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From Kimpo to the Yalu - The Naval Air War in Korea

INTRODUCTION | KOREAN WAR 1 | KOREAN WAR 2 | THACH SPEECH | HELICOPTERS | CORSAIR RESCUE | LASTING FAME | TARGETS | TAPS


The years immediately following World War II marked a time of transition for naval aviation. Indeed, with dwindling defense budgets and a bitter interservice rivalry with the upstart United States Air Force over the employment of the nation’s air power, the very existence of sea-based air power was seriously questioned. Strategic bombing employing the atomic bomb in the minds of many had supplanted the Navy as the nation’s first line of defense, and minimized the importance of tactical aviation. Such was the severity of the situation that by mid-1950, a carrier fleet that numbered 98 at the end of World War II, encompassed fifteen flattops.

In the early morning hours of 25 June 1950, North Korean tanks and troops stormed across the 38th Parallel into North Korea in a sudden attack that took the world by surprise. In keeping with a subsequent resolution by the United Nations Security Council, President Harry S. Truman committed U.S. military forces to battle, and on July 3rd Valley Forge, in concert with the British carrier HMS Triumph, launched the first naval air strikes of the war, attacking facilities at Pyongyang. In this engagement, U.S. Navy F9F-2 Panthers scored naval aviation’s first jet kills, shooting down two North Korean Yak-9 aircraft.

In the ensuing months, which included General of the Army Douglas MacArthur’s brilliant amphibious assault at Inchon and drive up the Korean peninsula, through the eventual withdrawal and settlement into a stalemate, U.S. naval aviation made a significant contribution to military operations in Korea. By July-1953, when the cease-fire was signed, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft had logged 189,495 attack sorties, jets had successfully demonstrated their value in combat, and the helicopter had come of age as a transport and search and rescue platform. Most importantly, the aircraft carrier had demonstrated its value as a flexible platform for power projection in a limited war, a role that continues to this day.

INTRODUCTION | KOREAN WAR 1 | KOREAN WAR 2 | THACH SPEECH | HELICOPTERS | CORSAIR RESCUE | LASTING FAME | TARGETS | TAPS