Skip to comments.MiG Alley
Posted on 09/22/2013 9:15:03 PM PDT by robowombat
By John T. Correll
The American F-86 Sabres stopped the MiG-15sand their Russian pilotsat the Yalu. In August 1950, a Soviet air division with 122 MiG-15 jet fighters arrived in northeastern China and set up headquarters at Antung on the Yalu River, the dividing line between Chinese Manchuria and North Korea. On Oct. 18, an American RB-29 reconnaissance aircraft spotted 75 fighters on the ramp at Antung, but that did not raise much alarm for Gen. Douglas MacArthurs United Nations Command or the US Far East Air Forces.
Nor was there any great concern on Nov. 1 when a flight of F-51 Mustangs was intercepted by six MiGs in Chinese markings on the Korean side of the Yalu. The Mustangs escaped without harm. US intelligence thought there were only a few of the MiG-15s, and that they were flown by Chinese and North Korean pilots. Intelligence was wrong in both assumptions.
MacArthur and his advisors believed that the Korean War was almost over and that they had won. In the brief time since North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, the battle lines had swung back and forth for the entire length of the peninsula. UN forces, mainly from the United States, had come to the aid of South Korea, but the first round went to the invaders. By Aug. 5, they had overrun nearly all of Korea. The UN forces, their backs to the sea, held only a small enclave in the southeastern corner, behind a defensive line called the Pusan Perimeter.
MacArthur counterattacked with an amphibious landing at Inchon, hundreds of miles behind enemy lines. UN forces broke out of the Pusan Perimeter, recaptured South Korea, and advanced relentlessly into the North.
By late October, they had driven the North Korean army almost to the Chinese border. The North Korean Air Force, a motley collection of obsolete Russian airplanes, was wiped out of existence in the first few weeks by Fifth Air Force, the principal component of FEAF.
FEAF had about 400 combat aircraft at bases in Japan, Okinawa, Guam, and the Philippines. Its best fighter was the F-80 Shooting Star, the oldest jet aircraft in the Air Force, but plenty good when the opposition was cast-off Yak-7s and Yak-11s. In addition, there were propeller-driven F-51s, pulled out of storage and sent to Korea where they could fly from short, unpaved runways.
MacArthur met with President Truman on Wake Island on Oct. 15. He told Truman that North Korean resistance would end by Thanksgiving and that the US Third Infantry Division would be back in Ft. Benning for Christmas dinner. He said there was little or no chance of Chinese intervention. Two of the five B-29 bomb groups operating in Korea were sent back home.
MacArthurs assurances fell apart in late November when a communist Chinese ground force of 300,000 crossed the border to join the North Koreans. Together, the two communist armies had almost twice as many troops as MacArthurs UN force of 200,000, half of them South Korean. In effect, the Chinese had taken over the war and they soon stopped the UN offensive cold. MacArthurs army retreated and did not stop until it was 60 miles southeast of the South Korean capital of Seoul.
The air war was also in reversal. The MiG-15 outclassed everything else in the theater. An F-80 shot down a MiG on Nov. 8. The next day, a B-29 gunner got another one. Despite these successes, it was obvious to all that the swept-wing MiG-15 was the superior airplane by far. It was 100 mph faster than the straight-wing F-80 and outran the Mustangs with ease.
Sabre Vs. MiG
Fifth Air Force caught on quickly that the MiG pilots were not Chinese or Koreans. They were Russians. The Americans caught sight of some of them. US intelligence overheard their radio transmissions. The Russians attempted to communicate, as ordered, in Chinese or Korean but reverted to Russian in the heat of battle. Air forces of the three communist nations were controlled by a joint operations center at Antung, but the Russians were clearly dominant.
It would be another 40 years before either the United States or the Soviet Union admitted publicly the participation of Russian pilots in the Korean War. If the news got out, the US government reasoned, public outrage might lead to a broaderand possibly nuclearconflict with the Soviet Union.
The point in stopping the MiGs was not the fighter battle in itself. If the MiGs had air superiority south of the Yalu, US B-29 bombers would be unable to operate and UN ground forces, bases, and supply lines would soon come under air attack.
Fortunately, the US Air Force owned the only fighter in the world that could take on the MiG in even battle. During its development, the North American F-86 Sabre had been switched from a straight-wing design to swept wing, which added 70 mph to its top speed. In 1950, it was flying as an air defense interceptor in the United States. The Air Force rushed a wing of F-86s and a wing of straight-wing F-84 Thunderjets to Korea, where they began combat missions in December.
The MiG-15 and the Sabre were well matched. The MiG, smaller and lighter, had less range, but it was faster and climbed better. On the other hand, it was unstable at high speeds and its pilots were nowhere nearly as good as the Sabre pilots. Neither airplane was optimally armed. The Sabre had six .50 caliber machine guns that could spit out 1,200 shots per minute each, but the rounds were too light to knock down a MiG unless the engagement was close-in. The MiG had three cannonstwo 23 mm and one 37 mmbut they fired too slowly for good accuracy against the fast-moving Sabre.
The F-86s got the best of it. By the end of the year, the Sabres had shot down at least eight MiGs, with two more probably destroyed. Only one Sabre had been lost. However, as the UN forces retreated into South Korea, Fifth Air Force lost its forward airfields and had to pull the Sabres back to Japan, where they could not reach the MiG stronghold along the Yalu. In February 1951, the enemy ruled the skies in a wedge-shaped area between the Chongchon and the Yalu that US pilots called MiG Alley.
As MacArthurs ground forces regrouped and pushed northward again, the F-86s and F-84s returned to their Korean bases and resumed operations from there in March. Seoul was recaptured in June 1951, and the US Eighth Army advanced a short distance into North Korea.
