B-29 ESCORT IN KOREA

1 Lt Robert Makinney,
334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron
8 July 1951, Suwon, AB

The afternoon mission on 8 July was a bomber escort mission for B-29 Superforts attacking the Pyongyang area. This would be my fifth mission of the war, although I hadn't seen any Migs so far. We left K-13 to the south, in elements of two, joining up in squadron formation as we made a 180 turn, passed to the east of Suwon and started north in a 16 ship formation.

I was assigned as wingman to Col. Frands Gabreski, the famous World War Two ace, who had recently been assigned as Deputy Group CO of the 4th. He would lead this mission, and his call sign was Dignity Mike, or Dig Mike for short. Naturally, mine was Dig Mike 2.

We climbed out on a northwesterly heading, crossed the Haeju Peninsula, and leveled off at 25,000 feet. We rendezvoused with the B-29s as they crossed just north of Chinampo, near the mouth of the Taedong River. We crossed over the B-29 formation and immediately set up a race track pattern to the north of the B-29 flight path. Approaching the target, the radio chatter intensified, and we began to see puffs of dirty black smoke -flak - both above and below the B-29 line of flight.

The bomber commander - call sign Jakeman - announced - "Dignity, this is Jakeman. We are at 'Windy', which was a point in the sky five minutes from 'bombs away. This was also an advisory call to the flights of F-51 Mustangs that were attacking the flak batteries positioned near the target. When Jakeman called 'Windy', the Mustangs started to head out. As soon as the B-29s had crossed the target and released their bombs, we made a turn to the south. Filter Lead, the F-51 flak suppression flight, suddenly called - "Dignity, this if Filter Lead. We have bandits in the area!" We continued our escort pattern until the B-29s were well out of the target area. Gabreski called the bomber formation - "Jakeman, this is Dig Mike Lead, we have you clear of the area. We'd like to break off and go help Filter."

Jakeman replied - "Roger, and thanks!" Gabby made a hard turn back toward Pyongyang, and called the rest of us - "Dig Mike, drop tanks, and let's go to 100%" With the increase in power and having lost the drag of our drop tanks, we started to accelerate immediately, and initiated a climb to altitude. Within a few minutes, we were nearing Pyongyang from the southeast at about .92 Mach, and going through 30,000.

Without warning, Gabby dropped his nose and brought his power back to idle. It was obvious that he'd had a problem or had seen something. It was the latter, and I still hadn't seen a thing. We were now in a shallow dive, and had actelerated to about the F-86s max speed, descending through 20,000 feet. Gabby started firing at something, something that was at an excessive range. I could see the smoke around his gun ports., blowing back across his fuselage. But I still couldn't who he was shooting at.

I slid in closer to Gabby's tail as he fired a second burst, about 50-60 feet below and behind him. There it was, a MiG. I could see Gabby's tracers light up the MiG all along the trailing edge of his right wing. The MiG pulled up sharply, and Gabby followed, firing again, and agin scorng more hits on the MiG fuselage. At this point, with his greater airspeed because of the dive, Gabby overshot the MiG, sliding past him.

I maneuvered my Sabre into a position where the Mig was in my gun sight. I was sorely tempted to fire, but instinctively thought that it was Gabby's kill, not mine. More importantly, I was a wingman. My leader was ahead of me and needed me to keep him clear. Without another thought, I added power, slid past the MiG and rejoined Gabby, whom I still had in sight in my peripheral vision.

As I flew past the MiG, he had rolled inverted, starting an almost vertical dive. I was sure he had lost his engine and would ultimately crash. With that I rejoined with Gabby, who was in a right turn looking for other bandits. I had just regained my position on Gabby's wing, when he again dove for the deck. This time though, the descent was much more gradual. As we leveled off at about 6,000 feet, he opened fire at a MiG at a range of about 1500 feet.

I watched as numerous pieces of the MiG's tail started to come off as Gabby's rounds found their mark. The MiG took no evasive action, continued a slight descending path, crossed the Taedong River, and crashed into a hill on the south bank. At this point, we were both at a very low altitude, both at Bingo fuel, and the radio chatter had subsided to the point that it was obvious the Migs had left, and we started for home.

As we climbed back to altitude enroute back to Suwon, I asked Gabby - "Was that two?" He replied - "Negative." And said nothing further all the way back. At the debriefing, he explained that he had attacked a single MiG, which dove for the deck and leveled off, probably hoping to escape another beating like the one he had just sustained. But Gabby saw him again. It's highly unlikely that he'd have been able to make the 100 mile flight back to Antung anyway. Gabby got the kill and I was a good wingman, which is what they were paying me for at the time.


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