Herbert A Rideout
The following is a summation of my recollections of the Korean War while stationed at Kimpo Air Force Base. I was assigned as a radio man to the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, a photo reconnaissance squadron. The squadron flew the World War II P-51’s which were actually designated RF-51 (Reconnaissance Fighter) but we always referred to them as P-51’s or Mustangs. I arrived 1 January 1952.
Photos were generously provided by Lt. Col. Hudson's daughter Jill Hudson Green. Photos of the P-47D were graciously provided by Emmanuel Hamel of France. His web page here http://ehamel.fr/histoire/blp/blphudson1944.pdf
Distinguished Flying Cross
He joined the Army Air Corps 1 Nov 1941. During WWII flying a P-47D then Capt. Hudson in a mission over France crashed in a small village and was captured by the Germans, he later escaped. In 2009 the French recovered the remains of his aircraft.
In 1955 at age 37 he was flying to Germany and landed in Greenland to refuel when he slipped on the icy wing of his plane and fell to the tarmac hurting his back. By the time he reached Germany he was feeling ill but thought it was just a holdover from the flight. Finally he decided he was too ill and was hospitalized. He was bleeding internally and died a short time later. His death was devastating to his wife (who never remarried) and three young children. Complicating things further the Air Force designated his death as not service related so his family received no military benefits.
Of the 1,319,000 Americans who served 54,246 were killed 103,248 wounded and 5,178 missing in action and never accounted for. The POW death count was the highest of any conflict in this nations history. There were also 2,730 POW’s that were known to be alive but never repatriated.
This was not done without hazards however, North Korean fighter aircraft were a constant threat and they were determined to shoot the transports down. On the 27th of June for example North Korean airmen in eight fighters attempted an attack on the transports but four were shot down by US jets and the remaining aircraft returned to the north. Later that day Kimpo fell to the advancing North Korean forces.
The Inchon invasion took place on 15 September 1950 and two days later on the 17th Kimpo was back in US hands. But it once again fell to the enemy on 4 Jan 1951 as the fighting again moved south. Then on 10 Feb Kimpo was, for the final time, captured by US forces. Being captured and being secure however were two different things. It was still not unusual to be shot at or to come under attack by infiltrators. Let me describe several of my experiences.
One evening one of the men in our tent went out to the latrine. When he did not return we went looking for him and found him between the tents stabbed.
One morning there was much commotion several tents away. During the night infiltrators had slit the side of the tent open, entered and silently killed several men. At this time both officers and enlisted men were quartered in tents but in separate areas.
One morning as I was walking past the base commanders quarters South Korean military police were dragging a man out to their truck, they shot him in the head just before tossing him in the back. Seems he had gained entrance to the commanders quarters and attacked him with a knife. The commander was successful in fighting off the attacker.
And then there was “Bed Check Charlie” as we called him. This was a light all wood and canvas aircraft flown by North Koreans just after dark and was used to harass us. He would fly over toss out small bombs hoping to hit a tent, aircraft or something else of importance. I found these night time extravaganza’s rather exciting. The sirens would go off, big search lights would come on to try to find him and anti-aircraft batteries would begin firing with tracers which would light up the sky better than any Fourth of July that I had ever seen, and all the time we in trenches were shooting our rifles in all directions. Bed Check Charlie was very elusive and only one was ever brought down. Because Charlie flew so slow it was decided in late 1951 to bring in a navy F4U Corsair fighter aircraft. The F4U was noted for its ability to land on aircraft carriers at very slow speeds. So one evening when Charlie arrived the F4U took off and got behind him, the pilot of the F4U was still flying to fast so he dropped his flaps and even his wheels but still to fast and before the F4U pilot could maneuver further he hit Charlie and both fell in flames.
It was wise to be armed and alert at all times, I wore a pistol 24 hours a day and often had it in my hand at night. This pistol was purchased by my grandfather when he was a circus performer in the 1880’s. It was a 32 center fire, very accurate, easy to conceal and use. I was not alone in sleeping with a pistol and occasionally some one would end up either shooting themselves or someone else.
Then in February 1952 our Commanding Officer of the 45th, Lt. Col. Thomas A Hudson Jr. called us all together. He stood in the back of a large truck using it as a platform and told us that the Chinese were intent on retaking the base and were seen just a few miles north in great numbers. He said that it was expected we could hold out for three days before being overrun and that a detachment of Marines were expected to arrive and relieve us in five days. He went on to say that we were short of ammunition and that if we ran out we were to use our bayonets, there would be no retreat. And to insure that there was no retreat a small detachment of Marines was stationed just behind us with tripod mounted machine guns, their orders were to machine gun any man retreating. Fortunately for me on the second day aircraft radios began to fail and they needed me back at the base to repair them. As I worked in a Quonset Hut I could hear bullets hitting the roof. At one point I went out to an aircraft and a mechanic next to me was shot in the leg. What saved us was the P-51s flying with napalm. The enemy was so close that the P-51s would take off and never retract their wheels, drop their napalm and return to load up again.
The food, ah the food. I was never much on eating but the food we were served was atrocious. C-Rations were much better and every chance we had to eat C-Rations we did. We ate from a field kitchen in which one would walk down a line outside in the open with mess gear in hand and be served whatever. For breakfast we would have cereal with powdered milk. The milk tasted and looked like chalk water and contained grainy little bits of something. Eggs were also served but were powdered and had similar characteristics to that of the milk. Pancakes were just about impossible to chew so they were not a popular item. My eating routine went something like this. I found my canteen cup to be the best all around food container and used it in preference to field mess gear which was clumsy to use and carry. I would start the day with a canteen cup of coffee and after that I would get some corn flakes in the same cup add water and that was breakfast. At other meals I would just fill the cup with whatever and with a spoon have my feast. I became very enamored with my canteen cup and thought it the ideal food implement so when it came time to return home I brought it back with me. Now over 50 years later I start the day with my same canteen cup of coffee.
There was an open air shower but with no hot water so even in the summer there were few takers. It was often said that it was time to change your socks if in the evening they stuck as you tossed them against the side of the tent. It was always fun when new replacements would arrive, the first thing they would ask was “where is the latrine” and we would point and say follow your nose. Then in a few minutes they would return and ask where the TP was stored and we would all have a good laugh.
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Herbert A (Art) Rideout
2235 Gum Tree Lane
Fallbrook, CA 92028