F-86 Sabres from the 336th Fighter Squadron fly out of Kimpo AB, South Korea, on a MiG hunting mission.(Photo by Robert Lund via Warren Thompson)
It was about 200 miles to MiG Alley from the Sabre bases at Kimpo and Suwon. Fuel limitations allowed the F-86 to remain in MiG Alley for about 20 minutes, and less if they engaged in combat. Fifth Air Force staggered the missions so the next flight of F-86s arrived before the previous patrol had to depart. Time in the battle area was not a factor for the MiG pilots, who could wait until the F-86s approached before launching from Antung and other Manchurian bases across the river.
As always, the F-86s were outnumbered. In June 1951, the Soviets and Chinese had more than 445 MiGs in theater, whereas the US had only 44 Sabres in Korea and another 45 in Japan. Nevertheless, these few squadrons were able to seize air superiority, which the F-86s held continuously to the end of the war. Between December 1950 and July 1951, the Sabres shot down 41 MiGs while losing five of their own.
By then, the headstrong MacArthur had been ousted from command. The strategic priorities for Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were the defense of the United States and Western Europe. They were committed to restoring the independence of South Korea, but they did not want a full-scale land war in Asia. MacArthur argued that the Far East was more important than Europe, insisted on pushing to the Yalu, and wanted to challenge the Chinese. When MacArthur went public with his arguments, Truman fired him on April 9 and replaced him with Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway.
In July 1951, the war entered a new phase. Both sides gave up on the idea of decisive victory and the objective became an armistice on favorable terms. The ground battle line settled into a stalemate near the border between North and South Korea. For the next two years, the goals were to negotiate from a position of strength in the truce talks and to secure advantageous force dispositions and deployments approaching the armistice.
By tacit mutual understanding, neither side pressed the air battle as hard as it could have. To preclude widening the war, US bombers and fighters did not strike the air bases or supply lines in Manchuria, and the F-86s were forbidden to follow the MiGs across the Yalu, even in hot pursuit.
F-86 pilots violated the prohibition regularly, but only one border crosserCapt. Dolphin D. Overton IIIwas ever fully punished for the transgression. It was Overtons bad luck that Swiss observers, crossing Manchuria en route to the peace talks at Panmunjom, saw the dogfight in which Overton was involved, well inside Chinese territory. The Air Force decided to make an example of Overton, stripped him of two Distinguished Flying Crosses, held up credit for five MiGs he had shot down, and sent him home summarily. Overton resigned his commission and his medals were not restored until years later.
The American side had sanctuaries as well. The MiGs did not pursue damaged Sabres over the US-controlled Yellow Sea. MiGs crossed the Yalu to attack Sabres and B-29 bombers in MiG Alley and sometimes farther south. However, aircraft from the Manchurian bases did not bomb or strafe UN installations or personnel, nor did they try to disrupt supply lines from South Korean ports to the battlefield. The United States had sent word through intermediaries that massed attacks on UN forces would lead to attacks on the bases from which the attacks originated. Besides, the Soviets and Chinese did not want to widen the war either.
These constraints did not apply to fighters or bombers operating from bases in North Korea. US airpower had put all such bases out of business in 1950, but in late 1951, the communist forces began construction of 34 airfields with runways of 5,000 feet or longer. If they succeeded in deploying MiGs to these fields, they could extend the no-mans-land of MiG Alley all the way south to Pyongyang and be in a position to challenge US air superiority over the front lines. There were also about 100 Il-28 jet bombers in the theater, big trouble if they were able to operate with MiG escorts from bases in North Korea.
B-29 bombers, protected by fighter escorts, struck hard at the airfields under construction and the MiGs were not able to stop them. By the end of the year, the base-building effort in North Korea had stopped. In all of North Korea, only two airfields were in operation, Sinuiju (known to the Americans as Sunny Joe) and Uiju, on the southern side of the Yalu, opposite Antung.
This sequence of photos shows a MiG pilot ejecting from his aircraft after having been hit with crippling fire from an F-86 Sabre. (USAF photos)
Ironically, the only enemy aircraft to bomb Fifth Air Force bases during the war was Bedcheck Charlie, a hopelessly obsolete Polikarpov Po-2 wood and fabric biplane that flew so slow (around 80 knots) and low that it was difficult for air defenses to handle. The Bedcheck Charlie name derived from its tendency to show up around midnight. PO-2s visited South Korea almost every night in June 1952, and among the targets bombed was the Presidents mansion in Seoul. These raids amounted mostly to a nuisance but sometimes did real damage.
In 1952, the enemy air order of battle in the Far East stabilized at about 7,000 aircraft, of which 5,000 were Russian, 2,000 were Chinese, and 270 were North Korean. At peak strength, the communist forces had more than 900 MiGs in the theater. USAF never had more than 150 Sabres there.
The Soviets kept two air divisions on duty in Manchuria, regularly rotating them out as entire units and replacing them with fresh ones. At least 12 Soviet air divisions were rotated through Korea during the war to gain experience and training. The Americans noted a cycle of competence among the MiG pilots, peaking as a division finished its tour. By 1953, the Russians had largely dropped the pretense that they were Chinese or North Koreans and the MiGs often flew openly with Soviet markings. And, as the war stretched on, Chinese and North Korean pilots took on a rising share of the MiG-15 missions.
The MiGs had some good days, but the Sabres had more of them. On June 30, 1953, the Sabres shot down 16 MiGs, the largest number of victories in a single day, although they came close to that total on at least three other occasions. The sighting of enemy aircraft south of MiG Alley became increasingly rare. According to a contemporary joke, soldiers identified any fighter or bomber they saw as a B-2. When newcomers asked, Whats a B-2? the veterans would answer, Be too bad if they werent ours.
