Pilot Aces in Two Wars (WWII and Korea)

There were seven US and seven Soviet combat pilots who achieved ace status in two different wars. These men developed and honed their dog fighting skills while flying piston engine fighters during WWII and then later they advanced to the next level while flying faster jet fighters over Korea.

Francis S. Gabreski

Francis Stanley “Gabby” Gabreski (born Franciszek Stanisław Gabryszewski, 28 January 1919 to 31 January 2002) was a Polish-American pilot credited with the destruction of 34.5 aircraft in aerial combat.

As a newly commissioned fighter pilot in 1941, 2nd Lieutenant Gabreski was with the 45th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Army Airfield on O’ahu, Hawaii training on the Curtiss P-36 Hawk and the new Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. During the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941, Gabreski joined several members of his squadron flying P-36s in an attempt to intercept the attackers, but the Japanese planes had withdrawn before they could engage. During the spring and summer of 1942, Gabreski remained with the 45th (renamed as the 45th Fighter Squadron in May 1942) and trained on newer model P-40s and the Bell P-39 Airacobra which the unit began to receive.

Gabreski reviewed all the reports on the Polish RAF squadrons that fought with the RAF during the Battle of Britain. Concerned that the US did not have many experienced combat fighter pilots, he came up with an idea. Since he was of Polish origin and spoke Polish, he offered to serve as a liaison officer to the Polish squadrons and to learn from their experiences. Top command approved his idea, and he left Hawaii for Washington, D.C. in September 1942, where he was promoted to captain. In October 1942, Gabreski reported to the VIII Fighter Command, US 8th Air Force in England, which at that time was only a rudimentary headquarters.

In January 1943, Gabreski was posted to the No. 315 Polish Squadron “City of Deblin”, Royal Air Force, at RAF Northolt, England. Flying a Supermarine Spitfire, he flew with patrol sweeps over the English Channel. He first encountered the Luftwaffe on 2 February 1943, when a group of Focke-Wulf Fw 190s jumped his flight. Too excited to make a “kill”, Gabreski learned that he had to keep calm during combat. Gabreski flew 20 combat missions with the Poles, only engaging in combat once, but he had gained a lot of the knowledge and tips from the experienced Polish pilots.

Gabreski in the cockpit of his Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX, BS410, coded “PK E”, in 1943. This plane, flown by another pilot, was shot down on 13 May 1943.

On 27 February 1943, Gabreski was assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron (FS), US 56th Fighter Group (FG), flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and he quickly became a flight leader. Many of his squadron mates resented him because he was very opinionated and outspoken. In May 1943, shortly after the group relocated to RAF Halesworth and entered combat, Gabreski was promoted to major.

On 9 June 1943, Gabreski took command of the 61st FS when its commanding officer was moved up to group deputy commander. This also stirred more ill feelings toward him since he jumped over two other senior pilots. The ill feelings finally subsided when he scored his first credited kill, an Fw 190 near Dreux, France, on 24 August 1943. Criticism followed him throughout his combat career, as his wing men complained that his aerial attacks had been too hastily conducted to allow them to also engage.

In November 1943, the 56th group commander, Colonel Hubert Zemke, was replaced in command for two months by Colonel Robert Landry, a staff officer at VIII Fighter Command. Because Landry was inexperienced, the 56th combat missions were alternately led by deputy commander Lieutenant Colonel David C. Schilling and Gabreski, who acted as deputy group operations officer. When Zemke resumed command on 19 January 1944, Gabreski relinquished command of the 61st FS.

Gabreski’s victory total steadily climbed through the winter of 1943–44. By 27 March 1944, he had 18 victories and had six multiple kill missions to rank third in the “ace race” within the VIII Fighter Command. In April 1944, the 56th FG relocated to RAF Boxted and Gabreski was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He resumed command of the 61st FS when its commander was transferred to VIII Fighter Command HQ.

On 22 May 1944, Gabreski shot down three Fw 190s over an airfield in northwest Germany. He was tied with Robert Johnson as the leading ace in the ETO on June 27 (passing Eddie Rickenbacker’s WWI record in the process), and on 5 July 1944, became the US leading ace in the ETO, with his score of 28 victories matched the total at the time of confirmed victories of the Pacific Theatre’s top US ace, Richard Bong. This total was never surpassed by any US pilot fighting the Luftwaffe.

Gabreski was assigned seven P-47s during his time with the 56th FG, none of which he named, but all were coded HV ☆ A.

AircraftSerial NumberNotes
P-47C-2-RE?Unfortunately, the serial number was not preserved.
P-47D-1-RE42-7871Initially coded HV ☆ F, then re-coded to HV ☆ A around 1 September 1943.
P-47D-5-RE42-8458Reassigned to 2nd Lieutenant Evan Devon McMinn and re-coded to HV ☆ F.
P-47D-6-RE42-74650Assigned to Gabreski when James Stewart went to VIII Fighter Command, 16 April 1944.
P-47D-11-RE42-75510Gabreski scored 10 of his 28 WWII victories in this aircraft.
P-47D-22-RE42-25864Gabreski’s aircraft from May to early June 1944.
P-47D-25-RE42-26418Gabreski’s last WWII aircraft.

Video: P-47 Ace Francis “Gabby” Gabreski Interview

This was Gabreski’s P-47D-11-RE Thunderbolt, s/n 42-75510.

Film: Gabreski GSAP & on ground in P47 Thunderbolt

Film: Gabby Gabreski and the 28 kills

Gabreski’s P-47D-25-RE, s/n 42-26418 from a newsreel frame. Note the D-Day invasion stripes and there are 27 victories displayed. The footage in the newsreel was taken on 5 July 1944 (date of his 28th victory).

This is a close up Gabreski’s final scoreboard. Note the German aircraft types painted above each kill flag.

On 20 July 1944 after completing 193 combat missions, Gabreski had reached the 300-hour combat time limit for Eighth Air Force fighter pilots and was waiting for the plane to return him to the USA to go on leave and then reassignment. However, Gabreski found a bomber escort mission to Russelheim, Germany, was scheduled for that morning, and, instead of boarding the transport plane, he join the mission to “fly just one more.” While returning from the mission, Gabreski spotted He 111 bombers parked on an airfield at Niedermendig, Germany and he dived down to attack them.

He was dissatisfied with his first strafing run on an He 111, and he reversed for a second pass. As his tracers went over the parked bomber, he dropped the nose of his P-47 to adjust, and the propeller clipped the runway, bending the tips. This damage caused his engine to vibrate violently and he was forced to crash land. Gabreski then got out of his plane and ran into the nearby woods, eluding capture for five days. After he was captured, he was interrogated and was sent to Stalag Luft I near Barth, Western Pomerania, Germany until he was liberated in April 1945.

Germans stand on the wing of Gabreski’s Thunderbolt, 42-26418, near Bassenheim, Germany. Note the D-Day invasion stripes were over painted on the upper surfaces.


In June 1951, Gabreski and a group of selected pilots of the 56th Fighter-Interceptor Wing (FIW) accompanied the delivery of F-86Es of the 62nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS) to South Korea aboard the escort carrier USS Cape Esperance (CVE-88). The jets and pilots joined the 4th FIW at K-14 (Kimpo) Air Base, where most engaged in combat. On 8 July 1951, flying his fifth mission in an F-86, Gabreski shot down a MiG-15, followed by MiG kills on September 2 and October 2.

Gabreski was an aggressive commander and fostered a fierce rivalry between the 4th and 51st FIWs, fueled in part by the fact that the 4th had also been the rival of the 56th FG during WWII. While this aggressiveness paid off in the destruction of MiGs, it also led Gabreski to make the first intentional violation of rules of engagement that prohibited combat with MiGs over China territory (The MiGs were based in this sanctuary during the entire war.) Gabreski and a fellow former 56th pilot, Major Walker M. Mahurin, planned and executed a mission in early 1952 in which they turned off their F-86’s IFF equipment and overflew two Chinese bases. These missions were known as clandestine ‘Maple Special’ missions.

Before the mission of 20 February 1952, Gabreski and Whisner each had four MiGs credited as destroyed. During the mission, Gabreski attacked and severely damaged a MiG-15 that fled across the Yalu River into China. He broke off the engagement and returned to base after his own jet was damaged. He claimed the MiG as a “probable kill”. However, Whisner trailed the MiG deep into Manchuria trying to confirm Gabreski’s kill, but his Sabre ran low on fuel. He completed the shoot down and returned to K-14 where he confirmed the kill for Gabreski instead of claiming it for himself. Gabreski confronted him and angrily ordered him to change his mission report, confirming Whisner’s rightful role in the kill. Whisner refused. Soon afterwards, Gabreski changed his mission report stating that he and Whisner shared the kill.

In Korea, Gabreski also had a poor attitude towards wing men. He flew the fastest aircraft available and failed to notice when his slower wing men could not keep up. These pilots, reportedly were afraid to fly with him, commented that he was more interested in personal achievement than in his wing men. When someone asked him about the problem of wing men staying with leaders, he replied “Wing men are to absorb firepower.” He also had a lack of discipline among his off-duty pilots and was reported to encourage exaggerated kill claims.

