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The First American Fatality of the Korean War: Private Kenneth Shadrick

According to American Heroes Channel, Private Shadrick, right, "Was killed moments after this photo was taken, thus becoming the first American killed during the Korean War."


On July 5, 1950, Private Kenneth Shadrick became the first American fatality of the Korean War. His death came just six days after President Harry S. Truman committed U.S. ground forces to Korea to help repel a communist invasion launched by the North Korean People’s Army. This sudden attack with 90,000 troops was performed with Soviet made tanks and weapons, quickly forcing South Korea into a fight for its life.

For my complete guide to the Korean War, please consult the video above.

Shadrick was one of the first to the fight when American forces joined the South Korean’s to stop this aggressive invasion. On July 5, he is reported to have been operating as an ammunition carrier in a bazooka squad during the Battle of Osan. This was the opening engagement of the war between the United States and North Korea. Shadrick's team was ordered to help stop communist tanks that were nearly 40 miles from South Korea’s capital of Seoul.

Private Kenneth Shadrick. (Photo:

According to, “Kenny Shadrick and the rest of the bazooka team took up positions in a muddy graveyard.” The American bazooka of the time had an effective range of about 300 yards and fired 2.36-inch projectiles. These projectiles proved to be ineffective against the sloped frontal armor of the Soviet designed T-34 tanks used by the North Korean invasion force. The design of this tank simply made the American projectiles bounce off its armor.

A North Korean tank crew photographed with their Soviet designed T-34 tank. (Photo:

The American bazooka team eventually shifted to a new position. Around this time, Shadrick dashed forward to see where a round was struck. While exposed, a machine gun from an enemy tank killed him instantly. His body was carried away by the bazooka squad as they withdrew.

A memorial marker dedicated to Private Shadrick in front of the Wyoming County Courthouse in Wyoming, West Virginia. (Photo:

The Korean War was the first military action of the Cold War. It is estimated that around 33,000 Americans lost their lives during this conflict between 1950-1953. Private Kenneth Shadrick was the first among them to lay his life down for the sake of South Korea’s survival.

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