The B-29s systematically destroyed such industry as existed in North Korea, and the Soviets maintained their numerical advantage in the air only by replacing the MiGs and other aircraft shot down by the Americans. By the end of the war, not a single airfield in North Korea remained in condition for the landing of jet aircraft.
Both sides upgraded their fighter forces. The Soviet Union introduced the MiG-15 bis with improved capabilities, and the US deployed the E and F models of the F-86. Dissatisfied with the performance of the Sabres machine gun, the Air Force developed a 20 mm cannon to replace it. The war was nearly over before combat testing of the cannon was completed, but the cannon became standard armament for the follow-on F-86H.
When Stalin died March 5, 1953, the Russians shifted their attention to the struggle for succession of power in the Soviet Union. By early May, the Russians had withdrawn from Manchuria and turned the MiGs over to the Chinese and the North Koreans. The communist forces launched their last big ground offensive in June, hoping to establish new demarcation lines before the truce, but the operation failed for lack of air support. The war ended with the armistice on July 27.
Capt. Joseph McConnell Jr. in the cockpit of his aircraft Beauteous Butch II. McConnell became the top US ace in the Korean war. Note the 16 kill stars on the fuselage. (USAF photo)
The final score of the F-86 against the MiG-15 has been hashed and rehashed many times. According to the Air Forces assessment immediately following the war, US fighters overall had shot down 14 enemy aircraft for every USAF aircraft lost in battle. The ratio in MiG Alley was said to be 10-to-1, with the Sabres shooting down 792 MiGs while losing 78 of their own.
The ratio of victories in air-to-air battles has undergone several revisions over the years, said Air Force historian William T. YBlood in a study commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Korean War. After the war, the USAF believed it had inflicted a 14-to-1 margin over the communists in the air-to-air battles. The ratio was dropped to 10-to-1 following further studies of the claims. Later studies suggest that a 7-to-1 ratio is a truer indication of these battles. The Chinese acknowledged losing 224 MiG-15s. The Russians have not revealed their losses, but neither have they disputed the 7-to-1 ratio.
Forty-one American pilotsincluding one from the Marine Corps and one from the Navywere aces in the Korean War, shooting down five or more enemy aircraft. Most of the aces were older airmen, many with experience in World War II. The top ace was Capt. Joseph C. McConnell Jr., with 16 victories. He had been a B-24 navigator during World War II. The 39 USAF aces accounted for almost 40 percent of the Sabre victories. The leading Soviet ace was Capt. Nikolai V. Sutyagin, who claimed 21 American aircraft, including 15 Sabres, shot down.
Navy and Marine fighters had a substantial part in the war, but mostly in air-to-ground missions. Navy and Marine pilots flying the F-9F Panther got a few MiGs, but their airplane was not truly competitive. Some aviators from those services flew as exchange pilots with the Air Force. Among them was a future astronaut, Marine Corps Maj. John H. Glenn, who shot down three MiGs as an F-86 pilot in 1953.
Korea is often thought of as a ground war in which airpowerespecially the fighter engagements in MiG Alley, far from the ground battle linesis regarded as peripheral if not insignificant. In actuality, airpower, both in air-to-ground and air-to-air roles, was of critical strategic importance. Air superiority missions accounted for nine percent of total Air Force sorties. Another 48 percent were interdiction, and 20 percent were close air support. After UN forces held at the Pusan Perimeter and then broke out, Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, commander of the US Eighth Army, said, If it had not been for the air support that we received from the Fifth Air Force, we would not have been able to stay in Korea.
The engagements in MiG Alley seemed distant because the F-86s kept them that way. Had the enemy been able to deploy MiG-15s and Il-28 bombers farther south, attack the base infrastructure, interdict supply lines, and bring airpower to bear on UN ground forces, the war might have had a different outcome. As it was, UN forces on the ground as well as bombers and transports were able to operate without much concern about enemy air attack.
It is remarkable that the F-86 pilots were able to prevail by a 7-to-1 margin, if not better, over the highly rated MiG-15s which outnumbered them by a wide margin. Moreover, the Sabres held air superiority over nearly all of Korea for the entire war. Not many air forces have ever done better than that.
John T. Correll was editor in chief of Air Force Magazine for 18 years and is now a contributing editor. His most recent article, The Emergence of Smart Bombs, appeared in the March issue.
For some reason MacArthur did not think there were 300,000 Chinese on the North Korean border nor many MiGs in China either. Was this an intel failure?
Part of the problem is that Mac Arthur had gotten to the point where he didn't want to hear any news that was contrary to his oracular judgment. His G2 was an abject lackey and fawner and this vitiated Charles Willoughby’s rather formidable intellect. The Old Man wanted the war over by the early part of 1951 and he wasn't going to spoil his pipe dream
Willoughby is himself one of the most peculiar figures in American military history. This is an old but very well informed biographical sketch of this curious customer:
Heidelberg to Madrid
The Story of General Willoughby
by FRANK KLUCKHOHN
The Reporter (New York Journal) August 19, 1952
PROMINENT Americans have, while traveling in foreign countries, often succeed in embarrassing the men charged with carrying out the U.S. government's policies in those countries. The most recent and striking example of this was provided by Major General Charles A. Willoughby, U.S. Army, retired, who last January turned up in Spain, where he was an honored guest of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Willoughby had served as General of the Army Douglas MacArthur's chief of intelligence from 1941 throughout the Pacific war, the occupation of Japan, and the first stages of the Korean War, until MacArthur's removal in April, 1951. He had retired from the Army in August, 1951, and since then had played no important part in MacArthur's New York headquarters.
