Topics - B-29s - Maj. William Sawyer's Crew
downed November 20, 1952

 
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Introduction

At 0131 hours on November 19, 1952, the aircraft known as 44-86392 (Wrights' Delights', They Chosin Flew) was on a bombing mission over Songhon.  On return it was hit by fighters.  The aircraft went down approximately eight miles north of Chodo Island after fire and order to bail out.  Maj. William F. Sawyer, aircraft commander, landed safely on a friendly island.  He stated that he ordered the crew to follow normal bailout procedure and was satisfied that he was the last man to leave the aircraft.  Major Sawyer saw the aircraft hit the water approximately a half mile north of Chodo.  The two crew members who survived, Major Sawyer and 1Lt. Allan R. Winchester, survived were later interrogated by government officials regarding what took place that fateful day.

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Ray Sestak's Tribute to the Sawyer Crew

Ray Sestak is an Ohio resident who also happens to be the nephew of Myron F. "Smokey" Sestak, a fatality in Maj. William Sawyer's crew.  At one point in time Ray created a website on the internet that honored the service and sacrifice of the men on Sawyer's crew.  Unfortunately, like many websites that provide information on various Korean War-related subjects, Ray's site went down.  In 2015, Ray generously shared all of the website information with the Korean War Educator so that the men on Sawyer's crew will never be forgotten.

For those interested in the fate of the Sawyer crew and who these brave men were, this tribute page is a must see.  It includes: individual and group photos of the crew, accident reports, photos of Wright's Delight's B-29 nose art, news article about the search for Kassel Keene, and a combat report.

Click HERE to see the Ray Sestak data preserved as a PDF File. Links are non-functional.


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John Baker's  Memories

Click HERE to view John Baker's Memories.

 


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Letter from Dick Iler to Bill Seals


Our Crew
1st row from the left - Lt. Warren James, Radar Operator; Lt. Howard Hansen, Bombardier; T.Sgt. Milton Langford, Engineer; Lt. Elton Hall, Pilot; Lt. Byron Anderson, Aircraft Commander.
2nd row from left - Airman 1st Cornelius Hunt, Radio Operator; SSgt. Richard Iler, Left Gunner; Airman 1st William Morrell, Right gunner; Airman 2nd Thomas Burlace, Tail Gunner; Airman 1st Denny Pitts, CFC Gunner; Lt. Raymond Rawl, Navigator.
(Click picture for a larger view)

January 02, 2015

Dear Bill,

I read with interest in the November Pyramidiers John Baker's reminiscence of his experiences flying with the 98th Bomb Wing out of Yokota AFB during the Korean War.  John's tour pretty much paralleled my own.  I flew 29 missions with the 345th Bomb Squadron between July 1952 and January 1953 as left gunner on 1st Lt. Byron Anderson's crew.  Our B-29 had tail number 44-69668, but had no nose art, it having recently been reconditioned in the States.  At one time it was called, "Wild Goose".

I would like to expand on John's comments in a couple of regards.  First, Editor's comment notwithstanding, John was correct in stating that the normal bomb load on our missions was thirty-eight 500 pound bombs.  In addition, we carried a 250 pound photoflash bomb in each bomb bay timed to light up the target triggering an on board camera photographing bombing results.

John also discussed the loss during his tour of a 98th B-29 to a MiG attack.  That was Maj. William F. Sawyer's 345th Bomb Squadron crew which went down on the night of November 20, 1952, with only two survivors, the Aircraft Commander, Maj. Sawyer, and the Radar Operator, 1st Lt. Allan R. Winchester.  Two bodies were recovered, one in the water, and the other on the North Korean main land with a bullet hole in his head.  The remaining ten crew members, including a spare Pilot and a spare Radar Operator, and including John Baker's friend, Navigator Robert J. Bird, were declared missing in action and after a year were declared presumed dead.

All of this is set out in graphic detail in the post-incident interrogation report and the finding of death memorandum which I enclose herewith.


