~~Fifty-Six~~

Stanley Grogan

68th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

5th Air Force

U.S. Air Force

I first became involved with the armed forces upon my graduation from Western High School, in Washington D.C, in January 1943, when I joined the Army ROTC at Georgetown University. Later, I was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent time in the 137th Infantry Training BN in Little Rock, Arkansas—I was eighteen years old.

* * * * * *

As dawn approached, on one chilly morning, Major Rogers Littlejohn—operations officer—appeared at the Itazuke alert shack dressed in fighting gear; I was his radar observer. The major had already flown fifty missions in the F-82 with First Lieutenant Leo Needham, his radar observer before transferring to jets—the F-94B Starfire.

Suddenly, “Scramble Red, vector 275°” sent us to our jet, “Leaping Lena.”

Rogers snapped the canopy shut as he revved up the engine. We went through our checklist and pulled onto the runway after receiving clearance from the tower. Those living close to the runway had their sleep interrupted by the roar of our afterburners.

After setting our course, an ominous voice from GCI (Ground Control Intercept) said, “Bogey at 11 o’clock, sixteen miles, angels unknown.” Our bogey was near the Straits of Tsushima. Ground control advised us (several minutes later) that “the blips had merged.” However, we couldn’t see the bogey. As we began a 360° turn—for a visual check—Rogers spotted the bird literally “on the deck.” He then told control, “We’ve got it Frogman (control’s call sign), we’re going down to investigate.”

I heard Rogers charge the guns as we crept up on the bogie’s tail. I was ready to read range distances for an accurate firing. Easing along the starboard side of his tail, we noticed the British insignia—another ally who did not file a flight plan. Flying alongside the flying boat, at almost a stall, we heard this interesting VHF message: “Why don’t ye join us for tea, Yanks?”

We waggled our wings in recognition of their message, then hit the afterburners and headed back to Itazuke.

* * * * * *

Suddenly, the loudspeaker blares, “Scramble Blue and Wingman,” sending ground crews, pilots, and their radar observers running. Men climbed into their cockpits, engines started, canopies snapped closed, and the surrounding silence was soon cracked by the roar of afterburners.

As they flew over the fog-shrouded sea, the F-94’s were vectored to an approaching bogey, by electronics experts on the ground. When reaching a certain point, the radar observer took over for the final interception of the approaching aircraft.

The weather was no hindrance in making interceptions. There were days when you could see fifteen miles in every direction; then there were days you had to penetrate black thunderheads.

Imagine yourself in the pilot’s seat on a misty pre-dawn morning when the “scramble” orders blare over the loudspeaker. A quick check of the weather reveals murky skies with “soup” all the way down to the deck. While looking for your “bogey” at 500mph, you see nothing but fog and scattered patches of water.

After take-off you lose all visual contact with the earth. As you watch your instruments, you receive instructions from the all-seeing radar men on the ground. And as the “bogey” approaches, the radar observer takes over. Now, your attention is divided between instrument flying and listening to your observer; both of you function as a perfectly coordinated team.

* * * * * *

During operations briefings, Operational Readiness Inspections always caused a bit of excitement. In one of these gaggles, Captain William Anthony and I were scrambled from Itazuke to intercept a bogey coming in from the north. My radar was working fine, as was my height range indicator, or “C” scan. I locked on to an object and we both noticed the “C” scan would not break lock, so I called “Punch” to Bill, who did not believe the call at first because he couldn’t see anything. A minute or so later, he called “Judy” to GCI, thereby thwarting plans of the ORI team to sneak past us.

* * * * * *

During my time at Misawa, I flew in both the F-82G and F-94B, as Radar Intercept Officer; my pilot was First Lieutenant James Albright.

Later, during a night scramble, Albright and his R/O, Lt. Jerry Baldwin, went to check out a passing submarine in the Straits of Tsushima—they disappeared from the radar screen.

* * * * * *

My time in Korea was split: my first tour of twenty night missions took place in 1951. My second tour took place in March of 1953, when I flew eleven missions. My first tour was in the F94B all-weather fighter with its six .50 caliber machine guns; the second was in the RB-29A.

During my first tour, I was a Radar Intercept Officer and all missions were flown at night—north of the bomb line. We tried to avoid the area around Pyongyang, with its heavy anti-aircraft guns. I was a Rocket Navigator, during my second tour, with the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron based at Yokota, Japan. All missions were flown at night with leaflet drops, at many points, over North Korea.

My first tour was with the 68th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. This outfit shot down the first two enemy aircraft of the war, on June 27, 1950.

* * * * * *

A “scramble” is a call for a fast take-off to intercept a bogey. Lt. George Aubill and I used to try to get airborne in ninety seconds, from the call to “wheels up” on take-off. We did this consistently in both training flights, and hot “scrambles” in Japan and Korea.

“Punch” meant you had a radar lock on the bogey and that you were taking over from the ground controlled radar. “Judy” was when you had control and were in the last stage of the intercept.

* * * * * *

Close calls were many. One night we were chasing “bed-check Charlie,” a YAK-9 open cockpit biplane that flew over allied positions dropping hand grenades. Our aircraft came close to being caught in cables that the North Koreans placed across valleys.

Another time we were flying in a RB-29A, and I watched as tracers from a .20mm cannon came across the top of our left wing. We were quite a few miles above the 38th parallel.

* * * * * *

With the news that forces from North Korea had crossed the 38th parallel, the commander of the 8th Fighter Bomber Wing was alerted to provide a task force to evacuate American dependents and citizens from Seoul. The 68th Fighter Squadron was attached to the 8th Air Force.

Shortly after General MacArthur ordered the evacuation from Seoul to Inchon, four aircraft from the 68th flew to Korea to provide cover for the Norwegian freighter Reinholt, which was evacuating personnel from Seoul. Air support was provided until the ship reached Japanese waters.

Before dawn on the 27th of June, transport planes left Itazuke accompanied by an F-82 escort. Shortly before noon, five North Korean fighters flew over Seoul headed for Kimpo Air Base. At 1150 hours, First Lieutenant William Hudson of the 68th, destroyed a Yak-11—the first aerial victory of the war. The second victory would come moments later as First Lieutenant Charles Moran, also of the 68th, destroyed a LA-7.

* * * * * *

I flew my last F-94B mission on March 17, 1952. I requested to be transferred to the 581st Air Resupply Squadron, in the Philippines. The reason for my request was that I was incapable of using the ejection seat of the radar observer’s cockpit without taking my knee caps off on the AN/APG-33 radar box. I commonly referred to this as “the TV set” to the ground crew.

During my full combat tour, I had made arrangements with the pilot to release the canopy—in case of an emergency—then roll the aircraft if conditions allowed him too. This would allow me to kick loose from the cockpit. Fortunately, no emergencies occurred during my tour.

From the 581st, I would transfer to the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron stationed at Yakota, Japan. I flew in the RB-29A as a radar navigator.

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