3 August 1950
At about 1330 hours our planes landed aboard. We launched
two strikes this afternoon. My plane, WE 18, was a backup on the first
flight. I was holding my breath until WE 10 and 11 both aborted and #18
launched with First Lieutenant Alvin R. Reider as pilot. That was the
first blow struck for the Marines in the Korean war and my WE-18 was
During the night Sicily sailed around the southern tip of Korea then
north into the Yellow Sea. Scuttlebutt says we were only about 100 miles
Our routine is set. When the last plane is recovered at the end of the
day the flight deck is stacked for tomorrow's flights. Two and three
flights are spotted and made ready for missions. Plane captains "tie
down" their plane using steel cables, folded wings are secured using a
device we call a "jury" strut that screws into fittings on the wing and
fuselage locking the wing in the "up" position, all systems are checked
and serviced. Ordnance crews check and clear the 20 mm cannon, load ammo
and external weapons. The plane captain stays with his plane until it is
secured, serviced, loaded, and ready for the next mission.
Back with his plane before 0400 the plane captain does an inspection of
his plane then stands by in the cockpit. A plane captain gets to know
his plane like he knows his rifle. He can find it in the dark and
completely prep it without using a light. When all plane captains are in
their cockpit the word is passed to the bridge and on order all engines
are started. Engines are cycled through operating checks to determine if
the engine and components are functioning properly.
4 August 1950
We launched 4 strikes today. Ordnance used was napalm, 5"
rockets, and 500 pound bombs. The first launch went off at dawn
to hit Kempo Airport near Seoul. They caught three NK aircraft on the
ground. 3 kills. Our pilots reported seeing a USAF F-80 shot down by
ground fire. All strikes reported good targets and heavy damage.
Major R. P. Keller had trouble landing today. He hooked a cable ok but
his right gear was in the starboard catwalk. The plane stopped just
short of the island. Major Keller was ok. One sailor, an unauthorized
on-looker, was injured. Nothing serious, the spinning tire pretty well
scalped him. You could see his skull bone. Only those persons actually
involved in flight operations are authorized to be on the flight deck ,
including catwalks and gun tubs, except when at general quarters. But
they still come to watch.
Major Keller's accident and two collapsed tail struts, WE 17 and 20, are
the only accidents we have had. Hope our luck holds. The metalsmiths
have been busy repairing skin damage from ground fire. One plane had
wing damage that' s beyond repair. A replacement wing came off Major
Keller's accident. Sicily had no time to take on spare parts for the
Corsair so we scavenge parts from a plane that can't be repaired.
Pilot TSgt. Monk Taylor scored a direct hit on a bridge today.
5 August 1950
Operations continue, hot and heavy.
We frequently see debris in the water alongside the ship. They say
that's what's left of NK fishing boats after a collision with US Navy
ships. We also see bloated bodies floating among the debris. There is no
shortage of NK boats in the area. None of them carry NK navy markings.
On some of the boats antennas can be seen so it is assumed they are
surveillance boats reporting on US activity. A Quartermaster 2nd class
from the bridge said it often happens that the Sicily and DD escort
can't avoid ramming them at night. Poor visibility.
We have seen some of the worlds largest Portuguese Men-of-War (a type of jelly
fish), so says an ex-tuna fisherman. These creatures often look to be 30
to 50 feet across with tendrils hanging deep into the sea possibly
longer than their width. And there is a lot of them.
The hassle we usually face aboard navy ships seems to be behind us.
Sicily's ships company has accepted us and go out of their way to be
helpful. Captain Thach let it be known that all hands are here to
support the pilots. He seems to think our pilots are gifts from God,
which they are. He pulls all stops to make it as easy for them as he
Captain Thach comes on the hanger deck at all hours of the night where
we are working to talk with us. The first night he asked if we needed
anything, "How about coffee?" He sent his MA (Master at Arms) to break
out the duty cook to make coffee. He authorized rations for anyone
working at night. The Mess Chief assigned a cook to the night watch to
make sandwiches and coffee for us.
