Tag Archives: 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron

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

Korean Air War Photos 65 Years Ago January 1952

Korean Air War

18th Fighter-Bomber Wing

65 Years Ago

January 1952

During the Korean War (1950-1953) that saved South Korea from occupation by North Korean and Chinese military forces, the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing was in combat for 37 months, during which their heroic air-combat efforts flying F-51 “Mustang” fighter-bombers and F-86 Sabrejets are among the most heroic in U.S. military history.

These photographs are excerpted from Truckbusters from DogpatchThe Combat Diary of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing in the Korean War, 1950-1953, a remarkable, 712-page, true-life account of the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing from 1950 to 1953.  Over 1,000 previously unpublished images from Korean War archives and personal collections are included in Truckbusters.

This service is offered by BelleAire Press to honor those from many countries who fought to protect Freedom and Liberty during the Korean War.

Operation Strangle. The twisted and battered skeletons of two Communist supply trains litter a switching center somewhere between Pyongyang and Sariwon. Note that the through line terminates abruptly at bomb crater in lower right of picture. Note also upended locomotives. This low-level aerial photo is another excellent example of how “Operation Strangle” has disrupted Communist rail movement of supplies to their battle line forces in Korea, the Fifth Air Force reported in January 1952.
January 1952 Summary

Static, defensive-type ground warfare continued into January 1952. United Nations warships and naval aircraft worked closely with Far East Air Forces to interdict Communist supply networks.
UNF air attacks were countered by active air opposition and increasingly heavy anti-aircraft fire from Chinese Communist and North Korean Forces.
At Panmunjom, UN negotiators labored to achieve an armistice; however “communist intransigence, evasiveness, and procrastination thwarted their efforts.”
UN jet fighters provided protective aerial cover for fighter-bombers and inflicted costly losses on hostile MiG-15s, which made only sporadic attempts to interfere. There was a strong perception among fighter-bomber pilots that they were frequently used as “bait” to entice MIGs into battle. During the month, UN pilots shot down thirty-two MiGs and damaged twenty-eight others.
Although Far East Air Forces “lost only five jets in aerial combat, it saw enemy ground fire destroy forty-four other aircraft. These had been engaged in low-level bombing runs and strafing sweeps.”
The official Air Force chronology makes frequent mention of actions in which jet fighter aircraft, heavy bomber aircraft or rescue helicopters were engaged, but rarely mentions actions by fighter-bomber squadrons flying the now outdated F-51 Mustang aircraft.
Fifth Air Force tactical strikes were directed primarily against railheads, communication lines, and highways over which the communists moved supplies and equipment to front-line positions. Fighter-bombers concentrated on rail-cutting missions but also provided vital close air support (CAS) for Eighth Army ground forces that included bombing, napalm, and rocket strikes.
Adapted from U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency. January 2002.

Precious Stationery. Among the first “pipeline pilots” the Air Force had been training since the beginning of the Korean War a year and half before, 2nd Lt. Archibald “Archie” Connors arrived in Korea in January 1952 to join the 67th Squadron after a brief assignment with the 35th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Japan. The box he is carrying appears to be one usually containing stationery. In one of his letters he mentioned how scarce writing paper was at the time.

Operations offices at K-46 of the 12th Squadron “Foxy Few,” 67th Squadron “Fighting Cocks,” and the 2 Squadron SAAF “Flying Cheetahs.”

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.

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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.

 

USAF First Medal of Honor Recipient: Louis J. Sebille

“I’ll get those dirty bastards…” Remembering Lou Sebille 65 years after he made U.S. Air Force history.
Mission Report No. 26 of 5 August 1950 recorded that “Major Sebille in aircraft number 394, sustained flight damage and made dive on half track, destroying target, aircraft and self… [and in pencil was added] numerous enemy troops.”
After diving his F-51 Mustang into enemy troops, Major Lou Sebille, commanding officer of the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron was later awarded the first Medal of Honor for the new U.S. Air Force.

Major Lou Sebille’s Heroic Mission

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1st Lt. “Bud” Biteman, 67th Squadron at Clark Field in 1949.

Major Louis J. Sebille, was in command of the 67th Fighter Squadron when it arrived, without airplanes, at Ashiya, Japan on July 31, 1950, explained Lt. Col. Duane “Bud” Biteman. They were to receive twenty-five of the “new” F-51 Mustangs that had arrived the previous week aboard the Navy Carrier, USS BOXER. But because there was insufficient physical space–real estate, to park their planes and house their troops, to base them at Taegu with the rest of us–the 67th would, by necessity, have to remain at Ashiya, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, and receive logistic support from the 8th Fighter-Bomber Group at Itazuke, 40 miles south of Ashiya.

