Memorial Day 2021 - Remembering a Rough Transition

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr., USAF (Retired), 142nd Wing History Office (Volunteer) and CPT Sean M. Popravak, ORARNG
  • 142nd Wing / History Office

Memorial Day is the day dedicated to remembering and those who gave their lives in service to our country.  As such, the men and women of the 142nd Wing pause to honor those of the unit who died in service to the nation.

The wing’s history shows a record of service and sacrifice, in both war and peace.  The wing and its subordinate units lost 68 men in World War II and another 18 post-war, 86 souls who should be remembered, not forgotten.  And the loss of each one was magnified as the impact rippled outwards through families, friends, colleagues and communities.  In many measures these are irreplaceable losses.

Over 70 years ago, the Korean War which began in June, 1950 greatly affected the Air National Guard in the organization’s first major test as an air reserve component.  The Chinese Communist intervention in the conflict in late-1950 added to the urgency of response, and ultimately 80% of the ANG, 45,000 Air Guardsmen, were called up for active duty assignment to meet the needs of the USAF and nation in a time of war.  This involved ANG units which deployed overseas as well as those which served Stateside and personnel individually mobilized to augment other units worldwide. 

The Oregon ANG was affected by the Korean callup in many ways.  Oregon’s 123rd Fighter Squadron was one of the units called to duty in February, 1951, and the squadron’s operations tempo surged.  Seventy years ago, in the first three months of active duty service providing air defense for the region, the squadron lost three fighter pilots whom we remember this Memorial Day, along with the remaining 83 service losses of the 142nd Wing.

The morning of Valentine’s Day, 1951 found Captain Carl Lorenz Brose, 123rd Fighter Squadron Operations Officer and/or a flight commander on temporary duty at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.  He had been there for a month and 12 days already.  Among other things, Nellis provided refresher gunnery training for pilots and also served as a replacement pilot training base for pilots going to Korea.  Nine Oregon ANG pilots would go through spin up training enroute to combat in Korea, some at Nellis.    

Carl L. Brose was born on April 15, 1922.  He completed three years of high school and worked in an occupation listed as semiskilled welders and flame cutters for Oregon Shipbuilding at St. Johns in Portland before he joined the military in World War II.  He was six foot one, 155 pounds with blue eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion, according to his draft registration card.

Brose enlisted in the Army at Santa Ana Army Air Base, California, on February 22, 1943 as an aviation cadet.  He was single with no dependents and a home of record in the SE 51st Avenue area in Portland, Oregon. 

Carl Brose completed pilot training and was commissioned on January 6, 1944.    He flew as a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilot in World War II, serving in the European Theater of Operations with the 365th Fighter Squadron of the 358th Fighter Group from September 30, 1944 to June 20, 1945.  He completed 110 combat missions, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 15 oak leaf clusters and the Distinguished Unit Citation (known as the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) today).  He was promoted to 1st Lt. during the war, and left active duty afterwards on December 15, 1945.

Brose then joined the Oregon ANG.  But on that Valentine’s Day in 1951, he was killed in a landing accident at 9:30 a.m. during final approach to Runway 34 at Nellis.  He was flying F-51D-25-NA serial number 44-72972, an aircraft reportedly assigned to the 194th Fighter Squadron at Hayward ANG Base, California.  He was 28 years old.

Carl L. Brose is buried in Lincoln Memorial Park, Portland, Oregon, in the Woodlawn Section.  He was survived by his mother, Mrs. Freda Brose.

About three weeks later, on March 6, 1951, 123rd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (123rd FIS) pilot 1st Lt. Paul Severson Taggart flew what should have been a routine mission out of home station at Portland Air Force Base. 

Paul S. Taggart was born on October 30, 1923 in Minneapolis, MN.  Per his draft registration card complete on June 30, 1942, he was five foot six, 120 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion.  Employed by the Walter Butler Company, he then worked at the US Naval Training Station in Athol, Kootenai County, Idaho.   Taggart enlisted in the Army on August 4, 1944 when he lived on Southwest Idaho Street in Portland.  On active duty during the Korean War callup, he was assigned to the 123rd FIS when it was attached to the McChord AFB, Washington-based 325th Fighter-All Weather Group of the Air Defense Command. 

On that fateful Tuesday in 1951, Lt. Taggart was killed in a landing accident at Portland AFB, in the squadron’s F-51D-25-NA serial number 44-73593.  He was 27 years old.

Paul S. Taggart is buried in the Greenwich addition to the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia at Lot 13, Block G, Section 11.  He was survived by his wife, Lola B. Taggart, and a child.

A month later, on Thursday, April 5, 2nd Lt. Richard Darrel Price flew on a mission which took him and his squadron mate in the lead, 1st Lt. Robert W. Patton, to the Pacific coast for some gunnery training.

Richard D. Price was born on January 18, 1929 and graduated from Columbia High School in Corbett.  He enlisted in the Army on August 24, 1946, and worked in the tinsmiths, coppersmiths, and sheet metal workers occupation, single, without dependents when he joined up.  He eventually was accepted for and completed pilot training and later attended the University of Oregon for a year, 1950 into 1951.

But on that April day, as Price and Patton returned to Portland at low-level over Southwest Washington shortly before noon, Lt. Price was killed when his F-51D-30-NT, serial number 45-11600, crashed in Vancouver Lake, two miles west of Vancouver, Washington.  He was 22 years old.

Richard D. Price is buried in Willamette National Cemetery, ten miles southeast of Portland, Oregon, straddling the county line between Multnomah and Clackamas counties, in Section A, Site 3769.  He was survived by his parents, two brothers and three sisters. 

Years later, the impact and legacy of Lt. Price’s life was remembered by a niece, Ms. Kimberly Schneider, who wrote a tribute in October 2020: “We never met, however I heard you were very much loved.  All my Love to my Great Uncle Richie!”

Losing three pilots in such a short period of time was a rough transition for the Redhawk Squadron going from a peacetime to a wartime footing as both men and machines were pressed.  With the war in Korea raging, the danger of escalation and expansion was imminent, and complicated by the prospect of Soviet Union involvement.  Having reverse-engineered copies of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress known as the Tupolev Tu-4 BULL, and their own nuclear weapons, the Soviets posed a potential nuclear threat requiring an alert and ready air defense capability.  Sometimes the cost in readiness is paid for in the blood of patriots.

On this Memorial Day, we remember this trio of Oregon Mustang pilots who gave their lives in service to our nation.  We salute all those who have served our nation in uniform and made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom and liberty.  May we citizens all take some time this day to ponder and reflect on the meaning of that.  Lest we forget.