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The U.S. Air Force's First War: Korea Significant Events A. Timothy Warnock, Editor Air Force History and Museums Program Air Force Historical Research Agency 2000 PREFACE In commemoration of
The U.S. Air Force's First War: Korea Significant Events A. Timothy Warnock, Editor Air Force History and Museums Program Air Force Historical Research Agency 2000 PREFACE In commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Korean War, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Historian commissioned the Research Division, Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base (AFB), Alabama, to compile this significant events chronology of USAF military operations in the Korean Theater. The chronology points out the relationship of these operations to the land battle, naval operations, and important political and diplomatic events. It also identifies such USAF historical firsts as the first all-jet air battle, the introduction of new weapons systems, and the initiation of tactics, techniques, or procedures that had a major impact on later air operations. The chronology also identifies important people, such as key commanders, recipients of the Medal of Honor, and aces. Finally, it attempts to summarize those USAF events in Korea that best illustrate the air war and the application of airpower in the theater. To present the information most effectively, the chronology offers narrative monthly summaries followed by daily entries of significant events. Each daily entry uses the local date, which in the theater is one day later than in the United States. Two dates separated by a hyphen indicates that the entry covers events from one date through the second date. Two dates separated by a slash indicate the the events occur during night hours. Each event includes an explanation of its significance or correlates to information in the monthly introduction. The appendices add data not easily encapsulated in a chronology but helpful either in understanding the monthly and daily entries or in establishing an overview of air operations in the war. The information in the entries came mostly from primary sources available at the AFHRA, including organizational histories, intelligence summaries, digests, and operational statements of U.S. Far East Command (FEC), Far East Air Forces (FEAF), Fifth Air Force, FEAF Bomber Command, FEAF Combat Cargo Command (Provisional), and the 315 Air Division (Combat Cargo). Sometimes, wing and group histories provided additional information. The researchers also consulted numerous secondary sources, usually to confirm the most significant events of the air war in Korea. A. TIMOTHY WARNOCK, Editor June Communist North Korea unexpectedly invaded the Republic of Korea (ROK) across the line of demarcation, the 38th parallel, using superior numbers of tanks and troops to force South Korean defenders southward. The United Nations (UN) Security Council condemned the North Korean invasion, authorized UN members to aid the ROK, and requested that the U.S. government establish a United Nations Command under an U.S. officer. Despite USAF attacks, the invaders quickly captured South Korea's capital, Seoul, overran the port of Inchon, seized the airfield at Kimpo, and threatened the city of Suwon. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, USA, Commander, the U.S. Far East Command, ordered weapons and ammunition shipped to South Korea and prepared to move U.S. ground troops from Japan to Korea. At the same time, U.S. naval units approached the peninsula to enforce a blockade of North Korea, as ordered by U.S. President Harry S Truman. June 25: Simultaneously with the invasion of South Korea, North Korean troops made an amphibious landing at Kangnung on the east coast just south of the 38th parallel. Meanwhile, North Korean fighter aircraft attacked Seoul and Kimpo airfields, destroying one USAF C-54 on the ground at Kimpo. John J. Muccio, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, relayed to President Truman an ROK request for U.S. air assistance and ammunition. The UN Security Council unanimously called for a cease fire and withdrawal of the North Korean Army (NKA) to north of the 38th parallel. The resolution asked all UN members to support the withdrawal of the NKA and to render no assistance to North Korea. Maj. Gen. Earle E. Partridge, USAF, Commander, Fifth Air Force, ordered wing commanders to prepare for air evacuation of U.S. citizens from South Korea. He also increased aerial surveillance of Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan. The Twentieth Air Force placed two squadrons of 51 Fighter Interceptor Wing (FIW) on air defense alert in Japan. June 26: The North Koreans captured Chunchon, Pochon, and Tongduchon, South Korea. The U.S. Seventh Fleet sailed north from the Philippines. The ROK requested ten F-51s from the U.S. Air Force to supplement the South Korean Air Force's AT-6s and liaison-type airplanes. In continued preparation for air evacuation of U.S. citizens from Korea, Far East Air Forces (FEAF) traded C-54s for C-47s from all over the Far