Topics - Airplane Crashes
91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron Losses
- written by Capt. Jim Bard (USAF Ret.)

 
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[KWE Note: Most of the information for this page was supplied by Capt. Jim Bard, USAF (Ret.), Secretary, 91st SRW Association.]

 

Introduction

The “91st” in World War II was the 91st Bomb Group that suffered more losses than any other Bomb Group. They flew B-17s over Europe out of Bassingbourn, England; including the Memphis Belle. They deactivated in 1945 after the war. While the 91st became famous during the war, the group's glory came at a high human cost. Along with the 197 B-17 aircraft lost on combat missions, over 600 men lost their lives and over 1,150 spent time as prisoners of war. The 91st Bomb Group Memorial Association is still very active.


The 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing Patch
(Click picture for a larger view)

The 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was activated on 10 November 1948. You have the story of just one squadron (91st SRS) detached to FEAF for the Korean War. The squadron's aging propeller-driven aircraft proved vulnerable to the enemy's faster jet fighter aircraft. As a result, the 91 SRW's 323d SRS sent a 3-plane detachment of the reconnaissance version of the Air Force's first multiengine jet bomber aircraft, the RB-45C. Because no other reconnaissance wing in the Air Force flew the RB-45, the wing continued to provide maintenance and logistical support to the detachment, even though the Far East Bomber Command had operational control of the detachment.  The wing deactivated on November 7, 1957.

The wing was reactivated as the 91st Bombardment Wing 15 November 1962 equipped with B52s. They flew missions in Vietnam. In June 1969 the wing was designated as the 91st Strategic Missile Wing and moved from Glasgow AFB to Minot AFB; it is equipped with Minuteman Missiles. It remains active today as the 91st Missile Wing.


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Korean War Involvement


The 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron Patch
(Click picture for a larger view)

The 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron was detached from the Wing at McGuire AFB and placed under operational control of the Far East Air Force. On November 15, 1950, at Johnson AB, Japan the 91st SRS absorbed the personnel and resources of the 31st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron moved to Yokota AB, Japan, December 19, 1950.

Using the RB-29 and RB-50 Superfortress aircraft, it performed target and bomb-damage assessment photography and visual reconnaissance for FEAF Bomber Command, flew other special photographic missions, and conducted electronic "ferret" reconnaissance to determine frequency, location, and other characteristics of enemy ground radar. They were assisted for a time by other squadrons of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing flying the RB-45 Tornado the reconnaissance version of the first all jet bomber.

The squadron also performed shipping surveillance over the Sea of Japan near the Siberian coast and leaflet drops over North Korea. Beginning in late 1952, rotating aircrews of the Philippine-based 581st Air Resupply and Communications Wing augmented the 91st SRS in flying leaflet missions.


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Significant Losses - Korean War

RB-29A "Over Exposed" 44-61813/31st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron

November 9, 1950
RB-29A “Over Exposed” Aircraft Number: 44-61813

A Superfortress reconnaissance aircraft with the 31st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, U. S. Air Force, on November 9, 1950, while returning from a combat mission, the aircraft was damaged by a MiG-15. It crash landed short of the runway at Johnson Air Base, Japan. Killed were:

  • CAPT Robert E Laden – San Jose, CA
    Captain Laden was the pilot, TDY from the 28th RS.
     
  • 1LT Robert A Mitchell – Brooklyn, NY
    First Lieutenant Mitchell was a veteran of World War II. In Korea, he was the co-pilot.
     
  • 1Lt James M. Schooley - Robertson, MO
    A member of the 20th Weather Squadron; a Weather Officer and Navigator for the 2015th Weather Detachment based at Tachikawa, Japan.
     
  • MSGT Avery J Green – Columbus, IN
    Master Sergeant Green was the flight engineer.
     
  • SSGT Orvis J Gunhus – Kenyon, MN
    Staff Sergeant Gunhus was a veteran of World War II. In Korea, he was a crewman.

The remaining crew members survived the crash.

Lavene Survives

Flying alongside the 91st, the 31st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron was scheduled to be officially absorbed by the 91st SRS November 15, 1950, the following occurred six days prior to the official date. On this flight Cpl Harry J. Lavene was credited with downing the first bomber to jet MiG. Corporal Lavene survived the crash.

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RB-45C/48-015/323rd SRS, 91st SRW

December 4, 1950
RB-45C Aircraft Number: 48-015

The only RB-45C lost in combat during the Korean War was 48-015, which was assigned to the 323rd SRS, 91st SRW.  The crew was from the 19th BW, Langley Air Force Base, on temporary duty to the 91st SRW.  The RB-45 was shot down by MiGs on 4 December 1950.  The co-pilot, Major Jules E. Young, and navigator, Capt. James J. Picucci, were killed in action.  The pilot and an observer were taken prisoner.  The Pentagon assigned observer, Col. John R. Lovell, was killed by North Koreans on 10 December 1950.  The pilot, Major Charles E. McDonough, died 31 December 1950 while a prisoner of war.  Casualty details:

  • Lovell, Col. John Raymond (observer) (beaten to death while a POW)


Col. John R. Lovell

He was a graduate of West Point (class of '27), a former U.S. Olympic boxing team coach and a veteran of Cold War espionage. Colonel Lovell was the highest-ranking intelligence officer lost during the Korean War.  Colonel Lovell received the Air Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart.

