“The stop at Hawaii was a welcome change and it seemed as if there could be no better place to have something go wrong with one of the engines. We were delayed by an engine change and it gave us an opportunity to look the island over. Going from the airport, one could see The University of Hawaii on the hill and it seemed to beckon me, to further my education, in this beautiful land. There were Air Force units stationed there and I thought what a break it would be to be stationed there in Hawaii. Plans were immediately made to spend a few days in this garden spot on return to the ZI or zone of interior as it is called.
Finally, the DC-4 or C-54 as it is known in its civilian version, lifted from the islands and took up a course for the island of Japan, where a short six years before the country had been an enemy. It made me wonder if our’s was a sane society.
The Air Force C-54 circled ever the Japanese international terminal of Haneda, close to Tokyo. The pilot was flying a circular holding pattern ever the fog, between layers of clouds awaiting permission to let down.
Aboard the aircraft were replacement crews for the police action in Korea. All would be assigned to Korea unless they had special skills which were needed in Japan. The majority were rated officers on flying status. Three of us were just out of flying school and were from the same flight in gunnery school at Las Vegas. There we had learned to use our jet aircraft as gunnery platforms and as bomb and rocket launching devices. We felt that we had received the best training in the world and that we were a special breed of “tiger.” Our plans were to go immediately to Korea and get in the same flight together. There was a feeling that the war would be over seen and that our training should be put to practice to shorten the war.
After circling for 45 minutes, the pilot of the C-54 eased the airplane toward the lower deck of clouds and the hydraulic lines to the flaps chattered as the flaps were lowered preparatory to being turned an final approach by the ground controlled approach radar operator.
The aircraft touched down on Japanese territory which still bore the scars of the war. The date was March 14th, 1951. A popular song at the time was “Wheel of Fortune” and it expressed my feelings about flying and fighting, in this corner of the world.
Our luggage, which consisted of one B-4 bag apiece and what we could carry was loaded on lorries and we were placed on a bus which was to take us to the processing squadron where we were to receive our orders for assignment to a flying and fighting unit. Before leading an the buys, we were given the chance to exchange all our dollars for military script or Japanese yen.
The journey from Haneda to Camp Fuchu was a revelation and a shock to us. The Japanese way of life is entirely different from what we had been accustomed to and it is easy to regard anything new with suspicion. The streets were narrow and bicycles, three-wheeled motorcycles, busses, army lorries, and passenger automobiles as well as small charcoal burning Nippon vehicles used as taxis, mingled together. Small children would toddle to the side of the road, restrained by a child not much older than itself. “Mamasons” attired in Kimerias with their babies tied to their backs clipped along an their “getas” held on with two things. The houses were unpainted and many were thatched.
On the way to Fuchu, a park was passed, the entrance was a tori, two pillars supporting an arch. The driver said that this was the park where the first American raiders on Tokyo were beheaded. None of the residents of the town would admit that they knew anything about it, when questioned.
Souvenir stores catering to military personnel spotted the street as well as the famed cabarets of the Orient. The stench was noticeable and we had our first encounter with the “honey-buckets,” carriers of human excrement, which was used to fertilize the rice and vegetables of the farmers. The carts carrying the “honey-buckets” were pulled by slow oxen or horses. Horses were used but rarely and Japanese were never seen riding them. This custom supposedly dated back to the time when the Emperor rode his famed white horses and he issued an edict that riding a horse was a royal prerogative
The bus turned into Area B at Camp Fuchu and passed several laundries, oriental gift shops and cabarets just outside the gates. Several Japanese girls, “ojosens,” lingered on the walk approaching the armed sentry and the cabaret signs shouted forth their wares of beer and girls. Food was not advertised, but sold, as all armed services personnel were warned not to eat any native cooked or grown food because it might be contaminated, as human fertilizer was used to make it grow.
We unleaded our baggage and checked in with the Sergeant at the main administration building. We were assigned to a large dormitory and the first rush was to the shower, after the long flight from the states. As we waited in line for the showers, a Captain quipped, “Far East on Good Friday, first combat mission an Saturday and shot down an Easter Sunday.”
One of the officers carried a briefcase, which I presumed was full of orders or official papers. Many carried them. As I was sitting with him on. the bus coming to Fuchu, he opened It and it contained many asserted bottles of pills. Noticing him afterwards he would take a pill about every two hours. Probably to inoculate himself from all the many and varied diseases the Orient is noted for.
There was nothing for us to do until the next morning and many of the officers took advantage of the opportunity to go to Tokyo on the Air Force bus which .ran into the central railroad station serving Tokyo. The officers came back with mixed reactions and reports. One of the officers, who was assigned later to Korea, had been to one of the “geisha” houses and told of the treatment he had received, of being served breakfast white sitting on the floor with his feet stuck down in a recess where a charcoal fire burned. A blanket covered his knees and kept the heat in. It was still cold in late March. He had also purchased an ornate pool cue which struck me as being a little ludicrous for there were no pool tables where we were going. But there is no accounting for an American with money n his picket when he sees a “bargain.”
Paper work, the lifeblood of the Air Force, occupied us for the next few days and then we awaited our assignments. The three of us were sure we were going to Korea and we were ready, eager and willing. Without us, we felt, an indispensable cog in the war machine was missing. We thought we would be assigned to the same unit. There was a spirit of camaraderie which had developed between the three of us, having been in the same flight together at gunnery school. Our instructor had been a bachelor and a real educator and leader. He had forced us to fly at our very best at all times and initiated us into the intricacies of team acrobatics. He was a very brave man.
Eagerly we jostled each other to see the assignments as they were tacked on the bulletin board. Down the alphabetical list our eyes traveled. My name was first to the 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing, APO 929, Fukuoka, Japan, as well as my closest friend. The other assignment read to the 49th Fighter-Bomber Wing, APO 970, Taegu, Korea.
It was a shock, first to be separated and then to be sent to what we considered a base where missions were slow. All of us were there to get our mission in as fast as possible and get home and on with our careers. There were pilots who had been in the Far East 100 days and had completed their 100 missions, which at that time was considered a combat tour. We would have like to have done the same and it looked like an assignment to Korea meant the best chance to accomplish this.
The two of us assigned to Japan were scheduled to take a train to southern Japan while our third team member was scheduled for a flight out of the nearby air base of Tachikawa. We had some time before we were scheduled to leave so we took the bus to Tokyo.
Getting off at the railway transportation office at the central railway station, we were beset by jinrickshaw drivers, who pulled their high wheeled carriages by hand and those more fortunate who pedaled theirs, small boys who polished shoes and taxi cab drivers. The taxis were nondescript vehicles which had charcoal burning apparatus on the rear, fuel not being readily available. It was also my first experience with electric cars, which sounded like Model A Fords, when I thought they should be silent.
Passing by General MacArthurs’s headquarters we saw a crowd of Japanese awaiting for MacArthur’s departure from Army headquarters. It was about five o’clock when he would make his exit to the waiting Cadillac. It seemed as if MacArthur may have taken the place, to a small extent of the Emperor after the defeat of Japan and this was the reason for the adulation he received. A Japanese policeman was on duty as well as the honor guard, to control the onlookers.
The taxi took us to the Ginza, the tourist street of Japan. Street vendors crowded the side walk selling their wares. Jackets, embroidered with dragon, imitation Ronson and Zippo lighters, fans, curios, what-nots and pipes were offered. The prices were always too high and the vendors rejoiced when there was no bargaining because a huge profit was made. By “horse-trading,” arguing, shouting, the original price could be cut drastically. The exchange rate being 360 yen for one American dollar, many service people became hypnotized by the apparent great amount of the Yen that they carried and thinking that they were spending very little “hard” cash found in the morning, when inventory was taken, that they had depleted their finances drastically. There were good buys, the fly rods and small alarm clocks. Almost every pilot purchased a small replica of a Samuraisward to carry in his flying suit, to deflate the “Mae West” life preserver and life raft should they become accidentally inflated during flight. There isn’t much room in the cockpit of a fighter aircraft.
We hurried to the Tokyo rail transportation office to the catch our train. Japanese transportation facilities had not recovered from the war as yet and after securing our tickets from the Army Sergeant hurried on the loading platform. Queues of Japanese awaited their trains. When it would pull in and the door would open, there would be a rush for the door, without regard to the aged, children or pregnant women. It would be done silently and as a matter of course. It was analogous to a group of animals going up a loading chute in a rush, back on my father’s farm. One elderly Japanese man suffered an attack and was obviously very sick. No one paid any attention to him. It is a sad thing to see people who had so little regard for their fellow human beings. Eventually, the workers an the railroad car carried him to the office. No compassion was evidenced, just indifference.
It was a two day train trip down to our base at Fukuoka on the Island of Kyushu. We were assigned to sleepers with a group of Marines and Naval personnel who were going down to Sasebo, the Naval base in southern Japan. They spent the night in merry revelry. A game was played involving coordination and close attention. A deck of cards was placed on a table and each player put forth a hand close to the cards. A song was sung, with an even beat which both knew. Then each would alternately tap on the cards either with the tips of their fingers or their knuckles. If one tapped the cards with his knuckles the other had to follow suit. The loser had to take a straight drink out of a bottle which must have been pure JP-4, the fuel for a jet. Noise and revelry filled the night but it was very quiet the next day.
The train passed from the island of Kyushu via an underwater tunnel between the islands. None of us were aware that it occurred. Late in the evening the train pulled into the Fukuoka station. We embarked and arranged for transportation to the main base, struggling with our B-4 bags. We were propositioned twice at the railroad station and it was a new experience for each of us, being openly “invited” on the streets. The evolution of thinking about oriental women usually occurred something like this. At first their was a definite repugnance, with the wondering how anyone could be attracted to any of them or their environment. Their racial characteristics are such that they could not possibly be compared to white women. White women, or round eyes, were usually preferred but they weren’t there except the tokens who were associated with the Red Cross. After about six months the complexion would seem to change and those who were going to fraternize would usually do it around the six month period.
There was a definite point in favor of the “ojosons,” they would treat the man like he was the only man in the world at the time. They would pour his sake, teas, await his every wish. Many officers and enlisted men had their “cobitas” or sweehearts, who they kept during their tour overseas. They would feed, cloth and entertain them for services rendered. They would set up housekeeping, Japanese-style, sleeping on straw mats, eating rice and fish with chopsticks. Their women would be adorned with western clothing bought from Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues. At five o’clock there would be an exodus from the base by the personnel carrying sacks filled with post exchange snacks. After a tour was ever, the “foreign wife,” might be turned over to a man’s friend. Out of these liaisons came a few marriages.
The “House of Mirrors” was the officers’ house in town, where enlisted men were not allowed. It was situated in the district of Fukuoka where the better houses of ill repute were located. One would go in and be greeted by the madam of the establishment, 3600 yen would be charged, the equivalent of ten dollars, shoes would be removed and the girls brought out. The officer would pick the one he wanted and they would retire to their room. If he picked the star of the house, he would be given the room with the mirrors which covered the walls including the ceiling. Food, Japanese-style, could be purchased and American cigarettes purchased from the black market, consequently the price would be at least double. One technical representative from Lockheed reserved the “belle” of the house every week-end and furnished her with western clothes. Eventually he purchased her release and set up housekeeping. Later, he went back to the states, divorced his wife with two children, came back and married her.
There still existed, at that time in Japan, though outlawed, the practice of fathers selling their daughters to restaurants, geisha houses or the house with the “red” light. Before, if a daughter was sold it was for the life of the child. Then they were under a contract for a number of years, theoretically. A few could save up enough money to buy their contracts but most of establishments saw to it that their charges were never paid enough and they became even more indebted to them and the contract continued indefinitely.
We hired a taxi to take out to the main base and we checked into fairly comfortable quarters and settled for the night. The next morning, we learned that the air strip was not at base one where we were located, so we packed and again set out to the strip about two miles away, near the edge of the town of Fukuoka. It was an old Japanese air base, with the runways being lengthened to take jet aircraft. We reported into wing headquarters and were summarily assigned to the 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron.
A line of tents greeted us, on the first tent was a picture of a Headhunter’s head. painted in yellow and black. It was the symbol of the 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. Taking our records, we went in and an airman asked us if we had quarters and then told us to check in with base housing. There was no hurry for us to go down to operations and the general attitude was, “the war can wait.” We went down quickly to the housing office and were assigned to a tent with six others. It was a winterized tent with no windows and two smoky oil stoves. Throwing our meager baggage on our canvas cots, we rushed down to operations.
The operations officer welcomed us aboard, took our flying records and told us to go sign up for the replacement training unit, the RTU. This was a shock to us. Here we were probably the highest trained fighter pilots anywhere having just gotten out of gunnery school at Nellis and we were assigned to a RTU. Probably at no other time in our careers would we be so finely trained, so expertly honed as right now and here we were being retrained. Our respect for the Air Force diminished as our indoctrination with the red tape of this huge organization was begun.
