War Within a War

HOW HARRY TRU­MAN—AND B-29S WITH PLU­TO­NIUM BOMBS—NEARLY TOOK KOREA NU­CLEAR. »

Air & Space Smithsonian - - Front Page - BY CARL A. POSEY

Against 1950 North Korea, U.S. lead­ers tested the limit of nu­clear threat.

ON THE FI­NAL NIGHT of World War II, hun­dreds of U.S. Army Air Forces B-29s swarmed over Ja­pan, sev­er­ing the frayed threads of Ja­panese re­sis­tance. Com­ing at the end of a long war, those mid-au­gust 1945 mis­sions should have been a cur­tain call for the world’s pre­em­i­nent heavy bomber.

The fol­low­ing year, most of the thou­sands of Boe­ing Su­per­fortresses that had served in the Pacific were stored at the vast Davis-mon­than air­field near Tuc­son, Ari­zona, to be moth­balled or scrapped. The air­plane that had demon­strated that one bomber could de­stroy a city with one bomb would, it was as­sumed, hand the baton to a ris­ing gen­er­a­tion of bombers pow­ered by jet en­gines. As it turned out, the B-29’s re­tire­ment didn’t last. Although un­der­pow­ered and in­clined to en­gine fires, the Su­per­fortress re­mained America’s in­dis­pens­able air­plane—the only one in the world con­fig­ured to de­liver the enor­mous plu­to­nium bombs of the day.

In Jan­uary 1950, U.S. in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts pre­dicted trou­ble in Korea. Like Ger­many, the coun­try had emerged from World War II di­vided. The Soviet Union oc­cu­pied Korean ter­ri­tory north of the 38th par­al­lel; the United States oc­cu­pied the south. The north in­her­ited much of the in­fra­struc­ture—bridges, rail­roads, hy­dro­elec­tric com­plexes, and heavy in­dus­try—re­main­ing from more than 30 years of Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion, less what the Sovi­ets had taken home at the end of the war. The south was the penin­sula’s rice bowl.

The in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, not­ing Soviet-equipped North Korean troops massed north of the 38th par­al­lel, pre­dicted an at­tack in June. Few took the pre­dic­tion se­ri­ously, but on Sun­day, June 25, North Korean ground and air forces poured into South Korea, be­gin­ning what might be called the First Korean War.

Fought mostly with the weapons of World War II, this Korean War would also de­but a new kind of aerial com­bat, in which jets fought jets. This war, in which each side won and lost the ad­van­tage more than once, con­sumed hun­dreds of thou­sands of lives.

There was a sec­ond Korean war, one that has been stud­ied and dis­cussed even less than the first, which some have called “the for­got­ten war.” The sec­ond one was nu­clear. It con­sisted of a se­ries of threats, feints, and prac­tice runs, and it very nearly made it to the Korean bat­tle­field.

THE U.S. FAR EAST AIR FORCE (FEAF) quickly mo­bi­lized its mod­est post­World War II re­sources. Three days af­ter the in­va­sion, four B-29s from the 19th Bom­bard­ment Group struck what mil­i­tary tar­gets they could find in the nar­row band be­tween Seoul, the cap­i­tal of South Korea, and the 38th par­al­lel, just to the north of the city.

The bombers had been sta­tioned at An­der­sen Air Force Base, on Guam, then moved to Kadena Air Base, on Ok­i­nawa, which put them within 800 miles of the bat­tle zone. Two days later, 15 Su­per­forts at­tacked North Korean forces mass­ing along the north bank of the Han River in prepa­ra­tion for mov­ing on Seoul.

The 98th Bom­bard­ment Group de­ployed its B-29s to Yokota Air Base, some 20 miles west of down­town Tokyo, and about 720 miles from the fight. Un­der the aegis of FEAF Bomber Com­mand, the Su­per­forts be­gan chip­ping away at the ad­vanc­ing North Kore­ans. Back in the United States, moth­balled B-29s were re­fur­bished and air­crews re­called.

Ini­tially at least, there was not much to fear from flak or from North Korea’s prop-driven Yaks and Stur­moviks, which were easy tar­gets for the North Amer­i­can P-51s and Lock­heed P-80 jet fight­ers that es­corted the bombers. Over Ja­pan in World War II, B-29s had en­coun­tered so lit­tle op­po­si­tion that all but their tail guns had been re­moved, sav­ing weight for bombs and fuel. For Korea, the guns were re­stored.

