South African Military History Society

February 1983 NEWSLETTER

Past meeting - Johannesburg - 13th January 1983

The first meeting of the year was very well attended as there was great interest in both the speaker and his subject. Dr. Dermot Moore holds the rank of Commandant, being SO1 Ops and Int at Gp. 7 HQ in Grahamstown. He has had 19 years experience as Cadet and Commando officer which has included a tour as Company Commander in the Eastern Caprivi. In his civilian role, Dr. Moore is a Senior Lecturer in the Dept. of History at Fort Hare. HIs academic qualifictaions include a Master's Degree for a dissertation on Louis Botha's Natal Expedition in Sep.-Oct. 1901 and a Doctorate earned for his thesis on the role of the SAAF in Korea. This last mentioned piece of work supplied his topic for the evening: "The SAAF in Korea".

Pointing out that it wo uld be impossible to give a full history of the activities of 2 Squadron in the time available, Dr. Moore restricted himself to a general background and some selected examples of various types of mission. (This was a most understandable decision as a copy of his thesis was present and it looked to be at least 6 inches [150mm] thick.) Korea has suffered a long history of conflict and this did not end with WW II. Being arbitrarily divided into the Russian-dominated North and the Allied-influenced South for the pruposes of administration of the Japanese troops surrendering there, it formed an obvious target for communist subversion. However, by mid-1950 a small force of US advisors had helped to neutralize the guerillas and the North Korean Peoples Army invaded out of frustration. On 26 June 1950 President Truman ordered US troops to provide ground, air and naval support to the Republic of Korea. Despite this, the US and ROK forces were driven back to the Pusan perimeter. Meanwhile, two significant political events had occurred. The UN had passed the famous resolution on Korea and the SA Parliament had passed the sprression of Communism Act. When the SA government entered into negotiations with the US as to what support they could provide other than direct military intervention the response was that actual troop commitment was required.

On 4th August 1950, it was decided to send an Air Force Squadron and volunteers were called for to form an American-type squadron containg 4 flights of 8 pilots and 6 planes each. There were many respondants to this call and, after the process of selection 50 officers and 157 ORs left Durban as 1st and 2nd class passengers on the 6 week voyage to Yokohama. After training in Japan, the South Africans began to arrive in Korea as the UN forces were poised near the Yalu River. The Inchon invasion and the breakout from Pusan had been completed and it looked as though the war was over except for the "final push to clear Korea". 2 Sqdn. was attached to the 6th Air Force as 18 Fighter Bomber Wing Combat Group.

Following conversion and theatre orientation, Cmdt. Theron and his flight leaders arrived in Korea on 16/12 and found themselves immediately moving to bases at Pyongyang and Hungnam in North Korea in order to be in reach of the forward lines. The first sortie flown was a close support strike.The SAAF men were flying Mustangs armed with 2 napalm bombs, 6 5-inch (127mm) rockets and 6 50mm machine guns. On this sortie, they destroyed 13 camouflaged objects and 5 vehicles. The main threat was from sabotage by guerillas and from the weather. As the Chinese Army advanced southwards, driving the UN from its positions in North Korea, the air support also withdrew. They showed no hurry to do so however, and flew out of K24 (Pyongyang) as the Chinese were entering. Airbase K13 near Suwon was the next home to the SA pilots and it was here that the original five were joined by some of the more experienced pilots and the ground crew. on the 24th and 25th Dec. 2 Sqdn. SAAF was completely reunited and in residence at Sonhay (K10) where they remained until December 1952.

Towards the end of January 1951, the UN forces had reached their lineof maximum retreat and began the slow push back to teh 38th Parallel. Operations Thunderbolt on the 25 Jan in the west, Roundup on the 5 Feb inthe east and Killer on 25 Feb in the centre took teh 8th Army forward to anew line south of Seoul. In support of these operations the job of 2 Sqdn. was to interdict the supply line running from Sariwon to Seoul. Anything from 2 to 4 planes would fly these missions and from 7 to 9 missions would be launched each day. The NKA became very adept at hiding their transport by a variety of means. They would disguise trucks as huts so a convoy could pull off the road and pretend to be a village or sometimes they simply drove a truck into a hut which collapsed upon iot hiding it from the air. The only counter to these tactics was to fly low, slow and examine the ground carefully. The South Africans were soon recognized as the best truck hunters of the UN air forces.

In addition to interdiction missions, 2 Sqdn was also called upon for close support which involved maintaining 4 plane flights over the advancing columns to drive the enemy from ridges and to silence opposing artillery. The SA pilots rarely flew counter-air missions but did have some air combat. They evolved a set of rules to deal with this eventuality. These included flying in pairs, keeping RT to a minimum, maintaining close formation, attacking ground targets first and enemy prop-driven aircraft second. When attacked by MIGs, they were to turn in to the attack and lose altitude. Near the end of the war, 2 Sqdn was involved in bombing missions against the North Korean Hydroelectric Power net as part of the pressure tactics adopted by the UN. Here again their performance was of a very high standard.

By the end of the war, the SAAF had flown 12 000 combat sorties over 32 months and had lost 34 pilots MIA or KIA, 1 ground crewman injured in an acccident and had written off 79 planes. 6 POW were released at the close of hostilities. This was the price SA paid to support the UN.

After many questions had been put to the speaker, Col Peter McGregor offered the Society's thanks for a very clear and interesting account of ths sadly neglected subject. (It is to be noted that SA school textbooks provide an average of 25 words on this period and are often inaccurate.)

Prior to the main talk, Metro-Goldwyn-Hall introduced a new series to replace the "Soldiers in Uniform" shows of the past. It is now "incidents from Military History". As the opening of this new extravaganza Darrell treated the audience to the operation which rescued Mussolini from the Albergo Rifugio hotel at the top of the Gran Sasso. This daring glider-borne assault took place on 12/9/43 and was accomplished without casualties from either attacker or defender. Once released Mussolini was flown to Rome in aheavily overburdened Storch (containing Mussolini, Skorzeny, leader of the rescuers and Gerlach, Gen. Student's private pilot) which landed and took off from the tiny grassy area in front of the hotel. Yet another Hall-marked piece of good work.

The Old Kit Bag - Various Items

By popular demand Maj. Hall will be presenting a repeat of his highly successful slide show and talk, "For King and Country" at the War Museum on Thurs. 17 February at 19h30. If you missed this presentation when it was given at the regular meeting last year you should make a special effort to attend this time. For those of you who have seen it, it will be re-viewing. Thanks to Darrell for kindly arranging to offer this second chance.

All those who were members during the 1982 calenadr year should have received your copies of the Journal by now. If you do not have it as yet, please inform the Secretary/Treasurer, Mr. M.Marsh, or the Scribe, as below.

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Rod Murchison (726-3111(B))
(Scribe - doing his own typing
forgive errors)

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