The RTU was located in another winterized tent, where a number of pilots were sitting around dejectedly with an air of impatient waiting. The pilots were checked out in the order that they checked in. Since the war mission came first, aircraft were made available to the RTU when they were not used in the accomplishment of this mission, hence pilots had been waiting days and even weeks to complete their training. The instructor pilots, who had completed their missions were the ones who had been delegated the duty of getting the novice piles assigned. Then, as always, the weather played a large part in the influencing of when a pilot could fly to be checked out.
One of the instructor pilot for the RTU was an old F-51 pilot, that had been shot down and was able to bail out ever friendly lines as the Americans were being pushed back. He broke his ankle and had to be carried back ahead of the attacking Chinese and North Korean advancing hordes. One of the pilots going through the RTU had a great deal of F-51 time. Because of his high time, he was transferred to a F-51 unit before he finished training. I saw him a short while later and he had been flying one mission a day and sometimes two. Since 100 was the magic number to complete before rotation, he could have easily completed his missions in the record time of three months. This actually occurred to some pilots, having been overseas for four months, returned to the ZI with a combat tour an their record. Not seeing this pilot for awhile, I inquired about him from some of his squadron mates and I was informed that he had volunteered to fly over his hundred missions and he was killed on his 102nd.
When my good friend and I were assigned to the six man tent, there were a number of pilots who were flying combat missions and living in the tent. One Lieutenant who had been flying fighters in the ZI and recently arrived and became a flight leader. One morning around 3o’clock, the Lieutenant was awakened for an early morning mission, requiring a pre-dawn take-off. He had something go wrong with the airplane on take-off causing a power failure and in the dark had tried to turn back to the field. A high pyre of flame marked his unsuccessful efforts at the end of the runway and the fires lighted the path for the remaining pilots. The primary rule of flying had been violated, but not without reason, that being never to attempt to turn back to the field. In this case, the runway that was being used was encircled at the end by Japanese houses and a few short miles from the end of the runway was Fukuoka Bay and a water landing at night, with a full bomb lead was almost impossible. There was little choice but for him to attempt it. For some reason, perhaps for the fear of killing innocent Japanese, he did not drop his bombs or his tip tanks. It was my first experience with death during combat operations. Up to now it had been merely an academic thing, we were at war and people are killed, but this was someone in the same tent with me.
After impatiently waiting for a check out, I sat out the allotted time until those who had checked In earlier passed through the RTU. During the RTU, one of pilots, assigned to the 80th FB Squadron was killed at Taegu, Korea. He had been mentioned to the young pilots as being infallible. Assuming that he had been killed in combat, I asked for the details. He and another pilot had taken off from Taegu for an instrument practice flight and they were practicing on actual instruments, when they hit one of the mountains in the vicinity. This did not seem a fitting end to so illustrious a career,
Finally after almost an anti-climax, they said that I was ready for my first blooding. It was the practice, at that time to send the newly graduated RTU pilot on a mission as soon as possible. The details of the mission are hazy, probably because of the fear that was in me. First, the long over-water flights that were required both ways, almost one hundred miles each way from Japan to Korea and back, then the weather that was almost always a part of the long mission. This was not looked forward to since formation weather was a dread phenomena to the novice pilot. Then the actual shooting at and back by strangers, whom I could not hate as individuals. To say that I was reluctant was certainly an understatement and to say he least, the situation was viewed with mixed emotions. There was only one approach that seemed feasible to me, to stick with the flight leader and not let him out of my sight. The number two spot is always allotted the newest pilot and it was the place that I occupied so literally, since two pairs of eyes were always an me from number three and four.
The strike was against the front line, a ground support mission, and the mission stated it was against the village of Suijui. Each mission was preceded by a briefing two hours before take-off time and since the take-off time was not always the same, there could be a briefing at 3:15 or 3:30am depending an the actual take-off time. In the briefing, the general intelligence information was given, the target for the particular mission and the location of friendly and enemy troops as well as specific information such as the location of anti-aircraft batteries were mentioned. In addition, the armament load we were to carry was mentioned; the weather that we could expect along the route and lastly the tame hack ended the ritual to the Gods of War. To say that the first mission was viewed with mixed emotions could be characterized by the three months in that I felt nothing, heard nothing and saw nothing but reacted as I should. After the first mission, just as it is after the first airplane is shot down, there is much reliving of the actual event, like a virgin an her first attempt at being a woman, the experience may not be pleasant but there is much thought upon it.
Group living did not exactly appeal to me or my close friend, and the five of us living in the tent, probably were not the neatest. The words of a Colonel, who spoke to us when we were going through training back in Williams AFB, echoed in my mind. They were that no matter where you are you do not have to sacrifice too many of the comforts of life, if you only de a little work and improve your environment. With these thoughts in mind, my friend approached the housing office and became friendly with the Japanese in charge of the barracks and the maids. With a carton of cigarettes, that I always managed to have on hand since I did not smoke and drew my ration, we were able to get an entire tent for ourselves, reading lamps, desks and a personal maid for the tent. It was across from the base .theater and we got to know the Sergeant that was responsible for the showing of the films. Many time, we saw the films from the projection booth far a somewhat private showing and we always relied on his advice as to what show was good and what show we should not waste our time on.
There is a certain amount of tension generated by an individual flying combat, which must be dissipated, if the person is to remain a rational, functional fighting unit. Many pilots approached it in both socially acceptable and socially unacceptable ways. Some would get loaded at the bar and give vent to their feelings through demon serum and with drinks only 25 cents, they rationalized that they could not afford not to drink. A few would frequent a house of ill repute, a “Ocat” house and both drink and relieve their physical tension in a hot community bath or some would become attached to a local belle and set up housekeeping oriental style, with food being procured from the PX, or an the local market, which was forbidden. I found my outlet in riding throughout the adjacent countryside an a used Japanese scooter and with it, I found what I thought was the real Japan, not the Japan of the souvenir shops and the beer and sake parlors. Every chance that there was, I would spend the time wondering through the Japanese markets and the food stores. It was particularly interesting to turn down a tide street barely large enough for the scooter and see where the Japanese would trade. Their fish markets were astounding to Western eyes, particularly the small live fish that the indigenous personnel would order much as we order gold fish in the dime stores to take home. Octopus was available and the Japanese house wife would be as careful as any American housewife as she went from shop to shop shopping for bargains. Normally, if anyone were found in one of these places, it was a strong indication that he had gone native and had a “cobita” or Japanese mistress. It was on one of these tours that I saw a Captain assigned to the 80th in an old 1940s black Ford.
A popular spot frequented by Air Force personnel and these an Relaxation and Recreation, or R and R, was the Fifth Air Force Officers’ club located in downtown Fukuoka. Here one could get excellent food at a nominal coast and the bar was one of the most popular places in the immediate vicinity. It was southern Japan and the hospitality could be compared with the heart of the Confederacy. The head cashier was a Japanese girl educated at the Junior college in San Bernadine and spoke English more grammatically correct than that of the majority of Americans. Her father had sent her to the states, after the war for her formal education and then she returned to her native country. It was in this air and in this environment that I flew my first combat missions.
While waiting for the missions and especially when there was bad weather over the front line, the pilots would set around in squadron operations playing cards, bitching, or drinking coffee and sometimes writing letters home or reading their letters. There was an interesting sociological interaction. In this small group which was made up of reserve officers, regular officers, and Air National Guard officers. They represented all kinds of backgrounds and ages. Walking into operations on a rainy day, you would find the older Captains clustered together, around them would be the senior grade first Lieutenants and then the newly graduated second Lieutenants. Entirely aloof from the group would be the field grade officers. It was a well defined distinct caste system and one did not move up or across the sociological groups easily. The most closely knit group were the regular officers, who were dedicated, but who were dedicated not to the Air Force but the furtherance and the preservation of their own careers. Friendship had very little emphasis in their world and there was a tendency to regard all the other officers as necessary to the fighting of the war but to be relegated to a minor position as soon as the war was over. A more coldly, calculated, friendless group, save in their own small clique, one could not hope to find anywhere. They always seemed to have a monkey an their back. The friendliest group were the older Captains, who had been in the service for many years or who had been in the Air National Guard for a number of years. There was one Captain whom I admired both as a pilot and as an officer. He had been one of the first to check out in the P-80, when they became operational near the end of WW II. He was from the Florida ANG and had flown an their acrobatic team when they were flying the F-51s. I felt if he had been flying F-86s, he would surely had been an ace. It was a shock to me to hear that he had been killed after the war. He was taking off on a night mission and en the join up, became disorientated before he could transition to instruments and before he could recover crashed into the Arizona desert.
The F-80s would be loaded down with a huge load of fuel, over 930 gallons of JP-4, or low grade kerosene, around 1800 rounds of ammunition for their fifty caliber machine guns, which there were six in number and either 500 or 1,000 pound bombs, rockets or napalm. Then they would take off and fly from 200 to 250 miles, with 10 to 15 minutes in the target area and return. This was the way my first few missions were conducted. The climb out to Korea would take around 125 miles and the maximum ceiling that we could achieve was around 23,000 to 24,000 feet with the heavy bomb lead and fuel. Coming back the airplane would ease up to 30,000 to 34,000 feet. I concentrated on being the best possible wing man and attempted to fly formation closer and better than anyone else. My motto was if I could not be a leader, then I could be the best wing man the Air Force could produce.
Every fourth day, we would be liable for standing alert on the strip and it would commence at dawn and be ever at dusk when the night fighters would take over. The night fighters were an abortion composed of two 51s combined into what was termed the F-82. The pilot would set in-one fuselage and the radar observer in the ether. According to the ground crews, they were a plumbers nightmare to maintain. When on alert, the pilots had to remain an duty in the alert shack at the end of the runway a few feet from their airplanes and when the buzzer would sound, we would race out to the airplanes, the mechanics would start the auxiliary power unit, or APU and the pilot would scramble into his parachute and start the engine. Normally, the reason for a scramble would be a C-119 coming back from Korea with its identification, friend or fee, IFF set not operational. We would fly down, the errant aircraft being around 7,000 feet, identify and report their number.
The night before our flight was to have alert, was the night that was usually reserved for normal squadron revelry and many a morning, when the flight was scrambled, the pilots, including myself, wondered why it seemed like such a good idea to celebrate the night before and vowed never to commit the same mistake again. It was one of these morning afters that the flight was scrambled before the hangover was slept out, that I came close to having an accident. Normally, 100% oxygen is the standard cure for a sick fighter pilot but this time, it did little to alleviate the ills of the day. The flight was uneventful, with radar picking us up after take-off and vectoring us to intercept a friendly cargo plane, whose pilot had neglected to turn on his IFF. In some cases, we would be vectored out ever the water to intercept fishing vessels that were picked up on the radar sets and we used to buzz the fishing vessels until the Japanese government protested and an altitude restriction was placed on the alert aircraft. After intercepting, a C-46 aircraft, we circled and climbed to altitude, flying a square pattern ever an island out in the sea between Japan and Korea waiting for targets of opportunity to give us practice.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and I followed the leader into the traffic pattern at Itazuke AFB. There was a strong headwind, which was straight down the runway and no brakes were used, as was normal, until I turned the airplane on the taxi strip to go back to the alert area. Taxiing along, at about 15 mph, the aircraft veered to the right slightly and I attempted to correct the aircraft with the left brake. Suddenly the left rudder pedal, that controlled the left brake offered no resistance when pushed, which indicated a complete brake failure. At that airspeed the rudder offered no help in steering the airplane and there was nothing that I could do as the airplane slowly moved to the right side of the taxiway and toward the drainage ditch which was about three feet, in depth. An utter feeling of helplessness pervaded my entire being as the ditch came closer and closer. At the last minute, 1 hit the good right brake causing the airplane to go into the V shaped drainage ditch at an angle of 90 degrees. It was barely moving as the airplane came to rest with the tail in the air at an angle of 40 degrees. Sheepishly, I slid back the canopy and cut the switches thinking what a horrible day this turned out to be. Normally, when any accident occurred, the flight surgeon was the first man to be checked with and I did not feel in any condition to be inspected by a M.D., trying to determine whether I was physically capable of handling any flying emergency.
Attempting to determine what had caused the failure, I checked the brakes visually and not finding anything wrong, walked back ever the path of the F-80 and picked up remnants of the brake pucks that had broken when I applied the brakes. While walking back, I met the squadron commander and the operations officer, in a jeep and explained what had happened. I was given the fishy cold stare of the commander who had already passed judgment before hearing the explanation, and who must answer to his commander. To back up my explanation of what happened, I held out the shattered brake pucks. The fact that I had an explanation and that there was no apparent damage to the venerable F-80 seemed to get me off the hook. Since there was no apparent damage, I did not have to face the flight surgeon and this taught me a lesson that when I flew, to be in the best possible shape physically. However, there were a few times later, that the fruit of the vine should have been left in the cup. I still have a picture that shows the old gallant F-80 with its tail in the air and the nose in the drainage ditch as if it were some forest animal kneeling down to drink.