Dean Al­lan was a left gun­ner who signed up for a four-year tour in Jan­uary 1951, seven months af­ter the war had started. He re­mem­bers the rou­tine fol­lowed by the B-29 crews who flew night mis­sions from Yokota. Most mis­sion days had a briefing at six in the evening out­lin­ing the tar­get, weather, and, as Al­lan says, “what to ex­pect. We’d load the air­craft about 1900.” Af­ter the pre­flight checks, he says, the “chap­lain came out and wished us luck. We’d usu­ally take off about dusk, fly south to the ocean, cross Ja­pan. We’d test-fire the guns about half­way be­tween Ja­pan and Korea. By the time we crossed into North Korea, we were up to 29 or 30,000 feet.”

What forced the B-29s into exclusive night mis­sions was the ar­rival of Sovi­et­built Mig-15s, but in the early days of the air war, the great­est en­emy was less the North Kore­ans than strate­gic dither­ing by com­pet­ing staffs. An­a­lysts, gen­er­als, and politi­cians in Wash­ing­ton and Tokyo, de­ter­mined to keep the war lit­tle, ner­vously pon­dered what might pro­voke Soviet or Chi­nese in­ter­ven­tion.

The re­sult was a crip­pling web of con­straints on the peo­ple fight­ing the air war. Tar­gets north of the 38th par­al­lel were off lim­its, so strate­gic bomb­ing could not do what it did best: Strike far be­yond the bat­tle line to cut the en­emy’s paths of re­in­force­ment and sup­ply. Lin­ger­ing mem­o­ries of the fire-bomb­ing of Ja­pan took in­cen­di­aries off the ta­ble, along with the area bomb­ing of cities. Only sites of mil­i­tary im­port would be hit. And God help any­one who strayed across the Yalu River, which sep­a­rated North Korea and Manchuria.

Tar­get se­lec­tion was done in Tokyo, where Gen­eral Dou­glas Macarthur had set up head­quar­ters to rule the United Na­tions cam­paign. But more of­ten than not, those tar­gets were not where they were thought to be. The maps avail­able at the be­gin­ning of the con­flict did not de­scribe Korea very well. What looked like a bridge on an old map might be re­vealed as a shal­low ford across a stream.

By the end of the sum­mer of 1950, it seemed pos­si­ble that the good guys would lose. Repub­lic of Korea and U.N. forces had re­treated to a toe­hold around Pu­san, in the ex­treme south­east­ern cor­ner of the penin­sula. B-29s were sent to re­lieve some of the pres­sure on the en­cir­cled troops, join­ing flocks of P-51 Mus­tangs,

Dou­glas B-26 In­vaders, and fighter-bombers (Grum­man F9FS, Mcdon­nell F2HS, and Dou­glas A-1s) from offshore car­ri­ers to pro­vide ground sup­port—no easy task for the B-29s, which bombed from 10,000 feet. De­spite such ef­forts, the North Korean jug­ger­naut threat­ened to push the U.N. forces into the sea.

THE OTHER KOREAN WAR— the nu­clear one—had en­tered the strate­gic con­ver­sa­tion as soon as North Korean troops crossed the 38th par­al­lel, and per­sisted as a kind of play within a play.

By 1949, the Mark 4 plu­to­nium bomb had re­placed the de­mand­ing Mark 3 (see “How to De­ploy a Mark 3” p. 36). About the same size as its pre­de­ces­sor, the new bomb was man­u­fac­tured, not hand­made, and eas­ier to han­dle. By the time of the North Korean ag­gres­sion, nearly 300 Mark 4 bombs were in the U.S. stock­pile.

And America’s nu­clear mo­nop­oly was largely in­tact. The first Soviet bomb test had been con­ducted in Au­gust 1949; the first Soviet air drop would not be made un­til 1951. China was years away from its first test. In­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles were still a gleam in the mil­i­tary eye. For the mo­ment, the United States re­mained the only na­tion ca­pa­ble of de­liv- er­ing an atomic bomb to a dis­tant tar­get.