Born: 1904
Home State: Iowa (Ottumwa)
Wife: Norma M. Lovell (b. October 5, 1903/d. November 19, 2000)
Daughter: Mrs. Dick (Nancy) Dean

Source: Air Force: www.Togetherweserved.com

"USMA Class of 1927, Colonel Lovell, was a decorated World War II veteran. During the Korean War, he was with the Directorate of Intelligence, U.S. Air Force. He was placed on temporary duty with the 5th Air Force. On December 4, 1950, while on a reconnaissance mission over the Yalu River, his RB-45C Tornado bomber was shot down by Russian MiG-15s. He was taken prisoner by the Chinese forces, interrogated by the Russians and turned over to the North Korean Armed Forces. He was beaten to death by North Korean civilians on December, 10 1950. His remains were not recovered." He was stationed TDY with the 91st from the was with the Directorate of Intelligence, U.S. Air Force, Pentagon and was, thus, a very valuable target for the communists."

  • McDonough, Major Charles Edward (pilot) (beaten to death while a POW)

Wife: Mary Jo McDonough (living in Glen Rose, TX at time of loss)
Daughter: Jeanne McDonough Dear (Ft. Worth, TX)

Source: Air Force: www.Togetherweserved.com

"Captain McDonough was in charge of the three top secret RB-45Cs stationed at Yokota AB, Japan which had arrived in September 1950. They belonged to Detachment "A" of the 84th Bomb Squadron, 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.  Captain McDonough's RB-45 (Aircraft Number: 48-015) reconnaissance was attacked by 5 Soviet MiG-15s from the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps and shot down (by one according to the interrogation info) on 4 December 1950. He was taken prisoner, interrogated under torture by Soviet (probably in China). Soviet interrogator Fironov said the North Koreans hung a sign around McDonough's neck stating he was a US war criminal, put him on display in a public square, and permitted a mob to beat McDonough to death, on or about 18 December 1950."

Source: http://www.koreanwarpowmia.net/Reports/KWWG.htm

"The above link has details from the Soviet side of POWs from the Korean War, and is detailed about the interrogation and death of Captain McDonough. "indicated that while flying a B-45 (sic) along the Yalu River, the aircraft was attacked by five MiGs and two engines were shot out. He stated that he was the only one who escaped from the aircraft (emphasis added), having managed to get the canopy off and bail out at an altitude of about 1,000 feet. landed in the burning wreckage and was severely burned about the hands and face. After evading capture, for 3 or 4 days without shoes, he turned himself in to the North Koreans...he was placed in a cell with Captain Shawe in Sinuiji, North Korea. Two days later they were removed from the cell and Captain Shawe joined a group of prisoners starting a march to another prison camp. could not walk and was carried to an ox cart by fellow prisoners. The North Koreans said he was being taken to a hospital for medical treatment, because he was suffering from frostbite and gangrene of both legs. He was not seen again by repatriates after 16 December 1950, and they reported his condition was so bad at that time that he was not expected to survive."

  • Picucci, Capt. James Jerome (navigator) (KIA)

Born October 23, 1918
Home State: New York (New York City)
Service No. AO-928027

  • Young, Major Jules E. (co-pilot) (KIA)

Born June 7, 1921
Home State: New York (East Rochester)
Service No. AO-800628

Newspaper Articles
Associated Press, December 18, 1994
by Robert Burns

Mystery of Korean War's Secret Air Force Mission Is Unraveled: Military: Relatives say they finally have pieced together how a U.S. spy plane and its crew members were shot down in 1950 by the Soviets.

"He was a leader, and the qualities of leadership require sometimes taking risks," Barkey said. He figures Lovell had responsibility for the RB-45 program and therefore wanted to see firsthand what risks its crews were facing.  Dean recalls helping her father pack his bags on Nov. 23, Thanksgiving Day. He left that night, saying only that he was headed to the Far East.

Since then there have been only two hints of his fate:

* His name was mentioned in an "enemy broadcast" picked up by U.S. intelligence in China on May 21, 1951, which suggested he had been captured in Korea.

* His was among 71 names of Americans listed by the U.S. Far East Command as "men positively identified as remaining in the hands of the Communists" after the final exchange of Allied and Communist POWs in September, 1953. Yet he never was officially listed as a POW. Dean recently obtained the list from a declassified December 14, 1954, report in the files of the U.S. Far East Command.