Gabreski’s Korean tour was due to end in June. As he approached his mission limit in early April, he quit logging sorties to avoid being transferred from his command. He was, however, grounded by Fifth Air Force from further combat in mid-May when his deputy commander, Colonel Mahurin, was shot down. Gabreski was subsequently replaced by Colonel John W. Mitchell, the P-38 ace who had led the mission (Operation Vengeance) which shot down Japanese Admiral Yamamoto on 18 April 1943.

This was Gabreski’s assigned aircraft in Korea, F-86E-10-NA, s/n 51-2740, named “GABBY”. Underneath the name was a smoking lit cigar.

While with the 51 FIW, F-86E-10-NA, s/n 51-2746, named “Lady Francis / Michigan Centre” was flown by both Gabreski and Major William H. Westcott.

The name “Michigan Centre” was on the right side of F-86E-10-NA, s/n 51-2746.

Film: F-86 Sabre Jet Pilot Gabreski

DateNumberEnemy Type Downed LocationAircraft FlownUnit
24 August 19431Focke-Wulf Fw 190Dreux, FranceP-47C61 FS, 56 FG
3 September 1943 1Fw 190St-Germain, FranceP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
11 November 19431Fw 190Rheine, GermanyP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
26 November 19432Messerschmitt Bf 110Oldenburg, GermanyP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
29 November 19432Messerschmitt Bf 109Bremen, GermanyP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
11 December 1943 1Bf 110Emden, GermanyP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
29 January 19441Bf 110Emden, GermanyP-47D56 FG HQ
30 January 19441Messerschmitt Me 410Lingen, GermanyP-47D56 FG HQ
30 January 19441Bf 109Lingen, GermanyP-47D56 FG HQ
20 February 19442Me 410Koblenz, GermanyP-47D56 FG HQ
22 February 19441Fw 190Paderborn, GermanyP-47D56 FG HQ
16 March 19442Fw 190Nancy, FranceP-47D56 FG HQ
27 March 19442Bf 109Nantes, FranceP-47D56 FG HQ
8 May 19441Bf 109Celle, GermanyP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
22 May 1944 3Fw 190Höperhöfen, GermanyP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
7 June 19441Bf 109Dreux, FranceP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
7 June 19441Fw 190Dreux, FranceP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
12 June 19442Bf 109Évreux, FranceP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
27 June 19441Bf 109Connantre, FranceP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
5 July 19441Bf 109Évreux, FranceP-47D61 FS, 56 FG
8 July 19511MiG-15North KoreaF-86A Sabre4 FIW
2 September 19511MiG-15North KoreaF-86A4 FIW
2 October 19511MiG-15North KoreaF-86A4 FIW
11 January 19521MiG-15Andong, ChinaF-86E51 FIW
20 February 19520.5MiG-15North KoreaF-86E51 FIW
1 April 19521MiG-15North KoreaF-86E51 FIW
13 April 19521MiG-15North KoreaF-86E51 FIW

Model Kits and Decals

Hasegawa 08077 P-47D Thunderbolt (U.S. Army Air Force Fighter) – 2007

Academy 12222 P-47D Thunderbolt “Gabreski” Special Edition – 2010
Italeri 2685 Spitfire Mk.IX “American Aces” – 2010
MiniArt 48001 P-47-D25RE Thunderbolt Advanced Kit – Future 2022

AVI Print Decalset 48015 Francis Gabreski
AeroMaster Decalset SP48-03B US Top Guns – USAS USAAF USAF

Academy 12530 P-47D & F-86E ‘Gabreski’ Special Edition – 2018
AZ model AZ7392 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXc “Early tails” – 2012

PD Decals 72-018 Jet Killers (Part 2)
Techmod Decals 72044A Supermarine Spitfire F.IX Gabreski’s Spitfires – 200?

William T. Whisner

William Thomas Whisner Jr. (17 October 1923 to 21 July 1989) was a US pilot, best known for his credited destruction of 22 aircraft in aerial combat (16.5 kills during WWII and 5.5 MiG-15s in Korea).

Whisner was assigned to the 352nd Fighter Group and after the group’s training was completed, boarded the troopship RMS Queen Elizabeth in June 1943. The group landed in England, and was assigned to RAF Bodney in Watton, Norfolk, under the operational control of the 67th Fighter Wing, VIII Fighter Command. Throughout the summer, the pilots were occupied in training flights over England, where they acclimated to flying in unfamiliar weather. This training was completed on 9 September 1943 and the group flew its first combat mission on that date. From September 1943 through January 1944, the group saw limited success, as the P-47s had limited range and few Luftwaffe patrols appeared over Norfolk.

On 29 January 1944, P-47 and P-51 Mustang fighter groups escorted a bombing mission of B-17s to Frankfurt, Germany, and Whisner was among the pilots in the group. German fighters launched heavy resistance against the bombers. Whisner and the 352nd FG joined the mission over Namur, Belgium, as the bomber group was already under attack. Whisner, who was the wing man of Captain George Preddy, joined the chaotic battle, and within 10 minutes Whisner spotted two Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters which had just shot down a B-17. Whisner pursued one of the Fw 190s down to 1000 feet (300 m), following it closely as it attempted evasive maneuvers. As the Fw 190 attempted to dive behind a bank of clouds, Whisner hit it with three bursts from his machine guns, and it descended to 800 feet (240 m) before its pilot bailed out. That was Whisner’s first victory.

By March 1944, the 352nd Fighter Group had 63 victories to its pilots, but senior leaders felt it was under-performing, so the group was equipped with P-51B Mustangs. On May 30 during a mission against a fuel depot and aircraft production complex in Magdeburg, Germany, and during the subsequent heavy engagement, Whisner and Preddy shared a victory over a Bf 109.

On June 13, Whisner was given three months leave in the USA, having completed his first tour of duty. Whisner returned to England in late September. By that time, the Luftwaffe had taken heavy losses and was opposing allied pilots far less often. Whisner rejoined the 487th Squadron in the fall of 1944. Whisner flew his first combat mission of his second tour on September 28, shortly after being promoted to Captain.

On November 2, he downed a Bf 109 using the new K-14 gunsight in his P-51B. On November 21, he led a flight of P-51s on a bomber escort mission to Merseburg, Germany. As the bombers left their target, a large formation of enemy fighters attacked. CO of 487th FS, John C. Meyer (then a lieutenant colonel) ordered Whisner to take a straggler in one of the enemy’s three six-ship cover flights. In a linked series of attacks, Whisner shot down four Fw 190s in the cover flight and probably got another. With no more than two Fw 190s left in the cover flight he had attacked, Whisner turned his attention to the main enemy formation, exploding a Fw 190 that had failed to drop its belly tank. Evading three Fw 190s on his tail, he shot down another that was closing on one of his pilots. Then, low on ammunition, he joined up with Meyer and returned to Bodney. Whisner was credited with five Fw 190s and two probables that day. His score later was revised by the Air Force Historical Research Agency to six destroyed,making that day one of the best for any USAAF pilot in the skies over Europe. For that achievement, Whisner was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 487th Fighter Squadron was moved forward to airfield Y-29 near Asch, Belgium. On 1 January 1945, New Year’s Day, Whisner was one of 12 Mustang pilots led by Meyer that had started their takeoff roll when a large formation of Fw 190s and Bf 109s attacked their airfield. In the ensuing battle, fought at low altitude and before the 487th Fighter Squadron pilots had time to form up, Whisner shot down a Fw 190, then was hit by 20mm fire. With his windshield and canopy covered by oil and one aileron damaged, Whisner stayed in the fight, shooting down one more Fw 190 and two Bf 109s. He was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross for that day’s action. At the end of WWII, Whisner had flown 127 missions and logged 450 combat hours.

All aircraft assigned to Whisner during WWII were coded HO ☆ W.

P-51B-10-NA42-106449Princess ELIZABETH
P-51D-10-NA44-14237Moonbeam McSWINE

P-47D-2-RE 42-8400 was originally assigned to 354 FS, 355 FG, coded WR ☆ E. It was transferred to 487 FS, 352 FG, re-coded to HO ☆ W and was assigned to Whisner.

Whisner in the cockpit of his P-47D Thunderbolt.

This was Whisner’s first Mustang, P-51B-10-NA, s/n 42-106449. The name was selected by the CO of the 352nd FG, John C. Meyer, who wanted to impress Princess Elizabeth when she came to visit the unit at Bodney and singled out this aircraft as it was the only one not yet decorated or named.

Whisner standing beside P-51B Princess Elizabeth. Flown by Robert Butler, Princess Elizabeth was lost on D-Day during a strafing mission over northern France after being hit by flak. Butler baled out and evaded capture until July 20, when he contacted Canadian ground forces.

Captain Whisner’s P-51D Mustang shows his final wartime scoreboard at Advanced Landing Ground A-84 near Chièvres Belgium in 1945. “Moonbeam McSWINE” was named after a character in the Li’l Abner comic strip drawn by Al Capp.

