First to Fire

General Wars

US Anti Aircraft Artillery in Korea 1950

On 25 June 1950 when North Korean Peoples’ Army invaded the Republic of Korea.  As the North Koreans swept south, the United Nations Security Council recognized the North Korean act as invasion and called for an immediate ceasefire. The Security Council also decided the formation and dispatch of the UN Forces in Korea to which military personnel were  contributed to by twenty-one countries.

Within two days of North Korea invading the South, the air war had started when nine north Korean aircraft attacked Kimpo and Suwon airfields. The strike was engaged by seven USAF aircraft making it the first aerial engagement of the Korean War. The first AAA engagement had to wait for a couple of days more as the US AAA had yet to arrive from Japan. On June 29, a strike by four North Korean Yak-9s on Suwon airfield was met by Detachment X of 507 Anti Aircraft Artillery(Automatic Weapon) Battalion making it the first US Army unit to fire in anger during the war. One Yak-9 was shot down by the US AAA though the subsequent months hardly saw action involving the US Ack Ack.

On June 25, 1950, 507 Anti Aircraft Artillery(Automatic Weapon) Battalion at Camp McGill, Japan was ordered to organize a detachment for an ‘air transport mission’. Three officers and 32 men were air lifted with four M-55 Quadruple mounted 0.50 caliber AA Machine Guns by C-54 transport aircraft with the stated mission ‘to establish air defence of an airfield in Korea’. Detachment X, as this unit was called, reached Suwon airfield, 20 kilometers north of Seoul at about 0900 hours on June 29 and immediately got down to organizing the air defence at their new base.

No sooner had the Detachment finished with their immediate deployment actions that the North Korean Air Force attacked the base. Four Yak-9s, ‘looking like P-51s’, came in from north east attacking the airfield from about fourteen hundred feet. A pair of Yak-9s was in front, followed by two in a single file. They made three passes and strafed the airfield, also dropping three medium bombs. The Detachment X gunners got into action, shooting down two Yak-9s.

The incident is described by Captain Loomis as

It looked for the present that no apparent action was pending-but by 1615 hours (29 June) as the sun was dropping behind the hills-the situation in this respect changed. In the distance there appeared, what most of the men at the gun positions thought were F-5! “Mustangs”-four of them -but they soon proved themselves otherwise! “Looking toward the town about four miles away we heard an explosion,” recounted Sergeant Melvin E. Tyra, Pleasanton, California, “and seconds later we caught it.” Captain McCabe, detachment commander, said, ‘The four planes approached the strip from the northwest at about fourteen hundred feet. They formed with a pair in front followed by the other two in single file and power-glided on our position area, in an apparent attempt to destroy planes parked near the runway. They made four passes, dropping three medium-light bombs, and strafed the field at each pass. One plane crashed beyond the field and the second, obviously crippled, was losing altitude as he left the area. I labeled it a probable, and its destruction was confirmed a short time later by South Korean rural police who reported finding the wreck close to the place where it was last seen.”

These were the first shots fired by US troops in the Korean War.

One of the pilots of the aircrafts destroyed, a Major in North Korean Air Force, managed to eject but was captured.

At 2000 hours, the airfield was again attacked. This time by two Yak-9s. The AAA engaged them but could not hit either of them. However, both the North Korean Yaks were shot down by USAF F80s.

Detachment X was evacuated from Suwon in face of advancing North Korean Army and was moved to Taejon on June 30 and later on to Japan for re-equipment.

 

Notes

  1. Loomis Captain P LeR, Antiaircraft at Suwon The First Army Action in Korea Anti-Aircrfat Journal September- December 1950 p 2-5, http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a509806.pdf
  2. Encyclopedia of Korean War pp 113-114
  3. Appleman, Roy E. (1998), South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu: United States Army in the Korean War, Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, ISBN 978-0-16-001918-0 p44

 

 

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