This blog is for Communication among Marines and people interested in the Marines. The 10 is for Communications. The Photo above is Marble Mountain, Danang, Vietnam.
Jul 13, 2014
Ted Williams: A Marine Fighter Pilot
Ted Williams was John Glenn's wingman on F-9Fs in Korea.
Remembering Ted Williams: A Marine Fighter Pilot
By LtCol Ronald J. Brown, USMCR (Ret) - Originally Published October 2002
United States Marine ground crewmen at Suwon's K-13 Airbase in Korea were alerted that trouble was afoot when they noticed the crash, fire and rescue crews hurriedly manning their emergency vehicles on 16 Feb. 1953. The source of that trouble quickly became apparent when a Marine fighter plane appeared on the horizon.
The midnight-blue F9F "Panther" jet was coming in "heavy" and very fast. Its sluggish movements, trailing smoke and streaming 30-foot ribbon of fire all indicated serious danger. The pilot obviously was having difficulty controlling his aircraft, but he was too low to eject. His only course, therefore, was to try to bring his crippled aircraft in.
An already tense situation became worse when an explosion rocked the undercarriage as the plane approached the airstrip. The stubby fighter plane made a wheels-up "belly" landing, skidding along the tarmac with sparks flying for almost a mile before coming to a stop. The nose promptly burst into flames that threatened the cockpit. The trapped aviator blew off the canopy, struggled out of the plane and limped away, hitting the ground in a less-than-perfect baseball slide.
The plane was a total wreck, but the fortunate pilot suffered only minor scrapes. Later, the airmen at Suwon learned they had witnessed the dramatic escape of the most famous flying leatherneck in Korea; that lucky pilot was none other than Ted Williams, a star professional baseball player who was serving as a Marine reservist.
Williams, a 33-year-old married father with a bum elbow, was unconcerned about being called back to active service while he recuperated. As the Korean War heated up, however, the Marines desperately needed pilots-and Williams was one of the best. He returned to active duty six games into the 1952 season. After hitting a home run in his last at bat, he hung up his spikes to don flying boots to patrol the skies of Korea instead of Fenway Park's outfield. Although initially bitter at being called up, Williams later remarked, "The guys I met in the Marine Corps were the greatest ... guys I ever met. " Like them, he reluctantly accepted that going to Korea was the right thing to do.
He attended flight-refresher training at Willow Grove (Pa.) Naval Air Station and then went to Cherry Point, N.C., for ground school before transitioning into jets. Williams liked the rugged Grumman F9F-5 Panther, a subsonic, straight-wing, single-seat, single-jet engine, carrier-- borne day fighter often used for ground attack in Korea. He remarked that flying jets was "easier than props because they had no torque, less noise, tricycle landing gear [and] wonderful flight characteristics." He "marveled at how good the [Panther] was and how much better [he] had it than those guys that flew in the South Pacific."
Over the years Theodore S. Williams accumulated a number of nicknames: The Kid, The Splendid Splinter and Teddy Baseball among others, but his squadron mates in Marine Fighter Squadron 311 gave him a new one. They called him Bush (as in "bush league")-an appellation meant to "get his goat," according to his operations officer, frequent wingman and future astronaut and U.S. senator, Major John H. Glenn Jr. Although it may have rankled him at first, Williams eventually accepted his new moniker.
Williams joined the "Willing Lovers" (a nom de guerre taken from the squadron's "WU tail letters) of VMF-311 at Pohang on Korea's eastern coast in early 1953. Captain Williams flew 39 combat missions, his plane was hit by enemy gunfire on at least three occasions, and he was awarded three Air Medals before being sent home with a severe ear infection and recurring viruses in June. Williams was formally discharged from active duty on 28 July 1953, the day after a cease-fire in Korea went into effect.
Editor's note: LtCol Brown, a retired teacher and currently a freelance journalist, is the author of "A Few Good Men! The Story of the Fighting Fifth Marines," and the Marine Corps History and Museum Division's Korean War Commemorative series monograph, "Counteroffensive: U.S. Marines from Pohang to No Name Line."