Later, I found out that there were a number of instances, when the brake pucks had failed in other aircraft, a group of defective pucks having arrived in supply. There was no apparent way to determine whether the brake pucks were defective before installation. On a random selection basis, it should not have happened again to me, considering the number of failures in the group, however lightning can strike twice. on some of the missions that were deep in enemy territory, there was not enough fuel to return to hour home base in Japan and on these missions the flights would land at a base in Korea about 60 miles inland, called Taegu. During this stage of the war all the base had to offer in the way of a runway was pierced steel planking and the engineers were constantly at work repairing the damage done by the landing aircraft. There was a 5,000 foot runway, which was barely long enough for safe landings and safe take-offs and the pierced steel planking was extremely rough and an landing it gave the same affect to the aircraft as If it were landing on a small roller coaster. It was at this base that the second puck incident occurred.
I was flying number four in a four ship flight and we had just returned from a close support mission which had expended out fuel making a landing at K-2, or Taegu necessary. Landing to the north, we flew up the valley an initial entry to the airfield; the flight broke in two second intervals and began smooth turns to the final approach to the airfield. The leader landed an the inside of the runway, to the left, the number two on the right side and I lined up and touched down behind the leader about 800 feet behind him. As it was a short runway and the braking action on the pierced steel planking was poor, I applied the brakes as soon as the airspeed diminished so they would be effective and again the mushy feeling in the brake told me either there was a ruptured brake line or the pucks had again failed and this time while I was on the runway traveling at a high rate of speed. Having rehearsed the prior emergency, I immediately stop cocked the throttle, opened the canopy and called for the flight ahead of me to clear the runway. They immediately cleared when I said that I had no brakes. Using the rudder to guide the aircraft until the airspeed dropped below 40mph, I aimed the airplane at the only clear space in view, there being airplanes lined up on either side of the runway. The clear space was off the end of the runway and I left the runway still going at a fair clip and with a helpless feeling. Ahead of the airplanes lay an open ditch of about 15 inches across and two feet deep, and I had visions of at the minimum a sheared nose gear. However, the aircraft having expended all but about 30 gallons of fuel, all of the ammunition and with no ordnance on board, skipped lightly over the ditch and slid to somewhat of a muddy stop in the clay of Korea. This time, I knew what happened and I left the job of getting my aircraft to the ground crew and went ever to debriefing, to talk to Intelligence concerning the details of the mission.
Actually carrying the fight to the enemy delivering the ordnance, a combat mission is probably never like an first supposes it to be. If one were terribly afraid, It would not be as frightening as he supposed; if he were courageous, as courage is only the ability to overcome fear, he might find it fear inspiring. When the ground gunners of the Communists would begin to fire the 20mm and 40mm cannon and the projectiles would start to float toward his aircraft, then suddenly begin to converge at tremendous speed, it would increase the adrenaline flow of the most courageous man. The cannon shells were termed “golf balls” and they had somewhat the appearance of a luminescent golf ball which would grow to the size of a tennis ball as they would pass by the airplane. A person could become fascinated, almost hypnotized by the appearance of the ‘golf ball’ and it was an exhilarating feeling to be shot at and missed.
The approach to flying combat that I adopted, was to as a wingman, be the best wingman that it was possible for me to be. When flying as number two, on a leader that I could trust, I would go in an a strafing pass and actually be hitting a target underneath the lead airplane as he was pulling up and over the same target. Positioning myself, on the inside of the lead airplane and knowing which way he was going to turn, I would commence firing as he finished firing and pulled over the target. This would work when the target was the same for both aircraft or very close together. Some leaders would complain since it was distracting to pull over a target and see it come alive with light from the tracer bullets and armored piercing ricochets, although it was safe. In order to keep the lead airplane in view, it was necessary to keep him in sight at all times and only concentrating on the target when on the actual firing run.
If flying and dropping ordnance against living target and most of our strafing work was against living targets could be termed “fun,” the dropping of napalm was the most interesting, skip bombing next, then rocketry and finally dive bombing. To drop napalm, the pilot would get down as low as possible, usually less than 50 feet, when the target disappeared under the nose of the aircraft, the napalm would be released, both napalm tanks at once or one at a time, for greater coverage. Under these circumstances, it was almost impossible to miss the desired target and it was one of the most feared weapons that the Air Force possessed according to reports from the prisoners of war. Skip bombing was similar to dropping napalm and with the delayed fuses in the bombs, it would allow the bomb to bounce up in the air once and hit the target and explode and again it was difficult to miss the desired target. It was used to good advantage against railroad tunnels and I can recall one Instance when a bomb of mine exploded on the other side of the tunnel from which the run was made and on analysis determined that the bomb had skipped all the way through the tunnel and exploded somewhat harmlessly an the tracks.
Rocketry was the more difficult of the techniques successfully used against the enemy. In order to be effective, it was necessary to get almost a direct hit on any target and since the launching technique was to be at 3,000 feet away from the target and at an angle from between 30 to 45 degrees, there were many factors which entered into the successful launching of the rockets. The gunsights that were used had a setting for rocketry but most of the pilots estimated the correct range and altitude and, in many cases, the attack was about as useful as throwing rocks at the enemy. Dive bombing of the targets was similar to rocketry but the angle of the dive was steeper and the altitude for dropping the bombs was necessarily higher. The accuracy and devastation of the results from these bombs were increased by using proximity fuses which exploded about 100 feet above the ground and rained death and destruction on all those below it. Another technique used later in the war was that of glide bombing and I am sure that it must have been an interesting and rewarding sight to the Communists to see an entire squadron or group of American planes fly ever a railroad, straight and level and the pilots, with no gunsights or bombsights to aid them, to try to hit the railroad track and cut it. Perhaps from 24 airplanes, there might be two or three good rail cuts and as soon as the whine of the jets died away, thousands of laborers would swarm around the tracks, if the Air Force had been bombing this area regularly and have it repaired in a matter of hours. A few of the bombs would have delayed fuses of up to 12 hours and this would deter a too rapid repair.
The two most effective weapons used against the Communists, as far as the fighter aircraft were concerned were, as in WW II, that of napalm and the fifty caliber machine gun.
It must have been demoralizing and frightening for the enemy soldiers to be constantly facing the attacks of our aircraft, although the enemy was able to adopt their survival techniques extremely well to the situation that they faced. Having never been strafed the first idea that I had of being on the ground and having aircraft firing their machine guns at the ground was at K-2, when a flight of 51s had to dispose of some of their ammunition in order to achieve their maximum landing weight and since a round of ammunition weighed about a pound, this was the easiest and quickest way to lighten their weight. Near the airfield there was an ammunition disposal area along the bank of the river and I was waiting to be briefed for another mission when the roar and the chatter of the 50 caliber machine guns interrupted the silence. Having just returned from a ground support mission, the question of what its like to be strafed was partially realized.
One of the greatest tragedies of the Korean war was that there was no way to determine whether a village contained peaceful Koreans or was a billet for enemy troops. The question was discussed by pilots and it was unofficially decided that if we had not been briefed an a village containing troops then it would not be hit. But there was a minority of pilots that thought that any village was fair game if it was near the front lines, since if it was not being used, it could be and therefore should be destroyed. I felt that the war was not the responsibility of the villagers near the front and they should not be attacked except for a military reason and the majority felt this way. But it was very easy to rationalize when searching for a target of opportunity and finding none, with the fuel diminishing and no target in sight, to attack a village and destroy or attempt to destroy it just because it happened to be there. One pilot was notorious for hitting anything that had smoke coming out of it and he was kidded about strafing old men and pregnant women and I am sure that the jokes about old men and women were an indication of what the pilots were actually thinking. Perhaps the village that was hit was really a peaceful village and not headquarters for the sector of that front.
Two incidents that happened to my roommate, may give some indication of the feeling of some of the pilots. My friend had been on a support mission to attack a village which reportedly contained enemy troops. Napalm was used in the attack and he recalled lining up on a home in the center of the village; just as he dropped his napalm, as the thatched house passed under the nose of the aircraft, at an altitude of less than fifty feet; he vividly described the woman of the house reaching out for the husband and trying to help him to safety in their house, surrounded by children in the doorway. It was a direct hit not only on the house but on the pilot’s conscience that dropped it. Another time; another attack on a village and this time, the bullock was running for its safe place, just as a bull in the bull ring will select an area where he will always return after his charges; the bullock was racing for his safe place when its life was snuffed out by napalm. Since my friend was a rancher and owned cattle, this also affected him but in a different way than that of the other occurrence. The life of an animal and human beings cannot be compared but the senseless killing, in his mind, could be.
After the first few mission, taking off and returning to Itazuke AFB, there were more mission which were double missions, i.e., the airplanes would take-off from Japan, render close support and then land at Taegu, in Korea. There close to the apple orchards that this area of Korea was famous for, the flight would be briefed for another mission deep into Korea and then either returning to Japan or landing at K-2 to refuel before returning to Japan. On sone of these missions the tires of the airplanes would have to be changed after the landing or landings at K-2, due to the damage sustained by landing on the PSP. From a pilots standpoint, an excellent concrete runway could have been built for the cost of maintains the aircraft that were landed there and the crashes and deaths that were the result of the bad conditions on the runway.
One of the missions that I was to take part in, my aircraft became damaged before I could take-off. The F-80s were equipped with 265 gallon tip tanks, the largest ever used to my knowledge on this type of aircraft. Turning around to line up on the uneven runway, there being very little room and desiring to use every bit of the runway, the left tip tank snagged a piece of PSP that was projecting up from the edge of the runway It tore a three inch gash in the tip tank and the JP-4 spewed out on the ground. As the fuel rushed out on the ground, I hurriedly got off the runway and just as I turned off, the right tip tank drug on the ground and came to rest. The tail of the airplane was still on the runway and the left wing projected high in the air.
During the spring offensive of the Chinese communists, in 1951, our unit was flying continuously. Just as soon as our aircraft landed for a mission, they were refueled and rearmed and ready for take-off on another mission. While one mission was still in the air, the pilots were briefing for the next. Under these circumstances, the line crews worked night and day, an indispensable part of the organization and not enough credit can be given to the crew chiefs. my crew chief was a Southerner, totally devoted to the job that he had. I always made it a habit to clue the crew chief in on the mission that we were to fly and told him of the results of the mission when we landed. This was not done by all the pilots but it should have been since the crew chief was responsible for the safety of the aircraft the pilot was going to fly and without him there would be no mission.
Being one of the lowest ranking First Lieutenants in the unit, I was given the oldest airplane in the squadron that I could call my own. Deciding what to call the airplane was a problem and since the problem of survival seemed to be in the hands of fate, I decided to call the airplane Kismet. The name was placed on the left nose of the airplane, my name on the right side of the canopy rail and the crew chief’s name on the left side of the canopy rail. It was a good and reliable airplane and no one was more proud of his airplane than I, which is akin to the feeling one has for the first car that he owns. It had one bad habit that it was known for and that was the fact that it would throw a turbine blade in the accessory turbine, which were called “buckets.” Since the aft turbine would turn around 10,000 rpm, the loss of a bucket weighing a few pounds would set up a vibration in the engine section and if the airplane were to be continued to be flown for an extended period of time, it would cause a severe enough vibration to cause the engine to be shut down. However, this reliable aircraft would lose one bucket and normally the opposite one and continue running until home base was reached.
My crew chief used to take bets on which aircraft would make the best landing on return from a mission and since I prided myself on my landings, used to frequently help my crew chief win. The crew chiefs were always on hand to watch the landings since some of the airplanes did not always return and the majority of the crew chiefs were dedicated and attached to their airplanes and in some cases to the pilots. The first question they would ask on landing after the engine was shut down, was whether or not the airplane all right or not. It always gave me a great deal of pride to answer in the affirmative and compliment the chief on the condition of his airplane. There was no one group who put in longer hours or who did a finer job than that of the men who worked on the line and who got so little credit for it.
It was during this period that many of the airplanes would take-off and the engine would quit soon after the airplane was airborne and too late for the jet aircraft to abort. There is nothing more morale shattering than not being able to trust the airplane on take-off. Since the airfield at Fukouka was bounded by the city on one end and rice paddies on the other, there were almost always fatalities in these instances of engine failure. In order to increase the thrust of the F-80s on take-off so they could carry a greater load, a mixture of water and alcohol was used to increase the thrust. it would last long enough to get the airplane airborne, gear and flaps up and establish an angle of climb if used properly. It actually increased the thrust up to 15% and after a number of accidents it was decided that there was a foreign substance in the water alcohol which would cause an explosion and flameout when the mixture was used to increase thrust. It was rumored that it was a clear case of sabotage and this is what happened to the pilot that was killed when I first arrived at the unit, whose airplane crashed and exploded an a pre-dawn take-off.
