4 August 1950: During the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter, wounded soldiers were evacuated from the battlefield by helicopter for the first time when a Sikorsky H-5F of Detachment F, 3rd Emergency Rescue Squadron,¹ Air Rescue Service, United States Air Force, flew Private 1st Class Claude C. Crest, Jr., U.S. Army, from the Sengdang-ni area to an Army hospital. By the end of combat in 1953, 21,212 soldiers had been medevaced by helicopters.
Only the second military helicopter, the H-5 was frequently flown overloaded and outside of its center of gravity limits. The helicopter was not armed, though the pilot normally carried an M1911 .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, and the crewman, a .30-caliber M1 Carbine.
Eleven commercial Sikorsky S-51 helicopters had been purchased by the Air Force in 1947 and designated R-5F. This was later changed to H-5F. It was a four-place, single-engine helicopter, operated by one pilot. The cabin was built of aluminum with Plexiglas windows. The fuselage was built of plastic-impregnated plywood, and the tail boom was wood monocoque construction. The main rotor consisted of three fully-articulated blades built of metal spars and plywood ribs, covered with two layers of fabric. (All metal blades soon became available.) The three bladed semi-articulated tail rotor was built of laminated wood. The main rotor turned counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Its normal operating range was 175–195 r.p.m. The tail rotor was mounted on the helicopter’s left side in a pusher configuration. It turned clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.)
The helicopter’s fuselage was 41 feet, 1¾ inches (12.541 meters) long. The main rotor had a diameter of 48 feet, 0 inches (14.630 meters) and the tail rotor diameter was 8 feet, 5 inches (2.565 meters),² giving the helicopter an overall length of 57 feet, ½ inch (17.386 meters) with rotors turning. It was 12 feet, 11–3/8 inches (3.947 meters) high. The tricycle landing gear had a wheel base of 10 feet, 1 inch (3.073 and the tread was 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters). The S-51 had an empty weight of 4,050 pounds (1,837 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 5,300 pounds (2,404 kilograms) below 1,000 feet (305 meters) MSL.³ Fuel capacity was 100 gallons (379 liters).
The H-5F was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 986.749-cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-985 AN-5 (Wasp Jr. T1B4 ) which was placed in the fuselage behind the crew compartment with the crankshaft vertical. The R-985-AN-5 was a direct-drive, nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6:1. It required 91-octane aviation gasoline and was rated at 450 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., Standard Day at Sea Level. The R-985 AN-5 was 48.00 inches (1.219 meters) long, 46.25 inches (1.175 meters) in diameter and weighed 684 pounds (310.3 kilograms) with a magnesium crankcase.
The H-5F had a maximum speed (VNE) of 107 knots (123 miles per hour/198 kilometers per hour). Range was 275 miles (443 kilometers). The service ceiling was 14,800 feet (4,511 meters). The absolute hover ceiling was 3,000 feet (914 meters).
¹ Reorganized as the 3rd Air Rescue Squadron 10 August 1950.
² An 8 foot, 9 inch (2.667 meter) all-metal two-blade tail rotor assembly became standard with the H-5G, and was available to retrofit earlier helicopters.
³ The maximum gross weight had to be reduced 150 pounds (68 kilograms) for each additional 1,000 feet of altitude.
3 August 1962: Following his record-setting flight into space aboard an X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane, 17 July 1962, Major Robert M. White, U.S. Air Force, was featured with a cover photograph on the LIFE Magazine issue for the week of 3 August 1962. LIFE was the most prestigious news magazine of its time.
This was the first time that a manned aircraft had gone higher than 300,000 feet (91,440 meters). It was also the first flight above 50 miles (80.47 kilometers). For that achievement, Bob White became the first X-15 pilot to be awarded U.S. Air Force astronaut wings. His 314,750-foot altitude (95,936 meters) also established a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world altitude record, which will probably never be broken.
