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

Ayer and Connors stayed with the helicopter as its passengers and pilot attempted to bail out. Tragically, the Navy pilot fell to his death, Captain Lear bailed out too low for his parachute to open and was killed, and Airman Holloway barely survived the bail out to be taken prisoner three days later. [After surviving Chinese POW camps, he would finally be repatriated in 1953.]

Captain Ayer was himself in great danger as he now attempted to determine the fate of the downed airmen. He flew so close to the helicopter that he was able to report the approximate altitudes at which the pilot and crew left the spinning helicopter and the fact

that one parachute had opened-a fact of great use to the Air Force in determining that at least one POW should be accounted for. Enemy fire continued to be intense a

1st Lt. Archie Connors, USAF, Ayer's wingman.
1st Lt. Archie Connors, USAF, Ayer’s wingman.

Shortly after the helicopter had been shot down, Lt. Connors radioed his own “Mayday,” after being hit by ground fire during a low pass over the downed helicopter seconds before he crashed. Captain Ayer continued making “passes” over the crash sites only a mile or so apart, subjecting himself to grave danger in the process as he attempted to determine what could be done. He continued to patrol the area at low altitude for over 15 minutes before being ordered to return to base.

As soon as he could get refueled and rearmed back at K-46, Captain Elliot Ayer was again airborne with How Flight. Lieutenants Hill, and McShane were joined by 2nd Lt. Tim Urquhart. The operations summary called his mission “1 Armed Recce w/4 effective sorties.” How Flight headed directly back to CT 905695.

When How Flight arrived over the crash site, they made several low altitude passes over the scene looking for any signs of life. There were none. The cockpit of aircraft 363 was empty, reported Lt. Urquhart.

Following standing orders in such cases, How Flight made a final pass and regrouped in an in-trail formation. One by one they made a firing pass at 363, now a target that would have no future military use to the enemy. Before that mission was completed, the report would include: “2 artillery positions destroyed, 2 bunkers destroyed, 2 KIA at CT0818; 3 bunkers destroyed, 3 active artillery positions destroyed and 1 secondary explosion at CT819539…”

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