The F-84 was introduced into the theater during this period when an Air National Guard unit was assigned to Itazudke AFB from Texas. It was an entire intact Air Guard unit and it was rumored that some political strings had been pulled to bring the Guard ever as a single fighting unit. Normally, when a Guard unit is assigned to active duty, it was broken up almost immediately to prevent nepotism from impregnating its ranks while on active duty with an army unit, there was an unwritten regulation that as soon as the unit came an active duty, it would be hit for cadres until the entire unit was broken up.
The F-84 was considered a newer airplane and more advanced and it was a revelation to me to see the airplane carry half the load normally carried by the F-80 and have to use JATO to get the airplane airborne. On landing, it was pointed at the ground and allowed to fly into the ground. If this same technique were used by the F-80s there would not have been enough airplanes left after a week to fly a normal four plane mission. On take-off, they used up more runway that the F-80s with a lighter load. The temperature conditions became critical for take-off and some missions were canceled because it was determined that the airplane could not get airborne in the runway length available. It was a constant wonder why a newer airplane could be less effective that the already existing airplane and warrant its production. However, it had a slightly greater range and was better suited for escort work that the F-80 was.
Escorting the B-29s on their way to targets in North Korea was a task that the fighters were seldom called upon to do. The new aircraft were viewed with slight disdain and many sarcastic remarks were made condemning them. They had a propensity for either blowing up or burning up and I can recall one morning as I crossed the runway on my scooter to take my place on alert, hearing an explosion at the approach taxiway to the take-off runway from one of the two F-84s that were checking their engines before take-off. Turning around I saw, the pilot open his canopy, leap out on the wing and start running, hitting the ground apparently about every three steps. Smoke began to pour out of the tail section and from the intake section. The fire trucks were immediately called and they confidently pulled up to the airplane. Using all their vaunted fire fighting techniques, including prodigious amounts of foam, they were unable to control the fire, only delay it. Soon the ammunition in the nose compartment began to cook off. The fire department, crash wagons and all the personnel were able to save a portion of the wings and the tail section. During the latter stages of the fire, the fuselage settled to the ground like a melting wax airplane that had gotten too warm.
Many of the pilots who had been over some time had their Japanese mistress whom they either covertly or overtly lived with and supported. Some of these liaisons lasted just a few days and some developed into a long lasting relationship. There was one of the pilots who had completed a combat tour and returned to the States. He requested an assignment back to the Far East. He had been cohabiting with a Japanese girl, a school teacher, somewhat larger than the normal girl and strikingly beautiful. During the time that he was back in the states, she reportedly took up a new lover for a time and then when he came back, she returned to the pilot. They eventually married and were seen occasionally at the officers’ club.
My good friend and combat pilot, in his nocturnal prowls around the area would frequent one of the cabarets that flourished in Fukuoka. There beer could be purchased and also a dance partner and if pursued, a more personal relationship could be had for a price. In this particular cabaret there was an attractive hostess who seemed to not be the usual type. Being more willowy than the normal Japanese hostess and without the gait of the majority of the girls, who seemed that they had just stepped out of the rice paddy, especially in high heels. She had taken an American name, while working in the cabaret, since it was almost impossible to pronounce her Japanese name. My friend became interested in her when she seemed not to be readily available and in fact resisted his suggestions and advances. After a period time, they became attached somewhat to each other and he began to stay with her in the apartment she shared with another girls, not far from the base but off the beaten path normally frequented by Americans. She was getting a small pension from the Japanese government since her father and she had been living in Manchuria, when she was a young girl and had been shot by a Japanese soldier, the scar which she still carried. After an evening in town, I would take my friend on the motor scooter which was small for one and deposit him at the doorstep of the apartment. In the morning, if anything would come up, I would have time to get him if he was needed.
One time a mission was called and all the available pilots were needed and since my friend was not around, I was asked where he was. Asking for the operations jeep, I pretended that I was going down to the tent we occupied. Instead I drove to the small house off the base and got my friend. Just as I was pulling on the main road from the side road, an Air Policeman pulled up and stopped us. It was forbidden to drive government vehicles on side streets of the villages. It so happened that the Air Policeman was involved with a girl in the area and so he ignored the fact that we were breaking the regulations. The relationship soon cooled and my friend began to see less and less of the young lady from the cabaret.
The gate of the base was the place where the street girls would gather after dark and wait for the airmen to come off the base or come on the base. There charms were offered in no uncertain terms and the common greeting was “Where you going boysan?” These were probably the lowest class of prostitutes available and this was where some of the girls either began or ended up when pursuing their profession which was forced on the majority by economic necessity. The order of the classes of the prostitutes could be broken down into the streetwalker, the girl of a house of ill repute, the cabaret girl, and finally the kept woman, who was the highest of the class. It was possible to pass up and down the scale or start at one level and never progress up or down. When queried, the girls at the gate would quote a price of two different figures, either as a short time or all night as they phrased it. Some of the street girls had rooms of their own and some required that the customer provide the place.
The actual fall of many of the tried and true family men occurred from loneliness and the cheap liquor available at the Air Force bars. One of the pilots was in this category. He was a character and an individualist, an excellent cartoonist and somewhat older than the majority who had just finished flying training. His training had been in the F-51 and after graduation he had transitioned to jets. He had one accident with the 51, taking-off on a tow mission for air-to-air gunnery, he had to land after take-off and ignored the restrictions, either by design or accident, that of landing with a full fuselage tank. On the final turn, the Mustang snapped and spun into the ground. Fortunately he survived, and after a lengthy stay in the hospital, he was assigned to the 80th squadron. He named his airplane the “Little Fellow” which was what was he and his wife’s name for a certain private part of his body. During the course of an evening’s drinking at the 5th Air Force officers’ club in downtown Fukuoka, he started to the base in the carryall belonging to the unit. He was “plowed” to say the least and the closer he got to the base, the slower he drove past the good time girls waiting beside the road. Finally the urge got too much for him and he stopped and made arrangements with the girl to go to a nearby Japanese hotel. In the room he came to either before the actual culmination of the act or after and realizing what he had done, dashed out of the hotel and tried to turn the carryall around in the narrow Japanese street. He backed into the gutter and it came to rest with one wheel in the gutter, hopelessly stuck. Coming to his senses, he called the Air Police and they filed a report with the squadron commander listing the complaint of unauthorized use of a military vehicle and being off limits.
The pilot who ran the carryall into the gutter and I were assigned to attack an airfield north of the site of the eventual meeting place for the truce talks in Kaesen. There were only two of us since one member of the flight had to abort. Three-ship flights were not permitted since a friend of mine was lost in an attack on Pyongyang airfield. The three-ship attacked Pyongyang and made their pass and only two ships came off the target. No one knew what had happened to the third pilot until he was repatriated with the first group of returning prisoners of war. So it happened that the two of us were assigned to attack the airfield. Arriving over the approximate vicinity, we let down. By his erratic flying, it seemed he was lost. Coming up to a fork in a river, he called asked me which way we should go up the river. Hastily looking at my map, I told him to the right. The mission was not successful in that the airfield was not located and our bombs were dropped on what appeared to be truck revetments. Returning to the field, the leader really got on me and said that I was a hell of a navigator and what school did I go to. It seems that he thought that I had been through navigation training and had received my wings and then decided to go through pilot training.
The rumors began to fly that the unit was going to be stationed in Korea and the thought of going to Korea was not pleasant. Determining to fly as many missions as I could I used-to stand by in spare aircraft, having briefed for the mission, hoping that the aircraft of one of the pilots would be found mechanically defective. In many cases, there would be something wrong with the airplane or one of the pilots and then the spare aircraft would be called to start up. Once the flight was airborne and an airplane had to abort then there was little possibility of getting the aircraft that was standing by to ever catch the rest of the flight. At one time, they even had the spare aircraft taxi out to the end of the runway with the flight, in case there was something wrong with one of the airplanes. Being always available for a flight and willing to set in on briefings in case a plane might abort, I rapidly built up my roster of missions. In one thirty day period, I managed to log 30 missions or one a day. As soon as this was discovered, I was forced to slow down in order to remain with the rest of the pilots that I came over with. It was my intention, at this time, to get all my missions completed and get back to the States and on to other things. It did not make any sense to me to be assigned back to the States to a fighter unit, when I would be practicing for what I had already done, flying combat.
To relieve the tension brought an by steady combat flying, I frequented different places to eat the evening meal. The Army had an officers mess down town and I often ate there, with the Army officers. Then there was the ever popular 5th Air Force officers’ club down town, the officers’ club on base one, as well as the mess that we used on the strip. Along with these places, there was the Japanese market and although everyone had been warned about eating the Japanese food, still the majority of the people who had been in the Far East for some time ate the food, with relish. For one thing, it was cheaper, a good steak would cost 200 to 250 yen which was about 75 to 90 cents.
I used to go to a small place, near the river which emptied into the bay, which serve sukiyaki. It catered to only the Japanese and unless one knew where to go a foreigner, who could read no Japanese, would not know where to get authentic Japanese food. The Japanese cashier at the 5th AF club recommended this place to me. One would enter the sliding door and be met by a waitress in the entrance where one would take off his shoes. Then a person could be ushered into a room with sliding door, cushions and a low table. Taking a seat on the cushions, in the oriental fashion was difficult, since a person was seated with his legs crossed. Once accomplished, it was difficult to remain in this position for an extended period of time and sooner or later the legs would have to be stretched to rest them. After ordering the sukiyaki, the vegetables and meat would be brought in and cooked over a hebashi, which was the fore-runner of today’s charcoal burners. In winter, these were used for cooking as well as for heating. The food was cooked together in a skillet. Two bowls could be given to the customer, one filled with rice and the other with an egg in it. Using the chopsticks, one would take some food from the skillet between the chopsticks and dip it in the raw egg, place it on the rice and scoop up the rice, vegetables and meat, into his mouth if he was lucky. Teas, sake or beer would be served before with and after the meal. Desert was usually fruit. No matter how much food a person would eat of this type, before he went to bed he would feel hungry. Another place, much like the restaurants in the states, was where at times, I would go to order chicken and rice. For 100 yen, the cook would make a mixture of peas, chicken and rice that would be mountainous. Another pilot and myself used to eat this an the way home to the air strip.
In war or in a situation fraught with danger, experienced individuals do not sometimes act rationally. my flight leader at the time was about 33 years of age and was considered an old man. From the first, he and I had a personality conflict and he wore a hat on the back of his head and a cigarette seemed to be always dangling from his lips. He acted as if he had been around the world three times, had seen everything and knew everything and his word was the last word on any subject. He could have acted this way if he had a reason to but there was no apparent reason that I knew of. His career had been mediocre as far as anyone knew and if it had been of any consequence. It would surely have been known to the aircrews as these things get around by word of mouth, if there is anything different about any of the members of the squadron. For instance, there was in the squadron, the son of a famous general and tales were told of his relationship with his father, when he married a Chinese girl, he hit him the first time he saw him after the marriage. Whether it was true or not is problematical.
Our flight was on a mission near the front lines, in close support of the ground troops. On a pass over an area where there was little visible ground fire, the flight leader called and said that he thought his airplane had been hit. Number three in the flight moved up to check his aircraft and he reported that he could see an opening under the engine which appeared that it had been put there by either a small explosion in the engine or possibly a hit by a small caliber weapon. The engine functioned fine, evidently for awhile, allowing the airplane to be flown to a high altitude and it seemed as if there would be no problem getting back to the airfield at K-2, the only suitable airfield in the vicinity that could be reached once the flight had climbed to altitude. The flight leader called and said that he was gradually losing power and his airplane fell back. We remained with him, over the overcast, since the loss of power also meant that he would probably lose all electrical equipment as soon as the battery lost its charge since the generator no longer worked when the engine rpm drops below a certain point. Since it was difficult to locate the field over the broken overcast, the aircraft were slowed down so the flight leader could follow us to K-2 and then either bail out or make a forced landing. The element leader was having some type of generator trouble so it remained for the other wingman and myself to stay with the leader until he made his big decision.
