Tag Archives: 18th Fighter-Bomber Group

Salute to Lt George Eichelberger, USAF

Korean Air War 65 Years Ago

Lest We Forget

In January 1952 the Korean War was approaching the second anniversary of the invasion of South Korea by the North on June 25, 1950.  Within days the first “provisional” elements of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing arrived from their base at Clark Air Base near Manila, and were thrown into combat to help save South Korea from being completely overrun by the superior North Korean forces.

Combat statistics for the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing for January 1952. Excerpted from Truckbusters From Dogpatch: The Combat Diary of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing in the Korean War, 1950-1953.

In the popular mind, the air war in Korea was mostly dashing F-86 fighter pilots engaging in “dog fights” somewhere the near the Yalu River which serves as the border between North Korea and its neighbors, Russia (then USSR) and China.  The reality was far more serious, and dangerous.

Thanks for keeping ‘em in the air. Lt. Col. Julian Crow, Commanding Officer of the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron poses with senior NCOs of the 67th, including (L to R): Technical Sergeant Roy Pylant, 1st Sergeant Gleen, Master Sergeant Rose (line chief), and Sergeant Holt. (Pylant)

The primary mission of the 67th Squadron, one of four flying squadrons assigned to the 18th F-B Group, continued to be the “tactical interdiction of the enemy’s transportation system.” Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Julian Crow was directing most of his flights against railheads, communication lines and highways—all badly needed by the communists to move supplies and equipment to front-line positions.

Numbers are dry, lifeless symbols that lack the excitement of strafing runs or bullets snapping past cockpits.  However, the “numbers” reported by the 18th FBW give us a better understanding of how the Wing was supporting UN ground forces, the logistics that were required, and the priceless human lives it was paying to defend Freedom.

One of the seven pilots lost that month was 1st Lt. George Baylor Eichelberger, Jr., a 67th F-B Squadron pilot reported as KIA on 15 January 1952.

Lt. Eichelberger, a native of Norfolk, VA and a USMA graduate Class of 1950, was listed as MIA due to enemy ground fire while attempting to knock out transportation assets–his aircraft received a direct hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed.

Lt. Eichelberger and Corporal Clarence Frownfelter whose assignment was in the 67th Orderly Room, “became very good friends. He was a Christian and was very open about it. He met with several of us for Bible Study and Prayer in the evenings. Included in these meetings were members of the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron and the Second Squadron SAAF.

I remember how our Squadron Commander [Lt. Col. Julian Crow] was affected the day that we lost Lt. Eichelberger. As it was with other pilots we lost, it was a very somber experience.”

In January, 2017 Frownfelter added to the story with this recollection.

1st Lt. George Eichelberger returns from one of his final missions before being killed in action on 15 January 1952. (Frownfelter)

“Julian Crow and I have maintained a close relationship through the years and in fact, I received a call from him in late January 2016.  When I answered the phone, he started the conversation by saying, “Hello Clarence….this is the old crow” to which I replied, “Hello OLD Crow….where have you been lately?”

Corporal Clarence Frownfelter, 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Korea, 1952.

“He told me that he had just returned from a 3,000 mile trip, parked his car in the garage and came in to call me.”  He further told me that  “he had reservations for a 7 week cruise to Europe in April”.   I told him for a man 99 years young, this was outstanding.  Two weeks later, they found him deceased in his bedroom.   Needless to say, the 18th FWA misses the Colonel.”

“Julian and I were talking about Eichelberger while in our reunion two years ago.  He broke down in tears and related a story to me that I had never before heard.  First thing he said to me was “Eichelberger was the best wing man I ever had” and added,  “Did you know that when we arrived back at K-46 after Eichelberger ‘went in’, I fired up the L-19 parked on our flight line [Cessna L-19/O-1 Bird Dog, a liaison and observation aircraft], and flew back up to the crash site which was still burning  to see if there was any possibility that Eichelberger had survived  and with the intention of picking him up.”  This was my Commander!”

“Not only was Col. Crow impressed with Eichelberger’s flying as his wing man,” Frownfelter continued, “but he made a lasting impression on Col. Crow as being a true Christian.”  While describing Lt. Eichelberger to Frownfelter, Col. Crow placed his hand over his heart and recalled, “Eichelberger always carried his Testament in the pocket of his flight suit over his heart and was truly ready for what happened.”

Clarence Frownfelter currently serves as an officer in the 18th Wing Association.

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2007-2015). Salute to Lt George Eichelberger, USAF, Truckbusters from Dogpatch: the combat history of the 18th fighter-bomber wing in the Korean War, 1950-1953. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.truckbustersfromdogpatch.com/log-entries/salute-to-lt-george-eichelberger-usaf/

© Copyright 2017 BelleAire Press, LLC

Pyongyang received considerable attention during the month

The “Red Capital”—Pyongyang—received “considerable attention during the month” of August 1951.

