< Corsairs over Korea




Corsairs over Korea

SECURING THE PUSAN PERIMETER



You should have seen the Air Force and Army people watching them land. Most have never seen a Corsair. Our pilots, tempered by years of training in fuel economy and carrier operations, came in low, turned on a dime above the end of the runway and touched down just before stall out. The landing roll out was only a few feet. The spectators were cheering before it was over. We were mighty proud of our pilots.



1 September 1950

At dawn Sicily made for Sasebo. Our aircraft flew away to Itami Air Base in Japan. In Sasebo we were paid then went ashore. Went to the train station (RTO) and boarded a train for Hakata. Someone said it was about 30 miles (?), it took us 5 hours and 10 minutes. The train ride was fun, the countryside was beautiful, and I enjoyed going through the villages and towns. The people were friendly and stopped to wave at us. Along the way we got beer. We drank our beer and sang the Whiffenpoof song to all the Blacksheep in the whole wide world. And we saluted Pappy Boyington many times. "We're those little Black Sheep who have gone astray, baa, baa, baa."

The US Air Force Base, near Hakata, had busses waiting to transport us. We ate at the mess hall then boarded a Marine R5D for Itami near Kobe. We could hardly believe we're going to have a few days rest.

Dark came. I fell asleep. When I heard the gear and flaps go down I came wide awake and asked my buddy SSgt. John Scanlan if we were there. "No, we're landing some other place in Japan. The shit hit the fan in Korea. The Brigade needs support."

The North Koreans have mounted a massive offensive against the Pusan perimeter. If they aren't stopped nothing stands between them and the sea. They say that's why the Brigade has been in reserve, for just such an emergency. They forced march to meet the surge of an estimated 13 NKPA Divisions.

The R5D dropped us off at an Air Force/Army base at Ashiya, Japan. The Air Force has been flying P-51's from here against Korean targets. The US Army has a personnel center here, so the base is crowded. We ended up in pyramid tents out in the boonies. They gave us folding cots. No mattress, sheets, or blanket.

2 September 1950: FINAL BATTLE FOR PUSAN

Before noon our Corsairs began arriving. You should have seen the Air Force and Army people watching them land. Most have never seen a Corsair. Our pilots, tempered by years of training in fuel economy and carrier operations, came in low, turned on a dime above the end of the runway and touched down just before stall out. The landing roll out was only a few feet. The spectators were cheering before it was over. We were mighty proud of our pilots.

VMF-323 pilots and troops were recalled from their R&R and came to join VMF-214 at Ashiya.

We didn't have tools, we are on R & R, they said. For just such an emergency most plane captains keep a few hand tools stowed inside their aircraft. We borrowed a few tools from the Air Force and went about our business. We had our planes refueled and loaded with ordnance ready for launch in quick time. VMF-214 and VMF-323 were back doing what they do best, flying close air support for Marines. Scuttlebut says, when they hit the NKPA the Brigade stood and cheered.

3 September 1950

VMF-214 at Ashiya. A big hand and a case of beer goes to the ordnance crews. They went out and scrounged a truck, bomb carts, 500 pound bombs, hand crank bomb hoists, 5 inch rockets, 20 mm ammo and proceeded to do an outstanding job arming the planes. Napalm was not available at Ashiya.

Pilot TSgt. Monk Taylor told us it was a disaster for the enemy. Even with their overwhelming numbers and Russian built tanks the NKPA couldn't hold against wave after wave of aerial attacks and the hard pushing Brigade Marines. Corsairs gave the Marines the support they needed to do their work. Monk said the NKPA troops were running out in the open. The first time he had seen the enemy so close.

We are having good luck with the planes. Very few maintenance problems. My plane, WE 18, came down with a bad propeller governor. We have no spares or parts so I went looking for a miracle and found one. A Japanese machinist at the Army motor pool made a replacement part and WE 18 was back in service. She was out of commission less than a day.

4 September 1950

At days end the NKPA drive south was shut down. It became a riot as survivors went straggling north leaving much of their gear behind. The threat to Pusan no longer exists, thanks to the United States Marines.

We had liberty one night in Ashiya. Roy Whidby, Titus Willis, John Scanlan, and I headed for town and settled in at a bar to drink beer. Mama-san warned us but we were still there at curfew time, 2300 hours. By that time Army MPs were sweeping the area so we had to split up. I became separated from the others.

I was hiding near the bar when a Japanese woman came out a side door. She spoke and told me to come with her. She took me to her house to wait for the MPs to stop patrolling. She made tea and gave me a cup. I figured she must be thinking of me as a customer and would want pay. To get things squared away I told her I had spent all my money. She laughed and told me she wasn't a working girl. She helps her father run the bar. I was pretty embarrassed and apologized, "I plenty dumb number ten boy-san."

When she thought it was safe we started for the Base. The moon was full and bright, MPs were everywhere, several times we had to hide from them. When we arrived at the fence the lady warned me armed guards walk inside with dogs. I thanked her and tried to give her the yen money I had. She wouldn't take the money, wished me good luck, waved to me and disappeared into the night.