The door to Lt. Anderson and Mort Jensen's room in the 345th Bm.Sq. barracks, Yokota AFB, 1952.
(Click picture for a larger view)

As an aside, T/Sgt. Morton H. Jensen was the ECM Operator flying with Maj. Sawyer on the night they went down.  Mort bunked with our enlisted crew members in the 345th Bomb Squadron's barracks.  As the old saying goes, fact is sometimes stranger than fiction.  This was Mort's 100th mission, that number being virtually unheard of, and a celebration of that accomplishment was planned to take place at Wing Headquarters on his return with dignitaries and the press all present.  I was also there.  Obviously, the party came to an abrupt end when news of the loss of Maj. Sawyer's crew reached Headquarters.

I also enclose a copy of the November 17, 1952 Order awarding Mort his Fourth Oak Leaf Cluster to his Air Mene of those declared presumed dead by the attached memorandum.  Coincidently, John Baker's friend, Robert J. Bird, received the Air Medal by the same Order.

For an excellent narrative of the B-29s part in the Korean War, I recommend the book, "Black Tuesday over Namsi" by Earl J. McGill, Lt Col., USAF (Ret.), published in 2008 by Heritage Books, Inc.


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Letter from Harold Beathe to The Pyramidiers (May 2015)

Dear Sir;

I read with some interest your Pieces of My Mind in the August issue of The Pyramidiers.  I agree with Mr. Ed York in that many missions were flown by the "98th."  I served in the 345th squadron, and I knew, quite well, Morton Jensen who flew 100 missions, although he was shot down on that bomb run and never made it back.  I like to believe that he did, indeed, complete the 100th run.

Mort was a quiet person with a very strong sense of duty, and I liked him.  He told me his goal was to have a hundred missions before his tour was over, and I told him then that he did not need to prove anything to anyone.  He said that was not on his mind, he just wanted to have a hundred missions.

A few months before his last mission, Jensen was flying ECM and they encountered a lot of either fighters or flak, I don't recall which, and that the plane became hard to manage.  At any rate, the A/C gave the order to bailout, and ECM was the first in the bailout order.  Well, something told Jensen not to jump.  He stepped back and said, "I can't."  Not waiting for Mort, the rest of the crew (in the aft compartment) bailed out leaving Jensen all alone in the rear of the plane.  Jensen began having second thoughts about what he was doing.  He made it to the rear door to try to jump when he noticed he still had his ear phones on.  Instead of taking them off, he plugged into the intercom box and called the A/C.  The A/C answered with, "Don't Jump", and Jensen said that he was the only one back there.  So the A/C instructed him to watch the engines and report any problems.  Mort was hungry and went to work on his in-flight lunch and when that didn't satisfy him, he ate two more lunches before they made an emergency landing in a field in South Korea.  I don't recall him saying any more about that incident.

Somehow, word got to the Air Force news people about him going to make his 100th run.  They arrived in time to set up, film, and interview our preparations for the mission.  All planes got off OK, despite the rolling cameras.  Our run was completed and we made it back to Yokota without incident.  Our truck dropped us off at operations.  It was there I noticed the news people were loading their gear with downcast faces.  When we went into operations, I learned the reason.  Major Sawyer's plane had been hit by fighters and they bailed out into the cold ocean on the way to Chodo, which was a safe pick-up island off the coast of North Korea, manned by the Navy.

The following day, I was at my desk and looked up to see Capt. Winchester coming in.  We spoke a little about the mission and he told me that he nearly froze trying to get into the dingy.  By his recollection, he spent a lot of time at that and another five hours in the dingy before the Navy found him.  Major Sawyer, the lucky devil, never even got his feet wet as his chute carried him to the island.  The only survivors were the A/C, Major Sawyer, and the radar man, Capt. Winchester.


