18th FBW KW Combat Diary 1952

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.”