“It would be a crude, and probably unworkable wartime arrangement–with the 67th’s parent organization, the 18th Group based at Taegu, but having to beg for vital support from a bunch of ‘strangers’ based forty air miles away.  Lou Sebille was not a bit happy with that arrangement, and told Lt. Colonel Ira “Ike” Wintermute, our 18th Group C.O. what he thought the results would be.

Major Louise Sebille with his wife, Jane, inspects the “Fighting Cock” insignia of the squadron that was soon to be engaged in combat. Sadly, although Sebille led the 67th into combat, he was killed after only a few weeks in action. The Air Force released this photograph when it announced that Sebille was being awarded Posthumously the first Medal of Honor for Air Force action in Korea. (NARA)
Major Louise Sebille with his wife, Jane, inspects the “Fighting Cock” insignia of the squadron that was soon to be engaged in combat. Sadly, although Sebille led the 67th into combat, he was killed after only a few weeks in action. The Air Force released this photograph when it announced that Sebille was being awarded Posthumously the first Medal of Honor for Air Force action in Korea. (NARA)

His angry response to the proposition was unlike the easygoing, friendly personality of Lou Sebille, and he was undoubtedly in a sour mood as he began re-indoctrinating his pilots–who, until that time had been flying the F-80C Lockheed jet fighters for the past year, as we had, training them once again to fly the propeller-driven F-51s, and rebuilding his combat outfit,” Biteman recalled.

They started flying their first combat missions the following day.

By August 2nd Biteman could hear the “Elsewhere” flights [“Elsewhere” was the radio call sign for the 67th Squadron at that time] “operating alongside our elements all along the front lines. I could recognize many of the radio voices of pilots I’d flown with over the past couple of years, and it was hard not to exchange friendly greetings and small-talk over the busy tactical wave-lengths. I talked with Bob Howell, 67th Operations Officer, (an old-time P-51 instructor pilot who had given me my first P-51 check-out at Pinellas, Florida during World War II). Ross Cree, friend and fellow S-2 officer, Ed Hodges, Harry Moore, Joe Lane, Owen Brewer—the whole bunch was up in Korea to help extricate us from the damned bucket of worms we’d gotten ourselves into. We were extremely glad to have their help, for they were capable, experienced, hard-driving fighter pilots.”

Three days later, on August 5th, while each was leading separate flights near H’amchang [36 degrees, 32’N, 128 degrees, 15’W] on the Naktong River, Lou Sebille and Bob Howells would both be killed within five miles and within minutes of each other–both within 15 miles of the base at Taegu!

H’amchang, the little village where Major Lou Sebille died, “was just one of many small groups of mud and straw huts that dotted the countryside along every road and trail in Korea. On the preceding night, August 4th, the North Koreans had managed to establish a minimal beachhead across the summer-shallow Naktong River and, although we were able to stop all daylight movement across the river, the tanks, troops and artillery that had crossed during darkness were moving steadily toward their objective—our nearby base at Taegu. Just a few more miles and they would be within artillery range of our primary airstrip.”

Sebille, leading a flight of 67th Squadron Mustangs out of Ashiya, wound up with but three airplanes when his wingman [Lt. Ken Barber] was forced to return to Ashiya with a rough engine.

“Captain Martin Johnson, his element leader, with Lt. Charles Morehouse on his wing, were informed by the pilot of a T-6 Mosquito spotter, of enemy armor hidden inside several houses in the village of H’amchang. Enemy armor so close to Taegu made our military position “very precarious,” to say the least,” Biteman noted.

Sebille understood the critical tactical situation—perhaps the very success or failure of the US/UN stand in Korea depended on the effectiveness of his fighters.

After the T-6 spotter aircraft fired a target-marker smoke rocket identified the huts that were hiding the Red armor, Sebille began a medium angle dive bomb run. He planned to drop both of his 500-pound GP (general purpose) bombs on the first run. Only one of Sebille’s bombs released on his first attack. The 500-pounds of extra, unbalanced weight under his left wing may have contributed to his near-miss on the target, Biteman noted. The enemy armor was still firing at Sebille’s other element as they attacked nearby targets.

Sebille came down the slot for the second time. The Red gunners had a clear shot at him as he made his bomb run. Just before he reached the release point, Sebille called over the radio that he was hit, and pulled up sharply to the left once more. His flight heard a garbled comment over the radio that included, “I’ll get those dirty bastards…”

He continued his turn, diving straight toward the armored carrier, fired his six rockets in salvo, and held his finger on the trigger to keep his machine guns firing the whole way down. Instead of pulling up when he reached the 2000 foot danger level, he continued to bore in—1000 feet—500 feet—he dove his airplane and his remaining bomb into the target,” Biteman recalled.