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Post-Incident Interrogation

Interrogation of:

Major William F. Sawyer, A)660295, Aircraft Commander

1st Lt. Allan R. Winchester, A)288660, Radio Operator

(Aircraft Serial Number: 44-66392)

Time: 1615 hours, 20 November, 1952

The take-off was normal and the mission was flown as briefed to the I.O., a point on the shoran arc on approach #3, station pair Baker-Charlie.  The planned I.P. time was 00291, and to the best of the knowledge of the two survivors being interrogated, actual I.P. time was 00311.  The only equipment failure at this time was the IFF, which was completely out.  The run into the target was normal, at an altitude of 23,250 FLPA.  The target time was unknown, however, it was approximately 1 1/2 minutes prior to the "bombs away" time of aircraft #2173 which was 0049.  Shortly after the bomb impact and the taking of strike photos, three flares were dropped in the path of the bomber.  The first was 5000 feet high.  Again a 20 degree turn to the right was made and approximately 20 seconds later, the third flare appeared at about 2 o'clock, and still at 5000 feet high.  Immediately after this, two (2) searchlights came on and locked on the B-29, followed by between fifteen (15) to twenty (20) more.  The lights remained locked on the B-29, followed by more for approximately four (4) minutes.  At the time they came on the ECM equipment was operating fully, and the ECM operator, Jensen, said over the interphone: "There are too many frequencies.  I haven't enough equipment to jam them all."  At this time the tail gunner called out two (2) aircraft at 6 o'clock high, however, no pass was made at this time.  Approximately two (2) minutes later, four (4) burst of fire described as "Red Tennis Balls" were received from 6 o'clock level and hits were received in the number 2 engine which caused damage and had to be feathered.  As soon as this was accomplished, hits were received in the number 3 engine which was almost immediately feathered.  Hits were then received on the wing between the fuselage and number 3 engine.  A fire was started here and could not be put out.  All crew members were on oxygen during the bomb run, and no difficulty was encountered due to loss of pressurization.  Right after the hits were received, the lights went off the aircraft, and the fighter made no more passes.  Dutchboy was contacted on Dog Channel right after leaving the lights.  At a point approximately ten (10) miles north of the Chongchon River, the heading of 200 degrees was received as an initial steer.  At a point abeam of Pyongyang, and approximately 5 miles off shore, a corrected heading of 220 degrees was received from Dutchboy.  At this time, the aircraft was decending [sic] at from 500 to 200 feet per minute, at an indicated airspeed of 280 miles per hour.  At a point 10 miles northwest of Chinnampo, a third correct heading of 236 degrees was received.  The route south at all times was generally parallel with the coast, and at no time more than 5 miles off shore.  Right after the searchlight left the aircraft, the crew was alerted for bail-out, and all crew members prepared for bail-out.  The situation was so critical that the task of taking off the chute to put on the anti-exposure suit and (get it) re-adjusted was not considered feasable [sic].  The aircraft kept trim and was flown manually until two (2) minutes prior to actual bail-out.  The radar equipment was functioning at all times and the V.O. was able to make radar images [?] up to the time just previous to leaving his station for the bail-out.  The vacuum system and the majority of generators were out, the fluxgate compass was out, and shortly after receiving the last steer, the VHF faded out.  The last message received from Dutchboy was that they were sending up flares.  At this time the fire was burning the right wing, very close to the gas tanks, and streaming back as far as the Right Scanners blister, and the final decision to bail-out was made.  The aft door was tied back, the bomb bay door was opened, the nose wheel lowered and the hatch salvoed.  Approximately two (2) minutes later, having not seen any flares, the order to "bail-out" was given both verbally and on the alarm bell.  The actual location of the island of Cho-do was unknown, but Major Sawyer felt they could wait no longer.  The altitude was believed to be slightly more than 4000 feet.  The bail-out order was as follows: AFTER ESCAPE HATCH-ECM Operator, Spare V.O., Tail Gunner, and V.O.  AFTER BOMB BAY - CFC, Left Gunner, Right Gunner.  FORWARD BOMB BAY - Radio Operator, and Navigator.  NOSE WHEEL HATCH - Spare Aircraft Commander, Bombardier, Engineer, Pilot, and Aircraft Commander.  The estimated time taken to clear the aft section was forty (40) seconds, and for the front section one (1) minute.  At the time the Aircraft Commander bailed out, the aircraft was approximately at 2800 feet altitude.  After leaving the aircraft made a slow 270 degree turn to the left and hit the water approximately 1/2 mile north of the northern tip of Cho-do.

