U.S. Navy aircraft from the aircraft carriers of Task Force 77 provide support to United Nations troops fighting on the front line in Korea, including long-range interdiction, emergency close air support, and air cover for landings and evacuations.
The month ends as the worst for the United Nations forces in Korea in terms of air losses, with 44 U.N. aircraft lost to enemy ground fire alone. More than 600 American aircraft have been lost in air-to-air combat or due to enemy ground fire since the Korean War began in June 1950.
February 3 – The Air FranceDouglas DC-4-1009Ciel de Savoie (registration F-BBDO) drifts off course during a flight from Douala Airport in Douala, French Cameroons, to Niamey Airport in Niamey, Niger, while approaching the mountains of British Cameroons. Flying into the sun, the crew fails to realize that they are on a collision course with Mount Cameroon (4,070 meters; 13,354 feet). In the final seconds before impact, the pilot sees the mountain ahead and makes a sharp left turn, but the DC-4's left wing strikes the rising terrain and the aircraft crashes into the mountain at an altitude of 2,591 meters (8,501 feet), killing all 29 people on board.
February 21 – An English Electric Canberra becomes the first jet to make an unrefuelled crossing of the Atlantic, taking 4 hours 37 minutes
February 26 – U.S. Navy carrier aircraft of Task Force 77 begin 38 consecutive days of attacks on enemy railroads and highways along the east coast of Korea.
The United States Navy tank landing shipUSS LST-799, fitted with a miniature flight deck, begins operations off Wonsan, Korea, with a detachment of two HO3S helicopters from Utility Helicopter Squadron 1 (UH-1). She becomes the first U.S. Navy ship to operate in the role of a helicopter carrier.
March 3 – The second strike by VA-195 against the Kilchu railroad bridge destroys one span, damages another span, and shifts two more spans out of line. Rear AdmiralRalph A. Ofstie, commanding Task Force 77, dubs the target "Carlson's Canyon."
March 6 – The Martin aircraft company gains production rights to the English Electric Canberra as the B-57.
March 7 – VA-195 makes its third strike against the railroad bridge in "Carlson's Canyon," dropping the northernmost of the two spans it had shifted in its March 3 attack.
VA-195 makes its fourth strike against the railroad bridge in "Carlson's Canyon," destroying some wooden replacement spans, dropping a span at the southern end, and damaging the northern approach. Later in the month, U.S. Air Force B-29 Superfortresses seed the valley floor with long-time-delay bombs.
April 1 – U.S. Navy carrier-based jets are used as fighter-bombers for the first time as F9F Panthers of Fighter Squadron 191 (VF-191) aboard USS Princeton (CV-37) attack a railroad bridge near Songjin, Korea, with 100- and 250-pound (45- and 113-kg) bombs.
April 2 – The fifth and sixth strikes by U.S. Navy Attack Squadron 195 (VA-195) against the almost-rebuilt railroad bridge in "Carlson's Canyon" at Kilchu, Korea, leave only the concrete bridge piers standing. VA-195's campaign has defeated enemy attempts to repair the bridge. However, the North Koreans have built a bypass road with eight new bridges that are harder to hit and easier to repair, and keep their supplies moving, and VA-195 gives up on further strikes. VA-195's attacks on the bridge will inspire the 1953 novellaThe Bridges at Toko-Ri by James Michener and the 1954 movie of the same name based on it.
April 4 – U.S. Navy aircraft carriers of Task Force 77 conclude 38 consecutive days of aerial interdiction in Korea, during which their aviators have claimed the destruction of 54 railroad and 37 highway bridges and to have ruptured railroad tracks in 200 other places. The railroad system along the east coast of North Korea has been reduced from carrying two-thirds to carrying one-third of North Korean and Chinese supplies since the attacks began on February 25.
April 21 – Four Yak-9 fighters attack two U.S. Marine CorpsF4U Corsairs of Marine Fighter Squadron 312 (VMF-312) near Chinnampo, Korea. Marine Captain Philip C. DeLong shoots down two of them, while his wingman, Lieutenant H. Deigh, destroys one and damages the fourth.
April 28 – United Airlines Flight 129, a Douglas DC-3A-197 (registration N16088), aborts its approach to land at Baer Field/Fort Wayne Municipal Airport in Fort Wayne, Indiana, after a severe thunderstorm with heavy rain, winds of 60 to 65 mph (97 to 105 km/hr) and gusts of up to 85 mph (137 km/hr) strikes. Shortly thereafter, it encounters a severe downdraft that causes it to crash in a wooded area, killing all 11 people on board.
April 30 – Six aircraft from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Princeton (CV-37) attack the Hwachon Dam, attempting to destroy its sluice gates to prevent North Korea from shutting them and allowing the Pukhan River below to dry up so that North Korean and Chinese troops could cross the riverbed. Dropping one 2,000-pound (907-kg) bomb each, they punch a hole in the dam but miss the sluice gates.
June 5 – The U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps begin Operation Strangle, a day-and-night air interdiction campaign against enemy roads, bridges, and tunnels across the width of the Korean Peninsula between 38 degrees 15 minutes North and 39 degrees 15 minutes North. It will continue until February 1952, but without the success hoped for it.
