Friday, October 25, 2013

The Friday Flyby - 25 October

한국 전쟁
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 Corsair

The B-29

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.

From Wikipedia:
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-84D

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

Oh, did I forget to mention it? There were carriers off the coast, oh yes there were.

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

From Wikipedia:
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

From Wikipedia:
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...

From Wikipedia:
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.


  1. Love the Corsairs, love the Sabres. And next time I'm at Arlington, I'll look the Jabaras up and throw a nickel on the grass.

    1. Thanks Murph. I'll do the same next time I go to Arlington.

    2. Let me know when you do. I'm an hour away. And having once worked at that cemetery, I know where a lot of heroes are.

    3. I would love that. My oldest daughter lives in Alexandria and is stationed at the Navy Yard. So a trip to the DC area is definitely in the immediate future. I will be in touch!

  2. Another good one. Now we're starting to get to a point where I knew or knew people who knew these people. My dad was in Jabara's squadron after the Korean War. He got qualified in F-86s right as the war was ending. I was 1, so if I met him, I certainly didn't remember.

    1. While I haven't been doing these Flybys in chronological order, we are getting closer to modern times. I expect I'll be doing Vietnam soon. Unless I regress and cover some WWII event. For instance there's that whole Eastern Front thing. Lots of material there. Also Ploesti, Schweinfurt and Regensburg, lots of material yet to be covered. But I assure you, a post on the air war over Vietnam will be soon. I owe those guys,

      That's pretty cool that your Dad flew with Col Jabara.

    2. I met an old guy... a retired colonel fighter pilot... at the last AFA meeting in Clovis, NM who flew with Jabara. My jaw just dropped when he mentioned the name and the ol' guy just nodded and said "Best damned fighter pilot EVER."

    3. He's another guy I heard about as a kid. Of course, the Korean War was still fresh in some folks minds about the time I started taking an interest in that kind of thing. Military aviation that is.

      And of course Captain McConnell was a fellow New Englander, New Hampshireman he was.

  3. In recent years, Vietnam Veterans have finally received their proper recognition. I don't think the Korean Veterans have.

    1. I've noticed that too. As we're losing the WWII vets, the Korean War vets aren't too far behind. I have seen a few older guys wearing "Korean War Vet" hats, I thank them when I can.

      I have to say that the Korean War Memorial in DC is very nice. I was moved by it. While the WWII Memorial is very impressive, the Korean War Memorial made me think. The sculptor did a very nice job.

  4. At the beginning of the Korean War I was becoming more aware of world affairs.
    I can remember hearing the count of the numbers of aircraft shot down reported on the radio new broadcasts.
    I also remember hearing reports about "Mig Alley."

    The Korean vets here seem to be well recognized.
    But then this neck of the woods is pretty good about recognizing all vets.
    This morning is the grand opening of the new California State Veterans Home is this morning ...there's another whole story there.

    1. I trust you'll be posting about the new California State Veterans Home at your place?

      That sounds like a great topic.

    2. Well probably when I get around the idea that it was completed over a year ago, but they just now got around taking in the first client Wednesday.
      The explanation was funds were scarce.
      But now they've managed to find enough to throw and extravagant party?

      Yep, I will post about it when I can clear out the negative thoughts.

      While I'm thinking about it...
      I remember seeing the McConell Story when it first came out.
      I also remember thinking the Grumman Panther was the coolest jet around ...probably because the ones I saw were all black ... then I saw the Cougar with the swept wings.

    3. Isn't that a classic.

      I still think the Panther is an awesome bird. I believe it's one of the first model aircraft my Dad and I built together. Hence it's specialness.

  5. The Korean War is sometimes called "The Forgotten War". Not to me, not ever.

    Not to me, either. My former father-in-law (RIP) was an officer of Marines at the Chosin Reservoir. He never talked about the experience during his lifetime to my knowledge and not to The Second Mrs. Pennington's, as well, beyond acknowledging he "was there." But there's this: there's an organization called The Chosin Few and every single member of the Michigan chapter attended my FIL's funeral. Those guys talked about their experience and it was incredible to hear their stories.

    Yet another thing about the funeral: the Marines sent an honor guard up from Detroit for the funeral, a two and a half hour drive (one way) for them. There's no such thing as "a former Marine."

    Great post, Chris... and thanks for firing off a few synapses for me.

    1. Wow. The "Frozen Chosin". Now that was a little piece of Hell that probably only a Marine who was there could understand. And your former FIL was one of them. What a small world it is.

      And yes, there are no "former" Marines. Just Marines. God Bless 'em All!

      Thanks Buck.

    2. Wait one... Marines, when they are in another branch of service (i.e., Army, Air Force, Coasties, Navy) are former Marines.
      They go back to being Marines when discharged.

    3. Good point Skip.

      Didn't know you were a sea-lawyer. :-0

  6. Echoing Buck about "The Forgotten War." The phrase "how soon we forget" is unfortunately not just idle chatter.... their unfortunate fate was to fight too soon after WW II when everybody just wanted to put the brutal all-too-recent past behind them..

    1. That's exactly it Virgil. Also it was a different kind of war. The politicians didn't even want to call it a war.

      Damn shame.

  7. The pictures of these jets are a good reminder for me to call my dad. He was a teen during WWII. He thought we'd never see another war, yet 5 years later he was drafted into the Army for Korea. He quickly ran down to the Naval Recruiter and signed up, later loading bombs on A-1s and F-9s off the Bonnie Dick and Boxer. I joined the reserves in 1986, never thinking I'd go to war either, almost worried that I'd join and be bored out of my skull for however long I'd be in. He was a teen so he wasn't interested in the signs that were leading us to war in Korea- the Soviet Union marching east and west. I was in college, still romanticizing the movie TOPGUN, ignoring the signs that were obvious to me too- re-flagging Kuwaiti tankers, USSs Stark and Samuel B Roberts, and me later getting the obvious clue with Desert Storm. We've been at war ever since. Not sure where the heck I'm going with this, but thanks for the nice post. That also reminds me, I need to finish a travelogue.

    1. Wow. One of those pictures up there is a Corsair on the Boxer.

      The things we think when we're young.

      Your comment "we've been at war ever since" gives me an idea for a post. I haven't done anything on the Long War for a while. And that is most certainly what we're in.

  8. Helluva note when the Spad was considered a 'new' acft... sigh

    1. Yeah, I know.

      But it was a hell of an aircraft!


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