Given that ad­van­tage, and with de­feat thick in the air as the dif­fi­cult sum­mer ended, peo­ple won­dered why the United States would not take ad­van­tage of its nu­clear sin­gu­lar­ity. But oth­ers ques­tioned the spe­cial­ness of the weapons. What was the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing blown up by con­ven­tional ex­plo­sives and be­ing va­por­ized by a ra­dioac­tive fire­ball? The Atomic En­ergy Com­mis­sion, which de­vel­oped and built the bombs, cer­tainly be­lieved there was a dif­fer­ence and re­tained tight cus­tody of nu­clear weapons. Since the end of the world war, no atomic bombs had been placed in U.S. mil­i­tary cus­tody, and none had left the United States.

And there was the un­der­ly­ing fear that an atomic bom­bard­ment might not pro­duce a de­ci­sive vic­tory af­ter all—that the nu­clear de­ter­rent would not de­ter. Be­cause no one had much ex­pe­ri­ence with this new class of weapon or war­fare, strate­gic plan­ning for the war in Korea was more than a heated bat­tle­ground—it was nu­clear kinder­garten.

Ac­cord­ing to Roger Ding­man, a his­tory pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, the nu­clear Korean war qui­etly led to a clever bit of state­craft that would, at best, en­cour­age the ces­sa­tion of con­ven­tional hos­til­i­ties or, at worst, drag the United States and its al­lies into real nu­clear war. The ploy was a mod­ern equiv­a­lent of gun­boat diplo­macy, us­ing B-29s in­stead of men-of-war.

In July 1950, Pres­i­dent Tru­man or­dered Cur­tis Le­may, head of the Strate­gic Air Com­mand, to send B-29s to Great Bri­tain, putting the bombers within easy strik­ing

dis­tance of the western Soviet Union. “The or­der grew out of Gen­eral [Hoyt] Van­den­berg’s de­sire to do some­thing to counter the im­pres­sion of in­ef­fec­tive­ness con­veyed by the mea­ger re­sults of Amer­i­can bomb­ing in Korea,” writes Ding­man in a 1988 is­sue of In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity. He points out that this was not the first oc­ca­sion of Su­per­fortress states­man­ship. In 1948, af­ter the Soviet Union block­aded Ber­lin, two squadrons of B-29s were de­ployed to Western Europe. Dur­ing the Ber­lin cri­sis, it was a bluff. The B-29s were not con­fig­ured to han­dle nu­clear weapons.

In the reprise of the Ber­lin bluff, the bombers were nu­clear-ca­pa­ble, and each car­ried a fully as­sem­bled Mark 4 bomb. The fis­sile cores, how­ever, re­mained in the United States.

Three weeks later, again on the pres­i­dent’s or­ders, the Strate­gic Air Com­mand sent 10 atomic-ca­pa­ble B-29s, also car­ry­ing as­sem­bled bombs with­out their plu­to­nium cores, to Guam. They were soon aug­mented by 10 more bombers. For the first time since 1945, atomic bombs, com­plete but for the nu­clear cores, were trans­ferred to mil­i­tary cus­tody. All that was needed was some­one to light a match. Then ev­ery­thing changed. On Septem­ber 15, U.N. forces, spear­headed by U.S. Marines, car­ried out an am­phibi­ous land­ing at In­chon, about 20 miles west of Seoul. Macarthur had long ar­gued for this counter-strike, but the tac­tic had been ve­toed as too risky.

The In­chon land­ing turned out to be a bril­liant flank­ing at­tack. U.N. forces quickly re­took Seoul and sev­ered the North Kore­ans’ sup­ply lines. Wal­ton Walker’s Eighth Army broke out of the Pu­san Perime­ter and formed up with other al­lied units. By early Oc­to­ber, Amer­i­can forces had pushed across the 38th par­al­lel and taken the North Korean cap­i­tal, Py­ongyang. Be­fore Oc­to­ber was out, U.N. forces had ad­vanced to the Yalu River. The war, most ob­servers be­lieved, would be won by Christ­mas.

The B-29s from Yokota and Kadena flew in the van­guard of the ad­vance, hit­ting trains, bridges, am­mu­ni­tion and fuel fac­to­ries, and de­pots—any­thing that fed North Korean forces in the south. As the ef­fort evolved into a full-blown strate­gic bomb­ing cam­paign, the North’s heavy in­dus­try was added to the tar­get list.

