Charles Hinton 

Recollections from Korea – my war from the navigators seat and elsewhere


(The material following is not a war story.  It is about the real life in Korea and a behind the scenes look at the things that happen when many personalities rub together in managing a base in war time.  Of course most things that happen do pertain to the war and I hope I have included enough of them to keep you interested.  If you get bored skip ahead to something else.  There should be something for everybody.  Chrly)

In October 1951 I was happy with my initial assignment out of nav school – I was going to Carswell AFB at Fort Worth and fly in the giant B-36.  They said it could fly from Fort Worth to South Africa and return nonstop and unrefueled.  It was called “The Peacemaker”. Then a week before graduation all that changed.  The entire class was going to Korea.  Not only was I going to Korea I was going direct to Korea – do not pass go – do not collect $200.  We heard combat crewmen training in B-26s at Langley collected unheard of sums of money for quarters and per diem – something like $9 a day or so.  Not only could you train as a crew in your airplane, you could get rich on just your per diem.  That was in the days before Motel 6 and its $6 rooms.

It took about six weeks to get my after-graduation leave, travel to Camp Stoneman for shipment to Japan, travel to Tachikawa and on to K-8 and to the 13th squadron.  The alphabetic top of navigation class 51-27 went to K-9 at Pusan and the bottom went to K-8 at Kunsan.  I, Walt Miller, Bill Street, Ralph Watt, Gene Yennie, and Paul Yeoman went to the 13th and Ray Wilk and Jim Stanley went to the 8th.  Ray and Stanley were shot down in early February with Wilk being injured in the plane and unable to get out.  Jim Stanley and the other two bailed and became POWs and were tortured to confess to germ warfare.  It was an awful story and someplace I still have the newspaper article that tells it.

Major Bob Fortney was Squadron CO when we checked in to the 13th squadron.  Thirteenth headquarters had an Oscar flag overhead – it was the tallest flagpole on the base.  After visiting his office there was no doubt about the squadron colors.  Every decoration and article (excepting his little desk) in his office was either red or framed in red.  He welcomed us into the squadron and told us we were lucky to be in the best squadron in Korea.  It was an awful cold day with snow and icicles hanging from the tents.  I took a picture of Watt, Street and Yennie by the Oscar sign.

One of the office staff explained the war to us in the orderly room.  He said, “It ain’t much of a war but it’s the only one we got for now.”

We were assigned to some remarkably nice quarters that were left over from the Japanese occupation of Korean prior to WWII.  It’s hard to remember this now but I think we had flush toilets and hot showers.  My recollection is that each house had 3 bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen area.  My bunk was in the kitchen next to the oil stove that heated the building.  The stove sat in a box of sand, with a stove pipe out through the ceiling.  This arrangement had its good points and bad points.  I was plenty warm through the cold days and over warm on others.  I don’t remember the bunking layout now but I think Paul Yeoman shared the kitchen with me.  Paul’s father was an Investment Banker and Paul himself went on to become an Investment Banker.  I mention this only because Paul was an unlikely person to do repairs on the heating arrangement.  Anyway, Paul took it upon himself to fix the stove and in the process the pipe fell down and covered my bunk and clothes with soot.  We were without heat for about a week during a very cold spell while we waited for someone to fix the pipe.  Such are the hardships of war.

When I arrived in Korea I sensed that the coming months would be a significant period in my life so I bought a small diary to record the days.  I never kept a diary before going to Korea or after but the entries there have reinforced my recollections of the times.

During the last week of 1951 I took my camera with a roll of Kodachrome and went down to the flight line with Paul Yeoman to take pictures of the aircraft and the ramp area.  They were a hodge podge of B-26 types.  Probably half or more of the planes were in night Intruder Black.  There was a nice mix of hard nosed and soft nosed planes – a few with names and various versions of Oscar from different periods. Many had been modified for various reasons after WW II, so they mostly looked different.  When I got to flying I learned of the difficulties resulting from non-standard equipment, through modification or manufacturing changes – particularly in the set up of the bombing switches.  Many pilots were embarrassed after making a bombing run through ground fire to find that the bombs didn’t release.  Some time in late spring of 52 the aircraft coming into the squadron became mostly standardized.

One plane, a hard nose Night Intruder black, with a big letter A on the tail stood out due to its silver rudder.  No one ever got around to painting it black through my entire tour.  It was affectionately known in the squadron as “Old Able”.  Able was always getting it’s ass shot off.  Munroe Boersema, who served with the squadron in 1950 and 51 let me scan his slides and in his collection was a picture of Old Able in WW II OD with a silver rudder and vertical stabilizer, evidence of tail damage.  In the late spring of 1951 Old Able appears newly painted in black and then in late 51 it has the silver tail again.  Able survived the war and was discharged in August or September of 1952.  It suffered an ignoble fate being changed to a soft nose and being given to Columbia where it was eventually parked to become a derelict.  Oh the humiliation.

The combat crew pipeline was bringing trained crews in from Langley so there was no established training system for navigators like myself and cohorts.  I had been in the squadron about a week or 10 days on December 29th when I climbed up the side of a B-26 for the first time for a daylight round-robin to Haneda Japan.  It was a sight seeing flight and thrilling to buzz Yokahama harbor at 1500 feet and 400 MPH.  The next night I made my first dollar ride mission north of the bomb line with Parker Baker to experience a combat mission, which counted as my first of 55.  Three days later I rode in the B-26 again while the pilot practiced low level flying.  We looked for flocks of ducks along the Kunsan river so one of the upper level Commanders could take a party duck hunting.  We closed off the flight with a low level flight along the port at Kunsan looking up at the rusty freighter moored there.  The next night I flew my second dollar ride with a good crew (Palmer was the pilot) on a good route and I somehow got the hang of what the job was all about.  I was then fully combat qualified.  So I thought.

