31 Days of History: 5 July

On 5 July 1950 (59 years ago today), U.S. forces engaged the North Koreans for the first time at Osan, South Korea. This was the first military engagement between the US and North Korea, and it occurred 11 days after North Korea invaded South Korea (the US and her allies intervened on behalf of South Korea). The 540 men of Task Force Smith engaged the 1,000+ North Koreans who were advancing south towards the town of Osan, South Korea. Before the day was ended, 120 Americans had died (35 captured) and the American position had been overrun by the advancing North Koreans.

In the grand scheme of things, the Korean War doesn't get much publicity and is often overlooked and forgotten. Here in DC, the Korean War Memorial sits adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial, on the opposite side of the Reflecting Pool as the Vietnam Wall. It was dedicated in 1995 by President Bill Clinton and Kim Young Sam, President of the Republic of Korea.

The Memorial is in the form of a triangle intersecting a circle. The walls are 164 feet long, built with 100 tons of highly polished black granite from California: more than 2,500 photographic, archival images representing the land, sea and air troops who supported those who fought in the war are sandblasted onto the wall.

Within the walled triangle are 19 stainless steel statues representing a squad on patrol. They are dressed in full combat gear, dispersed among strips of granite and juniper bushes which represent the rugged terrain of Korea.

The circle contains the Pool of Remembrance, a shallow 30-foot-diameter pool lined with black granite and surrounded by a grove of trees with benches. Inscriptions list the numbers killed, wounded, missing in action, and held as prisoners of war.

A plaque reads, "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met."

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