Diary of Capt. William A Dickson 0-1319607 HQ 1X Corps G-2 Air Chunchon, Korea 1952 Diary Images My dad, a career soldier, died in 2001. Through the years he had kept diaries which I now have. This diary is from early 1952 when he was serving as an G-2 Army Aerial Observer in Korea. I hope no one is offended by some of the terms he uses. He was in a war and he used some derogatory statements regarding his enemy. Please take this diary in the context in which it was written As a way of introduction to the man, the following is his obituary which I believe captures who he was. William Alexander Dickson, 85, Col., U.S. Army, retired, beloved husband of the late Evelyn J. Dickson, died Monday, June 4, 2001 at home. Born in Manchester on February 1, 1916, son of the late David J. and Agnes (McKenna) Dickson he and Evelyn maintained their family home in Coventry since their marriage in 1938. Col. Dickson began his military career in 1932 as of boy of 16 when he lied about his age to enlist in the National Guard. A soldier was born. During these years he also worked as a supervisor in the machine gun division of Colts Firearms. Graduating as a second lieutenant from the Army’s Officer’s Candidate School after he entered active military service in 1942 he joined the hundreds of thousands of other young men and women serving their countries with honor in a time of such great need. The war years in Europe were followed by the war years in Korea then, as commander of the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Panama, were followed by preparing soldiers for the war years in Vietnam. At the age of 49 Colonel Dickson retired from the Army as a highly decorated soldier with over 30 years of service. Following his military retirement he spent10 years as Area Commander, Connecticut Civil Preparedness. We measure our success not by titles or material wealth but rather by the love of family, the friendship of good people, and the respect offered by those for whom we have respect. William Dickson was a very successful human being. He was a man of honor and integrity who, like so many others, was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice so that the citizens of his country and every other country, could live in freedom. He was an Officer and a Gentleman before most of us had even heard the term. He was a poet and a wordsmith who wrote both of the pain of seeing boys die too young and the joy of his life long love affair with his wife Evelyn. He loved his country, he loved his family, and he loved traveling the countryside in his 1959 MGA, top down, wind blowing in his hair. He was a man who through sheer strength of character rallied time and again against injury, illness, and grief. He was by any measure a remarkable man, a hero, the genuine article but, for me, most important of all, he was my dad. In his memory, give thanks to any soldier who has served to preserve the principals for which the flag he loved so dearly flies so freely. They’ve earned it. Diary of Capt. William A Dickson 0-1319607 HQ 1X Corps G-2 Air Chunchon, Korea 1952 23 January 1952 through 26 February 1952 I’m starting this on 27 Feb 1952 and will try to include some events as I remember them, since I started flying as an observer. I made my first flight as an aerial observer on 23 Jan 52. I had to talk fast and long to Colonel Thackeray in order to get a chance at this job which, to me, means only one thing – four points per! Col T contends that I’m too old! Me?? Huh! When I talked to Col Longanecker, he said “You know that you’ll get shot at, up there?” I told him that I’d been shot at before and he said “Well, I suppose, son.” On my first flight I had Lt. Keyes for a pilot. He’s a young imaginative type, good, but show-offy. I was more afraid of being sick than of being shot at. We weren’t shot at until our third flight. I was flying with Capt. Al Lemire from Glastonbury, Conn. We received fire from a draw just south of Changdo-ri. It was about 20mm fire, I think. I don’t think that I was too scared then, but a few days later, in fact it was about on my birthday, that I really ran into it, up over Finger Lake – just about 7 miles northeast of Pyonggang. It was exactly 1600 hours. They opened up with what I thought to be two guns and followed us all through violent evasive action that Lemire practiced. He was good and got us out of it. We made another pass over the position trying to locate guns but no luck. Afterwards, Al told me