Korean War Anniversary Exhibit OpensDate: 26 August 2010
By Dean Wingrin
The SAAF Museum at AFB Ysterplaat officially opened a new display today, commemorating the role of the South African Air Force (SAAF) in the Korean War which started 60 years ago.
Following an address by the keynote speaker, Brig Gen Derrick Page, Director Air Force Heritage, the exhibition was unveiled by Lt Genl Denis Earp, a veteran of the Korean War and retired Chief of the Airforce (1984 - 1988).
Also in attendance was Captain Bu and members of the ships company of ROKS Wang Geon. The South Korean navy had sent the destroyer to Cape Town as part of the commemorations for the 60th Anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
In his address, Page noted the SAAF was celebrating its 90th anniversary and was looking back on the proud achievements of the past. "One such event was the call for volunteers to serve with 2 Squadron SAAF in Korea soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1950," Page said.
"This exhibition is dedicated to 2 Squadron SAAF 1950 to 1953, to the members of the Squadron, to their colleagues who lost their lives in the Korean War, to the veterans who have subsequently passed on to higher service (and) to the remaining few."
Speaking to the assembled veterans and guests, South Korean Ambassador to South Africa, Kim Han Soo, thanked South Africa and the veterans for their sacrifice in helping South Korea. He said that South Korea appreciated the assistance provided by South Africa 60 years ago and will continue to do so for the next 60 years.
After the opening, guests were taken into AFB Ysterplaat where they were shown a SAAF CL-13B Sabre Mk 6, repainted in the colours of a 2 Squadron F-86F Sabre, as flown in Korea. The Sabre had recently been restored by junior members of the Friends of the SAAF Museum, in conjunction with 2 Air Servicing Unit (Detached).
After war broke out in Korea on 25 June 1950, the Union Government announced on 4 August 1950 its intention to place an all-volunteer squadron at the disposal of the United Nations. On 25 September 1950, 2 Squadron (the Flying Cheetahs) sailed for Japan. On arrival, the squadron converted onto the F-51D Mustang supplied by the USAF and proceeded to Korea. 2 Squadron served as one of the four squadrons of the USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing and flew their first mission in Korea on 19 November 1950.
Their role was close air support against enemy positions to soften them up for ground attacks, interdiction against the enemy's logistic and communication lines, providing protective cover for rescue operations, reconnaissance flights and to a lesser extent, interception of enemy aircraft. During the southward advance of the Chinese Communist forces these pilots attacked enemy troops, trucks and supplies daily in near zero temperatures.
In January 1953 the squadron received USAF F-86F Sabre jet fighter-bombers, with the first Sabre mission flown on 16 March 1953. This marked the entry of the SAAF into a new era of jet warfare. The Flying Cheetahs took part in fighter sweeps along the Yalu and Chong-Chong rivers as well as ground targets.
The war ended on 27 July 1953. Prior to the SAAF members returning to South Africa, the Sabres were returned to the USAF. 34 SAAF pilots had lost their lives and eight taken prisoner of war, including the future Chief of the Air Force, Lt Gen Denis Earp. In total, 74 Mustangs and 4 Sabres were lost.