Captain Harold 'Hal' Fischer, waves from the cockpit of "the Paper Tiger", the F-86F he new with the 39th FIS at Suwon AB. Capt. Fischer scored 10 victories between 26 November 1952 and 21 March 1953. He was shot down following his 10th victory, and held in a communist prison camp for an additional two years. (credit - John Stanaway)


By Col. Harold E. Fischer, USAF (Retired)

America's 22nd jet Ace

Nearing the end of my F-80 missions, I volunteered to go to Headquarters, Far East Command, to work as a personnel officer in the Combat Crew Branch. After I was in the job for awhile, the lure of air combat and all the talk of "jet aces" began to excite me. One of the aces, Bill Whisner (51st Wing, 5 1/2 kills), stopped by my office. He said that experienced pilots were needed desperately, and he thought that I could be an ace. I applied quickly for another combat tour in Korea and made several visits to 'court' the F-86 units there. This paid off, and soon I received orders to the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing at Suwon.

After six hours and forty-five minutes of check-out flying, I began flying combat missions. After a few of these, I was assigned to a flight commanded by an RCAF exchange officer, Squadron Leader Douglas Lindsay. He was one of those rare individuals who was truly dedicated to getting the job done. And because of his beliefs - that the results are more important than the methods - he was viewed with disfavor by some. But without a doubt, he was the best fighter pilot I had ever seen or flown with. As my mission total increased, so did my desire to get a kill. Soon the moment came that I had been dreaming about. I was number two in another flight with Lindsay, when the sky was suddenly filled with MiGs - everywhere. I called that I was going to make a "bounce", turned to the left and surveyed the scene for a moment.

From the south, about 1500 feet below me, two MiGs were heading north. I eased down and fell in behind them, about a mile in trail. I don't think they saw me, and I pulled up the nose of my aircraft, moved the radar gun sight to manual ( I felt I couldn't trust it in the automatic mode) and fired several long bursts.

Just as I was going to break off the attack, the MiG wingman began a slow descent. I called the flight leader and said I had one going down. I followed the MiG, and when I caught up to him, I rolled around him and got one of the biggest surprises of my life. The canopy was missing and the pilot was gone! When the MIG crashed I knew that there was no positive verification on the gun camera film, so I strafed the wreckage for confirmation purposes. That evening Lindsay told me that it would probably be impossible to sleep. He said that after his first kill in Spitfires during WWII in England, he couldn't sleep a wink. He was right.

In another engagement, I was flying as element leader and made an attack on a MiG by positioning myself about 600 feet directly behind him at 40,000 ft. Before I could fire, the MiG entered and completed a perfect loop. My F-86 floundered over the top, and the MiG proceeded into a series of loops. With each successive loop, my advantage increased slightly because of the 'flop' at the top. This way, I was squaring a corner of our circle, and the flying tail helped out at the bottom. I had presence of mind to fire only short bursts, so as not to dissipate air speed at that altitude. Over the Yalu River, the MiG straightened out for a moment and I prepared to fire a long burst when I observed an object going by my canopy - the MiG's canopy - followed shortly by the pilot in his ejection seat. When the gun camera film was processed, the seat could be seen going by.

Numbers three and four followed over the next thirty days. Number four had'341' painted on the side. When I commenced my attack on him the closure rate was so great that I had to execute a displacement roll around him to maintain nose-to-tail separation. As I rolled, I hit the Mig's jetwash. The jolt was so great that my binoculars hit the stick grip and were broken. (Binoculars were carried by all serious students of MiG killing, just for one chance to get a 'first sighting'.)

In addition to all the activity going on trying to recover the aircraft and myself, the gunsight quit while I was firing and the guns also stopped. For a heartbeat I thought of ramming, striking the horizontal tail which I could see was just inboard of my left wing. I missed by about six inches. Rolling over the MiG, which was rapidly losing airspeed, I recycled the gun switch to 'guns, sight, and camera' and it came back on. I popped the speed brakes, squeezed the trigger, and literally blasted the MiG out of the sky.

The fifth kill was one of both anguish and jubilation. Iended up in a tail chase about 4000 feet from the MiG.Again, I turned off the radar and.computing gunsight, elevated the nose and fired. The tracers made a small halo around the MiG. Gradually a fire began to grow in the rear of the MiG, and about the time I had closed to an ideal firing range there was no need to expend any more ammunition. It was a dying aircraft, with the entire fuselage serving as a flame holder.

