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A MiG-15 to Freedom: Memoir of the Wartime North Korean Defector Who First Delivered the Secret Fighter Jet to the Americans in 1953 No Kum-Sok with J. Roger Osterholm McFarland


31st August 2012 History Books 17 Comments

No Kum-Sok and J. Roger Osterholm both reside in Florida.

On September 21, 1953, U.S. airmen at Kimpo Air Base near Seoul, Korea, were startled to see landing a MiG-15, the most advanced Soviet-built fighter plane of the era, piloted by Senior Lieutenant No Kum-Sok, a 21-year-old North Korean Air Force officer. Once he landed, Lieutenant No found that his mother had escaped to the South two years earlier, and they were soon reunited. At his request, No came to the United States and became a U.S. citizen. His story provides a unique insight into how North Korea conducted the Korean War and how he came to the decision to leave his homeland.

A MiG-15 to Freedom: Memoir of the Wartime North Korean Defector Who First Delivered the Secret Fighter Jet to the Americans in 1953

Soviet MiG-15 Aces of the Korean War

"Leonid Krylov and Yuriy Tepsurkaev’s Soviet MiG-15 Aces of the Korean War joins others in Osprey’s ‘Aircraft of the Aces’ series, providing a comprehensive survey of how the USSR’s top plane performed and made a big difference in Korea, surveying the first generatio of jet fighters in Korea. Pilot exploits are covered in black and white and color here." -The Bookwatch (September 2008)

"…it seems astonishing that now Osprey is able to publish a complete-very complete- book on the subject. Remarkable pilot accounts provide an inside look beyond anything that I thought I would ever be ale to read, allied with a detailed history of the units, aircraft and men involved." Scale Aircraft Modelling (August 2008).

"Soviet MiG-15 Aces of the Korean War is well-written and organized very nicely. It is extremely well researched and documented, and provides an insight into the Soviets previously well-hidden involvement during the Korean War. This book could be a valuable historical reference for anyone who chooses to model aircraft from this historical period, and I recommend it highly to anyone interested in the air war in Korea."- Keith Pruitt, International Plastic Modellers’ Society (July 2008).

"In addition to the excellent photos, there are several pages of color profiles of the planes flown by the various aces involved. It is a superlative book on the subject and one that I can recommend to you without reservation."- Scott Van Aken, modelingmadness.com (June 2008).

The Soviet Union began assisting the People’s Republic of China in its establishment of a modern air force in 1950, when Soviet Air Force regiments were sent to train local pilots. China’s involvement in the Korean War in late October 1950 inevitably drew Soviet pilots into the war. A total of 52 Soviet pilots scored five or more victories in the Korean War. The history of these covert actions has been a long-buried secret and this book will be the first English publication to detail the only instance when the Cold War between Russia and the US became "hot." This book uncovers Soviet combat experiences during the Korean War from detailed unit histories and rare first-hand accounts. With access to extensive Russian archives, the authors offer an enthralling insight into an air war that has been largely covered up and neglected, illustrated with previously unpublished photographs and detailed full-color profiles.

Soviet MiG-15 Aces of the Korean War (Aircraft of the Aces)










  • 17 responses to "A MiG-15 to Freedom: Memoir of the Wartime North Korean Defector Who First Delivered the Secret Fighter Jet to the Americans in 1953 No Kum-Sok with J. Roger Osterholm McFarland"