I have written about that 3rd mission before so I won’t repeat it here.  Early on the morning of this mission (January 5, ’52) a crew had attempted to abort a takeoff and had overrun into the tidal sands of the bay where the nose gear collapsed, the nose dug in and the fully combat loaded airplane flipped over onto its back.  The gunner, Bob Ferguson, was uninjured and was able to get out his side door and dug the navigator, Vince Alessi, also uninjured, and pilot Dick Gerrity with some injuries out before the tide came in to drown them. It was a godawful mess and we all went down to take pictures of Nan with its broken back. Ferguson received a Soldiers Medal for his digging the other guys out with a piece of broken window glass.   Alessi must have thought it was going to be a bad war because 4 days later he would be involved in another mission that was as hairy as the end over flip in the mud flats, which I will get to shortly.

I started the diary entry for the day with notation of my scheduled mission and then commented about the crashed airplane.  I then finished the entry for the day the next morning.  The diary entry for the day follows:

Saturday 5 - ”3rd mission – Baker (the scheduled pilot) - Took pictures of Nan WOW !  Went to Red 19 WOW!!!  TOCSON Sweat  Got .30 in the prop hub.  MAYDAY.  Right engine afire. Couldn’t hold altitude.  Prepared to bail out over Haiju. Prop uncontrollable. – Fire gone – hit at 200 ft – climbed to 4000 – lost again to 2300 – climbed to 3000  Finally made Kimpo (K-14) Nose wheel green at roundout WOW!

From this experience I leaned how to prepare for combat.  I went to Personal Equipment and got a personal parachute fitted to me, I learned to always sit on my dingy - even if it made me stooped and round shouldered, I checked out a Survival Pack from Personal Equip, I learned how to use the URC-4 emergency radio and always wore the unit beneath my Mae West, I filled the pockets of my flight suit with matches in a water proof container, carried a rosary  (even though I am not Catholic), carried my .45 pistol with extra magazine, filled up the pockets on the flying suit with dried noodle soup, and always checked out a “blood chit” for each mission.  (The blood chit was a small Escape and Evasion package with “ass hole compass” gold coins, silk map of Korea, a “pointee talkee” translation sheet, a promise of reward in several languages if they help me return to our own lines, and I don’t  remember what else.).  In a final effort to remain alive I remembered a “saying” of my mother – which was – “A bad penny always comes home.”  I got a penny and beat the hell out of it and made it really “bad” – and I carried that penny down at the bottom of a pocket and it worked.  I still have that penny in a drawer someplace and it is still working.

Not having gone through Langley and being crewed up, I flew with whatever crew needed a navigator.  It was quite an experience.  I flew with about an equal number of “Tigers” and “Pussy Cats”.  If you fly with a pilot you can’t call him a liar at debriefing, when he asks you “Where were those coordinates where we got that truck convoy?” You have to find some coordinates on the route you were assigned to.  Then there was the other side of the coin.  I made a note in my diary of some of those “Tiger” pilots I was confident weren’t going to make it home.  Actually they all made it back but one of them bailed out over North Korean island Chodo and the pilot and his crew came back via a C-47 off the beach.

During my first 14 missions I flew with 8 pilots.  I flew 3 missions with Al Kosciuscko who was my absolute favorite until that time.  He was easy going but all business.  On one of the missions on a moonlit night he stopped a train across the bay from Sinanju.  To this day I remember how we came across the mud flats of the bay in the lowest low level work of my tour, and had to pull the nose up to shoot at the engine on the embankment of the west shore.  We went through a hailstorm of 20mm fire, climbed over the hill west of the tracks and the red “golf balls” followed us over the hill and down the other side even when we were out of sight of the gunner.  Koscisusko attended the first reunion in Dayton but died soon after.

In this early period I flew with Fitz Fulton, who also became an association member and attended the first reunion in Dayton.  As I remember, he was then working out of Edwards when he flew into the 1st reunion at Dayton in an F-4 fighter.  I flew with Fitz on my 6th mission and my first visit to route Purple 11, which I later learned would become an exciting place to visit.  It was a quiet night and we had ordinance left on the way home so he took out a highway bridge.  Fitz went on to fame as a test pilot at Edwards and pilot of the Boeing 747 carrier of the Shuttle from Edwards back to the Cape.

Everybody had a day job as an additional duty.  As a combat squadron there were too many officers for the day jobs so some of these were real jobs and some were “make-work” jobs.  I was assigned as Asst Maintenance Officer and there were a bunch of us.  I went down to the tent and hung around for a while but then I got a real day job, which I will soon get to.

Real early in 1952 as my tour started there was a re-alignment of airplanes with all the glass nosed planes going to the 8th and 90th squadron and the 13th getting all the hard noses.  We always had a few glass nosed airplane in the 13th but we were a specialty squadron with mostly hardnoses.  Getting away from the vernacular of the day – the “glass nosed” or “soft nosed” were “C” model airplanes with a Norden bomb sight in the nose (they said it had pickle barrel accuracy) and the “hardnoses” were “B” model planes with either 6 or 8 guns in the nose.  The “C”s had seats for four crew and the “B”s seats for 3 crew.  Both models had an unpadded bicycle seat behind the navigator seat for passengers who wanted to rub their shoulders on the canopy, experience the danger of a combat mission but didn’t want to see anything that was going on.  The gun noses were interchangeable in the field, but those manufactured with 6 guns had upper and lower turrets for the gunners.  Those manufactured with 8 nose guns were late models built for the Pacific war and these had an extra fuel tank with the bottom turret removed.  Most had six guns in the wings but not all.  I don’t know why some had no wing guns.

