The Korean War
The Korean War
On the 25th of June, 1950, the North Korean Peoples Army (인민군) came across the 38th parallel into the Republic of Korea (대한민국). The Korean War had begun.
On the 27th of July, 1953 the war "ended" in an armistice. I was 2 and a half months old when the armistice went into effect. From 1978 to 1982 I served in Korea. I'm now 60 years old. Technically speaking, that war never ended. My brothers and sisters in uniform (both U.S. and Korean) are still there, watching, waiting...
I have a particular interest in this conflict as half of my family is Korean, the wife and her relatives. All of whom are very dear to me. Of course, the Naviguesser, the Nuke and the WSO are all half-Korean. Korea is my other country, so to speak. So I guess it's about time that I take a look at the war in the air over the "Land of the Morning Calm".
|USAF C-54 Destroyed on the Ground by North Korean Aircraft|
25 June 1950.
Many of the US aircraft used early in the war would be familiar to any WWII veteran.
|The P-51 Mustang|
There was also a close cousin of the P-51, the F-82 Twin Mustang.
|F-82 Twin Mustang|
These birds flew the first US combat mission of the war.
With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the F-82 was pressed into operational combat duty. On the night of 24/25 June 1950, 68th Fighter Squadron F-82 aircrews standing alert at Itazuke AB were notified at 0400 that FEAF had received a report that North Korea had crossed the 38th Parallel and their mission was to fly to the area and report back on any activity seen on the main roads and railroads. When the alert aircraft reached the area the weather was overcast, with cloud tops at about 8,000 feet. Using their airborne search radar, the Twin Mustangs flew through the clouds and broke out at about 2,000 feet, heading for Kimpo Airfield near Seoul. The pilots observed huge convoys of North Korean trucks and other vehicles, including 58 tanks, which had crossed into South Korea. Heading back into the clouds and turning back to Japan, the crews returned to Itazuke AB, where they were debriefed by a U.S. Army colonel from General Douglas MacArthur's staff. This reconnaissance flight was later recorded as the first combat mission flown in the Korean War.Some newer aircraft began to make an appearance.
|The A1 Skyraider|
|The F-80 Shooting Star|
|The F-9F Panther|
And of course, everyone's favorite...
|The F-86 Sabre|
Of course, the bad guys had jets too.
While the enemy spent their time trying to force us from the skies, our guys were involved in: bombing targets behind enemy lines, providing Close Air Support for our troops on the ground and, of course, fighting enemy air. To keep them away from areas controlled by the U.S. and her allies (okay, the U.N. was the overall "command" in this war, but really it was what I said, the U.S. and her allies: Brits, Aussies, Turks, Kiwis, French, Greeks, Koreans, Canadians and more besides).
|Close Air Support|
F-4U Corsairs and Marines
|Now that is close!|
|MiG-15 Hit Over Korea|
There were a number of aces in the Korean War. If you're interested, Wikipedia has a decent article, here. Unlike recent Flybys I'm not going to go too deeply into the aces of this war. But I will mention a couple of the Americans, personal heroes of mine.
|Captain Joseph C. McConnell, USAF|
Distinguished Service Cross
16 Aerial Victories
1922 - 1954
Joseph Christopher McConnell, Jr. (30 January 1922 – 25 August 1954) was the top American flying ace during the Korean War. A native of Dover, New Hampshire, Captain McConnell was credited with shooting down 16 MiG-15s while flying North American F-86 Sabres with the U.S. Air Force. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star for his actions in aerial combat. McConnell was the first American triple jet-on-jet fighter ace and is still the top-scoring American jet ace.
During World War II, McConnell entered the U.S. Army Air Forces Aviation Cadet training program. His dream of becoming a pilot was dashed when, instead of being sent to pilot training, he was assigned to navigator training. After completing this course, he flew combat missions in Europe as a Consolidated B-24 Liberator navigator. He remained in the Army Air Forces after the war, eventually entering flight training. In 1948, McConnell finally achieved his goal of becoming a fighter pilot.
After returning to his home in Apple Valley, California, McConnell was stationed at George Air Force Base and continued flying F-86s. On 6 August the people of Apple Valley gave a new home, the "Appreciation House", to Capt. McConnell. The house was completed in 45 hours with all land, material, and labor donated.
