2 Squadron in Korea
Flying Cheetahs 1950 - 1953
Reviewed By: Dean Wingrin
Over fifty years have passed since what was originally called a 'Police Action', that began on 27 June 1950, when Communist North korean forces streamed across the 38th Parallel, invading the Democratic Republic of South Korea. Later, the North Korean Forces were joined and strengthened by the communist Chinese forces. The war finally ended when a cease-fire was signed at Panmunjom on 27 July 1953. During this time, millions of people lost their lives. In fact, more American servicemen were killed in three years of conflict in Korea than in eleven years in Vietnam. Yet, in a conflict far from home, South African forces stood proud: 2 Squadron SAAF was there!
On 4 August 1950, Cabinet stated that the SA Government would offer the UN a fighter squadron with ground personnel. All members would serve on a voluntary basis. So started South Africas involvement in the Korean War. On 25 September 1950, 2 Squadron, the Flying Cheetahs, sailed for Japan, serving as one of the four squadrons of the USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing.
Their role was close air support against enemy positions, 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. While equipped with Mustangs, the squadron flew 10 373 sorties and out of a total 95 Mustangs acquired, no fewer than 74 were lost due to enemy action and accidents. Twelve pilots were killed in action, 30 missing and four wounded.
In January 1953 the squadron received USAF F-86F Sabre jet fighter-bombers. This marked the entry of the SAAF into a new era of jet warfare. Operating from K-55, the Flying Cheetahs took part in fighter sweeps along the Yalu and Chong-Chong rivers as well as ground targets. The squadron flew a total of 2 032 sorties in the Sabres. Only four Sabres were lost out of 22 supplied.
Once again the SAAF proved its worth. Serviceability in 2 Squadron was better than that of the other three USAF squadrons in the wing. The war ended on 27 July 1953. 34 SAAF pilots had lost their lives and eight taken prisoner of war, including the future Chief of the Air Force, General D Earp. 74 Mustangs and 4 Sabres were lost. Prior to returning to South Africa, the Sabres were returned to the USAF. In recognition of their association with the Flying Cheetahs, the OC of 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing issued a policy directive 'that all retreat ceremonies shall be preceded by the introductory bars of the South African national anthem. All personnel will render the honour to this anthem as our own'.
Essentially a pictorial record of 2 Squadron in Korea, and thus not intended to be a comprehensive history of South Africa's involvement, it does, nevertheless, provide a detailed background to the war. Of far more importance, however, the photographs, many in colour, graphically depict the harsh conditions under which the squadron was forced to live and fight. Photographs, with detailed captions, cover such aspects as departure, briefings and operations, aircraft, pilots, camp conditions, maintenance, off duty, stores, etc.
Chapters have been devoted to the background to each 2 Squadron member killed in theater, missing in action or taken prisioner of war. Similarly, the background of each fatal and non-fatal accident is also provided. Numerous lists are inciuded, such as all 2 Squadron Commanding Officers, serials and fates of every Mustang and Sabre, complete Roll of Honour and a comprehensive listing of all honours and awards. The modellers have not been forgotten, with colour plates detailing the colour schemes and markings of numerous Mustangs and Sabres. Considering the quality of the original photographs, the reproduction is of very high quality, particularly the colour photographs.
This book is highly recommended.
298 x 210mm, 160pp, 32 colour photos, 326 b/w photos, 8 colour profile plates, 1 map