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The Services

Korean War News




“I saw a Corsair coming out of the sun ...What a psychological lift...We sent up a yell...Bless his heart.”

ATTRIBUTION:Lieutenant William A. Watson, 7th Marines, Bunker Hill, 1952

Marines flew helicopters and jets into combat for the first time in Korea. Marine close air support of embattled ground troops reached a pinnacle of responsiveness during the 1st Marine Division's breakout from Chosin (Changjin) Reservoir. As the war progressed, a new generation of "Flying Leathernecks" began replacing the veteran World War II pilots in the cockpits.

The Marines lost 436 aircraft during the war. A wide array of propeller-driven aircraft supported ground Marines. Familiar F4U Corsairs provided low-level, front-line attacks. Douglas AD "Skyraiders," designed for close air support missions, carried more bombs than any other single-engine plane. Four-engine R4D "Skytrains” evacuated thousands of wounded from Hagaru-ri, while Marinestaff pilots flew old TBM "Avengers” to evacuate more casualties from Koto-ri's tinyairstrip. Observation planes, often flown by sergeants, spotted targets for artillery fire. The Corps entered the Jet Age in late 1950 with the Grumman F9F Panther.

While wellsuited for ground attack missions, the Panther proved less agile in air-to-air combat thanSoviet-built MiG-15 fighters. Most of the Marines' MiG kills came while flying F-86Sabre jets during Air Force exchange duty. Major John Glenn, future astronaut and U. S.Senator, shot down three MiGs, while Major John Bolt, a WW II Corsair ace, became the first Marine jet ace with six kills.

The Marine Corps was the last American military service to receive helicopters, but wasthe first to formulate, test, and implement a doctrine for the use of rotary-wing aircraft asan integral element in air-ground combat operations. Helicopters offered an innovativesolution for dispersion of forces and tactical mobility in the nuclear age for futureamphibious assaults. Marine helicopters flew more than 18,000 flights in Korea, toinclude such varied missions as command and control, aerial wire laying, resupply,vertical envelopment, and visual reconnaissance. Helicopters lifted more than 60,000personnel, and conducted nearly 10,000 evacuation and rescue missions.