The Korean War and the Korean Air Force

Check out the stories of the Korean Air Force during the Korean War through the records and archives

The Air Force fighters used during the Korean War are prized collections of the War Memorial. You can see various types of fighters in different areas of the exhibition. 

But did you know that before the Korean War, Korea did not have a single fighter jet?

Combat pilot welcome ceremon (1953)War Memorial of Korea

The secret behind the Korean Air Force developing so greatly since the outbreak of the Korean War was the hard work of air force servicemen who risked their lives. 

L-4 maintenance at Jeju air baseWar Memorial of Korea

Korean Air Force in the early stage of the Korean War

When the Korean War broke out, the Korean Air Force, which was established less than one year before, did not have a single fighter plane.

T-6 maintenance at Jeju air baseWar Memorial of Korea

A few liaison aircraft provided by the USA and 10 trainer planes (T-6 trainer known as Geongukgi) purchased through national fund-raising made up the entire Air Force.

10 pilots and flight instructor(Lt Col Edward A. Crum) at Itazuke air base, Japan (1950-06-26)War Memorial of Korea

Ten Air Force pilots selected to receive fighters from the US Air Force stationed in Japan had to pilot their planes without receiving proper training and risking their lives to come back to their homeland.

Documentary art of an air force pilot dropping a bomb by hand in L-4 liaison planeWar Memorial of Korea

But the situation on the battlefield was tough. To stop the enemy from charging at high speeds, a pilot in the rear seat of the plane had to drop bombs manually.

Early in the Korean War, Korean pilots and Major Dean Hess(US Air Force) at Yeouido air baseWar Memorial of Korea

Despite the shortage of pilots and fighters, the Korean Air Force did not give up and went to different air bases and continuously engaged in battle. 

Mechanics repairing machine guns at Yeouido air baseWar Memorial of Korea

Korean Air Force begins solo missions

Early on in the war, unlike the massive UN Air Force, mainly composed of the US Air Force, the Korean Air Force was in shambles and did its part as a member of the UN Air Force, but it could not still plan and carry out aerial operations on its own.

Commemorative photo of General Jang Deok-chang and Korean pilots participating in the ORI inspection (1951-08)War Memorial of Korea

In September of 1950, thanks to the efforts of the Air Force pilots and servicemen, it completed the operational readiness inspection (ORI) overseen by the US Air Force, finally being recognized for its ability to carry out solo operations. 

Documentary art of the bombing campaign on the supply depot at Changdori (1951-10-11)War Memorial of Korea

Afterward, the Korean Air Force planned out multiple solo operations and began to successfully carry out attack missions in enemy territories.

The Korean Air Force Bombards the Rail Bridge at Seungho-ri During the Korean WarWar Memorial of Korea

Efforts of the Air Force to receive more support

The Korean Air Force had to prove its abilities to receive more support from the UN and the US. 

Ultimately, the Korean Air Force succeeded in destroying North Korea's iron bridge in Seungho-ri, which the UN Air Force failed to do even after several attacks.

Documentary art of the bombing campaign on Pyongyang (1952-08-29)War Memorial of Korea

As the war progressed, the Korean Air Force began to participate in important missions as part of the UN Air Force and made great achievements...

Air Support Over Hill 351 During the Korean WarWar Memorial of Korea 1953, while ceasefire negotiations were underway, the Korean Air Force significantly increased support for ground troops on the frontlines fighting for the hills. 

F-51D Mustang fighters(Combat pilot welcome ceremony) (1953)War Memorial of Korea

The F-51D Mustang fighter, which Korea did not have at the onset of the war, became the main fighter of the Air Force that protected the skies of the Republic of Korea. 

F-51D Mustang fighters rallied at Sacheon air baseWar Memorial of Korea

By the end of the war, the Korean Air Force became a large fleet thanks to the support of the UN Forces.

Credits: Story

* Rights to all data used in this story are reserved by the War Memorial of Korea.

Planning/Editing: Shin Yoo-jin
Host: Jang Seo-hee

The War Memorial of Korea is a comprehensive museum on war and military history that collects, preserves, manages, and services various materials related to the history of the war in the Korean Peninsula. The War Memorial of Korea's Open Archive is offered to share historical resources with citizens. Check out more archive materials of the War Memorial at the Open Archive.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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