South Africa Johannesburg (2)

>> Hy Kim, are you going to have an interview with me about my time in Korea? Well it's so long ago, 1951. I was 20 years old, turned 21 there, and it was a great experience. We had just received our wings, qualified as pilots with few hours over qualifying, when they said it looked as though the Korean War would be over fairly soon, and we needed that experience. It didn't turn out that way. It all went on until 1953. So I was in 1951, it was a hectic year. It were very experienced pilots gone on the original squadron, and even with them and with us joining we had heavy losses. Almost 29 in the year 1951. Out of the total that we lost the war, 35. So in initial stages the anti aircraft was very bad. But I'm so pleased that I made it because it was an experience, a great experience. >> What was your rank at the time? >> I was a second lieutenant. Just shortly received my wings and we were commissioned when I was a second lieutenant. >> And how old were you? >> I was 20 years old then, turned 21 during my tour there. >> How about the rest of the pilots? >> Well as I said, you know, they were many of World War II pilots, they were just completing their tour already and were returning back to base and we then went as a replacement. And the powers to be thought it would be a great experience before the war would stop and it didn't, in fact, as I said it continued until '53. >> Did you volunteer or were you ...? >> Yes. >> Why? >> Well, you know what? I was in Korea, decided on the Air Force as my career and my country had committed to helping the United Nations in the war so it was quite a natural thing. You volunteer and sign on the dotted line and off we went, you know? And looking back, I'm pleased about the great experience. The sad part about it having lost so many close friends. It was such a short period of time. >> During the war you lost many friends? >> Yes. Well as I said, you know, it was just in that one first year, 1951, those 29 pilots were lost. We lost a total of 35 so in the initial stages. The anti aircraft and so forth was really hectic, but as that sort of decreased, the losses diminished also. And towards the end, they didn't fly the Mustang anymore like I did. They flew the Saber, which is not as vulnerable, you know, as the Mustang was. >> The Mustang is very, very famous. Why is it so famous? >> It started as a great aircraft in World War II, and it was vulnerable in that it had a coolant system, wiping, running, you know, and being so easily damaged by anti aircraft fire. That was the only drawback about it, but it handled well. The endurance was very long. Compared to the Spitfire that I flew previously, which had a very limited flight endurance, the Mustang had a very long endurance. They were flights up to 7 hours, you know, with dropped tanks and so forth. >> Do you remember a specific battle that was important to South Africa? So in South Africa, only Air Force? >> Yes. Oh, no, that's wrong. The Air Force was the main contribution that we made on two [INAUDIBLE] squadron. Oversize squadron because replacements, you know, took quite a while because of the distance and so forth. They were only also Army contingents, officers, [Indistinct] to a British regiment. A contra member or fan, I taught 10 of them. Also shared in the war, on the ground forces with the British. >> Well among other United Nations, there weren't too many Air Force, right? >> Air Forces contributing, there was your UCEF and our Air Force, and then the British also had aircraft flying from carriers. The Australians had [INAUDIBLE], jet aircraft. Not that successful in the role that they had to do in ground attack after the [INAUDIBLE] in England, and it was a good aircraft but not quite suited for that war. Let's see, I can't think of the other aircraft, the other Air Forces. >> Did you get to see any civilians? Korean civilians? >> Out by [INAUDIBLE] down in the south of Korea, there was a naval base not far away and there was a very nice, in the sea, that we could go swimming. And we went there and I met quite a number of the young sailors, would meet us, you know, we were like foreigners and they were inquisitive and we had chats and what have you, and talking to, you know, people from the embassy, that the present attaché is from the Navy and he knows [INAUDIBLE] as well [INAUDIBLE]. So we had very enjoyable, in our off periods. We went [INAUDIBLE] in the south, was our main base but then we'd fly up to Seoul with a forward base and we did a lot of the operations we did from there. >> And you visited Korea again? >> Yes. >> When? >> Three visits. >> Wow. >> And my last visit was in June or was it July, and I was very, very pleasantly surprised to be decorated by a decorations and presidential decoration that the minister presented me with in July, it was, I believe. >> Last year? July 2016? >> Yes. >> Wow. >> So that was quite something. >> Korea is very different from when you first went. >> Whoa. You know, it's quite unbelievable. I tried to tell people what a country was ravaged, you know, with the enemy going through Seoul right down to the south and then being pushed back again, and to see that country now, how it's been