Wednesday, December 21, 2011

AVIATION ENGINEERS SCARWAF 822 EAB by PFC MARVIN PETAL

Thought this article from Stars and Stripes might be of interest:  from Tutt Lambert
                                                Aviation Engineers
By PFC Marvin H. Petal
Special to Pacific Stars and Stripes
b- Halverson  Okie  DeBorg   ??? Diesenroth  ??  Gallanis
F- Corbitt  Flack  White  Moore
From PIO, Hqs, 930th Eng Avn Gr
Written: 21 June 1953
Few people ever get to read unit histories tucked away in some obscure locked box in the back reaches of a headquarters. For the most part they are formalized military reports written in the stilted language of documentation and they carry the ominous red stamp: SECRET.
            The files of the aviation engineers are especially encased in a vault of security. Thus, the drama of war is seldom replayed. But once in a while the histories are read and the drama has a brief encore. Each unit history of the aviation engineers contains a statement of the outfit’s primary mission. Universally, it is the generalized, “to construct, maintain, camouflage, and defend field airdromes.
” The SCARWAF story is that and a lot more.
washing in a polluted river
            The Army Information Digest places the beginning of the SCARWAF story in 1947 when the Air Force was established as a separate entity under the national security act. “The new Air Force had no engineering units and the old Army aviation engineers were left without a market for their specialty. The logical result was SCARWAF.”
            A new Air Force program to utilize its own engineers may soon ring down the curtain on SCARWAF (Special Category Army With Air Force). Meanwhile, however, the drama has been played.
            There is one unit history which tells of a battalion that came to Korea in the early stages of the campaign. They stumbled onto a mine field in Wonsan harbor and wallowed helplessly as enemy bombers swung in low. Dogged before they had even started, they somehow got ashore and moved forward through enemy fire. The report was scribbled in longhand.
            In the infant action there was a powerful enemy. The weather. An airstrip is a temperamental thing and it won’t allow itself to be built unless conditions are just right. But the weather was never just right. When winter came the ground froze and balked and wouldn’t be turned by the giant blades of the bulldozers. And when the ground had finally been scraped the engineers couldn’t pour concrete in the below freezing weather. Improvising, they set control fires on the field and brought the ground up to concrete-pouring temperature.
Rock Quarry with crusher and truck
            Often the field site was a frustrating horizon of mountains, swamps, and rice paddies. In one project the 1903rd Engineer Aviation Battalion moved more than ½ million truck loads of earth.
            They were green troops who first came to Korea and they soon learned that there was more to fashioning an airstrip than just landscaping a long, wide ribbon of cement across the terrain. They not only had to build runways, but also taxiways, parking aprons, control towers, water lines, hangars, ammunition dumps, and fuel points. There had to be drainage systems to draw off the great pools the rains had left. And there had to be bridges and roads to allow an approach to the field. In one case the entire top of a mountain was shaved off to make room for a radar site.
            They had to set up rock quarries, asphalt plants, sand and gravel pits, rock crushing plants, and concrete supply centers. And there had to be the usual mess halls; fences, offices, motor pools, utilities shops, power plants, and latrines. All the while the men gave top priority to their mission and often slept in pup tents.
`Korean  teeter-totter 
            Of necessity, the early troops were thrown hastily into their jobs and many had not had time for thorough training. So, even as the building and fighting surged, there were on-the-job training programs in progress. Sometimes all the long weeks of work were in vain. As the enemy poured south over the hills, the airfields had to be hurriedly destroyed before withdrawal.
            One outfit operating at a base near Pyongyang, the present capital, writes this in its unit history:
            “There were several heckling air attacks. United Nations troops were just about at the Yalu River and everyone had ‘be home by Christmas spirit. Then the artful rumor everyone was hearing ceased to be a rumor. The reported 800,000 Chinese Reds massing on the border joined in the attack with what was left of the North Korean army and descended on the U.N. Forces.
DeBorg  Corbitt
            The swing of battle caused frequent problems. Just east of Yongchon, Company A of the 822 EAB met with the enemy who threw a barrage of mortar, high velocity and small arms fire. “Under fire for several hours,” the history reads, “the company was finally rescued by fighter aircraft that napalmed enemy positions. Friendly infantry also moved into the area and pushed back the enemy forces.” The 822nd received the Presidential Unit Citation. And the men received their share of Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts.
            One time the Eight Double Deuce had moved into an advanced site near the Yalu river. They hadn’t even time to unload their valuable, hard-to-get heavy equipment from the freight cars when the enemy launched a vicious attack. The battalion fought its way through the cordon and eventually wound up at a new base. The abandoned machinery was written off as lost in combat. But one day at the new base a train pulled in with a huge load for the 822nd Battalion. An ingenious and anonymous railroad engineer had coupled the cars to his train during the confusion of the skirmish and had chugged nonchalantly from the area. The 822nd was back in business.
Funeral
            Despite the pressure from the campaign many historians had a sense of humor. An excerpt from an 811th EAB report has it that “Company B returned from K-23 at the request of the Chinese.” Another outfit reported, “A company party was held Friday evening 23 March 1951 at which all personnel became pleasantly polluted.” Of morale. The 802nd EAB historian observed, “There was a prevalent feeling of doing an important and vital job.”
            In one report of the parent 930th Engineer Aviation Group there is an entry which seems to sum up the SCARWAF story. One of the outfits was given 30 days in which to have an airstrip ready for action. The historian wrote:
            “In unison with the clamoring of the equipment the men could be heard swearing, groaning, enduring the intense heat of the sun, and there in front of our eyes a miracle was taking place. Day after day the clamoring continued, the swearing increased, the sun burned hot on our bodies, the long hours dragged into days, the days into nights, and again the sun.
            “The strip was put into operation 9 days and F-51s began operating from the dirt runway. Immediately there was a marked change in the Korean conflict. With the Air Force entrenched close to their targets, the bombing attacks could be more than hit and run affairs. And thus the tide of battle was turned.”
            And thus the aviation engineers have carried on in the tradition of “construct, maintain, camouflage, and defend field airdromes.

3 comments:

  1. I was assigned to B Co 822 EAB in January 1954 at Taegu, Korea.
    Bill Cortner
    wilcor1@gmail.com

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  2. My father (Bob Hoggarth) also served with the 822 EAB while in Korea. He often refers to the house boy that he loved so much that went by the name Jo Jo or little Joe. Would you have known him or if you have any pictures you wouldn't mind sharing I would truly appreciate seeing them.

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