66 years ago today: ‘Spitting death at the Communists in North Korea’

Seaman Leroy Kellam weighed down with belts of 20-millimeter cannon ammunition, hustles up the flight deck of USS Essex (CVA-9) to load a waiting Banshee fighter (examples seen behind him) as the WWII-era fleet carrier cruises somewhere off the Korean coast.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97271

From the Navy:

“These same shells were spitting death at the Communists in North Korea a short time after this picture was taken. Photograph and caption were released by Commander, Naval Forces, Far East under date of 12 October 1951.”

The McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee was a single-seat carrier-based fighter developed from the older FH Phantom I– the first jet fighter flown from flattops– and was introduced to the fleet in 1948. Though nearly 900 were made for the U.S. and Royal Canadian Navy (they had carriers back then!), these straight wing jets were 100 kts slower than MiG-15s, which made them a bad investment after 1950 and they were all subsequently retired by the early 1960s.

They did carry four sweet 20 mm Colt Mk 16 cannons, though, for which they carried a total of 940 shells of the kind Seaman Kellem is swathed in Frito Bandito-style.

As for the mighty Essex, she was decommissioned for the last time in 1969 after extensive service and sold for scrap in 1975.

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