that we weren’t supposed to circle any one spot more than three times and I’d asked him to circle 6 times! A few days after that, Capt. Walters, the C.O. of the 4th LAS was flying me and we ran into flak up over Pyonggang – in Flak alley – I was scared that day, I mean really scared. I prayed without knowing what I was doing. We were flying at 6300 feet, much too low. I spotted the guns though. I guess that training is what enables you to sit in plane during the slipping and sliding of evasive action, hold your glasses, spot your map, see the terrain, check the time, plot the position, and pray, all at the same time. 27 Feb 1952 No flights today – great! Studied a little French and slept a short bit this afternoon. Made a new flight log. 28 Feb 1952 Only one flight today. I took second mission. Plane got rocked by our own artillery on way up to target area. Saw new activity around Finger Lake. I still think they’ve got a CP there. Got fired at – on the way back, at the river junction where the trenches merge. We lost one of our Hammer flights this afternoon – the guy with the bad cold. He got shot down and bailed out at CT7073 – his wingman saw his chute on the ground but no pilot. Hope he makes it back OK. It’s cold in those hills at night! I got an awful pain in my right ear coming back. It hurt like mad. I finally blew it out by holding my nose and blowing violently just before we landed. 29 Feb 1952 Only one flight today. Had Maj. Jaubert, the new C.O. at the 4th LAS. It was his first flight over enemy lines and he didn’t know where he was going. I had to guide him up to target and tell him where all the known AA guns are. He was a bit nervous and jumpy, but I believe he’ll be a good combat pilot when he learns the territory. I flew back as far as the Pass and Jaubert landed. This afternoon I saw “Decision Before the Dawn”. Not so hot. I had a money order for $100 made out to send home today 1 March 1952 Another month started. This is the beginning of the 9th month away from home and Lelyn. It can’t last forever – I keep telling myself! I only had one flight today. Lt. Tody was the pilot – he’s good. We went up over the fork of the Pukhan-Kumsong rivers and came back down over the thickest part of the flak-traps in the entire Eastern Sector. Received no fire but spotted a couple of new guns. I flew home and had a hard time - too many cross winds. 2 March 1952 Bad news today. Started off with air raid alert at 0630 – 6 planes in 40th Div area. 1 man killed – then Hammer Baker 1 went down at 0815 – I was on the radio and got the May Day. He’d been hit – wingman saw splinter flying off his cowl as he went down. The guy who brought the L-19 into K-47 with 5 foot of his wing shot off, Capt. Loach, I believe, cracked up another L-19 on the 2nd Div MSR late yesterday. I took first flight today – got off at 0945, back at 1030 – closed in above bomb line, air rough as a cob, almost got sick. No flight this afternoon so I went to the show. Saw Jane Wyman in “The Blue Veil:. I can well understand how she won an academy award for that one. It’s by far the best I’ve seen in many years. Maybe because of the kids in it. God, how I miss my kids. If only I could just see them. No, then I’d want to talk to them and hug them….. 3 March 1952 Weather as rough as blazes today and 3 airstrips in the Corps area are closed because of the two near-crashes due to the wind. So they have called off the G-2 flights for today. Great! 4 March 1952 Had two flights today. Both with Townsend. How I hate to fly with that man. He’s so scared and afraid of his shadow that he makes me nervous. I’m scared too, but it’s got to be done. I don’t exactly enjoy flying 20 to 30 miles behind their lines. One of today’s flights was a photo mission. Have to fly too low on those jobs. I almost got sick this afternoon – that damned rice and chili did it. Lelyn’s letter of her dream of me all dressed in heavy cloths from head to ankles was sure prophetic. That gal sure is psychic! 5 March 1952 Took first flight today. It was Fochtman flying – he’s good. No sweat, no nerves. I spotted an AA gun west of Chang do ri. It was an 85mm, I think!!! At any rate, it was one of the biggest AA guns I’ve ever seen. Like the Kraut .88mm!! Shades of the Siegfried! 