Korean US ACES

The Korean WAR

On June 25, 1950, North Korea launched a strong, well-trained army across the 38th parallel to invade South Korea. The U.N. opposed this aggression, and U.S. airpower was sent immediately to help the South Koreans. Troops from the U.S., the British Commonwealth, and other U.N. countries followed.

On june 27, U.S. F-82 Twin Mustang fighters intercepted a flight of five Russian-built aircraft over Seoul and shot down three of them. That same afternoon, U.S. P-80s shot down four Ilyushin 10s over Kimpo. These were the USAF's first jet victories. The aerial battle thus begun would rage until July 1953. The first combat with the vaunted Russian-built MiGs came about on November 12 when Lt. Russell Brown in a P-80 shot down a MiG-15 near the Yalu River.


America's leading ace in the Korean War was joe McConnell of the 51st Wing. McConnell, who served in World War II as a B-24 navigator, demonstrated his skill as a Sabrejet pilot by knocking down one MiG after another. After claiming his ninth victory, however, he was shot down. He ejected, landed in the sea, and was soon picked up by a helicopter rescue team. He went back into combat almost immediately to claim his 10th kill.

His success continued and, when he was rotated out of combat, he held 16 victories, a record that was not to be exceeded during the war. McConnell did not long survive the war, however; he was killed in 1954 in the crash of a modified F-86.

Introduction of the MiGs into the conflict prompted the debut of the F-86 Sabrejets, which would eventually win control of the air. If the MiGs had not been allowed sanctuary at bases across the Yalu River, many more U.S. and U.N. pilots would have become aces.

At the close of the war, U.N. air combat pilots had claimed 900 aircraft; USAF Sabres accounted for 829, of which 811 were MiGs. Thirty-nine Sabrejet pilots became aces in the Korean war. Some of these also had victories from World War II.

No North Korean pilots are known to have become aces.


James Jabara downed one aircraft and was given one-half credit for another in World War II. In Korea he shot down four jets in April 1951; then, on May 20, he participated in a battle between approximately 50 MiG-15s and more than 30 Sabres. He got two kills in this melee, causing one MiG to spin out of control and forcing the pilot to eject from another. With this action, he became America's first jet ace. Shortly afterwards, he was rotated to the States.

He returned for a second tour of duty in 1953. During the July monsoon season, labara got his 15th and last victory, moving ahead of Fernandez and leaving him second only to McConnell.

Captain Joseph McConnell, Jr.

Major James Jabara

Captain Manuel J. Fernandez

Lieutenant Colonel George A. Davis, Jr.

Colonel Royal N. Baker

Major Frederick C. Blesse

Lieutenant Harold E. Fischer

Lieutenant Colonel Vermont Garrison

Colonel James K. Johnson

Captain lonnie R. Moore

Captain Ralph S. Parr, Jr.


15 + 1,5 WW2


14 + 7   WW2

13 + 3,5 WW2



10 + 7   WW2

10 + 1   WW2



The leading US Aces of the Korean war


Manuel J. Fernandez of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing and Joe McConnell both became aces in February of 1953. By May, North Korean pilot quality dropped noticeably, probably due to an absence of Russian instructors. During this period, the Sabrejet pilots scored heavily, and Fernandez, vying with McConnell, took the scoring lead with 14%, exceeding Davis' score, which had remained highest since his death. After achieving this score, Fernandez was rotated out of combat and, when the war ended, he was the third-ranking ace.

Lieutenant Colonel GEORGE A. DAVIS

George Davis, a former P-47 ace with seven victories in World War II, entered combat with the 4th Wing in Korea in 1951. On November 27, he downed two MiGs for his first jet victories. Three days later he was a member of a 31-plane formation of Sabres that intercepted a mixed gaggle of North Korean aircraft. The group was composed of16 La-9 and 16 MiG-15 fighters and 12 Tu-2 twin-engine bombers. When the engagement was over, all Sabres were intact; eight Tu-2s, three La-9s, and a MiG were downed. Davis accounted for three of the bombers and the MiG, and thus became a jet ace - the fifth ace of the Korean war. His next two engagements netted him six MiGs, raising his score to 12.

On February 10, he fought his last battle. Spotting several MiGs near the Yalu, he and his wingman rushed to attack. Davis quickly destroyed two and was lining up another when a MiG moved in behind Davis and shot him down. He crashed into a mountain side. He was, at the time of his death, the leading ace by a wide margin. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor - the only Sabre pilot so honored in the Korean War.

Lieutenant GUY B. BORDELON

In the summer of1953, Seoul was harassed at night by raids of lone, propeller-driven aircraft. Since the jets seemed unable to deal with the slow-flying intruders, Lieutenant Guy Bordelon of VC-3 was called in with his prop-driven F4U-5N Corsair night-fighter. Bordelon, cruising over the city every night for over two weeks, put an end to the harassment by downing five of these aircraft between June 29 and July 16. In doing so, he became the only U.S. Navy ace of the war.