The F4U Corsair was the prop driven mainstay of post WWII aircraft, despite hearing so much of the Corsair, the AD Skyraider is considered to be the most effective naval aircraft of the war. Too late for use in WWII, it replaced the Helldiver, Dauntless and Avenger on the decks of U.S. aircraft carriers. Over shadowed by the glitzy new jet aircraft, the Skyraider was ready for duty when North Korea invaded South Korea in June of 1950. Besides the Navy units the Marines had 3 land-based AD units which carried out day and night attacks and electronic counter measures operations.
Not like the operations against Japan five years earlier, with epic sea battles and operations that lasted just days or weeks against enemy held islands with stretches without direct combat in between the island hopping; the Korean war carriers took station off the Korean coast for nearly six weeks at a stretch from June 1950 through July of 1953. They launched daily sorties that ground the ships crew and aircraft down, with short target distances, heavy flak, harsh winters, cold water - yet with the ability for air-sea rescue. This became the future norm for carriers in the Viet Nam, Operation Desert Storm, Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
The AD Skyraider saw four versions built by Douglas at the time war broke out. It was a rugged powerful plane that could carry up to 10,000lbs of ordnance including rockets, bombs, torpedoes with its 20mm cannon. The “Able Dog” was built to 865 units before the war, with the AD-4 and sub-variants were the most numerous. The AD-4B’s was built to deliver nuclear bombs, one attack and one composite squadron deployed to Korea with the AD-4B.
The U.S. Navy had nine AD attack squadrons at the wars outbreak, three only in the Pacific, one per carrier wing. By wars end 16 attack squadrons and two fighter squadrons had the AD, eight of which deployed in the Pacific. Marine units were slated to get the AD in 1950, but didn’t receive them till mid-1951.The combat debut of the Skyraider came from the Valley Forge, with VA-55, commanded by Lt, Cmdr., Norman Hodson with strikes against the North Korean airfields near Pyongyang, destroying hangers and a railway yard. Along with the HMS Triumph using FireFly’s, these two ships were the initial naval compliment for the United Nations forces. In this initial tour, VA-55 lost five aircraft to AAA, two in the second day of combat.
During the initial war deployment the units recommended that the Skyraider should be equipped with four 20mm cannon, as they were devastating in ground attack, the following could be carried, most from WWII surplus; 100, 250, 500, 1000 and 2000lb high explosive bombs, 240 or 260lb frag bombs, ATAR and 5-in HVAR and the largest 11.75 in “Tiny Tim” rockets, Napalm in converted drop tanks and the MK 77 fire bomb, depth charges and torpedoes. AD’s weapons configuration varied depending on the strike, three 2000lb bombs for bridge busting, for CAS 1000lbers HVARS and fragmentation bombs for flak suppression along with Napalm. Anti-submarine patrols were carried out by the AD which consisted of two Mk 54 depth charges and six HVARs with external centerline fuel tank in the “Gator Role” while and AD-3W/4W “Guppy” performed the search role. Because the Skyraider was in demand, Corsairs were swapped out for the “Gator”.
The Hwachon Dam on the Pukhan river 50 miles northeast of Seoul needed to be breached. If water was released at the right time it could have hampered UN operations. B-29’ and a raid by US Army rangers couldn’t crack the dam, so call on the Skyraider; On May 1, 1951, for the first and last time a Skyraider carried the Mk 13 torpedo in combat. From the flight deck of USS Princeton, CVG-9 under the command of Cdr. Richard C. Merrick, utilized twelve torpedo carrying AD’s, eight from VA-195 and four AD-4N’s from VC-35, along with twelve escorting F4U’s of VF-193 and VF-194 for flak suppression. None of the pilots had ever launched a torpedo and at 1100 hours the attack commenced in pairs at wave-top. Adjusting speed to stay under the maximum torpedo drop speed, two of the torpedoes dropped were faulty, the remaining hit and destroyed the center sluice gate, gashing a second gate and damaging part of the cement structure. The waters flooded the valley for miles and the dam remained in this condition the rest of the war. Thereafter VA-195 has been known as the
“Dambusters”, like there RAF No 617 sqn counterparts of WWII.
