MY LAST DAY AT WAR

by Dean Abbott

27 July 1953, Suwon AB, South Korea. I was one of four or five guys rounded up that morning in the 51st Group, and put aboard a Gooney Bird headed for Tsuiki, our rear echelon maintenance base in Japan. The mission was to bring back to Korea any and all the Sabres that the Tsuiki maintenance crews could make ready to fly.

The Armistice agreements were to go into effect at midnite of the 27th. And they were specific in that no additional equipment could be moved into Korea after that hour. If an airplane touched down in Korea by 2200 that night, they could stay. If not, they had to remain in Japan.

The Tsuiki crews worked through the day. As they got a Sabre ready, a pilot was assigned and immediately flew the airplane to the nearest base in South Korea, K-2, Taegu AB, where he'd be logged in and certified by "referees" from the Armistice Commission. One after another, as the Sabres became available, that is what happened.

Finally, there were only two Sabres left. But now it was late in the evening and thunderstorms were forecast over K-2. The next to last one was finally ready and away it went in the dark. We shortly got word that the pilot had ejected over the Straits but had been picked up by a fishing boat. I had the very last bird and it became "ready" with just one hour left.

With a very dry throat, I climbed in, started the engine, and taxied to the active runway. Knowing that K-2 was in a valley surrounded by high hills, and that it was going to be poor weather with thunderstorms, and that I was going to have to make an ADF let-down and probably shoot a GCA landing, I was none too excited about the flight since I'd never done any of the above before!

Luckily for me, as I approached the runway, a jeep sped out in front of me and an airman jumped out and stopped me with crossed flashlights. I'd been spilling fuel and hydraulic fluid all the way down the taxiway. I gratefully shut down and called it a day.

Next morning, I called (with great difficulty) back to K-13 and talked to Col. Bob Baldwin, the Group Commander. I said, "Sir, I'm stuck here at Tsuiki with only my flying suit and no money. What do you suggest?" He replied, "Well Abbott, normally I'd suggest you go to the chaplin and ask for a loan. But as a combat aircrew, you're just like the aircraft - no longer welcome in Korea! Do the best you can and stand by for further orders." So that's exactly what I did for a week, living from pillar to post with my hard luck story.

Finally I ran into a guy I knew who got to ferry a T-33 (not a combat aircraft) back into Korea. I sweet-talked him into smuggling me back to K-13. I put my chute and helmet in his back seat and snuck out to a ditch alongside the taxiway. When he arrived, up went the canopy, in I climbed, down went the canopy and we were quickly off for K-13.

Upon landing at Suwon, up went the canopy and I slithered out and into another ditch. I snuck hack to my squadron thinking I'd beat the system and was proud of it. The squadron quickly brought me back to reality. I'd been in WONDERFUL Japan, where I could have remained for who knows how long. Now I was back in crappy Korea with no war to fight. Well, live and learn! Even Col. Baldwin thought that was pretty damn dumb as I recall.


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