De­spite the labyrinthine process of ob­tain­ing U.N. ap­proval for ev­ery change in tar­get­ing, the orig­i­nal con­straints on the B-29s be­gan to drop away. At first, the medium bombers were not al­lowed to hit tar­gets within 50 miles of the Yalu River, and were for­bid­den to cross the line into Manchuria. The 50-mile limit soon dropped to 20 miles, then sev­eral, then “as close to the bor­der as may be nec­es­sary.” By the end of Oc­to­ber, U.N. forces oc­cu­pied all of North Korea. Still, Chi­nese ter­ri­tory stayed off lim­its.

By then, the bomb­ing cam­paign had de­stroyed much of what could be de­stroyed from the air, and the Su­per­forts seemed to have worked them­selves out of a job. Macarthur sent two bomber

groups, the 22nd and 92nd, back to the United States.

In late Novem­ber, com­mu­nist China be­gan to turn over its cards. It had al­ready covertly sent troops into North Korea. Now, that se­cret con­tin­gent was joined by a fresh in­fu­sion from Manchuria, cre­at­ing a force of some 200,000. As this wave of sea­soned sol­diers broke across the bat­tle lines, the U.N. and Repub­lic of Korea forces found them­selves once more in re­treat.

With the Chi­nese in­ter­ven­tion, the United States con­fronted a hard truth: Threat­en­ing a nu­clear at­tack would not be enough to win the war. It was as if the Chi­nese hadn’t no­ticed—or, worse, weren’t im­pressed by—the atomic-ca­pa­ble B-29s wait­ing at Guam.

Pres­i­dent Tru­man raised the ante. At a Novem­ber press con­fer­ence, he told re­porters he would take what­ever steps were nec­es­sary to win in Korea, in­clud­ing the use of nu­clear weapons. Those weapons, he added, would be con­trolled by mil­i­tary com­man­ders in the field.

In April of the next year, Tru­man put the fin­ish­ing touches on Korea’s nu­clear war. He al­lowed nine nu­clear bombs with fis­sile cores to be trans­ferred into Air Force cus­tody and trans­ported to Ok­i­nawa. Tru­man also au­tho­rized another de­ploy­ment of atomic-ca­pa­ble B-29s to Ok­i­nawa. Strate­gic Air Com­mand set up a com­mand-and-con­trol team in Tokyo.

This spate of atomic diplo­macy co­in­cided with the end of the role played by Dou­glas Macarthur. Af­ter Macarthur had pub­licly and re­peat­edly dif­fered with the pres­i­dent over mil­i­tary strat­egy in Korea, Tru­man re­placed him with Gen­eral Matthew Ridg­way, who was given “qual­i­fied au­thor­ity” to use the bombs if he felt he had to.

In Oc­to­ber, there would be an epi­logue of sorts to the Korean nu­clear war. Op­er­a­tion Hud­son Har­bor would con­duct sev­eral mock atomic bomb­ing runs with dummy or con­ven­tional bombs across the war zone. Called “ter­ri­fy­ing” by some his­to­ri­ans, Hud­son Har­bor merely tested the com­plex nu­clear-strike ma­chin­ery, as the Strate­gic Air Com­mand had been do­ing for years over Amer­i­can cities.

But the nu­clear Korean war had al­ready ended. In June 1951, the atomic-ca­pa­ble B-29s flew home, car­ry­ing their spe­cial weapons with them. They had never en­tered the bat­tle zone proper, and they had not been part of FEAF Bomber Com­mand’s strate­gic bomb­ing cam­paign.

Ac­cord­ing to cold war his­to­rian John Lewis Gad­dis, who was in­ter­viewed about the Korean War for a 1999 PBS documentary “Amer­i­can Ex­pe­ri­ence: Race for the Su­per­bomb,” the role of the atomic bomb was un­de­fined. “It’s one of the big­gest dogs that did not bark in the en­tire cold war,” says Gad­dis. “There was no clear strat­egy worked out ahead of time for what the role of nu­clear weapons in the lim­ited war would be. You’re talk­ing about a war, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the Chi­nese in­ter­vene, with peas­ants com­ing down moun­tain trails car­ry­ing ev­ery­thing on

their backs. And this was sim­ply not what the atomic bomb had been built for. The only way that you can make the atomic bomb cred­i­ble is pre­cisely by not us­ing—by keep­ing it out there as a kind of mys­te­ri­ous, awe­some force. That to use it would ac­tu­ally cheapen it some­how.”

