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77SQN Supports 3RAR

5 NOV 1950: On the same day, the Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 77 Squadron supports 3RAR. 77 SQN, for the first time in the Korean War, flies in support of the 3rd Battlion, the Royal Australian Regiment, in the Pakchon-Sinanju Road area, Korea. Australian Mustang fighters strafed Chinese positions just before 3RAR commenced its assault at Pakchon.

At the time the Squadron had been based at Iwakuni in southern Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF). The unit was in the final stages of preparing to return to Australia when war broke out on 25 June 1950.

Equipped with the piston engined F-51D Mustang, No. 77 Squadron was committed to action over Korea as part of the United Nations forces and flew its first ground attack sorties on 2 July 1950, making it the first UN unit in action. 77 Squadron was soon to get a rude awakening when they encountered North Korean Mig 15 jet fighters over the Korean Peninsula.

No. 30 Communications Flight, No. 491 (Maintenance) Squadron, and No. 391 (Base) Squadron were part of United Nations Command in Korea and were grouped into No. 91 (Composite) Wing in October 1950. No. 91 Wing was based in Iwakuni.

No. 77 Squadron fully deployed to Korea in October to support the UN advance into North Korea but was withdrawn to Pusan in November after the Chinese Communist forces’ counter-attack.

The Squadron was withdrawn to Japan in April 1951 to re-equip with Gloster Meteor jet fighters and returned to action with these new aircraft in July, where they met with greater success against the Soviet MiG pilots. However, the MiGs were still far superior to the Meteor.

Following heavy losses from MiG-15 fighters, No. 77 Squadron operated in the ground attack role from December 1951 until the end of the war; it remained in South Korea on garrison duties until returning to Australia.

Probably its most profound accolade was the Korean Presidential citation awarded in late 1951. However from an Australian perspective, praise from one’s own countrymen is always highly valued. The Battalion 2 IC and later Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) I.B. (Bruce) Ferguson praised the provision of close air support to 3RAR by 77 Squadron in a major attack it carried out near Pakchon on 5 November 1950.

3RAR, supported by Patton tank gunnery had called for preparatory bombardment of Chinese positions on a line of hilltops overlooking the Pakchon–Sinanju Road in the Taeryong Valley, before 3RAR launched their attack. No. 77 Squadron was the squadron on call and responded, firing rockets and dropping napalm on the Chinese positions, before following up with strafing runs against Chinese troops fleeing their positions. After several hours of close fighting, 3RAR gained their objectives.

Major Bruce Ferguson later described No. 77 Squadron’s close air support as “the closest I have ever seen” and commented, “It was an all Australian show … the boost to morale was amazing when we recognised the planes of 77 Squadron overhead.”

77SQN flew almost 19,000 sorties in Korea, and was awarded the Presidential Citation by the Republic of Korea at the end of the war for service and bravery, returning to RAAF Williamtown in November 1954. Photo: Troops from the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), called up as heavy fighting was located on the other side of the hill. A Mustang fighter is strafing the enemy held village. More;

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