The Captain's attention is good for our morale. At night conditions on
the hanger deck are extreme. The engines are usually hot to begin with.
It's like an oven with the hanger deck shut tight and no ventilation.
It's so hot we keep an eye on one another and go outside for fresh air
once in a while. The work must be done, there's no sleep until it is.
Captain Thach pays close attention to the pilots. He often visits the
pilot's ready room to listen in on the action. When asked he will give
advice. The pilots respect him as a veteran pilot and listen to what he
has to say. The Captain invented what became known as the "Thach weave."
A maneuver done by leader and wingman that allows maximum visual
coverage of the flight zone. Captain Thach once said he knows the
"weave" works, he was shot down while doing it.
VMF-214 is laying down a blanket of fire and steel on North Koreans
targets. Sicily ranged far up into the Yellow Sea then worked back south
to be in position when the First Marine Brigade moves on line.
Back in Japan VMF-323 flew FCLP (field carrier landing practice). When
Badoeng Strait was ready to sail -323 moved back aboard. Once at sea
-323 Corsairs landed aboard and commenced carrier qualifications. It
didn't take a lot of time, -323 pilots are old hands on carriers.
"Take a break when you can."
6 August 1950 ~
VMF-214 IS JOINED BY VMF-323 IN SUPPORT OF THE FIRST MARINE
PROVISIONAL BRIGADE AS THEY ENGAGE THE NORTH KOREAN PEOPLES ARMY
The Badoeng Strait with VMF-323 aboard joined us today.
It's good to see her out there. Welcome VMF-323.
7 August 1950
Both Sicily and Badoeng Strait were on station in support
of the Brigade when they jumped off early today. VMF-214 and VMF-323
delivered close air support that wrote a whole new chapter in the record
Pilot reports are good. They have good targets and the Brigade units are
using their services. You can see it in the eyes of the pilots when they
talk about it. Some of the Corsair deliveries are made so close to our
troops the pilots can see them in their sights. No reports of hitting our
own troops. The pilots fear that most of anything they face.
10 August 1950
10th and 11th in Sasebo, Japan. We had a beach party the
first afternoon. Drank lots of beer and felt a lot better for it. Had
liberty on the 11th. Had a good time, drank a little beer, enjoyed
seeing part of the city.
12 August 1950
We left Sasebo. Back to work.
WE 12 returned from a strike with a large hole in the left wing butt.
The right wing butt wrinkled on landing. It was scratched so it's now
Combat damage to Corsair.
13 August 1950
WE 4, WE 9, and WE 18 are tied for lead in missions
flown. WE-18 is down for an electrical problem. I'm trying hard to get
it back in commission so not to lose a mission today. Our pilots have
flown 180 missions in 10 days. We wonder how long they can go at this
The situation has become very serious on the Pusan perimeter. There is
talk of a total collapse and evacuation.
The Brigade is fighting in the Chin-Ju area now. Scuttlebutt is we will
move onto the air strip there if all goes well. I hope so.
"Seoul City Sue" announced on the radio that USS Sicily with its
"Blacksheep" squadron of Marines will be wiped out to avenge the people
of Free Korea. She said any man from the squadron they capture will be
given a slow cruel death for using fire bombs on their people and coming
back so often. She said we should go home to live and enjoy our Navy "E"
because the fight in Korea is none of affair. The NKPA has passed the
death sentence on any Marine captured. She called us "blood suckers." We
feel pretty good that they know our identity and that we are giving them
such a hard time.
All afternoon our planes covered the withdrawal of the Brigade. The word
is the Army Command has ordered the Marines back to another area more
critical to the defense of the Pusan Perimeter. We feel pretty bad about
this turn of events. I can imagine how the Brigade Marines feel.
WE-18 launching off USS Sicily (CVE-118), Sept 1950.
14 August 1950
TSgt Monk Taylor, flying WE 20, went down on the last
strike today. The engine took a hit and lost its oil. He is ok.
