We lived in barracks on the alert pad. The
nuclear weapons bunker was across the street. The barracks consisted
of four bays with a central shower and latrine. We put ninety-six men
in a barracks designed for thirty-two. I set my alarm for 0300 so that
I might have some hot water for a shower.
Osan was a mess. Most of the vehicles on the
base were not operating. Vehicle parts and supplies had been shipped
to Vietnam to support the war effort and the Osan vehicle fleet had
deteriorated. It took a few days to get everything we needed
F-105D ARMED WITH 500 LB. BOMBS
An SR-71 was launched from Kadena to look for the
Pueblo and was over the area in about 15 minutes. There was a problem
with weather and I don't know if the mission was successful.
January 23, 1968
The broken generator was mounted on the front PTO case
of the J-79 engine, which put me down the intake of the RF-4C most of the
I came out for air after about an hour and
could sense that something was going on. The tempo of the flight line
was different. Aircraft were being refueled, people were moving a
little faster, and C-130's were landing at Kadena. I dismissed my
reaction and went back to work. About thirty minutes passed, and
someone yelled down the intake, "Bayless, come on out, you need to go home
and pack." Ok, this was a mobility exercise, part of a game we played.
I had been through this many times. You go home, pack your duffle bag,
report to your assigned area, and wait for the all clear. I went
home and packed, told my spouse that I would probably be home for dinner,
and reported back to the flight line. An hour later I was on a C-130
bound for South Korea.
Earlier that day, the USS Pueblo was at work 13 miles
from the coast of North Korea when four North Korean patrol boats
surrounded the craft. The Pueblo's skipper, Comdr. Lloyd Bucher, protested
that the ship was in international waters, beyond the 12- mile limit.
The Pueblo, armed with two machine guns, offered no resistance to the North
Korean crewmen as they scrambled aboard the Pueblo. Bucher ordered
secret documents burned and equipment destroyed. The North Koreans
opened fire and three US crewmen were wounded and one, Duane Hodges, from
Creswell, Oregon, was killed by a 57mm shell. Ten bags of highly
sensitive documents were seized by the North Koreans, along with most of the
ships highly classified equipment.
There was no help available to the Pueblo, once the
attack was under way. Yokota Air Base had three aircraft on alert at
Osan Air Base, South Korea, but two were out of commission and waiting for
parts and the other was armed nuclear. All the F-105s on alert at
Kadena were armed with nuclear weapons. I don't know why the navy didn't
As we arrived at Osan Air Base, the 83 crewmen from
the Pueblo were being processed into prison at Wonsan.
The 18th TFW commander ordered the deployment of all
of Kadena's F-105s to Osan, Korea. Twelve aircraft were launched by
sundown. As ground crews arrived at Osan, they went to work to arm each
Thud (F-105) with 16 500 lb., armor piercing, bombs. The next morning
they were ready, with orders to sink the Pueblo. Orders to launch
never arrived from 5th Air Force, but our aircraft and people remained on
alert until after the release of the Pueblo crew.
The base exchanged sold out of almost everything
within a couple of days. It was two or three weeks before new stocks
of essentials like soap, shampoo, deodorant, razor blades, and shaving cream
started to arrive. A few of these items were available from local
establishments in the town of Osan. When we arrived from Kadena,
we were ill equipped for the cold weather. It took a while to get cold
weather clothing, so we made due with field jackets without liners.
We worked twelve hour shifts, as I remember, and I
choose to work mostly at night. That left the day free to
roam about and photograph the village of Osan and the surrounding area.
(Photo Gallery) Osan was a poor town, with little
to support it other than the base. I think a rather high
percentage of the people in town engaged in occupations of dubious repute.
In the history of Korea there must have been
an influx of Christian missionaries, because
THUD ON THE FLIGHT LINE AT OSAN
A TRIP ON A BROKEN
After six weeks at Osan, I boarded a C-130, from
Naha Air Base, for the trip back to Okinawa. The aircraft crew chief
told us, before leaving, that there was a problem controlling
the prop speed on one of the engines. Even though the aircraft was loaded with a
J-75 engine on an installation dolly (about 10,000 lbs.) and sixteen or
seventeen troops with all of their tools and baggage, the pilot and crew
felt it was safe if
one of the engines had to be shut down.
A young lieutenant sat beside me and introduced himself
as a chaplain. His father was ill and he was
headed home on emergency leave. He had never flown in a military
When we were airborne the pilot feathered the prop and shut down the problem engine.
About 20 minutes out of Osan another engine started to lose oil pressure.
The pilot declared an emergency and fire trucks and ambulances met us as we
landed at Kunsan Air Base. (That didn't set well the the young
chaplain.) There were, including me, several jet engine mechanics on the
plane and none of us had ever turned a wrench on a C-130. Transit
Alert mechanics replaced the oil pressure transmitter and we were on our
We reached a cruising altitude of about 30,000.feet
and everyone was starting to relax, although the prop speed problem had not
been cured. Well into the flight and somewhere over the East China Sea,
there was a loud "BANG" and the C-130 immediately went into a dive.
My chaplain companion had a white knuckle grip on his own thighs and his
eyes were closed. When the plane reached an altitude of about 10,000
feet, the pilot leveled the airplane and discontinued the dive. I had
been through high altitude chamber training and recognized this as a
rapid decompression and the pilot's actions were "by the book". The
crew chief made everyone aware that the J-75 engine and all baggage and
equipment might need to be dumped, but that didn't happen. We cruised into
Naha at 10,000 feet and landed without incident. Everyone was
happy to be on solid ground, but none more grateful than the young chaplain.