Early in April of this year an American military mission arrived in Spain to discuss with Franco and his Ministers the question of establishing U.S. air and naval bases there. Before the negotiations started, the members of the mission knew how delicate their job would be made by the touchiness of the Spaniards. But the Americans had little warning of the way their task would be complicated by Willoughby. The latter, by casting himself as a sort of unofficial spokesman and go-between with Franco, succeeded in building up considerably the Caudillo’s confidence at the bargaining table.
The Pentagon hadand still hasa modest notion of Franco's military worth. The U.S. Navy wants only the use of anchorages rather than shore installations in Spain; the Air Force does not consider the Iberian Peninsula the hub of its global strategy; and the U.S. Army has little inclination to try to replace the decrepit equipment of the Spanish Army while its North Atlantic Treaty partners are howling for matériel.
Franco and his advisers feel that Spain has a very great deal to offer. The Americans, they believe, should be prepared to accept and pay well for their country's anti-Communist sentiments, the barrier of its towering Pyrenees, and its 450,000-man army. The $100 million set aside by Congress in August, 1950, for economic aid to Spain Franco considered simply a token. The first job the Americans faced, then, was to make it clear that they had not come to Spain to build a Maginot Line along the Pyrenees or to refloat the Spanish Armada.
It was Willoughby who took it upon himself to encourage, rather than help dispel, such illusions on the part of the Caudillo. At a moment when American negotiators felt particularly depressed by the stiff Spanish demands, Willoughby said in a speech to the Spaniards, “You can count on the friendship of U.S. naval and air circles.” When he was asked in a press conference, “Do you think it is the military people of America who best understand Spain?” he answered, according to the story in the Madrid newspaper Ya, “Yes, especially the naval people, who are very sensible.”
‘Safe Behind the Pyrenees’
Although Willoughby described his stay in Spain as being “without official character,” his initial audience with Franco lasted an hour and three quartersextremely long for Franco audiences. From that time until his departure from Spain in July, Willoughby remained in constant contact with Franco's Ministers. During Willoughby’s stay at the Velásquez Hotel, the Generalissimo was at great pains to provide him with government limousines and similar official amenities.
During a lecture, in the course of which Willoughby described Spain as “a cradle of supermen,” he said, “I have come to Spain behind the Pyrenees than in Paris behind the Rhine.” He neglected to explain why he wouldn't have felt even safer staying in New York behind the Atlantic, but the slur on NATO was obvious enough.
Those who knew something of Willoughby’s background were not greatly surprised at his paying these sudden attentions to Generalissimo Franco. John Gunther has reported that while he was gathering material for his book The Riddle of MacArthur, he was at dinner one evening with Willoughby when the General suddenly proposed a toast to “The second greatest military commander in the world, Francisco Franco” (MacArthur obviously being the greatest). Willoughby told one Madrid audience that at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School he had lectured in favor of Franco as early as 1936. After he had given an impassioned account of his pro-Franco sentiments at a Falangist luncheon in Madrid, Willoughby was toasted by Fernández Cuesta, Secretary General of the Falangist Party, in these words: “I am happy to know a fellow Falangist and reactionary.”
General Willoughby has been described by an exceptionally candid Japanese who once worked with him in Tokyo as “a stout, obdurate German-American officer like a bull. He has sharp brains and nerves which bring about once in a while a sudden burst of temper. But, on the other hand, he is also a diplomatic person . . .” Willoughby has been more succinctly described by a fellow as “our own Junker general.”
In the biographies Willoughby has provided to the Army and to Who's Who in America, he is described as having been born in Heidelberg, Germany, on March 8, 1892, the son of Fricher (Baron) T. von Tscheppe-Weidenbach and of Emma von Tscheppe-Weidenbach, née Emma Willoughby, of Baltimore, Maryland.
The mystery which has so often surrounded Willoughby apparently goes back as far as the moment of his birth. Last year a German news magazine, Der Spiegel, which had become interested in tracing the General’s noble ancestry, came up with the following item:
“In Who's Who in America, 1950-1951 edition, Willoughby is given as the son of Freiherr T. von Tscheppe und Weidenbach and of Emma von Tscheppe und Weidenbach, née Willoughby; born in Heidelberg on March 8, 1892. However, in the Heidelberg registry under the date March 8, 1892, only the birth of one Adolf August Weidenbach is entered, with ropemaker August Weidenbach as father and Emma, née Langhäuser, as mother . . .”
The Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch der Briefadeligen, a standard catalogue of the German gentry, does nothing to help clear up the confusion about Willoughby’s origin. According to it, General Franz Erich Theodor Tülff von Tschepe (with one “p”) und Weidenbach not only lacked the title “Freiherr” but did not receive letters patent from Wilhelm II entitling him to use the surname “von Tschepe und Weidenbach” until 1913. He had five children, none of them born in 1892.
One of Willoughby’s friends from his early days in the U.S. has stated that both the General’s parents were German and that the name Willoughby was a rough translation of Weidenbach, which means “willow brook.”
When queried by the writer of this article about his birth, Willoughby said he was and orphan and had never known his father, and finally said the Who's Who version of his biography was correct as far as he was concerned.
Monocles and Monuments
The details of Willoughby’s career after his arrival in this country are less ambiguous. He came here in 1910, at the age of eighteen, and enlisted in the Army as Adolf Charles Weidenbach. Three years later, having reached the rank of sergeant, he left the service to enter the senior class of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Graduated from Gettysburg, he studied for an M.A. at the University of Kansas at Lawrence and then taught languages at the Howe School for girls, in Howe, Indiana, and at Racine College in Wisconsin. Then in 1916 he re-entered the Army and was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry. He served on the Mexican border and later was sent to France, where he took aviation training, flew as a pursuit pilot, and helped train Allied fliers.