Nearly a year earlier, on February 28, 1954, the government had declared Lovell dead. He was from Ottumwa, Iowa, a graduate of West Point (class of '27), a former U.S. Olympic boxing team coach and a veteran of Cold War espionage.

The two other men on board were co-pilot Capt. Jules E. Young, 29, of East Rochester, New York, and 1st Lt. James J. Picucci, 32, of New York City, the navigator.

When the daughters of Lovell and McDonough started researching the incident in detail in 1992, both were surprised to learn that many records from that period are lost; many are still classified secret, off-limits to most citizens.

Dear began her quest in earnest in 1992 when, at the prodding of an aunt, she called the Air Force casualty office at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, to ask for the file on her father. Her family had been told before that his service records had burned in a records center fire in St. Louis in the 1970s, but this time the casualty official said she would check and call back.

The return call was a bombshell: Her father's name was on a list of U.S. airmen provided by the Russian government.  "I was absolutely stunned," Dear recalls. But no one could tell her what the list was, whether she should think her father had been taken by the Russians.

"They didn't have a clue," she said. The Russian list indicates that McDonough and other U.S. POWs were interrogated by Soviet officers. Indeed, the Russians later released a copy of a McDonough interrogation which says a Soviet "prepared the questions" and "a Chinese comrade translated" the answers.  Moscow denies it ever had contact with the RB-45 crew.

Dear began digging. She attended congressional hearings in Washington and searched Air Force archives at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and at the National Archives in Washington and Suitland, Maryland. She pored over historical records at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, collected books on the Korean War and the Air Force, and tracked down anyone who might be of help.

She found Nancy Dean, who coincidentally had begun her own research. Dean, helped by her husband, Dick, fired off letters, organized documents and plotted her search strategy from a basement "war room" in her Wheaton, Maryland, home.

Many questions about the RB-45 case went unanswered in the years after the last American POWs returned from Korea, but the one that mattered most to each crew member's family was: Did he, in fact, die?

Mary Jo McDonough stayed in Glen Rose after her husband was listed as missing. She never changed houses, never married again.  But she didn't wait idly. She sought out her husband's colleagues when they returned after the war. She wrote to families of other missing airmen and urged them to press for a full accounting. In a letter to President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 5, 1954, Mrs. McDonough wrote, "This matter is more important to me and to the thousands in my position than anything else. And we're not going to forget it."  She got no answers. Hope wore away with the passage of time.

Then, thanks to her daughter's persistence, and quite apart from the government's own efforts, an answer came in October, 1993: McDonough died about two weeks after his plane was shot down. Not all details are known, and the body has not been recovered.

"My mother had been waiting for 40 years," Jeanne Dear said. "For us it's like a miracle" to know for sure he died, and to complete their grieving.  She plans a memorial service for her father today in Ft. Worth.

Of the hundreds of relatives of Korean War MIAs, she apparently is the first to have confirmed a death through her own research and a network of contacts in the United States and abroad.

Ironically, the clinching evidence came not from U.S. government files but from Russia, whose MIG fighters shot down McDonough's plane near the Yalu River that separates North Korea from China. McDonough parachuted from the plane."

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RB-45C Tornado loss in Korea remains a mystery
by Robert F. Dorr
Special to the Times

[KWE Note: This article originally appeared in Air Force Times and is reprinted here with permission from Robert Dorr.]

"As the Korean War heated up in late 1950, the Air Force decided to send a trio of jet-propelled North American RB-45C Tornado reconnaissance planes into combat. They were developed from the B-45, which was the first operational American jet bomber and made its maiden flight in 1947.

A B-45A squadron was formed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, the following year. A proposed B-45B version was never built and only a handful of B-45C models were completed as bombers. In atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific in 1951 and 1952, the B-45 dropped real atomic bombs twice. Both times, the weapon was the Mark 7 warhead intended for the Thor missile.

The B-45 made the first-ever European deployment of tactical nuclear weapons from Langley Air Force Base, Va. to Sculthorpe, England, in 1954.  But an early decision was taken to shift the plane's job from bombing to reconnaissance. As a result, most of the Tornados in service were RB-45C models. They were powered by four General Electric J47-GE-13/15 turbojet engines, reached a maximum speed of 570 m.p.h., and were armed with two 50-cal. M-7 machineguns in a tail turret.

In September 1950, three RB-45Cs reached Yokota Air Base, Japan. They belonged to Detachment "A" of the 84th Bomb Squadron, 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.

Compared with propeller-driven planes, the RB-45C could carry more fuel and more cameras and fly faster. Tornados embarked on risky night-photography missions, often flying out to a radius of 500 miles or more, searching out targets and evading radar-directed antiaircraft guns.

