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A Proposal For
Black Tuesday Over Namsi
The Epic Air Battle of the Forgotten War
By E. J. McGill
Black Tuesday over Namsi is the true story of the calamitous daylight-bombing mission flown by the 307th Bombardment Wing on 23 October 1951 against Namsi Airfield in the heart of MiG Alley. What many experts consider the epic air battle of the Korean War, and perhaps the greatest jet engagement in the history of aerial warfare has become another forgotten battle of the forgotten war. The few chronicles that exist have been reconstructed, for the most part, from disorganized and sometimes inaccurate U.S. and Russian government records. Most accounts are from the fighter pilot’s perspective and do not provide the information or insights into the 307th’s vital and tragic role on the mission that doomed daylight strategic bombing forever, and changed the history of aerial warfare.
The book is based on my original article, “Black Tuesday Over Namsi,” published in the October, 2001 issue of VFW Magazine, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the mission. It records, from first-hand accounts of aircrew members and ground personnel who were there, the facts and circumstances of the event by reconstructing the mission from first briefing to final landing. In preparing the article, my research turned up a treasure chest of previously unrecorded facts about the mission, including—after publication--additional photos and details from crewmembers, descendants of crewmembers, and other personnel directly involved, on both the American and Soviet sides of the conflict.
In the book I will set the stage for the mission by examining the political climate that led to the Korean War and resulted in the unprecedented limitations imposed by the rules of engagement that led to the disaster over Namsi. I intend to disprove certain legendary myths that have become accepted, and fix the blame for the debacle in the political and planning arena where it belongs. The book will conclude with an examination of its eventual impact on the Cold War, particularly in the areas of massive air power buildups and the concept of Mutually Aided Destruction (MAD).
More than fifty years from the event, North Korea is still our potential enemy and we still live with what occurred that October day in the skies over Namsi.
Fred L. Beissner Jr., Copilot on Foulkes' B-29, Black Tuesday Mission
John R. Bruning:
Author of Crimson Sky: The Air Battle for Korea
George Pyfrom: Son of George Pyfrom, Copilot on Folger’s B-29, Black Tuesday Mission
Alan Reeter: Son of
William Reeter, Baker Lead Aircraft Commander, Black Tuesday Mission
Jack Shields: Son
of Tom Shields, Charlie Lead Aircraft Commander, Black Tuesday Mission
John Wagenhalls: Bombardier on Dempsy’s B-29, Black Tuesday Mission
Lloyd G. Wentworth: Navigator on Foulk's B-29, Black Tuesday Mission
Diego Fernando Zampini: Contact for Soviet Involvement on Black Tuesdayt
On Tuesday afternoon, October 23, 1951, we’d drummed up a poker game in our tin hut on the hill above the Kadena flight line. We were trying to push the war out of our minds. October, which had started out like a milk run, had suddenly turned sour. Typhoon Ruth had hit Okinawa with winds that knocked our tin hut off its foundation. To take a leak we had to stand on a chair—the least of our worries.
Up north, the day before, MiGs had jumped our 19th Bomb Group and knocked down one of our B-29s. Now we were sweating-out news of the fate of our sister unit, the 307th Bombardment Wing. We’d gotten word that they’d run into big trouble. We wouldn’t have to wait long to find out just how big.
When we heard they were on their way in, we piled into a Jeep and headed for the flight line to watch them land. Minutes later, we saw a lone bomber silhouetted against the peaceful Pacific sky.
One B-29 out of nine—with a hole in the tail section a man could crawl through.
Early that morning, nine B-29 Superforts of the 307th Bombardment Wing had taken off from Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa on a bombing mission against Namsi, an airfield under construction in North Korea. As the World War II heavy bombers lumbered toward their target, they passed through a maelstrom of flak that took down one of the nine. Moments before bombs away, a swarm of MiG-15s, the newest, fastest jets in the Red arsenal, attacked the remaining eight B-29s. Three were shot down over the target area and three more were damaged beyond repair. B-29 gunners were credited with shooting down three enemy fighters. North Korean and Chinese pilots supposedly flew the MiGs. Factually, the pilots were members of the elite 64th Fighter Aviation Group, a unit from the Soviet Union.
In percentages, the United States Air Force suffered the greatest loss on record for a major bombing mission in any war; and the ensuing air battle, in a piece of aerial real estate they called “MiG Alley,” still ranks among the greatest jet air battles in history.
Astonishingly, virtually nothing has been published about this event. Official Air Force historical records mention it only in passing. In an effort to find an accurate account of the greatest air battle of the “forgotten war,” I employed several methods, including all of the highest rated Internet search engines. One short piece detailed events after the mission and the only other references contained errors that have little to do with what actually happened. Except for John R. Bruning’s, Crimson Sky, The Air Battle for Korea, none of the material, published, historical or otherwise, records the sacrifices of the airmen involved or shows appreciation for what they experienced.
Thanks to the Internet, I was able to establish e-mail contact with three members of the crew of the lead B-29 on the Black Tuesday mission who supplied never-before-published photographs of the mission and its aftermath. I was also in contact with experts on the Korean Air War, from both the Allied and the Soviet perspectives, and have statements made by MiG pilots describing the attack. Since the article’s publication, a score of people, including four additional veterans of the mission, have come forward with additional information and materials relating to the Namsi mission. With 97 pages of notes and hundreds of e-mail messages to work with, plus planned interviews and research, I feel confident that I can put together, in human terms, a true and accurate account of that historically important but forgotten air battle over Namsi on a day marked forever in the minds of allied airmen as Black Tuesday.
Also Available: Pre-mission target photo, mission photos, logs, diaries, route sheets, formation diagram, and mission charts.
About the Author: Following a career as an Air Force pilot, which included B-29 combat missions in the Korean War, E. J. McGill earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and taught writing in Tucson. His first novel, Immaculate in Black, was published by St. Martin's under the Thomas Dunne imprint. His short mystery stories and articles have appeared in several magazines and won awards. His article, “Black Tuesday Over Namsi,” was published in the October, 2001 issue of VFW Magazine and reprinted in Battles of the Korean War.
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