JUNE 25th 2010 – SPECIAL TRIBUTE – 60 years ago today the Korean war broke out, plunging the world into a new massive war of destruction, which ended in a stalemate and ongoing tensions ever since.
60years on – North Korea and South Korea are stuck in a ceasefire – technically meaning war can restart anytime soon.
Go back to a wet, overcast and dark night in June 25th 1950 ………. North Korean tanks and troops roared into South Korea and started to overtake the democratic South Korea. This was a surprise attack and a big invasion…
Within days of this invasion, the Australian Government, which had announced the winding down of 77Sqn at Iwakuni air base in Japan to return back to Australia in July 1950 – this move was now placed on hold and instead 77 Sqn were now to stand up and be ready to start flying combat operations into a new and very close war nearby.
Background to 77 Sqn in Japan
77 Sqn was a CAC Mustang equipped squadron – one of the most famous of the RAAF frontline fighter units – and was deployed in Japan as part of the BCOF – British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Various Australian army units were also deployed beside the RAAF.
77 Sqn remained in Japan from 1946 to 1950. In September 1948 all of the units making up 81 wing were disbanded, except 77 Squadron. They now reported directly to Headquarters British Commonwealth Air Force. By 1950, 77 Sqn was the only RAAF squadron representing Australia in Japan.
77 Squadron was committed to action over Korea as part of the United Nations forces, and flew its first ground attack sorties on 2 July 1950, making it the first non-United States UN unit to see action. The CAC Mustang was the Australian built version of the NAA P-51D Mustang propeller fighter/bomber. The Mustang was versatile and well liked for it abilities to provide close air support and still manage a fight in the air.
77 Squadron deployed to Korea directly in October 1950, this was to save travelling back to Japan at the end of each mission as well it allowed faster reaction time to CAS sorties.
It was used to support the UN advance into North Korea but was withdrawn to Pusan in November1950, in response to the Communist forces’ counter-attack.
The whole squadron was withdrawn to Japan in April 1951 to re-equip with brand new Gloster Meteor twin engine jet fighters and returned to action with these new aircraft in July 1951.
77 Sqn flew from Kimpo Air Base near Seoul, for the rest of its time in Korea, stationed alongside other USAF and SAAF Units.
In the expanding war, 77 Sqn now took on new tasks of hunting MiGs and providing CAS for troops and attacking ground targets.
Sqn Ldr Dick Creswell who was leading 77 Sqn, ensured the RAAF planned its tactics carefully in taking on the MiG-15 jets. Overall the Meteor pilots managed a few MiG kills. The sole flying Meteor F.8 warbird jet based in Australia nowdays, is marked as “Hale Storm” a MiG Killer once flown by George Hale in Korea.
Following heavy losses from Russian piloted MiG-15 jets fighters , 77 Squadron operated in the ground attack role from December 1951 until the end of the war – July 1953, it remained in South Korea on garrison duties until returning to Australia in November 1954.
Sadly 77 Sqn due to its role of providing CAS and bomber flight protection from Migs, suffered extensive losses. Total casualties – 41 killed and 6 prisoners. Numerous pilots were wounded.
77Sqn won many many awards and was one of the most highly decorated units in the Korean War. This showed the skill and abilities of the Sqn, even tho small scale in size to the whole air war effort, was much appreciated by all in the country and nore importantly – recognised appropriately.
Here we see a ultra rare 77 Sqn patch made in Japan from 1951.
(Interesting Aussie family connection to Korean War – my grandfather – a WW2 veteran as well – served in 3 RAR in Japan as one of these BCOF soliders, serving at Hiroshima and other locations before been deployed to frontline service in Korea. He fought in many battles – even the famous Battle of Kapyong. He was wounded in action by a North Korean mortar strike in 1953 and evacuated home thus ending his Army service).
FLIGHTGEAR USED BY RAAF IN KOREA –
The main flight gear was in early Mustang days – C or E flight helmet, H oxygen mask, UK or RAAF supplied flight suit, Mae West life vest with kapok bladder or air bladder, standard flight shoes/boots and a RAF issued GQ type backpack or C-2 style seat pack parachute.
As the Korean war developed, the squadron came to acquire much more common USAF issued gear (as Kimpo was a major USAF air base) such as B8 goggles, B-5 life vests, K-1, L-1, K-1A flight suits, B-15 jackets and as the Meteor entered service a trial and subsequent use of the P-1/P-1A helmets for better protection in the jet cockpit.
Most of these photos show Meteor pilots wearing the various items and it shows how cumbersome the gear was. They also required cold weather gear as Korean peninsula was known to become extremely cold in winter and people died with frostbite and exposure to the low temperature/wind chills. Water exposure suits were also issued as pilots froze to death in cold ocean water off the coast.
Hard to believe these RAAF heros are now 60years on from the war, most who have died and a few are still alive i understand. The most famous 77 Sqn pilot, Dick Creswell died on 12 Dec 2006.
The Korean war is maybe a “forgotten war” but i like to see it as a war now becoming remembered for many people served and sadly died in the far away land.
In the last 10years , I have become an expert on the Korean War – air war especially. I have acquired many books, done extensive researching, collecting and have come to understand the war in graphic detail. This has helped me to understand the war overall in more detail , view many colour and b/w photos and get to hear many stories from the veterans.
(Just recently i got in touch with a USAF Korean war veteran who was a crew chief on USAF Sabres in Korea in 1953).
We – the future generations – owe the RAAF veterans a duty to remember their sacrifice.
RAAF Pilots in Malta in Vampire jets, wearing similar flight gear as found in Korea –