you and your men!” That skimpy information was to prove fatal for Smith’s men.

Task Force Smith was ready for action upon their arrival. The battle group consisted of two infantry companies, a small artillery battery of six guns and a few mortars. The higher commander on the ground, Gen. John Church, gave Smith his first mission, telling him “We have a little action up here. All we need is some men up there who won’t run when they see tanks.” The general apparently had a flair for the understatement.

Task Force Smith went into action north of Osan, about twenty-five miles south of Seoul. Even before the first North Korean tanks came into view, Smith was worried. He had only two infantry companies armed with rifles and a few machine guns, but only six small-caliber artillery guns—and those guns came equipped with only six rounds of anti-tank ammunition.

Still, he had been told that Gen. Douglas MacArthur expected the North Koreans to retreat as soon as they realized American combat troops were now in the fight. This was a police action, he had also been told, and he and his men would be home in Japan very soon. More than 150 of his men, however, would be killed, wounded, or missing by the end of that day.

Shortly after dawn on July 5, 1950, eight enemy T-34 tanks came into view, rumbling south. First the artillerymen went into action, showering the tanks with 105mm shell fire. It had no effect. The tanks didn’t even appear to notice the attack and continued towards the American line.

When the first tank got within seven hundred yards of Smith’s men, he opened fire with 75 mm recoilless rifles. There were now a total of thirty tanks visible and heading towards him. The shells bounced harmlessly off the tanks. Still they had not slowed their advance. Fear now began to rise in the American’s minds.

One U.S. lieutenant grabbed a bazooka—a rocket-propelled grenade launcher—and fired twenty-two shells at a single tank. Not one round penetrated the armor, even in the rear of the tank. Col. Smith tried to reach the artillery battery to request suppressing fire, but the wire to the field telephone had been cut by tank treads—and all the radios had gotten wet and not one was functioning. He was now cut off and alone to face North Korean armor.

After several hours of fighting as best he could, Smith observed transport trucks disgorging hundreds of North Korean infantry troops about one thousand yards away. Task Force Smith troops fought with valor and courage, and began to have success in killing many of the enemy infantry troops. But there were too many of them and the troops were running out of ammunition. Recognizing that the battle was lost, Smith gave the order to withdraw before his entire force was wiped out.

On the morning of July 6, Smith was able to account for only 250 of his original contingent of 406 troops. In his seminal work on the Korean War, author T. R. Fehrenbach wrote in This Kind of War, that Task Force Smith, which was “designed to be an arrogant display of strength to bluff the enemy into halting his advance, had delayed the Inmun Gun (North Korean army) exactly seven hours.” The U.S. Army and other military leaders would later recover from this shameful beginning, but for the men of Task Force Smith, the lessons learned would come too late.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments.

Image: 37-millimeter antitank gun during the South Korean evacuation of Suwon Airfield. Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

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Trump's Tough Talk Won't Work on North Korea

The Skeptics

“Block the main road as far north as possible. Make contact with General Church,” he continued. “If you can’t find him, go to Taejon and beyond if you can. Sorry I can’t give you more information—that’s all I’ve got. Good luck, and God bless you and your men!” That skimpy information was to prove fatal for Smith’s men.

Task Force Smith was ready for action upon their arrival. The battle group consisted of two infantry companies, a small artillery battery of six guns and a few mortars. The higher commander on the ground, Gen. John Church, gave Smith his first mission, telling him “We have a little action up here. All we need is some men up there who won’t run when they see tanks.” The general apparently had a flair for the understatement.

Task Force Smith went into action north of Osan, about twenty-five miles south of Seoul. Even before the first North Korean tanks came into view, Smith was worried. He had only two infantry companies armed with rifles and a few machine guns, but only six small-caliber artillery guns—and those guns came equipped with only six rounds of anti-tank ammunition.

Still, he had been told that Gen. Douglas MacArthur expected the North Koreans to retreat as soon as they realized American combat troops were now in the fight. This was a police action, he had also been told, and he and his men would be home in Japan very soon. More than 150 of his men, however, would be killed, wounded, or missing by the end of that day.

Shortly after dawn on July 5, 1950, eight enemy T-34 tanks came into view, rumbling south. First the artillerymen went into action, showering the tanks with 105mm shell fire. It had no effect. The tanks didn’t even appear to notice the attack and continued towards the American line.

When the first tank got within seven hundred yards of Smith’s men, he opened fire with 75 mm recoilless rifles. There were now a total of thirty tanks visible and heading towards him. The shells bounced harmlessly off the tanks. Still they had not slowed their advance. Fear now began to rise in the American’s minds.

One U.S. lieutenant grabbed a bazooka—a rocket-propelled grenade launcher—and fired twenty-two shells at a single tank. Not one round penetrated the armor, even in the rear of the tank. Col. Smith tried to reach the artillery battery to request suppressing fire, but the wire to the field telephone had been cut by tank treads—and all the radios had gotten wet and not one was functioning. He was now cut off and alone to face North Korean armor.

After several hours of fighting as best he could, Smith observed transport trucks disgorging hundreds of North Korean infantry troops about one thousand yards away. Task Force Smith troops fought with valor and courage, and began to have success in killing many of the enemy infantry troops. But there were too many of them and the troops were running out of ammunition. Recognizing that the battle was lost, Smith gave the order to withdraw before his entire force was wiped out.

On the morning of July 6, Smith was able to account for only 250 of his original contingent of 406 troops. In his seminal work on the Korean War, author T. R. Fehrenbach wrote in This Kind of War, that Task Force Smith, which was “designed to be an arrogant display of strength to bluff the enemy into halting his advance, had delayed the Inmun Gun (North Korean army) exactly seven hours.” The U.S. Army and other military leaders would later recover from this shameful beginning, but for the men of Task Force Smith, the lessons learned would come too late.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments.

Image: 37-millimeter antitank gun during the South Korean evacuation of Suwon Airfield. Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

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