I hadn’t been in the squadron long before Chuck Clonz came to me and took my order for the red shirt.  Clonz was the project officer for red shirts.  All officers wore the red shirt to the Flying Safety Meeting which came to be known as “red shirt night”. I was lucky to get my red shirt in the winter because I got a high quality long sleeved version made of gabardine, that I still have and wear at each Association reunion.  At Red Shirt Night we got pep talks about always flying safe and the fact that there was no target in North Korea worth a crew, and advice that to hit your target you had to really bore in and get up close.  Remember, we are flying mostly hard noses.  At the end of red Shirt Night we adjourned to the O’club bar where we drank too much, some of the guys played poker and the rest of us told lies about that hairy mission we had just flown.  Some of the guys flirted with the two civilian girls on the base (not counting the Red Cross girl who didn’t hang out in the O’Club).  Being only a 2nd  Lt, and new at that, I didn’t get involved in any of that.

The 4th day after Alessi survived  the take off crash into the mud flats he was crewed with Jonnie Grubbs in Old Able.  The tour then was 55 missions, but Grubbs volunteered for a 56th  mission.  There were some people who just enjoyed the excitement of combat – gunner Lucien Thomas comes to mind.  Grubbs was known to be an aggressive pilot.  Anyway they were hit and a 20 mm round came into the cockpit destroying the VHF radio and in the process hitting Grubbs in the head.  There are lots of blood vessels in the head and a wound there can bleed like crazy.  Not only losing a lot of blood, Grubbs was most likely dazed from the event.  He remained conscious but was unable to see because of the blood on his face and in his eyes.  The nav. can’t reach the controls from the right seat and they were in deep doo-doo.  Alessi talked Grubbs into getting control of the aircraft – “up a little” “down a little” “left a little” and they headed home.

Alessi had a URC-4 emergency radio in his armpits under the Mae West, and in some fashion got it removed so he could establish radio contact with Dentist at JOC.  Unless you have been in a B-26 cockpit with a two part radio under your arm pits in a vest under your Mae West under your heavy winter flying jacket under your parachute you can’t appreciate what a task Alessi accomplished getting undressed in the cockpit.  However, he wasn’t done yet – there was the landing task back at K-8 and with a gunner in the back.  They elected to try the landing rather than bail out and Alessi talked Grubbs into a successful landing with an improvised GCA from the right seat.  I have ridden through a lot of real GCAs and I don’t know how he did that.  Maybe Grubbs had some vision back by then.

Alessi got a small break from combat then when he and Grubbs went to the hospital in Japan, and during the trip he and Grubbs were both awarded Silver Stars for the mission.  Silver Stars are for courageous action against an enemy and I didn’t understand how their fight for survival met the criteria for the Silver Star, but Vince Alessi sure deserved something.

They hadn’t been back at K-8 long when the monthly Red Shirt Night came around.  As I mentioned before, after Red Shirt Night we went to the bar and drank too much.   Several people were at the bar when one of the liquidfied guys told Alessi in a drunken slur "The only trouble with this outfit is that we are not losing enough crews."  Vince turned and hit him in the mouth.  The liquefied guy then walked out of the club and sat on Vince's door step till Vince came back.  A terrible fight ensued from which Alessi emerged with a broken arm. In as much as he had 48 or 49 missions at that time they gave him credit for the tour and shipped him home.

(As a side bar on Vince Alessi, he got out of the Air Force and returned home where he founded an electronics company.  I think they manufactured test equipment for other electronic devices.  It was a small company with a great product and they were bought out by a larger firm.  Vince shared the wealth with all the employees that had made the company a success and they all became wealthy at some level.  He retired young and became a philanthropist with the Cato Institute.)

After I had been in the squadron about a month I was assigned to Group where I was to become the Awards & Decorations Officer.  The Air Force makes odd decisions.  I was a 2nd Lt. just out of Nav school and they selected me to transfer from the 13th to Group for a responsible position.  No one had any idea about my ability to be an administrative officer.  There was no way anybody could know that, but there I was as Gp A & D.  Captain Gold told me my duties.  Gold was the Gp Adjutant and every piece of paper went through him.  The Gp Commander wanted every airman completing a combat tour to go home with a DFC, and an Air Medal with two clusters.  If you completed your tour you were to go home with status.  Gold gave me some criteria and gave me an example of what every recommendation should look like – and I was on my own.  I am embarrassed to say that the first recommendation I handled had a misplaced comma and like Captain Gold told me, I sent it back to the squadron to be redone.  Some place there must have been stories told about the Lt who sent correspondence back to the squadron because of a misplaced comma.   I was so embarrassed by what I had done that the next one that came through that was less than perfect I retyped myself.  I learned.  I continued to live with the 13th crews and fly with the 13th.

My luck changed (for good or bad) in early March.  Andy Landrum checked out a Major that I will call “Smith” for the purposes of this part.  Major Smith was an attached pilot from Group, whose qualifications to fly the hot B-26 was 50 administrative hours in the B-25 – an aircraft so tame that it was used as the twin engined trainer of student pilots.  On the checkout mission, with Landrum’s help, Smith got two vehicles and a bridge.  It was so unusual that I made a note in the diary. “Told the truth for a change.”

The next day I learned that I was assigned to Smith as his navigator.  On the next mission the diary says, “# 16 in aircraft How to Red 19 with Smith and George Andrews.  Route was 10/10 so we made a Tadpole.  Pilot may not be so hot.  Takeoffs and landings both not so good.  It was his cherry ride and maybe he will improve.” (Note – we were flying a “C” model so Andrews was the bombardier in the nose.)  A “tadpole” was a “Tactical Air Drop” where you climbed to max altitude – up about 16,000 feet - and were radar directed to your target, told when to open the bomb bays and when to drop.  We all loved those missions.

On one of the missions the gunner made an excited report that a fighter was making a firing pass on us.  “Smith” began making evasive maneuvers flying level single needle width turns to the left and then to the right.  Needless to say the night fighter didn’t get us.  We reported the attack to “Dentist” and he advised us that he didn’t have anything on his weapon.  After some reflection on the event I came to the conclusion the gunner had caught a glint from star light on his plexiglass.

I flew 7 missions with “Major Smith”, and in some respects he did have his good points.  His unsureness in the airplane meant that he didn’t do anything dangerous combat wise and he relied on the Bombardier in the nose to do the attack work.  The usual bombardier was George Andrews so he was trapped like me with “Smith”.