  • GrumpyOldSEO
    4:30 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    ON SEPTEMBER 21, 1953, A YOUNG NORTH KOREAN MiG-15 PILOT, NO KUM-SOK, DEFECTED TO THE AMERICAN SOUTH KOREAN AIR BASE AT KIMPO, TURNING OVER RUSSIA`S TOP JET FIGHTER TO THE UNITED STATES, AND FULLFILLING SEVERAL YEARS OF PLANNING TO ESCAPE THE REPRESSION OF COMMUNISM. NO KUM-SOK WESTERNIZED HIS NAME TO KENNETH ROWE, AND IS NOW A PROFESSOR AT EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY IN DAYTON BEACH, FLORIDA. HIS LIFE STORY, “A MiG-15 TO FREEDOM,” IS A FASCINATING AND RICHLY DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST AIR WAR PITTING JET AGAINST JET. THE KOREAN WAR ALSO FEATURED THE LAST AERIAL BATTLES AT RELATIVELY CLOSE QUARTERS USING GUNS, RATHER THAN THE RADAR GUIDED AIR-TO-AIR MISSLES THAT SOON FOLLOWED. ON ONE SIDE WAS THE AMERICAN MADE F-86 SABRE, AND ON THE OTHER, THE RUSSIAN BUILT MiG-15, EACH REPRESENTING THE LATEST AND BEST TECHNOLOGY OF THE TWO SUPER POWERS OF THE COLD WAR. AS J. ROGER OSTERHOLM POINTS OUT, LITTLE HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT, OR PORTRAYED ON FILM, THE NORTH KOREAN AND SOVIET SIDE OF THE KOREAN WAR. THIS BOOK GIVES IMPRESSIVE INSIGHT INTO LIFE IN NORTH KOREA, ESPECIALLY IN THE COMMUNIST AIR FORCES, WITH EXTENSIVE DETAIL OF RUSSIA`S INVOLVEMENT IN KOREA, A CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET AT THE TIME. STALIN SENT TWO DIVISIONS OF TOP SOVIET FIGHTER PILOTS TO MANCHURIA, FROM VARIOUS UNITS WITHIN THE SOVIET BLOC. IN LATE 1949, AND AGAIN IN EARLY 1950, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE, DEAN ACHESON, PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED THE DEFENSIVE PERIMETER IN ASIA THAT THE UNITED STATES WOULD VIGOROUSLY DEFEND, BUT EXCLUDED SOUTH KOREA. THE U.S.S.R., CHINA, AND NORTH KOREAN LEADERS THEN BELIEVED THAT THEY COULD , BY FORCE, REUNITE THE TWO KOREAS UNDER THE COMMUNIST BANNER WITHOUT INTERVENTION BY THE UNITED STATES. THEY WERE WRONG. THE EVENTS THAT LEAD TO THIS BOOK BEING WRITTEN, PROBABLY WOULD HAVE NEVER OCCURRED WITHOUT THE EARLY PARENTAL INFLUENCE FAVORING AMERICA AND CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES. NO KUM-SOK`S FATHER WAS NON-COMMUNIST AND A MEMBER OF A DEMOCRATIC PARTY. HIS MOTHER WAS A ROMAN CATHOLIC, WHO REGULARLY ATTENDED CHURCH SERVICES, IN THE DAYS BEFORE COMMUNISM AND KIM IL-SUNG. NO KUM-SOK`S LIFE LONG ASPIRATION WAS TO LIVE IN AMERICA SOMEDAY. MOST KOREAN WAR HISTORIANS DISCOUNT THESE FACTS, AND, IN FACT, SUGGEST THAT NO KUM-SOK`S DEFECTION WAS ONLY FOR THE $100,000 REWARD OFFERED SEVERAL MONTHS EARLIER (OPERATION MOOLAH) TO THE FIRST RED PILOT DELIVERING AN AIRWORTHY MiG-15 INTO ALLIED HANDS. AMERICAN B-29`S HAD DROPPED LEAFLETS OVER AIR BASES IN NORTH KOREA WITH THIS OFFER IN APRIL, 1953. NO KUM-SOK IS CERTAIN THAT NO MiG PILOT EVER SAW ONE OF THE LEAFLETS, OR EVEN HEARD OF THE OFFER. NO CHINESE OR RUSSIAN PILOTS WERE STATIONED IN NORTH KOREA AT THE TIME, AND HAD A NORTH KOREAN PILOT READ ONE OF THE LEAFLETS, THE MONEY OFFER WOULD HAVE MEANT LITTLE, NOR WOULD THEY HAD TRUSTED THEIR AUTHENTICITY. “A MiG-15 TO FREEDOM” EXPRESSES WITH STUNNING CLARITY, THE FEELINGS EXPERIENCED BY A YOUNG NORTH KOREAN JET PILOT, LIVING A COMMUNIST LIE, HAVING TO FACE SUPERIOR TRAINED AND EXPERIENCED AMERICAN F-86 PILOTS IN “MiG ALLEY.” THE BOOK OFFERS MANY TECHNICAL DETAILS OF THE AIRCRAFT INVOLVED IN THE BATTLE FOR AIR SUPERIORITY-THEIR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. HAVING A HOBBY OF GIVING PROGRAMS ON THE AIR WAR OVER KOREA TO CIVIC CLUBS AND SCHOOL HISTORY CLASSES, I TRAVELED TO FLORIDA IN DECEMBER OF 1997,WHERE I HAD LUNCH WITH, AND INTERVIEWED, MR. KENNETH ROWE (NO KUM-SOK), AND FOUND HIM TO BE A VERY JOVIAL, INTELLIGENT, AND ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL GENTLEMAN. I HAVE READ HIS BOOK TWICE, AND HAVE GIVEN IT AS GIFTS TO AMERICAN F-86 ACES OF THE KOREAN WAR. NO KUM-SOK`S STORY WOULD MAKE A TREMENDOUS MOVIE. “A MiG-15 TO FREEDOM” IS AN AWESOME BOOK! I LOVED IT!

  • Ares Nika
    6:38 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    All right all right! In cyberspace I stand corrected …its No, not Ro Kum-Sok. I never could get those Korean names straight when I lived there either. Rudyard Kipling would have loved Seoul….