Con­ven­tional bomb­ing had, how­ever, taken a toll on North Korea’s civil­ian pop­u­la­tion. In The United States Air Force

in Korea 1950 –1953 by his­to­rian Robert F. Futrell, he in­cludes a de­scrip­tion of the town of Hui­chon writ­ten by Gen­eral Wil­liam F. Dean, who was held pris­oner in North Korea: “The city I’d seen be­fore— two-sto­ried build­ings, a prom­i­nent main street—wasn’t there any­more. I think no im­por­tant bridge be­tween Py­ongyang and Kang­gye had been missed, and most of the towns were just rub­ble or snowy open spa­ces where build­ings had been. The lit­tle towns, once full of peo­ple, were un­oc­cu­pied shells. The vil­lagers lived in en­tirely new tem­po­rary vil­lages, hid­den in canyons or in such po­si­tions that only a ma­jor bomb­ing ef­fort could reach them.”

BY THE SPRING OF 1952, the ground war in Korea had set­tled into a vari­ant of trench war­fare, with both sides tak­ing and los­ing small patches of ground. Ar­mistice talks had be­gun the previous July in the an­cient Korean cap­i­tal of Kaesong, and later moved to the site of Pan­munjom. As in the ground war, the talks dragged on with­out much move­ment.

In the air, how­ever, there was no stale­mate. Con­ven­tion­ally armed B-29s con­tin­ued to ham­mer north­ern tar­gets. Along the Yalu and around heav­ily de­fended tar­gets, bat­ter­ies of radar-guided search­lights il­lu­mi­nated the bombers at night, ex­pos­ing them to radar-con­trolled flak bat­ter­ies and to Migs cir­cling in­vis­i­bly over­head.

B-29 gun­ner Dean Al­lan re­mem­bers one of the strate­gies for sur­viv­ing mis­sions at this stage of the war. He says the bombers made their runs at stag­gered al­ti­tudes and three to five min­utes apart, which forced the anti-air­craft gun­ners to keep read­just­ing their set­tings. “Usu­ally it was one wing one day, another wing the next, fly­ing ev­ery three to five days,” he says. Some of the mis­sions, how­ever, re­quired the par­tic­i­pa­tion of all of the Ja­pan-based wings, with up to 80 air­craft on the at­tack.

Each bomber typ­i­cally car­ried 39 500pound bombs with de­layed-ac­tion fuses and at least one mag­ne­sium flare to il­lu­mi­nate the tar­get area for pho­tog­ra­phy and to light up the tar­get for bom­bardiers far­ther back in the stream. Af­ter the fi­nal bomb run, the bom­bardier, who had been in con­trol of the air­craft, would hand con­trol back to the pi­lot.

Robert Sorensen was the copi­lot on Al­lan’s B-29, omi­nously named Trou­ble Brewer. “The key thing was don’t be il­lu­mi­nated by a searchlight,” says Sorensen. “Migs were up there, but they had to get you in the light.”

Far be­low the noc­tur­nal raiders, Dou­glas B-26 In­vaders scoured the coun­try­side for tar­gets of op­por­tu­nity. “Of­ten we would see line af­ter line of trucks bring­ing North Korean sup­plies,” says Al­lan. “We’d tell [op­er­a­tions] and they’d send B-26s up.”

The re­la­tion­ship with the In­vader was sym­bi­otic. B-26s were of­ten tasked with shut­ting off the search­lights plagu­ing the Su­per­forts. With an ar­ray of for­ward-fir­ing .50-cal­iber guns, the B-26s were deadly strafers. But these at­tacks bathed them in light, and B-26 pi­lots, ac­cord­ing to one of their num­ber, were not keen on searchlight duty.

“By the time we got back to Yokota, it was four or five a.m., of­ten socked in,” says Al­lan. “More than once we had to go some­where else.”

On their ninth mis­sion in Trou­ble Brewer, on June 24, Sorensen re­calls: “We couldn’t land at Yokota, so we had

to go to the next field. Kadena was too far away. We picked Ashiya air base in Ja­pan, a fighter base with a 5,800-foot run­way built for Ze­ros. We landed well, got on the brakes, but we could see we couldn’t stop. At the end of the run­way was an em­bank­ment be­yond which was a 500-foot drop into the Sea of Ja­pan. We hit the em­bank­ment, bounced into it. If we’d bounced higher we would have gone over. The air­plane broke in half.”