I thought bombing with a bomb sight from a B-26 was a joke.  To do accurate bomb sight work you need several givens.  You need to know the absolute altitude from the plane to the ground, an approximation of the wind direction and velocity, you need a stationary target and the airplane needs to be stable on the bomb run when the bombardier synchronizes his cross hairs with the target, none of those conditions occurring in the B-26. 

Despite those problems, George Andrews made one of the best bomb sight drops of the Korean War while flying with “Major Smith”.  George had control of the airplane making a synchronized run on a light on the ground that he reported was a vehicle.  He hit his target, or something, got a fire that flared up really bright and then a big explosion and then continuing secondaries.  For a change there was no doubt that we had hit something.  When you hit some significant target you were supposed to call in the coordinates for photo evaluation.  This was usually a futile call because they could never find your coordinates (or your coordinates were bad.)  The comments in the diary for March 9 say:  “# 17 in G to R-19 with “Smith”.  Got some tremendous explosions at Sinmack, fires and secondaries for over 40 min.  Didn’t take off until 3:50 and landed at 0815.  Went to work after we got back.”

No one ever told you the results of your call for photos but for this mission we learned what we had hit.  On March 11 the diary says:  Turned out a lot work today.  Had 15 DFCs come back approved.  Fruits of my labor.  Hope I have one of my own some day.  Tonight the Gp flies a special mission. See addresses (A note to myself for a location in the diary) Turning to the referenced section it reads: “This is a once in a lifetime story.  On mission 17 day before yesterday we had some explosions near Sinmack and requested pictures be made  We didn’t actually know what we hit but thought we had vehicles. Tonight as the planes were getting ready to T.O.  They were halted, unloaded, and informed a special deal was under way.  These planes are being loaded with para-demos and are all hard-noses for low level work.  There are being sent to the same place where we requested the photos be made and it is important enough to call off another special mission.  They plan to light up the entire area so that 3 planes at a time can work and even see each other.  The area is about 10 miles sq – with our strike in the middle.  I believe that a study by Intel of our pictures brought this supply area to light and “Smith”, Andrews, and myself have actually made a huge contribution to the UN cause. Probably we stumbled onto more on # 17 than our combined effectiveness will be for our entire tours.

Beside the written comments is a clipping from the Stars & Stripes newspaper about the huge supply dump that had been destroyed by combined Marine, Navy and Air Force Fighter Bombers.  Neglected was any mention of the B-26s involved, which was not unusual.  The Stars & Stripes always reported in great detail the air to air combat between the F-86s and the Mig 15s, and told about the daylight attacks by fighter-bomber of other military air units.  The usual comments at the end of the articles would read, “B-26s also flew.”

I flew with some other pilots while Major “Smith” went on R & R and then I went on R & R and came back in early April.  On the first day back I went to the B-26 repair depot at Miho Japan for two days for some kind of schooling that the diary doesn’t explain, and then made a diary entry.  I’ll run these two days entries together then talk about them.

Friday 4: Uneventful day.  Up at 7, breakfast, and then to class.  How uninteresting.  I need this crap like a hole in the head. (Will) finish up in the AM and get back to K-8.  Newton & Gould went down while I was on R & R last Sunday night.

Saturday 5:  Found out that Van Fleet and McAllister went down Thurs nite.  Suicide on Van Fleet’s part.  Returned from MIHO at 5PM.  Lombard cracked & cried tonight. Maybe because of recent loses or because Braly will also kill him.

General James Van Fleet was the Commander of the 8th Army.- the top general in Korea.  His son was a 1st Lt. pilot and assigned to what we believed was the premier “Tiger” squadron in Korea.  It is tough to be a general’s son.  If you are an ordinary guy, people will say, “He ain’t the officer his father was.” and if you are good and get promoted people will say, “He made it because of who is dad is.”  Lt Van Fleet was new in the squadron and had talked too much around the bar about what he was going to do.  My memory may be faulty here, but my recollection is that Van Fleet had his two dollar rides and then his combat checkout.  My memory is that on his first flight alone, the night he went down, the weather was bad and it was marginal flying weather.  He checked in with Dentist over Pt. Oboe and was not heard from again.  He was an early flight and was supposed to check out the weather conditions and report back if the routes could be worked.  The speculation was that he flew through a rock filled cloud.  When the weather is bad a black mountain sticking up through the clouds looks like a hole in the clouds.  Whatever happened, it was his first mission and he and his crew were lost.  His crew was the only one that I remember a search being conducted for.

That Saturday night four or five navigators with myself gathered in the northeast bedroom of the house.  Everybody was really down.  Navigator John McAllaster had just gone down with Van Fleet.  Gene Gould had gone down with Newton. We had some other issues as well as the casualties.

One guy – whose name I don’t remember – was a WWII retread and he knew that he just didn’t belong here.  He had served his time in the other war, had been separated and then called back.  Reserve officers in WWII had an indefinite commission.  When WWII was over they were given a Certificate of Separation from the service but were not discharged, which surprised a lot of them when they got orders to active duty for the Korean War.   He had false teeth and said if he were ever captured and lost his teeth he would starve.

Then there was the communications issue in the cockpit.  Navigators are at the mercy of the pilots.  Well, gunners are too, for that matter.  There isn’t any democracy in the cockpit and the pilot has the controls and the rest of us are just along for the ride.  Well, some pilots talked things over but he had the final vote.

I need to talk about Ed Lombard who was one of our group that night.  I can do this because in an early issue of the Invader there is an article written by pilot LeRoy Bain about Lombard.  Bain said that Lombard was the bravest man in Korea – or words to that effect.  Lombard was afraid.  Well, most of were afraid but Lombard talked about being afraid constantly.  Yet, despite being deathly afraid, Ed Lombard flew all his missions, which was the point of Bain’s article.  Brave people go out and do their job when they are afraid.  Being afraid wasn’t all of Lombard’s problems.  He had a personality that rubbed many the wrong way.  (Ed Lombard was never located in our search for 13th men.)