East, because the latter could land on smaller airfields. USAF SB-17 aircraft provided rescue cover for the initial evacuation by sea of U.S. citizens from Seoul. Beginning in the early morning, 682 people boarded the Norwegian merchant ship Reinholte, which finally left Inchon Harbor at 4:30 p.m., bound for Sasebo, Japan. F-82G Twin Mustang fighters of the 68th Fighter All Weather Squadron (FAWS) provided air cover for freighters, including the Reinholte, sailing from Inchon, South Korea, to Japan. The Fifth Air Force also flew escort and surveillance sorties, some over the straits between Japan and Korea, and some over the Seoul area. June 27: The UN Security Council called on all UN members to aid South Korea. President Truman directed U.S. air and sea forces to assist the Republic of Korea, and General MacArthur ordered Far East Air Forces to attack North Korean units south of the 38th parallel. Lt. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, USAF, Commander, Far East Air Force, who was in the United States when the war broke out, returned to Japan. Far East Air Forces used Kimpo Airfield near Seoul and Suwon Airfield some twenty miles south of the capital for emergency air evacuation of 748 persons to Japan on C-54s, C-47s,and C-46s. Cargo aircraft assigned to the 374th Troop Carrier Wing (TCW) and FEAF headquarters accomplished the airlift, escorted by F-82s, F-80 jet fighters, and B-26 light bombers. Fifth Air Force embarked on a mission to establish air superiority over South Korea, partially to prevent the North Korean air force from attacking ROK forces and to protect evacuation forces. When North Korean aircraft appeared over Kimpo and Suwon Airfields, the USAF aircraft flying air cover engaged the enemy in the first air battle of the war. Major James W. Little, USAF, Commander, 339th FAWS, fired the first shot. Lt. William G. Hudson, 68th FAWS, flying an F-82, with Lieutenant Carl Fraser as his radar observer, scored the first aerial victory. In all, six pilots shot down over Kimpo seven North Korean propeller-driven fighters, the highest number of USAF aerial victories in one day for all of Fifth Air Force B-26s, flying from Ashiya AB, Japan, attacked enemy targets in South Korea in the evening, but bad weather made the raids ineffective. Fifth Air Force established an advance headquarters at Itazuke and moved B-26s to Ashiya and RF-80s to Itazuke AB, Japan, for missions in Korea. The 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing (FBW) organized a composite unit of USAF and South Korean airmen at Taegu Airfield, South Korea, to fly F- 51D Mustangs. June 28: North Koreans captured Seoul, forcing the ROK government to move to Taejon. Enemy forces also occupied nearby Kimpo Airfield and, on the east coast, Mukho Naval Base below Kangnung. North Korean Yaks strafed Suwon Airfield, destroying one B-26 and one F-82. In the first USAF air strikes of the Korean War, more than twenty B-26s of the 3d Bombardment Group (BG) attacked Munsan railroad yards near the 38th parallel and rail and road traffic between Seoul and the North Korean border. One, heavily damaged by enemy antiaircraft fire, crashed on its return to Ashiya, killing all aboard. Flying from Kadena Air Base (AB), Okinawa, the 19th Bombardment Group, in the first B-29 medium bomber strikes of the Korean War, attacked a railroad bridge and targets of opportunity such as tanks, trucks, and supply columns along North Korean invasion routes. Bad weather over Japan limited Fifth Air Force sorties, but eighteen fighters flew close air support and interdiction missions. More than thirty F-80s from Itazuke escorted C-54s and B-26s flying between Japan and Suwon. 1 Lt. Bryce Poe II, in an RF-80A, flew the USAF's first jet combat reconnaissance mission, photographing the NKA advance elements and reporting clearing weather over the front in Korea. C-54s and C-47s flew out the last of 851 U.S. citizens evacuated by air from South Korea. FEAF transports airlifted 150 tons of ammunition from Tachikawa AB, Japan, to Suwon, about twenty miles south of Seoul. June 29: North Korean forces captured Kapyong and massed on the north shore of the Han River. Heavy fighting raged in the Kimpo area. North Korean aircraft bombed and strafed Suwon airfield, destroying a C-54 on the ground. The 21st Troop Carrier Squadron (TCS) moved from Clark AFB in the Philippines to Tachikawa AB, Japan. General MacArthur directed General Stratemeyer to concentrate air attacks on the Han River bridges and North Korean troops massing north of the river. B-26s attacked the bridges, and Fifth Air Force F-80s patrolled the Han River area. F-82s from the 86th FAWS, using jettisonable fuel tanks, attacked with napalm for the first time in the war. Pilots of the 35th and 80th Fighter Bomber Squadrons (FBS) shot down five North Korean airplanes that were attacking Suwon Airfield. Eight B-29s of the 19th BG attacked enemy-held Kimpo Airfield and the Seoul railroad station, reportedly killing a large number of enemy troops. As the medium bombers turned toward Kadena, Okinawa, enemy aircraft attacked the formation, enabling B-29 