K-13 APO 970
Return To Korea
2 July 1951
Captain Frank A. Forsyth (the Flying Safety Officer) and I have been ordered to Suwon on 3 July 1951 for extended TDY. We never did return to Tsuiki except on R&R. A part of the Wing had been at Suwon since May, mostly the Fighter Squadrons, so we needed to set up our office there. Since the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing had been at Suwon for awhile some of the facilities had already been built. Later the 4th would take their F-86's and move to Kimpo. The 51st still had the F-80's that we brought from Okinawa.
The city of Suwon was quite interesting with its walls and huge gate entrances. I am not sure how old they were, but centuries. Due to my work I did not get much time to really investigate Suwon the way I had Seoul.
Effective 2400 K, 30 September 1951, the 51st FIW Command Post closed at Tsuiki Air Base Japan and opened at Suwon Korea effective 0001 K, 1 October 1951. 1 October 1951 Detachment 1, 51st FIW is established at Tsuiki Air Base Japan. Any personnel left at Tsuiki were placed on TDY from Suwon.
The primary purpose of maintaining Tsuiki was to handle the major repairs to aircraft that could be sent back. The work facilities were much better and it was much easier to secure parts and supplies.
Life at Suwon was much different than Kimpo. I suppose that partly it was due to the fact that the war was much further north of us now. Things were much more relaxed. That doesn't mean that it was dull and lazy. Not by any means. The Fighter Squadrons were flying constantly and of course there were accidents (planes being shot up) to investigate. It kept us busy.
After months of eating outside or in tents a nice new metal mess hall was constructed. I do not remember the cause, but in December of 1951 it burned to the ground. A great loss in the dead of winter. I have posted some pictures of the fire on the Photo page.
Big Change! In November of 1951 the 51st started the changeover from the old F-80's to F-86E's. At last we would be better equipped to do battle with the North Koreans with their M-15's. The last operation with the F-80's occurred on 20 November 1951. After the F-80's had received final maintenance they were transferred out of the wing by the end of the month. They would go to the South Korean Air Force. The 51st became operational with the F-86's on 1 December 1951. Our next problem would be parts and maintenance personnel. The new people coming in were already trained on the F-86, but the current guys were having to catch up.
The 25th Squadron received the first 20 F-86's and the 16th received the next 19 followed by a one and one allocation. The 25th flew the first mission with the F-86's.
In May of 1952 preparations began to transfer the 39th Fighter Interceptor Squadron from the 18th Fighter Bomber Wing to the 51st. The 39th had been flying F-51's up to that point. The transfer was completed on 1 June 1952 when they exchanged their F-51's for F-86's. On 23 June 1952 the 39th got the first of the F-86F's.
Checkertails! In July 1952 "Checkertails" appeared on the 51st aircraft for the first time in the Korean War. I had to put this in here, because the 51st has become synonymous with "Checkertails".
Yes I know, I have gone beyond my departure date, but there were some important things that I have to say. Mostly about the change over to the F-86's. I have had so many inquiries about when that happened and when did the 51st start using the "Checkertails". Well now you all know. A last bit of information for you modelers, the squadron colors were 16th Blue, 25th Red and 39th Yellow.
Farwell On 6 January 1952 I was officially relieved of duty with the 51st. You would have thought that I would be jumping with joy, but that was not the case. My how time has changed things. When I first got to Korea I couldn't wait to go home. Now things were different. The war was not over and I would be leaving behind a lot of very good friends, both in the 51st and South Koreans. I wonder to this day if my Korean friends made it safely through the war.
I believe that it was on 10 January 1952 that I boarded a plane for Japan to be processed for the ZI (Zone of Interior). In Japan I boarded the USS General G.M. Randall for my trip back to the States. Compared to my trip to Okinawa this was very smooth. Due to my rank I didn't have to work. We sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on Valentines Day 1952. I have to admit that bridge did look pretty good.
From this point on in my life I am no longer a part of the 51st. That is what I thought then. In later years I found that wasn't entirely true. I was discharged from the USAF at Rantoul AFB, IL, on 22 September 1952 after being a Classified Documents instructor. I had served with a lot of great guys in those four years, but it was the guys from the 51st during the Korean War that stayed uppermost in my mind over the years.
One day, many years later while reading the American Legion magazine, I noticed an article that there was a 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing Association and they were having a reunion. When I got in touch with the host for the reunion it turned out to be an old friend from Wing Headquarters Squadron Charles Strickland. After attending that reunion and meeting up with more of my old friends, and making a lot of new ones, I knew that my life with the 51st would never be over until I die..
For years I wanted a website to help in my search for more of the old gang. Finally I went to a local college and took the courses so that I could do it my self. I have just one last thing to say - thank you all for being my friends.