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CNN Today

50 Years Later, American Soldiers Commemorate Start of Korean War

Aired July 6, 2000 - 1:39 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Last month marked 50 years since the start of the Korean War. The anniversary holds special significance for one group of American soldiers who found themselves caught in a conflict they never expected.

CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae is in the city of Osan with their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOHN JIE-AE, CNN SEOUL BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): The shots fired are in honor of Korean War veterans and those who died in the conflict. It's been half a century since the first U.S. military unit to fight in the Korean War burrowed down along these hills.

But the veterans of Task Force Smith who came back to Osan for the 50th commemoration of their first combat remember it like it was yesterday.

COL. PHILIP DAY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I was 24 years old and this is my first war, and it was a miserable situation. We were overwhelmed. We knew this was bad.

JIE-AE: During an eight-hour battle, the 450-man artillery force, named after their commander, Colonel Charles Smith, lost a third of their men to the onslaught of about 20,000 North Korean troops.

(on camera): The fierce battle fought here claimed the first U.S. casualties of the Korean War and served as a wakeup call that the conflict here would last much longer than expected.

(voice-over): Task Force Smith was hastily compiled and sent from Japan to slow down the southern march of the North Korean troops. But the soldiers were young, most not even 20 years old, inexperienced and armed with outdated artillery and a lack of information.

DAY: Well, we didn't know why we were coming here. We were the first ones. I thought we were coming here to evacuate embassy people from Suwon Airfield.

JIE-AE: But that idea quickly changed as Philip Day saw one North Korean tank after another, 33 in all, head toward his platoon.

DAY: Holy smokes, what have I got myself into?

JIE-AE: What Task Force Smith ushered the U.S. military into 50 years ago was a three-year war at a costly price.

Sohn Jie-Ae, CNN, Osan, South Korea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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