Major Winton "Bones" Marshall
CO of the 335th FIS - Victor over 'Casey Jones'
By Diego Zampini, Dec. 2004. Updated July 10, 2011.
When Major Winton Whittier Marshall took charge of the 335th FIS on 19 August 1951, the aerial warfare in Korea had entered in a very dangerous stage from the American point of view. The introduction of the F-86 Sabre in combat in mid-December 1950 neutralized the initial Communist advantage achieved one month and a half earlier, and the better training of the American pilots gave USAF an important edge against their Russian adversaries. The response of the Soviet Union was to send to Korea their best airmen in an attempt to regain the air superiority over the northwestern part of Korea, the infamous "MiG Alley".
In April 1951 the 324th IAD -under the command of the top allied of WW2, Polkovnik Ivan Kozhedub- arrived to Korea, and soon the FEAF felt their professionalism in their own flesh: on April 12 1951, 44 MiG-15s shot down 3 B-29As and 3 F-80Cs and damaged beyond repair 7 Superfortresses more against only one loss, all despite the massive escort of 18 Sabres and 34 Thunderjets. And when in June 1951 another elite division of the Soviet Air Force (the 303rd IAD) was committed to combat, it was clear that the easy times of the USAF in the Korean skies had come to an end.
These skillful Russian fliers were usually led by another one even more experienced, who directed the attacks of their comrades against the American Sabres. This single and formidable MiG jockey was referred as "Casey Jones" by the US pilots ("Casey Jones" wasn't an specific person, but an airman who played the role of squadron leader). Marshall knew it very well, as he himself accounted in The 4th Fighter Wing in the Korean War by Larris Davis (page # 136):
"Prior to the event of 'Casey Jones', it had seemed that the MiGs had been making only individual attack runs, usually low and at the six o'clock position.
But with 'Ol´ Casey' directing the fight, the MiGs put emphasis on a coordinated high side attack, in conjunction with their normal low six o'clock passes. While you were turning into the pair making the high angle attack, two more were coming up your tailpipe. They were attacking in groups of four to six aircraft, which was more than the two-ship F-86 element could cope with. Interestingly enough, with these increased tactics, we were still maintaining the kill ratio that we had from the beginning. But now we were having to do a hell of a lot more fighting than in the past."
That was the main picture of the air war when Major "Bones" Marshall was assigned to command "The Chiefs" (war name of the 335th FIS), but despite all this, he not only managed to survive his combat tour in Korea, but also claimed 6.5 victories in the process (five of them are fully confirmed by Russian and Chinese sources).
According to USAF records, "Bones" scored his first victory few days after taking charge of "The Chiefs", on September 1st. However, it is an overclaim in good faith; we know it for sure because the Russians suffered no losses that day, and excluding a very short period in January 1951, the Chinese-flown MiGs did not perform combat sorties over North Korea before September 25.
His second claim next day (September 2, 1951) it is a different story: all three squadrons of the 4th FIW and all three regiments of the 303rd IAD clashed in a big furball at 12:40 hs, and "Bones" blasted out of the sky the MiG of Starshii Leitenant S. T. Kolpikov, who perished. Only five minutes later, Colonel Francis Gabreski scored his 2nd MiG kill of the Korean War when shot down (and also killed) Starshii Leitenant V. N. Akatov. Two of Marshall's men claimed one victory each, but the Russians suffered no additional losses in that combat. Furthermore, the victory had a bittersweet taste for "Bones", because one of his men, 2nd Lt. Lawrence Layton, was killed in action, becoming the third victory of the Russian MiG-15 ace Majora Grigorii I. Pulov (CO of the 17th IAP, 303rd IAD).
|Winton Marshall's aerial victories in Korea.
CO of the 335th FIS, 4th FIW (August 1951 - January 1952)
|Rank||Aircraft||Date||Victim||Enemy pilot & status||Enemy Unit|
|Major||F-86A # ?||1 September 1951||MiG-15||---||VVS (*)|
|Major||F-86A # ?||2 September 1951||MiG-15bis||S. T. Kolpikov - KIA||18 GIAP/303 IAD|
|Major||F-86E #50-625||28 November 1951||MiG-15bis||German Shatalov - KIA||523 IAP/303 IAD|
|Major||F-86E #50-625||28 November 1951||MiG-15||---||VVS (*) (**)|
|Major||F-86E #50-625||30 November 1951||Tu-2||admitted||24R/8D, PLAAF|
|Major||F-86E #50-625||30 November 1951||La-11||admitted||4R/2D, PLAAF|
|Major||F-86E #50-625||5 December 1951||MiG-15bis||Aleksandr Ryzhkov - KIA||196 IAP/324 IAD|
(*) = overclaim in good faith.
