My uncle, 2nd Lt. Jim Escalle, arrived at K-13 (Suwon) at the end of February 1953. If he would have gotten there a couple of weeks sooner, he could have witnessed an incident involving a well-known fighter pilot, a crash landing that some people still talk about today whenever the pilot’s name is mentioned.
On February 16, 1953, a Marine Corps fighter pilot from VMF-311 was flying his F9F Panther as part of a 200-plane strike force against Kyomipo, about 15 miles southwest of Pyongyang, North Korea. During the run on his target, a troop encampment, enemy ground fire knocked out his hydraulics and electrical system. Struggling to regain control of his aircraft, he gained altitude and headed for the nearest air base, which was K-13.
Fire and rescue crews at K-13 were alerted as the dark blue Marine jet was seen coming in low and fast, trailing smoke and a 30-foot ribbon of fire. Too low to eject, the pilot brought his crippled jet in, making a belly landing and skidding, with sparks flying, for almost a mile before finally stopping. The nose quickly burst into flames that threatened the cockpit. The pilot blew off the canopy and dove headfirst onto the tarmac, where he was quickly grabbed by a couple of flight crewmen and taken away.
It didn’t take long for the Air Force pilots and ground personnel at the base to recognize that the tall, lanky Marine pilot who got out of the burning jet was Ted Williams, the Boston Red Sox slugger. He had been recalled to active duty and had arrived in Korea earlier that month. A lot of the guys got his autograph and several took photos, including the one shown here by George Robert Veazey, a pilot in the 36th FBS. He was Aerodrome Officer that day and saw Williams crash land his jet. It was a story to definitely tell the folks back home.
(photo by George Robert Veazey)