Wing Commander Lou Spence
June 2 1950
77 Squadron RAAF
Iwakuni, Japan

We all but had the machines crated up and ready to sail back to Australia when North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and we were at war again. Today, the North Korean People's Army (KPA) took Suwon. Seoul is surrounded, and UN forces are holding out in small pockets along the front line waiting for MacArthur's promised 2 Divisions to arrive.

One of those battling to stay alive was Dog Company, holed up in a little village SW of Samcheok. So our first combat mission since Borneo was an attack on the KPA forces surrounding Samcheok.

We had just four Mustangs combat ready, but it would have to be enough.

We weren't just flying a rescue mission out of Iwakuni. We were sending a message to the Communists that Australia was with the US and Republic of Korea forces. The Brits were on their way too. This was looking like a serious brew up.

We were coming in from the East coast, north of Samcheok. Dog company was pinned down to the Southwest and they reported KPA forces north and west of their positions. A major KPA offensive was building in the Southwest, where the KPA was marshalling forces north of Namyang. Our job was to hit the KPA troop concentration before it could get organised and attack.

Scouts had reported AAA...

...troop transports and reserves guarding fuel tankers, no doubt in place for the armour coming up.

As we approached Samcheok, I ordered the flight, call sign 'Uzi', to spread wide...there was no point offering a clustered target to any AAA lurking in the hills on the other side.

Within seconds Uzi 2 called a target, "Air defence target 12 o'clock. Evading," he said calmly. We were making a high speed ingress at 5,000 feet, no easy targets, but still I worried.

No sooner had his voice gone from the radio than I saw large caliber tracer flashing in front of my nose.

I saw a truck mounted AAA gun trying to geat a bead on me. But he was behind and out of range in a flash.

The village which Dog Company was trying to hold appeared ahead, and I could see plumes of smoke rise from the KPA artillery raining down on them.

"Uzi this is Dog, we have you in sight," came a desperate voice on the radio. "KPA forces near the radio tower S-SW. Hit 'em hard Uzi."

"Roger that Dog. Uzi 2, 3, 4, you are free to engage. Follow me in." As I gave the order, I saw Uzi 2 fall in behind me. I armed my bombs and set them to salvo.

I saw the KPA forces near the base of the tower, and pushed the nose hard down. AAA fire erupted, but most of it fell behind me. This was one time it was good to be on point.

I pickled the bombs and as I pulled away and looked back, I could see they hit about fifty feet from a line of trucks . . . but there were no secondaries. Those Commies built their trucks tough!

The other blokes made their runs, and we were starting to get some attrition, then Uzi 3 called, "Uzi 1, this is 3, I have a bomb stuck on the rack. Have to RTB boss."

"Dangit. Just missed with my last," came the voice of Uzi 4. "I'm dry Uzi 1."

I told them to egress West and head back to Japan. We didn't have the fuel to be hanging around.

But I still had a bevvy of rockets to throw. I began a fast sweep around to give me a good run in on the target, and selected rockets.

As I did, the airframe shook.

I'd taken ground fire. It looked like small calibre, but fuel was bleeding from my wing. Fuel I couldn't afford to lose. There was no hand pump to get it from my left wing tanks and over to my right. I just had to watch it bleed out.

I was already lined up for my attack run, so I kept the nose down.

200 feet out I let fly.

The rockets rippled across the enemy truck park and brought forth a satisfying belch of flame.

"Time to head South," I told myself. With a leaking fuel tank, there was no chance for me to get back to Japan, but I could make it over the front lines and into ROK held territory.

I checked now for other signs of damage. RPM and manifold pressure OK. Carb temp OK. Coolant temp was off the gauge though...that wasn't good.

The right wingtip didn't look too healthy either. I had no idea how it was still attached...

I was starting to put the battlefield behind me when my left wing took another punch. I never saw the incoming fire.

Just the additional holes in the wingtip. It looked like a sieve now.

Worse, it started streaming dirty the buggers must have hit an oil line. Leaking fuel AND oil? This was going to be a shorter egress than I planned.

I looked desperately around me for somewhere to put it down. The dark green fields were rice paddies, but the light green and brown fields were wheat or fallow fields. I picked one that looked like it gave me a reasonable chance.

No sooner had I swung toward it than the engine died. I looked quickly down - fuel empty. Revs and pressure dropping. This was going to be a one shot landing.

There was still enough grunt in the hydraulics to get the wheels down. That was something at least. But I was dropping like a brick.

The Mustang is no glider.

I came down hard, and the force of the landing snapped the bullet riddled wingtip right off and burning oil gushed out.

Luckily there wasn't much oil left there to burn. It stopped burning and with a bump and a rattle, I came to a stop.

I looked around for signs of hostiles, but the landscape was empty. For now. It wouldn't be for long.

I grabbed the radio.

"Mayday, mayday. This is Uzi 1, I have crash landed. Repeat, I have crash landed. I am about five miles south grid LP26. Repeat, I am down, five miles south of grid LP26..."

I repeated the call three times, for what it was worth, but I didn't want to stick around any longer. Whatever lucky NPRK unit it was that took me down, would be on their way to find me.

I grabbed the pistol and survival pack from under my seat, threw open the canopy and rolled out over the wing.

In a low crouch, I ran for the nearest ditch...


NEXT: "Mustangs over Samcheok: rescue flight."

PS: RAAF skin (c) Tom Weiss.

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