Saturday, July 29, 2017

Strategic Air Command's Initial Deployment to South Korea-1950

Extracted from "The United States Air Force in Korea" (1958) by RF Futrell of the USAF Historical Division.  The 1958 version of this book allows for small extracts of this book to be republished without royalty.

Asked his formula for winning battles, Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest replied: "Get there first with the most men." Recognizing that this axiom of the American Civil War was a vital truth in an era of global nuclear war, the United States Air Force had made determined efforts to instill the need for mobility into all of its tactical units. The story of the trans-Pacific movement of the organizations which were ordered to FEAF's support now provided examples of air mobility at its best and at its worst. On 13 July 1950, nine days after receiving word 8,000 miles away in the United States that the medium bombers were to move to the Far East, General O'Donnell sent the 22d and 92d Bombardment Groups on a combat mission to Wonsan, an achievement which demonstrated the mobility and striking power of the Strategic Air Command. To General Vandenberg this accomplishment indicated a "high degree of esprit, mobility, and technical competence."  Profiting from mistakes made in this initial deployment, the 98th and 307th Bombardment Groups got to combat even faster. The 98th flew its first combat mission from Yokota Air Base on 7 August, five days after it had departed the United States, and the 307th launched its first combat strike from Kadena Air Base on 8 August, exactly one week after its planes had left its home base in Florida.  

The swiftness of the medium bomber deployment to combat was possible only because of well-established Strategic Air Command mobility plans which had been designed for just such an emergency. In conjunction with the execution of its primary mission, the Strategic Air Command held the responsibility of maintaining air force units in readiness "for employment against objectives of air attack in any location on the globe." All units assigned to the Strategic Air Command were required to be "highly mobile organizations, capable of being dispatched without delay, to distant bases." Command letters, directives, and manuals gave, in complete detail, the various requirements for executing the mobility plan. Emphasis had been placed upon the equipment of all units for thirty days' operations with a minimum amount of support from operating bases. Flyaway kits contained spare parts and served as a kind of airborne base supply. Bomb-bay bins carried other essential supplies. Each wing commander maintained a reserve of spare engines, engine quick-change packups, and power packups. The wing mobility plans and preparations had been tested in overseas movements. The 22d and 92d Groups had been in the Far East and the United Kingdom; the 98th Group had been in the Far East, the United Kingdom, and at Goose Bay; and the 307th Group had served temporary duty in the United Kingdom and Germany.

The warning alert, followed by appropriate operations orders, went out to the 22d and 92d Groups on or soon after 1 July. Officers and airmen who had been planning Fourth-of -July holidays found themselves packing crates, loading cargo planes, or standing in line before the boarding ramps of planes bound for the Far East. After hurried hours of packing and preparation, the deployment airlift got under way. The two groups scheduled flights of ten B-29's each day, departing their home bases on 5 through 7 July. The 22d left March Air Force Base, California, stopped off at Hickam for a rest period, then flew on to Kadena, with stops at Kwajalein and Guam. The 92d Group took off from Spokane Air Force Base, Washington, and followed a similar flight plan, with a final destination of Yokota Air Base. The 98th and 307th Groups were equally well prepared for short-notice departures. The 98th departed Spokane Air Force Base for Yokota between 2 and 4 August, and the 307th left MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, between 1 and 3 August, headed for Kadena.  In the years of reduced military budgets prior to 1950, the USAF Tactical Air Command had become an operational headquarters under the USAF Continental Air Command in December 1948. Even though it realized that tactical air units required global mobility, the Continental Air Command had had no funds to stand the costs of such a program. Alerted at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, on 5 July, the 162d Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (Night Photography) was hurriedly filled to near peacetime strength ( a part of the fillers were jet mechanics with little experience on the squadron's conventional RB-26's). Its ground echelon, traveling by water, reached ltazuke on 19 August.

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