Tag Archives: 18th fighter-bomber wing

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.

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.


Truckbusters From Dogpatch: Coming to a digital “book store” near you

“The story of this awesome and unique a Wing is long overdue. It is a saga that clearly illustrates the gathering and performance of the best, brightest and bravest group of combat fighter pilots and their exceptional support personnel that I have ever known. I honestly believe that no other Fighter Wing during the Korean War came even close to performing such diverse, challenging and tough missions, as did the Truckbusters.”

Lt. Gen. Devol “Rock” Brett, USAF (Ret.)

Truckbuster Centurian (an F-51 Mustang pilot who completed at least 100 combat missions during the Korean War).

Dedicated to the Legendary 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing
The combat record of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing during the Korean War is among the most illustrious of any U.S. military unit in our nation’s history. You will soon learn why they were called “The Best Damn Fighter-Bomber Wing in the World.”

Truckbusters from Dogpatch is the remarkable, true-life account of the USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing from 1950 to 1953, the time during which its heroic air-combat exploits helped save South Korea from defeat by the North Korean communists.

Told as much as possible in the words of the heroic men themselves, this uniquely “up close” chronicle is illuminated by more than 1,000 photographs, memoirs, scrapbooks, and previously-classified military documents. By telling the 18th Wing’s story in such a vivid, tangible way, Truckbusters from Dogpatch brings readers directly into the harrowing world of the unit’s fighter pilots, mechanics, medics, supply sergeants, and other unforgettable “characters.”

A very limited number of copies of the soft bound edition are still available. However, when these few are gone, the publisher does not plan on printing any other hard copies of this unique chronicle.

Production of a digital, ePublication edition is underway, however. Conversion of the hard copy book is challenging. For example:
• Over 700 pages, 8 ½ x 11 inch format, largest unit history of the Korean War
• Over 1,000 previously unpublished photographs and images.
• Riveting personal accounts from F-51 Mustang pilots and ground crewmen
• Extensive glossary of Korean War-era military slang and technical terms
• List of more than 3,500 Korean War Veterans of the 19th Fighter-Bomber WingBiteman18SunriseSilhouetteF51

While the digital version is being prepared, the publisher has asked the author, Captain Tracy Connors, USN (Ret) to share summaries of 18th Wing combat operations.  Captain Connors periodically shares series of Log Entries accompanied by never before published photographs letting you share the excitement and dangers experienced by Mustang pilots engaged in combat 65 years ago.