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)



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 

Visiting Vic’s Viking Garage

SAAF, South African Air ForceMany years ago there was a garage in Johannesburg that had a Vickers Viking on it’s roof. I kid you not, it was one heck of a landmark and everybody knew about it, but nobody could really tell you where it was! Somewhere near “Uncle Charlie’s” was the closest you could get to a reply. The fact remains though; the garage, situated in what is now Devland had this vintage Vickers Viking on it’s roof, and in 1987 that aircraft was removed and taken for “restoration” and replaced with a vintage Avro Shackleton.

I recall as a boy seeing the Viking but naturally no adults would stop the car and let you out so that you could go explore it, so it is just a vague memory.  In 2010 however I decided to go find this Shackleton and see whether it still existed, and what it looked like now, so many years after the fact.

Google Earth was duly consulted and the co-ordinates are:  26° 16.644’S  27° 56.683’E and you can actually see the aircraft on the satellite view.

However, finding the garage was a different ballgame so I asked the kind lady in the GPS to take me there. “Turn left” was all she said (as she always does). Eventually I spotted my target in the distance and “turned left”.

The aircraft has been in a number of liveries as far as I can see, from her original SAAF colours, right through to a red livery and of course the current one, and probably a few other permutations along the way.  

But what about the Viking? According to http://aircraftnut.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/of-shackletons-and-vikings.html:  She was “built at the Vickers-Armstrongs factory in Weybridge, England, c/n 121 first took to the air on 30 August 1946, registered as G-AHOT with British European Airways and was used in the 1948 Berlin Airlift. On 26 September 1954 she was sold to Trek Airways, registered ZS-DKH and operated in Protea Airways colours, a second airline of Trek, and for many years, transported hundreds of passengers on leisurely and scenic flights between South Africa and Europe. She even starred in the film, “Kimberly Jim” with the late Jim Reeves. After 13.881 flying hours she was disassembled and transported by road to Armadale south of Johannesburg, where, in January 1963 she was lifted on to the roof of the Vic de Villiers “Vic’s Viking Service Station” where she became a famous, if forlorn, landmark.” 

Now the name Weybridge rings a bell, because Weybridge is also home to Brooklands Museum which I visited in January 2015 and they too have a Vickers Viking under restoration.

This particular aircraft is G-AGRU and there is an interesting footnote to the information sheet situated at the aircraft.

I can neither confirm or deny what the state of ZS-DKH is, the website that used to have information about her is giving me a 403 error. I have heard rumours that she was due to be taken to Rand Airport, but I will believe that when it actually happens. (or has it happened?)

As for our lonely Shackleton, she is SAAF 1723 and has been grounded since 22 November 1977.

Sadly, this lonely bird will never fly again, and in at some point she will be either stolen, dismantled or stripped for scrap metal. 

However, if you do want to see a Shackleton in her original glory then take a trip up to Swartkops AFB where sister aircraft 1721 is kept.

Although often described as “a hundred thousand rivets flying in close formation” these aircraft kept watch over our seas, and today these two examples are just some of the few remnants of a unique aircraft that performed it’s job and has become an icon.

Vic De Villiers may have swapped out one old aircraft for another, but his foresight has kept this aircraft from becoming yet another image in a book or on a website. Hopefully one day that Viking will emerge too, and take her place in a museum.

Now if only I could find Uncle Charlies? Lady in the GPS where are you??

DRW. ©  2016-2020. Retrospectively created 06/06/2016