    This is a good book, interesting reading. As a non-flyer, non-pilot all the tech talk about MiGs vs. Sabres is a bit daunting, but if you are a fan of the Public Television show Wings, this book is for you.
    The book starts with the author landing at Kimpo before some dumbfounded US personnel. Then he flashes back to his childhood under Japanese occupation. Mixed in with discussion of childhood pranks is a rapid fire, zipped version of Korean history from the Shilla dynasty to the present. While no admirer of the Japanese (like many Koreans, he stauchly refers to the Sea of Japan as the ‘east sea.’) he points out that the Red Army also had a record of rape and pillage. This will not sit well with selective outrage enthusiasts who use the ‘comfort women’ issue for Japan bashing in the region.

    Kum-Sok states that the Korean Navy and Air Force collapsed early in the war…it was the Inmingun, or North Korean Army, that held together. Kum-Soks’ summary of the war is essentially the western rendition of the battles. When the stalemate developed after mid 1951, the war shifted to the skies over North Korea and Manchuria. It remains a common myth that the US did not pursue MiGs into the skies of northeast China, but after April 1952, says the author, they did exactly that with deadly effectiveness, knocking MiGs down as they slowed to land. Again, stories about air wars and battles are hard for me to follow and understand, and Kum-Sok often gets lost in endless renditions of sorties, statistics, or engineering specifications. Still, he does discuss a number of weaknesses that MiGs had:
    …they were not supersonic, even when diving;
    …the T-shaped tail obscured your view and often was fatal when exiting the cockpit;
    …the double-wall canopy would often fog up;
    …there was no rear view mirror;
    Authors comment. Rear view mirror?? Fighter pilots use rear view mirrors? Do they use turn signals too?
    …poor fuel economy;
    …long and visible contrails from Soviet jet fuel;
    …lousy tires;
    and a few other sundry items.

    After he defected to the south came the inevitable interrogation, tests of his credibility, and finally, fame. OF COURSE, one issue of tremendous relevance that our security services made sure to ask about was whether No Kum-Sok ‘ever had sex with another man.’ [I can just hear these losers on the runway at Kimpo ..."what? You are gay? Take that MiG back to North Korea NOW, homeboy!!!"]

    By the way Kum-Sok was unaware of the operation Moolah offer for a MiG, and defected to the west almost two months after the KoreanWar was over. He did receive the 100 grand, however