To qualify, a new record would have to exceed White’s altitude by at least 3%, or more than 324,419 feet (98,882.9 meters). As the FAI-recognized boundary of Space is the Kármán line (100 kilometers, or 328,083.99 feet), any prospective challenger would have to hit a very narrow band of the atmosphere.
Major White had been the first pilot to fly faster than Mach 4, Mach 5 and Mach 6. He was the first to fly over 200,000 feet (60,960 meters), then over 300,000 feet (91,440 meters). He was a graduate of the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School and flew tests of many aircraft at Edwards before entering the X-15 program. He made at total of sixteen X-15 flights.
A P-51 Mustang fighter pilot in World War II, Bob White was shot down on his 52nd combat mission in February 1945 and captured. He was held as a prisoner of war until the war in Europe came to an end in April 1945. White was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and was assigned to a fighter squadron stationed in Japan. Later, he flew 70 combat missions over North Vietnam in the Republic F-105 Thunderchief supersonic fighter bomber, including leading the attack against the Paul Doumer Bridge at Hanoi, 11 August 1967, for which he was awarded the Air Force Cross.
Colonel White next went to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where he was director of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle systems program. He then returned to Edwards Air Force Base, California, as commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center. White was promoted to Major General in 1975.
General White retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1981. He died 17 March 2010.
23 July 1953: Major John H. Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, shot down his third and final MiG-15 fighter during the Korean War.
Major Glenn had previously flown a Grumman F9F Panther with VMF-311, but was assigned to the U.S. Air Force 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter Interceptor Group, at K13, Suwon, Korea.
While on temporary duty with the Air Force squadron, Glenn flew the North American Aviation F-86F Sabre air superiority fighter. He shot down all three MiG fighters with F-86F-30-NA serial number 52-4584. His previous victories were on 12 July and 19 July, 1953, also against MiG-15 fighters.
Major Glenn had painted the names of his wife and two children, “Lyn Annie Dave,” on the nose of his airplane, but after being heard complaining that there “weren’t enough MiGs,” he came out one morning to find MIG MAD MARINE painted on the Sabre’s side.
3 July 1951: With his Chance Vought F4U-4B Corsair, Bu. No. 63056, hit and on fire, Captain James V. Wilkins, United States Marine Corps, of Marine Fighter Squadron 312 (VMF-312) stationed aboard USS Sicily (CVE-118), bailed out approximately 35 miles (56 kilometers) southeast of Wonson, North Korea. He parachuted onto a mountainside in the Anbyon Valley.
Severely burned and with an injured leg, Captain Wilkins was seen by North Korean soldiers along a heavily-traveled supply route. While enemy soldiers shot at him, Wilkins tried to escape by crawling up the mountainside.
Lieutenant (j.g.) John Kelvin Koelsch, United States Navy, was a helicopter pilot in charge of a detachment of Helicopter Utility Squadron Two (HU-2), stationed aboard a former U.S. Navy Landing Ship (Tank), USS LST-488. The LST had been transferred to Japan after World War II and converted to a merchant ship. During the Korean War, it and its 45-man Japanese crew were contracted to the U.S. Navy. The LST was reconverted to a helicopter support ship, designated Q-009.
A torpedo bomber pilot during World War II, Lieutenant Koelsch transferred to Helicopter Utility Squadron One (HU-1) at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1949, and was trained to fly the Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter, a Navy variant of the commercial Sikorsky S-51. He had completed a combat tour aboard USS Princeton (CV-37) but rather than return to the United States with his squadron, requested a transfer to HU-2. Koelsch told his shipmates that he felt rescuing downed pilots was his mission.
When Captain Wilkins’ Corsair went down, Lieutenant Koelsch volunteered to attempt a rescue. Shortly before sunset, he and his rescue crewman, Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class George Milton Neal, boarded their helicopter, Sikorsky HO3S-1, Bu. No. 122715, and took off from Q-009 in a mist and low clouds.
