They Served in Korea: Korean War Veterans who joined the OreANG after the War

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr., USAF (Retired)
  • 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs History
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Armistice in Korea, which went into effect in July of 1953. Although major hostilities were ended, deadly incidents frequently occurred and tensions on the Korean peninsula remain heightened to this day. Members of the Oregon Air National Guard contributed to the war effort in Korea, both directly and indirectly, as discussed in previous 142nd Fighter Wing history articles.

As major hostilities concluded in Korea, many American Airmen returned to civilian life. However, a number of these Korean combat veterans found their way into the Oregon Air National Guard (OreANG) as well, where they continued to serve.

A number of pilots with combat credentials in Korea brought their expertise to Oregon. One of these men was Charles E. Toynbee. He trained as a pilot after WWII, and deployed to Korea as a member of the 522nd Fighter Escort Squadron. There he flew 86 combat missions in the Republic F-84 Thunderjet from the spring of 1951. Most were fighter-bomber missions striking ground targets, but also included a half-dozen fighter escort missions for Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers going into North Korea. On one such mission he engaged enemy jet fighters and recalled in a recent interview that "I got strikes on a MiG, but never did get the gun camera film back." Toynbee also served a 60-day stint of duty as a Ground Forward Air Controller, in X Corps, 2d Infantry Division with the famed 23d Regimental Combat Team (victor in the February, 1951 Battle of Chipyong-ni) in the Punchbowl area of Korea, controlling air strikes flown in support of the regiment, before returning to his squadron and then back to the States in September, 1951. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air medal with three oak leaf clusters for his service in Korea.

Toynbee completed his active duty service in 1952, and went into business for a while in the Northwest before he joined the OreANG in October, 1953. In the OreANG, Toynbee flew the North American F-86 Sabre, Lockheed F-94, Northrop F-89 Scorpion and the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger. During his ANG service, Toynbee "...flew everything on the ramp..." including the OreANG's Douglas C-47 and Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star. He served in the OreANG from 1953 to 1968, and then continued service in the AF Reserve at Portland and then McChord AFB flying C-141s before he retired as a Lt Col in 1970.

Another pilot with Korean War F-84 combat experience was Lt Col (Ret) Martin T. Bergan, who was inducted into the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum's Hall of Honor in October of 2013, in McMinville, Ore. He flew over 100 combat missions in the Thunderjet, and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with nine oak leaf clusters. Bergan joined the OreANG in 1955, and served through the F-86, F-94, F-89, F-102 and F-101 eras. He played a key role in the 142d Fighter-Interceptor Group's conversion from the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo fighter-interceptor to the McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II jet fighter. Bergan retired as a Lt Col in 1985 with more than 7,000 flight hours.

The Ore ANG was also blessed with Korean War air-to-air combat experience when Walter W. Fellman, Jr. joined. Fellman enlisted in the Air Force in 1951, underwent basic training at Lackland AFB, TX, and then went on to become a pilot. He spent 11 months in Korea, 1952-1953, and flew 109 combat missions in the F-86 Sabre with the 336th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing. His combat missions included frequent patrols of "MiG Alley," photo reconnaissance cover and bomber cover. He was credited with four MiG-15 kills, with one probable with one damaged and received three Distinguished Flying Crosses and four Air Medals for his service in that conflict.

In June, 1960, Fellman shared a recollection of one of his Korean War combat missions: "We got a radar calling on MiG's in the area, so we jettisoned fuel tanks and increased speed. Our number four man sighted eight MiG's attacking four Sabres below and behind us. We scattered the MiG's, and my wingman and I followed two of them down. When they broke in opposite directions, I took one and stayed on his tail, and started shooting."
"I got a burst up his tail pipe and then hit him right in the middle. He blew up and I flew right through him, and then got out of the way of another MiG, which was following ME down. My kill was confirmed by another Sabre pilot, who saw my MiG go down, smoking, through a donut-shaped cloud," said Fellman.

Wally Fellman joined the OreANG during the post-war F-86 Sabre era as well, transitioned to the Lockheed F-94 and then to the Northrop F-89 before an illness grounded him. He continued his OreANG service as Ground Training Officer for the 142d Fighter Group and also served as a liaison officer for Air Force Academy in recruiting efforts in the area.

A number of former-USAF enlisted men also joined the OreANG after the war. Staff Sergeant Bobbie Stafford was one of them. He was a 7-level aircraft mechanic, and was on many air defense-related deployments, such as to Tyndall AFB in Florida in the F-89 years for rocket firing qualifications. Stafford also served on a 142d Fighter Group committee with 10 others which concerned the betterment for all Airmen; it related to the Food Service section and improving the dining facility's operation and offerings.

All these men were Korean War veterans who served our country with honor. And they all volunteered to join the Air National Guard and serve again, and thus contributed to the mission of the Oregon Air National Guard during the "golden years" of the air defense community. The skills, knowledge, experience and training they acquired on active duty was retained, sustained and honed in service to the nation and the State of Oregon, and helped to make the Oregon ANG an even better organization. In this 60th anniversary year marking the Korean Armistice, we salute them, and all the men and women who served in our armed forces during the Korean War.