After the First World War Willoughby reverted to his old branch, the infantry, and was presently sent as military attaché in turn to Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. In the 1920’s he was later assigned to various staff schools as an instructor and lecturer, and began building a brilliant reputation as a military historian and expert on military intelligence.
Most of those who have known Willoughby agree on his distinctly Prussian quality. “But,” a fellow officer has said, “there's probably more of von Stroheim than von Rundstedt about him.” He has always favored natty custom-tailored uniforms, and has at times sported a monocle. He possesses a strong sense of drama, which is often reflected in his mode of expression. He is remembered at the Army Command and General Staff School as one of the most gifted thespians ever to play romantic leads in the dramatic club. His literary style is well typified by his description of MacArthur's journey from Corregidor to Australia on orders from Washington as a “dramatic breakthrough” and in the characterization of a military history written while he was at Fort Benning as “monumental.”
General MacArthur met Willoughby when the latter was a captain teaching at Fort Leavenworth in the mid-1930’s, and was, according to legend, greatly impressed by him. In 1940 MacArthur, then serving as Field Marshal of the Philippine Commonwealth, sent for Willoughby and made him his supply officer, and then his Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence.
In Manila, Willoughby, who had shown a great affinity for genteel Hispanic atmosphere while an attaché in Latin America, began spending more and more time around the Spanish Club. Its members were mostly Spaniards who had been born in the Philippines but had chosen to maintain their allegiance to the motherland rather than to the new Commonwealth. The families that dominated the club controlled most of the wealth of the islands; moreover, fully eighty per cent of them were ardent Fracoists and active Falangists. The most formidable names were those of the Sorianos, Elizaldes, Brias-Roxases, and Zobels, who among them held most of the strings of Philippine business and banking. Before long Willoughby became known as the close friend of Andres Soriano, the Spanish Club's most influential member and one of the richest men in the Philippines.
Soriano was not only Willoughby’s friend; he was also the good friend of General MacArthur and of another principal MacArthur assistant, Major General Courtney Whitney, who before the war was a lawyer and promoter in Manila. Soriano hadand still hasmining interests, breweries, airlinges, shipping, radio stations, textiles, jute plants, and the Philippine concessions for the products of many freat American firms. During the Spanish Civil War, Soriano was the principal Franco supporter in the Philippines, making large contributions to the Falangist cause, serving as Franco's honorary consul general in Manila, and receiving the highest Franco decorations.
Under Two Flags
Just before Pearl Harbor, it was felt in Manila not only that war was imminent between Japan and the United States but that Franco would be in it, too, on the side of the Axis. In that event, Spanish holdings in the Philippines would certainly be impounded. Soriano rushed to divest himself of the Spanish citizenship he had hung on to so long and so proudly. The Civil Liberties Union of the Philippines contested in court his application for Philippine naturalization, holding that because of his previous political activities Soriano did not meet the requirements. Soriano, however, was quickly and quietly granted his papers.
When the Japanese attacked, Soriano volunteered and became a captain in the Philippine Army. He was at Bataat and Corregidor, and left the Philippines by plane with President Quezon shortly after MacArthur and Willoughby made their memorable dash to Australia by PT boast and plane.
Although he had been a Philippine citizen for only a few months, Soriano, who shortly thereafter arrived in Washington with Quezon, was named by the latter to serve as Secretary of Finance in the Philippine government-in-exile. There was criticism on the floor of Congress from Democratic Representative John Coffee of Washington about such a pronounced Francoist and Fascist being a member of a U.S.-supported Allied government while the United States was at war with the Fascist powers, and there were calls for Soriano’s resignation. At this point Soriano received an invitation from MacArthur's headquarters in Australia to join the staff immediately as a colonel. Although Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes protested to Secretary of War Henry Stimson about the appointment, Soriano took the post, was with MacArthur and Willoughby in the triumphant return to the Philippines, and presently found himself serving the Supreme Commander as one of his two principal advisers on Philippine politics and business. According to one of his American fellow officers in Manila who was responsible for investigating collaborationist charges, Soriano was able on occasion to use his position to protect some of the old friends in the Spanish Club who had survived the Japanese occupation remarkably well.
Gallantry and Hyperbole
Of Willoughby’s bravery there is no doubt. On Bataan, while on detached reconnaissance, he rallied a company whose captain had been badly wounded under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire and led it back into action. For his heroism at Buna, that ghastly early jungle battle of the Second World War, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
But Willoughby’s real job was, after all, intelligence, not command of troops. During the war, the writer observed at first hand the results of much intelligence work by Willoughby that was sound and effective. Many correspondents and military historians, however, have pointed to a number of striking miscalculations.
In early 1944, in the largest landing of the Pacific war to that date, four infantry divisions were employed in connection with taking Hallandia, Dutch New Guinea. Willoughby had reported sizable Japanese forces there. The entire Pacific Fleet stood out to sea screening the landing. Surrendering to this mighty force, there appeared some two thousand frightened Japanese warehouse and supply troops. Because of wartime censorship and the fact that the operation was theoretically in line with MacArthur's policy of “hitting them where they ain't,” the intelligence misappraisal was conveniently filed and forgotten.
The inadequacy of U.S. counterintelligence operations at the beginning of the occupation of Japan, although not primarily Willoughby’s responsibility, has been directly attributed to his influence. Before the occupation began, Willoughby told this reporter, “We are going into Japan in battle formation and most of counterintelligence won't arrive in Japan for six weeks.”
The “battle-formation” plan had been worked out because of the likelihood of last-ditch kamikaze attacks by young Japanese fanatics. But counterintelligence was not under Willoughby’s command, although he had often tried to get control of it, and for this reason, among others, it was generally believed that he had used his top-echelon influence to ensure that it received a low priority for transportation to Japan.
