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Air Force

The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.

Air Force Galleries

 

Source
Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

For additional information contact:
U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
Suite 404
Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
Washington, DC 20373-5899
(202) 404-2264
U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

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Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -47 [depth] => 1 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 363 [p2] => 0 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => History [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => 1 [access] => 1 [href] => node/261 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => active-trail ) ) ) ) [#children] =>
  • History
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  • Testimonials
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[to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Events [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/435 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [1297] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Events Map [#href] => node/952 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Events Map ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 1297 [plid] => 426 [link_path] => node/952 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Events Map [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Events 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Commemoration [#href] => node/1500 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( [2110] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => first [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Heroes Remembered [#href] => node/1500 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2110 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1500 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Heroes Remembered [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -20 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2110 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Heroes Remembered [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1500 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2107] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Letters from Korea [#href] => node/1511 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2107 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1511 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Letters from Korea [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => 0 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 0 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2106 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1513 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Twilight Tattoo [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 0 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2106 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Twilight Tattoo [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1513 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2108] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Marine Corps Parade [#href] => node/1510 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2108 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1510 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Marine Corps Parade [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 20 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2108 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Marine Corps Parade [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1510 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [2109] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => last [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Operation Reckless [#href] => node/1501 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 2109 [plid] => 2105 [link_path] => node/1501 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Operation Reckless [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => 30 [depth] => 3 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 2109 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] 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=> 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 2105 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Heroes Remembered, July 27 Commemoration [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1500 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [1885] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => last [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Pentagon Korean War Exhibit [#href] => node/1486 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 1885 [plid] => 426 [link_path] => node/1486 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Pentagon Korean War Exhibit [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => 30 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 1885 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Pentagon Korean War Exhibit [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/1486 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => menu_tree__main_menu ) ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 426 [plid] => 0 [link_path] => node/435 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => KW60 Events [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -45 [depth] => 1 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 426 [p2] => 0 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => KW60 Events [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 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  • KW60 Events
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  • Resources for Scholars
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  • Apps
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  • Contact Us
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    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.[collapsed title=CLICK FOR MORE CONTENT]

    The North Korean air force had about 150 propeller-driven fighter-bombers, including Lavochkin La-9s, Ilyushin Il-10 Sturmoviks, Yakovlev Yak-7s, Yak-9s, and Yak-18s.

    To some military planners, this was a rude distraction from the topic they continued to give higher priority – the looming atomic threat from the Soviet Union. If war was to come, it would come against Russia. Collier’s magazine frightened the living daylights out of everybody by devoting an entire issue to a fictitious “history” of a nuclear World War III which ended with American tanks rolling into Moscow.

    Unready for war

    The Allies still occupied Japan, and the United States had formidable forces in the Far East, but the U.S. was far from ready for a fight on the Korean peninsula.  The draft-era citizen soldiers of Task Force Smith, rushed into Korea to confront oncoming T-34 tanks, were poorly trained and poorly equipped and sustained high casualties. Air Force squadrons in the region were equipped with the F-80 Shooting Star jet fighter, but the brass quickly had to order up a batch of older, prop-driven F-51 Mustangs to cope with North Korea’s Yaks. The carrier USS Valley Forge (CVA-45) was nearby and soon took up station in the Sea of Japan, but the Navy, too, would suffer equipment and readiness problems for months.

    "The Allies still occupied Japan, and the United States had formidable forces in the Far East, but the U.S. was far from ready for a fight on the Korean peninsula."

    Once President Harry S. Truman made the difficult decision to intervene in Korea – and, during a Russian boycott of the Security Council, the United Nations voted to join in, eventually committing forces from 20 countries – Korea became a furious battle in a small, crowded place. Truman coined the unfortunate term “police action,” but Korea was a war and everybody knew it. To some, it was deja vu: B-29 Superfortress crews flying from Okinawa began flying bombing missions not unlike those they’d flown five years earlier. B-26 Invader medium bomber crews did much the same.

    On June 27, 1950, Lt. William “Skeeter” Hudson and Lt. Carl Fraser in a twin-engined, twin-boom F-82 Twin Mustang managed to shoot down a Yakovlev Yak-7U, the first aerial victory of the war. On July 3, 1950, F9F-3 Panther pilots Ensign E. W. Brown and Lt. (jg) Leonard Plog of squadron VF-51 each shot down a  Yak-9 on the first combat sortie, ever, by Navy jet-powered aircraft. Throughout the summer, friendly fighters racked up numerous additional aerial kills until they had virtually swept the North Korean air force from the skies.

    American pilots fought beside South Africans and Australians in  F-51 Mustangs, Greeks in C-47 Skytrains, Britons and Canadians in Seafires, Fireflies, Sea Furies, and Meteors and scattered throughout U.S. units on exchange postings, and many others. While U.S. Navy fleet carriers usually handled the war off the east coast of Korea, in the Sea of Japan, British carriers and U.S. Navy escort and light carriers were typically stationed to the west in the Yellow Sea.

    The war changed once in September 1950 with Operation Chromite, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur’s “end run” amphibious landing behind the lines at the port of Inchon, a few miles west of Seoul. It changed again, even more drastically,  in November 1950, when China entered the war. Abruptly, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops advanced against United Nations forces, pushing them all the way south of Seoul once again. By mid-1951, friendlies recaptured Seoul and the battle lines began to stabilize.