Over K-2, the field could be seen through the broken ceiling and the flight leader elected to make a landing on the field. He set up a pattern and since he had no radio, he depended upon me to call the airfield requesting that all the traffic be cleared. I couldn’t get the runway control officer who was directing traffic in a radio jeep until we were just about 150 feet above the ground. The flight leader had set up a pattern for a north landing and it looked like he was in a very good position for the landing. I coasted around close to him keeping out of his way and just when it looked like he had it made, he turned away from the field. I could not believe my eyes as I saw the F-80 as it began its last long glide in the opposite direction to the landing traffic. Although, there was not much wind, still he was going to make a crash landing going downwind which placed him at a disadvantage when he needed every advantage. The area he was headed for was full of rice paddies and the retaining walls were as sturdy as concrete. The largest field did not comprise an acre of ground. The F-80 slowly settled toward the earth and came to rest against a dike. The point of touch down to the sudden stop was not more than 50 feet. I expected to see the familiar pall of black smoke but there was none. At the last moment before impact, the landing gear was still down. Landing as soon as possible, the other wingman and I commandeered a jeep and raced to the wreck. The “meat wagon” was just taking the flight commander out of the cockpit. He was still conscious although in obvious pain. Walking beside the stretch as he was carried to the ambulance, I looked down at the man who made all the mistakes in the book, the man who said bail out rather than make a forced landing if the situation was doubtful and then under ideal conditions to make a forced landing. He goofed it up so badly so as to almost surely kill himself. Fortune was smiling favorably on him to enable him to be carried away with a trace of life left in him and here he did not seem to be apparently suffering from anything more than shock. It turned out later that his back had been severely hurt and he spent some time in the hospital. But for him his combat days were over. Later, I found out that he felt a little more favorably to me when I elected to remain in the flight when given a chance to get out because of the personality conflict.
An example of the personality conflict occurred after returning from a combat mission, the flight commander relinquished the flight lead to the element leader, without prior briefing. I took up a different position than he wanted me to. He became enraged and said over the air, “dammit get in position!” This was the day that I lost the brake pucks and when I got to the briefing after extracting myself from the mud, he said, “So you landed hot,” before I could explain. It was a good thing that he did not let me fly his wing, with only two ships in the air or I swear, I was mad enough to shoot him down. Tales of platoon leaders, who were unpopular with the men under them and who were killed from bullets in the back, facing the enemy were too familiar to me and this was the first time that I thought that I could do it to someone else. But these were only passing thoughts and the flight commander put himself out of the way just as readily as if someone else had done it for him.
On May first of 1951, the United Nations forces decided to make a show of force on this traditional Communist holiday. It was decided that the officer training school just outside of Sinanju would be hit with all the fighter airplanes in the Far East. This show of force was to be within sight of the Chinese mainland. All of the airplanes of the 8th were flown to K-2 and then armed and fueled and the pilots briefed. The airplanes of the 8th were lined up on the west side of the runway and the 51st on the east side of the runway for a north take-off. It was a hot, dry, dusty day and the plans were for the 51st to take-off to the north first and the 8th to the south after all 51st airplanes were airborne. Sitting at the far end of the runway, I watched the 51st F-80s take the runway and after the airplanes reached about 100 mph, their JATO units were cut in. The first few airplanes were successful on the take-off but the smoke from the JATO lay on the runway and the following airplanes had to fly through the smoke which was almost as thick as the thickest cloud. One could hear the rear of the engines and then the airplanes would appear at the far end either a few feet above the psp or about to become airborne. A few of the pilots thinking they were not going to make the take-off, would punch the panic button and drop all the ordnance and the airplanes tip tanks. Bombs and rockets would fall on the end of the runway, then the F-80 would leap into the air. One pilot aborted in the smoke and slowed his airplane up, the following airplane not hearing the radio call struck the aborting aircraft causing major damage to both aircraft.
Another pilot inadvertently fired his JATO as he was about to line up for take-off and the JATO force pushed the airplane until it hit the ground controlled approach shack, in spite of brakes and a stop-cocked throttle. All this was viewed with trepidation since soon we would be taking off the opposite way. Our armament load was restricted to rockets and since they were lighter, JATO units were not used.
Consequently, our take-off was to the south and with a slight tail wind. Our flight was the second flight to take the runway, and I was flying as the number two man. The two aircraft before us had jettisoned their loads and then we roared down the psp together. The runway became smaller and I inadvertently moved my left hand from the throttle to the red button on the instrument panel which would jettison the tip tanks and rockets. At the last moment as the wheels passed off the end of the runway, the P-80 became airborne. At this time, the throttle had been 100% and there was no attempt to remain in position on the leader and as we passed over the end of the runway, our two airplanes were line abreast. The leader delayed his gear and since we were observing radio silence while in the air, I delayed mine.
Finally his gear came up but it was too late to take our planned place in the squadron formation. Later, after the mission, he said that he was so worried about making the take-off and so surprised that he did, that he completely forgot about the gear. The target, was hit and it did not seem as if the target was worth all the ordnance and aircraft expended upon it. The few buildings comprising the complex were thoroughly destroyed. There were B-26s, F-84s, F-80s, F-51s, and F-9s all in a coordinated effort to destroy the school. Every fighter aircraft was aloft on a political mission and there was expected that there would be a great deal of fighter activity from the Communists. As it turned out, the only losses were on take-off. Returning to K-2 all the aircraft that took off had to be landed within a short period of time. The landing was as difficult as the take-off but fortunately no airplanes or pilots were lost.
In the hills around K-2, there were reports of guerrilla activity and aircraft had been fired on while taking-off and landing at K-2. In addition, the Korean people had learned to exist off the Japanese under their some 40 years of rule. They were accomplished scavengers and nothing was safe if left anywhere there was a chance for it to be picked up. At K-2, where we were charged one dollar per night for a cat and two blankets in a winterized tent without a stove, a squadron commander from the 36th squadron had lain his clothing beside the bed. He was bald, pudgy and an all around good troop. Awakening the next morning, everything was except the long winter underwear he had on and the government issue shoes. He flew back to Itazuke in long winter underwear, shoes and nothing else.
The Korean people viewed the stealing in a different light that we did. Under the Japanese, it was the accepted thing to do and that, in some cases, one form of tyranny was replaced with another form. Driving off the base an occasion, I saw the places that the Korean people occupied and the dilapidation and filth that they were forced to live in was unbelievable. It was somewhat akin to badly kept hog houses that we had back an the farms in Iowa. When the person that I was riding with told me that some of the personnel who lived an the base were keeping Korean girl friends and living with them in those conditions, it was inconceivable to me to understand how they could do this when they were actually supposed to be restricted to the base. I found out later that the armed guards around the base were not only to keep the Koreans off the base but to keep the Americans on as well.
The Japanese were different in respect to stealing, in that one could leave their belongings about and take only normal precautions such as one would in the United States. Their feeling about stealing and thieves were akin to ours but probably not like ours. The Japanese police had a reputation for being brutal concerning their own population and this was one of the things that MacArthur had changed when he was the supreme military commander. The Koreans must have suffered under the occupation and also became skillful in thievery, for punishment has never eradicated behavior, it has only suppressed it.
While in Japan, I endeavored to learn as much about the Japanese people that I could and the housemaid that took care of our quarters helped my flying friend and I both understand the Japanese people and the way they thought. She used to eat her lunch in our tent along with the other housemaids. Speaking broken English she would explain the question that we would ask. Her father was a minister of the Japanese faith, which was not the militaristic religion of the Japanese Shinto belief but of the accepted religion of the Japanese as permitted by MacArthur. Fukuoka had a religious shrine where many people would come from all over the island to worship and it had been converted into a park.
The music was difficult to understand also to the foreign ear and it sounded as if all the music was sad and the singers wailing and not singing, a mournful tune. At one time, I was taken to a school where the Japanese instrument, the “shamuzen” was taught and listened to the pupils play and sing. What was of more importance to me was the pageantry that accompanied the renditions that they played. The instrument was plucked something like a zither and each of the students sat, opposite each other, when playing it.
Too soon, the time came for the unit to leave the island of Honshu and it was with much reluctance that these who were unattached left and it was more difficult for these with wives and girl friends. Some of the pilots had their wives living at base one. Some of the wives had been with their husbands in the Philippines when the war started and subsequently, came to Japan after the outbreak of the war to be with their husbands. They would drive their husbands to work, which in this case was flying combat and then pick them up after the mission. It was a very unreal situation, where a pilot could have breakfast with his wife, fly a combat mission and return home safe and sound to the arms of his wife for the evening meal. It was all part of an unreal war.
Finally, one morning, I climbed aboard my gallant old airplane, 659, flew over the city of Fukuoka, bidding it sad adieu, with all its diversions and set course for K-14, Kimpo.
The blue water of the sea between Japan and Korea welcomed our flight as we climbed for Korea. Leading the flight was a pilot who had left his wife back at base one and this was to be the first separation for them since they came to the Far East. He had an interesting tale to tell about the first date that he had with his wife. It was a graduation party of some type, perhaps from high school and during the course of the evening, they both became rather well ‘plowed’. The next morning his mother came up to his room and there he was stark naked as was his future bride sleeping with him, side by side. He swore that there was nothing premeditated or planned about all this and the evening had been a platonic one. However, he still has not been able to explain it to his mother but I believe that what he told me was true and I am certain that it could have happened to him.
Kimpo was the place where the first American airplane was lost. A Yak-9 came over and strafed the airdrome at the beginning of the war and a C-54 was waiting to take a group of evacuees to Japan. The C-54 burned; the first American plane to be lost. Later, the men in my squadron were responsible for the shooting down of a number of Yak-9s, one pilot accounting for two, before I joined the 80th.
The one permanent structure was the remains of the administration building that was built by Pan American before the Korean war. It was a concrete structure, unusable now since it was the main target for attack by both sides. Bomb craters and scars as well as countless machine gun bullets ricocheted through its empty rooms. The runway was permanent and constantly under repair. It was almost as rough as the psp at Taegu. Tents, Quonset huts and sometimes a small frame building signified that the 8th had found a new home. The heat during the June of 1951 was oppressive and it lay like a blanket over the dusty fields and rice paddies. The airplanes were hot to touch and a rain was welcomed to coal off the light colored earth. Only the green of the rice fields contrasted from the tan of the soil to appear cool. The airplanes that were stationed there were the F-82s which constantly flew at night and attempted to checkmate “bed check Charlie,” British Meteors, a few T-6s, RF-80s, a couple of C-47s and our own F-80s. It was a hot, dusty, day and the missions which were to have been coming faster now that we were as close to the combat area as possible slowed down and there was very little to do.
One job that I had been given prior to coming to K-14 was that of the armament officer. This was an interesting and rewarding job and I am afraid that I knew very little about armament and if it were not for the Technical and Master Sergeants that were assigned to the job, I would have been a hopeless flop. One of the Technical Sergeants had been an armorer with the Flying Tigers in China. He used to regale me with the tales of the days of the American Volunteer Group, the AVG, and how they tried to fit all types of armament to the P-40; Japanese, Swedish and American. He told of the fines levied against the pilots for landing long in the P-40 and how this saved many precious airplanes. Many interesting hours were spent listening to his stories of this famous group that I have always admired.
It was while I was the armament officer that I ran into the political aspect of the service and which affected me and my relationship with the service that I had chosen. The ground crews had been working a 25 hour day servicing and arming the airplanes and there was little rest for them because they were understaffed. One of the lads in the armament section, while charging the guns an the P-80, accidentally discharged a round which went harmlessly into the hills around Itazuke and the guns were pointed this way since an accident had been anticipated. The shot from the 50 caliber sounded like a cannon and the poor ground crewman was immediately surrounded by airmen and officers and there was no chance to cover up for him. A report had to be filed which went through channels up to the base an wing commander. It was a stereotyped policy that anyone who had caused a round to be discharged would be automatically court martialed and this entailed a reduction in rank, the way the bureaucracy worked.
After talking to the airman, who honestly admitted his mistake, I decided that the approach to take was to stick up for the man, both because I believed that a mistake could take place under the circumstances that the men were working and the fact that it would be good for morale if the officer in charge were to take a firm stand on their behalf, because it was unusual that anyone would buck the system. Surely, the bucking of the system comes early in anyone’s career because he soon adapts if he desires to be successful and to be successful, he must adapt.
Making the preliminary investigation, I made some recommendations that were forwarded to the squadron commander. Shortly thereafter a meeting was held informally, with the squadron commander and the operations officer in the operations ready room, when there was no one around. They had my recommendations and placing myself in the middle because there was no other place to set, they diplomatically requested that I change my recommendations. At first, I tried to stand up for my convictions, but eventually under pressure I agreed to change them. Many times after I have wondered what would have been the outcome had I stood firm for what I believed was right. The airman was sacrificed for the squadron commander’s belief that this was what his superior wanted him to do. My conscience hurt and often later I wished the decision could have been changed. I was being indoctrinated into the political aspects of a career. It was difficult to go back and tell the airman what was now being done in his case and that he would be court martialed. He was resigned to the fact and much wiser that his officer, in some respects, in that he knew that he must be punished according to the crime and that it was not tailored to the individual or the circumstances.
