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Flak Traps

by Jim Braly
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On June 10th 1952 I crawled onto a crew bus at K-8 Korea for the ride to the Operations tent for my first mission with my new navigator. Captain Black, another B-26 pilot, was already on board and we discussed his mission status while on the way to the flight line. It was to be his 50th and last mission at K-8 prior to his transfer to K-16 where he was to fly special classified missions. I noted that he had a letter in his hand and I asked who it was to. He said, "To my wife." Reece Black
"Reece Black"
I kidded Reece about the number of crews lost on their last mission and asked him if he had plenty of insurance to solace his lonely widow. He said he just had the standard $10,000 policy and I said that wouldn't last the widow long. I told him I could just visualize his wife 10 years from tonight in a bar using the very last of her insurance and bemoaning the fact that her cheap husband did not do more for her welfare.

He and I were good friends who always gave the other a hard time, and I played this exchange to the hilt. As we got off the bus at operations Reece put his letter in the letter box and started to enter the building. He looked back at me and saw I also had a letter and said "Who's the letter to, Jim." I replied, "To Joyce." (My wife)

Charles Billingslea
"Charles Billingslea"
The bravest of the aircrewmen were the navigators and the gunners. The gunners were cooped up in their compartment for the entire mission with limited vision outside and dependent upon the conversations between pilot and navigator for knowledge of how the mission was progressing. The lives of the navigators and gunners were in the hands of the pilots all the way.

I always felt we lost as many crews to pilot error as we did to enemy action. Many of the mission attacks were conducted in the blankets of night with poor outside reference. Many of the evasive maneuvers were violent to avoid enemy gunners. With poor outside reference, many pilots were suckered into pressing the attack too low and flew into the terrain on the pullup. Some pilots flew into traps set for them.

We were Pintail 5 that night and Reece was Pintail 4, with a takeoff 5 minutes before mine. I was assigned the route Green 8 from Pyongyang south to Sariwon and Reece was to work Purple 3 from Pyangyang to Sinanju. My crew was navigator Lt. Bill Petree, and gunner Sgt Stan Brown. Our time in the area on G-8 had expired and Bill reminded me that we were due out of the area at 1:30. It had been an unproductive night and I made one last pass on a possible target before heading for home. I still had three 500 pound bombs in the belly and plenty of ammunition. As we climbed out to leave I caught a bright light out of the corner of my eye and turned around to get a good look at it.

I figured the Commies had us pretty well timed. They knew I was scheduled to leave and they were going to get in lots of movement before the next plane arrived on the route. I went back to get one more crack at them.

Bill Petree reminded me that we were supposed to be out of the area on our way home. I told him, "Don't worry, you're just along for the ride," and I moved around to get into position.

Sgt. Brown had a good look at the target through his gunsights and be said, "It looks like a sucker light, if you ask me." I said, "Nobody asked you, Sergeant."

Well, we started our pass and I was indicating about 435, just above the red line at 420. As I got down I could see that the light wasn't on the road after all.

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