The Soviet-built MiG-15 jet fighter appeared in Korea weeks after the RB-45C. On December 4, 1950, an RB-45C piloted by Capt. Charles E. McDonough disappeared. Today, Russian records confirm that a MiG shot down the RB-45C. At the time, McDonough's wife Mary Jo in Glen Rose, Tex. received a telegram saying only that the plane had disappeared.

Also aboard were Col. John R. Lovell, a Pentagon intelligence officer, Capt. Jules E. Young, the co-pilot, and 1st Lt, James J. Picucci, the navigator. There was no crew seat for Lovell and his role has never been explained. He was the highest-ranking intelligence officer lost during the Korean War.

Declassified records confirm that the Soviets assigned high priority to capturing an RB-45C or interrogating crew members. In an August 3 interview, the pilot's daughter, Jeanne McDonough Dear, of Fort Worth, Tex., said she has evidence that her father initially survived the shootdown and was, at one time, alive in Soviet hands. A 1996 British Broadcasting Company television program featured a former Soviet official who claimed to have interrogated Lovell. The men’s fate remains unresolved.

Dubbed by another pilot "a highly classified aircraft. jammed with the most modern reconnaissance-gathering apparatus available," the RB-45C continued its hush-hush snooping in the Korean War. One of them acquired a unique paint scheme to foil the searchlights used by North Koreans to guide MiGs at night. In addition to Korean War flying, RB-45Cs conducted intelligence flights over China and the Russian port of Vladivostok. The RB-45C Tornados performed their mission superbly but the loss of one aircraft remained a heavy blow to all involved.

RB-45Cs also operated in Europe during the Cold War. A handful were flown on penetrations of Soviet airspace by British crews after the aircraft were temporarily painted in Royal Air Force markings." - by Robert Dorr

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RB-29A "Southern Comfort" 44-61810

June 13, 1952
RB-29A "Southern Comfort" Aircraft Number 44-61810

RB-29A Superfortress with the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, U.S. Air Force. On June 13, 1952, the aircraft departed Yokota Air Base, Honshu, Japan on an electronic surveillance mission. It was shot down by 2 Russian MiG-15's over the Sea of Japan south of Mys Ostrovnoy, north of Hokkaido and 120 miles from the Russian coast.  Crew of 12 - No survivors or remains recovered. All were listed as Missing in Action and were presumed dead on November 15, 1955.

  • SSGT Roscoe George Becker - Tillamook, OR
    Staff Sergeant Becker was a crew member.
     
  • SSGT William A Blizzard - Arlington, CA
    Staff Sergeant Blizzard was a crew member.
     
  • SSGT Leon F Bonura - Beaumont, TX
    Staff Sergeant Bonura was a crew member.
     
  • MAJ Samuel Nathan Busch - Philadelphia, PA
    Major Busch was a decorated veteran of World War II. In Korea, he was a senior pilot.
     
  • MSGT William Robert Homer - Jeanette, PA
    Master Sergeant Homer was a crew member.
     
  • SSGT Miguel W Monserrat - Philadelphia, PA
    Staff Sergeant Monserrat was a crew member.
     
  • CAPT Samuel D Service - Berkeley, CA
    Captain Service was a crew member.
     
  • 1LT James A. Scully - Philadelphia, PA
    Captain Sculley was a crew member.
     
  • 1LT Robert J. McDonnell - Oceanside, NY
    First Lieutenant McDonnell was a crew member.
     
  • MSGT David L. Moore - Ashland, KY
    Master Sergeant Moore was a crew member.
     
  • SSGT Eddie R. Berg - Blackduck, MN
    Staff Sergeant Berg was a crew member.
     
  • A1C Danny A. Pillsbury - Orange, TX
    Airman First Class Pillsbury was a crew member.
     
  • An officer, believed by the United States Government to have been a member of this crew, was observed in October 1953, in a Soviet hospital north of Magadan near the crossing of the Kolyma River between Elgen and Debin at a place called Narionburg. This officer stated that he had been wrongfully convicted under Item 6 of Article 58 of the Soviet Penal Code.

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RB-29A "So Tired" 44-61727

July 4, 1952
RB-29A “So Tired” Aircraft Number: 44-61727

RB-29A Superfortress with the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, U.S. Air Force. On July 4, 1952, while on a photo reconnaissance mission over Sinanju, North Korea and possibly China, the aircraft was shot down by a MiG. Crew of 13 – 11 survived; 2 MIA:

  • SSGT Richard Louis Albright - Clovis, NM
    Staff Sergeant Albright was a crew member. He was listed as Missing in Action and was presumed dead on February 28, 1954.
     
  • SSGT Clifford Henry Mast - Spokane, WA
    Staff Sergeant Mast was a crew member. He was listed as Missing in Action and was presumed dead on February 28, 1954.

