OTD: Start of the Korean War

On this day; 25 June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, signifying the start of the Korean War. As wars go this has become a forgotten one and in spite of having ended on 27 July 1953 the region has never really become safe. The North, governed by a dictatorship is constantly sabre rattling against its more prosperous southerly neighbour. 

Following the end of the Second World War, Korea was liberated from the Japanese invaders that had occupied the region since 1910. The United States and Soviet Union agreed to divide Korea into two occupation zones due to concerns of ‘spheres of influence’. and  a temporary internal border was created in 1948 between North and South Korea based on the 38th parallel – the circle of latitude that is 38 degrees north of the equator. The Northern part becoming a Marxist state under the dictatorship of Kim Il-sung and propped up by the Soviet Union, while the South was led by Syngman Rhee and propped up by America. 

Following the invasion The United Nations (UN) Security Council responded and called on all members to help the South. American quickly sent forces to support the country followed by further UN support of troops from 17 countries including Australia, Canada, France, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Turkey, New Zealand, South Africa, Colombia and Great Britain. By early September 1950, the South Korean and UN forces were facing defeat as North Korean forces pinned them against the southern coastal port of Busan. In response on 15 September 1950, the United Nations Commander General MacArthur ordered an amphibious landing at Incheon, a port halfway up the Korean peninsula, behind enemy lines. The landing allowed UN forces to make rapid progress north during the autumn of 1950, nearing the Chinese border by November. Alarmed by the proximity of South Korean and UN troops to their border China entered the war, sending forces into North Korea pushing the UN Forces back into the south.

Fighting stalled in early 1951 and armistice negotiations began. For the next two years troops faced a stalemate near the border, in trenches a little more than a mile apart they faced extreme conditions of cold and hot weather. Finally, in July 1953 an armistice agreement was signed, but there was no peace treaty.  To this day the Korean War has not officially ended and  tensions still run high between North and South Korea and US forces remain in the south serving along one of the most heavily militarised borders in the world. (https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/stories/the-korean-war)

 

P51 Mustang
F-86 Sabre

South African involvement was limited to a SAAF fighter squadron, with 50 officers and 157 other ranks of 2 Sqn SAAF sailing from Durban on 26 September 1950. This initial contingent was commanded by Cmdt S. van Breda Theron DSO, DFC, AFC and included many World War II SAAF veterans. The squadron was deployed as one of the four USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing squadrons flying P51 Mustangs and later converted to USAF F-86F Sabre fighter-bombers. The South Africans lost 34 SAAF pilots killed with eight taken prisoner. 74 Mustangs and 4 Sabres were lost. Pilots and men of the squadron received a total of 797 medals including 2 Silver Stars, the highest US military award given to foreigners, 3 Legions of Merit, 55 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 40 Bronze Stars. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_Air_Force#Korean_War)

 

Memorials.

In South Africa I am aware of two Memorials/Rolls of honour. The first being at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

  

The other is at the South African Air Force Memorial at Bays Hill in Pretoria.

The names of those killed in the conflict are also remembered on the memorial wall.

The dead are buried at the The United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea  in the City of Busan, Republic of Korea,  It contains 2,300 graves and is the only United Nations cemetery in the world. 

Sadly tension ebbs and flows on the tenuous border between North and South Korea, and there is a massive wealth gap between North and South. It is unlikely that they will ever be re-united and there is always a small chance that a major war could break out there at any time. The sabre rattling continues, with China always in the background ready to lend massive military support to the dictatorship of Kim Jong-un. The war has never been forgotten in Korea, but elsewhere in the world it has faded into memory.  

 

DRW © 2020. Created 24/06/2020 

Revisiting Bays Hill

One of my favourite memorials has to be the South African Air Force Memorial at Bays Hill in Pretoria. It is a magnificent structure that epitomises “those who mount up with wings as eagles”. 

 

I recall going there as a toddler with my parents and an uncle. In those days the Book of  Remembrance used to be in a recessed holder, and it was in there that we looked for the name of my uncle that died in Egypt during World War 2.

 
The memorial was opened on 1 September 1963 by President CR Swart. Other additions have been the Garden of Remembrance, the Walls of Remembrance, and the recent addition of the Potchefstroom AFB Memorial.
Wall of Remembrance and Roll of Honour.
Wall of Remembrance and Roll of Honour.

The futuristic and angular design of the building is unique and it does not have the heavy often morbid feel of a memorial, if anything it is light and airy, reminiscent of flight. 