The U.S. Marine Corps was in-process of reducing its aviation forces when the Korean war broke out. The F4U Corsair fought the brunt of the corps ground attack missions until the Skyraiders arrived in mid-1951. That would be (MWHS) 1 to operate the Skyraider, assigned the AD-4W for AEW missions. Marine Corps also began flying ECM missions when the AD-2Q’s arrived, (VMC) 1 (Golden Hawks) was activated under the command of Lt. Col Lawrence Fox on Sept 15, 1951 and initially flew AD-2Q’s, -3Ns, -4Ns and -4NLs, flying its first ECM mission on September 18th. The ECM Raiders were able to fly up to 4.5 hours with external drop tanks and they did attract an occasional MiG, with no losses. In June of ‘53’, VMC-1 took on the night fighter role, with the Skyraider shooting down its only kill of the war when Maj George Linnemeir and CWO radar operator Vernon Cramer nabbed a PO-2 that had been bombing (K-14). Unfortunately, another kill occurred, that of an SAAF P-51D of No. 2 Sqn. 2 Lt. John Mohr perished on Dec 25, 1952 near (K-52) Yanggu airfield when the Marine Skyraider mistook it for a rapidly approaching Yak fighter.
VMF-121 a reserve unit out of NAS Glenview, was mobilized, it turned in its mix of aircraft for the well appreciated payload and endurance of the Skyraider.. Re-designated as VMA-121, the unit was transported to Korea aboard the USS Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86) and deployed to Pohang (K-3) on 19 October, 1951. The unit flew Interdiction strikes and CAS and with the long 10,000 ft runways it could carry up to 10,000 lbs. of ordinance compared to the Navy Skyraiders 8000 lb. load catapulted form a carrier deck.
One CAS mission on August 20, 1952, the Chinese had moved forward attempting to breach the lines held by the British, Capt. Thomas Murphy rolled in with 250lb bombs and napalm along with 2 Lt. Jim Kirk. The Chinese reversed course back to there lines. After the last strafing run, they turned for home and Murphy’s engine quit, about ready to bail out an Air Force chopper came into the air. After chatting with him, Murphy was low and had to bail out quickly, the chopper headed his way and helping hands picked Murphy up, he had only been on the ground 5 minutes.
This is another report of a VMA-121 loss on July 7, 1952, when 2Lt Ted Uhlemeyer was hit by AAA in his right wing and made a gear up landing at Pyongtaek, he was uninjured.
VMA-251 was the only other VMA deployed from MCAS El Toro to Pyongtaep (K-6) in June of 1953. It totaled 310 combat sorties in just one month and was the last Marine Corps unit to engage in combat, remaining in Korea, the unit provided air defense along the DMZ for another two-and-a-half years after the wars end.
Armistice ended the war on July 27, 1953, the Skyraider was on every attack carrier deployment through 1964. At this time, it was heavily engaged in the Viet Nam war, flying from carriers till 1968 and continuing on with the Air Force till 1972. The Marine Corps had phased out the Skyraider by 1959.
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Models and Markings:
This is a Tamiya 1/48 U.S. Air Force Skyraider, it was already painted in Navy Vietnam colors and had markings on it from a variety of units, but not all the parts on it. A friend, at a local IPMS club, brought it in and said anyone can have it. I snarfed it up planning on making it a Korea Skyraider.
It was soaked in water with bleach, causing the markings to come off. After thoroughly drying, I removed antenna, lights and parts not common to the AD-3 Skyraider. The only thing I did not tackle was sanding down the extra armor plating that was not used in earlier models of the Skyraider, didn’t want to mess things up. I then added antenna in the appropriate places. Painted it with Testers Deep Sea Blu rattle can along with the green rudder tip. All other parts painted accordingly.
Decals used were AeroMaster 48-402 “AD’s Ladies in Blue”, which contains markings for:
1. AD-3 of VA-35 flying from the USS Leyte (CV-32), Nov 1950 Korea.
2. AD-6 of VA-65 flying from USS Essex (CVA-9), in Sept 1955
3. AD-3 of VA-923 flying from USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31), Oct 1951 Korea.
Using the VA-35 markings; Per the information in the Osprey “AD Skyraider Units of the Korean War, this depicts BuNo122799, carrying a centerline drop tank, armed with two 500lb bombs, ten 250lb GP bombs and two 5-in HVARS. VA-35, part of CVG-3 was the first Atlantic Fleet AD squadron to deploy to Korea on CV-32’s only Korean deployment. This aircraft later served with VA-95 and VMA-121 in 1954.