4:33 | Aircraft mechanic Walt Richardson was based in Okinawa when the Korean War started. The general's personal B-17 was used for supply runs but he couldn't go because he had no combat or survival training. When he was transferred to Eglin Air Force Base, he found that President Truman's integration order had not yet filtered down, but he persevered.
Keywords : Walt Richardson Black African American Okinawa Korea Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Eglin Air Force Base integrated integration race relations Harry S. Truman segregated segregation
For the first time in his Air Force career, Walt Richardson was in a combat zone. When the aircraft mechanic arrived in Vietnam, one of the first things he saw was bodies being unloaded from a helicopter. That rattled him. Then there were the rocket attacks.
Walt Richardson volunteered at a Catholic orphanage while he was in Vietnam, helping the nuns take care of children. He also found time to start a musical group and had a good time playing in clubs. He was a childhood friend of the legendary Chappie James, the first black 4-star General in the Air Force.
During his Air Force career, Walt Richardson made it his duty to help other black airmen get through the prejudice they encountered. He remembers one particular young man who got into some trouble in Thailand.
His aim was to help put his sister through college. Walt Richardson scored so well on the tests that he was inducted into the Air Force. Perhaps it was the schooling he received at the school run by the mother of Chappie James, who became the first black Air Force 4-star General.
Walt Richardson was in the last all black training flight in the Air Force. His aim was to serve his three year obligation and then return to college, but he saw a musical revue put on by members of the fabled Tuskegee Airmen. They were holding open auditions and he went to showcase his fine singing voice.
In order to implement President Truman's order that military units would no longer be segregated, the Air Force selected 1500 Tuskegee Airmen to go out into all white units. Walt Richardson was told at the briefing that he was to not be a problem but a solution.
After successfully completing aircraft mechanic school, Walt Richardson joined the crew on a commanding general's B-17 in Okinawa. As the only black crew member, he had to earn respect and he did. He was also part of the honor guard when the first freely elected leaders in Japan were inaugurated.
For Walt Richardson, it was all about the core values of America. As one of the first black airmen to integrate the Air Force, he calls on his unique perspective to explain why America is so much greater than other nations that are so much older.
Asked what was the strangest thing he saw in the Air Force, Walt Richardson recalls a visit to a Japanese bath house while he was stationed in Okinawa. The proprietor had never seen a black man before and was puzzled about something.
It was a little known story. 1500 airmen were sent out from the Tuskegee Airmen to integrate white units in the Air Force. Walt Richardson was one of those and the work he did did not stop when he retired.
Walt Richardson pays his respect to all the great leaders in his life, starting with his mother. She was the foundation for his fulfilling Air Force career.
When it was time to act, Bill Minnich came through. On a night watch, as he caught sight of a Chinese patrol, the only question was, rifle or grenade? When the unit was pinned down and no one responded to the order to move out, he cussed them all out and charged forward. And when he fell wounded, it was a sure thing that he would get up and scramble through the bullets landing at his feet.
Ben Malcom recalls a mission to infiltrate and destroy a 76mm gun hidden inside a North Korean mountain. During the cover of night on July 14, 1952, Malcom managed to sneak 120 guerilla fighters onto the mountain and into the bunker, and describes the combat that ensued.
As company clerk, John Meyers had several responsibilities, the captain's morning report, letters home to parents of men killed in action and writing up awards recommendations. He wrote up the recommendation for Charles Gilliland, a seventeen year old, whose heroic actions made him the youngest soldier to receive the Medal Of Honor in the Korean War.
Ron Clark remembers when the Chinese would attack and how the strategies between American and Chinese differed. He also explains one detailed account of an American casualty during battle and his own major injury that permanently disabled his eyesight.
It was called Hill 205. The small Ranger company was told to take and hold the hill. They did that as long as they could but Ralph Puckett and his men had to go through hell to do it. Waves of Chinese attackers had him calling in very close artillery strikes. He lay there, unable to move after three wounds, watching the Chinese bayonet wounded Rangers. Then two figures charged up the hill. For his actions in this battle, he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Charles Cleveland was flying F-84's out of Turner AFB in Albany GA when the Korean War broke out. The third time he volunteered to go, he was accepted. Upon arrival, he learned that some of the new pilots had to switch to F-86 Sabre's.
Aircraft mechanic Walt Richardson was based in Okinawa when the Korean War started. The general's personal B-17 was used for supply runs but he couldn't go because he had no combat or survival training. When he was transferred to Eglin Air Force Base, he found that President Truman's integration order had not yet filtered down, but he persevered.