Three “maximum efforts” missions were sent this month to attack Pyongyang, the 18th FBW report noted. “Maximum effort” missions were a group mission, each squadron putting up sixteen aircraft for each mission. These missions were over and above the squadron’s primary mission of “vigorous close support to the ground forces,” during which it flew an average of 12 sorties per day.

Major Murrit Davis, Commander of the 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron in’ “Sexy Sally” and another F-51 of the 18th ing (probably piloted by Captain Alphonzo T. Wagner), make a successful low-level napalm run over P’yongyang, North Korea on the morning of 14 August 1951. In this famous photograph from the Korean War, two napalm fire bombs head towards their targets just a split second after being released from shackles beneath Sexy Sally’s wing. The bomb nearest the camera plummets earthward head first, while the other retains its horizontal position.
Major Murrit Davis, Commander of the 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron in’ “Sexy Sally” and another F-51 of the 18th Wing (probably piloted by Captain Alphonzo T. Wagner), make a successful low-level napalm run over P’yongyang, North Korea on the morning of 14 August 1951. In this famous photograph from the Korean War, two napalm fire bombs head towards their targets just a split second after being released from shackles beneath Sexy Sally’s wing. The bomb nearest the camera plummets earthward head first, while the other retains its horizontal position. During this “Group Gaggle” over Pyongyang, Major Davis suffered heavy damage to the right wing tip of his Mustang when the plane struck a cable over the target area. Captain Wagner’s aircraft had a large portion of the right horizontal stabilizer shot away. However, both aircraft made it back to K-10 safely. The Truckbuster ran a photograph of Wagner standing behind a “practically non-existent elevator…ribs and little else.” Wagner said he thought the fighter “acted a little funny” when he came in for a landing. “It’s a good thing I didn’t realize how badly pranged that elevator was or I’d probably have bailed out.”

Two of the maximum effort attacks on Pyongyang were made on 14 August 1951. The heavy losses in pilots prompted a highly classified and uncharacteristically stiff letter from the 18th Wing Commander, Colonel T.C. Rogers to the Fifth Air Force Commanding General.
“Attacks on targets as heavily defended as Pyongyang by F-51’s are not considered to be profitable when made under conditions which lessen the maximum striking potential of the airplane.”

“Very intense, accurate flak was encountered on the afternoon mission of 14 August, both into and out of the target area,” Rogers continued. “This condition did not exist in the morning attack, where the element of surprise was present. Axes of attack were all as directed by 5th AF except for the afternoon attack on target #1 which was changed to avoid radio antennae.”

Losses in the two strikes on 14 August for the Wing included two pilots KIA, three pilots MIA, six aircraft lost before returning to base, and four aircraft so heavily battle damaged that they were transferred to the 18th Maintenance Squadron.

Rogers recommended that “maximum effort attacks against heavily defended areas be made only when the striking force is able to employ its maximum payload. Staging from any forward base might obviate the use of external fuel tanks…permitting each airplane to carry…two 500# bombs.”

Damage assessments and observations by pilots should be “given more weight in target selection,” Rogers suggested. And, squadron or flight leaders should be “given discretion in the choice of axes of attack against specific targets.” Rogers concluded by urging that

“attacks against heavily defended areas be so planned and spaced as to afford the striking force the advantage of surprise.”
Major Murrit Davis, Commander of the 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron in’ “Sexy Sally” and another F-51 of the 18th ing (probably piloted by Captain Alphonzo T. Wagner), make a successful low-level napalm run over P’yongyang, North Korea on the morning of 14 August 1951. In this famous photograph from the Korean War, two napalm fire bombs head towards their targets just a split second after being released from shackles beneath Sexy Sally’s wing. The bomb nearest the camera plummets earthward head first, while the other retains its horizontal position.
In this previously unpublished photograph, frame number 22, was taken by Horn during the morning raid shows the devastation left by the low level napalm and rocket attacks after the morning raids on 14 August 1951, led by Col. Ralph Saltsman, Commander of the 18th FB Group.
Major Murrit Davis, Commander, 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
Major Murrit Davis, Commander, 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, August 1951.
Major Murrit Davis, Commander, 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, August 1951.

“On 14 August the squadron joined in a group ‘gaggle’ over Pyongyang,” the 39th Squadron reported. On the morning raid Major Murrit H. Davis, the Squadron Commander, suffered heavy damage to the right wing tip of his Mustang when the tip struck a cable over the target area and Captain Wagner’s aircraft had a large portion of the right horizontal stabilizer shot away. However, both aircraft made it back to K-10 safely.

That afternoon, Robert E. Sandlin in his unpublished manuscript “The Cobra in the Clouds Strikes Again,” the whole squadron was “again scheduled for a second mission on Pyongyang to again strike military targets in the area. Major Davis led his flight in low over the target area and just after releasing their napalm were struck by a tremendous amount of ground fire. The results were tragic for the 39th. Major M. H. Davis, Captain John Horn, Operations Officer, and his wingman were all shot down and killed. Major Jack A. Davis assumed Command of the 39th Fighter Squadron.”

