The hunt continues as two ACE pilots prepare for a showdown.
|January 5, 1951. Major Kim Yeong-Jin of the North Korean Army Air Force (KPAAF) leads a group of six MiG-15's as they continue to climb toward their designed ceiling of 50,000 ft., just north of the Yalu River over China. North Korean and Chinese military planners recently became aware that American B-29's were planning a bombing raid on a supply line bridge linking the North Korean City of Sinuiju to the Lianong Province of China, and its City, Dandong. Major Kim's strategy is to use the MiGs Superior altitude advantage to locate the B-29 Stratofortresses and ambush the Bombers from above, along with any F-86 Sabres flying escort for the Bombers.
Major Kim is 31 years old, born in the North Korean City of Chasong. His resume consists of interrupted secondary schooling due to guerrilla activity against the Japanese during their brutal occupation of Korea in the second World War. After the Japanese surrendered and were driven out of Korea, the Peninsula separated into two halves, North and South Korea at the 38th parallel. Kim's family was well connected to the ruling Communist Party. After preliminary screening, Kim was ordered to the Soviet Union for continued education in late 1948, as well as enrollment in air academy training, specifically the new generation of MiG fighters under development and flight testing. As it turned out, Kim was a gifted aviator. His flying skills were superb, and he soon mastered every handling aspect of the MiG-15 before returning to North Korea as a newly promoted first Lieutenant in June, 1950, quickly rising to the rank of Captain as his record of kills mounted, having confirmed his fifth splash of an allied fighter before being promoted to the rank of Major in November, 1950. Major Kim remained unmarried, totally dedicated to the State and its Leader, Kim Il-Sung, his only family that of his parents and a brother and sister -- all ranking party officials in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
It was one of Kim's wingmen who spotted the armada of 16 B-29's flying approximately eight thousand feet below in tight formation in the direction of the target bridge in Sinuiju. Kim gave the order to attack, each MiG turning in sequence as they dived toward the unsuspecting Bombers. It was only then that the Sabres were spotted. Three of the MiGs rained canon fire onto the B-29's, tearing into the Superfortresses with devastating results, the B-29 gun crews barely able to orient and organize themselves before returning fire. Three of the B-29's were already on their way to the ground, the others breaking formation to escape the onslaught, their gunners firing furiously in an attempt to destroy or drive off the attacking fighters. Major Kim and his two wingmen engaged the three escort Sabres. Ironically, the MiG flight leader easily shot down two of the Sabres, while the third Sabre quickly shot down Kim's two wingmen. Major Kim then went after the surviving F-86, turning inside the Sabre's roll as the allied fighter attempted to maneuver out of the MiG's cannon range; just as the MiG leader prepared to fire his cannons, the Sabre pulled a Split S reversal, escaping the MiG in the opposite direction as the Sabre turned hard left and was now giving chase to this very experienced MiG Pilot, attempting to close the distance for a clean shot with the Sabre's six .50 caliber machine guns. Major Kim rocked his aircraft hard, twisting repeatedly left and right in order to prevent the Sabre pilot from locking his gunsight onto the MiG, finally pulling his own, "Split S" reversal in an attempt to elude this equally experienced Sabre Pilot.
In the confusion and chaos, both pilots lost sight of each other as they visually searched and called repeatedly for their respective wingmen. The B-29 Flight leader radioed the lone Sabre Pilot to report they shot down the other attacking MiGs, and together with the surviving B-29's dropped their payloads, destroying the bridge. Turning and heading back to their airbase in South Korea, they were escorted by the remaining Sabre. Low on fuel and ammunition, Major Kim broke off further attacks as he rolled the MiG in the direction of his airbase in southern China, but not before thinking to himself, next time I'll kill that American pilot bastard.
"He was one helluva pilot," Captain McCormick reluctantly conceded, referring to the surviving MiG Pilot as the young Officer made his way into the debriefing room, positioning himself at the far end of the conference table, his fingers interlocked behind his head for support as he leaned back in his chair and stared pensively at the ceiling, exhausted and still in a state of shock at the loss of his two junior wingmen. He was waiting arrival of the remaining Officers to begin the post-mission debriefing. He was feeling remorseful, believing he could have, should have done more to protect his wingmen.
"It's not your fault -- stop blaming yourself," his Commanding Officer and staff kept telling him. "We all know how these MiG devils operate. They hide across the allied policy protected impenetrable border, then attack ambush style and in superior numbers. They're good at it, and we don't always know when and where they're coming."
Just as the debriefing was ending, an aide to the Commanding Officer walked into the room. He saluted as he approached the CO. "Sir, this message just arrived from mission planning." The CO opened and read the memo, then rubbed his brow slightly with his other hand as he glanced at Captain McCormick. "Captain, looks like we know the identity of this hotshot MiG Pilot you encountered over the Alley today. A B-29 crew member wrote down the number on the fuselage of the surviving MiG before it headed toward the Chinese border." Captain McCormick turned and quietly stared at his CO. "It's their Ace, Major Kim Yeong-Jin of the KPAAF," the CO continued as he handed the document to the grieving Captain. There was a momentary pause as Captain McCormick read the report, finally rising from his chair while angrily crunching the paper in his hand as he made eye contact with the remaining Officers in the debriefing room. "That son-of-a bitch is mine!"
Click to read "MiG Alley, Part III"