THE RCAF IN KOREA (1950–1953)

The communist North Koreans streamed across the South Korean border in 1950 and the first hot season of the Cold War was on.

The crew of a 426 Squadron North Star unload baggage at Haneda Air Base near Tokyo after a flight from McChord Field.

The Canadian contribution to the air effort began early in the war when 426 Transport Squadron was attached to the United States Air Force’s Military Air Transport Service. It moved to McChord Air Force Base in Washington to carry out its duties.

 The squadron flew Canadair 12 “war strength” C-54GM North Stars on 599 round trips over the north Pacific, transporting 13,000 personnel and three million kilograms of freight and mail to Japan. There, cargo was offloaded for onward transit to Korea. The intense, challenging route, which involved long legs over open water, terrible weather and a treacherous landing strip at the midway point in Alaska, took them perilously close to the Soviet Union. Although there were some close calls and incidents, there were no fatalities and no cargo was lost during the airlift.

Twenty-one Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) fighter pilots (in addition to Flight Lieutenant Omer Lévesque, who was already serving on exchange with the Americans when the war broke out) volunteered to fly F-86 Sabres with the United States Air Force (USAF) — although not all of them saw combat.

F/L Ernie Glover shot down three MiG-15s.

They flew with the USAF’s 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing (FIW) at Kimpo or 51st 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing (FIW) at Suwon and served for six months or 50 combat missions, whichever came first. A combat mission usually consisted of flying 200 miles (320 kilometres) over enemy territory to the infamous “MiG Alley” (near the Chinese border) area, patrolling, contacting and fighting with the communists’ MiG-15s.

The RCAF accounted for nine MiG “kills”, two “probables” and 10 “damaged”.

High scoring pilots included Flight Lieutenant (F/L) Ernie Glover with three kills and three damaged, and Squadron Leader (S/L) Doug Lindsay with two kills and three damaged.

Most RCAF personnel who served in the Korea theatre — approximately 800 — belonged to 426 Squadron while the remainder were fighter pilots, flight nurses, and supply, technical and photo intelligence personnel. As well, a number of Canadian Army personnel flew with the USAF as forward air controllers in the 6147 Tactical Air Control Group, informally known as the “Mosquitos”.

The government of Canada declared 2013 to be the “Year of the Korean War Veteran” to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice on July 17, 1953.