The Fighter-Bomber Final Mission Summary for Mission No. 26 of 5 August 1950 noted, “Major Sebille in Aircraft number 394, sustained flak damage and made dive on half track, destroying target, aircraft and self and numerous enemy troops.”

Lou Sebille had, to be sure, “got the bastards…!”

Sebille Mission Summary Report. This is a copy of the actual Mission Summary Report prepared 5 August 1950 on Mission No. 26 for the three F-51 Mustangs of the 67th Squadron led by Major Lou Sebille. It became the basis for a Congressional Medal of Honor for Sebille, the first for the new U.S. Air Force. “Attacked ground troops with bombs scoring four direct hits in troops. Used rockets on trucks, half tracks and hillside village. Destroyed four armoured vehicles. Strafed troops in area. Strafed one horse drawn artillery piece on road south from Naksong-dong 1127-1516. Returned to Base. Major Sebille in Aircraft number 394 sustained flak damage and made dive on half track, destroying target, aircraft and self [in pencil] and numerous enemy troops.” (NARA)
Sebille Mission Summary Report. This is a copy of the actual Mission Summary Report prepared 5 August 1950 on Mission No. 26 for the three F-51 Mustangs of the 67th Squadron led by Major Lou Sebille. It became the basis for a Congressional Medal of Honor for Sebille, the first for the new U.S. Air Force. “Attacked ground troops with bombs scoring four direct hits in troops. Used rockets on trucks, half tracks and hillside village. Destroyed four armored vehicles. Strafed troops in area. Strafed one horse drawn artillery piece on road south from Naksong-dong 1127-1516. Returned to Base. Major Sebille in Aircraft number 394 sustained flak damage and made dive on half track, destroying target, aircraft and self [in pencil] and numerous enemy troops.” (NARA)
“We pilots speculated at the time,” Barber explained, “whether or not Sebille was mortally wounded or just stubborn and hard headed enough to crash his plane into the enemy. Most of us never thought much about being ‘heroic’ or ‘saving America,’ while we were on a mission. We just wanted to do a good job at hand.”

“This should take nothing away from Lou Sebille’s action. Very often, in fact mostly, we pilots were at the mercy of those who wrote our citations. The good writers usually got theirs accepted. Being ‘lucky’ always trumps being ‘good.’”

[Note: Lt. Col. Biteman prepared a series personal recollections entitled “Korean Tales, Unsung Heroes of the Korean Air War.” He was also a founder and first President of the 18th Fighter Wing Association, Biteman placed many of these stories on the Association’s web site. Some of these stories and others by 18th Wing alumni may also be found in “Hot Shots: An Oral History of the Air Force Combat Pilots of the Korean War,” by Chancey and Forstchen (Morrow).

18th FBW Combat Sorties Sept 1950 Week 1

From Japan To “Dogpatch” for the 18th Group

Stratemeyer Welcomed Back. Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer, right, Commanding General of the Far East Air Forces (FEAF), is welcomed back to his command by Major General Earle E. Partridge, left, who acted in his absence. General Stratemeyer arrived at Haneda Air Base on September 6, 1950 from temporary duty in U.S. Air Force Headquarters, Washington, D. C. Also on hand to greet him were, left to right, Major General Victor E. Bertrandias, Director of Flying Safety, U.S. Air Force, who is in the Far East on an Inspection trip, and Brigadier General Edward H. White, Commanding General of the Air Transport Wing, Pacific Division, Military Air Transport Service, Haneda. (NARA)
Stratemeyer Welcomed Back. Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer, right, Commanding General of the Far East Air Forces (FEAF), is welcomed back to his command by Major General Earle E. Partridge, left, who acted in his absence. General Stratemeyer arrived at Haneda Air Base on September 6, 1950 from temporary duty in U.S. Air Force Headquarters, Washington, D. C. Also on hand to greet him were, left to right, Major General Victor E. Bertrandias, Director of Flying Safety, U.S. Air Force, who was in the Far East on an Inspection trip, and Brigadier General Edward H. White, Commanding General of the Air Transport Wing, Pacific Division, Military Air Transport Service, Haneda. (NARA)

During “the darkest hours of early September, when it appeared as though the ‘last gasp’ of the North Korean forces might carry their drive around Taegu and south to the port of Pusan,” the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group “labored at peak efficiency, despite miserable flying weather and an untimely move from the comparative comforts of Japan to the newly-constructed airstrip in Korea designated, simply, K-9.”

On September 7th the entire 18th Fighter-Bomber Group moved to K-9 airstrip near Pusan. This move to “Dogpatch,” as the new base was immediately named, was the second such transfer for the 12th FBS, but it now placed the fighter-bombers, “within fifteen minutes flying time of the front lines and permitted ground-support operations, though limited, in even the foulest weather.” 2

Origin of “Dogpatch”

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Informal “tent-side” briefing for Cpt. Bill Slater before a close air support mission from K-9 in August 1950.

