RAAF in Korea
In 1971 the Australian Government published a book celebrating the RAAF's 50th birthday, from which I reproduce here the Korean War information.
When the well-equipped North Korean army crossed Korea's 38th parallel early on Sunday, 5th June 1950, members of No. 77 Squadron RAAF were celebrating in the Sergeants' Mess at Iwakuni, Southern Japan. Some of their Mustang aircraft had been crated and prepared for return to Australia.
The Squadron was going home after four years of occupation duty. But the war that began with the North Korean army's attack and the uneasy peace that followed was to delay the return of No. 77 Squadron for another four and a half years.
As soon as Wing Commander L. T. Spence, the Squadron C.O., was informed of the outbreak of the Korean conflict he immediately ordered his men to prepare their aircraft for action. However, no air attack was made by the North Koreans on Iwakuni.❞
First Action for 77 Squadron
A last minute briefing to pilots of No. 77 Squadron from their commanding officer, Squadron Leader R. C. Cresswell, before take off from a base in Korea on an operational mission. On this particular mission the RAAF Meteor pilots were assigned as escort to United States Air Force Shooting Stars on a photographic sortie.
The Squadron's base at Iwakuni was within easy reach of the Korean battle area and General Douglas MacArthur, who became commander, through the United Nations, of all Allied forces in Korea, asked for No. 77 Squadron to be committed to the war.
The Australian Government agreed and No. 77 Squadron became not only the first Australian squadron, but the first of the whole British Commonwealth to enter the fighting.
The first action for the Squadron came on 2nd July, when four pilots, after breakfasting with their wives, took off before dawn to escort American transport aircraft bringing wounded out of Korea.
A second mission escorted American light bombers attacking bridges near Seoul and a third mission escorted American B-29 bombers attacking the North Korean airfield of Hamhung.
No. 77 Squadron was engaged in the following weeks in continuously harassing the enemy forces in their drive to seize all of South Korea before American forces and other United Nations military formations could be deployed to stem the tide.❞
A formation of RAAF Meteor jets of No. 77 Squadron in flight over Korea. Under the wing of the nearest jet can be seen the rails for the high explosive rockets which the Squadron used with deadly accuracy against enemy troops and installations.
Bruce Gogerly shot down a MiG-15 while flying his Meteor.
Flight Lieutenant Bruce Gogerly, of Westmead, New South Wales, who achieved the distinction of shooting down a superior-performance Russian built MiG while serving with No. 77 Squadron in Korea. Flight Lieutenant Gogerly completed a tour of duty with the Squadron, then returned at a later date to serve at a USAF radar site. Even though this was a ground job he kept his hand in by flying with the Squadron when he had a day off from official duties.
Despite the official verdict that Meteors were no match for MiG-15s, several 77 Squadron Meteor pilots managed to get kills against the superior aircraft.
An artist's impression of Meteors of No. 77 Squadron carrying out a bombing and strafing run against Communist positions in Korea.
The Squadron originally went to Korea equipped with Mustangs, but later were withdrawn to Japan to convert to jets before once more taking over an attacking role against Communist ground positions.
In a desperate struggle, the Pusan perimeter in the south-east corner of the Korean Peninsula held and following General MacArthur's successful counter blows at Inchon and Wonsan, No. 77 Squadron moved from its base at Iwakuni to a bare airfield at Pohang on the east coast of Korea from which they supported the drive northwards across the 38th parallel.
RAAF armourer AC 1 Keith Inglis, of Wentworthville, Sydney.
A high explosive rocket used by No. 77 Squadron for their attacks against Communist ground positions in Korea.
Holding the rocket is RAAF armourer AC 1 Keith Inglis, of Wentworthville, Sydney.
Former prisoners of war in North Korea, these two RAAF pilots were all smiles when they received new uniforms at the RAAF base at Kimpo soon after their release.
Flight Lieutenant Gordon Harvey, D.F.C. (left) pins a new set of wings on the uniform of Flying Officer Ron Guthrie. Harvey, now a Group Captain, escaped from his prison camp once, but was recaptured when he was almost in sight of freedom.
Altogether four RAAF pilots were taken prisoner during the Korean W ar.
In November the Squadron moved again, going north to Hamhung in North Korea where ground crews had to sweep snow from the wings of the Mustangs before the pilots took off on missions. Servicing aircraft was a constant battle against the freezing conditions, but wlth the Chlnese armies now pushing south- wards from Manchuria, the RAAF had to maintain a maximum combat effort.
Flying out of Hamhung the RAAF pilots struck heavily at Chinese transports pouring down the roads out of Manchuria. They flew close support missions for the Turks and the Australian 3rd Battalion in action in Pak-chon. But the Chinese armies soon gained the upper hand and in the general withdrawal No. 77 Squadron was ordered south to Pusan where missions continued on a maximum effort basis. ❞
In April 1951, the Squadron was withdrawn to Iwakuni to be re-equipped with Meteor 8 twin-engined jet fighters. In July, with training in Meteors completed, the squadron went back to Korea and joined the American 4th Fighter Group at Kimpo, near Seoul.
The following month the RAAF pilots fought their first battle against the Russian MiG aircraft and this and later battles demonstrated that the Meteor was no match for the swept-wing MiG-15's. The Meteors were fitted with rocket rails and assigned to the ground attack role using rockets and cannons and they continued in this role until the fighting ended in July 1953. ❞
Note: Despite this official verdict that Meteors were no match for MiG-15s, Pilot Officer Bill Simmonds (left) and Pilot Officer John Surman managed to get two kills.
MiG killers: Pilot Officer Bill Simmonds (left) and Pilot Officer John Surman exchange mutual congratulations on their successes against superior performance Russian-built MiG 15 aircraft over North Kore
Both were serving in No. 77 Squadron, operating Gloster Meteor jets. Pilot Officer Surman, of Burwood, Sydney, claimed a probable when he and another Squadron pilot were jumped by two MiGs from a flight of nine.
Pilot Officer Simmonds from Bunbury, West Australia, had his kill confirmed when he was providing cover for American fighter bombers blasting targets near Pyongyang.
A RAAF nursing sister offers a litter patient some reading material during an air ambulance flight from Korea to Iwakuni, in Japan, during the Korean war.
RAAF aircraft flew hundreds of wounded and sick from the war theatre to Japan throughout the conflict.
Hard-hitting 20mm cannon shells being loaded into the weapons. system of a RAAF Meteor jet at Kimpo during the Korean war.
The armourer is LAC P. O'Toole, of Strathmore, Melbourne, serving with No. 77 Squadron.
In three years No. 77 Squadron lost thirty-five members dead and in addition a number of RAF pilots on exchange duty with the Squadron were killed in action.
The Squadron carried out 81,872 individual sorties, destroying 3,700 buildings, 1,500 vehicles and 16 bridges.
RAAF Dakotas of No. 30 Transport Unit carried out most of the aerial supply and medical evacuation for the British Commonwealth forces in Korea.
The Transport Unit grew into No. 36 Squadron in March 1953. In the medical air evacuation role alone the Dakotas carried a total of 12,ooo troops out of Korea.
They carried 100,000 passengers and 13,500,000 lb of freight and mail. ❞
The end of another successful mission over enemy lines during the Korean war, and this Meteor jet of No. 77 Squadron is marshalled back into its revetment for refuelling and rearming, ready to scramble at short notice.