Category Archives: Korean War

A Good Pilot in a Capable Plane Goes a Long Way

On this day: 70 years ago (September 10, 1952), Captain Jesse Gregory Folmar (MCSN: 0-26438), from the “Checkerboards” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 312 of the jeep carrier USS Sicily (CVE-118), shot down a North Korean (marked) MiG-15 to become the only F4U Corsair pilot to claim a MiG kill during the Korean War. After successfully engaging the MiG, Folmar was himself shot down by four other MiGs. He survived the attack and was rescued.

By Lou Drendel

The performance between the two aircraft is about 200 knots and 10,000 feet in ceiling, to the MiG’s advantage. However, Folmar, age 32 at the time, was no novice to his aircraft.

Born 13 Oct 1920 in Montgomery County, Alabama, he joined the Marines in WWII and learned his trade with the Corsair against the Japanese.

From Folmar’s Silver Cross citation for the dogfight:

When the two-plane flight which he was leading to the target area near Chinnampo was suddenly attacked by eight hostile jet interceptors, Captain Folmar immediately initiated effective defensive measures so that he and his wingman could bring fire to bear on the enemy aircraft. Aggressively maneuvering his plane to the inside of one of the attacking hostile jets, he skillfully fired a burst from his guns that ripped into the side of the jet, causing it to burst into flames and forcing the enemy pilot, with his clothing ablaze, to abandon the flaming jet which subsequently crashed into the Taedong estuary.

While Captain Folmar was maneuvering his aircraft to ward off another attack, his plane was hit and severely damaged by hostile fire, forcing him to parachute. With the hostile jets continuing to make firing runs, he landed in the water from which he was rescued by friendly forces.

By his indomitable courage, outstanding airmanship, and gallant devotion to duty, Captain Folmar was directly responsible for the complete destruction of a hostile jet aircraft and contributed materially to the safe return of his wingman, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Folmar died in 2004, aged 83, and is buried in Foley, Alabama. 

For reference, the Marines’ “tally sheet” for Korea, showing Folmar as both the last Corsair victory and the only one of a prop plane against a jet.

Travel!

Happy Labor Day! Enjoy your time off if you have it. I will!

Poster, by Lou Nolan, C. 1960, depicting the FRAM’d World War II-era Fletcher-class destroyer USS Miller (DD-535), in a Cold War-era Asian port, likely British-controlled Hong Kong. (Unframed Dimensions 42H X 28W. NHHC Accession #: 81-156-AJ-01)

For those curious, commissioned on 31 August 1943 in honor of Civil War-era MOH recipient Acting Master’s Mate James Miller, USS Miller was very active in the Pacific in 1944-45, including earning a Navy Unit Commendation for assisting the USS Franklin, and, post-modernization, went on to perform heavy lifting in the Korean conflict, letting her 5″/38s sing. She was decommissioned in 1974 and scrapped the following year.

‘Down from Heaven Came Eleven’

The first combat jump made by paratroopers of the WWII-era 11th Airborne Division was on 29 November 1944 when a mixed group of some 241 men dropped on Manarawat in Leyte, making a series of a half-dozen other jumps in early December.

11th Airborne Division jungle field camp, 1945. Note repurposed parachutes

On 3 February 1945, some 1,830 men of the 11th, primarily from the division’s 511thd Parachute Infantry Regiment (511th PIR), would jump outside of Manila at Tagaytay in Operation Shoestring– where a young paratrooper by the name of Rod Serling would be wounded.

“First Lift” The first of three lifts make the first combat jump in 11th Airborne Division history at Tagaytay Ridge, Luzon, P.I. Mt Batulao to the left (Photo: 11th Airborne Assoc)

A week later came a combat drop at Los Banos where 130 men of B Co., 511th PIR would rescue 2,147 POWs.