Inside the fence I was in a supply yard. Ahead I could see flood lights and could hear voices. I was moving cautiously through stacks of large crates when I heard someone walking close by. I climbed up a stack of crates to one with an open end. It was a crate of P-51 drop tanks. Lucky for me I was at the small end of the tanks. I was able to hide inside the crate until the guard passed. When it was safe I climbed down from my perch and made for the tent area.

Whidby, Willis, and Scanlan looked at me like I was returning from the dead. "Where have you been?" they yelled at me. "We've been looking all over for you."

Whidby, Willis, and Scanlan didn't run from the MPs and were picked up right off. The MPs knew we were just passing through so they drove the guys back to base. When Scanlan told them I was still out there they went looking for me. I was the squadron joke for a while. Some liberty.

VMF-323 ground crew left Ashiya tonight.

5 September 1950

We handled VMF-323's aircraft and our own today. When the last plane was in the air we packed out and boarded a train for Sasebo carrying enough beer and fried chicken to feed an army. We had so much fried chicken we carried it in a mattress cover. It wasn't long before everybody on the train, civilians included, was eating chicken. We had one fine time eating chicken, drinking beer, and singing the Whiffenpoof song all the way to Sasebo. And we saluted Pappy Boyington many times

During operations, 2 - 3 - 4 September, at Ashiya, VMF-214 and VMF-323 flew 70 sorties. In those sorties they made 827 runs on enemy targets. Most of the runs were controlled runs in direct support of Brigade units. Again the pilots had performed a monumental feat. Nothing like it had ever been done before. Flying on the wings of fate they gave their all in giant measure, with no fear for self, at no loss of their own. Surely God was their copilot.

We lost our R & R. Didn't get to see the big city. But we left Ashiya feeling good about how things had worked out. Our pilots did their job and the ground crew made it possible.

The R&R trip wasn't a total loss. The time at Ashiya was a welcome break. The Sergeant's Club was close to our flight line. We ate there and enjoyed a beer after work. The club cooks (Japanese) made the best southern fried chicken I have ever tasted. The steaks were just as good. For less than two dollars you got a "Kobe" steak about an inch and a half thick that overflowed a large steak platter. It was so tender you could cut it with a fork. SSgt. Arcuni could eat more than anyone I have ever known. I never saw him finish a steak dinner at Ashiya. We didn't bother going to the tents, we slept under our aircraft.

6 September 1950

We arrived in Sasebo and came aboard Sicily about 0800. She was underway that afternoon. When our aircraft came aboard every plane in commission was spotted, refueled and armed with a full load of ordnance, 2 drop tanks of napalm.

Our Pilots hit targets of all kind around Inchon, PongYang, and other targets of opportunity. Railroads, roads, bridges, and factories were hit. An island in Inchon harbor was hit very hard. Pilots reported several major fires burning in Inchon.

7 - 8 - 9 - 10 September 1950

The strikes on the Inchon area continue without letup.

11 September 1950: "Marines are different."

Sicily entered Sasebo about 1600. I went ashore with some of the guys that evening. I left the others early to return to the ship. While I was waiting at the Fleet Landing for the liberty launch I noticed a soldier nearby and wondered what a soldier would be doing in Sasebo. After some hesitation he came towards me. I remember thinking how young he was. He was a polite young man and apologized for bothering me. He wanted to talk and began by telling me he owes his life to the Marines. He pulled up his trouser legs. I couldn't believe what I saw. His legs, from his knees down, were badly torn and scared, little more than scar tissue and bone.

His story went something like this: His unit was on the line on the Pusan perimeter when the North Koreans (NKPA) attacked. The attack was so strong they swarmed over the defenders. The young soldier's unit was blown away by the first wave. He was down with no help and unable to move. He figured it was a mortar round that got him. The flesh on his lower legs was in shreds. It was a miracle, he had no broken bones and only a few scratches above his knees. He tied off his legs and prayed. The Lord answered him by sending his favorite band of Angels, the U.S. Marines.

Marines were moving through the area when they found the young soldier.

"The Marines found me and called a medic. I knew then I was going to make it. They put me on a stretcher and hauled me out of there. One Marine walked along holding my hand and he gave me this. Look! This is what he gave me." He handed me his ID card and fastened to it was a Marine Corps Emblem. I looked at his face and I could see tears on his cheeks. "I'll never forget those Marines, he said, "and I'll always keep this with me, for as long as I live."

The soldier talked and I listened. He was wise for his years.

"The Marines are different," he said. "When they tell the Marines to go take a hill, they don't just take that hill they go on and take the next one too. I figure it like this, you old sergeants are always telling your men how tough you are and how worthless they are. When you get to the battle the young ones get out there and go like hell to beat you, you can't let them do that, so away you go, everybody trying to get there first. Sergeant, I'm here to tell you, that makes one hell of a fighting machine."

I agreed with the young soldier. I believe he has it figured pretty close. I wished him good luck and God speed. I wouldn't be surprised if he ships over in the Corps.

12 September 1950

Sicily departed Sasebo at about 1830. She joined up with the United Nations Fleet and sailed north into the Yellow Sea. Scuttlebut says there are about 200 ships all going to take part in an invasion at Inchon, Korea.

14 September 1950

First Lieutenant William E. Andrasco went down on the last strike today. (WE- 2). He made a water landing and was picked up by a destroyer.


NEXT:
SPEARHEADING THE INCHON LANDING


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