Captain Bill Whisner was 21 years old when he made an “Ace in a day” on 21 November 1944.


In September 1951, Whisner deployed with the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing to Korea, where he destroyed two MiG-15s in aerial combat and damaged four others, before joining the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing in November 1951. He then destroyed another 4.5 MiG-15s with 2 more damaged, with total 6.5 enemy aircraft destroyed in Korea.

Whisner became the first ace of the 51st FIW and he was awarded a third Distinguished Service Cross. He was one of the two US airmen to receive the Distinguished Service Cross three times. The other was John C. Meyer who was the only USAAF pilot to receive three Distinguished Service Crosses in WWII.

Whisner’s assigned aircraft in the 25 FIS was F-86E-10-NA Sabre, s/n 51-2735, named “Elenore E”.

This is a close up of the nose. Beneath the gun ports is the name “CHRISTINE” painted in blue.

Gabreski smoking a cigar (left) congratulates Whisner (center). On the right is Lieutenant Colonel George L. Jones. Note the half victory (half star) on Sabre and the expression on Whisner’s face.

DateNumberEnemy Type DownedLocationAircraft FlownUnit Assigned
29 January 19441Focke-Wulf Fw 190Namur, BelgiumP-47D487 FS, 352 FG
30 April 1944 1Fw 190Clermont-Ferrand, FranceP-51B487 FS, 352 FG
29 May 19441Fw 190Güstrow, GermanyP-51B487 FS, 352 FG
30 May 1944 0.5Messerschmitt Bf 109Magdeburg, GermanyP-51B487 FS, 352 FG
2 November 19441Bf 109Magdeburg, GermanyP-51D487 FS, 352 FG
21 November 19446Fw 190Magdeburg, GermanyP-51D487 FS, 352 FG
27 November 19442Bf 109Hameln, GermanyP-51D487 FS, 352 FG
1 January 19452Bf 109Liège, BelgiumP-51D487 FS, 352 FG
1 January 19452Fw 190Liège, BelgiumP-51D487 FS, 352 FG
8 November 19511MiG-15Sukchon, North KoreaF-86A Sabre334 FIS, 4 FIW
9 November 19511MiG-15Sinuiju, North KoreaF-86A334 FIS, 4 FIW
6 January 19521MiG-15North KoreaF-86E25 FIS, 51 FIW
11 January 19521MiG-15North KoreaF-86E25 FIS, 51 FIW
20 February 19520.5MiG-15Uiju, North KoreaF-86E25 FIS, 51 FIW
23 February 19521MiG-15North KoreaF-86E25 FIS, 51 FIW

Model Kit and Decals

ICM 48122 Mustang P-51B WWII American Fighter – 2001

Eagle Strike Productions Decalset IP7209 Blue Nose Birds of Bodney In Profile Part 3 of 6 – 2003


Video: P-51c 487th FS

Video: P-51D Mustang Moonbeam McSwine

George A. Davis, Jr.

George Andrew Davis Jr. (1 December 1920 to 10 February 1952) was a highly decorated fighter pilot with 21 victories (7 in WWII and 14 in Korea). Davis rose to the rank of Major, and was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in “MiG Alley”. He was the only US ace killed in action in the Korean War.

In August 1943, Davis arrived at Port Moresby and was quickly assigned to the 342nd Fighter Squadron “Scourgers”, 348th Fighter Group, 5th US Air Force, which flew P-47 Thunderbolts. On 17 December 1943, the squadron moved to Finschhafen, where it operated over the Solomon Sea against the Japanese, and Davis quickly earned the nickname “Curly” because of his straight black hair. Davis was also known among the pilots to be very confident of himself and he served under the command of Colonel Neel E. Kearby, who would later receive the Medal of Honor. He quickly gained a reputation as a skilled pilot and accurate gunner whose “daredevil” flying style contrasted with his reserved personality.

In Davis’ first combat experience, his was on a patrol to Cape Gloucester on 31 December 1943, in support of the New Britain campaign as the Battle of Cape Gloucester began. However, the 15 aircraft patrol was diverted to Arawe to the southwest. There, they were to counterattack Japanese aircraft which were targeting Allied convoys during the Battle of Arawe. While en route, they encountered 11 Japanese D3A Val and A6M Zero aircraft attacking an Allied convoy from 5000 feet (1500 m) to 10000 feet (3000 m). They immediately ambushed the Japanese planes, catching them by surprise. Davis quickly attacked a disorganized formation of the aircraft, downing a D3A Val carrier dive bomber as it completed a bombing run. By the end of the short battle, eight Japanese aircraft had been shot down and only one US plane had been damaged.

His next combat mission came on 3 February 1944. Sixteen P-47s were on a mission escorting a flight of B-24 Liberators on a bombing mission over Wewak. When they were 5 miles (8 km) west of the target area, they were ambushed by a flight of Nakajima Ki-43 Oscars and Kawasaki Ki-61 Tony aircraft at 17000 feet (5200 m). As the US aircraft rushed to the defense of the bombers, Davis managed to attack and shoot down a Ki-61 which had been attacking another P-47. In all, seven Japanese aircraft were destroyed in the attack. The next day, Davis was promoted to first lieutenant.

This is an example of the camouflage and markings of the P-47s in the 342nd FS. The aircraft number and the serial number of the P-47 which was assigned to Davis is unknown.

For the next several months, Davis’ unit undertook patrol and escort missions in the Cape Gloucester area and around the islands of Saidor, Manus, and Momote. Through May, these actions were relatively uneventful, except for one fighter sweep mission to Wewak. Davis flew 69 missions from May to August, including several dive-bombing attacks on Japanese positions at Hansa Bay. Davis then flew another 40 missions from September to November, including six patrols between Wakde Island and Hollandia. On November 14, Davis was promoted to the temporary rank of Captain.

Around December 1944, Davis’ unit began supporting missions in the Philippines, and moved to Tacloban Airport on Leyte Island. On December 10, after five uneventful weather-probing missions, Davis’ unit was assigned an escort mission. The aircraft were to cover a flotilla of troop transports moving from Baybay to Oromoc Bay. En route, they were attacked by four Ki-61 Tony aircraft at 7000 feet (2100 m). After a quick series of maneuvers, Davis climbed to 15000 feet (4600 m) and used the sun’s glare to ambush two of the enemy planes below him. He pursued them as far as Cebu Island where he closed to within 75 yards (69 m) of the pair before destroying the first, and then the second near Negros Island as it attempted to dive for cover in a cloud.

On December 20, Davis was one of twelve P-47s patrolling Mindoro when eight A6M Zeroes were spotted attempting to ambush the flight from behind. Davis managed to rake the cockpit of one Zero and killed the pilot, earning him his fifth victory becoming an ace. Immediately after this, however, Davis’ P-47 was hit by machine gun fire from another aircraft, damaging the propeller and left wing components. On December 24, during a mission escorting several B-24s on a bombing mission of the Japanese-held Clark Field at Manila, Davis shot down two more Zeroes, part of a group of Japanese aircraft attempting to harass the bombers. Davis was awarded a Silver Star for this action.

Between this action and 19 February 1945, Davis flew another 47 missions, most escorting bombers or ships, in addition to a few ground attack missions, but seen little or no aerial combat during that time. On February 19, he was withdrawn from the front to begin certification on the P-51 Mustang, logging 45 hours of training time on the aircraft through to the end of March. He returned to combat duty only briefly in April, flying three combat missions as a copilot aboard a B-25 Mitchell bomber. On 3 May 1945, he was reassigned to Goodfellow Field at San Angelo, Texas, training new pilots and serving as an operations officer for the base until the end of the war.

During WWII, Davis flew 266 missions, accrued a total of 705 combat hours, destroyed 7 Japanese aircraft and had over 2200 hours of flight time. For these exploits, he was awarded the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and nine Air Medals.

Davis posing with his personal P-47 displaying his 7 victories in early 1945. The P-47 was natural metal with stripes and the 342nd FS emblem on the side of the fuselage.

Davis sitting in the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang displaying his 7 victories probably after the war. He never flew the P-51 in combat.


When the Korean War began, Davis did not see combat in the initial phase of the war. As it progressed, Davis began training on the F-86 Sabre. On 15 February 1951, he was promoted to major and in October 1951 he was assigned to the HQ of the 4th FIW, which was based in Japan and operating aircraft throughout Korea. As such, Davis was sent to Korea as a F-86 fighter pilot. On November 10, Davis was given command of the 334th FIS of the 4th FIW. Davis and his squadron were relocated to Kimpo Airfield.

Davis’ 22nd combat mission in Korea was on 30 November 1951. Around 1600 hours, Davis’ flight of eight F-86s spotted a large group of nine Tupolev Tu-2 bombers from the Chinese 8th Bomber Division, escorted by 16 Lavochkin La-11 fighters from the Chinese 2nd Fighter Division near Sahol along the Yalu River. The force was en route for a bombing mission on Taehwado Island in the Pansong archipelago. Davis maneuvered the patrol into position for a firing pass on the bombers. He completed four attack runs on the formation, being continuously attacked by the La-11 fighters, which were unable to hit his aircraft. In spite of being separated from his wing men, he managed to destroy two of the bombers and cause the crew of a third to bail out. By that time, another group of F-86s had arrived to continue the fight, as Davis’ aircraft was low on ammunition and fuel.