As noted by the CMH: 

In February 1945, the 11th U.S. Airborne Division and six Philippine guerrilla units operating on Luzon devised a plan to liberate the camp and for that purpose formed the Los Banos Task Force under Col. Robert H. Soule. The group consisted of approximately two thousand paratroopers, amphibious tractor battalion units, and ground forces as well as some three hundred guerrillas. The key to the rescue was an assault force consisting of a reinforced airborne company who were to jump on the camp while a reconnaissance force of approximately ninety selected guerrillas, thirty-two U. S. Army enlisted men, and one officer pinned the guards down. The remainder of the force was to launch a diversionary attack, send in amphibious reinforcements, and be prepared to evacuate the internees either overland or across the lake. The bulk of the Philippine guerrillas were to assist by providing guides and marking both the drop zone and beach landing site. This plan was based on intelligence provided by guerrilla observations of the camp guard locations and routines, supplemented by a detailed map of the Los Banos Camp which had been drawn by a civilian internee who had managed to escape.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell: “I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Banos prison raid. It is the textbook operation for all ages and all armies.”

June saw Task Force Gypsy, some 1,030 men of the 511th, land on Aparri in Luzon as a blocking force to keep the Japanese from falling back further inland– the last major American combat drop of WWII.

The division would be airlifted to Japan immediately after D-Day and would be the first large U.S. Army combat unit sent to occupation duty in the home islands. They would remain there for four years. 

On 30 August 1945, the 11th Airborne Division was sent to Southern Japan as part of the occupation force. Here in this photo, 11th Airborne troopers stood guard at MacArthur’s General Headquarters in the Grant Hotel in Yokohama, Japan.

Korea

Fast forward to the Korean War and 1,800 men of the division’s 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (“Rakkasans,” now part of the 101st Abn Div) famously made combat jumps near Sunchon–north of Pyongyang– in October 1950 to block retreating Nork units, a feat they would repeat in Operation Tomahawk six months later outside of Musan along the 38th parallel.

Post-Korea, the unit was stationed in West Germany and included a number of former Eastern European residents in U.S service– such as Larry Thorne– and was inactivated in Augsburg on 1 July 1958, being reorganized and reflagged as the 24th Infantry Division.

Their last formal peacetime jump was in the summer of 1957.

Well, that is until this week.

Rebirth

Sticks of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne)– a unit that historically made four combat jumps during World War II: two into North Africa, one into Italy, and one into France— is now in the reformed 11th Airborne (“Arctic Airborne”) and made jumps in Alaska this week while wearing their new patches.

Flotsam of Korea, via Addis Ababa

Royal Tiger Imports has announced they have successfully received cases of original Korean War-era .30-06 M2 Ball ammo from an overseas source.

Late of the former Royal Ethiopian Army, each vintage wooden crate contains a pair of sealed metal tins.

Each tin contains four bandoleers with six loaded 8-round M1 Garand clips. This totals out to 384 rounds, 48 reusable clips, and eight cloth bandoleers with cardboard inserts.

Ethiopia was the first nation in Africa to contribute a complete unit of ground troops to the UN Korean command in 1950– the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Kagnew Battalions.

Formed from the Royal Guards division of the Imperial Ethiopian Army, the Kagnew Battalions drew their name from Haile Selassie’s father’s warhorse. They served alongside the U.S. 7th Infantry Division, receiving U.S. kit. They suffered 121 dead and 536 wounded during the course of the conflict.

The Ethiopians continued using the M1 Garand well into the 1970s.

The RTI-imported ’06 larder is expensive for my tastes ($800+ shipping) running over $2 a round, which, as it has been stored in Ethiopia under unknown conditions for the past 70 years, may or may not go off.

I can remember buying 200-round lots of loose 1970s-vintage Greek HXP from the CMP for $129 as recently as 2014, so I may be jaded, but it feels like the better price for the Ethiopian cases may be around half as much as RTI wants.

Still, it is nice to know that such old milsurp still exists.

Further, RTI is also teasing old surplus .45ACP and .30 Carbine ball, which may be of more interest. Watch this space for updates, as they say. 

Across the Reef!

The Assault Amphibian / Trac’r Memorial Monument is getting closer to being a reality:

Gators, We are proud to report Progress. As we move towards 3D computer and physical clay modeling, this is a rendition of what our Memorial will look like. The color of the waves over the reef and Gators is accurate. The bronze waves and bronze Gators will color like this – it’s called patina. The content and images on the memorial wall will be refined as we close on completion. Many opportunities for units or eras to fund an inscription. As we refine the details of the memorial, we will seek input from those who donated – no matter the amount. 3D modeling is a huge step forward. We need all hands in to accomplish this mission. assaultamphibianmemorial.com

Please donate if you can!