The monthly report filed by the 39th FIS noted in the afternoon raid over the same target, Major Davis, Captain John L. Horn and Captain John F. Grossman failed to return. Major Davis received battle damage in the coolant system while over the target and insisted on circling over the immediate target area to determine the whereabouts of the other two missing pilots. He finally left the area and started south, but his engine had over-hearted and he subsequently crashed in enemy territory without bailing out. Captain Horn, the Operations Officer, was flying an F-51 with a K-25C camera and after his flight dropped their napalm he made a 180-degree turn back across the target to take photos of damage inflicted. No one saw him after he dropped his napalm and turned back over the area, but it was assumed he was hit by the intense enemy ground fire and crashed in the immediate target area.BGTCRogers

In early September, Colonel T.C. Rogers, 18th FBW Commander, received a letter from Margaret Davis, writing about her husband, Major Murrit H. Davis, now missing in action. She expressed her appreciation and that of Davis’ mother for the letters Rogers had sent them regarding their husband and son.

“I am, of course, eager to know everything possible about the crash, and your letter contained much more information than the first sparse account received from Washington,” she said. “Although I fully realize that the picture is very black indeed and offers very little encouragement for clinging to the belief that my husband survived the crash, I do have that belief and will hold to it. It is a comfort to know that the men of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing share my concern during this period of great anxiety. Major Davis was very proud to be a part of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, and of the 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. It makes me very proud to hear that in return he was admired and respected by all of his associates,” she concluded.

Rogers replied to Margaret Davis on 16 September by noting that he fully realized “how difficult this war is for wives and parents. Sometimes I think it is worse for them than for the men actually engaged in combat,” Rogers observed. “I have received other letters similar to yours,” he continued, “in which wives cling to every shred of hope. I wish there were some assurance I could give you. As you probably know, unless positive proof of death can be established a man must be reported as missing in action. Dave’s chances of survival are extremely slim,” he pointed out.

“Mrs. Davis, your husband was a very gallant man,” Rogers concluded, “his thoughts were always first for his pilots and men. I was waiting at his operations office when his squadron returned from the mission on the afternoon of 14 August–never have I seen a group of pilots and men more grief stricken. They would have followed Dave anywhere. He has a living memorial in the hearts of his men. We all share with you the hope that he may have survived.”

Excerpted from Truckbusters from Dogpatch, the Combat Diary of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing in the Korean War, 1950-1953.

© Copyright 2016 BelleAire Press, LLC

End of an Era: Conversion from Mustangs to Sabrejets

End of an Era:

Conversion “In the Field” From Mustangs To Sabrejets

The 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing was the last American combat unit to fly the P/F-51 “Mustang” in combat—ending an era during which the Mustang reigned supreme as the world’s best fighter plane. Only in January 1953 was the 18th Wing converted to the F-86 fighter-bomber jet aircraft. The last F-51 combat mission was flown from K-55 on 23 January 1953.

BistF51Taxiing_1000pxs
This faded, grainy, fuzzy photograph is one of the last ever taken of 18th Wing Mustangs taxiing out of the rearming area prior to a Korean War combat mission in January 1953. The sharks tooth noses show they were Mustangs of the 12th FBS. However, records indicate that the 67th squadron flew the last combat missions for the venerable F-51 Mustang in the Korean War on January 23, 1953.

As a tribute to its leadership and adaptability, the 18th Wing is the only known Air Force flying unit to be asked to convert from one type of aircraft to another—while engaged in combat and without “standing down” from required combat mission completions—not once, but twice and while operating from “forward operating bases.”
In July 1950, 18th Wing squadrons were ordered to convert from F-80 “Shooting Star” jet aircraft to the aging F-51 “Mustang” fighter-bomber. In January 1953, 18th Wing Squadrons converted from the F-51 “Mustang” to the F-86 “Sabrejet”—again while in active combat and while meeting all operational commitments.

The 18th Fighter Bomber Group at the end of 1952 “was an F-51 unit composed primarily of recalled Air Force Reserve Officers, none of whom were jet qualified,” the 18th noted.
“January and February of this reporting period presented the Group with the mammoth task of conversion in the field,” the Group reported. In January 1953, immediately following the movement and consolidation of the 18th Wing at K-55 (approximately 40 miles south of Seoul), “a conversion from F-51 aircraft to F-86F aircraft was accomplished,” the 18th FBW monthly report noted.

The retraining process was launched in early January 1953 with the activation of the 18th Combat Crew Training Flight (Provisional) whose function was to instruct, “assigned pilots in the operation of jet fighters.

Pilots from the 2 Squadron SAAF were the “first to undergo transition training [to the F-86]. Each of these pilots received a minimum of one transition flight in the T-33 aircraft and a minimum of two instrument instruction flights with USAF instructors.” After completing training for the SAAF pilots, the training flight moved over to train 12th Squadron pilots in the T-33 jet trainer aircraft, while simultaneously “acting as instructors for the South African pilots who were checking out in the F-86.” They then moved on to the 67th Squadron.