    On November 1, 1950, F-51 Mustangs were engaged by six swept-wing jet fighters which lashed out at them from across the Yalu River.  What United Nations experts did not know was that the “Chinese air force” included entire squadrons of Russians who were drilling in MiG-15s on the north bank of the Yalu. On November 8, 1950, F-80C Shooting Star pilot Lt. Russell J. Brown was credited with shooting down a MiG-15. In recent years, records surfaced indicating that no MiG fell that day, but Brown remains in the books as the victor in history’s first jet-versus-jet aerial combat.

    Hundreds of Soviet-built MiG-15 fighters were now at the ready on the north side of the Yalu. The MiGs were the genesis of a new, jet-equipped Chinese air force, but with most of its pilots, so far, from the Soviet Union.

    The UN forces had no fighter to cope with the MiG-15. Used properly, the MiG had the means to wrest air supremacy from UN forces over the Korean peninsula and bushwhack American B-26s and B-29s with ease.

    In response, the U.S. readied the 4th Fighter Interceptor Group, which reached Korea and began engaging the MiG-15 in December 1950. The group introduced the thoroughbred that is perhaps the best-known warplane of the era, the F-86 Sabre. Though few knew the foe’s identity, one understaffed Sabre group was now pitted against three groups of MiG-15s, two of which were commanded by well-known Soviet aces from World War II, Evgeny Pepelyaev and Ivan Kozhedub.

    Air Force HelicopterFor reasons never made clear, the Communist side was reluctant to seize the advantage offered by their superb MiG-15 and by their skilled Soviet pilots in Manchuria. Perhaps the Chinese feared retaliation against their sanctuaries north of the Yalu. Perhaps they simply lacked experience using their air force to support ground troops. For whatever reason, the MiG-15 was a dominant force in MiG Alley, but never flew further south to threaten troops on the battlefield.

    By late 1951, the battle lines in Korea were nearly static. But before that happened, an especially aggressive attack by MiG-15s damaged ten B-29 Superfortresses, three of which made emergency landings. The 4th wing resumed operations at Kimpo, and soon afterward the 51st wing was flying F-86s from Suwon, heavily outnumbered by the MiG force but determined to prevent the MiGs from further threatening the B-29s.

    China’s intervention in Korea was the undoing of MacArthur, and he was replaced by Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway (who quickly received a fourth star). As the war progressed, all kinds of air actions were taking place – also in 1951, Navy AD Skyraiders attacked and breached the Hwachon dam on the Yalu River, the very last time in history the U.S. Navy employed aerial torpedoes in combat – but it was the battle between the Sabre and the MiG that captured the imagination of the public. When F-86 Sabre pilot James Jabara racked up his fifth and sixth aerial victories on May 20, 1951, the U. S. had its first air ace of the war.

    At one point in 1951, the Chinese possessed 445 MiG-15s while 89 Sabres were in inventory.  The numbers never got better, not after truce talks began, with the UN delegation headed by Adm. C. Turner Joy. On September 9,  1951, a pitched duel was fought between 28 Sabres and 70 MiGs. Captains Richard S. Becker and Ralph D. (Hoot) Gibson each racked up their fifth MiG kills to become the second and third air aces of the conflict. Before the conflict ended, 39 Sabre pilots and one F4U Corsair pilot would shoot down at least five enemy planes to become aces.

    Helicopter progress

    U.S. Marine Corps aviators flew history’s first mass helicopter resupply operation on September 13, 1961. Newly-arrived squadron HMR-161 did the honors. Known as Windmill I, and making use of the squadron’s Sikorsky HRS-1s, the operation involved airlifting one day’s supplies to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, which was attacking on Hill 673 northward along a ridge system.

    In October 1951, outnumbered Sabres prowled MiG Alley and the greatest air battles of the war took place over northwestern Korea. Now, the MiG-15 force had increased to 525 aircraft, confronting 44 F-86 Sabres. On October 23, 1951, as B-29 Superfortresses went after targets in North Korea, a hundred MiGs boxed in the 34 Sabres of the screening force. The Sabres shot down two MiGs, but this was no comfort to eight Superfort crews, escorted by 55 newly-introduced F-84 Thunderjets. No fewer than 50 MiGs swarmed over this bomber force, inflicting critical damage. This was the last B-29 Superfortress daylight mission for months. Given the limited size of the F-86 Sabre screen, the inadequacy of the F-84 Thunderjet as an escort, and a host of other factors, the B-29 could not survive against the MiG. Nor was an escort of British-built Meteor jets flown by Australian pilots any help: the Meteor F.Mk. 8 performed well on air-to-ground missions but was outclassed  by the MiG.

    When Gen. Mark Clark replaced Ridgway in May 1952, there were about 800 MiGs on one side, and 100 Sabres on the other. That month, Col. Harrison Thyng, the 4th wing commander, became the 16th U.S. ace of the war. Thyng was already an ace from a previous war and could easily have gotten more MiGs, but he was known for “handing over” opportunities to bag a MiG to younger pilots who flew on his wing. Many view Thyng as one of the great leaders of the air war, a man who frequently challenged the generals and the Pentagon brass to provide the equipment and weaponry he needed to subdue the MiGs.

