South African Military History Society


We had the privilege to welcome two veterans from the Korean War, 1950-1953, and listen to their vivid accounts of this almost forgotten conflict. James Swinney outlined the political situation in the Far East. When North Korean forces launched their unprovoked invasion across the 38th Paralell in June 1950, they captured Seoul within three days, and by August had overrun all of South Korea except for a small area around Pusan. During this time American bombers flew from Japan and attacked the advancing communist forces, while the Navy launched its aircraft on enemy airfields.

With the U.N. branding North Korea the aggressor, the U.S.A. and 52 nations contributed resources, and the SA Government offered the services of a fighter squadron. No 2 Squadron, known as Cheetah Squadron, comprised 50 officers and 157 other ranks, including 38 pilots, all volunteers and highly experienced. On 1 Nov 1950 the Squadron arrived in Japan, and two weeks later, and after acquainting themselves with the F 51 Mustang, left for the operational area where they flew from Pyongyang.

Conditions were difficult, the cold extreme: temperatures with a wind chill factor dropping to -40 degrees C. Short daylight hours meant the ground crew had to do much of the servicing in the dark and then retire to cold tents. In Jan 1951 China intervened and their forces pushed the allies back. Seoul was lost, to be recaptured one month later, and by April the war settled into a bloody and bitter stalemate at the 38th Parallel. At this stage the whole squadron had become operational and was based at Chinhae near Pusan. Living conditions improved, there was even water borne sewerage, as well as 2 SAAF Rorke's Inn. The pub's name was given after the volunteer bar officer, Mickey Rorke, fell into a drainage ditch outside the pub one night. It became known as Rorke's Drift.

The operations consisted of close army support, ground attack, armed reconnaissance, destruction of enemy aircraft and equipment and attacks on lines of communication and transport. The mountainous terrain, bad weather and minimal navigation facilities made for strenuous conditions, while poor visibility made flying hazardous and identification of targets difficult due to fires caused by earlier strikes. The Mustang was a great aeroplane and stable weapons platform, equipped with 6x .5-inch machine guns, six 60 lb explosive head rockets or 125 lb AP head rockets plus two 1000 lb bombs or two Napalm. Their endurance was 4 hours, 8 hours with external drop tanks.

Methods of attack included dive-bombing from ten or twelve thousand feet at an angle of sixty degrees to 3000 ft, when the two 1 000 lb bombs would be released. Napalm was released at very low level and strafing and rocketing were done in a shallow dive at low level. It meant they were in range of small arms fire from the ground. The minus points was the Packard Merlin engine which was not as good as the Spitfire Merlin, and the positioning of the unprotected engine coolant system underneath the cockpit. The squadron flew 10 597 sorties with great success. SAAF casualties were 34 pilots and ground staff killed, 8 pilots taken POW and a number wounded. 74 Mustangs and S F-86s were lost. Casualties would have been higher but for the excellent rescue services and the brave crews who manned its aircraft.

Willem Grobler was our other speaker who talked on the P86 Sabre aircraft in detail. He considers it the best plane in the world at the time. He also discussed Mig alley, the many actions of the squadron, and then gave us a glimpse into off-duty life of its members, complete with self-made rugby field and other highlights that made life easier for all.
The Armistice' was signed on 27 July 1953, but it did not end the military threat. Today North Korea has the second largest army in the world, over twice as large as the U.S. Army. Both speakers' gave us most informative and entertaining talks with superb illustrations and graphics, and we hope to persuade them to return next year to speak to us an military actions a bit closer to home.

IN MEMORIAM: Dr. Rino M.H. Greenwall. Members will be sorry to hear of the death of Life Member, Dr. Rino Greenwall, on Friday, 20th September. Rino wash a very well known; helpful and cheerful military historian, specializing in the Anglo-Boer War.
His book Artists and Illustrators of the Anglo-Boer War is internationally recognized as the definitive work on this subject.
Our sincere sympathies go to his wife Yvonne and his family.

EXHIBITION: Under the title DESERT AIR WAR 1941-1943, an exhibition will be open to the public at Air Force Base Ysterplaat from 3 October. It covers operations of the RAF, SAAF, Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica. Turn off right from Koeberg Road into Piet Grobler Street (Brooklyn) at the road sign to the SAAF Museum. LECTURES FORR 2003 Meetings are normally held on the- 2nd Thursday of each month at 20h00 in thehhnecreation Hall of the- SAR LEGION' SR ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road,Rh Rosebank, C-off Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station,R below theh line. All visitorsh are welcome. TeaR and biscuits will be served. Jochen (John) Mahncke, Vice-chairman/Scribe. 021 797h 5167


10 October 2002
Slide Show and Talk on the GERMAN FLIEGERTRUPPE and ZEPPELINS: 1910 - 1918
by John Mahncke
14 November 2002
December 2002
In recess
January 2003
Please note that our first evening lecture will take place on 16 January, which is the THIRD Thursday of the month

Your Committee is compiling a list of lectures for the coming year. Any member who has suggestions for speakers and/or subjects is asked to contact any committee member.

Meetings are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of each month, at 20h00 in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank (off Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below the line.
All visitors welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.

Jochen (John) Mahncke (Vice-Chairman/Scribe) (021) 797 5167

South African Military History Society /