AF CROWNS 40TH JET ACE

AIR FORCE CROWNS

40TH JET ACE

On 15 January 2008, the Department of the Air Force officially upgraded a `Probable' MiG-15 credit to `Destroyed', which made Lt. Charles `Chick' Cleveland an Ace in the Korean War. Chick Cleveland already had four MiGs to his credit scored between 5 August and 28 September 1952. This is the story of #5.

"During the Korean War, I was assigned to the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Kimpo AB. On 21 September 1952, flying an F-86E, I engaged a MiG-15 near or north of the Yalu River, at an altitude of approximately 30-35,000 feet. During a long tail chase that lasted about 5 minutes, from a range of about 1800-2000 feet, I fired several bursts from my guns, striking the MiG's right wing and engine area. There was an explosion in the ,engine area, and the MiG started trailing a long stream of smoke. He was on fire even at that altitude.

We started to gain on the MiG as he started to descend. But we were being chased by MiGs from above and behind. When they got within range, . my wingman, 1Lt Don Pascoe, called a defensive break. We abandoned the chase and returned to Kimpo. On the ground, Don urged me to claim a `kill' or `Destroyed'. But because I didn't see the MiG pilot crash or eject, I didn't. Instead I claimed, and was awarded a `Probable'." When I left Korea I had 4 Destroyed and 2 Probables.

A friend, Dolphin D. Overton, himself an F-86 pilot with 5 victories, had long been convinced that the 21 September 1952 action met the requirements of a confirmed `kill'. In 1999, he set out to prove it. He located Don Pascoe, who supplied a strong statement of support. Maj.Gen. Frederick `Boots' Blesse, a 10 victory ace in Korea, concurred and took the case to the American Fighter Aces Assn.

The AFAA, an organization that guards its integrity closely, referred the case to its Victory Confirmation Board, made up of 5 aces from WW2, under the Chairmanship of Steve Pisanos. They unanimously agreed, and in a letter dated 11 April 2000, the AFAA awarded me the confirmed victory and named me the 40th jet ace in the Korean War.

Unbeknownst to me, in a long series of letters, phone calls, and visits from 2000 to 2002, Dolph Overton attempted to convince the Air Force Historical Research Agency that they should change the official Air Force record. The AFHRA stated "we must base r decisions on sound historical principles and methods." They wanted original documents, not an operational judgement made 48 years after the fact. I was disappointed with the decision, but as an amatuer historian myself, agreed they were doing their job as they saw it.

Dolph didn't agree. In 2004, he discovered the Russian records of aerial combat in the Korean War at the National Archives in Silver Springs. He had the records for 21 September 1952, translated into English, and also obtained the 5th AF Daily Intelligence Summary (#138) for 22 September 1952, which recapped F-86 activity for the 21st. Dolph made a thorough analysis of Bulletin 138, which gave the time of encounter, location, altitude, number of planes in each flight, squadron, and call signs. He then compared it with the Russian account and found some similarities and some striking differences.

The main differences: on 21 September 5th AF confirmed 5 Destroyed; Robbie Risner - 2, Joseph Fields, Simon Anderson, and Charles Moyle - 1 each; plus my Probable. But the Russians admitted just 2 losses. They also claimed 2 F-86s shot down, which wasn't true. One F-86 had taken some hits but returned to base safely.

The main similarity - only the Destroyed claim of Charles Moyle and my Probable matched the 2 admitted Russian losses. Dolph submitted the records and the analysis to Dr. Von Hardesty, a respected historian and a curator at the National Air & Space Museum, asking for his comments. Dr. Hardesty said "the geographical locale and general description of the air combat, coincide with Cleveland's air sortie of that date."

Some time in 2004, Dolph submitted the package to AFHRA embodying the Russia records, the 5th AF Intelligence Summary, and a detailed analysis that showed that only Moyle's and my claims matched the Russian admitted losses. AFHRA again declined to change the aerial victory credit, citing the lack of original Air Force historical documents awarding me the confirmed victory, and saying they were not qualified to give an operational opinion or act as a victory confirmation board.

Dolph then asked me to get involved, and I agreed to submit a package to the Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Records. I did so in March 2007, requesting a hearing. I was accompanied by Dolph Overton and `Boots' Blesse. The BCMR granted the hearing on 28 November 2007. Both Dolph and `Boots' offered strong testimony in my behalf. The Board reccommended approval, and paperwork was signed by the designee for the Secretary of the Air Force on 15 January 2008. I was now officially, the 40th jet Ace of the Korean War - 55 years after the fact!


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