    Also in August 1952 came the most important event since F-86 Sabre pilots began to wrest the advantage away from their adversaries over MiG Alley.  That month, the 51st wing at Suwon flew its first combat missions with three F-86F Sabres with solid wing leading edges. The “hard wing” F-86F was the final evolution of a design which had shown extraordinary promise (with the F-86A), had been developed to improve its maneuverability (F-86E), and had finally cancelled out the altitude advantage enjoyed by the MiG (with the slat-wing F-86F). The hard-wing F-86F came to rule the skies. Sabre pilots, once outnumbered and outgunned, now commanded the aerial battlefield.

    On November 4, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower took 55 percent of the popular vote and 422 of 531 electoral votes, based in part on a promise to go to Korea. Peace talks were stalled; not good news for Ike, who wanted to get the war off Americans’ minds by ending it as quickly as possible.

    Ultimately, American leaders would win an armistice in Korea only by offering its strongest opponent – South Korea – something in return. The quid pro quo was the U.S.-South Korean defense treaty of 1954, which committed the United States formally to the defense of the Republic of Korea.

    In January 1953, the Communist air armada confronting United Nations forces in Korea totaled 1,485 aircraft, including 950 MiG-15s, 165 propeller-driven fighters, 100 Ilyushin Il-28 twin-jet bombers, and 270 other types. On February 16, 1953, 1st Lt. Joseph McConnell, Jr., of the 39th FIS/51st FIW, shot down his fifth MiG. Because of a delay in confirmation, McConnell became the 27th ace of the war. Captain Manuel J. (Pete) Fernandez, Jr., of the 334th FIS/4th FIW, was recognized as the 26th ace when he claimed his fifth and sixth kills on February 18. The two men would later compete for top honors and be joined in the contest by a second-tour Maj. James Jabara. At war’s end, the top three aces were McConnell (16 kills), Jabara (15) and Fernandez (14.5).

    On April 11, 1953, truce negotiators at Panmunjom followed through on Mark Clark’s proposal, and the response of Communist leaders, by reaching a tentative agreement for the two sides to exchange seriously ill and wounded prisoners of war.

    On May 10, 1953, night-fighting F-94Bs toted up their first MiG kill. Cap. John R. Phillips was the pilot and 1st Lt. Billy J. Atto the radar observer. 

    In the air-to-air fighting, the Sabre now commanded the sky. In less than two years, the Sabre pilot had gone from underdog to victor. Once outnumbered and outflown, he was no longer seriously challenged.

    Closing actions

    On July 22, 1953, F-86 Sabre pilot 1st Lt. Sam P. Young of the 51st wing racked up the final MiG kill of the Korean War.

    When the cease-fire was signed at 10:00 a.m. on July 27, 1953, by Generals Harrison and Nam Il, it was to become effective twelve hours later at 10:00 p.m. It is important to remember that the armistice was inked by the commanders of the armies in the field – the United Nations Command, the (North) Korean Peoples Army, and the Chinese Peoples Volunteers. No government has ever signed it and no peace agreement has ever been reached.

    In the Korean War, the U.S. Air Force lost 971 aircraft. Most of these (671) were caused by ground fire, though a substantial number (206) were claimed by other causes. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps lost 1,033 aircraft to all causes. The U.S. Air Force flew 392,139 combat sorties (including 57,665 for close air support) and the U.S. Navy 126,874 (65,748 for close air support). Communist figures for losses and sorties are not available, but according to American numbers the other side lost 600 MiGs in air-to-air combat, with another 143 listed as probably destroyed. Many years after the war, a study by the U.S. Air Force, code named Sabre Measure Charlie, downgraded the F-86 Sabre-versus-MiG-15 “kill ratio” from more than 14 to 1 to a revised figure of 7 to 1. The latter figure remains the best achievement in any fighter campaign in history prior to Operation Desert Storm.

    Because of what came later in Vietnam, we often forget that the Korean War was a success. Although it was not done quickly or easily, and certainly not without terrible cost not merely in dollars but in blood, the Korean War halted aggression against South Korea and assured the survival of the country that had been attacked. In its aerial phase, the war brought innovations from the jet engine to the helicopter, and all of them arrived to stay.[/collapsed]

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>

    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

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    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.[collapsed title=CLICK FOR MORE CONTENT]

    The North Korean air force had about 150 propeller-driven fighter-bombers, including Lavochkin La-9s, Ilyushin Il-10 Sturmoviks, Yakovlev Yak-7s, Yak-9s, and Yak-18s.

    To some military planners, this was a rude distraction from the topic they continued to give higher priority – the looming atomic threat from the Soviet Union. If war was to come, it would come against Russia. Collier’s magazine frightened the living daylights out of everybody by devoting an entire issue to a fictitious “history” of a nuclear World War III which ended with American tanks rolling into Moscow.

    Unready for war

    The Allies still occupied Japan, and the United States had formidable forces in the Far East, but the U.S. was far from ready for a fight on the Korean peninsula.  The draft-era citizen soldiers of Task Force Smith, rushed into Korea to confront oncoming T-34 tanks, were poorly trained and poorly equipped and sustained high casualties. Air Force squadrons in the region were equipped with the F-80 Shooting Star jet fighter, but the brass quickly had to order up a batch of older, prop-driven F-51 Mustangs to cope with North Korea’s Yaks. The carrier USS Valley Forge (CVA-45) was nearby and soon took up station in the Sea of Japan, but the Navy, too, would suffer equipment and readiness problems for months.