(**) = 0.5 credit, victory shared with 2nd Lt. Samuel A. Groening.
"Bones" vs "Casey Jones"
His most difficult and remarkable success came almost two months later, in a meleé which began at 8:50 hs on November 28 1951, and lasted for 20 minutes. Major Marshall recalled it that way (The 4th Fighter Wing in the Korean War by Larry Davis, pages # 136-137):
"I'll remember this mission for all the days of my life. Never have I to fight so hard to survive. And surprisingly, in the act of surviving, to fall into the lap of Lady Luck and destoy my antagonizer.
We had just rolled out form breaking into the two attacking MiGs, when almost immediately, my cockpit was surrounded by a hail of bright tracers from the cannons of the MiG on my tail. They looked the size of oranges as they went by the canopy. My wingman had said nothing. I jerked the stick back so hard that I easily exceeded the aircraft G limits. The MiG went one direction and my wingman the other. I had lost them both.
Before I could take a breath, I was again the target of a stream of tracers, but a lot closer this time. There was a second MiG sitting right on my tail. Startled, I again slammed the stick back, trying to 'split S' out of there. It produced spectacular results. My Sabre did a neat snap roll, and I ended up in a inverted spin with zero air speed. This was a great evasive maneuver, I thought. No one could have stayed with me through that gyration.
Except, when I looked out through my canopy, there was a MiG. And we were both spinning down together, canopy to canopy. In seconds I made a quick spin recovery. But so did he. We had ended up in a flat spin, with very little air speed, in a nose up attitude. Except that his nose was almost pointing at me. I expected him to start firing at any moment.
As an illustration of the flight stability of the F-86, my aircraft completely responded when I again slammed the sloppy stick to one side, kicking the rudders as hard as I could. It worked! I was off in another spin, slower but more controllable this time.
Then the impossible happened. There was my MiG, also spinning down in the same air space with me. We were fast losing too much altitude, so I again made a spin recovery. The MiG recovered right beside me. Except this time, he was at my 12 o'clock position - directly in front of me. It was a simple task to open fire. I must have hit something vital as the MiG suddenly caught fire and exploded.
What a great fighter pilot that MiG guy was, I thought he was Ol' Casey Jones himself. Other Sabre pilots that had seen the fight, said that the MiG appeared to have stuck with me in my hard break, until we both snap-rolled and fell off in that first spin. That MiG driver proved to be one hell of wingman, when he stuck with me in a formation of sorts, as we both spun down the second time, with destination unknown. It was just Lady Luck riding with me, that he ended up in the dead center of my gunsight. Otherwise, I don't know. I was hell below 'Bingo' fuel, and it was either then or I wouldn't have made it home."
Subsequently, together with 2nd Lt. Sam Groening, claimed a shared MiG kill, but this seems to be an overclaim in good faith, because the Soviet archives do not confirm it. However, what the Russian loss records do confirm is the identity of "Casey Jones" that day: he was German Timofeyevich Shatalov, a pilot of the elite 523rd IAP/303rd IAD, a very skillful MiG-15 pilot credited with 5 aerial victories against US aircraft.
|Victories credited to German T. Shatalov (523rd IAP/303rd IAD).|
|Rank||Aircraft||Date||Victim||Enemy pilot & status||Enemy Unit|
|1st Lt.||MiG-15bis||24 June 1951||F-80C||Arthur J. Johnson - MIA||36 FBS/8 FBW, USAF (**)|
|1st Lt.||MiG-15bis||26 June 1951||F-86||---||USAF (*)|
|1st Lt.||MiG-15bis||28 June 1951||AD-4||Harley S. Harris Jr. - KIA||VA-55, USN (**)|
|1st Lt.||MiG-15bis||28 June 1951||F4U-4||Oliver D. Droege||VF-884, USN (**)|
|1st Lt.||MiG-15bis||10 September 1951||F-86A||Robert McKinney (dam)||334 FIS/4 FIW, USAF|
(*) = overclaim in good faith.
