Sunday, August 21, 2016

Urban Legends

Sarge is feeling a bit puny after his surgery Friday, and building a blog post is challenging enough without having to do it on a phone, especially after surgery, so you're stuck with another story from me.  I would've wrote one for Saturday, but, in August my calendar changes from August 18, August 19... to 4 more days til school starts, 3 more days til...  Sarge's surgery was on the 19th which my brain only interpreted as 3 more days til school starts.  Sarge I'm sorry. Please don't fire me!  Mrs. Juvat needs new shoes, winter is coming. Won't happen again til next year when you have your 3rd annual surgery  

Anyhoo....On with the show.

A few weeks ago, someone commented on one of Sarge's posts about the 18TFW's crest and the "history" behind it.  As with most Urban Legends, there's a lot of twists and turns to the story, but here's the bare bones about it.

According to the story, in the early days of the Korean War, some flying unit, somewhere in Korea, (although Kunsan and Osan are frequently mentioned), was forced to abandon their base because of the rapid advances of the North Koreans.  As such, in their haste to save their sorry pink butts, the pilots, who flew fighters, (there is a difference), took off and left their maintenance crews to fend for themselves against the godless commies.  Said crews were said to have been captured and then hung from the rafters of the bases hangar.  Headquarters was said to be so incensed by the actions of the pilots that they decreed that the unit would not be allowed to return to the United States until they had recovered their honor in combat.  Further their unit patch would be colored yellow and would have a chicken on it with its arms in the air as if surrendering.

Furthermore, the wires, the poor crew chiefs lost their lives on, would remain intact in the rafters "as a reminder...."  Dun, dun, DUNNNN!!!


When I got to Kunsan, in the final year of the second worst president in history, the base had a very large hangar near the runway.  Early on in my tour, we had a change of command for the Wing Commander and, because it was winter, prudence dictated we use the hangar for the ceremony. 
If I recall correctly, the hangar was approximately where the oval is

 Being the second youngest officer in the Squadron (my date of rank was 1 day older than my classmate from RTU and now squadron mate which kept me from being the snacko, wahoo!), I was the gofer for the ceremony.  That didn't require a lot of effort or brainpower so I had some time on my hands.  I wandered around the hangar looking at equipment and stuff.  I happened to glance up and saw some wires hanging from the ceiling... Dun, dun, DUNNNN!!!

I asked an old, crusty MSGT (is there any other kind?) what they were for.  He related his version of the story.  I was impressed, because he told it impressively.  However, I had my doubts that the pilots would have run off like that because, well, I was young and impressionable.

So, at least to this version of the story, the base in question was Kunsan.

Now, what Paul Harvey would call, "the rest of the story.",

There are only two fighter units, in the north Pacific, that fit the mold of "never return to the US", the 8TFW and the 18TFW.  (Strangely enough, both Sarge and I are alumni of both, even with some overlap in the 8th.  As small a base as that was, I'm sure we ran into each other, although neither can remember it happening.  Heck, I'm having a harder and harder time remembering breakfast, much less events from nearly 40 years ago.)

Now, where was I...

Right.  8TFW and 18TFW, still in the Pacific, never to return, cowardly heiniousity of leaving crew chiefs to the godless commies, stuck with a yellow patch with a surrendering  chicken until they recover their honor in battle.

Let's set a timeline.  The godless commies invaded on June 25th, 1950. The Inchon landing occurred on Sep 15th 1950, on the 25th Seoul was recaptured and the North Korean army essentially disintegrated.  So, the yellow chicken debacle had to occur sometime in the summer of 1950.

According to the source of all verifiable knowledge, the 8th was flying out of Itazuke AB Japan during that period, (moving to Pyongyang Air Base in December 1950 interestingly).  In fact, they didn't permanently move to Kunsan until 1974. 

Strike one, they were not at the Kun at the time.

Strike two, the patch is wrong.

 And, here comes strike three....
If you have to ask who this is, well....
I doubt that he would have allowed that rumor to exist  about HIS wing.  The 8TFW history in Vietnam is legendary.

So, it's unlikely it was the 8th that perpetrated this heiniousity.