    "The Allies still occupied Japan, and the United States had formidable forces in the Far East, but the U.S. was far from ready for a fight on the Korean peninsula."

    Once President Harry S. Truman made the difficult decision to intervene in Korea – and, during a Russian boycott of the Security Council, the United Nations voted to join in, eventually committing forces from 20 countries – Korea became a furious battle in a small, crowded place. Truman coined the unfortunate term “police action,” but Korea was a war and everybody knew it. To some, it was deja vu: B-29 Superfortress crews flying from Okinawa began flying bombing missions not unlike those they’d flown five years earlier. B-26 Invader medium bomber crews did much the same.

    On June 27, 1950, Lt. William “Skeeter” Hudson and Lt. Carl Fraser in a twin-engined, twin-boom F-82 Twin Mustang managed to shoot down a Yakovlev Yak-7U, the first aerial victory of the war. On July 3, 1950, F9F-3 Panther pilots Ensign E. W. Brown and Lt. (jg) Leonard Plog of squadron VF-51 each shot down a  Yak-9 on the first combat sortie, ever, by Navy jet-powered aircraft. Throughout the summer, friendly fighters racked up numerous additional aerial kills until they had virtually swept the North Korean air force from the skies.

    American pilots fought beside South Africans and Australians in  F-51 Mustangs, Greeks in C-47 Skytrains, Britons and Canadians in Seafires, Fireflies, Sea Furies, and Meteors and scattered throughout U.S. units on exchange postings, and many others. While U.S. Navy fleet carriers usually handled the war off the east coast of Korea, in the Sea of Japan, British carriers and U.S. Navy escort and light carriers were typically stationed to the west in the Yellow Sea.

    The war changed once in September 1950 with Operation Chromite, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur’s “end run” amphibious landing behind the lines at the port of Inchon, a few miles west of Seoul. It changed again, even more drastically,  in November 1950, when China entered the war. Abruptly, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops advanced against United Nations forces, pushing them all the way south of Seoul once again. By mid-1951, friendlies recaptured Seoul and the battle lines began to stabilize.

    On November 1, 1950, F-51 Mustangs were engaged by six swept-wing jet fighters which lashed out at them from across the Yalu River.  What United Nations experts did not know was that the “Chinese air force” included entire squadrons of Russians who were drilling in MiG-15s on the north bank of the Yalu. On November 8, 1950, F-80C Shooting Star pilot Lt. Russell J. Brown was credited with shooting down a MiG-15. In recent years, records surfaced indicating that no MiG fell that day, but Brown remains in the books as the victor in history’s first jet-versus-jet aerial combat.

    Hundreds of Soviet-built MiG-15 fighters were now at the ready on the north side of the Yalu. The MiGs were the genesis of a new, jet-equipped Chinese air force, but with most of its pilots, so far, from the Soviet Union.

    The UN forces had no fighter to cope with the MiG-15. Used properly, the MiG had the means to wrest air supremacy from UN forces over the Korean peninsula and bushwhack American B-26s and B-29s with ease.

    In response, the U.S. readied the 4th Fighter Interceptor Group, which reached Korea and began engaging the MiG-15 in December 1950. The group introduced the thoroughbred that is perhaps the best-known warplane of the era, the F-86 Sabre. Though few knew the foe’s identity, one understaffed Sabre group was now pitted against three groups of MiG-15s, two of which were commanded by well-known Soviet aces from World War II, Evgeny Pepelyaev and Ivan Kozhedub.

    Air Force HelicopterFor reasons never made clear, the Communist side was reluctant to seize the advantage offered by their superb MiG-15 and by their skilled Soviet pilots in Manchuria. Perhaps the Chinese feared retaliation against their sanctuaries north of the Yalu. Perhaps they simply lacked experience using their air force to support ground troops. For whatever reason, the MiG-15 was a dominant force in MiG Alley, but never flew further south to threaten troops on the battlefield.

    By late 1951, the battle lines in Korea were nearly static. But before that happened, an especially aggressive attack by MiG-15s damaged ten B-29 Superfortresses, three of which made emergency landings. The 4th wing resumed operations at Kimpo, and soon afterward the 51st wing was flying F-86s from Suwon, heavily outnumbered by the MiG force but determined to prevent the MiGs from further threatening the B-29s.

    China’s intervention in Korea was the undoing of MacArthur, and he was replaced by Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway (who quickly received a fourth star). As the war progressed, all kinds of air actions were taking place – also in 1951, Navy AD Skyraiders attacked and breached the Hwachon dam on the Yalu River, the very last time in history the U.S. Navy employed aerial torpedoes in combat – but it was the battle between the Sabre and the MiG that captured the imagination of the public. When F-86 Sabre pilot James Jabara racked up his fifth and sixth aerial victories on May 20, 1951, the U. S. had its first air ace of the war.

    At one point in 1951, the Chinese possessed 445 MiG-15s while 89 Sabres were in inventory.  The numbers never got better, not after truce talks began, with the UN delegation headed by Adm. C. Turner Joy. On September 9,  1951, a pitched duel was fought between 28 Sabres and 70 MiGs. Captains Richard S. Becker and Ralph D. (Hoot) Gibson each racked up their fifth MiG kills to become the second and third air aces of the conflict. Before the conflict ended, 39 Sabre pilots and one F4U Corsair pilot would shoot down at least five enemy planes to become aces.

