The title of this should probably be The 17th After the Cessation of Hostilities because the action in Korea was not declared a war until the passage of the Defense Act of 1999 and there has never been a peace treaty- only an armistice.
With the cessation of hostilities the mission became:
Maintain combat readiness for:
The first order of business was to complete the training of the new combat crews, whose training had been delayed by the July maximum effort missions and the adverse weather conditions. This was accomplished so that there were 87 combat ready air crews, and the aircraft readiness rate stood at 85% by the end of December 1953. Upon completion of this training there was an overage of combat crews. Both the 37th Bomb Squadron and the 95th Bomb Squadron completed successful deployments to K-55.
The decline began in January. In this period, rotation of personnel and material shortages took their toll. All combat crews who had flown any combat missions were deployed to the ZI before Christmas. By the end of June, aircrews qualified during the last half of the 1953 were completing their tours and returning to the ZI. The number of Wing aircrews available fell from 89 in January to 60 in June. The 34th went from 29 crews in January to 9 in June - representative of what happened to all squadrons during this period. The transfer of A/C reduced the number of available aircraft from 54 in January to 33 by the end of June. For example the 34th Squadron lost 12 aircraft and received 5 in return. All SHORAN capable aircraft were transferred to the 3rd Bomb Wing and a significant number of aircraft were transferred to the French for use in Indo-China. The aircraft received from the 3rd Bomb Wing in exchange for the SHORAN Aircraft, were in poor condition and required extensive maintenance before they could be declared combat ready. The loss of maintenance personnel and the unavailability of spare parts caused the aircraft readiness rate to fall from an 87% in January to 65% in June.
In June, the situation began to improve with the arrival of replacement crewmembers and the improved availability of spare parts. Unfortunately, the reporting aircrew members were far from being ready. The crews had not been through training at Langley. Of 17 reporting pilots, 14 had less than 50 hours in type. None of the Navigator-Bombardiers had ever dropped a bomb. With extensive training and hard work, the Wing was brought back up to a combat ready status. In November and December, the 95th and 37th Squadrons accomplished a successful deployment to K-8.
On 10 October, the Wing received orders to move to Miho AFB in Japan. This move was accomplished and operations commenced from Japan. These operations were not altogether satisfactory for the flying time from Japan to Korea reduced time over any training routes or ranges. REMCO was disestablished as each wing assumed responsibility for is own maintenance.
In January, the Wing received orders to prepare for movement to the ZI on 1 April. Initially the movement was to be made without aircraft, as the Wing was to be re outfitted with B-57's, the new jet light bomber. On 26 January, due to problems in the B-57 program, this decision was reversed and the Wing was directed to transfer with 39 aircraft to Hurlburt Auxiliary Field Florida. Training flights continued through January. In February, all flying except that concerned with cruise control missions was terminated. The aircraft were stripped of all armament (guns, turrets, sighting equipment and rocket racks) and fitted with 625 gallon auxiliary tanks. On 16 April the first section of 4 aircraft departed. The last section departed on 19 April. Either a B-29 or a C-124, as a lead ship, escorted each flight of four aircraft. The last aircraft landed in Hulburt on 29 April. Many of the personnel took leave so that the wing did not become operational again until June.
The major change in Group operations was from flying fully armed aircraft in a potentially active arena to flying stripped down aircraft in the ZI.
Preparations and training to transition into the "B-57 effectively terminated the 17th Bomb Wing as we knew it. On 1 October 1955 it was redesignated the 17th Bomb Wing (Tactical). It was inactivated on 25 June 1958.
The 17th Bomb Wing was deactivated 25 June 1958.
This terminated the operation of the 17th Bomb Group/Wing as a Medium/Light bomber organization.
