Monday, July 16, 2018

Military Monday - Cats Over Korea

Ask anyone about dog fights over Korea and it inevitably people think of Saber against MiG. And rightfully so. The air combat over "MiG Alley" was in some regards the end of an era. Only the IAF would ever engage such a large enemy air forces again in a quasi permissive environment where pilots could rack up large numbers of kills.

And man, the F-86 is a good looking airplane.

As a child I held several truisms dear to hear.

  • The National League is superior
  • The F-86 was better than the MiG-15
  • Leslie Coffelt was the finest pistol shooter this side of Mister Ed
Now, the above are all certainly up for debate. Except the National League thing. The DH is worse for the game than the shift. But the other day I read something that definitely made me reconsider the air war over Korea. 

A bit of backstory, I was trying to find books concerning the post war Fleet Air Arm. In a conversation with a friend of mine who is a flag waver, he off hand mentioned one of the best use of signals intelligence in the Korean Conflict. 

On 3 July 1950, a two ship flight of F9F Panthers was vectored in to intercept a flight of MiG-15s. Four of which were flown by pilots of the Soviet Naval Air Force. In an intense 35 minutes of air to air combat, LTJG Royce Williams splashed four of the bandits. His humble Panther sustaining severe damage. 

This is a thumbnail sketch of an impressive feat of both flying and intel gathering. Thomas Cleaver covers it in great detail in this piece. Definitely worth a read. 

Grumman makes good Cats
So, yeah. That was a truly impressive feat of flying. I loved the movie "Bridge of To-Ko-Ri" as a kid. And Sea Wings had an awesome episode about the F9F as well. Great air planes. Straight wing fighters off of straight deck carriers shouldn't have been able to tangle with the very best of Soviet Naval Aviation But hell, a guy shot down a MiG in his Corsair. And I'm sure that if the handful of A-1 drivers who bagged MiGs in Vietnam are still alive they are telling the story of how a stupid gomer in a Fishbed went head to head with a bunch of 20mm cannons.


  1. Hey Mack;

    Good post, I remember doing a blog post when a bunch of documents got declassified and the Russians admitted having some of their WWII veterans over helping to bolster the lack of experience that the NORKS had. I recall several Pilots identifying people in the cockpit that didn't "look" oriental.

    1. We flew against Russian jets and our carriers were chased buy Russian subs. The world would be a lot different MacArthur simply stopped shy of the Yalu.

  2. Very neat story. There's sadly only 1 airworthy F9F Panther left flying in the world today, based at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum.

    1. Sad. No one would ever think the humble first generation jet fighters would be worthy museum pieces


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