6 March 1952 Got off on 1st flight this morning at 0910 but were forced back by engine trouble. Mag cut out at 8000 feet – dropped 300 in flight, came back and got another ship and took off again at 0950. Saw a lot of activity on the Pukhan-Kumsong River. Many enemy and carts being drawn by men. All moving south. Spotted a radio station this morning, on the sandbar at the east bend of Kumsong. No flight his afternoon, studied my French for a couple of hours. 7 March 1952 No flights at all today. 8 March 1952 One flight this morning. Got shot at quite a bit today. God, the strain is awful on the nerves. If it weren’t for the four points per I’d chuck this quick. 9 March 1952 I have second flight all this week. Had one this morning. Things look pretty quiet. I have another flight his afternoon. Hope it rains! I want so very much to go home. Sometimes I think I was nuts to volunteer for this assignment. If I should get shot down I hope that my Lelyn knows why I asked for this. I love her so very much, so very much. 10 March 1952 Took second flight today, went up over Pyonggang and went around Finger Lake a couple times. Nothing too much out of the ordinary up there today. It’s windy as blazes this afternoon and probably won’t be another flight today – I hope! 11 March 1952 Had a pretty good flight today – 1030 to 1205. Got shot at up over the Kumsong. Same gun that was reported in action yesterday. I hated to go in that area, it’s alive with AA, but, some silly SOB wanted a report on those damned underwater bridges. So in I went. I got a kick out of Putt this noon. I was a little late getting back and when I walked into the tent, I could see the obvious relief on his face, yet he only growled, “Where the hell have you been? We’ll be late for chow!” He was quite flustered. I guess he didn’t want me to know that he was worried. He must have been thinking of the Navy pilot we lost this morning. He got hit and bailed out but they kept after him. His chute was seen to be afire just before he hit the ice on the river. His wingman said he lay there without any movement. He’s listed as presumed dead. 12 March 1952 Up over Pyonggang again today. Saw two 40mm guns firing at a 2nd Div observation plane today. We got him by radio and he “Sayonara-ed.” I had a very good run today, intelligence-wise. We drew quite a bit of 20mm fire on the way home. I went into Chunchon this afternoon to pick Jim Carey up at the RTO. He’s staying the night here. 13 March 1952 Weathered in today, all day, no flights over enemy lines. Ceiling down to 2000 ft all over. Had my G-2 pilot take Jim up to his new assignment. This is Jim’s first flight in an L-19! Hope he is OK. We had two P-51 pilots come in today. They’re swell guys. They claim that they wouldn’t fly my missions for love nor money – nor points. They maintain that our level of flight and necessary straight line type of flying, plus the fact that we are entirely unarmed, is too much to ask of any man. 14 March 1952 Went out firing today. Did pretty well. Taught a couple of supposed hot-shots how to make a .45 work the way you want it to. Knocked over cans at 100 yds. They said it was impossible with a .45 – nice easy way to win a half-case of beer. Colonel Longanecker was quite impressed! Took a mission this afternoon. Received Cal. 50 fire from the rock at the river fork. Not much to see, too hazy. Saw a couple groups of 4 or 5 enemy near a bridge over the Pukhan. Had a new pilot, Capt Fusner. He got pretty excited when we got shot at but I guess I did too, the first time. 15 March 1952 Ray’s birthday again – 8 already. It doesn’t seem possible that he’s had so many and I’ve been home for so damned few of them.Lelyn says he’s in the wheelchair more often now. I can't help but ask myself how many birthdays my boy has left? God, I have to get home. I was kind of scared to fly today. It seems as though the 15th of March is always a rough day for us. Well, today wasn’t bad. Damned near got knocked down by our own artillery but outside of that, nothing much. 16 March 1952 The parachutes hadn’t been returned yet after being re-rigged. So there were no flights this morning. I had one flight this afternoon with George Coletto on his first mission over the lines. Col. Longanecker asked me if I would go up without a chute. I respectfully refused. Not for this boy. When you do need it, you need it bad! 17 March 1952 St. Patrick’s Day again! How time flies. Had a flight this a.m. with Fochtman. I like to fly with him, no nerves at all. Only thing is, he has absolutely no idea of there he’s going. He can’t read a map! This afternoon we had a report that there was a large body of troops moving south out of the East