Wilkins heard Koelsch’s helicopter approaching and moved back down the mountain toward his parachute. He saw the Sikorsky flying at about 50 feet (15 meters) below a layer of clouds. The helicopter was receiving heavy ground fire from the North Korean soldiers along the road. The Sikorsky was hit and Koelsch turned away, but he quickly returned. Koelsch located Wilkins and brought the HO3S-1 to a hover while rescue crewman Neal lowered a “horse collar” harness on a hoist cable. Neal then lifted the fighter pilot up to the helicopter.
The helicopter continued to be targeted by ground fire and it was finally shot down. 122715 crashed on the mountainside and rolled upside down. Koelsch and Neal were unhurt and Wilkins suffered no new injuries. Koelsch and Neal carried Wilkins and they moved away from the enemy forces, heading toward the coast. The three Americans evaded the enemy for nine days before they were captured.
John Koelsch refused to cooperate with his captors. He was held in isolation and subjected to torture. He soon became very ill. Just three months after being captured, Lieutenant (j.g.) John Kelvin Koelsch died. For his actions during and after 3 July 1951, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Captain Wilkins and AM3 Neal survived the war and were eventually returned to the United States. George Milton Neal was awarded the Navy Cross.
In 1965, the Garcia-class destroyer escort USS Koelsch (DE-1049, later classified as a frigate, FF-1049, in 1975) was christened in honor of the first helicopter pilot to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
John Kelvin Koelsch was born 22 December 1923 in the family home at 2 Draycott Place, Chelsea (a borough in the southwest part of London, England). He was the third son of Henry August Koelsch and Beulah Anne Hubbard Koelsch. Mr. Koelsch was an American banker. The family returned to America aboard White Star liner R.M.S. Adriatic, sailing from Liverpool on 26 April 1954, and arriving at the Port of New York on 5 May.
In America, the Koelsch family lived in Briarcliff Manor, Westchester County, New York.
John K. Koelsch enlisted as an aviation cadet in the United States Navy 14 September 1942. He was trained as a pilot. When qualified as a Naval Aviator, Koelsch was commissioned as an ensign, 16 October 1944. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) 1 August 1946.
Following the Korean Armistice Agreement, Lieutenant Koelsch’s remains were returned to the United States and interred at Arlington National Cemetery, 14 October 1955.
18 May 1953: On his last day of combat, Captain Joseph C. McConnell, Jr., a fighter pilot with the 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, United States Air Force, flew two sorties in which he shot down three enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighters, bringing his total to 16 aerial victories. He was credited with damaging 5 more enemy aircraft. McConnell was the leading American ace of the Korean War. He had scored all of his victories between 14 January and 18 May, 1953.
For his actions on this date, Captain McConnell was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross:
The President of the United States of America, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Captain Joseph McConnell, Jr., United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as a Pilot with the 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, in action against enemy forces in the Republic of Korea on 18 May 1953. Leading two F-86s on an air superiority mission over North Korea, he sighted a formation of twenty-eight MIG-15 type aircraft. Determined to accomplish his mission and with complete disregard for the numerical odds against him, he immediately attacked. Although under fire himself, he pressed his attack to such extent that he completely disorganized the enemy formation, destroying one of the MIGs and damaging another. Several enemy aircraft were then firing at him but, seeing that the other Sabre in his flight was also being fired upon, he completely ignored enemy cannon fire directed at himself and destroyed the MIG that was pursuing his wingman. These victories, in spite of counterattacks by such superior numbers, completely unnerved the enemy to the extent that they withdrew across the Yalu before further attacks could be made. Through his courage, keen flying ability and devotion to duty, Captain McConnell reflected great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Forces, and the United States Air Force.
During his combat tour in Korea, McConnell flew at least three North American Aviation F-86 Sabre jet fighters: an F-86E and two F-86Fs. He named the airplanes Beauteous Butch, after his wife’s nickname.