Lombard told us about his pilot.  He was assigned to a crazy man.  Lombard was certain he was going to be killed, and while he talked huge tears ran down his cheeks.  Your heart just had to go out to him because we all knew of pilots that were reckless, didn’t listen to advice from their navigators and flew into situations like they just didn’t have good sense.  Lombard said his pilot was Jim Braly.

Three days later I check the schedule and I will be flying in a glass nosed airplane with James Shepherd on his 4th mission.  Jim Braly is pilot.  If you are in the game you play the hand you are dealt.

The diary says, “#26 in T to P-11 with Braly and Shepherd.  Lost an engine at Chinampo, salvoed the bombs and returned to K-14.”   Any time you get north of bomb line you get credit for a mission.  K-14 was at Seoul, the first landing point south of the bomb line.  Braly had handled the plane fine as though it was a routine flight, and although we didn’t do anything it counted as a mission.

Two days later I am on the schedule again with Braly.  The diary says, “#27 in Z with Braly and Swancutt to R-Cuts at P-3 and recc’y P-4.   Hit 3 times at a-field south of Kujang by .30s.  Found 3 trains at Sunan and attacked 1.  Only damaged it slightly.  Couldn’t release our bombs.  Accurate fire at reservoir. Landed at K-14 for gas.  Arr;d home at 0930.  Down at the bottom of the page it reads, “May not live to get home but have enough excitement for a normal life.  Don’t know how we got through the flak at the reservoir.

At the reservoir we were stooging around east of Pyong-yang at 7,500 feet and some anti-aircraft fire hosed up our way. I casually announced to Jim, "No sweat on the flak. They only have a range of 6,000 feet." As I said this I HEARD (that's right, I said HEARD – above the slipstream and engine noise) the shells pass inches over the canopy with a 'whit...whit.. whit.whit.whit.whit.  I'd forgotten the hills were 3,500 feet in that area.  Later I learned they weren’t really that high.

I continued to be on the schedule with other pilots but I also flew with Braly.  I don’t have a date on this, but at some point Jim stopped me on the street and asked if I would go on the schedule as his regular navigator.  He said he felt we worked good together in the cockpit.  I agreed.  When Jim climbed out inbound to the area he went to 7,500 feet and pegged the altitude at 7,500 and the airspeed at 285.  It was like the needles were nailed to the instrument.  He didn’t waver.  He was doing the job that we came over to do.  I flew the preponderance of my remaining missions with Jim and I felt we did an honest days work for an honest days pay.  With a $75 allotment for the new car, my take home pay in Korea was about $225 monthly.

As we grew comfortable together we talked about flying a special mission of our own creation.  We would go way up north where no one ever went.  There were railroads up there west of Kangye and since no one ever went up there – surely no flak.  Before most missions I studied the flak maps that purported to show where the guns were located along our assigned route for the evening.  I don’t think it ever did a bit of good but I felt better being prepared.  We flew where the targets were.  I did manage to keep Jim out of the Sinanju area and was thankful for small things.

Some time around the end of March or early April the mission changed from night interdiction to rail cuts.  From my readings I learned that back in 1951 they claimed horrendous number of trucks destroyed.  All combined forces were destroying about 5000 vehicles a month.  I think it was calculated that the B-26s had destroyed 15 percent of the total Soviet truck production.  North Korea must have looked like a junk yard.  Then in early 1952 the claims went way down.  The Commies (I know it’s corny, but that’s what we called them.) were obviously getting a lot of supplies through so 5th Air Force decided to concentrate on stopping the trains by cutting the rails.

It was a major change in the way we worked.  We would take off at about 30 minute intervals and with the internal load of six 500 pound bombs we would concentrate on putting the bombs on the rails at designated spots on the rail line – like maybe a swampy area that would be hard to repair.  After putting the bombs on the rails (or hopefully close) we would work the main highways with the wing bombs and the machine guns.  The North Koreans positioned rails and ties along the lines and could have the line opened within hours.  Then, to deter them getting in and rebuilding the line we would use delayed action bombs with delays up to 48 hours.  Leaflets would be dropped that warned the workers about the fuse delayed bombs.  It must have been hell on the local populace that would be marshaled into the job of rebuilding the lines with delayed action fuses popping off.

As a side note – the canisters that held the leaflets were fused to open in the air so as to scatter the leaflets.  Some of these canisters were the evidence the North Koreans displayed as being the carriers of the infected insects they charged us with dropping in their germ warfare claims.  At altitude the outside air temperature was -40 degrees, and how those flies and ticks survived being dropped into frozen North Korea has always been a mystery to me.

(To read about the 3rd  Bomb Wg and germ warfare google:  “The United States and biological warfare: secrets from the early cold war.”   Slide the bar down to page 174)

With the heavy loads we were carrying the runway at K-8 was falling apart.  In order to keep the missions flowing a decision was made that the 13th would stage out of K-13 and the 8th & 90th would fly out of K-9.  We would use available runway length to take off light and pick up the load at the staging base.  Upon mission completion we would return light to the staging base and then to K-8 during daylight.  If you had a late takeoff you could return to K-8 instead of K-13, and that suited Braly just fine.  A late takeoff would leave you in North Korea in the morning twilight when the visibility was better.

The runway at K-9 provided some difficulties for the K-8 crews.  I have never landed there but my understanding was that when you flew your traffic pattern you lost sight of the runway on the downwind leg because the pattern went on the other side of a mountain (large hill?).  The runway at K-8 was barely adequate for the use to which we were putting it.  Pilots needed to use every inch of the runway for takeoffs, and one pilot told me his technique was to wait for the green lights at the end and then pull back on the wheel and hoped the bird would fly.

One evening at the K-8 Officer’s club bar while we were doing our staging  I approached a friend from the 8th squadron, not a close friend but better than a nodding acquaintance, and with a hearty slap on the shoulder greeted him with a jocular, “Howze’ it going there, Killer?”