    Helicopter progress

    U.S. Marine Corps aviators flew history’s first mass helicopter resupply operation on September 13, 1961. Newly-arrived squadron HMR-161 did the honors. Known as Windmill I, and making use of the squadron’s Sikorsky HRS-1s, the operation involved airlifting one day’s supplies to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, which was attacking on Hill 673 northward along a ridge system.

    In October 1951, outnumbered Sabres prowled MiG Alley and the greatest air battles of the war took place over northwestern Korea. Now, the MiG-15 force had increased to 525 aircraft, confronting 44 F-86 Sabres. On October 23, 1951, as B-29 Superfortresses went after targets in North Korea, a hundred MiGs boxed in the 34 Sabres of the screening force. The Sabres shot down two MiGs, but this was no comfort to eight Superfort crews, escorted by 55 newly-introduced F-84 Thunderjets. No fewer than 50 MiGs swarmed over this bomber force, inflicting critical damage. This was the last B-29 Superfortress daylight mission for months. Given the limited size of the F-86 Sabre screen, the inadequacy of the F-84 Thunderjet as an escort, and a host of other factors, the B-29 could not survive against the MiG. Nor was an escort of British-built Meteor jets flown by Australian pilots any help: the Meteor F.Mk. 8 performed well on air-to-ground missions but was outclassed  by the MiG.

    When Gen. Mark Clark replaced Ridgway in May 1952, there were about 800 MiGs on one side, and 100 Sabres on the other. That month, Col. Harrison Thyng, the 4th wing commander, became the 16th U.S. ace of the war. Thyng was already an ace from a previous war and could easily have gotten more MiGs, but he was known for “handing over” opportunities to bag a MiG to younger pilots who flew on his wing. Many view Thyng as one of the great leaders of the air war, a man who frequently challenged the generals and the Pentagon brass to provide the equipment and weaponry he needed to subdue the MiGs.

    Also in August 1952 came the most important event since F-86 Sabre pilots began to wrest the advantage away from their adversaries over MiG Alley.  That month, the 51st wing at Suwon flew its first combat missions with three F-86F Sabres with solid wing leading edges. The “hard wing” F-86F was the final evolution of a design which had shown extraordinary promise (with the F-86A), had been developed to improve its maneuverability (F-86E), and had finally cancelled out the altitude advantage enjoyed by the MiG (with the slat-wing F-86F). The hard-wing F-86F came to rule the skies. Sabre pilots, once outnumbered and outgunned, now commanded the aerial battlefield.

    On November 4, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower took 55 percent of the popular vote and 422 of 531 electoral votes, based in part on a promise to go to Korea. Peace talks were stalled; not good news for Ike, who wanted to get the war off Americans’ minds by ending it as quickly as possible.

    Ultimately, American leaders would win an armistice in Korea only by offering its strongest opponent – South Korea – something in return. The quid pro quo was the U.S.-South Korean defense treaty of 1954, which committed the United States formally to the defense of the Republic of Korea.

    In January 1953, the Communist air armada confronting United Nations forces in Korea totaled 1,485 aircraft, including 950 MiG-15s, 165 propeller-driven fighters, 100 Ilyushin Il-28 twin-jet bombers, and 270 other types. On February 16, 1953, 1st Lt. Joseph McConnell, Jr., of the 39th FIS/51st FIW, shot down his fifth MiG. Because of a delay in confirmation, McConnell became the 27th ace of the war. Captain Manuel J. (Pete) Fernandez, Jr., of the 334th FIS/4th FIW, was recognized as the 26th ace when he claimed his fifth and sixth kills on February 18. The two men would later compete for top honors and be joined in the contest by a second-tour Maj. James Jabara. At war’s end, the top three aces were McConnell (16 kills), Jabara (15) and Fernandez (14.5).

    On April 11, 1953, truce negotiators at Panmunjom followed through on Mark Clark’s proposal, and the response of Communist leaders, by reaching a tentative agreement for the two sides to exchange seriously ill and wounded prisoners of war.

    On May 10, 1953, night-fighting F-94Bs toted up their first MiG kill. Cap. John R. Phillips was the pilot and 1st Lt. Billy J. Atto the radar observer. 

    In the air-to-air fighting, the Sabre now commanded the sky. In less than two years, the Sabre pilot had gone from underdog to victor. Once outnumbered and outflown, he was no longer seriously challenged.

    Closing actions

    On July 22, 1953, F-86 Sabre pilot 1st Lt. Sam P. Young of the 51st wing racked up the final MiG kill of the Korean War.

    When the cease-fire was signed at 10:00 a.m. on July 27, 1953, by Generals Harrison and Nam Il, it was to become effective twelve hours later at 10:00 p.m. It is important to remember that the armistice was inked by the commanders of the armies in the field – the United Nations Command, the (North) Korean Peoples Army, and the Chinese Peoples Volunteers. No government has ever signed it and no peace agreement has ever been reached.