rebuilt. It's just unbelievable just to see the road system and the building. It's so modern and very, very well organized and tidy. Very, very impressive. It's quite amazing that the industrial development is fantastic. >> You must be very proud. >> Oh, yes, and I'm pleased that I made that tiny, tiny little contribution. >> It was not tiny, it was very big. It was very big. And when you were involved with the association, do you remember serving with some of the members of the association in Korea? >> A member of? >> The Korean War Veterans Association here in South Africa. Your comrades. >> Yes. >> Yes. Do you remember? Do you serve in the same unit? >> Well we only had the one unit. Two squadrons. >> Two squadrons. How many were in each squadron? >> No we were only one squadron. >> One squadron. How many? >> Well pilots, more or less 20 at the time, pilots and they were replaced as they completed their tour and [INAUDIBLE] and so forth. >> You must have been very close? >> Oh, yes. Very, very close bond of the people who served in Korea, but there's so few left at the moment. >> I know. >> Like today, there are only two of us. My friend, [INAUDIBLE], was a prisoner of war, he would also have been here but he had another commitment and what have you. But I'm not sure off hand, but I don't know whether we have more than 10 or so pilots left, you know? A very good friend of mine passed away last week. [INAUDIBLE]. >> Did you say you were also captured? >> Say again. >> Were you also captured? >> No, no, no. I was fortunate. I spent just over 4 hours on the ground, very far north of Pyongyang, near the Yalu River, but I was fortunate I was picked up by helicopter after about, just over 4 hours. >> How did you get stranded on the ground? Why were you on the ground? >> I had to bail out of my aircraft. >> Why? >> Because it wouldn't fly anymore it was, so I had to bail out by parachute. >> Really? By yourself? >> Yes, a single seat aircraft, you know, it's a fighter aircraft. >> And who picked you up? South Africans? >> No, no, no. A helicopter that was launched from an American ship, the Gunston Hall. This is Gunston Hall. >> But how did they see you? >> Well they were given the map reference and I could navigate there, and as it happened, it was very mountainous there and [INAUDIBLE] and I could hear this chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck come from an ACE51 Sikorsky approaching me and so forth. And I'll never forget that welcome site when he hovered, he didn't land he just hovered and they lowered a rope and they hoisted me up and the pilot turned around and shook my hand, and then we went out again and on the way out we were fired at again and was hit a few times. When we were escorted again by fighters going out, and I wasn't aware what the damage was on the aircraft, but on the first approach to land on the ship we had to go around again. He couldn't land because with the controls I think there was something wrong with the controls. And then on the second attempt we landed and so forth. And then I was taken to the sick bay and when I arrived there there was an American pilot from [INAUDIBLE] that had been shot down and he unfortunately lifted too late before he decided to bail out, and he was fairly badly burnt, you know, on his hands and his face and so forth. I had the advantage that one our pilots had also lifted a bit late so we all knew if the temperature started going off the clock, it was time for you to make sure that you got out in time before it burst into flames. >> The helicopter that picked you up, was it United Air Force or Navy pilots? >> Naval pilot, yes. >> Wow. >> USS Gunston Hall. Later on somebody visited America and per chance, one of our newspapers met the captain of the ship who was at the time, and I've got some newspaper cuttings and so forth, you know, and he also explained, repeated the story again and what have you. That's quite a small world. >> So he was a Naval pilot who picked you up? >> Yes, yes. >> And you got to meet him again? >> No, no, unfortunately not. >> You later learned about him? >> Yes. The newspaper man from South Africa visited America and by chance met that captain of the ship. It was a captain of the USS Gunston Hall at the time. >> What was it called? USS? >> Duston Hall was the name of the ship. >> Dunston Hall, and the Navy pilot was from that ship. USS Gunston Hall. >> Yeah. >> Wow. You know it would be so fascinating for you to have a reunion with some of the people because I interview many veterans, and they talk about each other, you know, like British talk about Australian. British talk about, you know, Americans. So it would be nice to do a reunion. Did you have any Australians? Did you see any Australians? >> Once there were some Australian pilots who visited us and we had quite a party and so forth but they were, you know, at another base quite a distance. But we were three American squadrons with our squadron, formed the 18 Fighter Bomber [INAUDIBLE]. And we had very, very good relationship with the three American squadrons. Very, very good experience. >> What did you do for rest when you didn't have missions? >> Well the main thing was swimming, as I mentioned, you know. Near