He looked at me, turned pale white and walked away without a word.

I asked another acquaintance sitting at the bar, “What’s the matter with Manley?”

He said, “Didn’t you know, he crashed his airplane at K-9 last week.  He landed long, overshot the runway and crashed into a dike and killed his navigator.”  It was the most embarrassing moment in my life.  From pieces of information I picked up it seems that Manley had made several landing attempts in very bad weather and was really shook up.  A guy told me much later they thought they would have to shoot him down.  I think Manley never flew as a pilot again.

Braly provided thrills on the way to North Korea as well as in the area.  On one of the missions out of K-13 we had a fire in the cockpit – well we had a lot of smoke in the cockpit – shortly after take off and Braly made a 180 with all the bomb load and landed on the runway we had just departed from.  That one eighty was a stall and spin maneuver.   I was told it left the jet boys gaping.

While we were flying out of K-13 I flew with Austin Ayotte as pilot on back to back missions and we got trains on both flights.  The first flight was with Ayotte and Bill Moyna , with me in the nose, and the second flight with Ayotte and gunner Charles Wheelwright in a hardnose.  Wheelwright’s plane would later be lost on a mission.  On the earlier flight we were working Purple 11 up near the Yalu and got caught in the searchlights.  Ayotte made a dive for the valley.  The purpose of the searchlights was to make you visible to the gunners on the ground or to assist night fighters in finding you.  That dive set the stage for the most terrifying moments of my tour.

I need to set the stage for the rest of this story. A navigator enters a glass nosed B-26 through a trap door under the nose. The trap door has steps built into it. To enter you unlatch the hatch, drop it down, it being hinged at the back, and climb up the steps.  When you get in you reach down and pull up the trap door by a leather strap, latch the door, and then lay a hinged, flat sheet of aluminum down over the trap door to smooth out the floor. In the front of the compartment is the Norden Bombsight sitting out on a platform surrounded by the Plexiglas.

This -26 had a sheet metal shelf with instruments about elbow high on the left side of the nose, and on the right an APN-9 LORAN set.  Behind the trap door was a 6" platform that you sat on for take offs and landings.  Your “cushion” on the platform was a pad of lead something-or-ever used to protect “the family jewels”. Throughout most of the mission you kneeled on the aluminum sheet leaning over the bomb sight so you could have a good view of the show.  You move around in the limited space of the nose, so in my left hand I have a little plastic thing with the mic button on it and cords that connect me to the airplane intercom system.

As Ayotte made the dive for the valley to get out of the searchlight the gunners had us dead on with both 20mm and 40mm guns.  The 20mm and 40mm fire looks like somebody is using a hose to squirt you with red golf balls. You can watch them arc up at you - starting out slowly and seeming to speed up as they get closer.  These gunners were good. Ayotte had some throttle on the airplane while in this gentle dive. The bullets seem right on us and I think some are going over us and some under us.  I was hiding behind my bullet proof map - which was my usual practice.

Then BLAMM.  I have a steady blast of air through my compartment.  Instantly I squeeze the mic button and  announce "Pilot - we're hit"!

Ayotte comes back calmly and says; "I don't think so. The airplane seems to be flying normally."

I have a hurricane of air through my compartment so something is wrong. I think this problem through. Where could that air be coming from?  Oooohhhh Boy! My trap door is gone and all that is between me and a hike across North Korea is a flimsy piece of aluminum. I stick one elbow on top of the LORAN set on my right and the other elbow on the aluminum shelf to my left and squeeze the mike button and tell Ayotte, "For Christ's sake don't pull any Gs. My trap door is gone."

Hanging by your elbows over North Korea while you try to inch back to something solid is hard. You should try it!

Finally I get back to my platform. I lifted up the trap door cover and the door is closed. Hmmmmmm. I still have a gale of wind through the compartment. I traced the blast of air forward and find there is a hole in front of the bomb sight, but it is not really a hole but a hinged sheet of plate glass to provide a perfect view for the bomb sight optics.  Somehow the air pressure on the nose from our high speed dive to get out of the searchlights has caused the catch to release and let the plate glass cover open up.

I wasn't in any danger at all, so why was I shaking so much?

Don Soefker was a great “Tiger” of my era.  On the same page of the diary that reminds me of my missing trap door I have a note that “Soefker flew back with no rudder control.”  Soefker was a buddy of Joe Johnson who made the barrel roll on the way back from a mission.  They had both been P-51 pilots and Soefker once told me he flew the B-26 like he did the P-51.  Soefker had another claim to fame.  He had a queer navigator – Wendell Hague.  I think that was before we called them gay.  It is OK for me to use his name here because he was openly gay in a time when no one was out of the closet.  One evening Wendell was in the O’Club at K-13 and put the make on – of all people – the Provost Marshall.  In those days that could get you a Section 8 discharge.  As I heard it, the Squadron Commander got a call to come and get this guy off my base.

They finished the runway and things got back to normal at K-8.  On May 21st my world turned to crap.  Well – maybe that is an overstatement but an issue occurred that I had to take a stand on.  The diary reads: “Wednesday 21 - #42 to P-4E with Braly, Livers, & Brown.  Had to navigate from jumpseat and did a good job too despite conditions.  Was very highly pissed off about the whole thing.”  Then a partial comment from the next day’s entry.  “Got up at noon and wrote Col Moore a letter about last night.  Will probably cause myself a lot of trouble.”