gunners to shoot down for the first time in the war one of the opponent's airplanes. General MacArthur authorized FEAF attacks on airfields in North Korea. In the first USAF attack on North Korea, eighteen B-26s of the 3d BG attacked Heijo airfield near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, claiming up to twenty-five enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground. The 8th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS) began photographic reconnaissance of North Korean airfields. Using RB-29 aircraft, the 31st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (Photographic) also started operations over Korea from Yokota, Japan. June 30: President Truman ordered the use of U.S. ground troops in Korea and a naval blockade of North Korea. The 77th Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Squadron arrived in Korea to support the Fifth Air Force, to which it was subsequently attached. North Korean forces reached Samchock on the east coast and in the west crossed the Han River, threatening Suwon Airfield. Far East Air Forces began evacuation of the airfield and authorized improvement of Kumhae Airfield, eleven miles north-west of Pusan, to compensate for the loss of Kimpo and Suwon. The first Fifth Air Force tactical air control parties arrived at Suwon. B-26s from the 3d BG strafed, bombed, and rocketed enemy troops and traffic in the Seoul area. One flight hit a stalled enemy column. Fifteen B-29s attacked railroad bridges, tanks, trucks, and troop concentrations on the north bank of the Han River in the Seoul area. July 1950 NKA forces advanced relentlessly into South Korea despite the application of U.S. air and naval power north and south of the 38th parallel. The piecemeal introduction of inadequately prepared U.S. ground forces failed to stop them. By the end of July, the enemy had conquered the entire Korean peninsula except the area southeast of Hamch'ang and bordered by the Nakton River. The USAF moved two additional B-29 groups to the Far East to join the one already there. Meantime, Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, USAF, Chief of Staff, met in Tokyo with General MacArthur, now Commander of UN forces in the theater, to discuss the most efficient use of the B-29. MacArthur allowed General Stratemeyer to employ some Superfortresses in a campaign against strategic and deep interdiction targets, such as chemical plants, oil refineries, marshalling yards, docks, and key bridges in North Korea. The medium bombers also continued to hit enemy targets in South Korea, including Seoul's bridges over the Han River. In fact, General MacArthur insisted that the bulk of U.S. air power be employed tactically against the advancing enemy troops. Far East Air Forces tasked Fifth Air Force to establish and maintain air superiority, provide UN ground forces with close air support, and interdict NKA supplies and reinforcements, thus isolating enemy forces on the front lines. The Fifth Air Force moved two fighter groups from the Philippines and Japan to South Korea and began replacing jet-powered F-80s with more fuel-efficient propeller-driven F-51 Mustangs. Compared to the F-80s, the Mustangs could loiter far longer in a target area and better endure the primitive conditions of South Korean air bases. By the end of the month, the World-War II era fighters were flying from Taegu and Pohang Dong, while C-47 transports used the Pusan Airfield. Fifth Air Force reserved a fourth South Korean airfield, Shachon, for emergency landings. B-26s of the 3d BG, based in Japan, often attacked bridges at night in enemy-occupied South Korea. Although the North Koreans shot down a few USAF airplanes, Far East Air Forces soon achieved air superiority over Korea. July 1: North Korean forces occupied Suwon, denying Far East Air Forces use of its airstrip. The 374th TCW began airlifting the U.S. Army (USA) 24th Infantry Division, the first U.S. troops to enter Korea since the war began, from Itazuke AB to Pusan. Fifth Air Force gained operational control of the 77th RAAF Fighter Squadron. July 3: Far East Air Forces continued to airlift U.S. Army troops to Korea but substituted smaller C-46s and C- 47s for C-54s, which damaged the Pusan runways. Pilots of four F-80s on the first mission with external rockets reported excessive drag that shortened their range. July 5: A Joint Operations Center opened at Taejon to provide better close air support for U.S. ground forces, which near Osan battled for the first time North Korean troops. July 6: In the first strategic air attacks of the war, nine B-29s bombed the Rising Sun oil refinery at Wonsan and a chemical plant at Hungnam in North Korea. B-26s hitting advancing enemy armored columns reported six to ten tanks destroyed. July 7: General Partridge resumed command of the Fifth Air Force. The UN Security Council established the UN Command, designated the United States as executive agent for prosecuting the Korean War, and requested that the U.S. President appoint a UN Commander. The 77th Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Fighter Squadron, representing Australia's contribution