The only ca­su­alty was the bom­bardier, who broke both an­kles. The pi­lot and flight en­gi­neer went on to other things. The rest of the Trou­ble Brewer crew, with Max Kinnard as the new air­craft com­man­der and a new flight en­gi­neer and bom­bardier, moved on to another B-29, which they named Po­lice Ac­tion—“a won­der­ful air­plane that got us home,” says Sorensen. “We fin­ished 27 mis­sions in to­tal with our fa­vorite old bird.”

Kinnard was one of those gen­er­ous com­man­ders who share left-seat du­ties with the copi­lot. “Af­ter a cou­ple of mis­sions, he split left-seat time with me,” says Sorensen. “I logged about 200 hours of first-pi­lot com­bat time. Of all the pi­lots I knew dur­ing my five years in the Air Force, Max was the one who most clearly had ‘the Right Stuff.’ ”

For one of the crew’s post- Korea re­u­nions, Sorensen an­no­tated his log of those mis­sions with the de­tailed nar­ra­tive that ap­peared in Futrell’s book. The brief mat­ter-of-fact en­try for June 9 de­scribes a 6:45 p.m. take­off to bomb a rail­road bridge. This is how Futrell de­scribed the flight: “…Four B-29s of the 19th Bomb Group were dis­patched on a bomb­ing mis­sion against a rail­road bridge at Kwak­san. Twenty-four search­lights locked on them and kept them com­pletely il­lu­mi­nated. Twelve MIG jet fight­ers at­tacked them. One B-29 ex­ploded over the tar­get, a sec­ond went down some­where over North Korea, and a third was badly dam­aged but man­aged to make an emer­gency land­ing at Kimpo.” Af­ter that mis­sion, the B-29s had black gloss lac­quer painted on their bel­lies.

On July 30, Po­lice Ac­tion joined 62 other B-29s for an at­tack on the Ori­en­tal Light Met­als Com­pany near Sinuiju, only four miles from the Yalu River. Ac­cord­ing to Futrell, it was the largest strike against a sin­gle tar­get of the Korean War. The tar­get was deep in MIG ter­ri­tory, but a thin stra­tus layer pro­tected the bombers from the search­lights.

Sorensen’s log is a sum­mary of pri­or­i­ties: bridges, rail­road mar­shalling yards, hy­dro­elec­tric plants, fac­to­ries, and sup­ply cen­ters. And of course drop­ping leaflets urg­ing en­emy troops to sur­ren­der.

Po­lice Ac­tion and the other medium bombers were also fly­ing ground sup­port, or “primer,” mis­sions. “They’d give us a ground con­troller,” says Sorensen. “We put the bombs out in se­quence, walked them right up the hill­side. Peo­ple down on the ground [would say] ‘Would you make one more run?’ ”

On Oc­to­ber 8 the crew flew Po­lice Ac­tion into com­bat for the last time. It was one of 10 B-29s raid­ing the Kowan Sup­ply Cen­ter in a day­light for­ma­tion at­tack. The bombers had Navy F2H Ban­shee fight­ers for es­corts—a “great way to end a com­bat tour,” noted Sorensen.

Af­ter the Po­lice Ac­tion crew re­turned to the States, Sorensen moved on to the new B-47, whose ad­vent re­quired gun­ners like Dean Al­lan to find some­thing else to do (he wound up in sup­ply). Five of the 11 air­men are still alive: Sorensen; Al­lan; Joe English, the cen­tral fire con­trol gun­ner; Ken Rus­sell, the right gun­ner; and tail-gun­ner Jay Lynn.

By the time the ar­mistice was signed, on July 27, 1953, B-29s had more than paid their way. The old bombers had flown 21,000 sor­ties and dropped 167,000 tons of bombs. Says Al­lan: “By the time we left, there wasn’t any elec­tric­ity in North Korea.”

The bombers also paid a price. Thir­ty­four B-29s were lost in com­bat, and 14 to ac­ci­dents or “other causes.” Po­lice Ac­tion missed the ar­mistice party. On Novem­ber 19, 1952, about three weeks af­ter Sorensen and the oth­ers headed home, the beloved B-29 was shot down by en­emy fight­ers.

Gen­eral Dou­glas Macarthur (third from left) tours Kimpo Air Base in Seoul, South Korea, in De­cem­ber 1950. At the time, Macarthur headed the United Na­tions Com­mand for the war; re­peated con­flicts with Pres­i­dent Tru­man, though, led to his dis­missal....

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