WisKy Delivering in the ROK

80 years ago: The Iowa-class fast battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) fires a three-gun salvo from her forward 16″/50 caliber gun turret, during bombardment duty on the “bombline” off Korea. The original Kodachrome color photograph is dated 30 January 1952.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-K-12103

Reactivated from mothballs, Wisconsin was recommissioned on 3 March 1951, and, arriving at Yokosuka, Japan, on 21 November, she relieved USS New Jersey (BB-62) as flagship for VADM Harold M. Martin, Commander, Seventh Fleet. By 2 December, she was providing naval gunfire support for the Republic of Korea (ROK) Corps in the Kasong-Kosong area. She would continue this spate of inshore bombardment for her Korean stint.

Via DANFS

After disembarking Rear Adm. Denebrink on 3 December at Kangnung, the battleship resumed station on the Korean “bombline,” providing gunfire support for the U.S. First Marine Division. Wisconsin’s shellings accounted for a tank, two gun emplacements, and a building. She continued her gunfire support task for the 1st Marine Division and 1st ROK Corps through 6 December, accounting for enemy bunkers, artillery positions, and troop concentrations. On one occasion during that time, the battleship received a request for call-fire support and provided three starshells for the 1st ROK Corps, illuminating a communist attack that was consequently repulsed with considerable enemy casualties.

After being relieved on the gunline by the heavy cruiser St. Paul (CA-73) on 6 December 1951, Wisconsin retired only briefly from gunfire support duties. She resumed them, however, in the Kasong-Kosong area on 11 December, screened by Twining. The following day, 12 December, saw the embarkation in Wisconsin of Rear Adm. Harry R. Thurber, Commander, Battleship Division Two (BatDivTWO), who came on board via helicopter, incident to his inspection trip in the Far East.

The battleship continued naval gunfire support (NGFS) duties on the bombline, shelling enemy bunkers, command posts, artillery positions, and trench systems through 14 December 1951. She departed the bombline on that day to render special gunfire support duties in the Kojo area, blasting coastal targets in support of United Nations (UN) troops ashore. That same day, she returned to the Kasong-Kosong area. On 15 December she disembarked Rear Adm. Thurber by helicopter. The next day, Wisconsin departed Korean waters, heading for Sasebo to rearm.

Returning to the combat zone on 17 December 1951, Wisconsin embarked U.S. Senator Homer S. Ferguson (R., Michigan) on 18 December. That day, the battleship supported the 11th ROK division with night illumination fire that enabled the ROK troops to repulse a communist assault with heavy enemy casualties. Departing the bombline on the 19th, the battleship later that day transferred her distinguished passenger, Senator Ferguson, by helicopter to the carrier Valley Forge (CV-45).

Wisconsin next participated in a coordinated air-surface bombardment of Wonsan to neutralize pre-selected targets. She shifted her bombardment station to the western end of Wonsan harbor, hitting boats and small craft in the inner swept channel during the afternoon. Such activities helped to forestall any communist attempts to assault the friendly-held islands in the Wonsan area. Wisconsin then made an anti-boat sweep to the north, utilizing her 5-inch batteries on suspected boat concentrations. She then provided gunfire support to UN troops operating at the bombline until three days before Christmas 1951. She then rejoined the carrier task force.

On 28 December 1951 Francis Cardinal Spellman, on a Korean tour over the Christmas holidays, visited the ship, coming on board by helicopter to celebrate Mass for the Catholic members of the crew. The distinguished prelate departed the ship by helicopter off Pohang. Three days later, on the last day of the year, Wisconsin put into Yokosuka.

Wisconsin departed that Japanese port on 8 January 1952 and headed for Korean waters once more. She reached Pusan the following day and entertained the President of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, and his wife, on the 10th. President and Mrs. Rhee received full military honors as they came on board, and he reciprocated by awarding Vice Adm. Martin the ROK Order of the Military Merit.

Wisconsin returned to the bombline on 11 January 1952 and, over the ensuing days, delivered heavy gunfire support for the First Marine Division and the First ROK Corps. As before, her primary targets were command posts, shelters, bunkers, troop concentrations, and mortar positions. As before, she stood ready to deliver call-fire support as needed. One such occasion occurred on 14 January when she shelled enemy troops in the open at the request of the ROK First Corps. Rearming at Sasebo and once more joining TF 77 off the coast of Korea soon thereafter, Wisconsin resumed support at the bombline on 23 January. Three days later, she shifted once more to the Kojo region, to participate in a coordinated air and gun strike. That same day, the battleship returned to the bombline and shelled the command post and communications center for the 15th North Korean Division during call-fire missions for the First Marine Division.