“Converting a flying organization from one type of aircraft to another type aircraft is a difficult proposition under optimum conditions,” the 18th FBW noted in its monthly report. “The task of conversion under the conditions with which this Wing was faced proved to be tremendous. We had just competed a move to an unfinished air base in the middle of the winter. Construction of buildings and hangars in the flight line area had not commenced. The entire area of the base with the exception of the concrete runway, taxi strips and hard stands was one big mud hole. Maintenance of aircraft had to be accomplished in the open and this proved to be a serious handicap because of the cold weather. Exposure to the weather causes many persons to become sick. Effectiveness of aircraft maintenance suffered as a result. Living quarters were over crowded. There were no clubs or other activities available to occupy what spare time the men had. They ate, they slept, and they worked if they were physically able. Despite the terrific hardships encountered, the personnel of this Wing did the job and the conversion was a success.”

The 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron was ordered to “stand down” from flying combat missions and was first to start conversion to F-86s while the 2 Squadron South African Air Force and the 67th Squadron continued flying combat missions from K-46. Shortly thereafter the 2 Squadron SAAF “ferried their F-51s to Japan and returned to K-55 to commence conversion.”

On January 15th the 67th Squadron flew a maximum effort mission, taking off from K-46 and landing at K-55. Four F-51s were turned around upon landing at K-55 and flew a JOC Alert mission the same day. The last F-51 mission was flown from K-55 on 23 January 1953. At this time it was decided to ‘stand down’ the 67th Squadron for logistical reasons due to the short time remaining to effect complete conversion. The 67th Squadron subsequently ferried their F-51s to Japan and started conversion training prior to the end of January.”

Excerpted from Truckbusters from Dogpatch, the Combat Diary of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing in the Korean War, 1950-1953.

Copyright 2017 BelleAire Press

 

Rare Air Operations Historical Photos from Korean War — First Missions

Rare Photos Video Series Launched

BGTCRogersBrigadier General Turner C. Rogers, 18th Wing Commander in 1951-1952, believed the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing was “the best damn fighter wing in the world.”

Truckbusters From Dogpatch author, CAPT Tracy Connors, noted that after years of research, interviews and assessment of the Wing’s truly unsurpassed combat record during the Korean War, I not only “agree” with General Rogers, but I believe “that what this unit accomplished during its Korean War service ranks it alongside other legendary military units of the United States Armed Forces—throughout our history.”

The research for Truckbusters included formerly classified monthly records and reports, plus hundreds of personal recollections and photographs to spotlight and profile the men who actually fought the war. Connors wanted Truckbusters to become for the reader “a gritty, dusty, tent city full of the sounds, smells and character of those who served with the 18th in Korea—pilots, ammorers, mechanics, clerks, medics, and supply sergeants—who still, live and speak and fret and worry about how to keep that venerable, but out-dated F-51 Mustang “Spam Can” flying.”

“It was my hope and objective that when readers had ridden along with the Truckbuster pilots in their Mustang fighter-bombers, when they had stood outside in the Korean summers and winters loading ammunition or changing engines with the ground crews, when they had lived the air war in Korea through the memories and photographs of those who were there,” Connors emphasized, “that they would agree with General Rogers, too.”
The 18th Wing made an enormous contribution to the Korean War, including saving the day during the Pusan Perimeter (almost Dunkirk) period, during the breakout after Inchon, and during the retreat from the Yalu, “during which they saved many thousands of American lives.”

Later, the 18th’s unrelenting interdiction played a key role in bringing about the Armistice that reestablished the nation of South Korea. The 18th Wing flew more combat missions that any other unit in the Korean War, and one of its squadron commanders was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, one of only two such awards to Air Force personnel during that war. The Wing’s integrity, professionalism and dedication also contributed significantly to the fledgling Air Force core values so often cited these days, Connors explained.

Truckbusters is the story of an embattled American military unit that worked through enormous challenges to achieve military success that is highly relevant to all Americans today. “The Korean War is called by some Americans ‘the Forgotten War.’ But not by millions of South Koreans who regained their freedoms, self-determination and future. It’s not called that by the families and friends of those who fought, bled and died there. And, it should not be forgotten by those today who understand the on-going importance of what was achieved by those who struggled there. Our nation owes those who served in Korea a significant debt of gratitude for what they did to protect Freedom. Their deeds and achievements continue to shape the world over half a century later.”

Rare Photos Video Series LaunchedTBFilm11Title

This post inaugurates a new visitor feature — sharing historical photographs of 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing combat operations during the Korean War.  “First Missions” is the lead off video in this series that is projected to include videos that include all 37 months of combat by the 18th FBW, and hundreds of photographs, most never before published.

 

Moreland’s Moments

Editor’s Note:  Truckbuster’s From Dogpatch is perhaps the largest unit combat history of the Korean War.  It represents over five years of intensive research in Department of Defense archives and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  It also includes numerous riveting first person accounts prepared by unit commanders and pilots.

