9:16 | Korea got real exciting real quick. It was the practice for the commander to fly with new bomber crews on their first mission. Bill McCowen's B-29 crew almost didn't survive that first mission after the Instructor Pilot nearly killed them twice. The rest of the tour was a little less stressful.
Keywords : Bill McCowen Kadena Okinawa Korea radar IP Instructor Pilot engine feather bomb fire hatch landing prop propeller idiot box gyro B-29 radio UN MIG .50 cal tan
He set out with a friend to enlist in the Navy, but Bill McCowen wound up in the Army Air Corps and trained on remote control gunnery for the B-29. He was sent to Italy in the waning months of World War II where he witnessed a dramatic night bombing of Naples.
Bill McCowen participated in his third war when SAC was levied for pilots to send to Vietnam, and that's not counting the Cold War. Going from mammoth B-52's to the C-123 assault transport, and from high altitude cruising to treetop level and dirt strips, was no problem for him. He loved flying and was ready for any mission.
Bill McCowen entered the jet age when he moved from the B-29 to the B-47, which he handled so well he became an instructor pilot for the aircraft. Shrugging off the trouble he caused when he let a 2nd Lieutenant fly in the front seat, he was among the first to regularly fly at high altitude, where he was startled by his first sight of a contrail.
Bill McCowen enjoyed flying the B-52 and it was a good thing because the Chrome Dome flights for SAC during the Cold War lasted 24 hrs. He describes the strategy for attacking Moscow, including the plan for surviving after the strike. He also circled Cuba during the Missile Crisis and his description of this lends some credence to the tales of the Bermuda Triangle.
After his brief experience in World War II, Bill McCowen moved on to marriage and college. He had the flying bug, though, and was determined to be a pilot. Before long, he was back in the service and flying B-25's.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He never had to engage the enemy, but combat engineer Fred Culbreth did experience artillery barrages while working on gun emplacements in the Korean hills. He didn't know it at the time, but it damaged his hearing, as did his own rock blasting work.
Jim Larkin had one overriding thought during Marine boot camp at Parris Island. He couldn't get out of there fast enough. One drill instructor in particular seemed to embody the obstacles to doing so. Later on, he understood the importance of the lessons learned there.
In an engineering unit, you had access to all kinds of things that other units needed and couldn't really get. Combat engineer Fred Culbreth made sure to collect plenty of plywood from his supply depots. You could get almost anything for plywood, including warmer boots, which were a big deal in Korea.
For seventeen year old Jim Larkin, what he found after he came ashore at Inchon was fascinating. The novelty of Asia soon wore off since there was a war to fight, but he discovered that the Koreans are a humble and polite people. It's not a bad way to be.
His father fought in WWI and he was too young for service in WWII. That may be why Fred Culbreth felt determined to attend a military school like the Citadel. He wanted the military experience but he didn't have a war. Then he got one in 1950.
The terrain out in front of the main line of resistance seemed like ten thousands yards of emptiness. Jim Larkin was waiting on his relief after five days at his post. The Marine who relieved him was an upbeat guy who would laugh at the Chinese machine guns. Part 1 of 2.
Korean civilians were filtering back into areas which had recently seen combat. Engineering officer Fred Culbreth engaged in a strange interplay with one farmer. Every day, his men would have to move a homemade irrigation line to work on a bridge and, every night, the farmer would rebuild it.
Radio technician Norman Kling came ashore in Korea, briefly looked over a battered city, and hit the road in a truck. He began following the front as it moved around the peninsula. He wasn't in a combat role but he did singe off his eyebrows at one point.
A bridge was washed out on his route, but Fred Culbreth didn't want to waste hours on the detour. He knew that there were rocks and a hand cable at a certain point, so he plotted a route on the map and headed for the spot. When he saw that the ford was flooded, he decided to go for it, anyway.
Fred Culbreth had a great office for part of his time in Korea. He was snug in a cave carved out of solid rock. The combat engineer was good friends with the chaplain and they had a little routine that ensured they got plenty of steak dinners.
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.
The severity of the winter weather during the Korean War was over exaggerated, according to Jim Larkin. He suffered from it at times but combat keeps your mind on more immediate concerns. He also scoffs at criticism of the weapon he carried, the M-1 rifle.
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 lines were static during Fred Culbreth's time in Korea. There wasn't much movement in battle but the combat engineer was kept busy building and maintaining the many temporary bridges necessary to move men and materials around a country full of hills and rivers.
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.
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.