As a result of this decision, the writer and others who were in Tokyo when the occupation began watched the Japanese Foreign Office, Radio Tokyo, and the military openly burning in the streets documents and records they did not want our authorities to see, with no counterintelligence men there to stop them.
General Robert Eichelberger, then commanding our Eighth Army, lacked the benefit of counterintelligence advice when he welcomed as a “nice fellow” the commander of the Japanese First Army in Yokohama, General Doihara, who, as Japan's top army intelligence officer, had engineered the 1931 “incident” leading to Japan's taking over Manchuria. It was only the next day, after Eichelberger’s action had been reported in the States, that MacArthur personally ordered Doihara’s arrest.
One evening not long after the occupation began, there was a raid on the Hotel Marunuchi by American M.P.s looking for a ring of black-market operators. Unfortunately, the M.P.s disturbed the occupants of a suite where General Willoughby was having dinner with the stranded Italian Fascist Ambassador to Japan and members of his staff. While serving as military attaché in Ecuador, Willoughby had received a decoration from Mussolini's governmentthe Order of Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro. The General was furious at being disturbed in his entertainment, and gave the M.P.s a good piece of his mind.
What was probably intended to be Willoughby’s most “monumental” achievementbut turned out to be his least publicized venturewas the great Tokyo historical project. This was to be a three- or four-volume glorification of the war in the Pacific as conducted by MacArthur. Originally begun by G-3 in 1943 as a routine record, it was reassigned to G-2 in the fall of 1946 by order of MacArthur who was dissatisfied with the progress being made.
Willoughby took over with his usual flair for the dramatic. He not only assigned much of the G-2 staff to work on it, but added to SCAP’s payroll an impressive group of fifteen or more former Japanese admirals, generals, and colonels to contribute their testimony to the story of MacArthur's triumphs. Presently the mushrooming historical unit occupied an entire floor of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha Building, one of the largest in Tokyo. Its work was shrouded in particularly dense secrecy. Everyone was required to destroy his notes and other papers when finished with them and to sign out for any material taken from the unit. At the printing plant, manuscripts were given special security handling, and after every press run the waste paper was collected and burned.
Ultimately the project was reduced to three volumes, entitled Campaigns of MacArthur in the Pacific, Japanese Operations Against MacArthur, and MacArthur in Japan: Military Phases. Willoughby devoted most of his personal attention to the second volume, Japanese Operations, since he had conceived the idea and had hired the Japanese specialists to help him. He intended it to be the finest literary and artistic creation of its kind. Several who saw page proofs in Tokyo report that it is indeed a magnificent job, ornamented by fine maps and fifteen or twenty color platesmany of the latter from specially commissioned paintings by prominent Japanese artists.
Up to the fall of 1949, progress reports on the history were occasionally sent to the Pentagon. After that date they were abruptly discontinued. The reason, according to employees of the unit, was very simple: The Pentagon had reserved the right to review and edit the history before publication. Since MacArthur intended the work to be the basis of his personal memoirs, such interference could not be tolerated.
The Pentagon Waits
That was the last the Pentagon hear of the projectat least officially. By the end of 1950 the three volumes (numbering well over 3,000 pages together) were completed, assembled in four sets of bound page proof, and were packed off to the U.S. in MacArthur's luggage when he made his farewell to Tokyo a few months later. All other records of the project were ordered destroyed.
On the basis of physical cost per volume, it was probably the most expensive publishing venture of our time. It was certainly the most mysterious.
This account of the historical project is based on the testimony of a number of people who worked on it. When asked about it recently, however, General Willoughby refused to concede that such a history existed at all. The General brushed the matter aside, saying that the only historical work his G-2 staff had undertaken in Tokyo was the preparation of twelve or more volumes of routine monographs on various aspects of the Pacific war, all of which had been sent to Washington and were in current use.
It is definitely known, however, that the Pentagon has been trying for a long time to get hold of a set of the three “master” volumes, perhaps to discover how the Pacific war came out. To date it has had no success. The Office of Military History, Department of the Army, showed a certain embarrassment when queried about the matter.
“We have no copies,” they said. “We have never seen them.” What has happened to the four sets is known presumably only to General MacArthur and perhaps to General Willoughby.
Spies and Saboteurs
In Tokyo General Willoughby also devoted himself to the study of materials from the Japanese secret-service files on the case of Richard Sorge, a German Communist who had established a successful Soviet spy apparatus in Tokyo during the war. Sorge had gained the confidence of the Nazi Ambassador to Japan, had become the Embassy's press attaché, and had then fed to Moscow an enormous stream of information about the military plans of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. He had been apprehended and executed by the Japanese just before Pearl Harbor.
Willoughby’s research on the Sorge case resulted in his book Shanghai Conspiracy, which gave a detailed account of Red espionage in Japan, and revealed the parts played by various American Communists.
No account of Willoughby’s activities in Tokyo if fully illuminating unless it includes something about his vendettas with critics, non-admirers, and those guilty of lèse-majesté against MacArthur. It is said that Willoughby sometimes devoted as much energy to his dossiers on newspaper infidels and heretics as he did to his reports on enemy troop dispositions.
