From a Pilot in the Forgotten War


I have spent part of Memorial Day weekend sorting through my father’s old Army stuff and thought I’d share a letter that was sent to him 67 years ago.

I know nothing about the man who sent the letter—other than what the letter reveals. He signed the letter “Austin,” but I don’t know if that’s his first or last name. Regardless, Austin demonstrates excellent penmanship and served in the Korean War as a pilot in the Marine Fighting Squadron 312. Also, with his references to the “T-T” and “ad lineage,” it appears he may have been a co-worker my father’s at the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune prior to his deployment. Finally, Austin refers to the “cute, young things at Riley’s” in reference to a popular department store in San Luis Obispo, so he comes across local.

I’ve asked friends at the Trib to keep an eye open for “Austin” whenever they come across old staff boxes, bylines or whatever, and hopefully one of ’em will call with good news one day.

1 April 1951

Dear John,

I thought I’d write and complain to you that I’m tired of fighting the war single-handed. Where are the replacements? Us National Guardsmen must stick together. High prices or no—I’ll take ole S.L.O!

My squadron is now operating off the west coast of Korea on the USS Bataan (CVS-29) a medium sized carrier for about 10 days at a time. Then we go back to Japan and pick up a new load of bombs and rockets and all the pilots and ship’s personnel stay drunked up for 3 or 4 days! There we were just the other day, in the ritzy Union Club of Tokyo, sipping a new drink they called ‘The Velvet Hammer’ and I was sitting there, worrying how to increase the T-T lineage, and incidently (sic) how to best impress a lovely young stewardess also at the bar. All stewardesses are lovely and young, aren’t they?

As I see it this carrier is just a haven for some 1500 souls who want to sleep out the emergency. All except us pilots! We no more than return from a hop than they shoot us off the catapult again with umpteen ton of rockets and bombs. Between times they go around the plane with a large stapling machine and staple up all the loose controls and bullet holes. Off we go again, singing another stanza of “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Meanwhile, the Navy officers, who have gommed onto the best seats and napkin rings in the wardroom, go back to another game of Acey-Ducey. And to think that those bastards write home and tell how rough they have it!

We’re still flying the same old tired Corsairs! Some of them, that is. Many have given out at the seams and, conveniently enough, about 50 miles behind enemy lines. Thereupon they wind up our helicopter—thank heaven for Sikorsky—which windmills out after us! We’re all happy to see summer on its way and breathe a little easier as we fly over this frigid water.

Meanwhile I am polishing up on my ad salesmanship. “George you ought to make that a 4×10 instead of a 3×8—it looks better!”

(This last is for McLain’s, the ole glider pilot, benefit.)

How I would appreciate getting lost in Riley’s again. Have they brought in any cute young things there lately? No reference to merchandise.

Still haven’t been promoted. I am the oldest 1st Lt. in the Armed Forces! Probably everyone in the Pentagon is going up in rank like monkeys up a rope. But the other day I was given the Air Medal—Ain’t I the lucky one!

Soon perhaps in June I’ll burst in on you and expect to be treated to a free coffee.

Very best wishes



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