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RB-29 Sunbonnet King

October 7, 1952
RB-29 "Sunbonnet King" Aircraft Number: 44-61815

RB-29 "Sunbonnet King" of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron was on a photo mission over Northern Hokkaido and was shot down by two Soviet LA-11 fighters near Yuri Island on October 7, 1952.  Crew of 8 - All eight members were lost; no remains were recovered at the time:

  • CAPT Eugene M English - Lafayette, CA
    Pilot
     
  • 1LT Paul E Brock - Oklahoma City, OK
    Co-pilot
     
  • CAPT John R “Chute” Dunham- Easton, MD
    Navigator (His remains were returned in 1993.)
     
  • SSGT Samuel A Colgan- Cherry Tree, PA
    Staff Sergeant Colgan was a crew member.
     
  • A2C Frank E Neail III - Hanover, PA
    Airman Second Class Neail was a crew member.
     
  • SGT John Arthur Hirsch- Burbank, CA
     
  • A2C Fred G Kendrick - Pell City, AL
     
  • A3C Thomas G Shipp - Carlsbad, NM

Three regular crew members did not fly that day: Clyde King (now deceased), the regular pilot, had a leg injury. Mel Renshaw (now deceased), gunner, Severna Park, MD; still looking for name of last crew member.

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RB-29A (name not recorded) 44-62217

January 13, 1953
RB-29A Aircraft Number: 44-62217

RB-29A Superfortress from the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. On January 13, 1953, while on a mission of dropping leaflets over enemy territory, the aircraft was attacked by 12 MiGs. Crew of 14 - Three crew members were killed and eleven were taken prisoner. Shot down on night mission 11 of crew POW (Col Arnold's plane); released in 1955. MIA/KIA were:

  • A2C Alvin Dale Hart JR - Saginaw, MI
    Airman Hart was a member of the 581st Air Resupply Squadron, USAF. He was a crew member.
     
  • CAPT Paul Edward Van Voorhis - Glen Cove, NY
    (POW) (Known to have been held in China.)
     
  • Captain Van Voorhis was a member of the 581st Air Resupply Squadron, U.S. Air Force. He was a crew member. He was listed as Missing in Action and was presumed dead on August 14, 1954.
     
  • 1LT Henry Douglas Weese - Susanville, CA
    (POW) (Known to have been held in China.)
    First Lieutenant Weese was a member of the 581st Air Resupply Squadron, U.S. Air Force. He was a crew member.

POWs were:

  • Arnold, Jr., John K. COL USAF Repatriated to military control from China 1955
  • Baumer, William E. MAJ USAF RMC from China 1955
  • Benjamin, JR., Harry M. A2C USAF RMC from China 1955
  • Brown, Howard W. TSGT USAF RMC from China 1
  • Llewellyn, Elme

    r F. CAPT USAF RMC from China 1955

  • Schmidt, Daniel C. A1C USAF RMC from China 1955
  • Thompson, III, John W. A2C USAF RMC from China 1955
  • Vaadi, Eugene J. CAPT USAF RMC from China 1955

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RB-50G (Little Red Ass) 47-145

July 29, 1953
RB-50G (Little Red Ass) Aircraft Number 47-145

On July 29, 1953, the plane was shot down by two Russian MiG-15's over the Sea of Japan off the coast of Russia.  Crew of 17 - 1 survivor, 1LT John Roche; 2 remains recovered; 13 unaccounted for; 1 definite KIA, body not recovered:

  • CAPT Stanley Keith O'Kelly - Dunsmuir, CA
    Captain O'Kelley was a veteran of World War II; he was the aircraft commander.
     
  • MAJOR Francisco J. Tejeda - Los Angeles, CA
     
  • CAPT James G. Keith - Hobart, OK
     
  • CAPT Robert E. Stalnaker - Huntington, WV
     
  • CAPT John C. Ward - Passadena, CA
     
  • CAPT Lloyd C. Wiggins - Marksville, KY
     
  • CAPT Frank E. Beyer - Webber Falls, OK
     
  • CAPT Warren J. Sanderson - Parks Rapids, MN
     
  • CAPT Edmund J Czyz - Chicago, IL
     
  • SSGT Donald W Gabree - San Leandro, CA
     
  • A/2C Earl W Radlein - Chattanooga, TN
     
  • SSGT Donald G. Hill - Pateros, WA
     
  • A1C Roland E. Goulet - Mount Holly, NJ
     
  • A2C Charles J Russell, Jr. - Philadelphia, PA
     
  • A2C James E. Woods - Buckingham, WV
     
  • MSGT Francis L. Brown - Modesto, CA

Lost:

  • CAPT Stanley Keith O'Kelly - Dunsmuir, CA
     
  • A1C Roland E. Goulet - Mount Holly, NJ

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RB-29A (name not recorded) 44-64000

November 7, 1954
RB-29A (Name not recorded) Aircraft Number: 44-64000

Following the Korean cease fire, the 91st SRS continued surveillance in the vicinity. During one such flight on November 7, 1954 their aircraft took fire from MiGs and decided to return to Japan; but not sure of reaching land. The aircraft had been shot up by MIGs over the Sea of Japan, 7 miles from the coast of Japanese territory; 15 miles from Soviet controlled Kurile Islands. When the pilot thought that they may not make it, he gave the order to bail out. The navigator did so immediately.  Seeing the coast, the pilot rescinded the bail out.  It was reported that the crew member that departed the aircraft hit a coastal cliff and died in the ocean. Remainder of crew survived a crash landing on Hokkaido soil and deplaned rapidly. The aircraft burned after the crash.