On July 5th, General Order 24 issued by the 18th FBW “directed the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group to organize a provisional squadron code named ‘Dallas Squadron.’ The officers and airmen of the former 12th Fighter Bomber Squadron were used as a nucleus to form this provisional squadron. On July 8th General Timberlake designated Taegu as the destination for the “Dallas” squadron, which departed Clark Air Force Base on 10 July 1950, via Troop Carrier aircraft for Johnson Air Base, Japan, where it was to receive the mix of equipment Ashiyaand supplies that had been determined was required for it to perform its missions] property and aircraft.”

The newly created Dallas Squadron moved to Ashiya Air Base and then on to Taegu Airstrip, K-2, Korea. “The first combat mission was flown from that base on 15 July 1950,” the 18th Group reported.

At K-2 the Dallas Squadron was re-designated as the 51st Provisional Squadron and assigned to the 6002nd Fighter Wing. Major (then Captain) Harry H. Moreland was in command of the 51st. 

Captain Harry H. “Mo” Moreland, Commander of the 51st Provisional Squadron and later the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. (Moreland)
Captain Harry H. “Mo” Moreland, Commander of the 51st Provisional Squadron and later the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. (Moreland)

The North Koreans traveled at night and hid their vehicles before daybreak. It took a while to catch on to how and where they chose to hide them. Once we found out what they were doing and where they tried to hide their men and material the task of locating them became much easier. They would dig out an area in the side of a hill and drive the vehicle into the hole and then cover it up with branches. We learned to look for tire tracks off the road and follow them to a hidden target. They would drive a tank into the side of a small house, but the tracks would give the hiding place away. Another favorite spot was along a river bank. They would pick a location that had a high bank, then move up next to the river bank and cover the truck. Sometimes they were not so imaginative and would park in an open field under a hay stack. Again, the tracks leading to the vehicle were a dead giveaway.

No Civilian Targets
Lt. Chappie James at K-9 Taegu in August 1950.
Lt. Chappie James at K-9 Taegu in August 1950.

On one occasion, I was leading a two-ship flight out of Taegu. Lt. Chappie James was my wingman. This was during that time when the North Koreans were almost at Taegu and we would soon have to evacuate that forward operating base. We were southeast of the base when we got a call from a mosquito pilot (airborne forward controller) that he wanted us to strafe a large number of troops who were going down the road.

We proceeded to his location and he directed us to strafe people going down the main road. Before setting up for a strafing pass I decided to buzz the group to get a much closer look before attacking. Looking down during that high speed pass, I saw many women and children in the crowd. There may have been North Korean troops amongst them but I could not bring myself to strafe the crowd and so informed the FAC. We soon departed the area to look for clearly military targets.

Later, while flying up a valley I noticed tire tracks leading up the slope and stopping at a clump of bushes. So we took a close look and could make out a vehicle under each of about 20 large bushes. From that point on we had a heyday–strafing each target until we had most of them burning before we ran out of ammo. A much more rewarding mission than the alternative. Had we attacked the people on the road I would have had guilty feelings the rest of my life.

Panels for Identification
Lt. Spud Taylor
Lt. Spud Taylor

Spud Taylor ( later KIA) and I had been on a two-ship napalm close air support mission. A FAC called us and said some of our ground troops were in need of help–then directed us to a location and showed us where our troops were located. [Our forces were well identified with panels made of colored cloth. Later on the North Koreans got wise and used panels to confuse us.]

The FAC then showed us where the enemy fire was coming from and we gave them a warm welcome with our napalm. The FAC said we were right on target and released us to recce the area while returning to K-2.

Fanning the Flames–with Mustangs!

We were flying at about 1000 feet searching for targets of opportunity when I noticed some tracks in a large, open field leading up to a haystack. Upon a closer look at the haystack we could see that a tank was under it. We were down to .50-caliber ammo which doesn’t offer much of a threat to a tank, but we decided to give it a try. So we each made a few strafing passes with no apparent damage.

Before departing I noticed smoke coming from the haystack. Apparently our ammo had started a small fire in the hay itself. So, we decided to help it. We each made low level passes placing our right wing over the tank to fan the flames. Much to our surprise it worked and we soon had a good fire going. We circled the tank and watched it blow up before departing for home plate.

Tank Gunnery Crew Souvenir

This flight occurred early August when the North Koreans had crossed the Naktong River. We received a new tank busting rocket that they wanted us to test. They only had a limited number of them so they asked that only the more experienced pilots use them and to use them on tanks only. Otherwise bring them back home.

Napalmed tank.
Napalmed tank.

I was on a two plane flight searching the valley on the other side of the mountain from K-2. We are only about 5 minutes from our base. There were several valleys to look at and in one of them we came across a T-34 tank that had parked alongside of the road. An ideal target for our new weapon. We set up our firing passes to come in from different directions to make it more difficult on the gunners.

I have always found rockets hard to hit what you aimed at and this was no exception. We both made several passes and on my last pass I launched my last two rockets and at same time received several hits from the tank just as my rockets found their target. They were a success with the tank exploding.