Garden of Remembrance
Garden of Remembrance
The interior houses a small chapel as well as spaces for the Rolls of Honour and guest books, while not a large space still retains a aircraftlike feel with its angular windows. 
bays_hill48
 
On the day of our visit the national flag was at half mast, probably to honour Chief Justice Arthur Chaskelson who had died that week. However, little did we realise at the time that the Air Force would loose an aircraft and its crew and passengers on the next day. Those names will be added to the thousands already inscribed on the Roll of Honour. 
 
Korean War Roll of Honour.
Korean War Roll of Honour.
It is a sombre place to visit, and seeing the names inscribed on the Wall of Remembrance always leaves one feeling humble, and as you leave this small haven of peace you may hear the sound of an aircraft flying overhead, and know that it is a kindred spirit of those who are remembered here.
 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 26/03/2016

The Air Force Museum

Due to an unplanned party, our usual Wednesday Pretoria trip took a detour, and one of the places I revisited was the South African Air Force Museum at Swartkops AFB. I had originally visited there in December 2008, and had been somewhat disappointed, but also enthralled by their collection of aircraft. Nothing I saw though would really compare to the collection I had seen at The National Museum of the  US Air Force in Dayton Ohio in 2000. That place was truly amazing.
 
As usual I did have an ulterior motive in my visit, I really wanted to see the P51 Mustang that had evaded me in 2008, and was hoping to spot a complete Vampire too, the last Vampire I had seen had been incomplete. The images in this blog post are really a mix from my 2008 visit and the 2012 visit, because there have been changes since I had first been here.  There are aircraft that I have not added images of, that is because I did not have a specific interest in them on this visit.
Inside the museum (2008)
Inside the museum (2008)
The main display area on the apron housed the larger aircraft, and my special favourite has to be the Shackleton. She had been moved from her original spot, and as usual was really worth seeing up close and personal. 
 
Also dominating the area was the SAAF Boeing 707,  I had never been lucky enough to see one of these up close and personal, and she is really the only one I have seen. 
 
Actually that is a fib because I have been on board the 707 at Wright Patterson AFB. That particular aircraft, Boeing VC-137C – SAM 26000 (Boeing 707) had served President John F Kennedy as the presidential aircraft (aka “Air Force One”) before it too was replaced by a 747. Personally I prefer Boeing aircraft, these new fangled Airbus aircraft don’t work for me.

Also on the apron is the DC4 Skymaster, She too had been moved from my last visit, and she is deteriorating rapidly, the fabric of her elevators and ailerons is falling apart and she really needs to be under cover and restored.

A new addition that had not been there on my previous visit was a Puma helicopter. There was another Puma (or Oryx?) doing circuits and bumps while we were visiting but I never got any decent footage of her. 

Most of the Mirage and Impala had been moved under cover which should protect them from the elements, but the larger aircraft are really in a precarious situation.  Even the sleek Canberra is looking somewhat faded.


I have not shown images of the C160 Transall or the Ventura or Super Frelon that are parked on the apron. Neither have I shown images of the aircraft parked under cover.

Moving indoors to the display hangers I was delighted to find my missing Mustang!

As well as the restored Vampire.

I was also hoping to get better images of the Sabre while I was there, and was delighted to find her in a much better position than previously.

Another addition that I had not seen previously was an SAAF trainer, I am not sure whether this is a Pilatus or the local derivative.

I was also hoping to get a better image of the Fieseler Storch but it lived in relative darkness so this is the best I could do…
There are a lot of other aircraft to view at the museum, like the wonderful Sikorsky S-51 which is a real blast from the past,

And the Communist Bloc era Mikoyan MiG21 BIS which ran out of fuel while on a flight over Northern South West Africa in 1988. (Returned to Angola in 2017)

 

Our own South African Air Force aircraft also feature strongly, and one of my personal favourites is the Mirage IIIBZ in her original delivery colours.

And, the Westland Wasp in her Naval colour scheme, hankering back to the days of our 3 frigates.

Unfortunately though the museum does not have a complete Harvard on display,  that stalwart trainer did our country very proud, and the snarl of their engines overhead is only a memory. Like most museums though, this one lacks funds and dedicated people to keep it going.  We are very fortunate to have this small collection available, and it would be tragic if we were to loose it. It is well worth the time and effort to go through to Pretoria for a visit, because if you are an air force and aviation buff, these are the machines that you may soon only read about.
 
A postscript. At the time of writing this, the Air Force had just lost a Turbo-Dak with all her crew and passengers in bad weather over the Drakensberg. This is the second Dakota that has been lost recently, maybe its time the museum acquired one for the collection before they too become extinct.  
 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 26/03/2016