Major Sawyer's bail-out was accomplished in the following manner.  After observing the crew members bail-out, and getting interphone calls from the rear saying the last man was leaving, he got out of the seat and stepped over the crash bar which was in position, climbed down the rungs on the side of the nose wheel well, and let go.  As soon as he was clear of the aircraft, he pulled his rip cord and the chute opened normally with no perceptable shock.

He was starting to slide back into the seat when he observed the first flare approximately 1 1/2 miles north of him, and could see he was over the island and close to the ground.  He slipped the chute to prevent severe oscillation and to be sure of hitting the island.  However, due to closeness to the ground, he soon stopped this measure and hit the ground backwards at the start of a new oscillation.  He struck on the side of a hill and was rather gently lowered to a prone position on his back.  The Major then rolled over, collapsed his chute and got out of his harness.  He could see a glow from lights to the north of him, so he started walking in that direction.  Shortly after starting off, he encountered a ROK Marine, and asked him if there were Americans to the north, and the ROK nodded "Yes" and left him.  Major Sawyer then walked the balance of approximately 1 1/2 miles to the Americans.

Lieutenant Winchester's experiences were as follows.  After seeing the men in the rear bail-out, he called the Aircraft Commander and told him he was leaving the ship.  He went through the after pressurized door and stood by the escape hatch in a croutched [sic] position with his arms crossed and leaned out falling into the slip stream.  As soon as he encountered the block [?] of the slip stream, he pulled the ripcord and the chute caught without a noticeable jar.  He had tightened his harness straps to the point where he could not sit back in the seat, which caused him to hang in a slightly flexed position.  He could not see the shore and tried slipping the chute to guide him in that direction.  At this time he observed one (1) parachute to the southeast of him, and two (2) to the northeast.  He had unfastened the chest strap prior to hitting the water.  The leg straps were not unfastened because he could not sit in the harness.  His striking the water was described as "just sitting down in it", and he was submerged less than in a dive.  He popped his Mae West and then collapsed his chute.  Due to the tightness of the leg straps some difficulty was encountered in getting free of the harness.  However, this was accomplished by slipping the straps down on his legs and unsnapping them.  Because he could not open the dingy [sic] case by the zipper strap, he reached inside and released the CO2 bottle, which immediately inflated it fully.  The Mae West was holding him in almost a horizontal position and he attempted to slide into the dingy [sic] on his back.  This was unsuccessful and he finally climbed in at the small end in the approved fashion.  He covered himself with the poncho cover of the dingy [sic] and opened the equipment case.  Due to the cold and nervousness, he was only able to get out one paddle.  He checked other equipment and decided not to use any of it at that time.  However, he did attempt to contact some of the others by means of the whistle, but with no results.  He visually fixed his position in relation to two mountains on the shore and attempted to paddle towards Cho-do.  He could see no apparent motion and decided it was due to still having his parachute, harness, and dingy [sic] cover attached to the dingy [sic] and acting as a sea anchor.  After paddling for an indefinite period of time, Lieutenant Winchester passed out due to coldness and exhaustion.  After daylight he came to, and noted his position to be apparently off the west coast of Sokto island, in almost the same position in which he was the night before.  Shortly afterward, a sam-pan sent from Cho-do picked up up [sic].

Lieutenant Winchester was wearing long handled winter underwear, his wool coveralls, and the L-2 flying jacket as well as a winter-type flying helmet and jump boots.  His probable length of time spent in the water was approximately fifteen (15) minutes and from bail-out to rescue about seven (7) hours.