The tank gunnery crew was not all that bad either. I had one bullet hole in the front part of the canopy and one just behind my head. I knew my plane had been hit so decided to return home and land. After the debriefing my crew chief said he would like to show me something. He showed me a bullet hole that had entered the underside or the airplane. En route it had clipped 5 strands from a 7 strand cable to my elevator. It also creased the coolant radiator, went thru the oxygen tank and exploded as it exited the fuselage. I kept that cable for years to remind me how lucky I was. A little closer it would have broken the cable, no elevator control, punctured the coolant tank, no power, exploded in the oxygen tank–no airplane.

How lucky can you get!
A Lucky Strike, Indeed

We had been at K-2 for a short period of time and were flying some old F-51s that had been in moth balls. This was a two ship mission to strike targets of opportunity around Taejon where our troops had recently left in a hurry. I was leading the mission with Frank Buzze on my wing. It was a routine flight to the target area. When we arrived over Taejon there was a mosquito pilot flying an AT-6 over the area. He asked us to attack some buildings at the edge of town. Buzze and I proceeded to strafe the buildings from different angles to reduce our vulnerability.

Captain Frank Buzze
Captain Frank Buzze

After a couple of passes one of the building blew up as I was firing at it. When I pulled up from the pass I noticed that I was losing coolant fluid from my engine. I immediately called Buzze and told him of my situation and was heading for home plate. There was a mountain range between us and K-2 so I climbed to about 8000 feet altitude to clear the mountains. I put the mixture control to full rich so the engine would run cooler. The engine began to overheat and I gradually started losing power and altitude. We did not know just how far the enemy had gotten, but I wanted to go as far as I could to get back near our field. The plane kept sinking as I was almost in a glide.

At about 1000 feet Buzze called and told me that I should bailout. I believed that it was too low to go over the side of the plane and felt my best chance was to go as far as I could and belly in. I spotted the Naktong River in front of us and noticed a large sand shoreline on the far side. So I decided to set it down there. The powers to be decided otherwise and I ran out of speed and altitude in the middle of the river.

Before touching down I remembered the pilot’s manual. In big bold print it said, do not ditch this airplane. Then it said if you have to, drop a wing into the water just before touchdown. It was contrary to everything I wanted to do, but I did it and placed my left arm over the gun sight to ease the possible blow and made sure the seat harness was tight. This caused the plane to veer sharply and hit the water almost sideways. A rough ride, but all in one piece.

I really don’t remember how I got to the sand bar but it didn’t take long.
Buzze was flying overhead and I waved to him to let him know that I was okay. A short time later men dressed in white frocks started coming from everywhere. There were several hundred of them. They surrounded me but kept about 15 yards away. As I walked toward them the circle would move. Apparently they didn’t know if I was friend or foe and I wasn’t exactly sure about them, either. I am not a smoker, but did carry a pack of cigarettes in my flying suit for just such a situation.

I removed the pack of Lucky Strikes and held it over my head. The circle immediately collapsed and I was mobbed.

Buzze thought they were attacking me and had taken the safety off his gun switch ready to let them have it. I waved to him and he saw that I was okay.

I passed the cigarettes around and waited for them to light up. They just stood there holding the cigarette in their hands and smiling. I couldn’t figure why they didn’t light up.
Then it dawned upon me. They were waiting for me, so I took one of the cigarettes from the nearest person, lit it and passed it back. At that point they all lit theirs took a couple of puffs and passed it around. After the smoke they all formed a long line and came by me gently touching me and saying aregotto–“thank you.”

Excerpted from Truckbusters from Dogpatch, the Combat Diary of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing in the Korean War, 1950-1953.

Suggested citation:

Moreland, H. H. (2015, September 1). Moreland’s moments, Truckbusters from Dogpatch: the combat history of the 18th fighter-bomber wing in the Korean War, 1950-1953 (T. D. Connors, Ed.). Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.truckbustersfromdogpatch.com/mission-briefings/morelands-moments/

 

18th FBW Combat Sorties Sept 1950 Significant Dates

September 1959 18th FBW Significant Dates

September 1: As the NKA “noose” tightened on the Pusan Perimeter, Fifth Air Force units conducted relentless CAS and interdiction missions against NKA troops and armored columns attacking along the Naktong River front. Carrier-based aircraft from USN Task Force 77 also provided close air support to the perimeter defenders. General MacArthur directed General Stratemeyer to use all available FEAF airpower, including B-29s, to help the Eighth Army hold the “Pusan Perimeter,” the southeast corner of the Korean peninsula that South Korea still controlled.

Headquarters EUSAK requested support missions from FAF to “attack and destroy hostile forces which have penetrated or threaten to penetrate our front lines.” The Secret mission request orders called on FAF to support the defense of U.S. forces in South Korean and to be prepared to support a counterattack by blocking “enemy movement” with “particular attention to night movement across the Naktong River.” 7

On September 1st, a “miniature rotation plan” was established that would slowly begin to afford “a three day rest in Japan for officers and airmen who had spent a minimum of six weeks in Korea. Not more than four officers and seven airmen were placed on such duty at one time.”

