by Al Andre'
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|February 8, 1952 dawned a clear, cold day at K-8. About 0900 one of the gunners told me that Captain Bill Jessup (pictured at right) wanted to see me.
I went to Ops and very matter of fact Jess said, "Would you like to go on a "Special" with me tonight?
"Yes Sir", I answered, wondering what a 'special' was. I had flown several missions with Jes, including my "Cherry Ride", and hadn't been disappointed yet. He told me to be at Group Briefing at 1400.
I was there on time and met with Jessup, Lt Gene Gould (pictured at left) and several briefing officers. We sat around a table with some 8 X 10 photos in front of us. The photos showed a small village with a cluster of several buildings near the center of town. The main building was identified as a school or church, and was to host a meeting that evening of the Chinese General Staff. The village was Yonan, and was located on the rail line and highway between Haiju and Kaesong. Yonan was about 30 miles northwest of point "Oboe", our usual inbound check point.
It was assumed each of the Chinese generals would have their own private army with them and the town would be heavily defended with automatic weapons mounted on vehicles. The meeting was to be at 2100, our time-on-target was to be 2110. Strategy was discussed and planned. The weather was clear and cold with fresh snow. The moon was nearly full; it should be a perfect night for a party.
I was delighted that our aircraft was "Queen" (pictured at right). She was a two turret, eight gun hardnose. Jess always flew "Wheel", which had only a top turret. (It also had two bayonets brazed on the bottom two guns in the nose - but that's another story.) The lower turret gave me much more flexibility. We checked "Queen" out. She was ready.
We took off at 2015 with a regular "Pintail" number and proceeded north in the usual manner. The plan was to fly the pattern all our B-26s took north, and at the last possible moment break off for the attack.
We proceeded to "Oboe" at 7,500 feet and checked in with "Dentist". We made a slight left correction and headed for the "Panic-Strip" - Purple 11 route.
A few moments later we dove at a steep angle toward the water. We were really hauling ___ when we leveled off just above the moonlit sea, still headed north. Gould gave Jessup a heading to the right and shortly we made landfall. We pulled up slightly and followed the low hilly contours for about a minute.
The bomb bay doors swung open and a blast of cold, crisp air filled my compartment. We came up over a little rise and there right below was Yonan - moonlit and bright in the fresh snow. Gene had put us right on the money. Jess punched off five 500# tritonal's about 100' apart. I could see scores of men and vehicles parked all about this small village. No one fired a shot
I watched through my gunsight as the bombs exploded right across the center of the village. The explosions lifted "Queen". Jess circled a little hill to the east of town and came back across the village and dropped five more G.P.s. The explosions completed a perfect X right in the middle of the target buildings. This time a few shots were fired.
We were now to the northwest. Jess did a 180 and came at Yonan with fourteen guns blazing, fishtailing the aircraft to get the maximum spread with the A.P.I.s. The party was heating up. Everyone was shooting.
I had never seen as much small arms fire as was now coming our way - not one tracer. Rifle and machine gun flashes were everywhere. As we passed over I fired with my lower turret to get some heads down. We went around a small hill and a lone 20mm with tracers arched just ahead of us from a hill in the south. I gave him a burst from my upper turret as we banked around and he stopped firing.
We continued to make passes, each from a different direction, using the same technique - strafing and fishtailing - with me trying to suppress the small arms fire on our retreat. On one pass I spotted what appeared to be a fuel storage tank. I fired a burst in it from my top turret as we banked around. It didn't explode or burn. I hit it again - nothing. (Later, Jess asked me why I fired at the fish pond.)
Finally we expended our ammunition and climbed west toward the ocean. A photo ship took pictures as we headed out. At 8,500 feet we checked with "Dentist" at "Oboe" and headed home.
"Queen" flew beautifully. We had no indication she was even scratched. On our approach to K-8 Jess asked me to visually check the gear as he lowered it. Everything looked fine. Jess cautioned Gould and I to be prepared for anything on touchdown. His intuition was correct. As the wheels hit the ground the plane started weaving and yawing. Jess had all he could do to keep us on the runway. After what seemed a very long time we stopped; still on the runway but slightly askew. The time was 2335. We left the aircraft there.
Later it was determined that the left tire was shot flat, a magneto on the right engine was shot out, and she suffered many holes - none serious. The lady had given a regal performance. Four days later I flew another mission in "Queen" with "El Lobo" - Chuck Wolfe - and there's another story.
The next day the peace talks at Pan Mun Jom were cancelled. Our party was a success.
I now knew what a "Special" was .
-- Al Andre'
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