SAAF F 51 Mustangs over Korea
War broke out in Korea on 25 June 1950 and on 4 August 1950 the South African government announced its intention to place an all volunteer squadron at the disposal of the UN. On 25 September 1950, 2 Squadron “Flying Cheetahs” sailed for Japan. On arrival at Yokohama the squadron proceeded to Johnson Air Base near Tokyo where they began their conversion and OTU on F-51 D Mustangs supplied by the USAF from ANG Units. The profile photo 10 depicts an aircraft from the North Dakota ANG that was used by 2 Squadron SAAF. The SAAF already had experience with the P-51 Mustang and flew it in combat during WW II (Photo 20). Most of these volunteer pilots had flown the Mustang during WW II. Subsequently, 2 Squadron became part of four squadrons that formed the 18th FBW USAF. Their first combat missions were flown on 19 November 1950.
The SAAF flew with the distinctive Springbok, in the centre of the roundel, introduced when 2 Squadron was sent to Korea. Their role was close air support against enemy positions to soften them up for ground attacks, interdiction against communist logistic and communication lines, providing protective cover for rescue operations, recon flights and to a lesser extent, interception of enemy aircraft. During the southward advance of the Chinese forces these pilots attacked enemy troops, trucks and supplies daily in near zero temperatures. On 30 November the squadron moved further south to K-13 from where they were evacuated further back to K-10, an airfield situated on the edge of a little bay close to the town of Chinhae. This was to be their permanent base for the next two years.
While equipped with Mustangs, the squadron flew 10 373 sorties and out of a total of 95 Mustangs acquired, no fewer than 74 were lost due to enemy action and accidents. Twelve SAAF pilots were killed in action and 30 were MIA and four wounded.
Serviceability in 2 squadron was better than that of the other three USAF squadrons in the 18th FBW. The SAAF ground crew were all volunteers and saw service during WW II, whilst those of the USAF were draftees. USAF Lt. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. (Photo 6) became great friends with the SAAF pilots and spoke highly of their professionalism and prowess as pilots that never backed down from a fight.
In recognition of their association with the Flying Cheetahs, the OC of 18 FBW issued a policy directive :” that all retreat ceremonies shall be preceded by the introductory bars of the South African national anthem, The Call of South Africa. All personnel will render the honour to this anthem as our own.”
19 additional images. Click to enlarge.