Not like it happened yesterday but major facts are still vividly embedded in my mind



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Mid-Air Collision, Misawa AB, Japan, June 13, 1949
Joseph Stroud, MSgt, USAF, {Ret}

As I write this article I am 6,000 miles and 65 years removed from the place and events which I am recalling. All this is from memory so it’s not like it happened yesterday but major facts are still vividly embedded in my mind.
June 13th 1949 was a beautiful day at Misawa AB, Japan. The 49th Fighter Group, with a mix of F-51 and F-80 aircraft, had just finished preparing for an Operational Readiness Test {ORT}, which would require the unit to perform at maximum effort for a specified number of days while AF personnel from outside units would serve as referees and rate the unit on performance. It was approaching the noon hour; Group maintenance personnel had completed all the necessary tasks assuring that all aircraft were ready for action early the following morning. They had finished washing out the hangar areas and everything was spic and span. All unnecessary personnel had been dismissed for the day in preparation for an early start the next day. Then the unbelievable happened. In a matter of minutes what had been a beautiful, serene setting was left looking like a war zone.
In the late 1940s I was assigned to the 13th Bomb Squadron at Yokota AB about 400 miles south of Misawa. My duty was crew chief/engineer on the Douglas B-26 Invader. Our unit had been tasked with performing surveillance missions to monitor and photograph Russian surface vessels in the sea between Japan and Korea in the south and the waters off the coast of northern Japan. Our base of operation for the northern flights was always Misawa AB. My aircraft and crew had arrived at Misawa on the previous day after a flight of 2:15 from Yokota in preparation for several days of surveillance flights. That is how I happened to be an eye witness to the most horrific aviation disaster I have ever personally observed.
It had been an unusually quite morning; most all aircraft were parked on the ramp as the unit was preparing for the upcoming ORT. My gunner and I were walking from the parking ramp where our B-26 was parked toward the mess hall for lunch when we noticed the familiar sound of F-51s arriving over the base. I looked up to see a flight of, as I recall, twelve Mustangs from the 35th Fighter Group, 41st Fighter Squadron, Johnson AB, approaching from the southeast and heading in a northwestwardly direction as they began a pass over the base. Suddenly two F-51s from the 49th Fighter Group, 8th Fighter Squadron at Misawa, appeared; they were flying Combat Air Patrol {CAP} for the base. They were approaching the larger formation from the left rear and below and were in a steep bank to the right, moving at a high rate of speed and closing fast on the larger formation.
The next thing that happened left us stunned. The CAP leader came in too close and as he pulled up in front of the large formation his wingman raked the belly of some of the lead planes with his left wing shearing off a large section. Unable to maintain control the wingman spun into the parking ramp in front of the hangars and into the midst of a ramp full of F-51s and F-80s. The 41st squadron leader attempted to bail out but was unable to do so and went down with the plane. I later heard two different stories; one was canopy malfunction and the other was that he hit the tail section. Also, I seem to recall one or two additional F-51s from the Johnson AB formation making gear up landings. My gunner and I ran to the ramp, arriving shortly after the impact of the out of control mustang.
Prior to contacting the ground, the crashing plane struck the propeller of a F-51 on the ramp shearing it off. The prop was later located more than 75 yards down the ramp. The point where the crashing plane contacted the ground left a hole in the concrete ramp. The engine from the crashing

F-51 skidded down the ramp ripping the left main gear from an F-80; the wing came to rest on the engine. There was a terrific explosion and shrapnel went through the entire squadron of F-80s.

Fifty caliber ammunition was cooking off in the flames; I found a few rounds wrinkled up from striking some hard object. It was a miracle that most of the squadron maintenance personnel and pilots had been relieved from duty for the day. The only fatalities were the two F-51 pilots.
I have researched USAF aircraft accident reports and found the names of the two pilots killed;. Stewart A. Young, pilot F-51, 44-74302, 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, Misawa AB, and James P. Hurley, 1st Lt, pilot F-51, 44-74015, 41st Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, Johnson AB. I did a web search on the two pilots with these results;

Nothing was found on Young.

Info on Hurley found at: {airforce.togetherweserved.com/usaf/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApp?cmd=}...

. James Patrick Hurley, 1st Lt.

Born 18 January 1925

Entered USMA West Point in 1942

Allowed to receive flight training while in school

Graduated USMA in 1946, commissioned 2nd Lt and continued flight training

Awarded pilot’s wings on 4 June 1946 at Williams Field, AZ – P-51 certified

Assigned 35th FG, 40th FS {burial document states 41st FS} in 1948

On June 13, 1949, he was selected to lead a practice raid and fighter sweep directed at Misawa Air Base, Japan, as a training mission. He was flying P-51D 44-74015, 35FG, 41FS. While engaged in this activity, his aircraft and one flown by a pilot from the Misawa unit collided in mid-air. James was killed. Age – 24 years 5 months.

