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by Lucien Thomas
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|I'd like to think that hidden away in the Pyongyang archives there is a sepia colored "after action" report written over 40 years ago by a sector commander that reads in part, "The night intruder pilots are a strange lot. They are skilled, persistent and will even resort to aerial acrobatics in pressing home an attack against our installations and truck convoys." |
From the winter of 1951 until early fall of 1952 that section of northwest Korea which became known as "MIG Alley" was our squadron's nocturnal hunting ground. During the Korean War the best anti-aircraft soldiers the communists could muster defended every stretch of road and every mile of rail track.
Shortly after arriving at K-8 in the fall of 1951, I made the usual flight line tour. As I looked down that long row of Invaders parked in front of the estuary, I recognized an old friend from my days with the 452nd Bomb Group at K-9 -- Pusan. Parked at the end of the line was an olive drab eight gun hard-nosed aircraft bearing the designation of "D" on the vertical stabilizer.
The sight of that aircraft brought back memories. As a 729th Bomb Squadron aircraft it bore the same designation and was affectionately referred to as "D-Dawg." The airplane had been badly shot up on one of the last daylight low-level missions we had flown out of Miho and had been left there when we moved to K-9 in April 1951.
As I walked over to look more closely at my old friend, it was obvious that it, like Rodney Dangerfield, was not getting very much respect. I quietly wondered how an aircraft could go through a depot overhaul and still come out dressed for World War II. The ravages of time, the cold Korean winter and combat over North Korea had taken its toll. The olive drab paint was badly chipped and it had aluminum patches from one end to the other.
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|"Howard Anderson" ||"Edward Lombard" |
|Enter Major Harold B. Anderson. He had been assigned as the Group Operations Officer in early 1952. You did not get indecision when dealing with Andy. He was a man of action and everything was black or white. Most people gave Andy a very wide berth until they got to know him. In those days I thought that he was about 6 foot 8 inches tall and was rather surprised upon seeing him years later to find out that this was not so. In any case, we started to fly together. Beneath that gruff personality, I found a very fine officer who was easy to get along with. He probably averaged smoking at least a dozen Dutch Master cigars a day and I heard from reliable sources that he even slept with an unlighted one in his mouth. He was a "Tiger" and impressed me with his ability as a pilot and his burning desire to chase trains and aggressively press home an attack. He had flown with a couple of navigators who failed to impress him. They never got a second chance. |
One day he greeted me with a broad grin saying that he had finally found a navigator. "He's got a set of maps marked up with all the flak and searchlight batteries in North Korea. I don't know why he went to all that trouble, but he's what we need. Now we can go into the locomotive business."
He was a First Lieutenant. His name was Edward Lombard, but no one called him by any name other than "Lombard." He came from New Orleans or somewhere down that way. He was a professional college student whose sole ambition was to complete a tour, get out of uniform and return to UCLA so he could again become a perennial college student. Lombard claimed to be a coward but I never found it to be so. He was a good navigator, personable with a good sense of humor and fun to be around. The three of us made a great team!