Heat waves shimmered upward from rain pools alongside the airstrip at K-9, S/Sgt William J. “Sandy” Colton, a public information specialist attached to the 18th Wing Staff later reported. Colonel Curtis Low, Captain George Bales, and Colton surveyed the “uninspiring Korean landscape” from their ankle-deep vantage point in the mud. “Lower Slobovia or Dogpatch couldn’t be worse than this,” commented Low, while his two companions nodded weary agreement. Thus, Dogpatch received its Cappian title, which was to eventually be picked up by the state­side press and become a familiar label of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing.

Following the relocation of the 18th to K-9, Colton began datelining his news dispatches with the descriptive title and before long the 18th became identified as the “Dogpatchers of Korea.” In fact the 18th became synonymous with Al Capp’s comic strip village to such an extent, Colton noted, “that celebrities of the Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell and Jolson stature were usually met with banners and signs proclaiming proudly that the 18th was truly an airborne version of the popular stateside cartoon strip.”

DogpatchersPatch
Al Capp adopted the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing and designed its logo.

A letter dispatched through channels to Al Capp himself soon brought recognition from Li’l Abner’s creator, who followed through by designing a Mustang motif patch with Nancy 0. and Abner astride a death-dealing F-51. This same insignia was featured on television and aroused such interest that the Texstyle Corporation sent along as a present full-color cloth patches for the Dogpatchers of the Fifth Air Force.

By late 1951, Al Capp was an honorary member of the 18th and “would be amazed at the Dogpatch signs around the base,” Colton noted. “Everything from the new control tower to the mess hall menus proclaim that the 18th is proud of its humble beginning in Korea, but more important we had a sense of humor that war could not lessen but only served to inspire everybody to greater efforts. In other words we could always eke out a laugh no matter how rough it was. Regardless of the hardships it may have been ‘confoozin,’ but it was still ‘amoozin.’”

First Dogpatch Established at Pusan East (K-9) Air Base

The Pusan East (K-9) Air Base was adjacent to the Suyeong River in Haeundae District, Busan, South Korea. [It was redeveloped in the 1990s as Centum City, a commercial and residential area.]

The runway at K-9 was basically a 6,000-foot long “steel mat, which had not been completed.” There were “a handful of weather-beaten buildings to form the new base.” The “officers and airmen immediately pitched a ‘tent city’ and set up housekeeping without a break in operations against the enemy. The move was planned and executed to “allow the Mustangs to take off from Ashiya, make their strikes, then stage from K-2 airstrip at Taegu. At the end of the day they landed at their new home and were ready for normal operations by the following day.”

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Ground crew preparing a Mustang from the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron for a mission from K-9 in August 1950.

Gradually, “necessary supplies and equipment” arrived from Japan and the “primitive” living conditions were slowly improved. By the end of September, “most” of the tents had wooden floors and a “contract laundry” was available to personnel. A “belated shower arrangement” proved “immensely popular in spite of the cold weather.” Fresh food was “limited but greatly appreciated.” 3

Squadron operations, armament, maintenance and communications were moved to the opposite side of the strip at K-9. The sections were then consolidated and housed in seven squad tents per squadron, centrally located near the respective aircraft dispersal areas but on the opposite side of the strip from the housing area. “This arrangement proved to be very satisfactory from all points of view.” 4

On 7 September, the 18th Fighter Bomber Group headquarters and the 12th and 67th Squadrons were moved to K-9, ten miles east of Pusan, Colton noted. “This airstrip, like K-2, utilized the dirt and steel runway mats. All personnel were quartered in 12-man tents, and many of the Wing, Group, and squadron offices also used these tents.” 5

Chow Time at K-9. Amenities were almost nonexistent at K-9 in August 1950.
Chow Time at K-9. Amenities were almost nonexistent at K-9 in August 1950.

K-9 was important as an air evacuation and staging area. The wounded were brought from the Pusan Evacuation Hospital to K-9 by rail transportation, loaded on ambulance and 6×6 trucks, and then to C-119, C-54, C-46, and C-47 aircraft for flights to Haneda and Itazuke Air bases in Japan. This field was bordered on three sides by mountains a mile from the field, and on the other side by the sea. South Korean laborers were used in the Mess, on the Flight Line, and in installation of the Base. This was the largest field in South Korea and the only one capable of handling jet aircraft. Marine Corsairs (F4U), Navy Skyraiders, and RAAF F-51’s and C-47 aircraft of its 77th Squadron frequently operated from K-9. In addition, many high-ranking personnel of all nations passed through the field–Generals Walker and Stratemeyer flew from K-9 quite often.

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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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