Buried in Arlington National Cemetary.



These are the type aircraft involved in this story; the Lockheed F-80 and the North American F-51

www.accident-report.com/world/asia/japan.html and www.aviationarchaeology.com

The info below was extracted from the above web sites

USAF/USAAF AIRCRAFT ACCIDENTS 1943-1955 FOR
JAPAN --
1949-1952

Date Pilot Acft Type Unit SN Accident Damage Accident Location



490613

LOWN, HERMAN D JR

F-51D – 35FG/41FS

44-72522 MAC 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NUTTER, CARROL G

F-51D – 35FG/41FS

44-73773 MAC 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-51D – 49FG/8FS

44-73781 GRA 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

HURLEY, JAMES P

F-51D – 35FG/41FS

44-74015 KMAC 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

GOOS, JOHN F

F-51D – 35FG/41FS

44-74016 MAC 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN




Intentionally left blank










490613

SHEA, HAROLD J

F-51D – 35FG/41FS

44-74262 MAC 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

YOUNG, STEWART A

F-51D – 49FG/8FS

44-74302 KMAC 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85023 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85024 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85068 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85076 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85079 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85143 2

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85290 2

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85309 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85331 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85332 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85381 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85400 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85416 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85417 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85419 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85437 3

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

490613

NONE

F-80A

44-85454 4

MISAWA AB, JAPAN

Legend:

Accident column; MAC, Mid Air Collision; KMAC, Pilot killed Mid Air Collision, GRA, Aircraft on ground.

Damage column {Levels 1 thru 4} 1 for minor damage, 4 for destroyed

All F-80A aircraft were parked on ramp area and classed as GRA



About the above article

After witnessing this accident in 1949, it had been in my mind all these years. I recently felt an urge to search the net to find out anything I could about it. The only thing of value I found was that it occurred on June 13. Realizing the 65th anniversary was approaching, I began searching my brain and recalling facts in preparation for this article. I did additional research during which I located detailed accident report findings; I finally finished the article on May 19th.

NOTE: I sent the above article to the historian, 35 Fighter Wing,

Misawa Air Base, Japan, on 31 May; within hours I received this reply


From: "CLARK, DENNIS H GS-12 USAF PACAF 35 FW/HO"

To: "Joe Stroud"

Subject: RE: Commanders 35th FG and 41st FS June 1949

Date: Saturday, May 31, 2014 9:34 PM


MSgt Stroud
That's great research! You have information that I did not know, especially the part about one of the pilots being from the 35th. When I get back to the office, I will send you high resolution photos from the event, the newly declassified report (very little information), and scans of the article from the 1960s about the incident.
In the meantime, check out: http://www.misawa.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123411702 for an article that mentions the incident. The photos are a part of the story.
Respectfully,

Richard
Richard Dennis Harold Clark, Ph.D.

Historian, 35 Fighter Wing

Misawa Air Base, Japan


DSN: 315-226-3309

COM: 0176-77-3309

USA COM: 011-81-176-77-3309

Follow-up from Misawa AB historian with documents promised in above email

From: "CLARK, DENNIS H GS-12 USAF PACAF 35 FW/HO"

To: "Joe Stroud"

Subject: RE: Commanders 35th FG and 41st FS June 1949

Date: Monday, June 02, 2014 1:03 AM


MSgt Stroud,
Here are the documents I promised. I did not include the photographs because they are very large and accessible online at: http://www.misawa.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123411702.
I added your research to my archives.
Many thanks,

Richard
Richard Dennis Harold Clark, Ph.D.

Historian, 35th Fighter Wing

Misawa Air Base, Japan

This letter was included in the documents sent to me by Richard; it was written to

Erica Reese who was Misawa AB historian before Richard. I have made comments

following the letter where I thought appropriate on items I have highlited in red.

From: gloriawalling

Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 1:31 PM

To: Reece, Erica R Civ USAF PACAF 35 FW/HO

Subject: 1949 collison
Erica

Having looked over the Cols. letter, I think I can give you some more information on what happened on 13 June,1949. I was there on the flight line when the crash occurred. I was on strip alert in a small building just to the right of the hanger in the picture(lower right) in the clipping. We had two F-80's and two F51's on alert. We recieved a call to scramble the two F51's. Four F51's were coming in from Yokota AB to take out strip alert, starting the next day while we were having our ORT. The two F--51's that we scrambled were to intercept the F-51's coming in from Yokota (practice). Our flight leaders wing man lost his wing at the gun bay. At the same time we got a call to scramble the two F-80's. I was with one of the alert pilots. We were running to one of the F-80,s. I dropped my screwdriver-- -stopped to pick it up when I looked up I saw the F-51 coming at us. The pilot grabbed me by the arm and yelled G---D--- Run. I started running---only the prop and armor plate passed me. The pilot coming in looked as though he was trying to miss the flight line and crashed between the Flight line and runway. He did a tight roll to the right (the side he had lost his wing on) He came

down on the ramp. The first aircraft he hit was a F-51. He sheared the propeller shaft and took the prop off (looked like a real clean hit).Then he hit the ramp and that's when the mess started. The flight leader from Yokota took his F-51 over the housing area. He had waited too long and when he bailed out his chute hung up on his aircraft and he went in with it.

