Keynote Speech for 24th Infantry Division Memorial Dedication National Memorial Cemetery of The Pacific, July 25, 2007
by BG (retired) Irwin K. Cockett, Jr.
Aloha, Aloha Ka Kou, and a very special aloha to our comrades who
have traveled a great distance to memorialize their fallen comrades.
As is our custom, I begin by offering my respect to Ke Akua, the Great Spirit who has made this special Day, and all other days; and to this special hill of Sacrifice, a place for ancient and modern Warriors, and also to our ancestors, yours and mine, who have given us life and the wisdom of the Ages.
President John F. Kennedy once said that “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
And so we are here today, to honor and remember all of those brave and gallant soldiers of the 24th Infantry Division, who were first to fight and who, now rest in the bivouac of the dead. Glory guards them with solemn dignity, these brave warriors who made the supreme sacrifice.
“Keia make aole; he make makahewa!” “These dead shall not have died in vain!”
The history of our country is written in red in the Unit logs of our Army’s regiments. It is captured on flimsy streamers that fly from regimental colors remembering the fire fights that define the best and worst moments in the lives of so many American soldiers in the last 230 years.
And so today we pay homage to the 24th Infantry Division, which was initially activated here on Oahu at Schofield Barracks on March 1, 1921, as the “Hawaiian Division.”
The history of the three infantry regiments of the 24th Division are chronicled with accounts of valor, courage, need, and unparalleled generosity.
Valor and courage are what the 24th Division is made of, and how they distinguished themselves in World War II, Korea, and Iraq.
The 21st Regiment is the oldest regiment of the 24th and dates
back to the war of 1812, where it distinguished itself at the Battle
of Lundy’s Lane.
The 19th Regiment was activated in the early days of the Civil War and saw action in such famous battles as Shiloh, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor and Chancellorsville. The unit took part in many other battles and in 1922 was ordered to Hawaii.
The 34th Regiment was originally an element of the 7th Infantry Division during World War I. On December 7th, 1941, it was enroute to the Philippines but was diverted to Hawaii and became part of the 24th. During World War II, the 34th fought at Leyte, Luzon, Corregidor, and Mindanao in the Philippines.
After the war it was sent to the main island of Kyushu, Japan, as an occupation force where it pulled garrison duty from 1945 to 1950. Many young soldiers from Hawaii enjoyed duty with the 34th during this occupation period.
Life was very good, but all would suddenly change.
June 25th 1950, like December 7th 1941, will live in infamy, among the people of the Republic of South Korea. At 0400 hours on that date, the North Korean Peoples Army launched an unprovoked, massive attack across the demilitarized 38th parallel. Preceded by a long and intense barrage of artillery and mortar fire, Russian-made tanks of the enemy’s armored divisions, lunged forward with frightening speed, smashing headlong into totally unprepared and gravely ill-equipped units of the Republic of South Korean Army. It was the beginning of what is often called “The Forgotten War!”
Following President Harry S. Truman’s orders for U.S. ground forces to support the Republic of Korea, General Douglas MacArthur instructed General Walker, commander of the Eight Army, to order the 24th Infantry Division to Korea at once.
General Walker gave Major General William F. Dean, Commanding General, 24th Infantry Division, verbal instruction which took the form of a scratch unit designated, “Task Force Smith” named after Lt. Col. Charles F. Smith, Commander, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment.
His orders were to “Advance at once upon landing with a delaying force, in accordance with the situation, to the north by all possible means, contact enemy now advancing south from Seoul towards Suwon and delay his advance.”
Much easier said than done, as the enemy forces raced south to over-run the entire peninsula and capture the important port of Pusan.
Ill-equipped, in a poor state of readiness, and with under strength rifle companies, the 406 men of Task Force Smith were sent in harms way and landed in Korea on July 1st, 1950.
The battlefield was in total chaos, with thousands of South Korean soldiers and refugees cluttering the roads as they retreated south. Friendly air strafed friendly forces and rocketed South Korean trains loaded with ammunition.
Task Force Smith’s delaying action at Osan took a heavy toll on his forces and by July 6, only 5 days after landing, his unit had been decimated from 406 to 250.
Here in Hawaii, we are especially proud to have two /three living members of Task Force Smith who survived that living hell, were captured, and suffered the long ordeal as prisoners of war.
Goichi Tamaye and Tomio Tadaki (Susumu Shinagawa) are not well and could not be here with us today, but send their best wishes.
The Division would go on to fight on other foreign battlefields and continue its distinguished history until its colors were cased on Aug. 1, 2006, at Ft. Riley, Kansas.
Today as you walked up this path, called Memorial Walk, one cannot but feel the pride of those who cared so much for their Unit and Fallen comrades, that they were compelled to erect a lasting monument to their memory.
And so it is fitting that the monument you dedicate today, be laid here in Hawaii, home of the 24th.
A project of this magnitude takes dedication, time and money. To Committee Chairman Dan Rickard and his committee of Bill Boyden, Eric Diller, Billy Johnson and Ken Fentner (also Dutch Nelson and Salvatore Schillaci) goes the kudo's for making this dream come true.
Many helped and need to be recognized. Dan's grand daughter Danielle designed the plaque and Professor Larry Jones and his students at Saddleback College in California cast it.
The granite upon which the plaque is mounted was donated by the Stone Art Memorial Company of New York and the Rock of Ages Corporation of Vermont. This represents a gift of over four thousand five hundred dollars. Shipping it this great distance would have been very costly but for the gratis shipment by DHL.
Let me close with these words which are inscribed in the monument to the right of yours.
To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen.
To be missing in war is not the worst that can happen.
To be forgotten is!
We will never forget!