Korean War: In the Air

Pilots flying in the Korean War did not face nearly as much resistance from enemy planes and anti-aircraft fire as their comrades did in World War II. And Korea marked the first use of jet aircraft in war, allowing for greater maneuverability and flexibility. Nevertheless, pilots whose planes did go down faced a grim future unless they eluded capture by the enemy. Conditions in North Korean POW camps could be brutal, and repatriation was never a certainty.

“Air power in that war was predominant.”

- William Donald Sinclair

Featured Story: William D. Sinclair

"I flew 100 missions; that was a tour. And I signed up for a second tour, so I could stay--yeah, I was young and foolish."

(Video Interview, 18:06)

After serving as a navigator in the Army Air Force in World War II, William Sinclair was contacted in 1947 about competing for a commission in the newly formed Air Force. He graduated in July 1949 from pilot training and 18 months later, he was off to serve in the Korean War, assigned to the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron. The Korean War introduced new aircraft and technology, which also meant inexperienced pilots making errors, some of them fatal. Sinclair flew over 100 missions, dropping napalm on enemy troops and attacking supply trains. When his replacement arrived early, Sinclair left two days before his tour was complete; two days later, his old base was overrun and his replacement was killed. (Sinclair describes his experiences during World War II in a separate interview.)