  • Myrtle
    8:19 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    ON SEPTEMBER 21, 1953, A YOUNG NORTH KOREAN MiG-15 PILOT, NO KUM-SOK, DEFECTED TO THE AMERICAN SOUTH KOREAN AIR BASE AT KIMPO, TURNING OVER RUSSIA`S TOP JET FIGHTER TO THE UNITED STATES, AND FULLFILLING SEVERAL YEARS OF PLANNING TO ESCAPE THE REPRESSION OF COMMUNISM. NO KUM-SOK WESTERNIZED HIS NAME TO KENNETH ROWE, AND IS NOW A PROFESSOR AT EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY IN DAYTON BEACH, FLORIDA. HIS LIFE STORY, “A MiG-15 TO FREEDOM,” IS A FASCINATING AND RICHLY DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST AIR WAR PITTING JET AGAINST JET. THE KOREAN WAR ALSO FEATURED THE LAST AERIAL BATTLES AT RELATIVELY CLOSE QUARTERS USING GUNS, RATHER THAN THE RADAR GUIDED AIR-TO-AIR MISSLES THAT SOON FOLLOWED. ON ONE SIDE WAS THE AMERICAN MADE F-86 SABRE, AND ON THE OTHER, THE RUSSIAN BUILT MiG-15, EACH REPRESENTING THE LATEST AND BEST TECHNOLOGY OF THE TWO SUPER POWERS OF THE COLD WAR. AS J. ROGER OSTERHOLM POINTS OUT, LITTLE HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT, OR PORTRAYED ON FILM, THE NORTH KOREAN AND SOVIET SIDE OF THE KOREAN WAR. THIS BOOK GIVES IMPRESSIVE INSIGHT INTO LIFE IN NORTH KOREA, ESPECIALLY IN THE COMMUNIST AIR FORCES, WITH EXTENSIVE DETAIL OF RUSSIA`S INVOLVEMENT IN KOREA, A CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET AT THE TIME. STALIN SENT TWO DIVISIONS OF TOP SOVIET FIGHTER PILOTS TO MANCHURIA, FROM VARIOUS UNITS WITHIN THE SOVIET BLOC. IN LATE 1949, AND AGAIN IN EARLY 1950, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE, DEAN ACHESON, PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED THE DEFENSIVE PERIMETER IN ASIA THAT THE UNITED STATES WOULD VIGOROUSLY DEFEND, BUT EXCLUDED SOUTH KOREA. THE U.S.S.R., CHINA, AND NORTH KOREAN LEADERS THEN BELIEVED THAT THEY COULD , BY FORCE, REUNITE THE TWO KOREAS UNDER THE COMMUNIST BANNER WITHOUT INTERVENTION BY THE UNITED STATES. THEY WERE WRONG. THE EVENTS THAT LEAD TO THIS BOOK BEING WRITTEN, PROBABLY WOULD HAVE NEVER OCCURRED WITHOUT THE EARLY PARENTAL INFLUENCE FAVORING AMERICA AND CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES. NO KUM-SOK`S FATHER WAS NON-COMMUNIST AND A MEMBER OF A DEMOCRATIC PARTY. HIS MOTHER WAS A ROMAN CATHOLIC, WHO REGULARLY ATTENDED CHURCH SERVICES, IN THE DAYS BEFORE COMMUNISM AND KIM IL-SUNG. NO KUM-SOK`S LIFE LONG ASPIRATION WAS TO LIVE IN AMERICA SOMEDAY. MOST KOREAN WAR HISTORIANS DISCOUNT THESE FACTS, AND, IN FACT, SUGGEST THAT NO KUM-SOK`S DEFECTION WAS ONLY FOR THE $100,000 REWARD OFFERED SEVERAL MONTHS EARLIER (OPERATION MOOLAH) TO THE FIRST RED PILOT DELIVERING AN AIRWORTHY MiG-15 INTO ALLIED HANDS. AMERICAN B-29`S HAD DROPPED LEAFLETS OVER AIR BASES IN NORTH KOREA WITH THIS OFFER IN APRIL, 1953. NO KUM-SOK IS CERTAIN THAT NO MiG PILOT EVER SAW ONE OF THE LEAFLETS, OR EVEN HEARD OF THE OFFER. NO CHINESE OR RUSSIAN PILOTS WERE STATIONED IN NORTH KOREA AT THE TIME, AND HAD A NORTH KOREAN PILOT READ ONE OF THE LEAFLETS, THE MONEY OFFER WOULD HAVE MEANT LITTLE, NOR WOULD THEY HAD TRUSTED THEIR AUTHENTICITY. “A MiG-15 TO FREEDOM” EXPRESSES WITH STUNNING CLARITY, THE FEELINGS EXPERIENCED BY A YOUNG NORTH KOREAN JET PILOT, LIVING A COMMUNIST LIE, HAVING TO FACE SUPERIOR TRAINED AND EXPERIENCED AMERICAN F-86 PILOTS IN “MiG ALLEY.” THE BOOK OFFERS MANY TECHNICAL DETAILS OF THE AIRCRAFT INVOLVED IN THE BATTLE FOR AIR SUPERIORITY-THEIR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. HAVING A HOBBY OF GIVING PROGRAMS ON THE AIR WAR OVER KOREA TO CIVIC CLUBS AND SCHOOL HISTORY CLASSES, I TRAVELED TO FLORIDA IN DECEMBER OF 1997,WHERE I HAD LUNCH WITH, AND INTERVIEWED, MR. KENNETH ROWE (NO KUM-SOK), AND FOUND HIM TO BE A VERY JOVIAL, INTELLIGENT, AND ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL GENTLEMAN. I HAVE READ HIS BOOK TWICE, AND HAVE GIVEN IT AS GIFTS TO AMERICAN F-86 ACES OF THE KOREAN WAR. NO KUM-SOK`S STORY WOULD MAKE A TREMENDOUS MOVIE. “A MiG-15 TO FREEDOM” IS AN AWESOME BOOK! I LOVED IT!

  • SAI Is Cool
    10:51 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This is an excellent look at the MiG pilots who flew aircraft marked as PLA and North Korean fighters. During the Cold War the USSR never acknowledged the involvement of its pilots in Korea (despite the fact that Russian voice intercepts were monitored during aerial combat) and public acknoeledgement of their accomplishments were not made. Many of these pilots were WWII veterans who had gained notoriety fighting the Luftwaffe.

    For the first time we learn the names of many of these pilots, we see their pictures and we learn what units they were assigned to. The artwork illustrating the paint schemes on the MiG-15s flown during the war is very well done as well. It’s a pity that no map is included to outline the operational areas where the MiGs flew.

    Also, the Russian author never discusses the REASON for the secrecy surrounding these pilots or the great lengths the Soviets went to perpetuate the cover story that North Korean and Chinese pilots against UN forces. Political constraints put artificial limitations on the Soviet pilots, preventing them from flying over areas in which they might be captured if shot down. I would have liked to have learned what the pilots thought of all this.

    Nevertheless, a very good book.

  • Warren Harris
    11:39 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This solves many mysteries and questions about the Korean War. It was an open secret that the “honchos” (enemy aces) our guys sometimes met among the poorly trained N.Korean and Chinese pilots they were using as target practice, were Soviets. Well researched and impartial, the two Russian authors made extensive use of archives of both sides. If you want to know the reality of the air war over Korea, this book is a vital part of the puzzle.