The remains of 1st Lt. Beverly A. Swingle, Pilot, and 2nd Lt. Myron F. Sestak, Spare Radar Observer, were located soon afterward.  The remaining crew members are officially listed as Missing in Action and are as follows: Major Kassel M. Keene, Spare Pilot; 1st Lt. Robert J. Bird, Navigator; 1st Lt. James K. Peck, Bombardier; M/Sgt. Horace H. Tiller, Flight Engineer; T/Sgt. Morton H. Jensen, ECM Operator; A1C James H. Porter, Radio operator; A/1C Raymond Thompson, Left Gunner; A/1C William Whitman, Right Gunner; A/2C James L. Nichols, CFC Gunner, and A/2C Robert J. McLoughlin, Tail Gunner.

End of Report


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AFPMP-12-E-3 dated 2 November, 1953

AFPMP-12-E-3/RT/ns/42755
Rm 26  2 Nov 53

AFPMP-12-E-3  704 Missing (19 Nov 52) SR&D Case #474

MEMORANDUM FOR:    DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF, PERSONNEL

SUBJECT:                  Finding of Death

FACTS

1.  a. persuant to the provision of the "Missing Persons Act", a full review has been made of the facts and circumstances set forth herein to determine whether the missing in action status of the following personnel may reasonably be continued after a year's absence, or terminated by a presumptive finding of death:

Major Kassel M. Keene (blacked out)
Captain Robert J. Bird AO 793227
Captain James K. Peck (blacked out)
Master Sergeant Horace N. Tiller (blacked out)
Technical Sergeant Morton H. Jensen (blacked out)
Staff Sergeant Raymond Thompson (blacked out)
Staff Sergeant William H. Whitman (blacked out)
Airman First Class James H. Porter (blacked out)
Airman First Class Robert J. McLoughlin (blcked out)
Airman First Class James L. Nichols (blacked out)

   b. The status of the four remaining members of the crew are not being considered herein since two of them, Major William F. Sawyer (blacked out) Aircraft Commander, and First Lieutenant Allan R. Winchester (blacked out), were returned to military control and the remains of First Lieutenant Beverly A. Swingle, (blacked out),, and Second Lieutenant Myron F. Sestak, (blacked out), were recovered.

2.  a. Circumstances: The personnel listed were crew members of a B-29 which departed Yokota Air Base, Honshu, Japan, 1900 hours, 18 November 1952, to participate in a bombing mission over northern Korea.  The flight arrived in the assigned area without incident and proceeded to bomb the target, a supply dump at Sonchon.  Outbound from the targeted area, at approximately 0100 hours, 19 November, the subject B-29 was caught in a battery of enemy searchlights and was attacked by enemy fighters.  Hits were received in the number 2 and 3 engines and in the wing between the number 3 engine and the fuselage, starting an uncontrollable fire.  The crew was alerted to bail out and the aircraft headed down to the coast in an attempt to reach Ch'o-do, a friendly occupied island off the western coast of North Korea.  Radio contact with other b-29's in the flight was maintained until the bail out order was given and all crew members aboard the damaged plane subsequently abandoned the aircraft near Ch'o-do.

    b. Search Efforts: Aircraft and surface vessels were dispatched immediately to the bail out area on the early morning of 19 November.  However, shortly before daybreak they were driven from the scene by ground fire.  The search was resumed at dawn, extensive coverage being given throughout Ch'o-do and the surrounding water areas.  On the morning of 19 November, one of the crew members, Major Sawyer, unassisted reached friendly forces on Ch'o-do and another crew member, Lieutenant Winchester, was rescued from the sea between that island and Sokto, a small island near the mainland of North Korea where he had apparently successfully landed and subsequently died as a result of a bullet wound in the head.  Search planes sighted four parachutes at different points on Ch'o-do, but no sign of life was witnessed and the identity of those using the parachutes could not be established.  Search and rescue operations were completed on 20 November 1952, all efforts proving fruitless in uncovering information concerning the ten missing crew members.

    c. Supplemental Information: Major Sawyer, the aircraft commander, upon returning to military control, reported that the final decision to bail out was made when the fire was close to the gas tank and he feared the aircraft would explode.  The B-29 was then slightly over 4000 feet altitude and the entire crew successfully bailed out.  Major Sawyer was the last to leave the plane at approximately 2800 feet and shortly thereafter the B-29 made a slow turn to the left and hit the water approximately one-half mile north of the top of Ch'o-do.  Major Sawyer landed on Ch'o-do and walked one and one half miles to join US forces.  He and Lieutenant Winchester, the only known survivors, had no knowledge as to the fate of the 10 missing crew members and to date no further information has been received concerning them.