    In the Korean War, the U.S. Air Force lost 971 aircraft. Most of these (671) were caused by ground fire, though a substantial number (206) were claimed by other causes. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps lost 1,033 aircraft to all causes. The U.S. Air Force flew 392,139 combat sorties (including 57,665 for close air support) and the U.S. Navy 126,874 (65,748 for close air support). Communist figures for losses and sorties are not available, but according to American numbers the other side lost 600 MiGs in air-to-air combat, with another 143 listed as probably destroyed. Many years after the war, a study by the U.S. Air Force, code named Sabre Measure Charlie, downgraded the F-86 Sabre-versus-MiG-15 “kill ratio” from more than 14 to 1 to a revised figure of 7 to 1. The latter figure remains the best achievement in any fighter campaign in history prior to Operation Desert Storm.

    Because of what came later in Vietnam, we often forget that the Korean War was a success. Although it was not done quickly or easily, and certainly not without terrible cost not merely in dollars but in blood, the Korean War halted aggression against South Korea and assured the survival of the country that had been attacked. In its aerial phase, the war brought innovations from the jet engine to the helicopter, and all of them arrived to stay.[/collapsed]

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>

    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

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    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.[collapsed title=CLICK FOR MORE CONTENT]

    The North Korean air force had about 150 propeller-driven fighter-bombers, including Lavochkin La-9s, Ilyushin Il-10 Sturmoviks, Yakovlev Yak-7s, Yak-9s, and Yak-18s.

    To some military planners, this was a rude distraction from the topic they continued to give higher priority – the looming atomic threat from the Soviet Union. If war was to come, it would come against Russia. Collier’s magazine frightened the living daylights out of everybody by devoting an entire issue to a fictitious “history” of a nuclear World War III which ended with American tanks rolling into Moscow.

    Unready for war

    The Allies still occupied Japan, and the United States had formidable forces in the Far East, but the U.S. was far from ready for a fight on the Korean peninsula.  The draft-era citizen soldiers of Task Force Smith, rushed into Korea to confront oncoming T-34 tanks, were poorly trained and poorly equipped and sustained high casualties. Air Force squadrons in the region were equipped with the F-80 Shooting Star jet fighter, but the brass quickly had to order up a batch of older, prop-driven F-51 Mustangs to cope with North Korea’s Yaks. The carrier USS Valley Forge (CVA-45) was nearby and soon took up station in the Sea of Japan, but the Navy, too, would suffer equipment and readiness problems for months.

    "The Allies still occupied Japan, and the United States had formidable forces in the Far East, but the U.S. was far from ready for a fight on the Korean peninsula."

    Once President Harry S. Truman made the difficult decision to intervene in Korea – and, during a Russian boycott of the Security Council, the United Nations voted to join in, eventually committing forces from 20 countries – Korea became a furious battle in a small, crowded place. Truman coined the unfortunate term “police action,” but Korea was a war and everybody knew it. To some, it was deja vu: B-29 Superfortress crews flying from Okinawa began flying bombing missions not unlike those they’d flown five years earlier. B-26 Invader medium bomber crews did much the same.

    On June 27, 1950, Lt. William “Skeeter” Hudson and Lt. Carl Fraser in a twin-engined, twin-boom F-82 Twin Mustang managed to shoot down a Yakovlev Yak-7U, the first aerial victory of the war. On July 3, 1950, F9F-3 Panther pilots Ensign E. W. Brown and Lt. (jg) Leonard Plog of squadron VF-51 each shot down a  Yak-9 on the first combat sortie, ever, by Navy jet-powered aircraft. Throughout the summer, friendly fighters racked up numerous additional aerial kills until they had virtually swept the North Korean air force from the skies.

    American pilots fought beside South Africans and Australians in  F-51 Mustangs, Greeks in C-47 Skytrains, Britons and Canadians in Seafires, Fireflies, Sea Furies, and Meteors and scattered throughout U.S. units on exchange postings, and many others. While U.S. Navy fleet carriers usually handled the war off the east coast of Korea, in the Sea of Japan, British carriers and U.S. Navy escort and light carriers were typically stationed to the west in the Yellow Sea.

    The war changed once in September 1950 with Operation Chromite, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur’s “end run” amphibious landing behind the lines at the port of Inchon, a few miles west of Seoul. It changed again, even more drastically,  in November 1950, when China entered the war. Abruptly, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops advanced against United Nations forces, pushing them all the way south of Seoul once again. By mid-1951, friendlies recaptured Seoul and the battle lines began to stabilize.

    On November 1, 1950, F-51 Mustangs were engaged by six swept-wing jet fighters which lashed out at them from across the Yalu River.  What United Nations experts did not know was that the “Chinese air force” included entire squadrons of Russians who were drilling in MiG-15s on the north bank of the Yalu. On November 8, 1950, F-80C Shooting Star pilot Lt. Russell J. Brown was credited with shooting down a MiG-15. In recent years, records surfaced indicating that no MiG fell that day, but Brown remains in the books as the victor in history’s first jet-versus-jet aerial combat.

    Hundreds of Soviet-built MiG-15 fighters were now at the ready on the north side of the Yalu. The MiGs were the genesis of a new, jet-equipped Chinese air force, but with most of its pilots, so far, from the Soviet Union.

    The UN forces had no fighter to cope with the MiG-15. Used properly, the MiG had the means to wrest air supremacy from UN forces over the Korean peninsula and bushwhack American B-26s and B-29s with ease.

