Overlord'S Blog: Furious Migs
During the Korean war the Royal Navy contributed three carriers to the UN Mission. On board these three carriers were Hawker Sea Furies and Fairey Fireflies. These were flown off the carriers HMS Ocean, HMS Theseus and HMS Glory. The Australian carrier HMAS Sydney also embarked the same planes. Against these propeller driven planes the North Koreans had MIG-15 jet fighters and Yak's. The Migs had about 200Mph speed advantage, also they packed a cluster of two 23mm and a single 37mm cannon. The Royal Navy aircraft weren't exactly unarmed though. Both types carried four 20mm cannons. What the North Koreans lacked however was experienced pilots. The Royal Navy still had a massive pool of experience from World War Two.
In the early days of the Korean war the Main North Korean plane were Yak fighters. This led to an unfortunate incident were a Hawker Sea Fury was mistaken as a Yak and shot down by a B-29. From then on Black and white Invasion stripes were added to all UN planes. This still didn't always help. On one occasion a British pilot, Commander Giles Binney, was flying his Firefly, when he was bounced by a Jet fighter! After making a savage attack that managed to put one small hole in his wing, Cmdr Binney spotted the plane as a USAF Thunderjet. He followed the plane back to its base, and once on the gorund tracked down the pilot. He found the American pilot boasting how he had shot down a Yak. As you can imagine Cmdr Binney had some choice words to say to that.
However the lack of Migs led to a propaganda opportunity. The USAF dropped a series of leaflets announcing how they could bomb targets, with the Migs being "too scared" to do anything about it. Presented with a potential loss of face the North Koreans started flying their Migs into the combat zone. Normally in groups of eight. The first encounter was a mixed package of aircraft from HMS Ocean. The Furies and Fireflies got attacked by eight Migs. The Migs made one pass without results and left the area. The next encounter was a much more deadly fight.
On 0600, August 9th, 1952 a flight of four Sea Furies were flying cover for Fireflies engaged on a raid to interdict railways near Chinnampo. The Sea furies were from 802 Squadron, and were flown by Commander Peter Carmichael, Lieutenant Pete Davies, Sub-Lieutenant Brian Ellis and Sub-Lieutenant Carl Haines. The Furies were loitering over the target area at about 4000 feet. They had been holding for about twenty minutes when Sub-Lt Haines spotted shapes moving at higher altitude against the daytime moon. These turned out to be a package of eight Migs. Yelling out a warning of "Migs, 5'oclock!" the Sea Furies split into two pairs separated by about 400 yards. Cmdr Carmichael led one section with Sub-Lt Ellis. Lt Davies led the other. All four pilots started "rubbernecking". Twisting their heads to look all over to spot the enemy. They also ditched their drop tanks, although one hung up on Sub-Lt Ellis' wing.
The Migs launched a classic attack, the first dived out of the sun shooting at Sub-Lt Ellis. Here a peculiarity of the Mig saved Sub-Lt Ellis. The differing ballistics of the cannons mounted in the Migs nose meant at long range the shots would often pass over and under the target. Sub-Lt Ellis saw tracers flashing past his aircraft and yelled out a simple Command of "Break!". This caused both sections ot start doing a scissors manoeuvre, where both aircraft weave towards each other. As they did so both sections turned into the attacking Migs. One Mig went head to head with Lt Davies' section, and both pilots scored hits on the Mig. It broke off and limped away with smoke coming from it. As second Mig ploughed through both sections, with all four pilots riddling it with 20mm shells. As the Mig passed through the formation it peeled away and crashed into a hillside below.
As he completed another tight turn Sub-Lt Ellis was surprised to see a Mig hurtle past him with its air brakes out. It had almost slotted in on his tail, and it was only his last turn that had saved him. However the Mig pilot was dumping his speed and closing up on Cmdr Carmichael. Sub-Lt Ellis rolled onto the Migs tail and emptied his guns at it. He registered hits on its wing, and the Mig pilot immediately realized his mistake in trying to dogfight with slower more nimble aircraft, so brought in his air brakes and accelerated away. He was last seen limping away at a much reduced speed escorted by the other Migs.
The results of the dog fight are confirmed by communist reports, sating they lost one Mig, and two damaged.
Other propeller planes are credited with shooting down communist Migs. Captain Jesse Folmar in a Vought Corsair shot one down, but was himself shot down shortly afterwards. Cross checking with communist sources show that nearly all other claims of "probables" are false. However there is one propeller driven plane that racked up a larger tally of Migs than all the others combined. Boeing B-29's have 27 Mig kills to their credit. However cross checking shows the number is about four.
Note: This article is in part pulled together from personal recollections from several of the pilots. These accounts were written years after the event. Some of the pilots disagree with each other about the exact circumstances. But please remember that we're talking about people trying to remember what happened while throwing your aircraft about at 400MPH, with 12 other aircraft in close proximity, all the while scared for your life. To add to it all the Sea Furies were not fitted with gun camera's. So I've added all the accounts together and matched occurrences to get as close as I can to what happened.
|Migs attacking a B-29