sector. I was alerted, briefed, and out of the air office in 2 minutes. It was like a movie, people helping get my chute adjusted, handing me my map, strapping me in, adjusting my headphones, then off we go into the wild blue, 9000 feet, farther North than I’ve ever been before, right off the map. Saw a lot of new stuff but no troops. When I got back, the General himself de-briefed me! 18 March 1952 Went down to the strip this morning and got off OK but had to turn around and come back as the target was socked in with a ceiling of only 1800 feet. Came back in time to see Bob McNichols get his Bronze Star and Billings his Commendation Ribbon. Reminded me of a rubber stamp! 19 March 1952 Damned near lost our tent last night. The rain didn’t make it any better either. Still, it had one blessing. It made It impossible for any flights today. Ceiling was 400 ft. Leg damned near killed me today. 20 March 1952 Leg much better today. I went back to wearing boots again. Made first flight with a new pilot today. They switch pilots faster than I can break them in. Made another mission after lunch – received 40mm flak at 8200 ft over Pyonggang. God, those black bursts sure look ugly! If you caught one of those, that’s all she wrote!! Then we got 20mm fire and 50 cal. fire farther up. It got too bad so I ordered the pilot to turn back. He said later that he thought I’d never give the word to come on in. He said I looked so calm and cool during all that fire! God, if he only knew how scared I really was. 21 and 22 March 1952 No flights due to rain. 23 and 24 March 1952 High winds – no aircraft at all. What’s worse, they flying or the waiting 25 March 1952 Two flights today. Spent almost 20 minutes circling over Pyonggang. Too much but I made certain that the Chinese are definitely not using the airfield there. When the General asked if I was sure, I said that the only way to be more sure was to land there, and the pilot cracked “And he damned near had me do that too.” General laughed like hell. Saw a long line of laundry in Chang do ri this afternoon. Looked funny as the devil. Got shot at up there, again. 26 March 1952 Had flight this a.m. Hazy as the devil – no good. They wanted a flight this afternoon. I tried to talk to the colonel out of it and had him sold when in walked Gen. Dewey. He ordered a flight – at 1645 too. Soup was so thick we could hardly see papa-san. I went but when we ran into solid cloud bank at 5300 ft I ordered the pilot to return to base. I wanted this job to get home, not to get myself killed senselessly to prove a general’s point. I told the Colonel that Corps Artillery only flies to the range of their guns, we fly 15 miles beyond that, and that once we’re airborne, I’m in command of the flight and the sole judge of where to go. 28 March 1952 One flight this afternoon. Went up to Finger Lake, got shot at with those damned 4 guns – 40mm stuff too, from over Pyonggang way. I had the pilot go back in for another run and I’ll be damned if they didn’t open up at us again. That convinced me – home-away. Major Jaubert had his indoctrination as to how to live though being shot at. He was a pretty scared boy too. 29 March 1952 No flights at all today 30 March 1952 Had two flights today. After this mornings flight, Colonel Longanecker presented me with my Air Medal. I got Carter to shoot the ceremony in color. It should be a good shot. This afternoon I had a very lucrative target and called the fighters in on it away up above Chang do–ri. 2 April 1952 First flight in three days. Had a report of 450 enemy along the Pukhan. I sure couldn’t find any. I saw about 15 along the road but that’s all. It was rough as the devil up there today. Even the pilot got sick. I don’t know how I kept mine down but I did. 3 April 1952 Had two flights today. Nothing in particular. Rather hard to get in because of artillery and VT. I hate to be in the area where they’re dropping artillery. We have no way of knowing where it’s coming from or the trajectory of flight. If one of those babies ever hit the plane you’ve had the course. We’ve come close to it so many times. 4 April 1952 Today I had a real good flight. I spotted a very lucrative target and called for the F-51’s but hava-no! That heartbreaking to see the damned chinamen out in the open and can do nothing about it. There were at least 100 to 150 of them. It’s times like that, that I just wish we had a couple of .50’s on the plane. 