    By Carl Gould

  • Mary Phillips
    13:59 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Although a wide literature can be found about the USAF heroes in the Korean War, the Soviet paper was secret till recent years, but it included several pilots with over 20kills in that war.
    This book offers an exhaustive view of the “Honchos” in that war, written unit by unit, day by day.
    All kills are discussed, comparing gun camera footage, Soviet and North Korean papers and compares it to USAF accounts.
    The book also includes a lot of contemporary footage (B/W, of course) and a lot of colour profiles of great interest for the modeller.
    A must for every enthusiastinc in History (Both sides must be accounted), Modellers and MiG and VVS fans.

  • MSFT Vendor
    19:17 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Methodoloy of ” killing Ratio” based on different critreas of
    decision of enemy kills !
    In my mind , US side are more liable than USSR.
    During Korean WAR, air battles mainly mainly localized in “MIG alley”.
    Only russian can follow up of searching crash sites of F-86 and MIG-15 !
    They also wanted secet on systemic invovment of Soviet MIG-15 flyers and
    mechanized AAA Divisions.Moscow want keeping russian pilot involvement
    even using North Korean marks on MIG-15,wearing chinese uniforms, evey
    pilot retains chinese pseudonym,expecting speak chinese on radio in combat.moreever, they were peohibited from flying over the enemy held
    territory or the sea. in event of capture they were requested as
    Eurasian chinese of soviet Russian(qoted from “Red Wings over the Yalu”
    by Xiaomong Zhang,2002). Some pilot claimed requested suicide on Capture!
    According to US Report, during Korean War, B-29 Tail gunners had credited
    destroy totail 27 fighters including 16 MIG-15s.(quoted from “B-29 Super-
    fortress units of the Korean War.2003 by Robert Dorr and Mark Styling.)
    It is very difficult acceting this data on the basis on destrying on
    fast flying MIG-15 with speed of 1075kph!
    US claimd MIG-15 vs F-86, from 12.1:1->8.1:1->3.5:1, after the war,
    they generally approve 1:2.Soviet,even,claimed reversd 1:2 ratio !
    Soviet also claimed more heavier armmed MIG-15( 1 37mm Cannon, 2 23mm-
    Cannon)was definitelly favoured lighter armed F-86( 6 12.7mm machine guns)
    In aereal combat, a 37mm Cannon shell disintegrae a F-86.
    Soviet claimed mostly 40~60 holed MIG-15s returned base attacking from
    12.7mm machine guns.
    I like add very important fields of Communication Sysyems which exchange
    vital informations center to fightings of F-86 with Radar and radio-
    communicatins including rescue and emergency landing site in Chodo–
    the island of Yellow sea off the coast of North Koreawhich housed the
    TAC(Tactical Air Controller using call sign DENTIST.( quoted from
    “Korean Air War” by Robert Dorr and Warren Thompson.2003.)
    Soviet side mainly depend upon Andong, near the Yalu River,mainland
    of china and the GCI controller for guidance to the combat areas.
    At that time, South Korean controlled islands beyond the mouth of the
    Yalu. Taehwa-do island was one of the most important ROK(Republic Of Korea
    outpost. ROK had stationed 1,200 troops,Radar and radio monitering eqipment for collecting Chinese and North Korean intelligence and sending
    commando forces onthesabotage missions of N.Korean coast.
    On Nov,6,1951,9 TU-2 twin engined bombers and 16 La-11 fighters under
    under patrolling area by MIG-15,they attacked Taehwa-do.
    According to historian John Bruning,F-86s were ready for prop- driven
    bombers and fighters.after the air battle,Chinese lost their 4 TU-2
    3 La-11, and 1 MIG-15. they also claimed 2 F-86 shot down( 1 by MIG-15,
    1 by La-11.

  • Ben Froggo
    20:45 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Leonid Krylov and Yuriy Tepsurkaev’s SOVIET MIG-15 ACES OF THE KOREAN WAR joins others in Osprey’s ‘Aircraft of the Aces’ series, providing a comprehensive survey of how the USSR’s top planes performed and made a big difference in Korea, surveying the first generation of jet fighters in Korea. Pilot exploits are covered in black and white and color, here.

  • mediaman
    22:31 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Good reference source as far as facts and figures are concerned. A little short for me as far detailed accounts are concerned. Gun camera photo’s and wreckage photo’s were a plus. It was nice to read this book after reading the “B-29 squadrons of the Korean War” book. Also for better background and aerial play by play, read Capt SM Kramarenko’s book.