That means it must have been those dastardly Eagle drivers from the 18TFW then right? They got that surrendering chicken patch, must be them! Can't trust those air-to-air pukes.  Leaving their crew chiefs behind.  Why I oughtta.....

Whoa, Tex, rein in those hosses!

OK, so the surrendering chicken patch does belong to the 18TFW.
With wings and talons.
(I always thought it looked a bit ridiculous, but...Tradition!)

They got this patch assigned to them in Korea right!  Cowards!

Actually Tex, No.
P-26A Peashooter.
And, just because my eyes aren't as good as they once was.
Yep, the surrendering chicken

The patch was assigned to them in Hawaii no later than 1938.  An amazing ability to predict their future predilection towards cowardice wouldn't you say?

Strike one

So where were they in the Korean War? Again, according to the source of all knowledge, they were at Clark when the North Korean's attacked and were hurriedly deployed to Taegu AB, just north of Pusan.  So, they were not at Kunsan, either.

Strike two.

Finally, I've already written about Major Sebille, one of only 4 Medal of Honor recipients in the USAF during the Korean War.  (Another one, Major Charles Loring was in the 80TFS, the Juvats. On the shoulders of Giants.)  It is unlikely that someone brave enough to crash his aircraft into the enemy to stop their attack would come from a unit that would abandon its comrades.

Strike three.

Oh, and by the way, the never to return?  Both the 18th and the 8th have sent units to CONUS to compete in William Tell (an air to air competition) and Gunsmoke (an air to ground competition).  If there were any truth to the Urban Legend, honor would have prevented they're even being extended an invitation much less attending and winning.

You've got to love Urban Legends, they're just another variant of Reagan's quote, "
“It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so.”

Oh, and the "surrendering Chicken"? It's actually a gamecock, a tenacious fighter known to continue to attack its foe until one or the other is dead.  An admirable trait in a fighter pilot.

Hope you're feeling better, Sarge!


  1. I'm glad you cleared that up Juvat.

    The fighting cock is a favorite of more than one aviation unit. (That legend was probably generated by the shoe clerks!)

    1. Jealous shoe clerks, some of whom flew fighter aircraft.

  2. Very good post, which follows from good research. Thank you.

    But how could anyone see that fighting cock as a "surrendering chicken?"

    1. Thanks.

      One sees what one wants to see, I guess.

  3. You have to remember the first rule: Never let the truth ruin a great TINS story. If I had to fact check everything I would be struck dumb right after I uttered the words There I was....

    Hope you are feeling better Chris.

    1. My Dad's very words to me as I departed for UPT. "Never let the truth interfere with a good story." Words to live by.

  4. An "Urban Legend." We, in the Army, had the same tale being told about the 1st Cavalry Division. They wore the yellow patch because they ran in the first days of conflict in Korea. They'd been assigned to Japan and not allowed to set foot back in the U.S. until they'd redeemed their honor. And so it goes . . .

    1. We studied Task Force Smith extensively at CGSC at Ft Leavenworth. Even with no ground combat experience, I could tell those guys had been handed an impossible task and were destined to fail. The bad news is, we seem to be doing the same things that led to Task Force Smith today. Those that fail to learn from history.....

  5. I thought P-26s were a darker blue than that.

    1. Well, I'd say it was Air Superiority Blue, except for the bright yellow wings.

    2. I'm going to defer to your wider experience, VX. Wasn't that your first fighter?


  6. Great post. I remember hearing about the chicken bugout early in my career. It was often cited as a reason to be thankful you chose the navy.

    Interestingly, each USS Saratoga has been "The Fighting Cock" since the Battle of Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain in 1814. An opening shot from HMS Linnet smashed a poultry cage on Saratoga II, a 143-foot corvette, which irritated the gamecock it contained to no end. The cock flew into the rigging and crowed foul names at the British during the battle, which the Yankee Imperialist Pigs won.

    Saratoga VI, CV-60, had her own urban legend develop later. As rumor had it she sank on the hook off Piraeus, Greece in February, 1971, which earned her the moniker "Sinkin' Sara." She didn't actually sink, of course, but suffered a major flooding casualty in engineering that put her out of action for more than a month. Crazy rumors abound around the casualty, including cowardly ratings bugging out of the flooding compartment and allowing the ship to sink. The real story is less sensational regarding the flooding, but pretty neat regarding the way the airwing continued to meet her very real obligations. The morning after the casualty, when engineering had returned the boat to an even keel, they shot the entire airwing off while the ship was at anchor. F-4's, A-6's, A-7's, E-2's, S-2's and the Vigies. CVW-3 was a land based naval air force for more than a month but met all her commitments. One episode included the first-ever Bear intercept by A-7 Corsairs.