Returning to Wonsan at the end of January 1952, Wisconsin bombarded enemy guns at Hodo Pando before she was rearmed at Sasebo. The battleship rejoined TF 77 on 2 February and, the next day, blasted railway buildings and marshalling yards at Hodo Pando and Kojo before rejoining TF 77. After replenishment at Yokosuka a few days later, she returned to the Kosong area and resumed gunfire support. During that time, she destroyed railway bridges and a small shipyard besides conducting call fire missions on enemy command posts, bunkers, and personnel shelters, making numerous cuts on enemy trench lines in the process.

Wisconsin arrived off Songjin, Korea, on 15 March 1952 and concentrated her gunfire on enemy railway transport. Early that morning, she destroyed a communist troop train trapped outside of a destroyed tunnel. That afternoon, she received the first direct hit in her history, when one of four shells from a communist 155-millimeter gun battery struck the shield of a starboard 40-millimeter mount. Although little material damage resulted, three men were injured. Wisconsin responded by shelling that battery and destroying it with a 16-inch salvo before continuing her mission. After lending a hand to support once more the First Marine Division with her heavy rifles, the battleship returned to Japan on 19 March.

Relieved as flagship of the Seventh Fleet on 1 April 1952 by sister ship USS Iowa (BB-61), Wisconsin departed Yokosuka, bound for the United States.

Happy New Year, Gang

Offical caption, some 70 years ago this month: Missouri infantrymen with the 19th Infantry Regiment (24th Infantry Division) along the Kumsong front in Korea wish Happy New Year to the stateside folks.

Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-387519. National Archives Identifier: 531422

Here’s to 2022! As the man says, “Maybe this year will be better than the last.”

Oh Garand of Many Sights

You gotta love Garand sights.

Hayden Foster over at American Rifleman has a great piece on M1 Garand sights, “From Flush Nut To T105: The Evolution Of The M1 Garand Rear Sight Assembly,” that is worth a read. Going past the typical fluff pieces often seen in gun publications, this one has some real scholarship to it.

The various versions of the M1 Garand rear sight knobs and pinions used throughout Springfield Armory production. They include, from left to right, the flush nut with short pinion, type one locking bar with short pinion, type two locking bar with long pinion, type three locking bar with long pinion, and a T105E1 assembly.

More here.

Orleck on the way to getting better

The Gearing-class destroyer USS Orleck (DD-886) has had a long and happy career, in at least four parts. Laid down 28 November 1944, the 77-year-old warship is about to embark on her fifth.

Her first part, beginning with her U.S. Navy commissioning two weeks after VJ Day, saw the support of post-WWII minesweeping operations off China, combat during Korea– where she received four battle stars and earned a spot in the “Train Busters Club” — followed by tense Taiwan Strait patrols.

Off Mare Island, 1959

The 1960s FRAMing added ASROC and DASH drones just in time to support the recovery of the Gemini IV space capsule for NASA, and deliver naval gunfire support off Vietnam.

Orleck NGFS March 1966, firing on a Viet Cong stronghold near Vung Tau, at the mouth of the Saigon River. Photo by J. L. Means, NPC K-31267

Decommissioned on 1 October 1982, she was transferred to Turkey for the second part of her work career, serving Istanbul as the destroyer TCG Yücetepe (D-345) for another 18 years.

Saved by the USS Orleck Association, the third part of her career saw her brought back “home” in 2000 and opened as a low-traffic museum ship in Orange, Texas, where she had been built by the Consolidated Steel Corporation in WWII.

Then, the historic ship moved to nearby Lake Charles a decade later, where she received even less traffic as the industrial Louisiana coastal city isn’t exactly on the tourism trail. Heck, I tried to tour Orleck three different times when I was passing through between Galveston and Pascagoula but she always seemed closed for one reason or another.

Last year, washed up the Calcasieu River by a hurricane, the group that runs her went ahead and called Lake Chuck quits and made contact with an organization in Jacksonville to move there, a Navy city with a plan to put her in a high-traffic park downtown.

