The Story of Saber Fighters

By Kwan Ho Chung

December 2, 2020

It happened in the year of 1950 during the summer, possibly in late July. My mother, sister, and I were treading in a lonely country road heading to the village of Yongmun, Gyeonggi-do, where my sister and her family were living.

It was our second day of walking to Yongmun, and about mid-afternoon. We didn’t see any local people or farmers while walking. Obviously, the people were frightened at the ferocious battles between the attacking North Korean army and the defending and fleeing South Korean soldiers, and so hid themselves in their homes or in their relatives’ places located remotely from the main roads which were used only for military purpose.

We found two Saber fighters flying from the south to our direction. At first, we didn’t pay any attention since we knew that American pilots and soldiers never intentionally killed civilians, and so didn’t worry at all. Then at the next moment, the first fighter made circling and then swooping motions directly at us. Instantly we realized that it was just one step before the final shooting at us.

We frantically started to run from the road to rice paddies and folded ourselves next to small ridges of rice fields. Incredibly the swooping fighter seemed to slow down, then ascended, and flew away. The second fighter was circling once or twice before it also flew away.

We came out of the rice paddy, made sighs of great relief, gathered ourselves up, and started walking again. Possibly the pilot or shooter initially thought us to be North Korean soldiers and so planned to shoot at us, but at a close range, he realized that we were a group of two females and a young boy, and so didn’t attack us, instead he gratefully informed the second pilot of this situation. The pilot didn’t save us from any dangers, but it certainly was a very close encounter where our lives could have been lost at a mistaken instant action.

Ever since that incident, I have kept my full-hearted gratitude to the nameless pilot all my life, and willingly spread this story to anyone concerning Korean War and American participation of the War.

One day someone at hearing my story alluded to me, “Maybe someone above made the shooter not to shoot you.”

I replied to him, “Without the pilot’s benevolent decision, I wouldn’t be here with you.”

It is my way of repaying the goodwill of the pilot who chose not to harm us in the middle of a perilous situation, for me to spread this moving story to anyone interested.

At this point some important events were selected out of the Korean War: Timeline.

June 25, 1950
After a year of military provocations by both sides along the 38th Parallel, North Korea sends an invasion force into South Korea. Northern forces overwhelm the ill-equipped defenders and capture Seoul in three days. The United Nations condemns the attack and creates a “police” force to help defend South Korea.

July 5, 1950
The first U.S. Marines – leading the U.N. force – join battle shortly after landing on the Korean Peninsula. U.S. troops suffer heavy casualties and the four American divisions are driven back into a perimeter around the southern port city of Pusan.

Sept. 15, 1950
U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur – commander of the U.N. forces – makes a bold military move and lands an amphibious invasion force of 80,000 Marines at the port of Inchon near Seoul. The tactical move cuts off North Korean troops, while U.N. forces break out of the Pusan perimeter.

Sept. 26, 1950
Seoul is taken by U.N. forces after two weeks of house-to-house fighting. MacArthur orders troops to continue chasing the retreating North Korean army across the 38th Parallel.

During the three months of North Korean occupation of Seoul, there were severe shortages and deficits of rice and other staples, so that overall starvation was set in to Seoul residents. Therefore three of us moved to Yongmun on foot to avoid this epidemic starvation. Needless to say there were no means of civilian transportation at that time.

Soon after Korean War broke out, American forces participated in Korean War, and regularly sent fighters and bombers to Seoul for daily bombing and destruction of North Korean Army and Military installations.
Therefore we became very familiar with the above fighters and bombers.
The Saber Fighter was a combat plane for shooting enemy soldiers or armors. Another familiar airplane was B29 bomber which was a huge bomber to destroy large military installations of North Korean Army.

This is the time to go over the itinerary of our two days of walk. We departed our home at Donam-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul in the early July morning, headed to the south, and then turned to the east, passed by Cheongnyang-ni station, and kept on to the east dirt road. In the first evening we arrived at Yangsu-ri, an area where both North and South Han River merged. On the second day we had the close encounter with two saber fighters, barely avoiding their mistaken shootings at us. In late evening we arrived at my sister’s house at the Yongmun village. Finally we were able to rest there for the time being.

Next I have the following photos of the fighter, bomber, maps from my home at Dongam-dong to Cheongnyangni (train) station, and from Cheongyang-ri to Yongmun.

Fig 1 North America F-86 (Same as Saber Fighter)[This is the current model not used in Korea]
North America F-86

Fig 2 Boeing B-29 Superfortress (Same as B29 Bomber)
Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Fig 3 Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, which was the Saber Fighter used in Korean War.[The above North America F-86 is the current version of the jet fighter.]

Fig 4 Map from Donam-dong to Cheongyangni station
Donam-dong to Cheongnyangni

Fig 5 Map from Cheongyang-ri to Yongmun
Cheongnyang-ri to Yongmun

Here is dedication to the nameless pilot:

In the Road to Yongmun

It was a clear and sunny July afternoon,
Mother, sister and I were on the road to Yongmun.

We kept treading the dirt road to the east,
Then suddenly appeared two flying Saber Fighters.

They were no concerns to us,
Since their targets were North Korean enemies.

Incredibly the first fighter started to descend at us like a shooting star,
We rushed to the rice paddies and folded next to the paddy ridges.

The very next moment the fighter slowed down,
And then flew away from us, followed by the second fighter.

I reckon the fighter pilot immediately recognized us,
Not to be North Korean soldiers, their target.

It happened almost seventy years ago,
But my memory of the swooping Saber is as vivid as yesterday.

Blessed is the benevolent soul of the pilot,
Who must be very old now or already gone from here.

November 14, 2018

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