Lost:

2LT Sigfredo Angulo – Navigator - Los Angeles, CA

During the Korean War, the 91st SRS was augmented from time to time by other squadrons of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing flying RB45Cs – the reconnaissance version of the first all jet bomber. Included were: the 322nd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, the  323rd Strategic Reconnaissance, and Squadron 324th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron

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4 December 1950

While on temporary duty to Japan one of our 323rd SRS RB45Cs (48-015) was lost to MiGs on 4 December 1950. The crew was from the 19th BW, Langley AFB, TDY to the 91st SRW. Little was said about it at the time, due to the secrecy surrounding the use of the jet reconnaissance aircraft.

Soviet MiG-15 Fagots shot down an RB-45C Tornado of the US Air Force 323rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, 45 miles east of Andung People's Republic of China (just across the Yalu River from Sinuiju North Korea). Soviet pilot Aleksandr F. Andrianov received credit for shooting down the aircraft. Co-pilot Jules E. Young and navigator James L. Picucci were killed in the crash. Pilot Charles E. McDonough and passenger John R. Lovell bailed out and landed south of the Yalu River. McDonough was badly burned when he landed on the Tornado's wreckage. Both were captured the next day by the North Koreans. McDonough was murdered during an interrogation by North Korean and Soviet officers two weeks later. Lovell survived brutal interrogation sessions, but was finally taken into a North Korean village, where the residents were encouraged to lynch him.  Crew members of the first RB-45C lost in combat were:

  • Capt. Charles E. McDonough (Pilot) (Died while POW)
     
  • Capt. Jules E. Young (Co-Pilot) (MIA)
     
  • 1st Lt. James J. Picussi (Navigator) (MIA)
     
  • Col. John R. Lovell (Pentagon Intelligence Officer) (Killed while POW)

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4 July 1951

A US Air Force RB-45C Tornado of the 323rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, based in Yokota Japan, conducted a night overflight 500 miles into Manchuria. The crew of Stacy D. Naftel, Edward Kendrex and Bob Dusenberry reported that they were attacked by MiG-15 Fagots while approaching their target in Harbin People's Republic of China. They managed to escape damage by outrunning the intercepting fighters.

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6 June 1952

6 June 1952 - On a RB45C mission, number 3 engine blew up on take off, number 4 engine flamed out; on fire, the plane crashed near Yokota AB; the crew successfully bailed out.


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Unaccounted For

U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)
Cold War Working Group

Cold War Working Group

The Cold War Working Group (CWWG) was established within the structure of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs in 1993, and is chaired by A. Denis Clift and Colonel Vladimir Konstantinovich Vinogradov.

The Cold War Working Group’s research focuses on ten specific cases involving U.S. military reconnaissance aircraft lost over or near Soviet territory. As a result of those losses, 89 aircrew members remain unaccounted for. The working group’s efforts have led to the recovery of the remains of 18 aircrew members from two separate losses on the territory of the former Soviet Union. These remains were repatriated and buried at Arlington Cemetery with full military honors.

The CWWG continues to investigate aircraft losses in the former Soviet Union. Because most of the Cold War losses took place over water, much of the research has been concentrated in the Central Archives of the Naval Forces of the Russian Federation at Gatchina, near St. Petersburg. In addition to its program of archival research, U.S. and Russian representatives of the Joint Commission also conduct a vigorous interview program with witnesses throughout the former Soviet Union.

The CWWG has also assisted the Russian side in clarifying its Cold War aircraft losses and a submarine loss. In addition, information from U.S. government sources helped to shed light on the fates of dozens of Soviet POW/MIAs from the Afghanistan War.

Sources:
http://www.aiipowmia.com/reports/rnd2.html; http://www.aiipowmia.com/koreacw/mockbacole05.html; and http://www.aiipowmia.com/koreacw/cwwg96b.html.

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Family Members and Task Force Russia

“Little Red Ass” Tail Number 47-145 modified as RB-50G with additional radar and B-50D type nose. Shot down 27 July, 1953 south of Askold Island near Vladivostok, USSR by MiG-17s over the sea. 18 on board, several prisoners, 1 survivor. (The list says 27 July, but 29 July is correct.)