to airpower in the theater, was attached to Far East Air Forces. July 8: President Truman designated General MacArthur as commander of UN forces in the Korean Theater. Far East Air Forces organized a provisional bomber command at Yokota, with Maj. Gen. Emmett O'Donnell, Jr., USAF, as commander. Lt. Oliver Duerksen and Lt. Frank Chermak, USAF,, provided from radio-equipped jeeps the first forward air control to direct air to ground attacks in the Korean War. July 9: Forward air controllers began using L-5G and L-17 liaison airplanes to direct F-80 air strikes in support of ground forces. July 10: Carefully timing air strikes to coincide with the departure of USAF counter-air patrols for refueling, four enemy Yaks bombed and strafed the USA 19th Infantry Regiment at Chongju. The Fifth Air Force began using T-6 trainer aircraft for forward air control missions, because liaison airplanes were not fast enough to elude enemy fire. F-80s caught an enemy convoy stopped at a bombed-out bridge near Pyongtaek. Along with B-26s and F-82s, they attacked the convoy and claimed destruction of 117 trucks, thirty-eight tanks, and seven halftracks. July 12: Four Military Air Transport Service airplanes arrived in Japan from the United States carrying fiftyeight large 3.5-inch rocket launchers (bazookas) and shaped charges desperately needed to destroy North Korean tanks. Enemy fighters shot down one B-29, one B-26, and one L-4, the first North Korean aerial victories. In its first mission, the 92d BG, flying from its base at Yokota, Japan, bombed the Seoul marshalling yards. July 13: Forty-nine FEAF Bomber Command B-29s from the 22d BG and the 92d BG bombed marshalling yards and an oil refinery at Wonsan, North Korea. 3d Air Rescue Squadron (ARS) began flying SB-17 aircraft off the Korean coast to drop rescue boats to downed B-29 crews. Advancing enemy troops forced the airborne control function to move southeastward from Taejon to Taegu. Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, USA, Commander, Eighth U.S. Army in Korea, assumed command of all U.S. ground forces in Korea. July 14: The 35th Fighter Interceptor Group (FIG), moving from Japan to a new airfield (K-3) at Pohang, became the first USAF fighter group to be based in South Korea during the war. The 6132d Tactical Air Control Squadron, the first tactical air control unit in the war, activated at Taegu under Col. Joseph D. Lee, USAF. It provided forward, ground-based air control for aircraft providing close air support of UN forces. A Fifth Air Force-Eighth Army Joint Operations Center began to function at Taegu, and Fifth Air Force organized an advance headquarters at Itazuke AB, Japan. July 15: Carrier aircraft on missions over Korea began to report to the Joint Operations Center at Taegu. The 51st Fighter Squadron (Provisional) at Taegu flew the first F-51 Mustang combat missions in Korea. A Fifth Air Force operation order assigned Mosquito call signs to airborne controllers in T-6 airplanes, and the name became the identifier for the aircraft. July 17: Three B-29s accidentally bombed friendly civilians in Andong, South Korea, illustrating the dangers of using B-29s on close air support missions. July 18: The 19th BG modified some B-29s for the use of radio-guided bombs (Razon) to enable them to bomb bridges more accurately. July 19: In a dogfight near Taejon, Fifth Air Force F-80s shot down three enemy Yaks, the highest daily number of aerial victories this month. In the campaign to establish air superiority in the theater, seven F-80s of the 8th Fighter-Bomber Group (FBG), led by Lt. Col. William T. Samways, destroyed fifteen enemy airplanes on the ground near Pyongyang. July 20: Despite FEAF close air support, the North Korean Army took Taejon, forcing the remnants of the USA 24th Infantry Division to withdraw to the southeast. U.S. ground forces defending Taejon had suffered in seven days almost thirty percent casualties. Maj. Gen. Otto P. Weyland, USAF, arrived in the Far East to assume the position of FEAF Vice Commander for Operations. Fifth Air Force pilots in F-80s shot down two more enemy aircraft, the last aerial victories until November. Enemy air opposition by this time had virtually disappeared, a sign of UN air superiority. July 22: The U.S. Navy (USN) aircraft carrier USS Boxer arrived in Japan with 145 USAF F-51s aboard. The 3d ARS deployed the first H-5 helicopter in Korea to Taegu. July 23: The 6132d Tactical Air Control Group (Provisional) established a Tactical Air Control Center adjacent to the Joint Operations Center at Taegu, South Korea. July 24: Fifth Air Force moved its advanced headquarters from Japan to Taegu, South Korea, locating it next to the Eighth U.S. Army Headquarters in Korea for ease of communication and coordination. Far East Air Forces established the advanced headquarters as Fifth Air Force in Korea. The UN Command was formally established in Tokyo, Japan, commanded by General MacArthur, who assigned responsibility for ground action in Korea to Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, USA, Commande
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