Back on the flight line F-80 wing tanks were exploding like clam shells. They started to move one of the F-80s. The guy that was going to ride the brakes was in the cockpit (first time for him). The brakes were locked and the crew chief yelled for him to pull the "T" handle and release the brakes- he pulled the wrong "T" handle and dropped both tip tanks. One of the mechanics got a bolt in his leg and several people were burned. The largest part of the pilot was on the ramp burning and some guy was using a fire extinguisher on the body to put out the fire. The sad part was the wife of our pilot that crashed on the ramp was on her way to Misawa to live with her husband...One of the Yokota planes made a wheels up landing on our runway. The runway was closed after that. A total of 11 aircraft were destroyed, and 31 damaged. P.S. I hope this will be of help to you.

{Name Deleted} M/SGT Ret.,

Crew chief on the 7th Ftr. Sqdn at the time of the crash.

Comments re M/Sgt Walling’s letter – areas highlighted in red.

1. The Col’s letter mentioned added nothing of value so it is not shown here.

2. The incoming {attacking} F-51s was a formation of 12 and from Johnson AB, not Yokota.

3. The crashing 51 sheared the propeller off another F-51 parked on the ramp. I remember being amazed that the propellerless plane was still upright on all three wheels.

4. He mentions the pilot’s remains – I did not include that in my article because I chose to not do so. He is correct - we all saw it; it was just a large piece of burning flesh. The medics finally loaded it into an ambulance.

5. “The sad part” --- his wife was enroute from the U.S. to join him at Misawa.


Richard also sent other documents including the 49th Fighter Group Unit history for June 1949 and an article in the June 12, 1964 edition of the Misawa AB newspaper, regarding the number of aircraft damaged or destroyed in this accident. I have included these references below.

_________________________________________________________________________________
UNCLASSIFIED
Unit Historical Data Report, 49th FG month of June 1949 {dated 5 July 1949}
On 13 June 1949, twelve (12) F-51 American aircraft from Johnson Air Force Base, APO 994, simulated an attack on Misawa Air Force Base. The attacking formation came -in from the East at approximately 1,500 feet. Two (2) F-51 American aircraft from the 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, APO 919,intercepted the attacking aircraft between the east end of the runway and the tower. The wing-man of the intercepting aircraft, collided with the No . 2 man and No . 1 man of the attacking lead flight formation, tearing his ships left wing off. The plane crashed on the parking area in front of the 8th Fighter Squadron Hangar, killing the pilot. As a result of the crash the following aircraft were damaged or destroyed:
2 F51s Destroyed;

3 F-51s Damaged;

5 F-80s Destroyed;

13 F-80s Damaged


The No . 2 ship of the attacking formation crash-landed wheels up on the runway. The No.1 ship headed South West trailing smoke, then disappeared behind the hills. The No. 1 ship

crashed approximately three and one half (3t) miles South-West of the field, killing the pilot.


UNCLASSIFIED

June 12, 1964 article in the Misawa AB newspaper, The Wingspread.


An article in the Misawa AB newspaper, The Wingspread, reads, “Fifteen years ago tomorrow, a mid-air collision of two F-51 Mustangs over Misawa AB resulted in perhaps the largest catastrophe ever to occur here. In chain reaction 15 aircraft on the flight line were destroyed and several more damaged”.

Air Force Accident Investigation Reports {from my research}.

2 Dead pilots

3 F-51s Destroyed

4 F-51s Damaged

9 F-80s Destroyed

8 F80s Damaged

Numerous minor injuries to personnel on the ground

_________________________________________________________________________________
Summary: It is obvious we have inconclusive findings with regard to the number of aircraft destroyed or damaged in this disaster. One thing is certain – those who witnessed this catastrophe will never forget what they saw on this day in the sky and on the ground at Misawa AB, Japan on 13 June 1949. The following photos certainly prove the adage that one picture is worth a thousand words.

F-80s of the 8th Fighter Squadron near the impact point on the ramp


Notice the large cloud of smoke overhanging the parking ramp






All aircraft in this photo are Lockheed F-80, the first operational jet airplane for the U.S. Air Force. No F-51s are visible in the photo; they were all parked to the left of the photographer and to the rear of the F-80s. All the planes shown near the top right of the photo are F-80s which were quickly moved out of harm’s way by anyone who happened to be available at the time. There were 60 – 70 airplanes parked on the ramp at the time of the crash, all of which had been fully fueled and loaded with ammunition in preparation for an early takeoff on Tuesday morning.


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