I pulled up alongside. the pilot was beating on the canopy, trying to escape. Seeing me, he tried to turn and ram me. I thought the humane thing to do was to put the pilot out of his misery, so I slid my Sabre back onto his tail. Molten metal from the MiG rained on my aircraft. Firing a few short bursts, the sounds suddenly changed, three of my guns quit firing, my left rudder pedal went to the firewall, and I thought for sure I had been hit. I disengaged and cautiously returned home to find after landing that the intense heat from the burning MiG had caused a misfire of a .50 cal. round. The exploding cartridge shut down the guns, severed the rudder cable, and subsequently dumped my pressurization.

The next two kills were in the best fighter tradition of Mannock, Udet, Nungesser, and other heroes of the first dogfights in World War 1. I found myself and the MiG at the same airspeed, altitude, and going in the same direction. Immediately we got into a flat scissors maneuver trying to get on the other's tail. Dropping my speed brakes and using aerodynamic braking, I fell in behind the MiG at a range of about 600 feet. This time the radar gunsight was working marvelously and the first burst of a few seconds caused my opponent's aircraft to light up almost wingtip to wingtip. Before I could fire again, the canopy went by, followed by the pilot.

As we were leaving Mig Alley, my flight had to break to avoid an attack. I fell in trail behind my wingman and told him to take us home. As we climbed out, I spotted a MiG closing behind my wingman at about 3000 feet. I dropped in behind the Mig at about the same range but he must've seen me. He turned left and I zoomed into a yoyo. He continued and I ended up behind him at about 300 feet almost in full stall. I fired a burst that struck right behind the canopy and the MIG immediately snapped into a spin. There was nothing else to do but spin with him. Both of us entered the spin at about 30,000 ft. I would take short bursts when my F-86 pointed at him. He spun all the way into the ground.

The victory which held the most danger and which was fraught with the most mistakes was my next. It began with a new wingman, who had been a professional musician and could play a mean clarinet. Our flight was late getting into the area and battles had already begun. The fight was taking place about fifty miles northeast of the mouth of the Yalu River. We came into the area climbing through 40,000 feet, dropped our tanks, and spotted four MiGs in a fingertip formation. There were four F-86s behind them at a great distance. As we jockeyed for position, we almost collided with the other Sabres, since neither formation wanted to give way and lose the dvantage. No one was firing because the range was so great, but the Migs appeared to be aware of us.

We were now over China. We were above a solid layer of clouds and the Migs were letting down into it. Guessing where they were going, I continued down with my element and occasionally could see the MiGs going in and out of cloud layers. Then we all broke out. The Migs were to our left and in a turn. We could've joined up with them. In fact, my joinup with number two MiG was too good, and I was too close to open fire effectively. My wingman called me clear to fire, and as I got into position, a volley of cannon tracers went by my right wing and canopy. Immediately my wingman called me clear again, and I thought he had negated whoever was shooting at me.

I continued my attack, but once again a burst of fireworks passed my right wing and canopy before I could fire. Still I didn't look back, and once more my wingman called me clear. I was very nervous by now, but not once did I look around to my six o'clock. I suspect the reason I wasn't nailed was because I was so close to the MiG in front of me, that his buddy couldn't get a good shot at me, without hitting his friend. Finally I thought I was clear to fire, and it was no problem to dispatch the aircraft in front of me, once I got my mind settled down. A few good bursts and the battle was over. The MiG was on fire and the pilot ejected.

My next kill was a relatively easy one. I saw a MiG firing on an F-86 and dove on him. I fired and got his attention. He disengaged and headed north. I fell in behind him and easily got him burning. The pilot bailed out. Shortly thereafter my tenth kill was official.

My last mission of the war was both successful and unsuccessful. I set up a pass on two MiGs in formation. My speed was such that I rolled over the number two man and fired a long burst that stopped his engine. Devoting my attention to the leader, I fired from about 1200 feet and this tore apart the MiG. Debris came back at my aircraft in large pieces. I instinctively ducked as parts came by my canopy. Some of them went into my engine and it came to a stop. I smelled smoke and stepped over the side and into captivity. The date was 21 March 1953. Two years later I walked home across Freedom Bridge.

Postcript: Years later it was revealed that the Soviet Air Force supplied at least three air regiments to support the North Korean Air Force. Based north of the Yalu River in mainland China, the Soviet units included many veteran fliers from World War II. In 1990, Hal Fischer learned that the two Migs he chased on his final mission were indeed flown by Soviet pilots. One of them, Major Dinitiri Yermakov, was a WWII ace with 26 victories, who claimed that Fischer's F-86 was one of two he was credited with in the Korean War. Hal Fischer acknowledges that he could have been hit by Yermakov's cannon. At the time, however, he assumed it was debris from the exploding MiG ahead of him. Yermakov survived the war and has corresponded at length with Fischer.

(Hal Fischer has evidence of two addtional kills to which he may be entitled, and has petitioned the Office of Air Force History to correct his records. This process is ongoing.)

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