One of the most interesting cases was that of William Costello of the Columbia Broadcasting System, who decided early in the game that he preferred digging up his own material about Japanese conditions rather than using the MacArthur handouts. He was complimented by his home office, but in Tokyo he began to hear subtle hints and suggestions that the Supreme Commander was distressed. The erring reporter was subjected to a war of nerves. A friend called and casually dropped the information that Costello had better watch himself, because counterintelligence agents had informed them that G-2 had in its possession his old “Communist card” from California. Costello had never been a Communist, a sympathizer, an innocent fronter, or a Californian, and he was not impressed. The same kind of reports and gossip cropped out at other levels in occupation circles. Costello fought back. At dinners, cocktail parties, and official interviews, he spoke his mind openly and vigorously about General Willoughby. The showdown came in the spring and summer of 1948, when General MacArthur's chief of staff repeated at a dinner party the unsupported assertion that Costello was a Communist. The latter, knowing that Willoughby’s agents monitored all outgoing press cables, promptly wired his home office that he had traced the slander directly to its source and was preparing to take action. The feud ended officially some weeks later when General Willoughby’s secretary telephoned and invited Costello to an elaborate stag dinner that the General was giving.
There has been much evidence that the Bataan Boys were not among themselves a happy family, and that Willoughby and Whitney were constantly feuding for MacArthur's favor, with Whitney generally winning out. In Tokyo, Willoughby tried to wrest the main role in military government away from Whitney, but failed. Earlier, in the second Manila chapter, he had tried to get counterintelligence away from Brigadier General Elliot Thorpe (not a Bataan Boy) and had failed there too. This has been given as a reason for his apparent obstructionism toward counterintelligence during the entry into Japan. He was particularly annoyed with Thorpe because in Manila the counterintelligence chief insisted on investigating Soriano’s Falangist friends.
Soriano became a United States citizen in 1945, again with the recommendation of General MacArthur and again over the protest of Harold Ickes. Said Ickes: “I wrote immediately to the judge who had granted him an honor which, in my opinion, he did not merit. The judge replied that there had been presented to him a eulogistic letter over the signature of General MacArthur, acclaiming the character of Colonel Soriano and supporting his aspirations for American citizenship.”
In Tokyo in 1949, Willoughby boasted to this writer about how he had kept General William J. Donovan's O.S.S. operatives out of MacArthur's theater during the Second World War and had done “a better job far cheaper” with his own organization. In 1950, after Admiral Joy, then ranking naval commander in Korea, and the Air Force brass had praised the Central Intelligence Agency, the successor of O.S.S., for doing the job behind the lines before the Inchon landings in September, General Willoughby took public exception, and continued to make life somewhat less than easy for the C.I.A. in Korea.
Korea: Alarums and Excursions
In the months before the Korean War began, Willoughby was filing regular reports with the Pentagon. In these reports Willoughby actually called the turn in Korea with surprising accuracy. In January, 1950, he predicted a North Korean invasion for April. In March he revised his estimate and said the attack would come in Juneas it did. The difficulty was that Willoughby had acquired a reputation, justly or unjustly, for doctoring his reports to cover all contingencies, and for crying “Wolf!” about once a month.
One correspondent explained, “Willoughby on the one hand tried to claim he had predicted the original North Korean invasion, and on the other hand he tried to disavow responsibility for intelligence in that area.” In justice to Willoughbysince he did issue warnings and since guessing the timing of an aggressor's offensive is never an exact sciencehe probably did as much as possible in the circumstances.
But it is also a fact that when John Foster Dulles was briefed by General Willoughby a day or two before the outbreak of the Korean War, the G-2 chief made no predictions about Korea. Instead, he warned of dangers in Hong Kong, Indo-China, and the Philippines.
The weeks of the Yalu River debacle at the end of 1950 were exceedingly trying ones for Willoughby. He wanted to make everyone feel that he had reported that the Chinese were massing at the Yalu and had warned that they would attack, and at the same time he found it embarrassing to explain why MacArthur had not heeded his warnings and had gone ahead with his “home-by-Christmas” offensive with an inadequate force. Willoughby revealed in a Madrid speech this year that he did not know when the Chinese crossed into Korea.
The Great Profile
Many American correspondents recall Willoughby’s famous “profile conference” in connection with the Yalu disaster. In an extraordinary session with the press, during which Willoughby mopped his brow a good deal, the General offered the newspapermen the following explanation:
That when MacArthur ordered the “end of the war” and “home-by-Christmas” offensive, he did know that his troops faced an enemy potential of 300,000 men on both sides of the Yalu.
That there were thirty Chinese divisionsabout 200,000 menmassed on the north side of the Yalu within marching distance of the front:
That the Chinese began crossing the Yalu “piecemeal” in mid-October, 1950.
When asked why MacArthur ordered his offensive in the face of information that he was outnumbered three to one, Willoughby replied, “We couldn't just sit passively by. We had to attack and find out the enemy's profile.”
“Finding a profile,” according to some military men, is purely a reconnaissance task, for which a commander can use a large force, but not generally his whole army, as seems to have been the case in the Yalu defeat. In any event, General Willoughby was furious with correspondents who questioned the logic of the operation.
Speculation about Willoughby’s exact responsibility in the matter will probably not end until all of the SCAP records are gone over by some conscientious and impartial historian. There is, of course, the possibility that Willoughby served as the whipping boy, but his loyalty to his old chief would probably prevent him from ever divulging what really happened.
After his retirement Willoughby launched a broadside in Cosmopolitan against certain correspondents and commentators who had rapped MacArthur's strategy. His targets included Homer Bigart of the New York Herald Tribune, one of the most able war correspondents and a Pulitzer Prize winner; Hal Boyle, front-line correspondent for the Associated Press; Hanson Baldwin, military specialist of the New York Times; Joseph Alsop, syndicated columnist; and Drew Pearson, columnist and radio commentator. There was nothing diplomatic in Willoughby’s handling of these MacArthur critics; to him they were “rag-pickers of American literature,” addicted to “yellow journalism” and “sensational exaggeration,” whose reporting furnished “aid and comfort to the enemy.”