5 April 1952 Two flights today, both good – no fire at all. 6 April 1952 (no entry) 7 April 1952 Moving Day 8 April 1952 Had only one flight today up into the new sector. It’s easy to get into and has many landmarks to go by. 9 April 1952 Went up into the new area again and Holy God!! It’s hotter than blazes. There’s a 122mm that damned near got us. It blew dust into my eyes and tore up my map. It shook the hell out of the plane. We got 20 mm fire also. God, it was awful and I was scared stiff, but had to go back around once more to try to find the damned gun. 16 April 1952 Had the first flight in 6 days and then saw nothing on the ground. Got radio reports of 2 YAK-9 and we came down on the deck and came home. 18 April 1952 Took the last flight today and went in at Kumhwa and then all the way up to Chang do-ri and out off the map. I was out for almost 1-3/4 hours. 20 April 1952 Went up and looked for that 122mm gun again. I couldn’t find that but I did locate a light AA position, probably 20mm – the hard way 22 April 1952 Covered the entire front today looking for a special project for the General. The late flight took 2 full hours over enemy territory. Received Cal .50 fire just south of Changdo-ri. It wasn’t too heavy but not good. I landed the ship this morning for the first time! Not good but not too bad for an amateur. Today makes 60 flights so I got another Air Medal. 23 April 1952 What a day! This morning over Pyonggang we received 20mm fire from 4 different guns. I could see the two Chinamen firing one of the guns. It gives you a very funny feeling to see two guys shooting at you, trying to kill you, and you can’t even shoot back. Just have to sit there and take it. I located four 155mm artillery pieces and got an air strike on them this afternoon which we sat up there and watched. I went up East of Changdo-ri and saw three tanks – JS-53’s – weight 51 tons!. I circled until I could be sure and then called it into FSCC for an air strike. But no soap. We got driven off by 37mm fire but circled the hill and went back again. I couldn’t get air support but had to let them go when the 37 opened up again. I sure hated to let them get away. I’m going back again tomorrow. Capt. Potts got hit today – lost his tail section, half of it when he got hit and the rest fell off just as he landed. Lucky Dog!!!! 24 April 1952 Had a pretty good flight today. Went up to Finger Lake and Changdo-ri. Didn’t get shot at, at all today. 25 April 1952 Had one flight and almost got socked in up over target. Had to circle East over X Corps to get out. My pilot got hit on the way back. He was over Pyonggang area. – wasn’t hurt though. 27 April 1952 We’ve had and awfully bad streak of foul luck in the Corps area in the past two days. All of it up around Pyonggang. First, we lost a Marine Corsair when 14 of them went in after 8 tanks. The 76mm that’s been popping at me got him. He bailed out and got back relatively unhurt. An F-80 pilot, later on in the day, wasn’t so lucky. He got hit and, realizing that he’d have to bail out, put his feet in what he thought was the proper place and fired the canopy-ejector. His feet weren’t placed right and his knee caught on the side stick and tore it almost off. They amputated above the knee about three hours after he came down within our lines. Today, we lost an F-51 to the radar-controlled AA guns that are west of Pyonggang. My heart will be in my mouth every time I go into that area in a damned little L-19!! 30 April 1952 Had a flight today from Pyonggang over to Changdo-ri. No fire! 1 May 1952 Everyone was expecting an attack today because it was May Day. They had me looking over the sector early this morning. This afternoon I had quite a chat with General Wyman. He appeared very pleased with the way I’ve been doing my job. This afternoon I had a two hour flight. 2 May 1952 Had two flights today. On one I had quite an observation of the big reservoir above Pyonggang. I wrote up quite a report on it - -depth, width, length, flood capabilities, etc. The General appreciated it. It made the 8th Army PIR. 4 May 1952 Got shot at up over Finger Lake again by 20mm fire. We got out of there fast. 5 May 1952 Had two flights today. Both good and no fire. 7 May 1952 Only one flight today and that was a late evening flight. Overcast at 5000 and hazy in valleys. I’m glad I’m going home. I’m getting awfully jumpy. It’s worse since I was notified of release date. Guess I’m just scared that something will happen. 8 May 1952 One today – pretty quiet. 