(**) = in US loss records these losses are credited to AAA.
Marshall refered to German Shatalov with the following words, which perhaps are the most adequate epitafy to such talented airman (The 4th Fighter Wing in the Korean War, pages # 137):
"I half regretted the loss of such a great pilot, even though he was on the other side. He certainly looked ten feet all to me. I would have loved to have sat down for a beer or vodka, at the O-club with that guy, trading fighter pilot stories together.
What was different between his MiG and my Sabre, that he could stay with me through such high G turns? Did he purposely fly into the snap roll and spin to stay with me? Or was it an unexpected maneuver, as it had been for me? Why didn't he shoot at me when we both recovered from that first spin? And finally, was his fuel as low, his flying suit as wet, and his arm as tired as mine was in those last few seconds?"
To face such crack pilots meant that, inevitably, there would be losses. And that day ended up with an even between the USAF and the VVS: besides Marshall shooting down Shatalov, 1st Lt. Dayton Ragland (336th FIS) forced to bail out Starshii Leitenant Alfey Dostoievsky (196th IAP), but Ragland himself became the 13th victory of Dostoievsky's commander, the MiG-15 ace Yevgeny Pepelyayev, who few minutes earlier had damaged beyond repair the F-86A BuNo 49-1166.
Massacre over Cho-Do island
Those were hard times for the FEAF. About a month earlier, during 5 days (October 22-27) the Soviet MiG force had beaten up the B-29s, no matter how many escort fighters were sent to protect them, and forced FEAF C-in-C General Otto Weyland to suspend the daylight raids of the Superfortresses. And the PLAAF (People's Liberation Army Air Force = Chinese Air Force) became a real and dangerous threat when on November 6 1951 nine Tu-2s of the 24th Regiment/8th Division (escorted by 16 La-11s of the 2nd Division and 24 MiG-15s of the 3rd Division) destroyed the South Korean command post, food & ammo storage instalations in Cho-Do island (Taehwa-Do in the Chinese cartography). That was a direct challenge to the American air superiority, that would not remain unanswered.
The US Army intelligence had learned that the PLAAF planned to repeat its raid against Cho-Do on November 30 1951, and warned the FEAF, which ordered all the 334th, 335th and 336th FIS to scramble 31 F-86A/E Sabres at 15:32 hs to intercept the expected intruders and their escorting MiGs. Without knowing it, the Americans were helped by a Chinese timing mistake; the nine Tu-2s of the 24th Regiment (led by Gao Yueming) took off one minute prior to scheduled, at 14:19 hs (Beijing time, 15:19 in Seoul), and an unexpected 180º turn to the SE caused that the formation added 4 more minutes ahead. So, only 16 Lavochkins became the escort of the Chinese Tupolevs. The MiGs would arrive 5 minutes later (and only 16 out of 24), when most of the damage would be done. At 16:07 hs the 31 Sabres met the nine Tu-2s and the 16 La-11s, and the carnage began.
1st Lt. Douglas K. Evans (336th FIS) was the first one to score when he sent a Tu-2 downwards in flames to crash into the sea. A La-11 was the next victim, blasted out of the sky by 4th FIG's CO Lt.Col. Ben Preston. Now (16:10 hs) arrived the "William" Flight of the 335th FIS, and "William Lead" was no other than Major Marshall. In the blink of an eye "Bones" set on fire another Tupolev, which dissappeared in the sea surface, and then riddled with 0.50" fire one of the escorting Lavochkins. The prop-driven fighter bursted into flames, becaming Winton's 4th victory. However, there was no place for complacence, as "Bones" himself admitted (The 4th Fighter Wing in the Korean War, page # 136):
"And I have been shot at myself 10-15 times, including once where the enemy pilot scored some really good hits and badly damaged my aircraft. And that was by a LaGG-9 propeller-driven aircraft!"
