View Full Version : Skyknight defended night skies in Korea

03-25-04, 07:39 AM
Issue Date: March 29, 2004

The Lore of the Corps
Skyknight defended night skies in Korea

By Robert F. Dorr
Special to the Times

Just after midnight, Nov. 2, 1952, an F3D Skyknight flown by Maj. William T. Stratton and Master Sgt. Hans Holind made radar contact high over North Korea with an enemy Yakovlev Yak-15 jet fighter.
When they drew closer, Stratton saw the orange glow of the Yak’s jet exhaust. He fired three short bursts of 20mm cannon fire. The Yak went down in flames, leaving the Marine Skyknight crew flying through smoke and debris.

This was the first jet versus jet aerial victory at night.

A week later, on Nov. 8, 1952, F3D pilot Capt. O.R. Davis repeated the feat by shooting down a MiG-15 northwest of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

But there was more riding on these night-sky victories than which crews landed safely back at base and which landed where they fell.

This night action during the Korean War was vindication for the whale-shaped F3D Skyknight, a portly plane developed in response to a 1946 Navy requirement for a night fighter. The first Skyknight flew March 23, 1948, at Muroc, Calif. The F3D entered service in 1950 with a Navy squadron and the Corps’ Marine Night Fighter Squadron 542 — the “Flying Tigers.”

Enemy fighters were a serious threat to the B-29 Superfortress bombers operating over North Korea. As part of the response, on May 26, 1952, Marines of squadron VMF(N)-513, “Flying Nightmares,” commanded by Col. Peter D. Lambrecht, began flying at Kunsan, South Korea.

On Dec. 10, 1st Lt. Joseph A. Corvi and Sgt. Dan George shot down a Polikarpov Po-2 night intruder — a biplane — without ever seeing it, using radar only. Another F3D crew, Maj. Jack Dunn and Master Sgt, Lawrence Fortin, shot down a MiG-15 the next month, on Jan. 12, 1953.

On Jan. 28, Capt. James R. Weaver’s F3D claimed another MiG, and three days later Lt. Col. Robert F. Conley — who only recently had become commander of the squadron — claimed the sixth and final Skyknight aerial victory of the Korean War. His MiG also counted as the 10th and final aerial kill for all Marine night fighters (F4U Corsair, F7F Tigercat and F3D Skyknight).

The F3D Skyknight went on to a long career.

The F3D nomenclature was changed to F-10 in 1962 (the F3D-2Q model then in service became the EF-10B), and the Skyknight went on to serve the Marine Corps as an electronics-intelligence platform in Vietnam.

Today, the Marine Corps has an EF-10B Skyknight at Quantico, Va., ready for display when a new museum opens there in the near future.

Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, lives in Oakton, Va. He is the author of numerous books on Air Force topics, including “Air Force One.” His e-mail address is robertdorr@aol.com.