September 3: Task Force 77 withdrew its aircraft carriers from the Pusan area. It needed to conduct replenishment at sea operations and to move TF units north to strike communications targets. All close air support responsibility now rested with Far East Air Forces.

September 4: An H-5 helicopter rescued a downed U.S. pilot from behind enemy lines at Hanggan-dong. It was the first H-5 helicopter rescue of the war.

September 6: As North Korean forces approached Taegu, Eighth Army headquarters withdrew to Pusan.

September 8: The 18th FBG, which had departed Korea a month earlier, returned from Japan, settling at Pusan East (Tongnae). The 6002nd Fighter Wing moved to K-9 (Pusan).

September 9: North Korean forces attacking southeast of Hajang reached a point only eight miles from Taegu, their farthest penetration on the western front. FEAF Bomber Command began a rail interdiction campaign north of Seoul to slow enemy reinforcements, which might hinder the UN Inchon landing.

Inchon Landings. Four LST’s unload men and equipment on the beach at Inchon, Korea on September 15, 1950. Ships include: LST-611, LST-745 and LST-715.
Inchon Landings. Four LST’s unload men and equipment on the beach at Inchon, Korea on September 15, 1950. Ships include: LST-611, LST-745 and LST-715.

September 10: As a result of Task Force 77’s unexpected withdrawal from close air support of the Eighth Army on September 3, General Stratemeyer persuaded General MacArthur to direct that all close air support requests must be routed through the Fifth Air Force. If Fifth Air Force lacked resources to meet the requests, they were to be forwarded to FEAF headquarters for coordination with the Commander, Naval Forces, Far East. 8

September 13: Typhoon Kezia hit southern Japan, hampering FEAF operations and forcing some aircraft to move temporarily to Pusan and Taegu.

September 15: U.S. Marines invaded Wolmi-do in Inchon Harbor at dawn, occupying the island in less than an hour. The main U.S. X Corps landings at Inchon took place at high tide, in the afternoon, after a forty-five-minute naval and air bombardment. U.S. Navy and United States Marine Corps aircraft from carriers off shore provided air cover during the amphibious assault. At the same time, FEAF air raids in South Korea prepared the way for the planned Eighth Army advance from the Pusan perimeter. 9

The Inchon landings in the west central region of Korea were “indirectly supported” by the hard working Mustang pilots of the 18th FBW who “continued pressure against the enemy in support of the 24th Infantry, 25th Infantry, and the 1st Cavalry Divisions in the southern sector of Korea thus interdicting and possibly diverting forces to the north.”

Mustangs of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group “contributed their all-out support to the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Cavalry Division along the Pusan perimeter thus indirectly aiding the landing at Inchon by diverting the enemy’s attention from that area.” 10

September 16: U.S. forces secured Inchon and began moving toward Seoul. From the vicinity of Taegu, the U.S. Eighth Army launched its long-awaited offensive.

September 17: U.S. Marines captured Kimpo Airfield near Seoul. To support the Eighth Army offensive, Fifth Air Force F-51s and F-80s flew napalm attacks, reportedly killing over 1,200 enemy soldiers in Tabu-dong, Yongchon, and other strongholds near the Naktong River.

September 19: Supported by Fifth Air Force close air support missions, the 24th Infantry Division began crossing the Naktong River near Waegwan, and the 1st Cavalry Division broke through communist lines.

September 21: USAF forward air controllers in T-6 Mosquitoes equipped with air to ground radios spotted about thirty enemy tanks preparing to ambush the advancing 24th Infantry Division. They called USAF aircraft and USA ground artillery, which destroyed fourteen enemy tanks and forced the rest to flee.

September 22: North Korean resistance crumbled all along the Pusan perimeter. Lt. George W. Nelson, a USAF pilot in a Mosquito aircraft, dropped a note to 200 enemy troops northeast of Kunsan demanding their surrender. They complied, moving to a designated hill to be captured by nearby UN ground troops. 11

September 23: HQ Fifth Air Force in Korea moved from Pusan to Taegu.

September 25: Far East Air Forces flew flare missions over Seoul all night that allowed USMC night fighters to attack North Korean troops fleeing the city.

September 26: U.S. military forces from Inchon and Pusan linked up near Osan, while ROK troops with Fifth Air Force support moved northward along the east coast toward the 38th Parallel.

September 27: U.S. Marines drove enemy forces from Seoul and took control of the capital building. The Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered General MacArthur to destroy the North Korean Army, which involved crossing the 38th Parallel into North Korea. Only ROK troops were to be allowed by the UN Command in provinces bordering China and the Soviet Union.

September 28: ROK troops advanced into North Korea for the first time and General MacArthur officially restored Seoul to ROK President Syngman Rhee.