Braly was an IP and he was taking Lt Livers, a pilot, on his dollar ride – or maybe it was a checkout. – whatever.  It was mission #42.  Route Purple 4 east was nearly in the middle of the peninsula and not one that we normally flew.  When you fly along the coast you can get a glimpse of identifiable landmarks to keep track of yourself, but on P-4E there was not a single identifiable landmark - nothing.  There was nothing I could contribute to the crew.  To say that I was pissed was an understatement.  I was so mad that my letter the next morning didn’t go through channels in the squadron but direct to the Group Commander.  The subject of my message was “Unsafe condition due to Mis-assignment of Aircraft.  There were two “C” Model aircraft on the base with dual controls that would be ideal for training new pilots. Within the squadron there were glass nosed aircraft where the navigator could sit in the nose and do his job and the trainee pilot could sit in the right seat.  At 6’4”, sitting on the jump seat, I was too tall sit on the bicycle seat on my dingy and close the canopy, which I took to be dangerous condition for me.

I didn’t know who was responsible for that assignment, but I went to Bob Dorbacher, the Squadron navigator, and told him that if I was ever assigned to navigate from the jump seat I would refuse to fly.  I was burning my bridges.

No one ever said anything to me about the letter.  I recently asked former Squadron Commander Fortney if he had any recollection of the incident and he did not.

Some place around this time the mission requirement to rotate was dropped from 55 to 50.  Suddenly I was near done.  May 30th I was scheduled for another jump seat ride.  I went to Dorbacher and refused to fly it.  The diary isn’t clear as to what happened next, but I did fly #47 that night with a crew I had not flown with before and it wasn’t on the bicycle seat.  Five days later Dorbacher invited me out of the club so he could “Whip your ass.”  I didn’t take him up on it ‘cause I thought he probably could, and I couldn’t see any good come of it.  The next night was Red Shirt Night and he apologized.

May 30th was a bad night.  The Group lost two airplanes that night of which one was a 13th crew – Major Wells, Lt Ramsey and A2c Wheelwright.  It was later learned Wells was shot down by Soviet anti-aircraft guns.  The other loss was a 90th crew.  There were two occasions during which the Group lost two airplanes in one night.  The other occasion was on July 1, 1953 when the 8th & 90th lost a plane. As Association “historian” I hear a lot of war stories.  I was told that one night the squadron lost three planes.  Even the 3rd Gp never lost three airplanes in one night.

Recollections from 55 years ago are very poor unless they were recorded on paper near the time or there was something to make them stand out.  It is a fact that we all, in telling of an exciting event in which we participated, have an inclination to inflate our own roll in it.  That is human nature and the most modest of us are guilty of it.  Then over time, when we have told the story many times, the inflated story becomes the real story in our recollection.  Then we are not lying – it is the real story as we remember it.

My tour ended with two flights with Braly.  For a long time we had planned our own mission.  The chance came at the very last of the tour on June 5th when we were assigned to Purple 11.  The moon was full on June 5th & 6th.  The diary entry says: Thursday 5: Red Shirt night.  Dorbacker apologized.  Won $16 at craps.  Flew #49 to P-5 N double N with Braly & Brown. We sighted 6 trains.  Destroyed 3 box cars.  Ugliest country in the whole world around Kangye.  Tranthan & Burrell were probably shot down by a fighter.  They said they were on fire & bailing out south of P-11 Island.  (Actually there is no “P-5N double N but it was my way of coding for my memory where we really were.)

We made our regular run up to P-11 and then continued on north, passing between the new airfield at Namsi and the other new airfield at Taechong.  We observed some heavy artillery flak off to our right from Taechong that exploded at exactly our altitude.  Jim observed they were radar controlled, but if so, there aim was awful.  I gave us a new heading for Kangye and a town and river came up on my ETA.  Kangye was at the very north end of route Purple 5 – a fair sized town, railroad junction on a river.  It was a truly beautiful spring night, with a full moon and cumulus clouds.  The visibility was fine but it would get worse.  There was nothing there but mountain ridges and valleys, and except for the landmark where we came over Kangye with the town and river there were no landmarks for navigation.  We let down over the town and the railroad was clearly visible along the south side of the river.  We hadn’t gone west more than a minute when Braly spotted a train, but it was in a godawful place.  The river formed somewhat of a “U” shape with a high cliff at the edge of the tracks.  We were low and I estimated the cliff to be several thousand feet high.  There was no way to make a pass at the train so finally Braly headed toward the cliff and released a bomb while in a steep bank in an effort to throw the bomb against the cliff and start an avalanche.

The rail line was easy to find.  It lay along the south edge of a significant river, with tunnels cutting through ridges where the river had a sharp bend.  Within a minute or so we came across another train.  The terrain was still terrible and complicated by the buildup of cumulous clouds.  We could keep track of the location of the railroad by reference to the river but didn’t have maneuver room for a precision attack.  The distance between Kangye and Manchuria was slight – maybe 30 miles or less - and I’m sure we were soon on the wrong side of the Yalu.  I don’t have any written notes on this and my memory fails me about the details.  Some of those 6 trains I noted may have been on the wrong side of the river.  We claimed 3 box cars, so the mission was a bust so far as damage.  I don’t remember what we claimed at debriefing because we weren’t working our assigned route.  I wish I knew where those old debriefing forms are stored.

Then came the 50th mission.  Braly, Brown and I were assigned a short route west from Pyongyang to the port at Chinampo.  Chinampo was all bombed out by the B-29s and there was no traffic on the road.  We checked our route all night and found one truck.  The bright moonlight made it almost like day.  When we discovered the truck he was going down the road with his lights out.  Braly came around to make the attack and the truck was gone.  He had disappeared.  We flew up and down the road and couldn’t find him.  Then I spotted him.  He was hiding in the shade of a tree – at night.  I don’t know why we didn’t get him. No one shot at us all night.   At the end of the mission we dropped our load on the giant smokestack at Chinampo.  Everybody dropped their remaining bombs on that giant smokestack and it was still standing when I left Korea.  For my 50th mission somebody back at Squadron Operations was looking out for me.  I guess they knew it was my last mission and I deserved to go home.  I was done.   Maybe Bob Doorbacher did it for me – maybe Cmdr Fortney did.

