Brigadier 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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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/