Marines in Korea had a special relationship with Tootsie Rolls. William Alli missed out on that but he does have something to say about the chow when he was up on the line. When you were opening up the boxes and pulling out the cans, you had what you called The Deadly Three.
Fighter pilot Charles Cleveland had two probable kills to go with four confirmed kills in Korea. He describes one of the probables, during which he had to break off pursuit at the last minute just as it looked like the enemy MiG was going down. Fifty years later, a friend of his set the record straight.
WWII veteran Jack Wold reentered the Army with a commission out of ROTC in 1951. He then served in Korea as an S3 managing the evacuations of wounded. He nearly got hit himself, but fate intervened on his side. At that point in the war, the Chinese were using huge human wave attacks.
Sinclair Stickle shares his method for making sure his gun did not jam in a firefight. A little drop of oil. He barely noticed the weather since the winter of 1953 was nothing like the winter of 1950 in the mountains of Korea. Food was a big deal and everybody gathered around when someone got a package from home, hopefully with something nice to offset the WWII era rations.
Army brat Charles Cleveland entered West Point in 1945 between VE Day and VJ Day. He chose the Air Force after graduation for the chance to become a fighter pilot and this he did. The early Air Force had a club atmosphere, but the pilots were not slacking. They drilled for dogfighting on their own.
The whole division was pulled off the line and in reserve when William Alli read a letter from a cousin in Turkey. Why don't you go visit the Turkish troops serving in Korea, tell them your father is from Turkey and you are all brothers fighting Communism together? Great idea, until he got there.
Fighter Pilot Charles Cleveland compares the aircraft he flew, the F-86 Sabre, to the aircraft flown by the enemy, the MiG-15. The plane flown by the Communists had the edge in armament but they had lousy gun sights. By the end of the war, the victory in combat ratio was not in their favor.
Seven months into his tour in Korea, William Alli was put in charge of the local unit of Korean laborers. The nineteen year old Marine was now an Asian despot, according to his friends. He didn't mind the ribbing. After all, he wasn't carrying that heavy machine gun ammo any more.
When Ed Price went for his first guard duty in Korea, he was surprised that some men had nicely pressed uniforms at the inspection. Why? This was a war zone. Then he found out that, each night, one man was selected to be the supernumerary, who got to stay inside where it was warm. He now had a new goal.
All flights were grounded because the F-86 was not an all-weather fighter. Pilot Charles Cleveland and his wing man got cleared for a weather recon flight and flew up to the Yalu River, where the weather had cleared. They heard from their radar site that bandits were coming in. As he encountered them, he maneuvered behind the leader and thought, I'm about to get my first MiG.
Fighter pilot Charles Cleveland was flying cover high over an air-to-ground operation below when three MiG-15's flew right through his formation. He maneuvered until he was behind the leader and let him have it until the MiG crashed into a hillside.
Ed Price was stuck in Seattle. While other troops boarded ships for Korea, he and several others had to wait for records to catch up with them. After a couple of false starts, he was finally headed across the Pacific. When he got to his anti-aircraft unit, he was asked a fateful question. Can you type?
His first mission in Korea was nerve wracking. William Alli was put in a listening post all alone in front of the line. There wasn't much combat until the Chinese launched their spring offensive. Then it was time for advancing in a different direction, that is to say, a retreat.
While walking past a recruiting office, Charles Vicari made a spur of the moment decision to join the Marine Corps. When the Korean War broke out, he volunteered for duty on the west coast to replace Marines that had been sent there. He was told the duty may be a little further than the west coast.
With an eye toward the GI Bill, Sinclair Stickle decided to enlist, but he found out that if he volunteered for the draft, it would be a two year commitment instead of four. He entered the Army as a draftee and figured he would have a nice easy tour in Germany because surely the Korean War will be over soon. The drill instructors didn't think so.
It was eleven days retreating down that narrow dirt road from the Chosin Reservoir. William Moncus had two wounds and frozen feet and was airlifted to Japan after a runway was improvised. He began a long journey through several hospitals until he was able to walk again.
After seeing action off the coast of Korea, the USS Cowell resumed its around the world cruise, which had begun in Norfolk. From Korea, the ship headed south. Charles Kelly recalls the delightful liberties he had in many ports on his trek from Singapore to Ceylon and up through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.
Japan was the R&R destination for troops in Korea. Ed Price got an extra trip when he won soldier of the month. In his unit, there was a Japanese American soldier who kept getting mistaken for a Korean, which he would milk for laughs whenever possible.