The men under attack, a notably vocal group, all replied with vigor. The mildest reply was that of Hanson Baldwin, who said: “As an intelligence officer, General Willoughby was widely and justly criticized by Pentagon officials as well as in the papers. His . . . article is as misleading and inaccurate as were some of his intelligence reports.” Gordon Walker, correspondent and now assistant foreign editor of the Christian Science Monitor, said: “There is strong evidence . . . that General MacArthur's staff withheld its own intelligence information on Chinese intervention . . . from the President and from front-line corps and division commanders. . . . Frontline commanders ordered their troops into battle without prior knowledge that they faced overwhelming odds...”
When Willoughby got back to the United States from Spain last month, his plans seemed highly indefinite. He emphasized to this writer that he had returned not aboard a Spanish liner, as he had gone over, but on a T.W.A. plane. He spoke wistfully of General Albert Wedemeyer’s Taftist organization, which he had joined a few weeks before the Eisenhower deluge at the Republican Convention. Despite his remark last year, “I expect to join [MacArthur] to offer whatever modest services I can render,” he had been in the country for several days and had received no summons from the Waldorf Towers.
People who know both Whitney and Willoughby say that in any struggle between them that in any struggle between them for MacArthur's favor, Whitney was bound to win. Willoughby, they say, was always flattering and ornamental, but Whitney, with his background as a corporation lawyer, his business connections in the Philippines, and his utility as a general mouthpiece, could always be of more value to MacArthur. One proof of this seems to be that Whitney has remained at the Waldorf Towers taking care of the world's greatest military commander's public and private relations, while Willoughby has recently had to content himself with the world's second greatest military commander, Francisco Franco.
“Ironically, the only enemy aircraft to bomb Fifth Air Force bases during the war was Bedcheck Charlie, a hopelessly obsolete Polikarpov Po-2 wood and fabric biplane that flew so slow (around 80 knots) and low that it was difficult for air defenses to handle. The Bedcheck Charlie name derived from its tendency to show up around midnight. PO-2s visited South Korea almost every night in June 1952, and among the targets bombed was the Presidents mansion in Seoul. These raids amounted mostly to a nuisance but sometimes did real damage.”
I believe that an episode of MASH was based on this. I wonder if it was done single pilot? He must have been a character.
The info on this guy puts things into more perspective on Korea.
Here’s an interesting character from back in the day:
The six .50s were up to the job and they were guided by radar for accurate gun ranging against the MIGs.
One of the reasons for the intelligence failures was Mao’s suddden reversal of his refusal of Stalin’s requests for Communist Chinese intervention in the Korean War. Stalin was alarmed at the American advances into North Korea, so he requested Chinese intervention in exchange for Soviet Russian armaments and financial support. Mao refused the requests, but then changed his mind and gave the orders to proceed with the Chinese intervention with the support of a Soviet Russian jet fighter Division, Soviet air defense forces, and Soviet intelligence support.
The MiG-15 aircraft were a surprise due to the Soviet origins and the means by which they were shipped into the theater in crates marked as industrial equipment. Stalin and Kim-il-Sung were frantic to put these forces into place before all of North Korea had fallen.
Here is another interesting case of an F-86 pilot ‘missing over Mig Alley’:
Sq/Ldr Graham Hulse
DFC, RAF, MIA
by Houston Tuel
Flight Lieutenant Graham Hulse arrived at Kimpo in September 1952. He was on loan from the RAF to the USAF for two years to gain experience in the F-86 Sabre. During World
War 2 Hulse was a Sgt Pilot in no. 122 and no. 81 Squadron in 1942-43, flying combat over Europe against the Luftwaffe, then transferred to no. 93 Squadron in the Far East. When he was shot down in Spring 1944, evading capture, he had 2 confirmed victories, plus a 3rd that he scored in April 1945 with no. 213 Squadron after being promoted to Flight Lieutenant. Houston Tuel - “A tall blonde, affable veteran of the Battle of Britain, he rapidly became one of our most admired and respected pilots. We listened intently to his accounts of his combat missions in defense of Britain, often told with self-deprecating humor. His skill as a story teller was legendary.
Shortly after his arrival at Kimpo, he was promoted to Squadron Leader, the RAF equivilant of major, and made commander of `C’ Flight in the 336th Squadron. Members of his flight practically idolized him. He made it very clear that he was just as interested in the success of the junior members of his flight as he was in his own personal success, sharing oppurtunities with them that they might not have had with a different flight commander.
As he neared the end of his tour in Korea, he opted to forego an extension beyond the usual 100 missions because he wanted to be home in England in time for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. He almost made it.
On March 1953, he took off on his 95th mission. Nearing the Yalu River, Hulse saw a MiG and attacked it, closing on him rapidly from behind. He fired, scoring numerous hits. The MiG began smoking profusely and decelerated, probably because of engine damage. Apparently believing the MiG had been rendered harmless, Hulse passed him on the right then made a sharp left turn, crossing directly in front of the MiG at a very close range. With what had to be a very lucky deflection shot, the MiG pilot fired his 37mm cannon, blowing several feet off of Hulse’s left wing.
Hulse’s wingman, Major Eugene Sommerich, had started firing at the MiG after Hulse broke off. His gun camera film dramatically recorded what happened subsequently.
The intelligence people were not overly generous in sharing what they knew with those of us at squadron level. So much of what we heard later had the credibility of rumors. That said, Hulse was seen to eject over the peninsula code-named `Long Dong’, and was reportedly seen on the ground alive both that day and the next.
The following day, the weather was non-operational and remained so for the next two weeks, at the end of which a massive but futile rescue operation was attempted. To the best of my knowledge, Sq/Ldr Graham Hulse, DFC, RAF, is still listed as Missing In Action.”
Sq/Ldr Hulse was officially credited with 3 air to air victories over MiG-15 jet fighters, including a .5 credit for the MiG that eventually also shot him down.