I arrived at K-9 in December 1955. I was a 19 year old radio repairman.. The Comm. Center, where I worked, was closed about March of '56. The main base was turned over to the ROK and about 100 of us moved over to the quonset huts on the south end of the runway. We became Detachment #2 of No Where Special. We operated the control tower, the radio beacon. base ops, the weather station and the runway. For a 19-year-old it was anything but boring. We managed to keep 'em flying in spite of ourselves. I worked in Air Police, weather station, parking aircraft, repairing aircraft and anything else to be done. Here is one of my "PEACE TIME AT PUSAN-EAST" recollections. There are many stories, some of them are true.
I was in the control tower, fixing a radio, in the summer of '56 when a C-47 pilot wanted to land. The ceiling was about 500 feet. You could not see the tops of any of the surrounding hills. As you know, K-9 is surrounded on 3 sides by hills. One of them was about 3,000 feet high. Normal entry and departure is south over Suyoung Bay. Normal approach-fly over the Peter Nan beacon and go south about 5 minutes and let down over the bay. We had no GCA so the pilot asked that someone go outside the tower and listen for his engines. This pilot appeared to be familiar with the strip so after being advised of the limited ceiling, and since it was daylight, he said he was "bringing it in." As he let down from North to South, he said, " I have the field in sight". Problem here was that he was lined up to land in the Suyoung River, which runs almost parallel to the strip. If he didn't pull up he might just auger into the radar hill. So he pulls up. Instead of heading south and letting down over the bay, he makes some kind of turns and in a few minutes here he comes again. This time he is coming in from the west of the field with about 2,000 feet of runway to his right and 3,000 feet to his left. (Never can get port and starboard straight.) Again he is over the river but unwilling to accept defeat, he turns the 47 onto it's left wing and lines up (somewhat) with the runway, drops it down and rolls to a stop. Being new at this stuff, I figured it to be a normal landing. Every time I hear the joke about " Boy this is a short runway. Yeh, but look how wide it is", I think of that incident. By the way, the pilot was the Base Commander, so not much was said about the way that the double doors on the C-47 never seemed to close properly again after that landing.Submitted by:
In 1982, as a Major, I was in the third year of a five year active duty hitch at Fort Sam Houston. Our son was a corporal serving with a med-evac unit on post as well, but he was transferred to Korea. I had accumulated quite a bit of leave time and decided to use some of it on a trip to see our son stationed in Seoul. My wife understood why I made excuses to return to Korea, and I left San Antonio with her blessing. I caught a Korean Airlines 747 out of Los Angeles, and for the next 12 hours I could smell nothing but garlic. I had never been in Seoul, and when the taxi took me through that massive city, I was astounded at how "civilized" it appeared. I spent some quality time with my son, and we strolled throughout the city seeing the sites. I told him that Korea was now different. It had paved roads. Also, I told him that I wanted to fly to Pusan for just one day. He understood.
It was a short flight, of course, and the plane was filled mostly with Japanese and Korean businessmen. When I arrived at the large and modern Pusan airport, taxis lined the front sidewalk. Having remembered some poor Japanese taught to me by the Korean laborers in K-9's bomb dump, I attempted to communicate with a driver. He looked puzzled and somewhat angry until I began speaking English. It was then that he understood what I wanted and when I first realized that the Koreans now spoke their own national language. It was still a language struggle as I tried to tell the driver where I wanted to go. It was only when I mentioned Tongnae Springs that he seemed to know my destination. Well, Hell, I told myself, if we end up at Taegu, it would be nice to see where K-2 was. But, sure enough, the taxi driver took me right up to the front gate of old K-9. I got out, looked around in disbelief, and almost argued that we weren't really there. Then I saw the old road that crossed the end of the runway and what remained of the airstrip, and I knew that I had arrived at a place that I had told myself 30 years earlier I never wanted to see or smell again. I know the driver ripped me off, for he obviously knew that I was another stupid American. He was right, and to this day I do not know how much I really paid him in Korean currency.