    In response, the U.S. readied the 4th Fighter Interceptor Group, which reached Korea and began engaging the MiG-15 in December 1950. The group introduced the thoroughbred that is perhaps the best-known warplane of the era, the F-86 Sabre. Though few knew the foe’s identity, one understaffed Sabre group was now pitted against three groups of MiG-15s, two of which were commanded by well-known Soviet aces from World War II, Evgeny Pepelyaev and Ivan Kozhedub.

    Air Force HelicopterFor reasons never made clear, the Communist side was reluctant to seize the advantage offered by their superb MiG-15 and by their skilled Soviet pilots in Manchuria. Perhaps the Chinese feared retaliation against their sanctuaries north of the Yalu. Perhaps they simply lacked experience using their air force to support ground troops. For whatever reason, the MiG-15 was a dominant force in MiG Alley, but never flew further south to threaten troops on the battlefield.

    By late 1951, the battle lines in Korea were nearly static. But before that happened, an especially aggressive attack by MiG-15s damaged ten B-29 Superfortresses, three of which made emergency landings. The 4th wing resumed operations at Kimpo, and soon afterward the 51st wing was flying F-86s from Suwon, heavily outnumbered by the MiG force but determined to prevent the MiGs from further threatening the B-29s.

    China’s intervention in Korea was the undoing of MacArthur, and he was replaced by Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway (who quickly received a fourth star). As the war progressed, all kinds of air actions were taking place – also in 1951, Navy AD Skyraiders attacked and breached the Hwachon dam on the Yalu River, the very last time in history the U.S. Navy employed aerial torpedoes in combat – but it was the battle between the Sabre and the MiG that captured the imagination of the public. When F-86 Sabre pilot James Jabara racked up his fifth and sixth aerial victories on May 20, 1951, the U. S. had its first air ace of the war.

    At one point in 1951, the Chinese possessed 445 MiG-15s while 89 Sabres were in inventory.  The numbers never got better, not after truce talks began, with the UN delegation headed by Adm. C. Turner Joy. On September 9,  1951, a pitched duel was fought between 28 Sabres and 70 MiGs. Captains Richard S. Becker and Ralph D. (Hoot) Gibson each racked up their fifth MiG kills to become the second and third air aces of the conflict. Before the conflict ended, 39 Sabre pilots and one F4U Corsair pilot would shoot down at least five enemy planes to become aces.

    Helicopter progress

    U.S. Marine Corps aviators flew history’s first mass helicopter resupply operation on September 13, 1961. Newly-arrived squadron HMR-161 did the honors. Known as Windmill I, and making use of the squadron’s Sikorsky HRS-1s, the operation involved airlifting one day’s supplies to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, which was attacking on Hill 673 northward along a ridge system.

    In October 1951, outnumbered Sabres prowled MiG Alley and the greatest air battles of the war took place over northwestern Korea. Now, the MiG-15 force had increased to 525 aircraft, confronting 44 F-86 Sabres. On October 23, 1951, as B-29 Superfortresses went after targets in North Korea, a hundred MiGs boxed in the 34 Sabres of the screening force. The Sabres shot down two MiGs, but this was no comfort to eight Superfort crews, escorted by 55 newly-introduced F-84 Thunderjets. No fewer than 50 MiGs swarmed over this bomber force, inflicting critical damage. This was the last B-29 Superfortress daylight mission for months. Given the limited size of the F-86 Sabre screen, the inadequacy of the F-84 Thunderjet as an escort, and a host of other factors, the B-29 could not survive against the MiG. Nor was an escort of British-built Meteor jets flown by Australian pilots any help: the Meteor F.Mk. 8 performed well on air-to-ground missions but was outclassed  by the MiG.

    When Gen. Mark Clark replaced Ridgway in May 1952, there were about 800 MiGs on one side, and 100 Sabres on the other. That month, Col. Harrison Thyng, the 4th wing commander, became the 16th U.S. ace of the war. Thyng was already an ace from a previous war and could easily have gotten more MiGs, but he was known for “handing over” opportunities to bag a MiG to younger pilots who flew on his wing. Many view Thyng as one of the great leaders of the air war, a man who frequently challenged the generals and the Pentagon brass to provide the equipment and weaponry he needed to subdue the MiGs.

    Also in August 1952 came the most important event since F-86 Sabre pilots began to wrest the advantage away from their adversaries over MiG Alley.  That month, the 51st wing at Suwon flew its first combat missions with three F-86F Sabres with solid wing leading edges. The “hard wing” F-86F was the final evolution of a design which had shown extraordinary promise (with the F-86A), had been developed to improve its maneuverability (F-86E), and had finally cancelled out the altitude advantage enjoyed by the MiG (with the slat-wing F-86F). The hard-wing F-86F came to rule the skies. Sabre pilots, once outnumbered and outgunned, now commanded the aerial battlefield.

    On November 4, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower took 55 percent of the popular vote and 422 of 531 electoral votes, based in part on a promise to go to Korea. Peace talks were stalled; not good news for Ike, who wanted to get the war off Americans’ minds by ending it as quickly as possible.

    Ultimately, American leaders would win an armistice in Korea only by offering its strongest opponent – South Korea – something in return. The quid pro quo was the U.S.-South Korean defense treaty of 1954, which committed the United States formally to the defense of the Republic of Korea.

