18th Wing and the Korean War

Base Info
This F-51D is rolling out for takeoff on a mission, carrying a pair of high-explosive bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)
This F-51D is rolling out for takeoff on a mission, carrying a pair of high-explosive bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

18th Wing and the Korean War

by: by Airman 1st Class Stephen G. Eigel, 18th Wing public affairs | .
Kadena Air Base | .
published: June 21, 2014

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  -- As the 64th anniversary of the start of the Korean War approaches, it is important to remember the 18th Wing's participation in that -time in history.

It was June 25, 1950, and the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing was stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines. North Korea had just invaded South Korea and the wing was right next to the action.

South Korea did not have much of an air force and was heavily outmatched; within five days, South Korea's military went from around 95,000 to 22,000 troops. After being driven back by North Korea, United Nations forces held strong at the Pusan Perimeter, allowing the 18th Wing to start their fight to drive back North Korea.

"The planes would fly out of the perimeter and track their way up with the U.N. forces providing close air support and taking out North Korean convoy trucks by the dozen," said James D'Angina, 18th Wing historian. "The North Koreans were spread so far out from coming down south that we would just decimate their supply lines and they started to retreat back up into North Korea."

As the North Koreans moved further north in retreat, the wing continued to destroy convoys, provide close air support and carry out interdiction missions the whole way.

"After pilots from the 18th destroyed almost 1,300 trucks, 190 tanks, 75 locomotives and 16 aircraft just through December 1950, and then destroying an estimated 130 vehicles in one day, they earned themselves the nickname Truckbusters," D'Angina said. "The Truckbusters were made up of 12th and 67th Fighter Bomber Squadrons."

After following the enemy all the way into North Korea, the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing actually set up a base in Pyongyang East, the north's capitol.

On Nov. 25, 1950, just one day after U.N. and South Korean forces began the offensive that they thought would finish the unification of the country; Communist China came back with an extreme offensive of their own. Within days, the Chinese counter-attack halted the South Korean and U.N. offensive in central and western North Korea, destroying many South Korean divisions, badly tearing up the U.S. Second Division and causing the rest of the U.N. command to quickly withdraw south to escape.

According to "Truckbusters from Dogpatch," a combat diary of the Wing's Korean War service, enemy forces advanced rapidly southward during the last few days of November 1950. As a result, the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing was forced to withdraw from the airstrip in East Pyongyang to the airstrip near Suwon, South Korea.

During the next four years, U.N. and North Korean forces fought back and forth over the 38th parallel, which would eventually become the de-militarized zone.

After the Korean War armistice, the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing moved in 1954, to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, where it has been for the last 60 years.

"Today because the 18th Wing is very diverse, we are not just a fighter and bomber wing anymore providing close air support taking out trains and trucks," D'Angina said. "We have tankers, E-3's, HH-60s, so we have all of these capabilities that overall make us much more diverse and impactful."

Shifting from mainly providing close air support with fighters and bombers to provide unmatched combat power, a forward power projection platform and for the common defense of Japan; the 18th Wing will be ready for whatever comes next.