  • See the future
    23:23 on August 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    It was an eye-opener to read this book. Not so many years ago it was not widely known that any Russian pilots flew in North Korean Mig-15s during the Korean War. We thought that there were a few, but now we are presented with a study that discloses that many Russian pilots were indeed behind the controls of those Migs.
    This work also emphasizes the fact that “kills” are complex numbers that are dependent on many factors. With the numbers that the Russians claim vs the numbers our side claimed, it seems that once again the true numbers are somewhere in the middle.
    This work also reinforces the fact that whatever the ideology, pilots are a pretty consistent and universal breed: Professionals performing their duties.

  • Julian A
    2:29 on September 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The book seems to be very well researched, with first hand sources. The book has a major oversite, there are no operational maps! It makes it difficult to follow where the events are happening. The author made an effort to cross reference the sources of the air to air kills, from both US and Soviet, PLAAF, and North Korean. There are lots of good color MiG-15 plates. I highly recommend it if you are interested in the “other sides” experience.

  • Ron LeMay
    10:04 on September 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I enjoy see the gun pictures of the MIG when they are engaging American aircraft. The authors do an execllent job explaining how difficult it was for the Russians to verified the kills. However, there was nothing about in the book about the Russians getting together with the North Korean authorities to strengthen the radar stations and ground observers system, to help verified the air kills easily and quickly for the pilots. The Germans had a such system in World War I and World War II. In addition, the Germans had to maintain visual sight of their victims crashing to the ground while at the same time they had to avoid being shot down. Furthermore, the German pilots had to fill out very detailed combat reports in order to get confirmation of the victories.

    Finally, the book does not given the political, social, and military circumstances why the Russian government send its pilots to fight in Korea. The Russian pilots just did not decide to go to Korea on their own free will for the heck of it. In addition, there was no mention of how many of the Russian MIG aces were aces from World War II.

  • Naive
    19:51 on September 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Back in September 2006, when I reviewed Warren Thompson’s F-86 SABRE ACES OF THE 4TH FIGHTER WING, I commented that it would be great if Osprey had a “MiG-15 Aces of the Korean War” book in the works. Well, here ’tis…and not only is Leonid Krylov’s book interesting but it’s sure to be controversial as well.

    Russia committed many MiG-15 units to the Korean conflict. It’s only recently that details of this large-scale but top-secret involvement has been documented. SOVIET MiG-15 ACES OF THE KOREAN WAR is based on 17 years of research in Russian archives and interviews with 64th Fighter Air Corps pilots.

    First of all, Krylov does an admirable job of relating the Korean air battles from the Soviet side including many first-hand reminiscences and combat reports. By war’s end 52 Soviet MiG-15 pilots claimed five or more kills, 13 of those claimed ten or more victories. In terms of F-86s alone, those MiG pilots were credited with downing 574 Sabres while losing 335 MiGs in return…and therein lies the rub.

    According to USAF sources, F-86s downed over 790 MiG-15s while losing 78 Sabres in return. 78 losses vs. 574 claims; 790 claims vs. 335 losses; hmm!?! If you factor in Chinese MiGs downed by F-86s, you’ll probably get close to the 790 American claims but how to reconcile the 78/574 figures?!? In truth, Krylov’s book could be subtitled: “Few of These Losses Tally with USAF Figures.” To his credit, Krylov, time and again, points out the disparity between Soviet and American claims/loss figures but the overall impression is one of tremendous overclaiming by the Soviets.

    Pilots such as Oskin, Pepelyaev, Sutyagin, Shchukin and Kramarenko were obviously skilled pilots; some had been aces in WWII. They obviously triumphed over some USAF F-86 pilots – including a few top aces – but it will take monumental research to come to a final, accurate Korean air war tally.

    In the meantime, SOVIET MiG-15 ACES OF THE KOREAN WAR is a good start; an obviously well-researched and well-written overview of the topic. It includes over 70 rare photographs of pilots, aircraft and gun-camera scenes. (Given the awful footage MiG-15 gun-cameras produced, it’s no wonder there is such overclaiming!) Yuriy Tepsurkaev also contributes nine pages of nicely done color profiles. I would have loved an index and also a map since the MiG pilots kept referring to Korea Bay, Cape Unzenly, etc.

    Short and sweet summary: Highly recommended.

  • Hiland
    4:02 on September 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Well written by Leonid Krylov,this is a rare look through its excellent narration, vintage photography and drawings of the Soviet air crews participation in the Korean War on the side of its allies North Korea and Red China. This historical and very descriptive books reveals the photographs, the Mig-15 jet fighters and some other Russian aircraft, names and rank of the Soviet pilots (some of them dead in dogfights)during this conflict 1950-1953.
    I highly recommend this book to all military aviation enthusiasts as well as military historians.

  • Actually
    8:08 on September 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I have read a number of the Osprey Series titles. Most are the same: Micro details of the individuals and their kills/claims. This book is no different in that it focus is on day to day operations of the Soviet Units rotated in and out of Korea during the conflict.

