Two days of east coast strikes had gone off well, but nature now intervened to change the schedule. Concerned by the time involved in commuting between Okinawa and the scene of action, Commander Seventh Fleet had been expediting arrangements for underway replenishment and was contemplating a shift of base forward to Sasebo; the plans of the moment called for the force to fuel at sea on the 20th in preparation for two more days of operations.
June 25, 1950
Vandenberg would remember that most of the discussion at the Sunday [6/25/50 EST] meeting was speculation about whether the Soviet Union or China might take a hand in the fighting. There was no argument or discussion about the difficulties that were going to be involved if the poorly prepared American armed forces were ordered into combat. However, one thing was certain: Vandenberg knew and frequently told listeners that the US Air Force was on trial in Korea. Based on his wartime experience as a foremost tactical air commander, Vandenberg had an interesting view of the unitary nature of air power. He had hoped to rid the Air Force of the arbitrary separation of combat units into "tactical" and "strategic" forces. In Korea, strategic B-29 bombers were going to deliver the heaviest blows against the Communist invaders.
At the outbreak of the war, General Headquarters (GHQ),
US Far East Command (FEC), in Tokyo had no combat mission relevant to the Republic of Korea.
The Far East Air Forces (FEAF) was geared for air defense provided by the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces. FEAF had, however, managed to retain the Twentieth Air Force with one B-29 wing on Guam.
This unit was the 19th Wing, and it was the only strategic wing not assigned to Strategic Air Command. In an expedited movement, the 19th Group's air echelon immediately moved to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, from which location an Army staff group in GHQ undertook to direct its employment in support of friendly ground forces in Korea.
The effort to manage the B-29's from GHQ as somewhat successful. For an initial strike, aircraft were loaded with fragmentation bombs and directed to hit Red aircraft at Wŏnsan. The strike was diverted to attack Han River bridges at Sŏul, where the frags were virtually useless. In the days that followed, the B-29 crews were ordered to search out and bomb enemy tanks. Another mission was ordered out to destroy bridges at coordinates on a supposed east coast rail line. This task was difficult since the rail line, though shown on a map consulted, had never been built.
June 25, 1950
Headquarters received notification of the Korean incident and alerted all flights. Instructions were issued to arm each SB-17with one hundred (100) rounds of 50 caliber ammunition. All flights were immediately placed on a seven (7) day week, twenty-four (24) hour day.
A SB-17 from flight "C" located at Haneda Air Base, because of an evacuation from Misawa, was diverted to Johnson AB. The Fifth Air Force training Field Order testing the aerial defenses of Okinawa was still in progress with a Flight "D", SB-17 accomplishing a reconnaissance to Okinawa and return.
June 25, 1950 1130
As the Sunday which was 25 June 1950 began there was little to mark it different from any other first day of the week. Over most of Japan the weather was fine, except that it was becoming hot and there were scattered showers. The summer monsoon was beginning. Weather predictions called for continued good weather on Monday and most of Tuesday, but thereafter a southwardly drifting polar front promised to bring low clouds and rain down through nearby Korea and across the narrow sea to Japan. The weather prediction did not seem particularly important to the duty officers in the Meiji building as they managed the routine of the morning at FEAF headquarters. Business was generally quiet in Tokyo. General Stratemeyer was not in Japan.
After conferences in Washington, on the morning [7AM] of 25 June he was some-where in flight between San Francisco and Hawaii. Before returning to Tokyo, he meant to pay a command visit to the Twentieth Air Force on Okinawa.
With Stratemeyer absent, General Partridge was acting commander of FEAF He had been spending a part of his time in Tokyo, but on the morning of 25 June he was with his family in Nagoya. 1o
Although the report was promptly flashed to all FEAF units, General Partridge was not in his quarters in Nagoya and did not get the news from Korea until 1130 hours. 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.
June 26, 1950
Enroute back to Tokyo after two weeks’ temporary duty in Washington, D. C. and landed at Hickam [AFB in Honolulu] when the news reached me (Stratemeyer) that North Korea had declared war on South Korea as of 1100 hours that day.
Actually, North Korean forces had crossed the 38th Parallel as early as 0400 hours, 25 June, to take not only South Korea but the rest of the world by surprise. Field intelligence had broken down somewhere and FEC had no forewarned knowledge of the massing of the estimated 200,000 troops nor their intent to cross the Parallel.
Upon receipt of news of the civil war, I changed my plans to return direct to Tokyo via Wake instead of Okinawa.
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.