Itazuke, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
Itazuke Air Base & Brady Air Base
Fifth Air Force
The Fifth Air Force was the major FEAF operating command in Japan and later Korea. Fifth Air Force units stationed in Japan at the beginning of the war were:
8th Fighter-Bomber Group
80th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons
4th Fighter (All-Weather) Squadron Command
9th Fighter-Bomber Squadron
339th Fighter (All-Weather) Squadron (- flight)
The Korean incident couldn't have happened at a more opportune time, what with the entire 3rd Bomb Wing, 339th Fighter Squadron (AW), and the 68th Fighter Squadron (AW), staged at Itazuke Air Base and Ashiya Air Base.
On the first day of the war, the 3rd BW's tactical units flew B-26s from Iwakuni AB, Japan on combat missions in Korea.
June 25, 1950 1130
General Partridge at once acknowledged the gravity of the situation, but he knew that the Far East Command had only one minor mission concerning Korea. At the outbreak of a war or general domestic disorder, and then only at the request of the American ambassador, the Far East Command was required to provide for the safety of American nationals in Korea. #14
For the accomplishment of the air-evacuation mission General MacArthur had charged FEAF to furnish such air-transport aircraft as might be needed to move Americans out of Korea. He had also charged FEAF to be ready to attack hostile ground and surface targets in support of the evacuation, but not before he issued specific instructions so to do. The Fifth Air Force had issued its operation plan on 1 March 1950.
Since Itazuke Air Base was closest to Korea, General Partridge had designated the commander of the 8th Fighter Bomber Wing as air-task force commander. Assisted by other combat wings as needful. the 8th Wing commander was directed to provide fighter cover for air and water evacuations. and he was given operational control over the transport planes which the 374th troop Carrier Wing would send to him from Tachikawa.
Other wing commanders had stipulated duties: the 3rd Bombardment Wing, for example, was to stage six B-26's to Ashiya Air Base (near Itazuke) where they would fly reconnaissance and cover missions over the water areas off Korea. #15
Shortly after 1130 hours General Partridge ordered all Fifth Air Force wing commanders to complete the deployments required to implement the air evacuation plan, but he cautioned all of them that flights to Korea would await further orders.#16
During the afternoon and early evening of 25 June Col. John M. ("Jack") Price, commander of the 8th Wing, marshaled his own F-80 and F-82 fighters, 10 B-26's, 12 C-54's, and 3 C-47's.
By a fortunate circumstance, the 8th Bombardment Squadron (Light) had come to Ashiya for a FEAF air-defense readiness test on 24 June, and its B-26's were in place when the alert sounded.
June 26, 1950
In the years since 1945 the United States armed forces had striven to develop all-weather capabilities, but air, ground, and naval forces were still vulnerable to the influence of the natural elements. As the North Koreans used weather to cover their treacherous attack, the 2143rd Air Weather Wing galvanized into action.
The 512th Reconnaissance Squadron Weather, flew its first "Buzzard Special" WB-29 weather-reconnaissance mission over Korea on 26 June 1950, and within the next few days the weather crews of this squadron not only provided in-flight meteorological readings but they also flew zigzag courses over Korea and reported tactical observations to the 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Itazuke.
June 26, 1950
At 0045 hours on 26 June Brig. Gen. Jarred V. Crabb, the FEAF Director of Operations, awakened General Partridge with a telephone call: General MacArthur had ordered FEAF to provide fighter cover while the freighters loaded and withdrew from Inch'ŏn. The fighters were to remain offshore at all times, but they were to shoot in defense of the freighters.
General Partridge instructed the 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing to furnish the freighters with combat air patrols. Within a few minutes, however, Fifth Air Force operations let General Crabb know that Colonel Price anticipated difficulties. This patrol work was a job for long-range conventional aircraft, not for the speedy but fuel-hungry jets. Colonel Price's 68th Fighter All-Weather Squadron had twelve operational F-82's, but he needed more aircraft than this. The Fifth Air Force first asked if it would not be possible to use the RAAF No. 77 Squadron's Mustangs, but General Crabb replied that the British had not yet taken a stand in the Korean war. The Fifth Air Force therefore ordered the 339th Fighter All-Weather Squadron to move its combat-ready F-82's from Yokota to Itazuke. This was still not enough of the long-range fighters, and General Crabb ordered the Twentieth Air Force to send eight of the 4th Squadron's planes up to Itazuke from Okinawa. To clear his ramps to receive these additional fighters, Colonel Price moved the contingent of C-54's from Itazuke to nearby Ashiya.