As the flight attempted to withdraw, one of Davis’ pilots, Raymond O. Barton, called for help. Davis flew to Barton’s aid and found Barton’s damaged aircraft under attack from 24 MiG-15s of the Chinese 3rd Fighter Division which arrived as reinforcements. As two MiG-15s prepared a final attack on Barton, Davis swooped through their pass and scored direct hits on one, killing the Chinese flight leader who commanded the MiG pack. The second broke off its attack. Davis then escorted Barton’s damaged aircraft back to base, landing with only 5 US gallons (4.2 imp gal) of fuel left in his tanks. For that day’s actions, Davis was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

This is a Chinese Tupolev Tu-2 bomber somewhere in China. Note the MiG-15 fighters in the background.

Davis standing in the cockpit of F-86A-5-NA, s/n 49-1225. The serial number is clearly displayed in the small lettering forward of the cockpit. This photo was probably taken on or soon after 30 November 1951.

Film: Korean War: USAF Activities

On 10 February 1952, while flying F-86E-10-NA Sabre, s/n 51-2752 (no photo), on a interception mission over the Sinuiju-Yalu River area, Davis shot down two MiG-15s, before he was hit and crashed. When he failed to return, Davis was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Communist ground forces found the crashed Sabre not far from Pyongyang. From an inscription on the helmet and the documents found on the body of the pilot, it was established that it was Major George Davis. The US Air Force publicly acknowledged Davis was missing on February 12 and Davis was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

At the time of his death, Davis was the top scoring UN jet fighter ace (14). When the war ended, Davis was ranked fourth in aerial victories among US pilots, surpassed by fellow USAF Sabre pilots Joseph C. McConnell (16), James Jabara (15), and Manuel J. Fernandez (14.5). Nikolai Vasilyevich Sutyagin (5 May 1923 to 12 November 1986) was the top ace in the Korean War with 22 victories (2 Meteor F8s, 2 F-80s, 3 F-84s, 15 F-86s).

Date#Enemy Type DownedLocationAircraft FlownUnit Assigned
31 December 19431Aichi D3A2 (Val)Arawe, New GuineaP-47342 FS, 348 FG
3 February 1944 1Ki-61 Hien (Tony)Wewak, New GuineaP-47342 FS, 348 FG
10 December 19442Ki-61Cebu & Negros islands, PhilippinesP-47342 FS, 348 FG
20 December 1944 1A6M ZeroMindoro, PhilippinesP-47342 FS, 348 FG
24 December 19442A6M ZeroClark Field, Manila, PhilippinesP-47342 FS, 348 FG
27 November 19512MiG-15Sinanju, North KoreaF-86E Sabre334 FIS, 4 FIW
30 November 19513PLAAF Tupolev Tu-2Sahol, North KoreaF-86A334 FIS, 4 FIW
30 November 19511PLAAF MiG-15Sahol, North KoreaF-86A334 FIS, 4 FIW
5 December 1951 1MiG-15Rinko-do, North KoreaF-86E334 FIS, 4 FIW
5 December 19511MiG-15Haechang, North KoreaF-86E334 FIS, 4 FIW
13 December 19512PLAAF MiG-15Yongwon, North KoreaF-86E334 FIS, 4 FIW
13 December 19512PLAAF MiG-15Sunchon, South KoreaF-86E334 FIS, 4 FIW
10 February 19522PLAAF MiG-15Sinuiju, North KoreaF-86E334 FIS, 4 FIW

PLAAF – People’s Liberation Army Air Force (Chinese)

Model Kit

ICM 72032 TU-2 AND YAK-9 North Korean Air Force – 1999


Video: Veterans try to bring fellow soldier’s remains home.

Vermont Garrison

Vermont Garrison (29 October 1915 to 14 February 1994) was a US flying ace credited with 17.33 victories in aerial combat (7.33 in WWII and 10 in Korea). Raised in Pulaski County, Kentucky, a part of Appalachia, Vermont graduated from the Public Schools in 1933, then completed two years at the State Teachers College earning a teaching certificate. He taught elementary school in one-room schools between 1936 and 1941.

On 17 March 1941, Garrison enlisted in the US Army and became an aviation cadet but washed out of advanced flight training. In October 1941. Garrison promptly enlisted in the Royal Air Force at Dallas, Texas and completed flight training at El Centro, California. After obtaining his RAF wings, Pilot Officer Garrison was shipped to England, where after further training was promoted to Flying Officer and became a gunnery instructor. He was posted to RAF Hawarden and trained pilots to fly the P-51 Mustang.

On 13 July 1943, Garrison transferred from the RAF to the USAAF, receiving a commission as a 1st lieutenant. On September 26, after transition training in the P-47 Thunderbolt at RAF Atcham, he was assigned to the 4th Fighter Group, based at RAF Debden, as a member of the 336th Fighter Squadron. His first victory was on 16 December 1943, in exceptionally bad winter weather conditions, he shared credit for a Junkers Ju 88 bomber over the German-Dutch border with Don Gentile and Louis Norley. A month later, on 14 January 1944, he downed two Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, although his claim report for the second kill gave half credit to Norley. After his gun camera film was reviewed, both victories were awarded to Garrison. On February 10, he had scored his fifth kill and became an ace, followed by a sixth victory on February 25, on an escort mission during the Big Week bomber offensive.

The 336th Squadron began conversion to the P-51B Mustang fighter. On 3 March 1944, the 4th FG flew a bomber support mission to Berlin for the first time, resulting in several large aerial battles. Garrison was part of a flight of nine P-51s engaging more than 60 Luftwaffe fighters attacking bombers at 24000 feet near Wittenberg. Despite losing his aircraft’s supercharger and having three of his guns jammed, Garrison shot down an Fw 190 and received a “probable” for downing a Messerschmidt Bf 110. While flying back to England at low level with two wingmen, one of whom had a damaged engine and could not maintain altitude, Garrison was hit by AAA fire near Boulogne-sur-Mer and bailed out. After being captured almost immediately, he was subjected to two weeks of interrogations, then was at Stalag Luft I POW camp near Barth, Germany, for the rest of the war.

Garrison was liberated on 1 May 1945 by Soviet troops. Garrison elected to rejoin his squadron rather than return to the USA. He remained with the 336th FS until it was inactivated in September 1945, then transferred to the 406th Fighter Group on occupation duty in Germany. In 1946, he transferred to the 56th Fighter Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan, where he again flew P-47s. Garrison rejoined the 4th Fighter Group at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, in April 1947, was promoted to captain, and became part of the US Air Force when it became an independent service on September 18.

Garrison organized and led a jet aerial demonstration team for the 4th FW, flying P-80 Shooting Stars, and participated in the first official delivery of air mail by jet to celebrate the 30th anniversary of air mail on 15 May 1948. Using the same route as in 1918, Garrison delivered a packet from Washington, D.C. to New York City in a 28-minute flight.

Garrison’s noted gunnery skills and prior instructor experience resulted in his transfer in May 1950 to Las Vegas, now Nellis Air Force Base, where the USAF converted its flying training establishment into the USAF Aircraft Gunnery School. After completing the gunnery course, he remained at Nellis as an instructor and R&D officer of the 3596th Advanced Applied Tactics Squadron (AATS). Garrison formed an unit jet air demonstration team, the “Mach Riders”, with Captains Manuel J. Fernandez and William H. Wescott on his wing.


At the outbreak of the Korean War, while many experienced fighter pilots deployed to combat, Garrison continued in his combat crew training role at Nellis. He was promoted to major in 1951 and took command of the 3596th AATS. The commander of the 4th FIW requested Garrison by name to join the wing, and in November 1952 Garrison transferred to Kimpo Air Base, Korea, and became operations officer of the 335th FIS. In January 1953, Garrison took command of the 335th FIS.

Garrison in 1943 WWII on the left and in 1953 Korea on the right.

Garrison’s assigned aircraft in the 335th FIS was F-86F-15-NA, s/n 51-12953.

Project Gun-Val

The Project “Gun-Val” was an attempt to increase the firepower of the F-86 Sabre. Although the six 0.50-inch machine guns of the Sabre had a high rate of fire, one of the complaints by Sabre pilots was that the guns really didn’t pack enough punch to ensure a kill of every MiG that got into their gun sights.

The MiG-15 was actually a fairly robust aircraft which could sustain a considerable amount of damage and still keep flying. About 2/3 of the MiGs hit by the Sabre machine guns actually made it back to their base.