On 12 April 1953, after his eighth kill, he was himself shot down by another MiG-15. He ejected from his second Sabre, F-86F-15-NA 51-12971, and parachuted into the Yellow Sea where he was rescued by a Sikorsky H-19A Chickasaw helicopter from the 581st Air Resupply and Communications Wing, based at the island of Chŏ-do.
His last airplane, F-86F-1-NA 51-2910, was painted with 16 red stars and Beauteous Butch II following the last mission. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star.
Of air combat, Captain McConnell said, “It’s the teamwork out here that counts. The lone wolf stuff is out. Your life always depends on your wingman and his life on you. I may get credit for a MiG, but it’s the team that does it, not myself alone.”
Joseph Christopher McConnell, Jr., was born 30 January 1922 at Dover, New Hampshire. He was the second child of Joseph Christopher McConnell, a barber, and Phyllis Winifred Brooks McConnell. Mrs. McConnell died in 1931.
After graduating from high school, Joseph McConnell enlisted in the Medical Corps, United States Army, at Concord, New Hampshire, 15 October 1940. He had enlisted for the Philippine Department. Private McConnell was assigned to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, for training. McConnell was 5 feet, 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall and weighed 134 pounds (6o.8 kilograms).
In 1941, McConnell married Miss Pearl Edna Brown at Fitchburg, Massachusetts. They would have three children, Patricia Ann, Kathleen Frances, and Joseph Christopher McConnell III. McConnell called his wife “Butch.” He explained the not-so-flattering nickname by saying that she was, “the butcher of his heart.”
In 1943, McConnell was selected as an aviation cadet, and was trained as a navigator. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, 18 September 1944.
Lieutenant McConnell was assigned to the 448th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based at RAF Seething (Army Air Force Station 146) near Norwich, Norfolk, England. The 448th was equipped with B-24 Liberator bombers. McConnell flew as navigator on 60 combat missions.
Following World War II, Lieutenant McConnell remained in the Army Air Force. In 1946, he was assigned to pilot training. He graduated from flight training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, and received his pilot’s wings 25 February 1948.
Lieutenant McConnell deployed to the Republic of South Korea in September 1952, and was assigned to the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing.
Captain McConnell returned to the United States 24 May 1954. After meeting with President Eisenhower in Washngton, D.C., he was assigned to the 435th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, based at George Air Force Base, Victorville, California. The squadron was equipped with the F-86 Sabre. (The former air base is now the Southern California Logistics Airport, VCV.)
The community of Apple Valley, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) southeast of George AFB, donated a two-bedroom house and an acre of land (0.4 hectare) to Captain McConnell and his family, as a sign of its appreciation. The house was constructed in 45 hours. ¹
In the summer of 1954, Captain McConnell was temporarily assigned to Edwards Air Force Base, 35 miles northwest of George, to evaluate the new North American Aviation F-86H Sabre fighter bomber.
On 25 August 1954, McConnell was flying F-86H-1-NA 52-1981, the fifth production airplane, performing an aerobatic function check. About 20 minutes into the test flight, McConnell radioed to Edwards that he was experiencing flight control problems, and had to use elevator trim adjustments to control the Sabre’s pitch attitude. He reported that he planned to make an emergency landing on the dry lake bed.
Witnesses reported seeing McConnell eject from the F-86H at about 500 feet (152 meters) above the surface. His parachute did not open. Captain McConnell was killed. The fighter bomber flew on for about one-half mile (0.8 kilometers) before it crashed at approximately 1:00 p.m., local time.
Investigators found that two bolts in the horizontal stabilizer control system had not been properly fastened and had fallen out.
Joseph Christopher McConnell, Jr., was just 31 years old. His remains were interred at the Victor Valley Memorial Park, Victorville, California.
¹ The McConnell “appreciation house” is located at 20822 N. Outer Highway 18, Apple Valley, California. The 1,980 square foot (184 square meters) 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, house, in derelict condition, sold for $47,000 on 16 July 2016, less than 20% of what its value should have been.