that naval base. I think that was, fortunately, I was there only in summer. If you talk to people who were there in winter, that's another story. >> I think you were fortunate. >> Very fortunate. >> Yes. >> So time off ... >> How long was your service? How many months? >> I was only there for over 5 months, and I've completed the ... >> In 1951? >>... the normal tour we had to do was 75 missions, but I went down on my 73rd one and when I got back, you know, the helicopter picked me up and then I went, was taken by small ship to a island, Ryodo Island, off the Wonsan harbor and then with a very icy sort of a trip in the [INAUDIBLE] aircraft, went back to my base and so forth. And when I walked into the office, because we had lost so many of our young, of course, already, as I walked in he said, "Mike, pack your bags, you're going home." So I still had two, three missions to go, but he said, "You've had enough." Because there were so many of our course, you know, who had been shot down. >> So on average, how many missions did you fly per day? >> The most, possibly four. On average, it's difficult to say actually, because as I said, we'd fly missions and then you'd have a day or so off and then you fly missions again. By far the most I think we ever did was four, because it was mostly long missions, you know? Two hours, three, four hours. So it varied a lot depending on what type of mission it was and so forth. >> And you would look for the enemies? >> Well our main, our task was ground attack. We mainly looked for vehicles bringing down ammunition and supplies and what have you. >> And you would shoot them? >> And then we would [INAUDIBLE] them out. And I became so clever and so good at camouflage, eventually they didn't travel by day at all. They'd only travel by night. And during the day they would hide their vehicles so well it was quite something. But it's quite amazing, actually, one of my early missions I flew with one of the experienced pilots, [INAUDIBLE] officer from World War II, who was a ground attack pilot. And I could then learn from him and we all learned from him. We were a number of [INAUDIBLE] young pilot. We flew out to another target and he spotted some vehicles, and he made his first attack and fired and then when the first vehicle burst into flames, we could also then make out the other vehicles but I'm sure if we'd flown past there, we would never have seen the vehicles. So it was his experience that helped up and so we also became quite experienced. >> There were solo missions. >> Say again. >> Solo missions, or did you fly alongside? >> No, flight of four. >> Four. >> We're normally a flight of four and then we did the big [INAUDIBLE] we did on Pyongyang, we had 64. We had the biggest with 64 aircraft. >> Sixty four aircraft? Not all South African though? >> Oh, no, no, no, no. The three American squadrons and our squadron, so we make up a quarter of the squadron. >> And how many losses did you suffer from that one, out of the 64? >> On that one we lost the one pilot. It was quite a sad loss because at the time he was a South African high jumping champion, you know. >> What's a high jumping champion? >> Pardon. >> Can you explain to me about the jumper? You said lost his ... >> An athletic high jumping when you have two poles and a crossbar. >> And he was a champion? >> At that stage he started with an American roll, I think it was called, [INAUDIBLE] quite a lot now [INAUDIBLE] they sort of go over on their back to cross the crossbar, but his record stood for several years after that. South African high jumping record. >> Did he [INAUDIBLE]? >> That was a sad loss. He would have made a very good rugby player. He was a great rugby player, also. Twenty years old. >> He got shot down? His plane got shot down? >> Say again. >> His plane got shot down? His plane? >> Yes, yes, yes. He called up, he said, "I've been hit. I'm heading for the coast but I don't think I'll make it," and then he was cut off. I think the aircraft possibly burst into flames or so. >> Do you know when that happened? When the pilot's aircraft is down and his body is burned, then how do you retrieve the remains? >> Oh, no. There are very few remains. We lost quite a percentage of our pilots, which never recovered because [INAUDIBLE] it's on the other side of the bomb line. >> Not even the dog tags? >> No. Very, very few were recovered if they were near the bomb line, you know. The diving line between enemy forces and our own forces. No, I can't quote you the numbers now. I know of a person, I got close friends with him, he was a captain and a very experienced pilot from World War II. I think later on the area where he went down, had been recovered and was in our own friendly territory. They traced the remains, and he was buried in the memorial cemetery down in Pusan. >> I will be going there. >> Is it? >> Yes. >> Well there you will see, I can't remember off hand now, possibly seven or so of the graves. And the other people who were not recovered because they were too far into enemy territory. >> I'm going to the memorial today. >> Say again. >> I'm going to the memorial today, and I will pay my respects. >> Oh, I appreciate that. >> Thank you so much. >> My pleasure.