Four F-86E-10s (serial numbers 51-2803, 2819, 2826 and 2836) and six F-86F-1s (serial numbers 51-2855, 2861, 2867, 2868, 2884 and 2900) were pulled off the assembly line and were fitted with a quartet of T-160 20mm cannons and re-designated F-86F-2-NA. The T-160 guns were belt-fed and were capable of firing 1500 rounds per minute. The gun mounts were strengthened and the nose structure around the guns was reinforced to handle the extra amount of recoil.

In January 1953, eight F-86F-2s (minus 51-2884 and 2900) were transferred to the 4th FIW in Korea for actual combat tests and were attached to the 355th FIS, commanded by Major Vermont Garrison.

Ground crew service the T-160 guns on F-86F-2-NA, s/n 51-2836, named “Sweet Carol”, piloted by ace Captain Lonnie Moore.

Film: PROJECT Gun-Val (1953)

Film: 1953 Korean War Dogfight – MiG-15 VS F86F-2 Saber

Garrison worked closely with the project after one of the test aircraft was lost in combat on January 25 because its engine experienced compressor stall from ingesting the cannons’ propellant gases. He regularly flew Gun-Val Sabres on missions before the testing ended on 1 May 1953. Despite firing limitations imposed by the stall risk, Garrison scored a MiG victory in a cannon-equipped sabre, near Sui-ho Reservoir on 26 March 1953. Garrison was one of only four pilots to score a kill in a Gun-Val sabre.

In 1958, the F-86F-2-NAs were assigned to the Colorado Air National Guard “Minutemen” aerobatic team (the cannons were removed). The test data from Project Gun-Val lead to the development of M-39 20mm cannon which was used in the F-86H and the later Century Series supersonic fighters (F-100, F-104, F-105 and F-106).

Garrison was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 25 June 1953, and scored his final MiG victory on July 19, eight days before the armistice.

DateNumberEnemy Type DownedLocationAircraft FlownUnit Assigned
16 December 19430.33Junkers Ju 88Papenburg, GermanyP-47C336 FS, 4 FG
14 January 19442Focke-Wulf Fw 190Compiègne Woods, FranceP-47D336 FS, 4 FG
31 January 19441Messerschmitt Bf 109Gilze-Rijen, NetherlandsP-47D336 FS, 4 FG
6 February 19441Fw 190Beauvais–Margny, FranceP-47D336 FS, 4 FG
10 February 19441Bf 109Dümmer Lake, GermanyP-47D336 FS, 4 FG
25 February 19441Fw 190LuxembourgP-47D336 FS, 4 FG
3 March 19441Fw 190Berlin, GermanyP-51B336 FS, 4 FG
21 February 19531MiG-15Tangmok-Tang, North KoreaF-86F Sabre335 FIS, 4 FIW
26 March 19531MiG-15Sui-Ho Reservoir, North KoreaF-86F-2-NA335 FIS, 4 FIW
17 May 19531MiG-15Yalu RiverF-86F335 FIS, 4 FIW
23 May 19531MiG-15Yonsu-dong, North KoreaF-86F335 FIS, 4 FIW
5 June 19532MiG-15Fengcheng, ChinaF-86F335 FIS, 4 FIW
24 June 19531MiG-15Sakchu, North KoreaF-86F335 FIS, 4 FIW
26 June 19531MiG-15Namsi-dong, North KoreaF-86F335 FIS, 4 FIW
30 June 19531MiG-15Unbong-dong, North KoreaF-86F335 FIS, 4 FIW
19 July 19531MiG-15Ch’oryon-gwan, North KoreaF-86F335 FIS, 4 FIW

James P. Hagerstrom

James Philo Hagerstrom (14 January 1921 to 25 June 1994) was a fighter ace of with a career total of 14.5 victories (6 in WWII and 8.5 in Korea). He was also the only US jet ace from a Fighter Bomber squadron in the Korean War.

On 6 December 1941, the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hagerstrom enlisted in the USAAF Aviation Cadet program. On 26 July 1942, he graduated and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, receiving his wings from Brigadier General Ennis Whitehead. In late September, he was assigned to the 8th Fighter Squadron (FS) of the 49th Fighter Group (FG) and was sent to San Francisco, California. Hagerstrom was temporarily given the duty of quarters officer where he arranged for the group of forty second lieutenants to stay at the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

The 8th FS moved to New Guinea in October 1942 to help stall the Japanese drive southward from Buna to Port Moresby, Territory of Papua. It engaged primarily in air defense of Port Moresby, escorted bombers and transports, and attacked enemy installations, supply lines, and troop concentrations in support of Allied ground forces. Hagerstrom rejoined the rest of the 8th FS at Kila Airfield, near Port Moresby. He flew several missions out of Kila in the P-40, all without seeing any combat. The 8th FS then relocated in early April 1943 to Dobodura Airfield, near Popondetta, to rejoin the rest of the 49th FG. Shortly afterwards, Hagerstrom was promoted to first lieutenant.

8th FS P-40E Warhawks at Dobodura, New Guinea, 7 April 1943.

It was during this time that the 8th Squadron acquired their name, “The Black Sheep” Squadron. While the 7th FS and 9th FS of the 49th FG received new aircraft, the 8th received the older aircraft from the two other squadrons. Unhappy with being last on the supply line (closest to the front) and not liking the unlucky “Eightballs” name caused the pilots to begin calling the 8th “The Black Sheep” Squadron. The name stuck and an artist designed a distinctive logo.

8th FS “The Black Sheep” Emblem

Hagerstrom’s first combat experience and aerial victory came on April 11, when he joined a fight over Oro Bay which was engaging several Japanese A6M Zeros. His first attempt at taking a shot at a Zero failed because his guns were switched off, but he later shot down a Zero that was trailing two P-38 Lightning fighters. He returned back to base with little fuel to spare.

On October 5, Hagerstrom led one of two formations to intercept an approaching Ki-46 “Dinah” reconnaissance aircraft over Finschhafen. He chased the plane for twelve minutes, climbing at full throttle to 18000 feet (5500 m) before getting within firing range. He was able to damage the Dinah’s left engine, wing root, and fuselage. The engine exploded and sprayed hydraulic fluid onto his plane, causing him eye irritation. He pursued the crippled aircraft until it hit the water. After a malfunction with his navigational instruments, he had to find his way back to the airfield by following the Markham River. His plane was running low on fuel, night had fallen, and Tsili Tsili was in blackout due to another enemy reconnaissance plane in the area, so Hagerstrom had to estimate the airstrip’s location but landed safely.

On 23 January 1944, Hagerstrom was leading a flight of four aircraft assisting P-38 Lightnings to escort bombers near Wewak. They encountered 10–15 enemy aircraft, and he and his wingman, John Bodak, dove on a group of Zeros that were pursuing four P-38s. Hagerstrom shot down one of the Zeroes. He took a shot at another Zero but missed, and was in turn targeted by a Zero on his tail. Bodak destroyed that Zero, and Hagerstrom shot down a Zero that was tailing his wingman. He got a third Zero and then went to the assistance of several P-38s who had started a Lufbery circle defensive maneuver. Hagerstrom fired a short burst at one of the pursuing Japanese planes, a Ki-61 “Hien”. He followed the damaged aircraft and gave it another burst at short range, causing it to catch fire and crash. Hagerstrom and Bodak damaged several more Zeros before running out of ammunition. Hagerstrom returned home with four victories for a total of six, making him an ace.

In early February 1944, Hagerstrom received orders to return home from New Guinea, which he called a “terrible place” due to the poor conditions. He had flown 170 combat missions comprising of 350 flight hours.

In September 1949, Hagerstrom flew a P-38 Lightning and F-51 Mustang in the National Air Races. He took sixth place in the Thompson Trophy race and won a $1500 USD prize, flying his F-51 at an average speed of 372.7 miles per hour (599.8 km/h).

In early 1951, Hagerstrom was sent to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where he undertook gunnery training on the jet-powered F-80 Shooting Star and F-86 Sabre, taught by William T. Whisner Jr.

Hagerstrom prepared extensively for flying in Korea. He studied gun sights and intelligence reports on the MiG-15, and he made metric conversion tables to allow him to patrol altitudes where MiGs commonly flew. He got a pair of moccasin boots lined with felt and a silk-lined flight suit for winter insulation, and he obtained special half-mirrored sunglasses that allowed him to see twice as clearly as normal, at the risk of permanently ruining his eyes.


Upon arrival in Korea, Hagerstrom was assigned to the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron (FBS) of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing (FBW) which was flying F-51D Mustangs. At that time, the 4th and 51st FIWs were the only units equipped with F-86 Sabres, but Hagerstrom was able to convince his commander to let him and several other officers fly the F-86, despite not being in the designated wings.

Hagerstrom claimed the 18th FBW’s first victory of the war on 21 November 1952, about 100 miles (160 km) south of the Yalu River. The MiG pilot Hagerstrom was shooting at ejected just before his jet exploded. Hagerstrom was separated from his wingman and no one witnessed the action, so the Kimpo Air Base group commander Royal N. Baker refused to confirm it unless he had good film from his gun camera. It proved unnecessary when Baker confirmed the victory after spotting a piece of the exploded MiG embedded in the F-86 Hagerstrom was flying.