    It is somewhat difficult to follow as the author style is somewhat dry, and unfortunately, biased. Probably understandable.

    I must admit I was hoping for more in this title. I own “Korean War aces” and that title had a nice section in the end regarding the Russian aces and a technical comparisons of the Mig and Sabre. The author of that title also acknowledged that the USAF had the upper hand in terms of pilot training and quality (which was admitted by a number of Soviet Aces)in addition to the fact that the USAF were woefully out numbered by the communist forces.

    That title had me wanting more info on the Soviet side and I was hoping that this book would highlight how the Soviets fought a superior enemy with greater skill and how they coped. However, the authors would have you believe that the Soviet airmen were supermen and that the Mig 15 was knocking sabres down with ease. Lame excuses are given when things did not go their way. No mention is give to the fact that the Soviets had GCI and that the Migs with their higher operational ceiling could choose the time and place of the engagment. Also that their were over 400 operational Mig 15 in China at the time vs maybe 40-50 sabres. The authors attribute most losses to “laying siege” to their main airfield complex at Antung which was a complete falsehood. I guess Vladimir Putin was going to read the manuscript…..

    The reality is quite different. The Mig 15 was not designed as an air superiority fighter, it was designed as an interceptor with heavy armament to knock down heavy bombers. This it excelled at in Korea by destroying a great number of B-29s. As an dogfighter, it was mostly inferior to the F-86.

    Soviet pilot training was also lacking; VVS units did not have much jet experience and IA-PVO units did not have any dogfighting experience at all. Soviet high ranking ace in the conflict Yevgeni Pepelyaev admitted that the Soviet pilots were not up to the U.S.A.F. standard. No where is this mentioned. The Soviet mentality of rotating whole units in and out of the combat zone to gain experience was a mistake. No time was permitted for the unit which gained combat experience to pass on this information to the new unit rotating in. This is why some IADs had such a difficult time with the F-86. Also, as stated in previous reviews, nothing is mentioned about the political situation where the Soviets went to great lengths to conceal their involvement in Korea. It would have been nice to get some personal recollections on that..

    There are good points to the work. The authors go to great lengths to cross reference claims to actual losses. Both sides were guilty of overclaiming and this was probably not intentional. Although the Soviet system under Stalin probably had something to do with possible overclaiming on the Russian side.

    The color plates are very well done and the moddeler will no doubt find this a good reference source. The descriptions of the color plates are somewhat lacking though.

    I can overall, recommend this title, but perhaps “Korean War Aces” would better serve.

  • Catherine Sweet
    10:35 on September 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    “Pour out and zero-in this vindictive ammunition to the damn Yankees!” So reads an inscription in red Korean characters just below No Kum-Sok’s gunsight in his swept-wing MiG-15bis fighter jet . That inscription may still to this day be seen by visitors to the US Air Force Museum, where his North Korean MiG (aircraft number 2057) has been on display for the past several decades. [A small photo of `Glorious Leader' Kim Il-Sung was originally displayed next to it on the instrument panel, as it was in all North Korean MiGs, but it was removed, thrown down, and stepped upon by No Kum-Sok as his first act upon arriving safely upon South Korean soil in 1953.]

    No Kum-Sok changed his name when he became an American citizen to “Kenneth Rowe”, the name by which I shall refer to him here. His story of a flight to freedom from North Korea to South Korea in a MiG jet is one of the most interesting in recent aviation history, in my opinion, and all the more so because so very little is actually known by the American public today about that formative ‘UN police action’ that helped launch the subsequent ‘Cold War’ era (a `police action’ in which more than 53,000 American soldiers died, despite the fact that it lasted only a third as long as the subsequent Vietnamese conflict, in which 55,000+ died).

    Ken, now 76 years of age, visited us at the Aerospace Museum of California very recently (located at the former McClellan AFB site in Sacramento, CA) and spoke to a gathering of invited aviation people and the general public about his amazing life. Although many were drawn to his presentation owing to technical interests in the MiG aircraft he flew, by the time his presentation had ended, the MiG had almost been entirely overshadowed by the personal story of this fascinating refugee from Communism who knew from his earliest years that he wanted to live as a free citizen in the United States of America. By the time Ken had finished speaking, it was clear to all of us that the MiG played only a relatively minor role in Ken’s story and that the desire to live in a truly free society was the primary theme of his interesting life.

    Of the many smaller highlights and anecdotes Ken shared with us about his flight to freedom were two that remain strongly with me. The first was that after it became known in North Korea that he had `defected’ [a word Ken detests, since he repeatedly emphasises that he was never a Communist North Korean...just a native born Korean who wished for freedom (hence there was nothing to defect from, in his view) from his earliest childhood], five of his closest fellow squadron pilots were arrested and executed in symbolic retribution for his act.