As he drove off I noticed an ROK soldier heading toward me with his weapon somewhat ready I knew that he could not speak a word of English, nor could his partner at the gate. After a fruitless back-and-forth mumbo jumbo, one of the guards picked up a phone and called the officer-in-charge. He arrived in a jeep, and I could see that he understood some English. He picked up a phone and called someone else who apparently understood the language. There I was, a field grade officer in the United States Army, and none of the ROK seemed to recognize my uniform or feel an impulse to salute. My natural self-importance quickly vaporized as I was still having two M16s pointed at me by friendly forces.
Lo and behold, another jeep arrived, this one driven by a USAF Chief Master Sergeant. He saluted, and I had to fumble around to return it as I tried to hand him my leave orders. With a sense of relief, the Chief drove me to a large box-shaped building which was located about where the old K-9 control tower had sat to the east of the 95th Squadron line. It began raining, and the chief hustled me inside the building, firing one question after another at me. I explained that, after 30 years, I returned to K-9 for purely sentimental reasons. I added that, despite a 30 year gap and the fact that I was likely the oldest major in the Army at 49 years of age, I was not someone in disguise or a spy.
Others gathered around the Chief and me, and when they learned why I was there, question after question was asked. "What was it like then?" they asked, or, "What did you do when you were here in the war?", they continued. "How was this place different in 1953?" was another question, and I only wished that I had brought some of my photographs of K-9 in 1953. I told them that I had been a simple bomb loader for B-26s and that I never directly killed anyone.
Apparently, I had stumbled onto a secret Air Force communications outfit then stationed at Pusan East Air Base, and the entire unit worked and was housed in the big box-like building. Antennas and dishes were ubiquitous, and I was told that I could take no photographs of the area. I looked out the window of the chief's office and it was a veritable downpour. Moreover, as I squinted my eyes trying to see the area across the old runway, where the 34th and 37th Squadrons had sat, I could see absolutely nothing. Boy, I told myself, this is really going to be a bummer!After about an hour of relating as many stories as I could to the young airmen who circled around me, I asked the Chief if there was any way that I could see parts of the installation. He told me that he could take me out to the runway where I could see most of the base, but warned me that the ROK would be watching. Also, I could definitely not take any photos of the commo building or its surroundings or the rest of the base. After we got out in the middle of the old airstrip, I could see a grass-filled spider web network of cracks everywhere. I surveyed the valley first, and was struck by the fact that it seemed a lot smaller. Trees! That's what it was! The surrounding hills were covered with trees. Then I noticed that houses crowded the south fence line, and the chief told me that they were the city limits of Pusan which had been 12 miles distant in 1953.
At the only time that I got a lump in my throat, my eyes worked their way around the clock as I tried to find something familiar on the base itself. Quite honestly, even through a pouring rain, I do not think that one building remained from the Korean War period. I looked at all directions, and the only thing familiar was the east end of the runway where I noticed a truck on the same old road that some B-26s had crossed when they aborted too late, ending tail-up in the Sea of Japan. When we returned to the commo building, I saw traces of the old pierced-steel planking (PSP taxiway on the former 95th Bomb Squadron line. I had to be satisfied with the pictures in my mind and not any in my camera.
The Chief called me another taxi, drove me to the gate, shook hands and waved, and I told the driver to take me to the airport, this time through the city of Pusan. Sure enough, we crossed the old runway on the east end and took what appeared to be the same road to downtown Pusan. But eventually I gave up trying to figure out where I was, for the city engulfed me. I asked the driver about the UN Cemetery, and he knew nothing about it. We continued through downtown Pusan and then to the airport where I caught the next flight to Seoul.
When I took my seat in the plane I sat silently in utter disbelief. I had seen a place that, after 30 years, was a vivid memory, but really no longer existed. Moreover, when I left K-9 in November 1953 I promised myself that I never wanted to return to that godforsaken place. On the way back, I spoke only once to a fellow sitting next to me, a Japanese businessman. I saw a huge city out the window not too long after we left Pusan, and asked what it was. "Taegu", he said, and I closed my eyes and tried to cope with what had been a hell of a day.
