'BUZZ JOB!'

'THE TOUR IS OVER'

by 'Ebe' Ebersone and Hans Degner

On 29 June 1953, Hans and I completed our 101st and 100th missions respectively, marking an end to our combat tours in Korea. We were in the 12th FBS/l8th FBG at K-55 (Osan AB). We had our own pre-mission briefing on what we were going to do upon our return, and a frequency to coordinate our 'homecoming activities

This is my recollection of the 'buzz job' that got Hans and I grounded by Col. Marty Martin, 18th FBG CO, which resulted in Dee Harper replacing me on the afternoon mission. I suspect that Dee wishes I hadn't been grounded, as he was shot down, injured his back, shot his way through some North Koreans, and walked to a helicopter that picked him up and brought him home. But I'm stealing his thunder. He'll tell that story (in the next issue).

The mission was a Chodo Alert with four F-86s. I was lead, Lt. Mays was #2, Lt. Degner #3, and Lt. Tinius was #4. It was a routine Chodo Alert mission, nothing happened. If I ever had a 'milk run', that was it. Apparently no one got in trouble and needed our help. My Form 5 shows 1:45 for the flight time, including our post mission activities'.

On our way back from Chodo I sent Mays and Tinius in to land. After they were down, Hans and I went north of K-55, and I requested a "last mission low pass". We were 'cleared as requested', and switched to our 'discrete frequency' to coordinate our pass. Flying north to south,

Hans on my right wing, we straddled the tower at their glass-cab height. We were 'pushing the Mach' at near full throttle! Hans peeled tight to the right, and I broke left We met head-on, each on his right hand side of the runway, about mid-field, did a loop, joined up for a couple of low, fast passes over the maintenance troops, did a victory roll in formation, came In and landed. What could be more fun than that?

Now for the interesting part. When the tower cleared us, they thought we were farther out timewise, than we were. The tower cleared an inbound South African flight, led by Maj. Stan Wells, to land - on 'our' runway! I didn't hear the exchange. Hans and I were lined up on our runway pass when Stan, starting to flare and with throttle in idle, saw me coming at him about 10 feet off the deck. Stan thought he'd misunderstood the runway heading, and started to pour the coal to his bird.

About then Hans roared by on his right wing at the same 10 feet as I was at; Stan chopped the throttle and bounced his bird onto the runway. He told me later that his only thoughts were "You Bloody Tits! What the hell is going on?" His #2 saw all this from short final, and decided the smart thing for him was to go around. About this time I entered my loop, pulling up just to the left of Stan's #3, who was very puzzled as he had heard "Springbok Flight, cleared to land." #3 proceeded to do so, well behind Stan. #4, on his base leg, saw too wild a scene for him, raised his gear, went full throttle, and flew the heck away from the whole fiasco.

Sabres were everywhere, going in all directions, at different speeds, and landing. I think the troops enjoyed the whole scene. But a certain Group CO didn't. Or at least, he couldn't give the impression that he was amused. When I parked my bird, Col. Martin halted his jeep and said, "Major, you're grounded!" I wasn't even out of the cockpit yet, but blurted out something like, "But Marty, I just came from the target area where you and I are going, and 1 think you I should...." He cut me off with a scowl, spoke slowly and distinctly, "Major, you don't hear very well, do you? YOU are gounded!" He shifted the jeep into gear and sped off.

After Col. Martin had a piece of me, I had a short conversauon with Major Wells. Stan was a helluva fighter pilot and combat leader. He'd earned his rank and respect with the South Af Air Force during WW2. He'd also flown F-5lDs with us, converting with us, to the F-86 in Korea. The gist of his conversation was "What the bloody hell was going on out there? I thought some bloody damned Yanks had gone daft! I didn't hear the tower clear you for a last mission pass." He then added, "We jolly well must control ourselves a bit more in the future, shan't we, lest we kill someone!" And with that, he invited me to Rorke's Inn for a drink.

After rotating home, I got a package from Lt Col 'Pappy' Stell, containing Marty's letter of reprimand, my reply by endorsement, and 'Pappys' letter, dated 25 July 1953. It read:

Dear Major Ebersole,
          Enclosed you will find some correspondence that you will probably be glad to have. It was planned here to return this to you prior to your leaving, but we slipped up. These letters were given to you originally to avert an outbreak of incidents of this nature, that may not have been so capably handled as you and Lt Degner did.
           Please do not feel jolted by paragraph 3* as all is forgiven here. Good luck to you in your new assignment and let us hear from you.
           Sincerely,
          Glenn Stell. Commander

* in paragraph 3 Col. Martin had written:
"Field grade officers are looked upon by junior officers as leaders. The act you committed indicates that you are a failure as a leader. Also, you failed your squadron and group commanders."

On the original letter, Marty had lined out 'are a failure as a leader2, and had pencilled in "you failed in this instance", and left the typed 'as a leader'. A couple of years ago I wrote Hans and asked if this was the way he recalled the events. Hans added that my account of the 'homecoming activities' sounded good to him. He was thankful that he did the buzz job with a 'major', or his punishment would have been more severe. His paperwork was also returned to him back in states. Had it not, his 34 year career with American would not have been. So ends the story of the 'BUZZ JOB'. Hope you all liked it.


No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.


Return to Classics Page