DISCUSSION

3. Careful examination of the available evidence reveals that the 14 crew members of the B-29 parachuted near Ch'o-do, an island off the western coast of North Korea.  One of them, Major Sawyer, landed on the island; two others, Lieutenants Winchester and Swingle, landed in the water nearby; and a fourth member of the crew, Lieutenant Sestak, either landed on the mainland of Korea or reached the mainland soon after parachuting into the water.  The sighting of four parachutes on Ch'o-do during the search indicates that other crew members, in addition to Major Sawyer, may have been in the area.  While their identity is unknown, it is reasonable to assume that if they had survived the landing on the island, which was accessible to friendly forces, they would have been seen or heard from prior to this time.  This would also be true in the case of any other crew member had he landed in water and subsequently reached Ch'o-do.  The recovery of the remains of Lieutenant Sestak on the mainland of North Korea reveals that circumstances prevailed whereby other crew members may have also reached the mainland.  While Lieutenant Sestak apparently encountered enemy forces and was fatally wounded soon thereafter, it is conceivable that others in the area may have escaped his fate, been removed from the vicinity and became unreported prisoners of war.  However, the likelihood that they are still alive may  now no longer reasonably be considered since none of them were repatriated, none were mentioned in repatriates' statements, and sufficient time has elapsed during which it is believed some word would have been received, providing they survived.  In view of the above and the absence of any information which would support a presumption of their continued survival, it is concluded that these 10 missing persons may now no longer reasonably be presumed to be alive.

RECOMMENDATION

4. It is recommended that, pursuant to the authority contained in Section 5, Public Law 490, 77th Congress, as amended, official casualty reports be issued stating that the missing in action status of the Air Force personnel listed in paragraph 1a, above has been terminated by a presumptive finding of death.  Further, that the casualty reports include a statement that, as provided by and for the purposes of the cited Act, death is presumed to have occurred on 20 November 1953, the day following the expiration of a year's absence in a missing in action status, in line of duty, in flying pay status and was not the result of their own misconduct.


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Downed Aircraft Report No. 92

JENSEN, Morton H., T/Sgt. AF 27358781

Category #5, B-29, (Missing 19 Nov 52)

The aircraft was on a combat mission on the Sonchon supply dump, North Korea.  As the 3rd flare was dropped, 20 search lights were locked on the B-290.  Approximately, two minutes later, four bursts of fire were received and hits made on No. 2 and ? engines which had to be feathered out, and on the wing between the fuselage and No. 3 engine, causing fire to start.  Four parachutes were sighted at different locations inland from Cho-do Island.  A flight of F-51s discovered a parachute hanging in a tree in the vicinity of coordinates (SC 7273) and about 100 ft. inland.  Two of the crew members were rescued and the remains of two other crew members were recovered from the sea.

[The following was taken from 6004th AISS, Det #2, Downed Aircraft Report Nol. 92, Nov 52.]

The aircraft was placed under attack by enemy night fighters at Sonchon (XE 6307).  An emergency call sent out at 0100 stating that the aircraft had lost two engines.  The aircraft commander bailed out and landed on the island of Cho-do (XC 5563), and he stated that he was the last one to leave the aircraft.  Parachutes were observed on the ground at (XC 7173), (XC 675506), (XC 665485) and (XC 645660).  A white parachute was observed approximately 75 yards from the shoreline at (XC 7172).  It appeared to be attached to a ten-man raft.


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General Orders No. 580

Headquarters, Far East Air Force, issued General Orders No. 580 on 17 November 1952, awarding Air Medals and First Oak Leaf Clusters to officers and personnel for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flights in the Korean War.

To view General Orders No. 580, click HERE.


B-29 Down Over Korea

To read an account by Terry L. Kidd, click HERE.

 
 
 
 

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