On December 24, Hagerstrom led a group of jets that attacked three MiGs in formation just south of the Yalu near the Sup’ung Dam. Twenty more MiGs arrived from Manchuria, and Hagerstrom managed to damage three enemy aircraft while being chased as far south as the Chongchon River. The next day, Hagerstrom was to have the day off for Christmas, but he wanted more action. He was not on the schedule that day and he was not able to get anyone to trade with him. He was able to talk his superiors into giving him a mission, and he ended up getting the only confirmed “kill” of the day when the MiG he was chasing spun out of control at an altitude of 50000 feet (15000 m), so high that Hagerstrom did not fire for fear of stalling. The MiG pilot ejected, most likely dying from the exposure to the −20 °F (−29 °C) temperatures.

In January 1953, Hagerstrom was transferred to Osan Air Base to help the rest of the pilots of the 18th FBW transition from F-51Ds to F-86Fs, beginning on January 28. Despite cold weather and a limited number of instructor pilots, the wing’s 125 pilots were trained in the F-86F in under a month.

Hagerstrom’s assigned aircraft was F-86F-30-NA, s/n 52-4341, named “MiG Poison”. Note the 500 lb (226.8 kg) GP bomb mounted.

Hagerstrom climbing into the cockpit of his sabre.

Hagerstrom enjoyed the adrenaline rush of aerial combat. He would drop his bombs as quickly as possible and fly to where he was likely to encounter MiGs, including flying into Chinese airspace despite it being forbidden. On one mission, he buzzed Antung Airfield by flying near the speed of sound at an altitude of 15 feet (4.6 m) in an attempt to draw the MiGs into the air because US pilots were not allowed to attack enemy planes on the ground in China.

On 13 April 1953, Hagerstrom snuck up behind six MiGs, fired on one, and by sheer luck knocked his wing tip off. He kept up the chase, shooting short bursts, until the pilot, Chinese ace Wang Hai (9 victories), ejected above his own base. On the way home, Hagerstrom destroyed another MiG, bringing the total to 6.5 and became the war’s 28th ace and the first and only from the 18th FBW. After the engagement, he was awarded the Silver Star for “his outstanding ability and gallantry in the face of enemy opposition”.

In early May 1953, Hagerstrom learned that he was to return to the USA. On his last day in Korea, May 16, he was waiting for a transport plane to become available for his flight to Japan when he got a call from a friend who said he needed four planes in the air. Tired of the inaction, he posted the name ‘Sam Kratz’ on the flight board and went out as a regular combat officer and not as a squadron commander as on other missions. Hagerstrom took off, still wearing his blue dress uniform instead of a flight suit, and the flight soon came across the formation of 24 MiGs. He pretended to have communication difficulties to prevent the mission from being recalled because they were heavily outnumbered. When the MiGs turned and headed toward the safety of Chinese airspace, Hagerstrom attacked one of the planes and followed it into a dive, firing short bursts. After his prey crashed, he pulled out and the flight and headed back to base, reporting the large number of MiGs. During the debriefing, his commanding officer interrupted and assured Hagerstrom that he would be on the next C-54 Skymaster flight out, before he could take another risky flight.

DateNumberEnemy Type DownedLocationAircraft FlownUnit Assigned
11 April 19431A6M ZeroOro Bay, New GuineaP-40 Warhawk8 FS, 49 FG
5 October 19431Ki-46 DinahFinschhafen, New GuineaP-408 FS, 49 FG
23 January 1944 3A6M ZeroWewak, New GuineaP-408 FS, 49 FG
23 January 19441Ki-61 Hien (Tony)Wewak, New GuineaP-408 FS, 49 FG
21 November 19521MiG-15Near Yalu RiverF-86 Sabre334 FIS
25 December 19521MiG-15Sinsi-dong, North KoreaF-86335 FIS
25 February 19531MiG-15Mukden, ChinaF-86F67 FBS, 18 FBW
13 March 19531.5MiG-15Antung, North KoreaF-86F67 FBS, 18 FBW
27 March 19532MiG-15Near Yalu RiverF-86F67 FBS, 18 FBW
13 April 19531MiG-15Taegwan-dong, North KoreaF-86F67 FBS, 18 FBW
16 May 19531MiG-15Uiju, North KoreaF-86F67 FBS, 18 FBW

Model Kit and Decals

Eduard 1163 Ultimate Sabre (F-86F-30) Limited Edition – 2015

AeroMaster Decals 48-447 Sabres over Korea Pt.V – 1999

Microscale Decals 72-245 Korean War F-86 E/F 18th FBW 67th FIS, 4th FIW


F-86F-30-NA named “MiG Poison” is preserved at Kadena AFB, Okinawa, Japan.

John F. Bolt

John Franklin Bolt (19 May 1921 to 8 September 2004) was a naval aviator in the US Marine Corps with a total of 12 confirmed aerial victories during his career (6 in WWII and 6 in Korea), including an additional “probable” victory and two aircraft damaged. He was also the only non-USAF pilot to become an ace in the F-86 in Korea.

Commissioned in July 1942, VMF-214 was originally named the “Swashbucklers” and commanded by Major George Britt. The squadron was based at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal in mid-1943 during the early Solomons campaign flying F4F-3 Wildcats and then F4U-1 Corsairs. The squadron claimed 20 aerial victories and had two aces. In September 1943, the Swashbucklers were enjoying R&R in Sydney, Australia but when they returned to the Solomons, they discovered that they had been replaced.

At Espiritu Santo, Bolt was in the pilot replacement pool which was intended to replace casualties in several squadrons. Casualties at that time was less than expected, so the replacement pool was used to form a new squadron commanded by Major Greg Boyington. In a typical wartime shuffling of designations, Boyington’s squadron “Black Sheep” was redesignated VMF-214, while the original VMF-214 “Swashbucklers” was disbanded, its pilots either sent home or assigned to other units.

Equipped with F4U-1 Corsairs, Boyington’s VMF-214 moved to the Russell Islands and were ready for combat by 13 September 1943.

Bolt flew the F4U-1 every chance he got, and although new to the war in the Pacific, Bolt had over 700 hours flying in the F4U-1 Corsair by September 1943, more than many combat pilots accrued in two combat tours. At the Russell Islands, Bolt was promoted to 1st Lieutenant.

On September 14, the squadron began flying missions to escort B-24 Liberator bombers. The Japanese had 200 aircraft at Kahili Airfield and Balalae Island, opposed by only 50 aircraft from US squadrons in the area. Bolt got his first victories on September 23 when he was with a flight of 15 VMF-214 aircraft escorting B-24 Liberators back from a raid on Kahili. The bombers were followed by 20 to 30 Zeros, and a dogfight quickly ensued. During the course of the engagement over Bougainville, Bolt shot down two Zeroes. His wingman, Ed Harper, also claimed a victory.

On 17 September 1943, the squadron began operating out of Munda on the island of New Georgia in the Western Province of Solomon Islands.

F4U-1, BuNo 17451. at Munda airstrip on New Georgia. Bolt flew this Corsair on a search mission up the slot in the Solomon Islands on 11 October 1943. Note the red border surrounding the US insignia. This plane was lost to enemy action on 23 December 1943 and the pilot (unknown) was listed as MIA.

Bolt became well known but also drew the ire from Boyington. During what began as an escort mission for B-24 Liberators on October 16, the bombers were lost in the clouds and the flight ran into poor weather, forcing them to turn back. During the flight home, the pilots noticed much Japanese surface traffic but did not engage because of the weather. On their way back to Munda one of the aircraft had a mechanical problem, and a group including Bolt had to land at Barakoma Airfield on Vella Lavella. Bolt tried to convince others to go with him to attack the ships they had seen, but they refused. He refueled and took off, against Boyington’s orders, and destroyed four enemy barges and strafed several ground concentrations in the vicinity of Tonolei Harbor before returning to Munda. Disobeying a direct order drew Boyington’s wrath until the next day, when a telegram was received from Admiral William “Bull” Halsey:


Bolt also flew F4U-1 Corsair Number white 475.

F4U-1A, BuNo 17875, standing on its nose on Bougainville, 20 December 1943. Three days later, Lieutenant Bolt was flying this aircraft when he became an ace after shooting down two Zeros.

On 3 January 1944, VMF-214 was among 75 US aircraft raiding near Rabaul when they were surprised by 300 Japanese aircraft. Major Boyington was shot down and parachuted into the St. George’s Channel. The next day, Bolt led a flight of four Corsairs from VMF-214 in search of Boyington. Despite hazy weather and the need to take an indirect route to avoid Japanese radar, Bolt managed to lead the flight to the area where the battle had taken place the day before. Although they did not spot Boyington, they discovered and engaged a flotilla of Japanese barges, destroying six of them. Bolt also claimed his sixth victory against a Zero attempting to defend the barges.