    In January 1953, the Communist air armada confronting United Nations forces in Korea totaled 1,485 aircraft, including 950 MiG-15s, 165 propeller-driven fighters, 100 Ilyushin Il-28 twin-jet bombers, and 270 other types. On February 16, 1953, 1st Lt. Joseph McConnell, Jr., of the 39th FIS/51st FIW, shot down his fifth MiG. Because of a delay in confirmation, McConnell became the 27th ace of the war. Captain Manuel J. (Pete) Fernandez, Jr., of the 334th FIS/4th FIW, was recognized as the 26th ace when he claimed his fifth and sixth kills on February 18. The two men would later compete for top honors and be joined in the contest by a second-tour Maj. James Jabara. At war’s end, the top three aces were McConnell (16 kills), Jabara (15) and Fernandez (14.5).

    On April 11, 1953, truce negotiators at Panmunjom followed through on Mark Clark’s proposal, and the response of Communist leaders, by reaching a tentative agreement for the two sides to exchange seriously ill and wounded prisoners of war.

    On May 10, 1953, night-fighting F-94Bs toted up their first MiG kill. Cap. John R. Phillips was the pilot and 1st Lt. Billy J. Atto the radar observer. 

    In the air-to-air fighting, the Sabre now commanded the sky. In less than two years, the Sabre pilot had gone from underdog to victor. Once outnumbered and outflown, he was no longer seriously challenged.

    Closing actions

    On July 22, 1953, F-86 Sabre pilot 1st Lt. Sam P. Young of the 51st wing racked up the final MiG kill of the Korean War.

    When the cease-fire was signed at 10:00 a.m. on July 27, 1953, by Generals Harrison and Nam Il, it was to become effective twelve hours later at 10:00 p.m. It is important to remember that the armistice was inked by the commanders of the armies in the field – the United Nations Command, the (North) Korean Peoples Army, and the Chinese Peoples Volunteers. No government has ever signed it and no peace agreement has ever been reached.

    In the Korean War, the U.S. Air Force lost 971 aircraft. Most of these (671) were caused by ground fire, though a substantial number (206) were claimed by other causes. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps lost 1,033 aircraft to all causes. The U.S. Air Force flew 392,139 combat sorties (including 57,665 for close air support) and the U.S. Navy 126,874 (65,748 for close air support). Communist figures for losses and sorties are not available, but according to American numbers the other side lost 600 MiGs in air-to-air combat, with another 143 listed as probably destroyed. Many years after the war, a study by the U.S. Air Force, code named Sabre Measure Charlie, downgraded the F-86 Sabre-versus-MiG-15 “kill ratio” from more than 14 to 1 to a revised figure of 7 to 1. The latter figure remains the best achievement in any fighter campaign in history prior to Operation Desert Storm.

    Because of what came later in Vietnam, we often forget that the Korean War was a success. Although it was not done quickly or easily, and certainly not without terrible cost not merely in dollars but in blood, the Korean War halted aggression against South Korea and assured the survival of the country that had been attacked. In its aerial phase, the war brought innovations from the jet engine to the helicopter, and all of them arrived to stay.[/collapsed]

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>

    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

    [safe_summary] => ) ) [#formatter] => text_default [0] => Array ( [#markup] =>

    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

    ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#children] =>

    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#sorted] => 1 [#children] =>

    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#block] => stdClass Object ( [bid] => 92 [module] => system [delta] => main [theme] => kw60_inq [status] => 1 [weight] => -52 [region] => content [custom] => 0 [visibility] => 0 [pages] => [title] => [cache] => -1 [subject] => ) [#weight] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => block ) [#children] =>

    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => region ) [#region] => content [#printed] => 1 [#children] =>

    The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    The air war in Korea introduced silvery jets that clashed at the edge of the stratosphere, their swept-back wings glinting in the sun. But most combat missions in Korea were flown by planes with propellers. And often, the life of an airman was as gritty as the lot of an infantry soldier, especially when maintainers, crews, and pilots tried to get the job done at roughshod airfields in the extremes of sweltering summer and frigid winter. At one such airfield, American airmen lived in tents and created furniture out of the wooden crates in which 5-inch high-velocity aircraft rockets were delivered.

    Together with those who fought on land and sea, airmen in Korea halted in its tracks a blatant move by the foe to snatch South Korea. The Korean War assured the survival of an independent Republic of Korea south of the 38th parallel.  At a later juncture in history, when pundits compared Korea superficially with Vietnam, nearly everyone forgot that Korea was a success story.

    It did not begin that way. In the early hours of Sunday, June 25, 1950, in darkness and driving rain, North Korean armed forces crossed the 38th parallel at half a dozen locations. The invasion of South Korea was launched by 90,000 men and hundreds of Russian-made T-34 medium tanks. North Korea also put into the battle its modest air arm, commanded by Maj. Gen. Wang Yon, a Soviet Air Academy graduate.

    Air Force Galleries

     

    Source
    Dorr, Robert F. The Skies of Korea: An Air War for a New Era

    For additional information contact:
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office
    2822 Doherty Dr., S.W., Bldg 94
    Suite 404
    Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
    Washington, DC 20373-5899
    (202) 404-2264
    U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Website

    Back to Top

     

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