I had worked really hard at A & D and stayed on each squadron A & D officer to get the recommendations in.  Someplace about the 35th mission we –well they - selected the best mission – and wrote it up as a DFC recommendation..  One day the Group Commander was down at 5th AF headquarters and stopped in the A & D office to check on a recommendation that he was interested in.  Like all Air Force offices, they kept up with things with a wall chart that broke down all the Korean outfits and their decorations, and of all things, the 3rd Bomb Gp led all the rest.  I don’t know the particulars, but he came back and told my replacement, Bob Able, (?) to put Hinton in for a Commendation Medal.  I think that is an unusual distinction.

I finished my tour just in time to meet my scheduled R & R back in Japan.  I was in Tokyo when I was told that Jim Braly on his first mission with his new navigator, Bill Petree, had been shot down.  Braly had been suckered into attacking a flak trap against the advice of his gunner and new navigator.  They all successfully bailed out over Chodo, a UN held Island in the China Sea about 10 miles southwest of Chinampo.  They were flying Oboe, the shiny new plane to which Braly had naming rights.  That aircraft was the only one that I got my name on and it went down before I ever got to see it.

The loss of Major Well’s crew on May 30th started a bad string for the squadron.  Five days later the crew of Archie Trantham, with Jack Burrell and James Cave went down off Purple 11.  They got off a message that they were bailing out over the island of Simni-do.  Three days after that the crew of Howard Schoonover, David Dell and Fred Ward were lost in an accident on takeoff.  Three days later Jim Braly and crew lost the 4th airplane in the string but all survived. At this point the 13th squadron had lost 4 airplanes in 12 days with zero losses from the other squadrons.

At some point I was officially transferred back to the squadron on paper but that made no difference in my life.  I was at home in the squadron when I was assigned to Group and nothing changed, other than the paperwork, after I was assigned back to the 13th.  I wound down my job at the A & D office at Group. I got my replacement and spent a day or so getting the new guy checked out on the A & D procedures and then that changed and he wasn’t my replacement after all.  It took another week or so before my 2nd replacement was found.  My recollection is that I was replaced by Bob Able, a member of the Association.  I was an observer during June when we had lost so many airplanes and I learned of the loss record of the 13th during July and August many years later after I became the Association “historian”.

The 13th had a break of 12 days before the next loss, which was a night training accident with an engine failure and a crash into the Yellow Sea 4 miles off the end of the runway.  There was one survivor and one fatality in this accident, - Fernie Wood was killed.  Two weeks later on July 8, Earl Ruhlin’s crew was lost along with Holman Rawls and Robert Mase.  Two and a half weeks later on July 25 the 13th lost Ernest Duderstadt, Bob Lurie, James  Mechaney and Kenneth Wiley.  Lurie and Mechaney were repatriated in Operation Big Switch.  On August 7th  They had been hit by ground fire, and in a failed attempt to make an emergency crash landing had hit a dike in North Korea.  The next day the squadron lost Bob Neighbors’ crew with William Holcom and Grady Weeks.  Bob Neighbors was the only professional league baseball player to lose his life in Korea.  They reported they were hit and bailing out   Two days later we lost another crew when the plane was hit in the main fuel tank and caught on fire with crew of John Ahlers, Bob Henry and Bob Festa.  Henry and Festa survived the bail out and were returned in Operation Big Switch.  Festa was a member of the Association until his death several years ago. The squadron lost Tauno Brooks, Joe Kienholz, John Roessel and Harry Chant.

The 13th had lost 10 aircraft over a 3 month period while the other two squadrons had zero losses.  All I know is hearsay about what happened in September of 1952.  I heard the Gp operation had stood down for a period or retraining, the hard noses were redistributed among the other squadrons and special rules were applied in their use by only select crews.  This is an opportunity for some one who was there during this difficult period to tell the sad tale of the demise of the 13th as an elite “Tiger” squadron.

I looked into the Korean War Air Loss Data Base (KORWALD) Reports on the Internet of B-26 losses after I left Korea for this article.   ( The record reveals the loss results of how 5th AF changed the way they were using the B-26s.  During the Sept – Nov period there were no losses at K-8 and four at K-9.  In December K-8 lost three aircraft of which one was from the 13th.  The 13th lost one aircraft in May and one in July.  During the 11 month period after August of 1952 the 8th squadron lost four aircraft, the 13th three aircraft and the 90th three aircraft.  During the final 11 months K-9 lost nine aircraft.

The war ended somewhat as it had started, with the 13th suffering the first losses of the war and it ended with the 13th losing the last B-26 of the war.  The crew was Fred Atkinson, Howard Croshaw, Stanley Haladyna and Glen Story on July 14th, 1953.

During my six month tour with the 13th they had one formal parade and that was just before I transferred out.  I had a conflict.  Eight people were scheduled to be decorated and I was one of them, but I was also scheduled to be squadron Duty Officer on parade day.  I don’t know who played Fairy Godmother but on the evening before the parade the schedule was changed and I, along with two other classmates, Paul Yeoman and Walt Miller from Navigation Class 51-27N, were decorated with Distinguished Flying Crosses, based upon our best mission to date of the 35th mission.

I left K-8 on June 28th for 3 days of bumming around in Tokyo – and ate the menu items A-1, B-1, C-1 & D-1 at the University Club.  I reported in to Fuchu for my new assignment (I got exactly what I wanted – assignment to MATS as a trans-Atlantic navigator) was bussed to Haneda airport and flew all day on July 4th.  We landed for fuel  in Hawaii, and spent all day on another July 4th flying to California.

(After-thoughts on the Korean War – At the time we thought the North Korean’s were agents for the Soviets.  However, after WW II we kept South Korea unarmed deliberately because we knew that Singmanh Rhee would  invade North Korea if the had the ability.  Without our intervention the industrial North Korean’s would certainly have won the war over the agricultural south.  Today South Korea is one of the industrial powerhouses of the world, and a holder of our foreign debt.  Had we not intervened South Korea today would be an extension of what we see in North Korea.  My service – our service – saved South Korea to be what it is today.)