In 1954 he was temporarily assigned to the service test program for the new F-86H. This was the last and most powerful version of the Sabre, and was intended to be a nuclear-capable fighter-bomber. On 25 August 1954, while testing the fifth production F-86H-1-NA (serial number 52-1981) at Edwards Air Force Base, McConnell was killed in a crash following a control malfunction. The cause of the accident was attributed to a missing bolt. Then-Major Chuck Yeager was assigned to investigate the crash and replicated the malfunction at a much higher altitude. This height advantage allowed him to safely regain control of the aircraft before it hit the desert floor. The 1955 film The McConnell Story, starring Alan Ladd and June Allyson, chronicles his life story. The book Sabre Jet Ace (1959) by Charles Ira Coombs chronicled his experiences as a fighter pilot in Korea in a fictionalized biography for young readers.
In May 2008 Pearl McConnell, Beautious Butch, died at the age of 86. She had never remarried and was buried with Captain McConnell.
|Colonel James "Jabby" Jabara|
Distinguished Service Cross
15 Aerial Victories
1923 - 1966
James "Jabby" Jabara (10 October 1923 – 17 November 1966) was the first American jet ace in history. Born in Oklahoma, he lived in Kansas where he enlisted as an aviation cadet at Fort Riley after graduating high school. Jabara attended four flying schools in Texas before he received his pilot's wings and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. During World War II Jabara flew two tours of combat duty in Europe as a North American P-51 Mustang pilot. He scored 1.5 air victories against German aircraft.
After World War II, Jabara flew his first jet aircraft in 1948, the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star before transitioning to the North American F-86 Sabre. Jabara used this aircraft to shoot down multiple Soviet-built MiG-15 jets during the Korean War. He achieved his first confirmed air victory of the war on 3 April 1951. A month later he scored his fifth and sixth victories, making him the first American jet ace in history. He eventually scored 15 victories, giving him the title of "triple ace". Jabara was ranked as the second-highest-scoring U.S. ace of the Korean War. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross for his accomplishments in combat.
Following the war, Jabara held a series of commands at various Air Force bases across the United States. He flew the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and later the Convair B-58 Hustler. In 1966, Colonel Jabara was traveling with his family to their new home when his daughter crashed the car he was in, killing them both. They were buried together at Arlington National Cemetery. In recognition of his contributions to military aviation, an airport outside of Wichita, Kansas was named in his honor and each year the United States Air Force Academy alumni association bestows the Jabara Award upon an Academy graduate whose aerospace accomplishments demonstrate superior performance.
|The Colonel's Jet|
|The Colonel and His Daughter's Final Resting Place|
I had the privilege of visiting the Colonel's grave at Arlington. I had not known the circumstances of his death until I saw his grave site. When I saw that his 16-year old daughter was buried with him, I had to know the whole story. Here's what I found...
While traveling to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where his family would stay while he returned to combat in Vietnam, Jabara and his 16-year old daughter Carol Anne died in a car accident in Delray Beach, Florida on 17 November 1966. The Jabara family were in two cars that day, on their way to a new home in South Carolina where his wife Nina and their children—James Jr., Carol Anne, Jeanne, and Cathy—would reside during Jabara's combat tour. Carol Anne was driving a Volkswagen with her father as a passenger in the back seat. She lost control of the car going through a construction zone, when she initially veered onto a grass median. She swerved back onto the highway but during the rapid turn, she lost control and the vehicle returned to the median where it rolled several times. Jabara sustained head injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at a Delray hospital, and Carol Anne died two days later. A memorial service was held for Jabara at Homestead Air Force Base with a missing man formation fly-by. Jabara and his daughter were buried together in a single grave at Arlington National Cemetery. His grandson Lt. Nicholas Jabara, a 2001 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, was killed during pilot training in a T-37 accident on 31 January 2002.
Some families give so much for our freedom.
The Korean War is sometimes called "The Forgotten War". Not to me, not ever. My wife's parents survived World War II and then the Korean War. Many older Koreans when I was stationed there would nod politely at me when I passed by in uniform. One old grandfather in traditional attire actually stopped me on the street and, with tears in his eyes, thanked me for what my predecessors had done for the Korean people.
I cried with him.