The barracks that were assigned to us were Quonset huts and the sun beat down on the tin roofs making the barracks unbearable during the day. It was some time in the evening before the pilots could crawl into their beds with the mosquito netting and cool off. The mess hall was barely functional and the officers would line up to get food which was a far cry from what we had served to us by Japanese girls back at Itazuke. Most of ate because it was necessary to forestall the hunger pangs. The officers club-adjoined the mess hall and on occasion it served beer when it was flown in from Japan, in a special pod carried under an F-80. The supply run back from Japan was as important to some of the officers as the missions that they were slowly accumulating in order to reach one hundred. For myself, I had developed an appreciation for an after-dinner drink called a king alphonse, which required creme de cacao and cream and one of the possessions that I carried to Korea was a bottle of creme de cacao. It seemed to keep me in touch with other places, having an after-dinner drink after rather bad chow.
Squadron operations was a tent and much time was spent there waiting for missions and watching the airplanes take-off and land. In order to take a shower, it was necessary to take a vehicle to the north side of the base and line up with the other troops, Army, Navy, and British to bath under water that smelled as If it were pumped from a slough. A guard was stationed near the water supply, close to the shower, because it was rumored that an attempt would be made to poison the base’s water supply. The way it smelled, I was sure that it was already poisoned.
There were provisions for four planes to be stationed at the south end of the runway on joint operations center alert. If a target came up which necessitated a strike force immediately, the four F-80s were available. For practice, sometimes two airplanes would be scrambled to give the ground controlled interception operators practice vectoring our airplanes around the sky. Since we were vectored usually north and we took off to the north west, if the turn was delayed for a few minutes, our airplanes would be flown ever the front lines and we would be given credit for a combat mission since any airplane that crossed ever the front lines met the minimum criteria. With missions so hard to come by, on a few occasions the operator’s instructions were not complied with since the radio developed unexplainable trouble which was soon corrected. Since the pilots did not know when they were scrambled whether the mission was practice or an actual mission, they wasted very little time in getting airborne. Some times we would be released from a practice mission to seek targets of opportunity in the vicinity of the front lines.
On one of the two-ship missions that I was leading, we went up the valley of Chorwon, one of the most heavily fortified of the area. It fairly spouted ground fire, both small caliber and 20 and 40 mm. On reconnaissance up the valley, there was a lot of fire from the ground. Looking around for the number two man, I requested his position. He answered back and said that he was above the broken overcast about 1,000 feet above me. Back on the ground, he said that he was with me as I began the pass up the valley and then he saw all the aerial garbage being thrown at my airplane and he decided to evacuate the area. Every time, I saw him after this, we had a good laugh about this mission. He was not afraid of being shot at, since the Chinese and North Korean gunners, invariably fired behind the jets, he was more afraid of being hit by the ground fire that was aimed at me.
Another mission, at dusk, I was leading an element near the Iran Triangle, when a 40 mm gun emplacement began firing at the element. Since this target was as lucrative as any that presented itself at this time, I pulled the F-80 up into a modified chandelle and came back and strafed where I thought the gun position was. All was quiet as I strafed the position and I was sure that the gun crew had been knocked out but as I pulled off the target, the unit would begin firing at my airplane. Back again, I would dome determined to end this duel once and for all. Every time that the pass was completed, I was sure that there would no return fire, they would again left the flaming golf balls in my direction. Firing all my ammunition and depleting the fuel supply, I returned to base and as I turned away the 40 mm was still active. It was a draw as far as I could tell.
During this time, there was an emphasis on putting out of action the available airfields in North Korea so the Communists could not bring in their airplanes at night or in inclement weather to launch an air attack against our poorly camouflaged front line troops. One could always tell when he was ever the United Nations lines because you could see all types of vehicles moving on the roads and well as troops. It was common knowledge that a large air force was kept and maintained in China, safe across the Yalu river which could be brought down at any time if it was tactically and strategically advantageous. The number of aircraft that could be brought to bear against our forces were overwhelming but I felt that it would be welcomed if they did. Most pilots envisioned a turkey shoot and were anxious to have done with this front line support and engage in air-to-air fighting, which is what all the pilots desired. In fact, the situation could be analogized to the fighter bomber pilots being truck drivers and the fighter interceptor pilots as the sports car drivers. There was little glamorous about dropping bombs or strafing the enemy troops and in many cases not see the actual enemy. But there was about seeing anther airplane disintegrate after a fair battle in the air.
On a mission to “post hole” the airport north of Pyongyang, which was one of the more heavily defended areas as far as anti-aircraft was concerned, the airplane that preceded me in the dive was hit and crashed on the runway. The flack was heavy by Korean standards but nothing compared to WW II in Europe. The communists were using 88mms. Once could tell when a burst was close since he could see the red flame in the black ball when it burst. I was number four in the flight and our run was to come from the west and turn left on our dive bomb run. Another flight was to come over the target at the same time, only the run was begun from the east and the actual dive was begun by turning right. In this way our forces were to be over the target at the same time. My flight began its run and turn on target and the other flight did likewise. The other flight was staggered in our flight, first their leader then our leader began his run. I followed their number four man. Being intent on the run and concentrating an hitting the runway with my thousand pound bomb, I noticed a pall of black smoke off the side of the runway. At that time, it did not make an impression, but when I got back to the squadron, I learned that one of the airplanes had been lost and no one had seen him-crash or knew what had happened. He went in on the target and just never pulled off. It happened that his plane had preceded me an the dive run and I had evidently seen him crash which accounted for the black pall of smoke. In the heat of battle, pilots often remember little, Although there are exception to this.
It wag during this time that twins were assigned to the squadron. They were identical in every respect and they were aptly name Bill and Will. Silent and taciturn they seemed to find more enjoyment in each other’s company than anyone else’s. Both were regulars and they seemed to exist in a world by themselves and the only difference between them was that one was married. The flight leader of the flight they were assigned to was a tremendous individual who had been a navigator and then had taken pilot training. His flight was ordered on a mission into North Korea and when he arrived ever the target, the clouds had closed in beneath them. Searching for a hole to let down in, the flight began to descend. The Communists had done what had been successful before and aimed all their anti-aircraft guns at the one break in the clouds. As the lead plane came into their view, they were alerted as the second came into view they were ready to fire and they opened up with everything they had on the third airplane. The airplane was evidently hit either in or near the cockpit for it fell lazily off on one wing and descended to the ground. The airplane did not burn nor was there any sign of life as the airplanes had to leave the area since they were short on fuel. One of the wing men took it very badly and his reaction was to immediately go to his quarters, the hot Quonset and turn his face to the wall. He remained this way for half a day and a night and resisted all attempts for anyone to talk to him or ask him to go to eat. The twin that was killed was the one that was married and his brother was immediately flown out of the combat area and the last report was that he had married his brother’s wife.
Again the runway accounted for more than one airplane and pilot as it had at K-2. One of the Air National Guard pilots assigned to the unit made a take-off from the bad runway and he was just able to get the airplane airborne. I saw this particular take-off and the pilot maintained a few feet above the rice paddies and at this altitude he began a turn toward a prominent hill in the area that supported a radar site. The pilot burned out his fuel and came back and landed aborting the combat mission. Talking to him, he said that he hit a high speed stall seven times and every time he was ready to jettison his load, he recovered from the high speed stall. This incident caused him to be grounded and he had difficulty getting back on flying status.
One of my classmates attempted to take-off and aborted too late to prevent his airplane from hitting a Korean house and burning. He had a new issue flying suit which was extremely porous and comfortable and many pilots desired to get them to wear. This particular suit, caught fire and welded itself to the pilots’ skin and seriously burned him. As a result of this accident the flying suits were given an unusable report and they disappeared from the Air Force Inventory only to appear an surplus sales counters.
The truce talks were beginning and the war was to be ever in thirty days and the missions dropped to practically nil. There was a great deal of waiting, reading and listening to the meetings at Kaesen. While were waiting, the work went on at K-16 repairing the base and particularly the runway. I recall being on runway control, seeing literally hundreds of Korean men, women and children working beside the runway leading two trucks. A few of the Koreans would work loading the trucks with shovels while the others would sit around and talk or just sit. Asking the officer who was responsible for the hiring of the Koreans why so many were hired and why they were not working, he said that this was one way that our government could aid the Koreans and still not give them an outright grant, which is psychologically destructive.
Since I had taken the stand that I had on the lad who had accidentally fired the round, I was soon replaced as the armament officer in charge of a section, by a non-rated First Lieutenant and assigned the additional duty of gunnery officer. This duty was simply looking over the film from the gun cameras and to maintain rolls of film for the individual pilots.
It was while I was at Kimpo that I became blooded or had my aircraft hit. While on a strafing mission against a village, I was on a pass and firing. Just when I pulled up the aircraft shuddered and I heard a thump. Sometimes the airplanes would act similarly to this on a pullout from a dive at high gravity or g-forces so I thought little of it. Landing, I left the airplane and went to debriefing and when I returned I was informed that the airplane had been hit in the left leading edge of the wing and the projectile had come out of the tank filler cap for the main wing fuel cell group. The airplane was termed a class 26, from this one round, since it had damaged the main spar. Class 26 refers top the fact that the aircraft was uneconomical to repair. Evidently the 50 caliber round had been fired directly at my airplane from the front and I had not been aware of any ground fire whatsoever. It caused me to wonder about the airplanes that I had fired on later without apparent damage and perhaps these crashed or were class 26s. It so happened that this was one of the older aircraft in the squadron, 578, which had more time on it than any of the others, except mine, 659 and it was like loosing an old friend. She retired nobly and without apparent damage except for the hole in the leading edge and near the fuel cap. Her parts were used to keep other airplanes in the air and so still in a sense she flew on.
During these days when we were not flying and the missions were few and far between, we used to see the F-51s climbing up in squadron formation to gain altitude and then take up a course for the front lines. At that time there was a dearth of F-51 pilots and the idea came to me that this was the opportunity that could be grasped to check out in the 51s. I decided to put in for the 51 squadron citing the lack of missions in the F-80 and the apparent need for pilots to fly the F-51. However, the application was not submitted but delayed for a more appropriate time.
On the base itself within the confines of the base, there were Korean families living. I would make a habit of observing the families as they went about their daily living. One evening, I watched the Koreans thresh grain by using a hand flail. Here in the 20th century, I was watching a scene literally centuries old. Another technique that was used that astounded me was the plowing of the rice paddles by oxen drawing wooden plows underwater. The paddies were small and the plow usually drawn by one oxen or bullock.
While returning to the barracks one day on the motor scooter that I bought in Japan and had airlifted to Korea along with the engine parts, I saw a small old man dressed in western dress and surrounded by other Koreans and soldiers. There were two Air Force officers with him and he disembarked from a 1936 green Chevrolet which survived two wars. He was not at all impressive and he was inspecting the air base. He was opposed to the truce talks because he wanted to unify Korea and there were daily demonstrations north of the field, which so it was said, were made up of the people who were opposed to the cessation of hostilities. Literally thousands of people in white, carrying banners could be seen from the perimeters of the base. Locking at Sygman Rhee, I wondered what we were supporting in Korea and why we were fighting. It was certainly not the people because our being in Korea did not benefit the main mass of the people and it looked as if we were only adding to their misery in many instances. In the final essence, I thought we will end being hated by the North and the South Koreans and it seemed ridiculous for our forces to be here. I could not see in my position that I was helping the Korean people.
Later, my unit moved from Kimpo, K-14, to Suwon. The move was only about 50 air miles from the original base in Korea and the move was made because of the deterioration of the runway. One of the biggest problems in fighting the Korean war was that of the runway; the runways in North Korea which we had to keep out of commission and the bad runways south of the front lines, which took their toll of aircraft and men. The finest runways could have been built, it seems, for the toll of aircraft lost on the hastily constructed and maintained runways the airplanes were flown from during the first year of the war. But then it was impossible to tell when the war might be over and it is difficult to spend today and perhaps gain no profit tomorrow on the money invested. It was for this reason that the fine runways at Kimpo, K-55, Taegu and other bases never came into being until late in the war.
Upon my return to K-13 at Suwon, I found that the unit was firmly entrenched on the base and it seemed that with this move, there was an air of finality. Stability had come to the Korean war. Both sides had dug themselves in along a narrow belt across Korea and neither side dared cross for fear of upsetting the political war. After all no one wanted to be killed on the last day of the war and each day could be the last. And so the tables were set for the static phase of the Korean war. It was no longer a war of movement but a war of attrition and each side set out to make it as costly to the other side as possible without undue losses to themselves.