The Wing/Group and the Light/Medium bomber of WWII and Korea are all gone now. For historical purposes, the following info is provided.
The remaining squadrons (731/432) are not active at this time
The B-26 Marauder did not survive WWII. At the end of WWII, despite their stellar performance, most of the Marauders were flown to depots and reduced to scrap. None were transferred to the Pacific Theater. A few survived and were sold commercially. None were retained on active duty after 1948.
The B-25 Mitchell remained in the USAF inventory as the TB-25 and was used for multi-engine pilot training and navigator-bombardier training at Mather AFB. It also served as a base flight 'service' aircraft. It remained in inventory in various configurations until 1959.
The A/B/A 26 Invader was designed and put into production in 1944 . Its combat career began in 1944 as the A-26 when it began replacing the B-25 and the B-26 in Europe and the B-25 in the Pacific. After WWII, the B-25 and the B-26 were retired as active bombers and the A-26 (now redesignated as 'B') was selected to be the USAF's light bomber. The B-26 in the 'B' version with the hard nose and the 'C' version with the glass nose performed yeoman service for the 5th Air Force during the Korean War. During Korea it was 'rode hard and put away wet' many times, and was the primary light bomber during that conflict, serving as both a low and medium level daylight light bomber and a low level night intruder. It carried a heavier ordnance load in Korea than it did in WWII and flew out of relatively primitive air bases in Japan and Korea. Its bomb load and endurance time far exceeded that of the then available Fighter-Bombers such as the F-80, the A-37, and the F-84. It also served in light bomb wings in Europe. After the cessation of hostilities, some were transferred to the French for use in Indo-China. The remainder of the A/C were transferred back the U.S. where it served until replaced by the B-57 and the B-66. When the US became involved in Viet Nam, B-26's were dispatched to that theater as 'counter insurgence' A/C. Later the aircraft was extensively modified into the A-26K and flew in theater until the wings started falling off. For political reasons its designation was changed from 'B" bomber to 'A' attack as the agreement was that no bombers would be introduced into Southeast Asia. Some were sold for commercial service.
The replacement A/C for the B-26 were the B-57 Canberra, a British designed, jet-engined light bomber and the Douglas B-66 bomber. Except for special missions, and service with the 3rd Bomb Wing's 8th and 13th Squadrons in Japan and Korea and later Viet Nam, the USAF life of the B-57 was short. It began phasing in in 1955 and phasing out in 1959. The B-66 had an even shorter life as a bomber, though it served for many years as an ECM and recon A/C for both the Navy and the USAF. In its final years, it was the primary Navy carrier based tanker under the designation of KA-3D and was commonly called the "WHALE".
The rapid development of the jet engine, enabled the size,range and load carrying capability of the fighter-bomber (FB) to increase significantly. The Century series FB's, followed by the F-4, the A-7, and the A-10 assumed the mission previously performed by the light/medium bombers. With their superior avionics packages and an assortment of "smart" weapons, they far exceed the capability of our old favorites.
The air organizations have changed significantly over the years. The Wing of WWII was a large administrative organization controlling several combat and service Groups. The 17th served as one of four Groups under the 42nd Wing. When the USAF superceded the USAAF in 1948, the Wing Base Plan was initiated. Under the Wing Base Plan, the operational Wing was designed to be a self supporting, independently operating wing comprised of the Operations Group, the Maintenance and Supply Group, the Air Base Group and the Medical Group. The primary operations Group usually carried the designation of the wing, i.e. the 17th Bomb Group was the operational group of the 17th Bomb Wing. During the Korean War, previous Group battle honors were bestowed on the Group but the Wing was specifically excluded. When SAC initiated the 66-12 concept, the Squadrons were reassigned to the Wings and the Groups were essentially reduced or abolished altogether. Other commands followed suit. In 1954, the USAF bestowed the group battle honors on the Wing. With the end of the Cold War and the massive reductions in sizes, the unique Bomb Wings, Fighter Wings, etc. disappeared and in recent years different types of squadrons were attached to "consolidated' wings. Thus, the 34th Squadron is a part of the 366th Wing, which as a composite wing, also includes Fighter Squadrons. Until SAC and TAC were merged into the Air Combat Command, Bomb Wings usually had their own assigned Air Refueling Squadrons. With the merging of SAC and TAC into the Air Combat Command, the refueling squadrons moved into the Air Mobility Command. The latest concept, the Air Expeditionary Force, creates wings that contain, fighters, bombers, tankers and transport aircraft, forming a completely self sufficient force.