In preparation for this move, last week Orleck was successfully towed to the Gulf Copper Central Yard in Port Arthur for a much-needed drydocking.

You can follow her progress here. 

70 Years Ago today: King of Battle!

A pair of 155mm Gun Motor Carriage, M40 (T83) “Long Toms” of Baker Battery, 937th Field Artillery Battalion, providing fire support to U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division, Munema, Korea, 26 November 1951.

Tracing its lineage to the 1st Regiment, Arkansas State Guards, in 1897– which was reformed as the 2nd Arkansas Volunteer Infantry during the SpanAm War (but never made it further south than Alabama) then simply as the 2nd Arkansas Infantry to guard the Southern border against Pancho Villa in 1916– they traded their blue hat cords for red when they were redesignated the 142nd Field Artillery Regiment to go fight the Kaiser. Assigned to the 39th Infantry (Delta) Division, they left for France in the summer of 1918 with their tractor-drawn 155 mm GPF howitzers, but were certified too late to “see the elephant.”

Demobilized and sent back to Arkansas, the 142nd was recalled to active federal service on 6 January 1941. Reformed as the 142nd Field Artillery Group with two additional battalions– the 936th and 937th– which landed in Italy in November 1943, participating in the drive across the Rapido River and the liberation of Rom, then the 937th was sent to land in France during the Dragoon operation, fighting its way to the Rhineland. In all, the 937th fired over 200,000 155mm shells during WWII.

Returning home after the VE Day, the 937th had its HQ based at Fort Smith while its three gun batteries and support elements were at Mena, Paris, and Ozark.

In response to the Korean War, both the 936th and 937th were mobilized 2 August 1950 and the latter was sent to Fort Hood for training, arriving in Korea in time to fire its first combat mission 3 April 1951.

As noted by Arkansas Army and Air National Guard, a History and Record of Events, 1820–1962

The battalion went into line with the I Corps on 30 April near Uijongbu, Korea. During the Chinese Spring Drive, the battalion fell back to Seoul and was moved to IX Corps. Battery A continued with X Corps and was attached to the 1st Marine Division. On 17 May 1952 the battalion was attached to 2nd Infantry Division, IX Corps. For the action with 2nd Division, Battery C and Headquarters Battery received the Distinguished Unit Citation. The battalion continued in general support to IX Corps from 28 July 1953 until 9 October 1954.

Cyd Charisse in Korea. Charlie Battery gun, 937th. Other guns in C Battery in Korea included Cactus Country, Charming Cynthia, Constance Cummings, and Courageous Confederate. See the theme?

Charming Cynthia, Charlie Battery gun, 937th, Arkansas NG (25th ID)

Able battery gun.

M40 155mm Long Toms Charlie Battery 937th FA bn Korea May June 1951

The battalion was awarded battle streamers for the following campaigns: First U.N. Counteroffensive; CCF Spring Offensive; UN Spring Offensive; UN Summer-Fall Offensive; Second Korean Winter; Korea, Summer-Fall 1952; Third Korean Winter and Korea, Summer 1953. The 937th fired 223,400 combat rounds in Korea and suffered thirteen killed in action and 156 wounded in action. The battalion was inactivated on 26 November 1954.

Following the conflict, the 936th and 937th were simplified as the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 142nd Field Artillery, using towed 155s, before upgrading to 8-inchers in the 1970s.

2nd Bn/142nd FA, formerly the 937th of WWII and Korean War fame, deployed overseas during Desert Storm as one of the last units with the big 8-inch M110A2 howitzer, in notable Arkansas fashion.

Howitzer Section Number 1, Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 142nd Field Artillery, Arkansas Army National Guard, Operation Desert Storm, Crew Members SSG Robert Sampley, Jackie Hickey, Stanley Henson, JR Rankin, Earl Duty

Today, “The most combat-ready unit in Arkansas” is still around, having switched to M109s in 1994.

An M109A6 Paladin howitzer of Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 142nd Field Artillery Brigade, fires a round during a fire mission at the Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center near Barling, Arkansas, May 14. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Stephen M. Wright) 05.12.2019

There is at least one “Long Tom” still in the 142nd inventory.

This M40 155mm howitzer served Alpha battery 937th FA in Korea in 1951 during the Korean War. This gun A-7 is out front of the Nations National Guard Armory in Mena, Arkansas.

« Older Entries