title>The Aces Talk

The Aces Talk

Major W. W. "Bones" Marshail,

Commander, 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadron

F-86E #50-625

"Casey Jones"

Someone in one of the other squadrons transmitted the call that "Casey Jones" was aboard. Therehe was, a single contrail sitting high above all the other MiG formations. "Casey Jones" was the legendary "trainman". A code name given to the MiG tactical commander, the guy who directed all the "bandit trains" out of Antung. He flew in a single MiG, well above all the MiG flights, directing the air battle. With him aboard we knew we could expect a hell of an air battle.

Prior to the advent of "Casey Jones", it had seemed that the MiGs were making only individual attack runs, usually low and at the six o'clock position.

But with '01' Case' directing the fight, the MiGs put emphasis on coordinated high side attacks, in conjunction with their normal 6 o'clock passes. While you were turning into the pair making the high angle attack, two more were coming up your tailpipe. They were attacking in groups of four to six aircraft, which was more than the two-ship F-86 element could cope with. Interestingly enough, even with these tactics, we were still maintaining the large kill ratio that we'd had from the beginning. But now we were having to do a hell of a lot more fighting than in the past.

Our three squadrons had entered MiG Alley in the basic combat formation of four ship flights, the 'finger four formation'. But when the fight began, we quickly broke down into elements of two, which was our best fighting posture. It was estimated that the number of MiG contrails overhead now exceeded 70+. l would have been completely confident of success in the face of even those odds, with my own wingman. But given the situation, it was the bloody end if you had a wingman who couldn't hack it.

I'll remember this mission for all the days of my life. Never have I had to ftght so hard to survive. And surprisingly, in the act of surviving, I fell into the lap of Lady Luck and destroyed my antagonizer.

We had just rolled out from breaking into two attacking MiGs, when almost immediately, my cockpit was surrounded by a hail of bright tracers from the cannons of the MiG on my tall. They looked the size of oranges as they went by the canopy. My wingman had said nothing. I jerked the stick back so hard that I easily exceeded the aircraft 'G' limit. The MIG went one direction and my wingman the other. I had lost them both.

Before I could take a breath, I was agaln the target stream of tracers, but they were a lot closer this time. There was a second MiG sitting right on my tail. Startled I again slammed the stick back, trying to 'split S' ou there. It produced spectacular results. My Sabre did a snap roll, and I ended up in an inverted spin with zero speed. This was a great evasive maneuver, I thought. No could have stayed with me through that gyration.

Except, when I looked out through my canopy, there was a MiG. And we were both spinning down together, canopy to canopy. In seconds I made a quick spin recovery. But so did he. We had ended up in a flat spin, with very little speed, in a nose-up attitude. Except that his nose almost pointing at me. I expected him to start firing at moment

As an illustration of the great flight stability of the F-86, my aircraft responded well when I again slammed the sloppy stick to one side, kicking the rudders as hard as I could. It worked! I was off in another spin, Slower but more controllable this time.

Then the impossible happened. There was my MiG, also Spinning down in the Same air Space with me. We were fast losing too much altitude, so I again made a spin recovery. The MiG recovered right beside me. Except this fime, he was at my 12 o'clock position - directly in front of me. It was a simple task to open fire.. I must have hit something vital as the MiG suddenly caught fire and exploded.

What a great fighter pilot that MiG guy was. I thought he was Ol' Casey Jones himself. Other Sabre pilots that had seen the fight said that the MiG appeared to have stuck with me in my hard break, until we both snaprolled and fell off in that first spin. That MiG driver proved to be one hell of a wingman, when he stuck with me in a formation of sorts, as we both spun down the second time, with destination unknown. It was just Lady Luck riding with me, that he ended up in the dead center of my gunsight. Otherwise, I don't know. I was well below 'Bingo' fuel, and it was either then or I wouldn't have made it home.

That fight had probably lasted little more than five minutes, but it seemed like a lifetime. It seemed impossible that in so short a period of time, I had been shot at twice, would exceed the aircraft 'G' limits with my maneuvers, and had snap-rolled and spun the airplane twice. All the time being together with an enemy aircraft, until I recovered in a position to shoot him out of the sky. What an air battle!

As I headed home, about 200 miles away, I realized that I had concentrated so hard on that MiG and my survival, that I had heard no radio transmissions from any other Sabres in the area. I half regretted the loss of such a great pilot, even though he was on the other side. He certainly looked ten feet tall to me. I would have loved to have sat down for a beer or vodka at the O-club with that guy, trading fighter pilot stories together.

What was different between his MiG and my Sabre, that he could stay with me through such high'G' turns? Did he purposely fly into the snap roll and spin to stay with me? Or was it an unexpected maneuver, as it had been for me? Why didn't he shoot at me when we both recovered from that first spin? And finally, was his fuel as low, his flying Suit as wet, and his arm as tired as mine was in those last few seconds?

It had been one hell of a 'Milk Run' day. I am sure that my wingman will remember it for days to come. He probably pulled more 'Gs' that day than anytime in his life, as he survived several attacks by that bunch of MiGs. He could be proud that he did the best he could under those circumstances.

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.

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