In May, 1951 I was sent to the Far East to fly jets in Korea. After a couple of months of flying missions from Tsuiki Air Vase, Japan, our 51st Fighter Group was transferred to Suwan Air Base, South Korea.
Our group’s mission was to fly as far north as the Yalu River in North Korea in order to destroy enemy facilities. We bombed roads, bridges, railroad tracks, tunnels, and yes, we machine gunned Ox carts. Don’t laugh; many of them blew up when we hit them with tracer ammo.
Our fighter group as equipped with the Lockheed F-80 “Shooting Star.” It was a single engine jet with one person. Each plane had six fifty caliber machine guns in the nose. Our planes had been modified so that we could also carry two 1,000lb bombs. On this day, we took off with twenty-four F-80’s flying information to out target just south of the Yalu River. When we arrived to our target just south of the Yalu River. When we arrived over the target, there was dense cloud cover and we could not see our objective. Out leader told us to “attack targets of opportunity” on our way home. (The F-80 could not land with bombs still attached to our wings.) Our four planes were all flown by “B” flight pilots. We always flew together and slept in the same two tents. “B” Flight was always expected to closely examine a main supply route in the western part of North Korea. On every mission we would patrol this fifty mile stretch of roads, rails, bridges, ect. We got to know it very well.
Our flight leader, Capt. Miner, saw a place where two railroads met. This was a good place to destroy with our eight 1,000lb bombs. In dive bombing, one airplane followed closely behind the plane ahead. As the four of us were well lined up on our dives, our second pilot, Lt. Tabazinski’s plane blew up in a huge fireball. My wingman was Capt. Long. We circled the explosion to see if Tabazinski had been able to eject. As we turned, Capt. Long radioed to me that he also had been been hit and lost his engine.
I immediately turned toward a large bay where there was an air-sea rescue seaplane circling. It was positioned so that it could rescue downed flyers. As we glided toward the water, Capt. Long suddenly turned left toward land. I asked him why he wasn’t going to ditch his plane in the bay. He said he was going to dead stick in a rice paddy. (A dead stick landing means landing without power.) I followed him down and saw a huge geyser of muddy water as he skidded across the rice paddy.
I had to leave, as I was so low on fuel. I was worried that I couldn’t make it to a friendly field. I landed at the first field that I came to. My airplane “flamed out” as I turned off the runway.
I admit that I found it very hard to sleep that night with those two empty cots across the tent. Out intelligence services reported the next day that Capt. Long was uninjured in crash landing. He had stood up and raised his hands in surrender to some North Korean farmers. They shot him in the head.
– Lt. Col. Harold Hadder, USAF Retired