Bolt’s tour, along with the rest of VMF-214, came to an end on 8 January 1944, five days after Boyington was shot down and captured by the Japanese. VMF-214 was disbanded. Bolt was reassigned to VMF-211, at an airfield on Nissan Island in the Green Islands, 75 miles (121 km) north of Bougainville and 100 miles (160 km) west of Rabaul. The aircraft there were primarily concerned with the destruction of convoys and ships. The missions, nicknamed “Truck Busters”, were very successful, but at the cost of damaged aircraft and wounded crewmen, including Bolt’s wingman. This tour lasted until May 1944 when he returned to Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara with his squadron.


In May 1950, Bolt was assigned to VMF-224 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and he remained there until May 1951. The squadron flew the F2H Banshee jet fighter and within three months of joining the unit he had flown more hours on the aircraft than any other pilot in the squadron. Bolt used his connections to enter an exchange program with the USAF in September 1951, becoming an exchange officer with the 318th FIS at McChord Air Force Base in Washington (state) flying the F-94 Starfire. Soon afterwards, he began piloting the F-86 Sabre which had been transferred to the squadron. He continued training with the squadron and was promoted to major in December 1951.

In November 1952, Bolt transferred to Marine squadron VMF-115 flying F9F Panther fighter-bomber aircraft (tailcode AE) in South Korea. He flew 94 combat missions with the squadron, all of them in bombing runs and close air support and air strike missions against ground targets. He did not enjoy this duty, preferring instead to fly the Sabre in air-to-air combat.

He approached Lieutenant Colonel George Ruddell (USAF) commander of the 39th FIS and an old friend, and got checked out in F-86s. The future top ace, Joseph McConnell, taught Bolt a lot in his familiarization flights. He demonstrated initiative, plus his prior F-86 experience, gave Bolt an edge when the USAF had a couple openings for US Marines in their exchange program. Bolt joined the 39th FIS, 51st FIW, in early 1953 and he started flying as McConnell’s wingman in “D” or “Dog” Flight. He took over “Dog” Flight when McConnell was ordered home in late May 1953.

John Bolt in 1943 WWII on the left and in 1953 Korea on the right.

Major Bolt’s assigned aircraft in Korea was this Canadair F-86E-6-CAN Sabre, s/n 52-2852 (ex-RCAF 19295), named “Darling Dottie” as a tribute to this wife. Bolt married Dorothy E. Wiggins in San Francisco on 23 May 1944.

Shortly after his final mission on 11 July 1953, his tour of duty ended and he was rotated back to the USA for an extended rest and vacation, which he spent with his family.

DateNumberEnemy Type DownedLocationAircraft FlownUnit Assigned
23 September 19432A6M ZeroBougainvilleF4U CorsairVMF-214
17 October 19431ZeroBougainvilleF4UVMF-214
23 December 19432ZeroNew IrelandF4UVMF-214
4 January 19441ZeroRabaulF4UVMF-214
16 May 19531MiG-15North KoreaF-86E Sabre39th FIS, 51st FIW
22 June 19531MiG-15North KoreaF-86E39th FIS, 51st FIW
24 June 19531MiG-15North KoreaF-86E39th FIS, 51st FIW
30 June 19531MiG-15North KoreaF-86E39th FIS, 51st FIW
11 July 19532MiG-15North KoreaF-86E39th FIS, 51st FIW

Model Kits and Decals

Tamiya 60324 Vought F4U-1 Corsair “Birdcage” – 2013
Tamiya 60325 F4U-1A Corsair – 2014

Academy 2204 F4U-1 Corsair “BIRDCAGE” – 2002
HobbyBoss 80381 F4U-1 Corsair Early Version – 2015

Tamiya 60774 Vought F4U-1 Bird Cage Corsair – 2006
Hasegawa 01946 F4U-1 Birdcage Corsair Pacific Aces – 2011

Microscale Decalset 72-239 Korean War Aces #1

Harrison R. Thyng

Harrison Reed Thyng (12 April 1918 to 24 September 1983) was a US fighter pilot with a total of 10 victories (5 during WWII and 5 in Korea).

On January 30, 1942, 1st Lieutenant Thyng became the first commanding officer of the newly created 309th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Group. Initially equipped with Curtiss P-40B Warhawk fighters, the 309th FS relocated to New Orleans to transition to the P-39, and trained during the spring of 1942 for deployment overseas to England. Thyng was promoted to captain on April 4. In May, the 309th FS staged to Grenier Field, New Hampshire, to train for long-distance over-water flights using drop tanks, for which the P-39 was found to be unsuitable.

On 5 June 1942, the HQ and ground echelon of the 309th FS shipped out to England, arriving at its new base at High Ercall without aircraft on June 11. The squadron began flight training on Spitfire V fighters provided by the RAF beginning on June 26. The RAF instructors declared the 31st FG ready for operations in late July, the first US combat group to be so rated. On July 26, the group HQ and its three-squadron commanders, including Major Thyng, flew a combat mission with No. 412 Squadron (RCAF) based at RAF Biggin Hill, a fighter sweep near Saint-Omer, France, that resulted in the loss of one 31st FG Spitfire.

The 309th FS was then relocated twice, first to RAF Warmwell, Dorset, in late July, and then to RAF Westhampnett, Sussex, on August 4, where it became operational, flying its first operational mission the next day. Its scheduled missions were “Rodeos”, feints to decoy German fighter opposition, and to convoy escorts. On August 9, Major Thyng and his wingman flew a defensive patrol over the English Channel in which Thyng claimed a Junkers Ju 88 bomber damaged, the first claim by a US fighter in the ETO.

Thyng’s personal aircraft was Spitfire Vb, coded WZ ☆ A, named “Mary & James” (Wife and son), in 1942. Note the US insignia was painted over the RAF roundel.

This appears to be another Spitfire Vb, coded WZ ☆ A. The US insignia is smaller and positioned higher up on the fuselage. Also the letter A is thinner. Note the tail band.

Thyng climbing into the cockpit of his Spitfire.

On 19 August 1942, the 31st FG flew eleven missions and 123 sorties in support of Operation Jubilee, the Allied raid on Dieppe, France. There it encountered its first opposition from Luftwaffe fighters and recorded its first kills. Thyng was granted a “probable” kill of an Fw 190 and was awarded the Silver Star for flying top cover for a rescue mission of a downed 31st FG pilot.

On 26 October 1942, the 31st FG shipped its Spitfires by sea to Gibraltar, to provide air support for Operation Torch as part of the US Twelfth Air Force. On 8 November 1942, 24 Spitfires of the 308th and 309th FS, including Major Thyng, took off from Gibraltar at 1540 hours and flew to Tafaraoui Airfield near Oran, newly captured by elements of the US 1st Infantry Division. They arrived in Algeria at 1700 hours and observed four aircraft circling overhead, mistakenly identified as RAF Hawker Hurricanes. The 12 Spitfires of the 308th FS landed without incident but as the 309th began landing, it was attacked by the four aircraft, now seen to be Vichy French Dewoitine D.520 fighters. One 309th Spitfire was shot down and its pilot killed. Major Thyng and two other 31st FG pilots counter-attacked and shot down three of the four D.520’s.

The 31st FG deployed to a forward base at Thelepte, Tunisia, which it temporarily evacuated during the German breakthrough during the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. Thyng won a second Silver Star attacking German armored forces during the battle and was shot down twice, once by British AAA fire. Suffering a broken ankle during his recovery from the shoot down by the latter, Thyng continued flying with the aid of a sling rigged by his crew chief to enable him to operate the Spitfire’s rudder.

Thyng officially was credited with shooting down four Bf 109 fighters while commanding the 309th FS and became an ace on 6 May 1943. Thyng, promoted to lieutenant colonel in February, moved up to second-in-command (XO) of the 31st FG on 12 May 1943, and continued operations until he was wounded in action. Lieutenant Colonel Thyng officially was credited with 162 combat sorties and 5 planes destroyed. Although many unofficial accounts credited him with as many as eight kills, including an Italian fighter, but only five were recognized officially by the USAAF.

Thyng was promoted to full colonel at the age of 26 and returned to the USA, where on 1 November 1944, he was made commander of the 413th FG flying Republic P-47N Thunderbolt fighters, trained for long-range escort operations for B-29 bombers of the US 20th Air Force. On 19 May 1945, the group deployed to the Pacific. It conducted several strafing missions from Saipan to the Caroline Islands in May before beginning operations from Ie Shima in June. The group engaged in dive-bombing and strafing attacks on factories, radar stations, airfields, small ships, and other targets in Japan, and made several attacks on shipping and airfields in China during July. The 413th FG flew its sole B-29 escort mission on 8 August 1945, to Yawata, Japan.

Colonel Thyng was credited with 22 sorties but despite some accounts asserting that he shot down one of the 16 Japanese aircraft credited to his group, he was not awarded any kills in the PTO and the credit was likely based on submission of a “probable”. Colonel Thyng remained in command of the 413th FG until 14 October 1945.


Thyng deployed to Kimpo Air Base, South Korea in October 1951 and while still on unassigned duty recorded his first MiG-15 kill on 24 October 1951, flying with the 4th FIW. Leading a flight of F-86 Sabres, Thyng attacked a formation of 11 MiGs and hit the leader, causing him to eject. Thyng was made commander of the 4th FIW on 1 November 1951.