We Navigator/Bombardiers of class 53-16 arrived here at K-9 in early 1954 without ever having dropped a bomb using the Norden bombsight. There are 8 of us who went through the RB-26 course at Mather where we only used the Norden as a drift meter. We have a lot to learn.
Cess Poole and I have been assigned to the 95th squadron, where Bob True was the lead and instructor NB. He gives us a couple days of classroom instruction and then it's to the bomb trainer every day for two weeks. Finally we get out first live drop down at Mundo with 100# "Blue Blippets." After a couple of months of training missions some of us are getting C.E.'s in the 100-150 ft. Range, and even get an occasional "shack."
In the meantime lots of new crews are coming in, some of whom have been through combat crew training at Langley. These guys seem to feel that they are a cut above us who came straight to Korea out of Cadets. They mince no words in letting us know this and a competition develops. Group must also think that they are better. They have picked one of the Langley crews to lead a night bomber stream down to Mundo.(note: Mundo was the K-9 practice island)
I am flying with the Wing Commander tonight and we are the 5th or 6th plane in 12-plane stream. We are carrying one 100# M-47 firebomb, each with the lead carrying two of them in case he misses with the first.
Off we go into the night headed for Mundo. About half way to Mundo, shortly after leaving land the Colonel calls on inter-phone and asks if we are on course.
I said "Yes", that I had a good visual fix when we cleared land.
He said, "If we are on course why is the leads fire out there at about 45 degrees?” I ask for a minute and got a radio fix, which shows us on course, and I tell him so, and asked for another minute to get a loran fix which also shows us dead on course. This now poses a problem for the Colonel who thinks it over for a moment and then said
“ Lt. I think you are probably right, but our orders are to drop on the leads fire." He makes a hard left turn and heads for the fire. With little time to re-calculate everything I decide to use the reflex sight and make the drop using it.
When we landed at K-9 there is all kind of excitement and activity with a Jeep waiting to take the Colonel to Wing Headquarters where he is to call 5th A.F. Headquarters immediately. It seems that the hotshot lead crew from Langley bombed a populated island. Fortunately there were no human Casualties, but some structures destroyed and farm animals were killed. Some of the crews did not see the leads fire and went on to Mundo but they missed the target with their bombs. The order of return to K-9 in no way resembled the order of departure. What a fiasco.
About this time a couple of us discovered that K-9 had a skeet and trap range so Clyde Wilson and I were there 2 or 3 times a week sharpening our bird shooting skills. While there we met a couple of sergeants who told us about the great pheasant and duck/goose hunting in the outlying areas of Pusan. Their problem was getting a Jeep. Clyde and I had no problem in getting a Jeep and before long we were having pheasant under glass for supper instead of S.O.S. I had a deal with the cook at the "O" club to store my game in one of his freezers and he could have one for himself every time that I had one. This went on for quite a while and finally one evening the wing commander comes over to my table and said
"You know Lt. I think there is something wrong here. I thought the Colonel was to eat pheasant under glass and the Lt. eat the S.O.S. but for the last few months it’s been just the opposite."
I took him in the kitchen of the "O" club and showed him my freezer which now held over 100 pheasants, duck and geese. I told him that he could have one any time he wanted. I eventually threw a game feed party for the whole 95th, which the Wing C.O. was invited to attend.
I'm getting to know the Wing C.O. pretty well by now and have no problem at all getting a Jeep any time I needed one.