The runways at K-13 were in good repair, much better than any in Korea at that time and the pilots were appreciative of this. A wooden tower overlooked the middle of the runway on the east side of the northwest, southeast runway, Around it were huddled the tent and Quonsets of the 8th FB Wing.
The heat of the summer penetrated into the skin of the pilots and the maintenance men making the job of flying and keeping the airplanes flying a difficult task for all concerned. The pilots would welcome the opportunity to fly to escape the heat, since the refrigeration unit in the F-80C was one of the more efficient. At times of high humidity, ice crystals would form and be blown into the cockpit. These would be blown past the pilots face and were a welcome relief from the heat on the ground. But as the airplane came into land and the canopy slid back, the pilot would pay for the brief respite that he enjoyed, as the heat would settle in the cockpit like a bath of extremely hot water, similar to the immersion in the public baths of the Japanese bath houses.
Again after my return and before I could fly combat, I had to be checked out in the F-80 although I had nearly sixty missions logged in the airplane. It was the same old Army game of hurry up and wait. The training unit was given airplanes from the squadrons on the basis of any available that were not required for combat flying. So the training unit was lowest on the totem pole as far as priorities were concerned. It took many days before I had completed the number of flights required for becoming recurrent in the aircraft. It was merely the old story of filling squares and there was no allowance for the skill of the individual pilot.
When I had first been assigned to the 8th, there was a premium placed on pilots. Now there were plenty of pilots and a dearth of missions. Consequently a lot of the crew members were spending much of their time waiting. And since there did not seem to be much to be done, inactivity and boredom took their toll of imitative and drive. The Air National Guard was represented heavily in the quota of pilots assigned and this caused some sensitive feelings among the guard pilots. The citizen soldiers were being called upon to fight the war that the regulars got them into. The majority of the guard had been recalled to active duty and within a very short period of time found themselves in Korea flying combat.
The most flagrant violation of the reservists rights was represented by the Marine Corps. Many of the pilots fighting in Korea had been in the Marine Corps reserve since the end of WW II and they had no active duty training of any kind whatsoever. Within a matter of a few short weeks and sometimes days, they were recalled and sent immediately to Korea. Some of the pilots had not been in an airplane since the cessation of hostilities in 1945 and here they were flying combat again. Since there were not very many regular officers represented in combat at this time and some because of their duties never did fly combat, this was a pregnant situation for discontent among the flying personnel.
The operations unit for the 80th FB squadron was situated near the south end of the runway. It was a small winterized tent, which housed the operations clerk and the operations unit. Half way up the side of the “building,” the wood ceased and the canvas of the tent began. It was hot and humid in the tent and in the early and later afternoons, it was almost unbearable. When it rained and the weather turned humid, it was like a badly ventilated cellar and the flies and bugs congregated in the moldy recess of the canvas. From this office pilots were assigned to fly missions and aircraft with which to accomplish these missions.
My particular aircraft, 659, Kismet had met a warrior’s death. One of the pilots was flying old 659 on a strafing mission over the front lines when he was hit in the engine section. The airplane started to burn as he approached the front lines but she held together until over friendly territory. The pilot bailed out and landed in the harbor of Inchon and was pulled out almost immediately. The rescue helicopter followed him down in his parachute and as soon as he separated from his chute, he climbed into the sling of the helicopter and was pulled to safety. A feeling of sadness permeated me when I heard this and I probably felt the way an old cavalry officer felt when his dedicated steed had finally gone to his reward. When I returned, there were many other pilots who did not have airplanes so I was never assigned another F-80 but the first airplane, like the first car, is always the one remembers best when the time for recollections are here.
The missions had slowed down to about ten per month for each pilot and this schedule was rigidly held too. If a person flew his ten missions in the first week, he could plan on sitting on the ground for the remainder of the month. This placed a premium on spare time. Much of my time was spent at the end of the runway watching the airplanes take-off and land. Particularly, when a mission was returning, then it was the time that I could be found at the end of the runway looking, with mobile control, at the various landings that the pilots would make.
One day, as I was walking down to the flight line, I looked up and saw debris coming down and amidst the debris was a parachute. The parts seemed like tinsel as they fell down toward the ground. They seemed to be directly overhead and as a group of us gathered we wondered what became of the engine because we did not think that it would be blown completely apart. But it was apparently no problem since the aircraft was entirely destroyed. The parachute drifted to the east of the field and the vehicles had already gone out the gate in search of the pilot. Later that evening in club, the pilot with a red ring around his neck from the Mae West or life preserver, became increasingly intoxicated and belligerent. He had been flying northward for an attack on the North Korean forces when had a fire indication. He immediately bailed out of his F-84 and it exploded seconds later. He was lucky to be alive. This was one of the small incidents of the war that do not add anything to it but are a part of it never the less.
The squadron orderly room was situated in the center of the airfield complex and our tents for the flyers were close to the orderly room. Each tent housed from six to eight men and normally a tent was assigned to a flight. Our flight leader at this time was one of the men that had his wife in the Far East when the war broke out. He was a great guy and each night he would call his wife back in Japan through the “hot line” and would talk for upwards of an hour. My position was as the assistant flight leader in this tent.
Many new pilots that had been assigned to the unit from operational F-86 squadrons. It was quite a come down to be back flying the lowly F-80 after flying a more high performance aircraft. Later these same men were to be transferred across the field to the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing when they converted from P-80s to F-86s, since they had the necessary experience with the airplanes.
The facilities for cleanliness were primitive by any standards. The toilets were the common types normally called “privies.” Privacy was something that they lacked. In order to take a shower, it was necessary to wait until six o’clock when the hot water for showers was available and then get in line. The water for the showers and for the base, was obtained from a small stream that flowed behind the orderly room and it had to be crossed in order to reach the shower area. It was little more than a drainage ditch and the water smelled like it. The only advantage to taking a shower under the circumstances was to exchange one stench for another and to remove the brown clay and sweat.
The missions were largely in support of the front line troops and a pilot may have been only gone for a little over an hour and then he would return having completed his assigned mission for the day. They did not seem to have a purpose or necessity and they did not give the pilots a sense of accomplishment. It was not like the missions from Japan.
During one especially rough mission from Japan as far as weather was concerned, our flight after having been in the clouds for almost two hundred miles, let down and under the direction of a T-6, broke out over an estimated battalion of enemy soldiers who were taking advantage of the cloud cover in order to move from area to another area of the front lines. They were completely surprised and they dispersed leaving their equipment on the road. The equipment included a 75 mm field gun and numerous pack horses who were pulling the field gun and a camel was identified. It was one of those days when the pilot could actually see what they were attacking. Since we were the only ones to strike a target that day because of the weather, there was talk of a citation but nothing ever came of it. There did not seem to be this type of a mission now after the truce talks had started and the front had stabilized by the July of 1951.
Many of the missions were in the so called popular places of attack: the punch bowl, heartbreak ridge and others that were blooded ground by both sides. The problem at one time was, to follow the coordinates on the map, and the attack might be anywhere in a diameter of 30 miles. Now the front had stabilized and the flights were sent more often to the same target so the pilots became used to it and they were able to identify points readily, sometimes, without the maps.
The B-29s had been making daily bombing sorties against the North Korean targets and the majority of them were target complexes along the Yalu river. Normally they would be escorted by the new wing in the Far East, the 44th Fighter Interceptor Wing. Before this, the task was given to the F-80s on occasion and then the more modern F-84 but few of the aircraft flown by the enemy were ever seen. On a particularly black day for our Air Force, a large formation of 12 airplanes, in beautiful weather flew ever the North Korean area with an escort of F-86s. They were met as they pulled off the target by enemy mig-15 fighters, who ignoring the fighter escort which was ineffective, flew in perfect four plane formation on fighter passes and fired their 20 and 37 mm cannon on the B-29 formation. There was little our B-29 gunners could do against these tactics since the aircraft would fire out of range. It was the meeting of WW II aircraft and the modern jet at that time. The results were that eight B-29s were shot down and the remainder so shot up that they landed at forward air bases, in Korea, rather than make the long over-water trek to their base in Okinawa. It was our duty to fly the patrol from the friendly islands of Chodo to the mouth of the Yalu river in order to see if any of the crews of the B-29s were still in the water after bailing out of the crippled B-29s.
We flew on a scramble mission and flew line abreast all along the coast to the mouth of the Yalu and returned but not one life raft did we see. Ee flew a few feet above the waves and eagerly scanned the waves hoping that we could see something. Our search time was drastically cut down by the low altitudes that we were flying and we finally had to leave the area, much to our chagrin. The only other aircraft we saw was a “Dumbo,” a rescue aircraft that was looking for some of the crews also. The Dumbo withdrew when we did because of the fear that the Migs might return and shoot it down. Just after we left and came home, our last swing was to the mouth of the Yalu, where I saw a light reflected from one of the buildings. It was either a reflected mirror or the flash of gun powder. We climbed toward home feeling sadder and realizing that the tactics would have to change, that either the bomber would have to have better and more escorted or they would have to cease flying day missions and begin night missions. It so happened that this was the last day mission of the war for the B-29s.
Since the Strategic Air Command was never committed to the Korean war, except for a few units, none of the more modern aircraft of that time, the B-36 and B-47s were not used. The only jets, besides the fighters, were a few reconnaissance B-45s. To commit them would have been useless since there never would have been and never were any targets that were worthy of such a potent force. The Strategic Air Command was kept in reserve to counter the greater threat, that of the Soviet Union and was the major pawn in the international chess game of power politics.
The targets in North Korea were kept well damaged by our Air Force although there were a few areas that the fighter airplanes did not attack. One of these was the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang. Although there were two excellent airfields that the Communists reportedly used, Pyongyang east and Pyongyang west, our units were never ordered to attack these airfields since they were so heavily defended. Flack to the novice held a particular fascination and a puff of black smoke anywhere in the sky made their adrenaline glands work at express train speed. However the pilots that had experience in WW II particularly in the European Theater of Operations, tended to view the flack situation in Korea with contempt. It was all a matter of conditioning, the old pilots who had seen the heavy concentrations of flack that the Germans were capable of putting the sky and here in Korea, the enemy did not have the ability nor evidently the desire to commit a great deal of anti-aircraft guns to one area. They preferred to place a tremendous amount of small arms fire and 20 and 40 mm weapons to bear on the low flying aircraft of the United Nations.
Since I was nearing the end of my missions, the emphasis was placed an training new men. One of these flights a new pilot was being groomed for assistant flight leader flight leader. The pilot had prior F-86 time. The weather was low and the flight had to make a penetration into the overcast. This was the first time that he had led a formation in the clouds. It was not dark so-there was not much trouble even though lead was a little rough. There was a Lieutenant Colonel who was flying wing on the lead aircraft and a young Lieutenant was on my wing. The flight broke out over North Korea and we began a search for targets of opportunity. Our fuel ran low and finally our flight located some truck revetments, without trucks. Since our fuel was critical and a penetration was necessary back at the base, the signal was given to join up and the Colonel thought perhaps this did not mean him specifically. He dilly dallied around and just before the flight leader was going up into the overcast with three ships, he moved into position. Since there was weather at the base, it was necessary to perform an instrument approach and a ground controlled approach was used. The pattern must have been designed for reciprocating aircraft for the run was aborted when fuel became critical and a let down was made using the radio compass. Because of the aborted GCA we broke out way south of the field. As seen as we broke out, we spied Pyongtaek below and I took my wing man in and landed because our fuel was so low. We had less than 50 gallons and one go around would consume 20 gallons. Pyongtaek had 5,000 feet of psp and we both got in an the first pass. After being refueled, we discovered that there were no starting units at the field. I made a battery start in my aircraft and then pulled my aircraft in front of the other aircraft and using the jet wash to get the turbine rotating on the second aircraft, started the second aircraft.
The return to K-13 was routine and nothing was said to the Colonel about the slow join up but a word was dropped to me for landing at Pyongtaek because of low fuel. But I thought it was my duty to take care of my wingman who had less fuel than I.
One of the pilots had a visual defect that made him an excellent pilot to have on a mission. He was evidently far sighted for he could pick out targets that none of the other pilots could see. On a mission that I was leading, he identified a camouflaged truck and tank. They were in and on the side of native houses. I never did see them but I did see the houses and our rounds would ricochet from the thatched houses so there must have been something inside them to warrant this effect.
Railroads were prime targets and railroad engines the most desirable. The tunnels of North Korea hid engines that would come out at night and haul supplies to the front lines. The ferreting out of the locomotives became a game as exciting as the shooting down of enemy airplanes. In fact, there were locomotive aces, primarily the B-26 night units. They would fly the night missions and detect the trains carrying supplies and with no running lights and the engines idled back, they would glide down and attempt to hit the trains. Many kills were claimed by these locomotive busters. I remember seeing their B-26s with all types of armament firing forward, in some cases, as many as 14 machine guns firing forward. The units were stationed at K-9, at Kunsan, and they would sortie out of K-13 on their night missions. They could be heard throughout the night, taking off and landing on their nocturnal missions. Talking to one of their pilots, who was also their operations officer at K-13, I was able to go along on one of their missions into North Korea.