July 3 – United States Navy Lieutenant junior grade John K. Koelsch and his crewman, Aviation Mate Third Class George M. Neal, are shot down in an HO3S helicopter by enemy ground fire while trying to rescue United States Marine Corps Captain James V. Wilkins, who had been shot down behind enemy lines and was badly burned. Koelsch and Neal rig a litter to carry Wilkins out of the area, but eventually are captured on July 12, and Koelsch dies on October 16, 1951, while in captivity. For his actions, Koelsch posthumously becomes the first helicopter pilot to receive the Medal of Honor.
August 22 - The aircraft carrier USS Essex (CV-9) joins Task Force 77 off the northeast coast of Korea. Embarked aboard Essex is Fighter Squadron 172 (VF-172), equipped with F2H-2 Banshee fighters. It is the first deployment of the Banshee to a war zone.
In Operation Windmill II, Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) lifts 12,180 pounds (5,525 kg) of equipment to a U.S. Marine Corps unit on the front line in Korea in 18 flights over the course of one hour, using Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters.
September 21 – In Operation Summit, the U.S. Marine Corps makes the world's first mass combat deployment by helicopter, when Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) uses 12 Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters to land 224 or 228 U.S. Marines and 17,772 pounds (8,061 kg) of equipment onto Hill 844 near Kansong, Korea.
In Operation Blackbird, the U.S. Marine Corps makes the world's first nighttime combat troop lift by helicopter and the only large-scale night helicopter lift of the Korean War, when Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) uses Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters to land 223 U.S. Marines in a landing zone in Korea in 2 hours 20 minutes.
September 28 – The U.S. Marine Corps loses a transport helicopter operationally for the first time in history when a Sikorsky HRS-1 of Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) is destroyed in a crash during a night training flight in Korea. All three men on board escape without injury.
Based on information supplied by Korean guerrillas, eight AD Skyraiders from U.S. Navy Fighter Squadron 54 (VF-54) attack a meeting place of Communist leaders in Kapsan, North Korea, with 1,000-pound (454-kg) bombs and napalm. Intelligence evaluation indicates that 500 Communists are killed.
October 11 – In Operation Bumble Bee, 12 Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters of Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) relieve an entire U.S. Marine Corps battalion on the front line in Korea, with each helicopter carrying six Marines at a time 15 miles (24 km) to the front and bringing six Marines at a time out to the rear area on the return trip. In under six hours, they transport a total of 958 Marines.
In Operation Wedge, Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters of the U.S. Marine Corps's Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) supply a surrounded South Korean Army unit with 19,000 pounds (8,618 kg) of ammunition and evacuate 24 casualties.
In Operation Bushbeater, the U.S. Marine Corps makes the first use of vertical envelopment tactics when patrol teams of the 1st Marine Division use 40-foot (12-meter)-long knotted ropes to descend from Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters of Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) in Korea. Two of the helicopters lose lift over rough terrain and crash, but no one aboard is injured.
October 23 – Ten U.S. Air Force Boeing B-29 Superfortresses attack an airfield in North Korea; three are shot down, four make emergency landings in South Korea, and three badly damaged aircraft return to Okinawa. It is the last daylight combat mission flown by the B-29.
October 27 – Just after takeoff from Santa Elena Airport in Flores, Guatemala, a cabin fire breaks out aboard a Guatemalan Air Force Douglas C-47 Skytrain (registration FAG0961) carrying 25 radio reporters to a military event. The aircraft crashes, killing 26 of the 28 people on board.
November 30 – On a single mission, U.S. Air Force F-86 Sabre pilot George A. Davis, Jr., attacks nine Tupolev Tu-2 (NATO reporting name "Bat") bombers over the mouth of the Yalu River and shoots down three of them in three passes, then shoots down a MiG-15 over Korea Bay that had been pursuing another F-86 and lands at Kimpo Airport with only five U.S. gallons (4.2 Imperial gallons; 19 liters) of fuel remaining. The four kills make him the fifth U.S. ace of the Korean War. With seven kills of Japanese aircraft during World War II, he becomes the first U.S. pilot to become an ace in two wars. The day's victories also make him a double ace and an ace in both piston-engine aircraft and jet, and losses among the Tu-2 formation prompt the Chinese Air Force to abandon bombing raids for the rest of the Korean War.
December 16 – A fire breaks out in the right engine nacelle of a Miami AirlineCurtiss C-46F-1-CU Commando (registration N1678M) as it takes off from Newark Airport. As the plane attempts to return to the airport, it strikes a vacant house and a brick storage building in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and comes to rest inverted and partially submerged in shallow water along the bank of the Elizabeth River, after which a severe gasoline fire breaks out and spreads to the brick building. The crash and fire kill all 56 people on board and seriously injure one person on the ground. At the time, it is the second-deadliest aviation accident in United States history and the second-deadliest accident involving any variant of the C-46.
^Crosby, Francis, The Complete Guide to Fighters & Bombers of the World: An Illustrated History of the World's Greatest Military Aircraft, From the Pioneering Days of Air Fighting in World War I Through the Jet Fighters and Stealth Bombers of the Present Day, London: Anness Publishing Ltd., 2006, ISBN 978-1-84476-917-9, p. 47.
^Crosby, Francis, The Complete Guide to Fighters & Bombers of the World: An Illustrated History of the World's Greatest Military Aircraft, From the Pioneering Days of Air Fighting in World War I Through the Jet Fighters and Stealth Bombers of the Present Day, London: Anness Publishing Ltd., 2006, ISBN 978-1-84476-917-9, p. 37.