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Bailout and Rescue

by John Walseth
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Capt. Ray Quesnell, Pilot; Capt. John Walseth, Navigator; lst Lt. Cliff Selmon, Bombardier; and Airman Jerry Karpowicz, Gunner; departed K-8 on 16 May 1953 about 2100 hours for interdiction of Main Supply Route (MSR) from Kaesong (just north of Panmungjon) to Sariwon. The night was clear and visibility unrestricted. I am unable to recall if the moon was up or not. We made no attacks on the northward portion of the MSR.
Ray Quesnell
"Ray Quesnell, Pilot"
Jerry Karpowicz
"Jerry Karpowicz, Gunner"
Turning westward and proceeding toward Sariwon much activity was noted in the mid-portion of our western leg. Beautiful Red Balls began to follow us at approximately 3000 feet altitude. Breaking right we circled and came back at attack altitude of about 2000 feet heading north with bomb bay doors open preparing to attack what appeared to be a convey of trucks on an easterly heading. Cliff yelled instructions to Ray to finalize our first bomb run when "POW!", one of many incoming Red Balls, struck dead center on our right engine. Ray took what evasive action was available to us and we were quickly out of Red Ball range. We had been unable to expend any bombs due to immediate necessity caused by damage from the hit on the right side.

Fire erupted quickly. The engine was feathered but the flames increased rapidly. We advised our control center of our difficulties and were returning to K-8, but we would attack targets of opportunity enroute to the Coastal Waters. The fire increased in intensity and the entire right side wing was on fire. Mayday echoed loudly and Capt. Quesnell advised Seoul controllers we were salvoing our bomb load. Before this could be done Capt. Quesnell issued orders to bail out. Jerry in the rear confirmed his escape hatch was open and flames were approaching his escape area. He stated he was O.K. and could bail out without difficulty. Cliff also stated he had the nose hatch open and bid us farewell. I released the canopy and dove out over the right wing which was fully engulfed in flames. Ray indicated he was leaving when I departed.

My chute opened, and as it did I saw a huge explosion mid-section of our B-26 directly in front of me but far enough not to be caught in the explosion. The light of the explosion enabled me to see the ground clearly and I landed hard but safely in a dried up river bed. Ray was right behind me, and due to the light of the explosion he was able to see the canopy of my chute and slipped into my landing area.

The remains of our B-26 and its pieces burned furiously on a ridge of hills some distance away from us. We heard men yelling and dogs barking off in the opposite direction of the fire, which was the direction from which we had come. My UCR4 (two-way radio) was put to immediate use as jet fighter traffic aloft was evident. Immediate contact was made with a United States Air Force F-86. "DODO 13" was immediately confirmed down in North Korea. The F-86 Pilot advised me that help was on the way just fifty minutes from lift off at old Kunsan by the Sea.

John Walseth, John Duff, Ray Quesnell (L-R):
John Walseth,
John Duff,
Ray Quesnell

It is the dead of night - I hear sounds of pursuit in the distance - I am totally disoriented and scared as hell. Ray and I quickly buried our chutes in the sand of the river bed and departed in a westerly direction towards a range of hills we could see in the distance. Ray had badly sprained his right ankle so the going was really tough. Several hours later we found a nitch in the walls of a small cliff and rested. At 2345 hours all was quiet in our nitch. Ray's ankle was clearly overused so we held up and made no further radio contact but listened to the traffic on the MAY-DAY channel.

We clearly heard words that Air/Sea Rescue would be enroute to crash site at first light. This was still about four and one half hours away. Then out of the clear "DODO 13, we'll get you in the morning."

As the sun rose, four North Korean peasants moved into our field of vision, coming with shovels, rakes, etc. Panic time ... but our nitch was dark rock (bluish in color) and almost matched our Air Force blue flight gear. We blended perfectly into the mountain's dark rock. The peasants headed directly toward us only to stop some 100 meters away and proceeded to till a small patch of flat land directly before us. We were forced to shut off the UCR4 so the noise would not alert the workers nearby.

About noon time the land tillers departed and we were once again alone. Immediate contact was made with Air/Sea Rescue units scouring the area near the crash site. Rescue obtained a bearing on our location and dispatched a chopper which we could see in the distance north of our position. Using our Emergency Signaling Mirror (EMS/2), I flashed the chopper (Please note the terminology of the mirror and its official ID#. I am reading this data off the mirror I used on that day, May 17,1953. It hangs permanently over my desk in my so-called home office.) Blinding the Chopper Pilot, he advised us we would be picked up within a half hour as we were advised our position was not secure. With that bit of frustration to us, six F4U Marine fighters rippled the peasants' field and all the area for hundreds of meters around us in all directions. A lot of fifty-caliber metal lies in the ground surrounding our nitch.

In a short time the pickup chopper came in and we scrambled aboard, feeling lucky to be back aboard a US aircraft.

After a routine flight to K-16, billeting in Seoul, and a 5th Air Force debriefing, we returned to K-8 on May 20,1953. Neither Ray or I have heard what happened to Cliff and Jerry. They disappeared, and I believe they have been declared officially dead.

-- John Walseth (L), Navigator
13th Bomb Squadron
with Capt. Ray Quesnell (R), Pilot
John Walseth and Ray Quesnell