10 May 1952 A late flight but no observations. Cloudy and overcast at around 5500 ft. It’s wonderful to get up over the clouds and see miles and miles of white nothingness. 11 May 1952 Today is Mother’s Day. What a way to have to spend it. Hope Lelyn got the letter with the money order. What a gal. Always understanding when I leave and still there to welcome me home. She writes a letter every day and each one is like a little sparkling gem that brightens up this God forsaken place. Sometimes I get them a dozen in a bundle. Wish I could tell her where I was and what I was doing. Maybe the diary is my way of talking to her. Had two flights today, both with another new pilot named Sullivan. He flew me way the hell and gone off the map. It’s a good thing that I know the area or we’d have been in a hell of a mess. 12 May 1952 Two flights again today. Had another name of a fellow who said that he’d like to be my replacement. But when I called him – hava-no. He’s like all the rest, wants the points but when they find out how many planes we’re losing to enemy ground fire, they get cold feet. Guess I don’t blame them. An L-19 collided with a jet in mid-air this morning. The observer was up on his first flight from the 25th Division. They said that he had two kids and his wife is expecting another! 13 May 1952 Had one flight today. We had bad luck in the area today. We lost 4 planes up in the East sector. There was only one recovery. They were all caught by ground fire. 14 May 1952 Had two flights today. We lost another two planes today. I heard one of them on the radio. His wingman reported the whole thing. The plane exploded when hit and the wingman couldn’t see any chute, so presumed that the pilot went down with his ship and is dead. The other one made it to the China Sea and ditched there. He was wounded but alive in a gray life raft, according to his flight leader. 15 May 1952 One of the other pilots told me this morning that on the 13th, he watch a radar-controlled AA gun following us across the sector and put 14 rounds of ach-ach right behind our tail Yipe!!! Had two good flights today and no fire. 16 May 1952 Got shot at up in the East sector this morning. Major Brundrett, the Air Force Liason officer, told me this morning that we’ve lost more planes in the last week than we lost all last month. 17 May 1952 2 flights today - rough as hell but no fire. 18 May 1952 2 smooth flights today. Still no replacement. They all want the points and time, but refuse to take the risk. No guts I guess. Oh hell, they're no different than me and if I knew then what I know now I probably wouldn't have taken it either. 20 May 1952 Only one today due to engine malfunction. Read a story in Stars and Stripes about the "Unsung heroes of the War - The Army Aerial Observers - The eyes of the Intelligence Service." It claimed that where the risk was considered too great for the artillery to go, they send the G-2 observers. It said "They live in Glamour, walk without fear, and fly with courage." What drivel. Unadulterated crap. I live only for the day I go home, walk only with the thought that I'm not 'Up There', and I fly with a fear that they'll never know. It's dirty, nerve-shattering work that takes more guts than I've got. I'm not really a brave man to begin with. I'm no different from the rest of the troops. I'm scared most of the time up there and I will be the happiest guy in the world the day I check out my last flight. I love flying, behind the lines, but not "Up There". Note: That is the final entry in the diary. His plane was shot down the next day and he was the only survivor, wounded but alive. Finally reunited with his beloved Lelyn, my brother Ray, and me in August, 1952, he lived to fight another day In closing this thread, I want to thank all of you who have been kind enough to follow the last 85 days of diary entries which told the story of a brief period in one soldiers service during the long Korean war. To me, my dad represents every serviceman and woman, throughout our history, serving in conflicts far from home, doing their jobs honorably and with purpose. The sacrifices they make as they serve under our flag and in the name of freedom should humble each of us. We could never thank them often enough, or deeply enough, for doing that dirty, nerve shattering work on our behalf. So, as much as I thank those who have taken the time to read this journal, I reserve my greatest thanks and deepest appreciation for those who serve.