The later part of the Korean War was a jet war in which the F-86 Sabre jet was a super performer. The top scorer of the entire war was Joseph McConnell with 16 kills, followed closely by several other "39ers". The Mig. 15 was a worthy adversary in the hands of a skilled pilot, but was a 15 to 1 loser to the well trained American pilots. The colorful "paint jobs" of their F-86s is indicative of the confidence these men displayed in the air. We tend to eulogize our aces, and justly so, but behind every ace there is a wing man or two whose job it was to hang back a bit in order to cover the tail of his element or flight leader. A good wing man was a solid insurance policy for his element leader, but the poor guy seldom was in position to blast the enemy out of the sky. Then there are the pilots, whether element or flight leaders, who seldom got into "a hair ball", as some expressed full blown combat, simply because their flight assignment missed the action. All of these men should be equally honored beside our aces.
Very early in the Korean War the 39th Squadron flew the F-51, and for a short time the F-80. During this period of time (June 1950 to June 1952) the assignment of the 39th Squadron was almost invariably strafing, bombing, napalm and rocket attacks, always low level attacks on the enemy in assisting Allied ground troops. This was highly dangerous work and many pilots and planes were lost to North Korean gunners. Very seldom did these men have an opportunity to meet the enemy high in the sky and duel to the death, yet their contribution to winning the war was just as important as that of our aces.
In truth, it took the effort of all of the men in the squadron, from cooks, to medics, to armorers, to mechanics, to the pilots that flew the day-to-day, unglamorous "drudgery flights", to build up the envious reputation of the 39th Squadron. Certainly we honor and praise our aces for their accomplishments, but we also pause to recognize that their accomplishments were based on the steady effort of many men in a less glamorous role.
"Beautious Butch", Capt. Joseph "Mac" McConnell. The top ace of the Korean War with 16 kills.
"The Paper Tiger" Capt. Harold "Hal" Fischer proved to the North Koreans that they were not fighting an American paper tiger. Score 10
"The Huff", Lt. Jim Thompson One of the most colorful paint schemes found anywhere.
"Darling Dottie", Maj. Jack Bolt, USMC Already a WW II ace, he became a jet ace in July 1953
"Mig Mad Mavis", 39th Squadron Commander L/Col George I. Ruddell.
Col. Ruddell's final score was 8 Migs in Korea and 2.5 kills in WW II