- Duane E. Biteman
We climbed to 8000 feet and headed slightly east of the road to position ourselves into the bright morning sun for our bombing attack. Scrappy called to remind me to ‚Äúarm‚Äù my bombs and rockets, and I reached down to the console panel by my knee, lifted the switch guards and moved both the bomb and rocket switches to the ‚Äúarmed‚Äù positions. That transferred control of the bomb release to the switches on the control stick; the red button at the top of the stick would release the bombs, and the button on the left of the stick would fire the rockets. The trigger on the front of the handgrip would fire the six machine guns simultaneously. For ‚Äúbombsights‚Äù our old F-51s had a very simple but effective system… a series of one inch red strips painted on the leading edge of each wing, near the fuselage, radiating out at different angles from the pilot’s line of sight. Another was painted on the top center of the nose cowling extending from the windscreen to the prop spinner. In use, the pilot would simply fly to one side far enough to keep his target in view along the side of the nose, then as the target passed under the red wing stripe for the altitude he was flying, he would roll over into a steep 60 or 70 degree dive and line up the target with the nose stripe. Finally, when approaching 4000 feet in the high-speed dive, it was necessary only to check that the needle and ball instrument was ‚Äúcentered‚Äù to be certain there was no skid or slipping of the aircraft, then press the bomb release button as the target passed out of sight under the nose. As soon as the bombs were released, usually at about 2000 feet, a very sharp pull-up was necessary to keep from flying through the bomb’s blast. Johnson adjusted his heading slightly, and then peeled off, rolling into a near vertical dive from 8000 feet aiming for the first tank in the line and after another couple of seconds, I rolled over into my dive bombing run. I fired a few sort bursts of machine gun fire as I started down, checking to ‚Äúclear‚Äù my guns and also hoping to keep enemy gunners heads down to discourage tem from shooting back as we made our attack. We both had close ‚Äúnear misses‚Äù on the first and second tanks, hitting within 40 to 60 feet from each. But after the dust and debris ha settled the tanks were still moving. Russian T-34 tanks needed a direct hit with a 500 pound bomb to knock them out of action. Dropping down onto the deck, we swung around to come at them from the side with our rockets. Again, Scrappy aimed at the lead tank and I opened up on the second. We salved our six 5 inch HVAR rockets from about 300 yards and both got good hits against the tracks and wheels. Both tanks were badly damaged but the crews quickly opened their hatches and started firing at us with their machine guns. We climbed back up to 8000 feet where the air was cooler and clearer and followed the railroad east to the Naktong River, our checkpoint for home base ad Taegu. After crossing the river we, we nosed down for a sweeping turn in close formation, into a low on-the-deck initial approach. Upon reaching the runway at about 350 mph, Scrappy pulled up into a steep chandelle as he chopped his power for landing. Two seconds later I pulled up to take spacing behind him on a downwind leg. With speed down, after the steep pull-up, we dropped our gear and turned into the tight base leg and sere still turning slightly on final as we touched down onto the dusty runway.