The spring of 1952 saw a surge in the destruction of MiGs by both F-86 wings in Korea, but particularly in the 4th FIW. Flying with the 335th FIS, Colonel Thyng claimed four additional MiG kills to become a jet ace on 20 May 1952, and was awarded his third Silver Star. Colonel Thyng commanded the 4th FIW through to 2 October 1952, and flew 114 cobat missions. Although credited with the destruction of five MiGs, many accounts assert that after his 5th MiG victory he began giving claims for his shoot-downs to his wingmen.

Thyng flew a number of aircraft during his Korean tour, but his personal aircraft was F-86E-1-NA Sabre, s/n 50-623, named “Pretty Mary & the Js”, after his family, on the lower portion of the nose.

Thyng sitting in the cockpit of this personal F-86E-1-NA. The s/n 50-623 clearly is seen forward of the cockpit.

DateEnemy Type DownedLocationAircraft FlownUnit Assigned
8 November 1942Vichy Dewoitine D.520Tafaraoui, AlgeriaSpitfire Vb309 FS, 31 FG
15 February 1943Messerschmitt Bf 109Thelepte, TunisiaSpitfire Vb309 FS, 31 FG
29 March 1943Bf 109TunisiaSpitfire Vb309 FS, 31 FG
1 April 1943Bf 109TunisiaSpitfire Vb309 FS, 31 FG
6 May 1943 Bf 109Tunis, TunisiaSpitfire Vb309 FS, 31 FG
24 October 1951MiG-15North KoreaF-86E Sabre4 FIW
14 December 1951MiG-15North KoreaF-86E4 FIW
10 March 1952MiG-15Andong, ChinaF-86E335 FIS, 4 FIW
18 April 1952MiG-15Shenyang, ChinaF-86E335 FIS, 4 FIW
20 May 1952MiG-15North KoreaF-86E4 FIW


Print Scale Decalset 32-017 Decal for American F-86 Sabre Part 1

Print Scale Decalset 72-079 American F-86 Sabre

Soviet Pilots

During 1950, the Kremlin agreed to supply China and North Korea with MiG-15s, as well as train their pilots. The 50th Fighter Aviation Division (50 IAD), equipped with the MiG-15, was already based near Shanghai, as it had taken part in the Chinese Civil War.

On 28 April 1950, a pair of Nationalist Chinese F-5E or F-5G (Photo-recon) Lightinings from Taiwan flew over Shanghai, and took the free world’s first photos of MiG-15 jets. During that flight, a MiG-15 pilot shot down one of the Lightinings, scoring the first MiG-15 victory.

In August 1950, a detachment from the 50th IAD was moved to Andong, next to the border with North Korea. They formed the 29th Guards Fighter Regiment (29 GvIAP). When China entered the war in support of North Korea, the Soviets agreed to provide 16 operational air regiments of MiG-15s, including combat pilots. More MiG-15 pilots were recruited; the squadrons earmarked for Korea were drawn from elite Soviet air units. The pilots had to be younger than 27, and priority was given to WWII veterans.

Initially, the MiG-15s operated close to their bases, limited by the range of their aircraft, and they were guided to the air battlefield by good ground control, which directed them to the most advantageous positions. For political, security and logistical reasons, they were not allowed to cross an imaginary line drawn from Wonsan to Pyongyang, and never to fly over the sea.

The MiG-15s carried either Korean People’s Air Force or PLA Air Force markings. The Soviet pilots wore Chinese uniforms, and spoke only Chinese phrases over radio while in the air. In China, the pilots wore civilian clothing when they left the airbases. An international incident would had occurred if a Soviet pilot was ever captured alive or their body recovered by UN forces. Some US pilots had filed reports stating that the MiG-15 pilot which they engaged in close aerial combat had red or blonde hair or had a moustache.

The MiG-15s always operated in pairs, with an attacking leader covered by a wingman. The northwestern portion of North Korea where the Yalu River empties into the Yellow Sea was dubbed “MiG Alley” and became the site of numerous dogfights. The MiG-15 pilots also proved very effective in the specific role for which the type was originally designed for which was intercepting formations of enemy bombers.

At the tactical level, large formations of MiGs would wait on the Chinese side of the border. When UN aircraft entered MiG Alley, the MiGs would swoop down from high altitude to attack. If they ran into trouble, they would try to escape back over the border into China. Soviet MiG-15 squadrons operated in big groups, but the basic formation was a six-aircraft group, divided into three pairs, each composed of a leader and a wingman:

  • The first pair of MiG-15s attacked the enemy aircraft.
  • The second pair protected the first pair.
  • The third pair remained above, supporting the two other pairs when needed. This pair had more freedom and could also attack targets of opportunity, such as lone enemy plane that had lost their wingman or flight.
PilotWWII Solo-SharedWWII Aircraft FlownKorea UN Aircraft ClaimedUnit Assigned
Aleksandr Nikitovich Karasyov20-2Yak-1, P-39 71 B-29, 1 F-80, 4 F-84, 1 F-86523rd IAP, 303rd IAD
Stepan Antonovich Bakhayev 12-3Unknown111 B-29, 3 F-80, 2 F-84, 5 F-86523rd IAP, 303rd IAD
Viktor Ivanovich Kolyadin 14O-2, Yak, P-395 ☆2 B-29, 1 F-51D, 2 F-8628th GvIAP, 151st GvIAD
Sergey Fyodorovich Vishnyakov10-1Unknown61 Meteor F8, 1 F-51D, 2 F-84, 2 F-86176th GvIAP, 324th IAD
Grigory Fedoseevich Dmitryuk8P-39, P-4051 F-80, 1 F-84, 3 F-86821st IAP, 190th IAD
Alexey Ivanovich Mitusov6P-397 ☆1 F-80, 1 F-84, 5 F-86196th IAP, 324th IAD
Stepan Savelyevich Artemchenko6P-396 ☆1 F-80, 1 F-84, 4 F-8617th IAP, 303rd IAD

☆ Claim(s) came from independent sources but they do not correspond with USAF reports.

Before becoming an ace, Major Kolyadin flew Mig-15, s/n 0615334, from Muuhdan-West in November 1950. Built in Factory Number 153 at Novosibirsk, this Mig-15 was transferred to the 8th IAP, 3rd IAD of the PLAAF in late January 1951.

Major Dmitryuk, CO of 821st IAP, flew MiG-15bis, s/n 123045, from Tatung-kao in April 1952. Note the under surfaces is painted blue.

Model Kits

Bronco FB4013 Mig-15bis Fagot-B Korean War – 2020
Bronco FB4014 MiG-15 Fagot – 2020

Eduard 7057 MiG-15 ProfiPack – 2022
(Box artwork show MiG-15s attacking a Nationalist Chinese photo-recon Lightining.)

Weapons/Aircraft used in Two Wars

Piston engined US fighters of WWII (P-40E Warhawk, F4U-1 Corsair, P-51 Mustang) and the US jets of the Korean War (F-80 Shooting Star, F-84 Thunderjet, F-86 Sabre) had only one thing in common which was six .50 Caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns as the main armament.

After the US Air Force became a separate US military branch in 1947, the P-51D Mustang was redesignated the F-51D Mustang, changing it from a “Pursuit” to a “Fighter” plane. The US insignia was changed by adding the read stripes in the center of the bars.

Many USAF F-51D Mustangs were transferred to Air National Guard (ANG) units in the USA as the USAF was transitioning to an all jet Air Force. After the Korean War broke out in 1950, the USAF found the F-80 Shooting Star jet was fast but not capable of carrying a bomb load and fly over the target area for a extended period of time. The F-51D was capable of carrying a bomb load and was able to loiter over the battlefield.

Some USAF Fighter Squadrons which recently transitioned to the F-80were re-equipped back to the F-51D Mustang for service in Korea. Numbers of F-51Ds (ex-P-51Ds) were taken from ANG units throughout the US and shipped to Japan for the fighting in Korea. Many of the US pilots were not pleased with the switch back to the older slower F-51D.

P-51D-30-NA Mustang, s/n 44-74881 of the 39th FIS, 35th FIW was shot down by enemy AAA near Kunwha, Korea on 17 April 1951. The pilot bailed out. The code on the side of the fuselage would been FF-881.

Many F4U-4 and F4U-4B Corsairs which fought in the Pacific campaigns in early 1945 were transferred to Naval Air Reserve squadrons at Naval Air Stations (NAS) in the USA while the active fleet squadrons receive new aircraft such as the F4U-5 and the new Douglas AD-1 Skyraider.

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the US Navy needed to expand its airpower for the new conflict. The Naval Air Reserve in the USA at the time had 27 air wings. From of these 27 reserve air wings, fourteen of its reserve squadrons were ordered to active duty in July 1950, which was increased to 40 by mid-1951. Many of these USN squadrons flew WWII-era F4U-4/4Bs in combat in Korea along side with post war built F4U-5s and AD-1 Skyraiders.


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