September 30: Throughout September, “bad weather, shortage of tents, bedding, and potable water provided much concern for officers and airmen alike” of the 18th FB Group. “There were no showers. Living conditions were, in a word, adverse. On September 30, 1950 a shower was installed in the Quarters (tent) area, however, living quarters proper were still over crowded.” 12

Sources:

1 U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency. January 2002. The U.S. Air Force’s First War: Korea 1950-1953 Significant Events. September 1950.
2 History of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, July-October, 1950. USAFHRA.
3 History of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, July-October, 1950. USAFHRA.
4 History of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, July-October, 1950. USAFHRA.
5 USAFHRA. “The Story of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group in the Korean United Nations Police Action.” 6002nd Tactical Support Wing, Public Information Office. S/Sgt Sandy Colton.
6 USAFHRA. History of the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, September 1950.
7 EUSAK mission support memorandum of 1 September 1950 to Fifth Air Force. (NARA)
8 USAFHRA. History of the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, October 1950.
9 U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency. January 2002. The U.S. Air Force’s First War: Korea 1950-1953 Significant Events. September 1950.
10 History of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, July-October, 1950. USAFHRA.
11 U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency. January 2002. The U.S. Air Force’s First War: Korea 1950-1953 Significant Events. September 1950.
12 USAFHRA. History of the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, September 1950.

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2007-2015, September 8). 18th fBW combat sorties Sept 1950 significant dates, Truckbusters from Dogpatch: the combat history of the 18th fighter-bomber wing in the Korean War, 1950-1953. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.truckbustersfromdogpatch.com/log-entries/18th-fbw-combat-sorties-sept-1950-significant-dates/

© Copyright 2017 BelleAire Press, LLC

Remembering a Korean War Hero: Captain Elliot Dean Ayer, USAF

Captain Elliot Dean Ayer, USAF, was a decorated fighter pilot of WWII and the Korean War. A Pearl Harbor Veteran as a 17-year old gunner, he earned his AAF wings, personal decorations and a Captaincy by the end of the war. Rather than leave the rapidly demobilizing Air Force, he served as a Master Sergeant, until the Air Force restored his commission in 1952 to let him fly Mustangs in combat—again. The 18th FB Wing selected him to fly its 45,000th combat sortie, and he led the most heroic, yet ultimately tragic, helicopter air rescue mission of the Korean War. His bravery and leadership in two of our major air conflicts is worth remembering as the price of Freedom on this the anniversary of his death 63 years ago today. Ayer was the last 18th FBW Mustang pilot KIA in the Korean War.

The Iron Triangle Claimed the Last 18th FBW Mustang Pilot

It was nearly dark at 1915 hours on 25 July 1952, when Captain Elliot Dean Ayer, Flight Leader of Filter How Flight was “wheels up” from K-46, Hoengsong, SK, on a twilight reconnaissance of a North Korean MSR.

K-46 Forward Operating Base for the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 1952-53.
K-46 Forward Operating Base for the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 1952-53.

It was rapidly getting dark, making it harder for ground observers to make out the “655” side number or the “Lovely Lady” on the left cowling or “Lady Louise” on the right cowling. His four-ship flight included 1st Lt. William McShane flying Number Two, 1st Lt. C. J. Gossett was Number Three, and 1st Lt. Rexford R. Baldwin was Number Four.

Ayer was one of the Korean War’s most experienced pilots and leaders, having served with distinction as a soldier, NCO and combat pilot during WWII. He was highly experienced in the F-51 Mustang, having earned several decorations for his bravery during heavy air combat in the Italian theater in WWII. Following his appointment as How Flight Leader of the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 1 June just a few weeks before, he had been selected by the 18th FB Wing to fly its historic 45,000th combat mission, a great personal honor.

Captain Elliot Dean Ayer, USAF
Captain Elliot Dean Ayer, USAF (left) is congratulated by Colonel Sheldon Brinson, Commander of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group (the combat flying squadrons of the 18th Wing), after flying the Wing’s 45,000th combat mission on July 14, 1952. He was killed in action two weeks later.

Further, he had been recommended for another Distinguished Flying Cross for his leadership in directing Mission 1890 on June 25th, a harrowing helicopter extrication of a Navy Corsair pilot from off the side of a mountain west of Wonsan under heavy fire. The mission involved six Mustangs and one H-5 Dragonfly helicopter. Tragically, although the rescue mission was initially successful, the waiting Chinese used Ens. Ron Eaton as bait, and shot the helicopter down five miles from the site. Minutes later, Ayer’s wingman, 1st Lt. Archie Connors, was also shot down while making a “low, fast pass” over the helicopter crash site to ascertain the fate of its crew and passenger. Mission 1890 became the most deadly helicopter rescue of the Korean War.

Tonight was to be just another twilight MSR interdiction. But for Captain Ayer, it was the last mission, the one from which he never returned. He became the last 18th FB Wing Mustang pilot killed in combat before it transitioned into the F-86 Sabre-jet in February 1953.

© Copyright 2015 BelleAire Press, LLC

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