15-16 August 1950
have been bad news days. Nothing but bad news from
the Pusan perimeter. Scuttlebutt says every ship available is standing
by off Pusan ready to evacuate US Forces when the word comes down. The
Brigade has been moved to another attack position to shore up the
17 August 1950
Strange things are going on along the Pusan perimeter.
Our pilots can't find targets and Army control gives them none. The NKPA
seems to he in hiding. Our pilots have been dumping their load in the
ocean. Only in extreme emergency will they land with ordnance aboard.
Our XO said this morning that if the situation don't change today there
will be a withdrawal from Korea by all hands.
19 August 1950
Operations continue about the same, working around the
clock. The Brigade is busy again and Marine pilots are helping. It's a
good feeling getting the job done. The Brigade is being moved around to
plug holes. Last I heard they were re-working the Masan area. Again.
Corsair providing close air support.
20 August 1950
Scuttlebutt is the Brigade has moved to an assembly area
in reserve. It's about time they had a break. This last week has been a
ball buster for them the pilots tell us.
26 August 1950
We are having landing gear failure. WE- 4, 6, 22, and 23
will fly away to Japan where the MAG service squadron will do repairs.
The planes will fly with gear down.
Sicily made Sasebo. Good liberty but much too short. It was a treat to
get off the ship and look around a bit. Me and my buddies drank some
beer and shopped for bargains.
27 August 1950
Departed Sasebo 1700 hours
28 August 1950
Back to work. The Badoeng Strait went to Sasebo today.
VMF-323 will go to Kyoto for a rest period. Scuttlebutt says -214 will
get a rest break early in September.
29 August 1950
Today we set a new record for sorties flown in one day
from a CVE with a total of 47. Through the 29th. VMF-214 has flown 2360
31 August 1950
August 29, 30, and 31 have been busy. From 20 to 31
August, VMF-214 was in action 10 days and flew 203 combat sorties. In
the same period VMF-323 was in action 7 days and flew 145 sorties.
Sicily has been operating close to Pusan. We could see land off and on.
A pilot told me it's only 12 minutes to the targets. Captain Thach
believes in "close air support." We were surprised when the word came
out we were going to Sasebo. I figure it's more scuttlebut.
When a pilot climbs into a cockpit we get him strapped in and help him
get set to go. When he is directed onto the catapult he is locked into a
system that will send him from a dead standstill to flight speed in a
few short feet. When the "cat" fires there is an instantaneous pressure
to the rear. The pilot must be firmly against the backpack, head against
the headrest, right upper arm solid against his side with hand firmly on
the stick. The left hand must hold the throttle full forward for maximum
power. To hold the throttle forward the left arm will be extended with
no support. The force of the "cat" shot has resulted in a pilot's arm
being snapped back pulling off the throttle resulting in a "cut" of
power and an embarrassing "splash" off the bow. To give the pilot a fail
safe throttle forward a fold-away handle has been provided. When the
pilot pushes the throttle forward he crooks his thumb around it and
hooks his four fingers around the handle. This locks the throttle
forward. Once up and away the handle can be folded away.
Plane captains standby in the catwalk. Often a plane will not start.
That usually means a low battery. Batteries must be serviced daily still
they go bad. If the prop moves at all you can bet it's the battery.
Along the flight deck catwalk there are power outlets. In the belly of
the aircraft there is a plug-in receptacle. We use a heavy 50 ft. jumper
cable to jump a start. It has become a game with us to see who can get a
booster cable plugged in the quickest. Yesterday a pilot with a low
battery had the jumper cable in his plane so quick he was one of the
first started. An aircraft that wont start can tie up the deck and delay
the launch. When a plane wont start all hands are up on deck to push the
plane clear. We do all we can for the pilot and to keep the deck moving.
Captain James English was lost to ground fire today. No chance he
survived. He was a strong man among strong men. A good man and a great
Marine. He will be missed.