Topics - B-29s - B-29 Down Over Korea

authored by CMS (Ret.) Terry L. Kidd
98BW, 345BS, B29

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[KWE Note: The following article authored by Terry Kidd appeared in The Pyramidiers (November 2010), and is reprinted on the KWE with the permission of the 98th Bomb Group/Wing Veterans Association.]
Dear Mrs. Haritos,

I was somewhat taken aback upon reading the May 2010 edition of Pyramidiers, one in which I had a small article regarding the B-50.  My surprise emanated from the articles by our Historian Herb Harper and Mr. Phillip Chinnery.  Both had written about the loss of a B-29 on 18-19 November 1952 in the Korean War.  I can elucidate to a small degree both articles since it was my crew which was lost on this mission.

Major Sawyer's crew did not normally fly A/C 6392 (B-29).  Rather, our aircraft (tail # forgotten) had the Nose Art name of "Reserved" and a very well done depiction of a Varga girl as painted by "Rembrandt" a talented Japanese artist known for his very good art work, on the right-hand side of the aircraft nose.  At the time of this mission "Reserved" was down for scheduled maintenance.  This resulted in the use of A/C 6392 by Major Sawyer and crew.

The crew chief of our plane, Reserved, was a big southern boy called Smitty, who was about due to "rotate".  It may help to understand some of the questions raised in the aforementioned articles if one knows that at that time in the war a "normal rotate" in the 98th meant 30 missions for aircrew and about seven or eight months for crew chiefs.  It was a normal procedure for on-coming aircrews to fly an orientation mission with an off-going or rotating crew. However, since there were, and had been, so many interim "repl-dpl" (changes) as we called it, among both aircrew and ground crew there were few, if any, of either intact as time progressed.

This was, I believe, Major Sawyer's 30th mission as it was for several of the crew like Horace Tiller (Terry), the F.E. on the mission.  TSgt. Jensen was not normally a part of the crew, but was flying in the ECM slot as a fill-in.  I was told that he was on his 100th mission in Korea.  Major Keene and Lieutenant Sistak were on the mission as on-coming aircrew replacements and were accomplishing their orientation flight, which would explain the number of crew aboard this mission.  One correction which needs addressing is that the two known survivors were Major Sawyer ("Buzz"), and Lieutenant Winchester (Winnie), not Lieutenant Swingle  who was not a survivor.  Sadly, Lieutenant Swingle's remains were recovered and he is reported as KIA.  I never again saw Lieutenant Winchester, however, Major Sawyer did come by to see me after his interrogation at Yokota.  He was rotated state-side very soon after, and I have had no contact since.  At the time, I was medically constrained to quarters, except for meals, due to allergic reaction to 100/130 grade fuel (so I was told) the symptoms were hundreds of water blisters on my lower arms and legs and my hands and feet.  I healed eventually, and in early December I was assigned to an aircraft recovery crew.

A number of the B-29s with combat damage or maintenance problems were forced to recover at Suwon (K-13) or Seoul (K-14) Korea.  On one of those good days/bad days late in December, we took off from K-13 in a B-29 of the 345th headed for Yokota, with a newly changed number 3 engine.  Shortly after take-off, that same engine caught fire--magnesium fire.  I thought we would b doing a bail out drill, but we successfully returned to Suwon with the fire extinguished.  In a haste to insure that the aircraft not burn, one of the fire trucks ran into the #2 engine prop dome putting a four-inch wide one-inch deep dent in the dome.  As we finally left the aircraft for the day now needing another #3 engine and a new #2 prop dome, it had become a very dark evening.  As we approached the active runway preparing to cross toward our quarters, I watched a C-47 begin to taxi across the runway a few hundred feet to our right.  I then saw a P-80 on that same runway on take-off roll.  There was no chance for anyone to do anything in the way of avoidance.  The dark evening sky was suddenly made bright as day with a huge fireball.  I learned later that the C-47 was a Greek Hospital ship with a number of people on board; there were no survivors.

After a second #3 engine change and a trip to Seoul (K-14) by Jeep to pick up a new prop dome, we did return intact to Yokota.  That was my last Korean mission.  I flew state-side early in February 1953.  Although I am not positive, I do believe that, to this day, Major Sawyer's crew suffered the last in combat loss of the 98th B.W. on 19 November 1952.

Incidentally, several aircraft from the 19th B.W. out of Kadena were also airborne on 18-19 November 1952.  I later flew several missions in Vietnam during 1965-6 with Major James Faircloth, a navigator who was on a mission near Major Sawyer's flight profile during the same time.  He told me that he heard the radio chatter and that he thought it was YAK fighters which shot down Buzz and crew after the search lights locked on their aircraft.


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