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July 29, 1953
RB-50/tail number 47-145A

On November 10, 1992, the Task Force Russia (TFR) Committee heard testimony of some members of families who have lost servicemen in Cold War situations take a more positive view on the possibility of survivors. One of the most intriguing and convincing cases that can be made showing Soviet duplicity in retaining members of U.S. air-crews shot down by Soviet fighters during the Cold War involves the USAF RB-50, tail number 47-145A, which was attacked by two MIG-15s on July 29,1953, over the Sea of Japan.

The sons of one of the crew, 1st Lt. Warren Sanderson, have made an intensive search for the truth regarding possible survivors. One of the sons, Bruce W. Sanderson, of Fargo, North Dakota, testified before the Committee.

Bruce Sanderson has enjoyed the full support of and considerable assistance from TFR, including personal attention from Gen. Loeffke and Col. Herrington in his research and visit to Russia, where he participated in interviews with Russian sources and was given access to Russian archives. He has been partially successful in obtaining U.S. Government records involving the case, but the
search for relevant documents is incomplete.

Facts that make this case particularly important are:

  • The Soviets admitted that they shot the aircraft down.
     
  • Survivors, beyond the sole individual who was rescued by a USN ship, were seen in the water by search and rescue aircraft.
     
  • North Korean patrol boats were seen in the area, moving to and away from the
    crash site.
     
  • The co-pilot was rescued 22 hours after the crash, 17 miles from the coast.

Mr. Bruce Sanderson provided the Committee with a possible insight into what might have happened to his father and to other American servicemen who flew missions to collect intelligence along the Soviet frontiers during the Cold War. He told the Committee that he located a Russian citizen who was personally involved in the interrogation of American servicemen in the U.S.S.R. from 1950 to 1954. According to Mr. Sanderson, this is what he was told:

He also reaffirmed the information from the first meeting that all U.S. personnel under Soviet control were photographed, finger-printed, and given Russian names, that these men were then moved frequently from camp to camp. It was common practice to create a false death certificate or record when a prisoner was moved. .

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June 13, 1952
"Southern Comfort" Aircraft Number 44-61810, RB-29

Crew of 12 - No survivors or remains recovered.

Mr. Gregg Skavinski of Virginia, testified about the case of his uncle, MSgt William R. Homer, who was aboard a USAF RB-29 when it disappeared over the Sea of Japan on June 13, 1952. The Air Force recorded the loss as an "accident, a non- battle casualty." But Mr. Skavinski testified to information that two radar blips were seen approaching the plane just before it disappeared; that a Russian radio transmission discussed the rescue of a member of the crew; that an empty six-man life raft, that might have been from the RB-29, was sighted; and that Soviets reportedly interrogated an American aviator in Manchuria about Major Sam Bush, the commander of the RB-29. What was the Soviet interest in Major Bush, Mr. Skavinski speculated, if he was at the bottom of the Sea of Japan?  (Bush is actually Busch.)

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Testimony of Sgt. Steve E. Kiba

The case of Sgt. Steve E. Kiba demonstrates conclusively that, whether or not prisoners were transferred from North Korea to the former Soviet Union, at least some were transferred to the People's Republic of China (PRC). Sgt. Kiba was interned in China for 32 months as a POW during the Korean War. An Air Force pilot (the transcriber wrote pilot, but he was not.), Sergeant Kiba was transported to Red China about three days after his capture on January 12, 1953, and remained there until his release on August 4, 1955. Throughout his time as a POW in China, he experienced degrading and harsh conditions. As Sergeant Kiba testified:

"They were sadistic and barbaric. . . threatened me with all kind of horrendous tortures, and they even did some of them. . . They told me I would never go home unless I cooperated. And they threatened to keep me for life. And they kept some of my friends for life. They're still there."

Sergeant Kiba testified that American POWs were abandoned after the 1953 cease-fire, and that he was one of them, but that others, unlike him, never returned. He stated that either he or others in his crew saw ten to fifteen caucasians whose fates remain undetermined. As he testified:

"It is a known fact that we abandoned American servicemen after [World War II, Korea, and Vietnam] and let their families down. I know we abandoned some because I saw some of them."

President Harry Truman was the first President to leave Americans behind. Then President Eisenhower abandoned American POWs after the Korean War in North Korea, Red China and the Soviet Union. In a press conference on April 29, 1959, President Eisenhower acknowledged that not all American POW's were repatriated after the Korean War ceasefire.

According to Sergeant Kiba, the Communists he met while he was in captivity demonstrated to him that they were sadistic and needed no reason to keep Americans, because "a Communist is different." As he testified, "for almost 40 years, I've been trying to inform the American people and the news media of the heinous crime of enslaving the bodies and minds of our courageous fighting men by the godless communists." Mr. Kiba said that in the final analysis, he could understand why he was so badly treated by the Communists, but he could not understand why his own government had asked him to remain silent after his return about the others he had seen in China while he was a POW.

Source:
http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/academic/history/marshall/military/vietnam/pow_mia/28_rus_c.txt.