The book Red Wings over the Yalu: China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea, by Xiaoming Zhang & Joseph G. Dawson (page # 161) completes the picture of this event with the Chinese perspective: Winton Marshall jumped the La-11 of the experienced pilot Wang Tianbao (4th Regiment, 2nd Division), who exploited one of the few advantage of his prop-driven aircraft -its agility- breaking hard to the left and forcing "Bones" to overshoot. Then reversed his turn and made a long deflection shot with his three 23 mm cannons, and struck the left wing, the aft fuselage and the canopy of Marshall's aircraft, F-86E BuNo 50-625. Wang Tianbao saw the Sabre to fall to the sea in a spin, and when he returned to his base in Manchuria, he claimed a F-86 kill. Actually, somehow "Bones" managed to regain consciousness and recovered of the spin just before hitting the surface of the Yellow Sea. Then brought his crippled airplane back to Suwon, where it was repaired and the medics took care of the Marshall's wounds.
Excluding the fact that "Bones"'s was hit by Wang and another Sabre was damaged by a MiG, that day was indeed a tremendous American victory. Even Chinese sources admitts that, stating that the actual PLAAF losses were four Tu-2s (and not eight as was initially claimed by USAF), three La-11s and one MiG-15. Two of the Tupolevs were bagged by George A. Davis (his third Tu-2 kill was an overclaim), and both Marshall and Evans shot down one Tu-2 each. Regarding the three Lavochkins, they were destroyed by Ben Preston, "Bones" and John Honaker respectively. George Davis was who blasted the lone MiG out of the sky.
On December 5 1951 "Bones" finally made ace when he shots down his fifth victim. At 15:50, he was leading his 335th FIS as top cover of a group of F-84s, and he spotted several MiG-15s trying to hunt the fighter-bombers. After damaging a MiG, Major Marshall began to chase another flight of MiGs which attempted to catch the Thunderjets. He pulled in behind one of those MiGs, and saw his 0,50" bullets hitting the fuselage and cockpit. Suddenly the MiG-15 burst into flames (projecting oil and jet fuel to the windscreen of the F-86E "Mr. Bones V"), plunged earthwards and crashed. The MiG driver did not eject. His victory is fully admitted by Soviet loss records: he was Starshii Leitenant Aleksandr Ryzhkov, a pilot of the 196th IAP with 4 victories to his credit (two of them match with US admitted losses, a F9F-2 on October 3 1951, and the F-86A of David Freeland on November 9 1951).
It was a good day for the American hunters, because few minutes later George Davis bagged another Soviet MiG (the one flown by Anatoly I. Baturov, who bailed out at low altitude and perished). However, even two outstanding pilots like Davis and Marshall could not prevent that some MiG-15s disrupted the fighter-bombers: the CO of the 176th GIAP/324th IAD, Podpolkovnik (Lt.Col.) Sergey F. Vishnyakov, blasted out of the sky the F-84E of Hugh Larkin (MIA), and the MiG-15 ace Vasily Ivanovich Stepanov (18th GIAP/303rd IAD) so did with the Thunderjet of Horace Carman (POW).
Marshall was replaced by Major Zane S. Amel on 10 January 1952 as commander of the 335th FIS, and "Bones" returned to the States. The story of Winton Marshall summarize the victories and defeats of both struggling sides in late 1951, and the top quality of the fliers of the opposing parties. Certainly the fact that he was able not only to survive the period where the best Soviet airmen were in Korea, but also to shot down two very skillful Russian pilots with 5 and 4 victories to their credits, says a lot about his extraordinary ability as a fighter pilot.
- The 4th Fighter Wing in the Korean War, by Larry Davis, Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2001.
- MiG Alley: Sabres Vs. MiGs Over Korea, D. McLaren & W. Thompson, Specialty Press, 2002.
- Red Wings over the Yalu: China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea by Dr. Xiaoming Zhang & Joseph G. Dawson. Texas a & M University Military History Series, 2002 ( courtesy of my Japanese friend Naoaki Ooishi).
- Crimson Sky, by John R. Bruning, Brassey's Inc; 1999.
- Sabre jets over Korea: A first hand account, by Douglas K. Evans, Tab Books 1984.
- US Post World War 2 Victory Credits, Frank Olynyk, 1999 (courtesy of Thomas Polak).
- Krasnij Dyabolij ha 38-u Paralely (Red Devils over the 38th Parallel), Igor Seidov and Askold German (courtesy of Nikolai Bakalov and Rubén Urribarres), 1998.
- MiGi protiv Seibrov, Yevgeny Pepelyayev, Delta NPP, 2000 (courtesy of Thomas Polak).