The take-off was at 2200 hours, and I gathered with the pilot, a navigator-bombardier and a gunner to be briefed on what to do and expect. The evening was early in August and there was a bombers moon. The aircraft were situated at the north end of the runway beside the taxiway on the psp. It was a little eerie going out to the airplane when it was dark and knowing that the entire mission was to be flown during the night. Since I was a day fighter pilot, the idea of flying at night was not to my liking. The preflight had to be undertaken with the aid of a flash light. The pilot motioned me aboard and I sat on his right where normally the dual controls would be for the copilot. But in this type of aircraft there were no dual controls.
The pilot was in sole command of the two engine ship. The crew this evening was a radar operator, navigator-bombardier and a gunner. The B-26 taxied out to the end of the runway and prepared to take the runway.
It was cold in the cockpit and the pilot had on a heavy jacket to combat the cold. The climb to altitude was under the control of the radar site at Kimpo. Crossing ever the front lines, the flash of the heavy guns could be seen on both sides. I thought that even on these quiet nights hundreds of thousands of dollars was being spent on heavy artillery and that men on both sides were dying. And the communiqués would read that there was a little patrol activity along the front. Again it makes me wonder why men fight for ideologies, when in some cases they might be compatible.
Over the front the personnel on board began a routine search of the area just north of the lines. Nearing the end of their mission, they reported that they saw what they considered as a truck convoy and decided that they would bomb this area. After carefully checking the height above the terrain to ensure adequate clearance, the run was begun an the target. The drop was made from west to east and when the first bomb dropped, all the lights went out as if tripped by a single switch in the vicinity of the target. Whether or not the target was hit, it stalled the rapid movement of the truck activity in the immediate vicinity. Returning to the base, the B-26 made a lonely approach at four o’clock in the morning under the control of the GCA station and finally by the GCA unit at K-13. The landing was uneventful and I went to my tent and the crews went to debrief.
Shortly thereafter under the suggestion of myself, another pilot was carried aloft by a B-26. His trip was not uneventful. When they were ready to land, one of the fogs that were peculiar to the area near the sea coast came in and blanketed K-13, while they were flying over the front lines. The fog closed in as quickly and quietly as a blanket drawn over a sleeping child. Returning to K-13, the B-26 attempted a GCA but because of the light on the ground fog, it was impossible to complete the landing. Climbing for altitude, the crew called the Korean Approach Controller and asked for a suitable alternate. All of the bases within the range of the aircraft were either below minimums or they were forecast to lower. Because of this, they waited as long as they could hoping it would clear and then again began the GCA. After innumerable approaches without success, it was decided to make one more attempt and if it was unsuccessful, to pull up and bail out. On this approach, the runway was sighted but the pilot was unable to land. A low visibility approach was attempted, where the pilot will turn 90 degrees from the runway heading and then another 270 degrees in the opposite direction. Only a few feet above the ground, the pilot successfully completed the 180 degree turn to parallel the runway, but he was so low he struck a gun emplacement that protruded above the ground about 15 feet. The aircraft killed the gunner in the emplacement and came to rest a few feet further and began to burn immediately. All of the crew escaped, including the eager jet pilot but all were hospitalized with serious injuries and burns. Needless to say, upon investigation, this practice of flying with other organizations on combat missions ceased.
Our quarters were moved from the partially winterized tents to tents that had some of the more exotic refinements such as boarding along the side of the tent walls. Heating was accomplished by a stove in the middle of the tent and the choicest of the spots were those near the stove. The closing days of fall were spent wrapped in a sleeping bag of the mummy type. A great deal of time was spent in the supine position since there was little else to do. The food was not of the best and it was usually preceded by ration needle soup and by the worst WW II standards it was normal. Consequently a highly esteemed prize were the C rations that could be scrounged since they were palatable. Many of the times, that I went to Yong Dong Po, I would stop the jeep at the Army depot and load up with C rations. These would be rushed back to the base and shared with the men in the flight. Many nights would be spent around the oil stove heating the cans of food. Especially good was the spaghetti and meat balls. One of the Sergeants in the squadron never did eat in the mess hall and he created some of the choicest menus available in any of the surrounding areas. Especially good was his pheasant which he would cook in wine.
One of these evening, when we were preparing our food, the noise of the tent in the next area caused us to investigate. The air was filled with familiar ribald Air Force classics and the group was having a wing-ding of a time, the kind when the spirits flow easily and each is sure he should been a singer. Going over to see the cause for revelry, we found that almost all of this particular group were flying F-51s and they had been weathered in at K-13. They were airline pilots that were also National Guard members and they were called up. They all gave up good jobs and they evidently treated this stay in the service as a necessary evil and to enjoy as much as possible. These are the type of men who will fight and win any war that we fight. They are not unduly afraid of their careers or building an empire but just doing a job and getting it over with as quickly as possible. They are largely unhindered by red tape and bureaucracy and they have a healthy disrespect for the red tape which permeates all the armed services. The military mind is far too regimented to do any creative thinking and rarely in the history of our country have the military men contributed anything but destructive ability to their country. However, this has been a needed ability throughout the history of the world.
There were few white women in Korea, largely nurses who were stationed at Yong Dong Po, the Army general hospital in the area. This was some thirty miles from K-13. There was a Red Cross detachment that set up shop in a building close to the main runway at K-13. There they would dispense traditional coffee and doughnuts and a number of Red Cross girls would smilingly dispense the coffee to the line of Army and Air Force troops that were stationed at the base. It was reminiscent of the “big war” and the girls were either older or in some cases unattractive. One of the Red Cross girls was small and an attractive blonde in a rather thin way. She began to sit at the bar with one of the pilots and for Korea, they made a cozy twosome, smoking from the same cigarette.
On a combat mission, the pilot of her choice failed to return and she was alone for awhile. Then a Captain from group, who was just checking out in the combat airplane began to pay attention to her and it was not long until he was occupying the same spot at the bar as his predecessor did. As soon as the bar opened, at around four o’clock, they would occupy the corner next to the door where everyone could covertly watch and reminisce. On a training mission west of K-13 over the water, there was a rock that the pilots used to dive bomb as part of their curriculum for combat training. It was deceptive in that there were no references to be used for the pull out and the distance above the water was difficult for even experienced pilots to judge. On a dive bombing mission, the blonde’s boy friend did not pull out in time and again the seat by the Red Cross girl was empty and the pilots began to wonder who would be taking the vacant seat. But now the word was out and no one wanted to occupy it. Although nothing is stated about superstition among intelligent, capable, combat pilots there is still a certain fear of the unknown that one does not transgress. And so no officers attended the Red Cross girl, where in any other situation they might have and soon she was seen no more at Suwon, Korea.
The missions were coming to a close and by my total came out to 105 considering the B-26 and L-5 missions. This was five more than the normal tour of 100 missions that had been set by higher headquarters and It was the criteria for return to the zone of interior, the United States. The old heads referred to stateside as USA Jima or the island of the United States and it was always spoken of fondly by the combat crews. One always wonder if he will return when he leaves the shores of the USA.
The 100th jet mission in the F-80 was not much of a climax. Previous to this, there had been a license for a pilot to buzz, when he finished his flying missions. He could call the tower and literally beat up the field. But one intrepid warrior had attempted to impress his fellow pilots by exceeding his ability to fly the airplane and he crashed killing himself. This put an end to the unrestricted license to buzz and now the pilots were limited to a low level pass, if traffic permitted, over the runway, not to come closer than 500 feet above the runway.
On my 100th mission, a routine mission above the lines, I broke off from the formation and requested a pass over the airfield. It was delayed until my fuel became a problem and then granted after repeated calls. The run was made from south to north on the active runway at the maximum speed possible with the old F-80, which was .82 mach. Then a pull up and entry into the traffic pattern for the final landing. I had logged 240 combat hours in a little over six months. Literally hundreds of tons had been dispensed, bombs, napalm, rockets and 50 caliber bullets fell on various parts of the North Korean countryside. What purpose I individually accomplished toward the stated objective is impossible to assess and could only be matched against the production of the average combat pilot assigned to the Far East. Certainly, in my mind, my contribution was not below the average of the individuals assigned to combat and in some cases, much more.
A party was always held at the club at the completion of the missions and it was put an by the pilots who had completed their mission, i.e., they footed the bill for the group that were at the club that evening. There were many songs of a ribald nature and toasts were drunk. As I looked around, I thought of some of the pilots that would not be going back.
One of my friends that would not be going back was an ex-sailor. We had known each other at Lackland AFB and had gone through Williams together, where we became good friends. He had been with me when we climbed Superstition Mountain and other similar experiences. He was a likable fellow and was an the verge of going far in his particular squadron which was the 35th FB squadron. While flying an a target of opportunity mission and strafing an ox cart, he hit a high tension tower and the impact literally tore off the leading edge of his right wing. He had three trusses lodged in the main spar of his wing and how he ever managed to maintain central of his aircraft was a mystery to all concerned. Somehow he righted the airplane and with full power was able to achieve two hundred miles per hour. He flew back to K-14 and landed the airplane and later he said it stalled at 180 mph. I saw him soon after and we talked over his experience.
Contributing to his mental state was the fact that his wife had been writing him upsetting letters. She mentioned in her letters about a boarder that occupied the apartment next to hers. Little items meaning nothing by themselves, would add up when taken and connected in a number of letters. This caused him, in his state to question what was going on back home with his wife and boarder. It was unfortunate that this was the case, since the relationship might have been very casual but never the less he was very upset when he confided in me. A few days later, he was killed going in on a target, which was another ox cart.
He suffered from what pilots know as target fixation. He never attempted or apparently never attempted to pull cut and crashed into his intended victim. Behind this accident there were a number of contributing factors which should have been cause for grounding him they had been known. First and foremost, the fact that he thought his wife was being unfaithful to him, either in thought or in deed and secondly the fact that he had such a close call a few days previously caused him to suffer mental unrest. Most people did not realize what he was going through mentally and wondered why this happened to him.
Missions began to be just another mission without a great deal of change and as the end drew near, a concern grew in me as to what I should plan on doing after finishing my missions. At one time, I had wanted to finish my missions in as great as a hurry as possible and then return to the states so that I could get on with schooling or further, my doubtful Air Force career. As a result, I had investigated moving up to group or wing, hoping for a promotion or investigating further job possibilities. At this time, a job request came down for someone with combat training to work at headquarters Far East Air Force, in the combat crew branch of personnel. This sounded like a relatively good job so I applied for it. The line of thinking that I pursued was that if action or promotion were anywhere they would be there in the Far East. Consequently when I was interviewed at Fifth Air Force headquarters at Taegu, they encouraged me to apply for the job and forwarded my name. Going to Far East Headquarters in Tokyo, I was interviewed and the job was mine after the completion of my missions. The job was as assistant officer in charge in the combat crew branch of personnel of headquarters. Although the job was not impressive, the place where I was going to work was. It had the status of a command and therefore anyone who worked for FEAF exhibited an aura of greatness whether or not they deserved it.
Returning to Suwon, Korea, I prepared to go to my new assignment. A Captain that had a ranch in the south wanted me to remain and work with the 8th after my missions were over but I preferred the more sophisticated atmosphere of Tokyo. On the morning that I was leaving for my new assignment, I had a hop with the Colonel of the base in the wing’s C-47. All my earthly possessions were in a rocket storage case, painted black with my name in yellow. My friend from flying class was just leaving for a mission, one of his last and I crawled up on the wing and said good-bye to him, the last time that I was ever to see him, for he applied for Germany as soon as his tour ended and spent thirty days in the states and then went overseas immediately. While overseas, he was making a pass on two British Meteors and hit the second one. He bailed out but his parachute streamed. And so a very good friend was lost that had been worried about people and oxen during his combat tour and he was killed by an accident over which he had little control.
Climbing into the C-47, a mission was taking off. The morning was clear and cool, without a trace of wind and the heavy dew was still on the grass. As a fitting climax to my tour, one of the F-80s dropped his 1,000 pound bomb half way an his take-off run and the bomb tumbled, rolled, and skidded to the end of the runway opposite the C-47. The wing commander stood beside the C-47 and watched the accident. The other aircraft became airborne over the bomb and continued on their mission. After the roar of the F-80s died down, the C-47 lumbered into the air and as soon as it was level, in the calm air over Korea, I crawled into the sleeping bag and awoke as the airplane began its letdown, into Haneda airport, Tokyo, Japan. it was the beginning of a new assignment.”
– Harold E. Fischer