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Beyond Korea: Cold War Losses

Although not 91st SRW, here are two examples of cold war losses:

  • April 18, 1956: US Air Force aircraft lost over Kamchatka Peninsula
    Aircraft: US Air Force RB-47E.  Crew of 3 - All lost and unaccounted for; no remains recovered.
     
    • NEIGHBORS, Lacie C. – Missing
       
    • BROOKS, Robert N. – Missing
       
    • WATKINS, Richard E. – Missing
       

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  • July 1, 1960: US Air Force aircraft lost over Barents Sea.  Aircraft: US Air Force RB-47 (With Electronic Bay).  Crew of 6 – Initially, all missing and presumed dead; no remains recovered.  This aircraft was apparently shot down by Soviet fighters about 130 miles off the coast of the Kola Peninsula, USSR, and northern Norway. No remains were recovered; however, on July 4, 1960, US aircraft sighted a "raft-like" object near the missing plane's last known position. Two were released by USSR.
     
    • GOFORTH, Oscar L. – Missing
       
    • OLMSTEAD, Freeman B. - Returnee/Rescued
       
    • PHILLIPS, Dean B. – Missing
       
    • MCKONE, John R. - Returnee/Rescued
       
    • PALM, Willard G. - Negotiated Remains
       
    • POSA, Eugene E. – Missing

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RB-45C Tornado Loss in Korea Remains a Mystery
by Robert F. Dorr

[KWE Note: This article originally appeared in Air Force Times and is reprinted here with Robert's permission. For more information about Air Force Times, or to read other columns and articles by Mr. Dorr, go to www.AirForceTimes.com.]

As the Korean War heated up in late 1950, the Air Force decided to send a trio of jet-propelled North American RB-45C Tornado reconnaissance planes into combat. They were developed from the B-45, which was the first operational American jet bomber and made its maiden flight in 1947.

A B-45A squadron was formed at Barksdale Air Force Base, La, the following year. A proposed B-45B version was never built and only a handful of B-45C models were completed as bombers. In atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific in 1951 and 1952, the B-45 dropped real atomic bombs twice. Both times, the weapon was the Mark 7 warhead intended for the Thor missile.

The B-45 made the first-ever European deployment of tactical nuclear weapons from Langley Air Force Base, Va. to Sculthorpe, England, in 1954. But an early decision was taken to shift the plane's job from bombing to reconnaissance. As a result, most of the Tornados in service were RB-45C models. They were powered by four General Electric J47-GE-13/15 turbojet engines, reached a maximum speed of 570 m.p.h., and were armed with two 50-cal. M-7 machineguns in a tail turret.

In September 1950, three RB-45Cs reached Yokota Air Base, Japan. They belonged to Detachment "A" of the 84th Bomb Squadron, 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.  Compared with propeller-driven planes, the RB-45C could carry more fuel and more cameras and fly faster. Tornados embarked on risky night-photography missions, often flying out to a radius of 500 miles or more, searching out targets and evading radar-directed antiaircraft guns.

The Soviet-built MiG-15 jet fighter appeared in Korea weeks after the RB-45C. On December 4, 1950, an RB-45C piloted by Capt. Charles E. McDonough disappeared. Today, Russian records confirm that a MiG shot down the RB-45C. At the time, McDonough's wife Mary Jo in Glen Rose, Tex. received a telegram saying only that the plane had disappeared.

Also aboard were Col. John R. Lovell, a Pentagon intelligence officer, Capt. Jules E. Young, the co-pilot, and 1st Lt, James J. Picucci, the navigator. There was no crew seat for Lovell and his role has never been explained. He was the highest-ranking intelligence officer lost during the Korean War.

Declassified records confirm that the Soviets assigned high priority to capturing an RB-45C or interrogating crew members. In an August 3 interview, the pilot's daughter, Jeanne McDonough Dear, of Fort Worth, Texas, said she has evidence that her father initially survived the shoot-down and was, at one time, alive in Soviet hands. A 1996 British Broadcasting Company television program featured a former Soviet official who claimed to have interrogated Lovell. The men’s fate remains unresolved.

Dubbed by another pilot "a highly classified aircraft. jammed with the most modern reconnaissance-gathering apparatus available," the RB-45C continued its hush-hush snooping in the Korean War. One of them acquired a unique paint scheme to foil the searchlights used by North Koreans to guide MiGs at night. In addition to Korean War flying, RB-45Cs conducted intelligence flights over China and the Russian port of Vladivostok. The RB-45C Tornados performed their mission superbly but the loss of one aircraft remained a heavy blow to all involved.

RB-45Cs also operated in Europe during the Cold War. A handful were flown on penetrations of Soviet airspace by British crews after the aircraft were temporarily painted in Royal Air Force markings.

[Robert F. Dorr can be reached at robert.f.dorr@cox.net.]

 
 

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