    The real deal is almost always better than the urban legend.

    Sending healing thoughts toward Little Rhody!

    1. A Vigilante and A-6 takeoff without any wind over the bow? I bet that was exciting to watch (provided you weren't in the cockpit)!

    2. Paul Gillcrist was CAG and tells the story in his book "Feet Wet." The F-4's were clean with only 4k in the bag. The boat was pointed into five knots of offshore breeze, so directly at the beach. The first pair of Phantoms ignored Gillchrist's directive to make starboard clearing turns away from the city. Off the bow they cleaned 'em up and were doing 600 knots at 100 feet when they made 7 G port turns directly over the crowded beach, followed by neat aileron rolls. Unsurprisingly the crews spent some time in hack but became legends in their own time. Hell, they were navy combat fighter crews. Those are the kind of examples you think of when you're cold and hungry and exhausted and need to find a way to suck it up and drive on.

    3. That would have been impressive to watch! Only rarely got to fly a clean F-4, but they do "get fast, fast".

  7. Thanks for the post, juvat. It's a goodn.

    Paul L. Quandt

  8. My brother spent 1993, I believe, at Kunsan as a Weapon System Specialist (462!). He actually went there from Kadena and the 18th. I distinctly remember hearing the very story you just told, complete with the wires and everything. It explained the "ZZ" on the tail, too ("FF" stood for "First Fighter" Wing, and "ZZ" was for the last, until they redeem themselves). Very glad to hear it was all Poppy-(fighting)-cock! Thanks, Juvat!

    1. The story I was told about the ZZ was that it was to honor our Japanese Hosts. The story was that ZZ was the flag that Admiral Somebody flew when he defeated the godless somebodies in a battle in the Tsushima straits. Again, the reality is somewhat different. According to this comment on Snopes which cites a 404 error site (how's that for crediblity?)
      The ZZ tailcode's origins date after the Korean War and have nothing to do with combat performance. In 1968, the Pacific Air Forces assigned a randomly generated letter to each of its 24 wings. The 18th Wing received "Z." Each flying squadron was assigned another randomly generated letter. The two letters were then combined and painted on the squadrons' respective aircraft. Within the 18th Wing, there was: "ZA" for the 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron; "ZG" for the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron; "ZL" for the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron; and "ZZ" for the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.

      y 1972, the Air Force reorganized the tailcode system and began to assign two-letter codes to each wing. The 18th Wing would have received "KA" for Kadena during this renaming, but the abbreviation was already in use by the 457th Tactical Airlift Wing in Vietnam. As an alternative, 18th Wing officials and the Pacific Air Forces commander requested the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron's popular "ZZ" markings for the entire wing. In 1975, the 18th Wing officially received its ZZ tailcode designation."

      Glad to "meet" another 18th/8th alum!

  9. I always had my doubts about that story, but many GIs considered it amusing to retell, especially to "jeeps."

    Another tale was about the 417th TFS's name, the Red Dorqs (pronounced "dorks"), a unit at Holloman when I was there. The name was supposedly a translation from a French word for ghost, the squadron insignia being a ghost riding a bomb. Most of us just thought it was a sly reference to sexual matters, with the spelling offering plausible deniability.

    Our version held water mainly because there's no French word that even comes close to "dorq," about ghosts or not. I had a French-English dictionary left over from high school, and I looked at that thing several times trying to puzzle out some kind of explanation, but never did.

    But I KNOW that alligators live in the sewers of New York City. You can't splain that one away.

    1. Alligators in New York City? Of course there are!

  10. Good story, and yeah cocks can fight, but in Louisiana beware of the duck, it usually wins... :-) Get better Sarge!

  11. Well, if the duck, which floats on water, is the symbol of the Cajun Navy, more power to ya! Well done! Never give up, Never surrender!


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