    The second concerns his amazing fortune in reaching South Korea’s Kimpo Air Field without first being intercepted and shot down by American Air Force Sabres. It seems that on the day Ken made his escape to Kimpo, US Air Force technicians had shut down the field’s radar for 15 minutes, so as to allow for some much needed repairs to that system. Ken acquired the field five minutes after that radar was switched off and managed to land five minutes before it was switched back on, by pure coincidence. If the radar had been active at the time, he would certainly have been intercepted well before he even reached the field; as it was, he managed to actually land safely on the US runway before anyone was even aware of his presence (an absolutely astounding coincidence, seemingly).

    It was interesting to learn in the course of Ken’s talk that the CIA played a major role in his life after he landed, and that even the $100,000.00 reward that US propaganda leaflets had offered to any successful defector bringing a MiG to the South was ultimately paid to Ken out of a covert CIA black operations `slush-fund’ (Ken makes it clear that he knew absolutely nothing of this offer prior to his escape, since any North Korean caught looking at or reading leaflets in North Korea was summarily shot on the spot). Of course, those who have any awareness of military history in the post WWII period already know how large a part the CIA played in just about all `Cold War’ operations, and this information is therefore not startling (to me personally); to the politically naive American who persists to this day in thinking of America in the simplest, purest, and most ethically ideal terms, that particular revelation may be startling.

    Ken details much in his book about post-war Soviet style Communism that led to a predominance of that form of political philosophy in Southeast Asia and it may therein be seen that, just as in the case of a Middle East region whose later difficulties may be directly attributed to agreements reach at the conclusion of the First World War, so too can Southeast Asia’s difficulties be placed squarely at the feet of Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt (Truman), subsequent to the defeat of the Axis Powers at the end of WWII.

    Years after Ken’s having been granted US citizenship (through a special act of Congress), he continued his academic studies and ultimately acquired a doctorate in aeronautical engineering, after which he eventually became a professor of aerospace studies at Embry-Riddle University in Florida (where he resides). I am pleased to say that Ken is a wonderful, kind-hearted, patient, and very wise man whom I had the greatest pleasure meeting and listening to. After the lecture he presented at our air museum, we took him over to our museum’s MiG-17PF and F-86F aircraft, where some memorable photos were taken. He was most gracious in signing numerous copies of his book, a great number of litho prints (of an original piece of art done of him by Col. Dick Stultz, former F-106 driver and chief of flight test at McClellan AFB), and even signed a Chinese flight helmet/mask set and a few MiG-15 models. To say he performed yeoman’s duty thereby is considerably understating his good-nature, but he was able to maintain his cheerful demeanor throughout the lengthy ordeal. His students at Embry-Riddle University say he is a demanding, but supremely patient and understanding teacher. And so he is.

    I highly recommend Ken’s fascinating book to anyone who professes an interest in the little-understood Korean War conflict, but most importantly I suggest it to anyone who wishes to gain some rare insights on what the genuine meaning of freedom is to those who STILL do not enjoy the many rights and privileges most Americans accept unquestioningly as their birthright. His message is both inspiring and encouraging and the book remains something every American should read to gain fresh insight on what a wonderful gift freedom actually is!

    [The original 300 page publication (by McFarland Publishers) was a limited edition library-bound version, brought out in 1996. The book was reissued in paperback form (222 pages) in the same year and is available today at most booksellers. Ken's aircraft was exhaustively flight-tested by the US Air Force, after his flight to the South, and provided the West with its first close-up operational analysis of this important first Russian swept-wing aircraft design; in that series of tests, no less luminaries than General Albert Boyd and General Chuck Yeager figured prominantly. The plane is today a very popular US Air Force Museum display memorial to the Korean War era, in Dayton, Ohio.]

  • Phantastic
    18:11 on September 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book provides one of our first detailed – WONDERFULLY detailed – looks at Russian Mig pilots in the Korean War, including marvelous first hand accounts of combat as well as excellent unit records. This is the first book on the subject that I’ve ever seen with this level of detail – it wasn’t long ago when the Russians wouldn’t even ACKNOWLEDGE they had pilots in Korea.

    When reading this book, it’s important to keep in mind that Krylov and Tepsurkaev probably had to secure the goodwill of their Russian sources in order to get such great access. Obviously, these pilots aren’t going to grant interviews to someone planning a hatchet job on their military careers. Thus, the reader shouldn’t be surprised that the narrative advocates and honors not just the pilots themselves, but also their interpretation of the war. Thus, you will not see any mention that these guys weren’t “supposed” to be there while at the same time field a lot of strident complaints about US conduct and kill claims (I still wonder why excess US claims couldn’t have been North Korean or Chinese pilots?)

    This “bias” may be irritating to some, but the first person accounts and detailed Russian records make it a price abundantly worth paying. Furthermore, the authors weave their way through this political minefield by diligently researching and cross referencing both US and Russian records for every encounter. The results are a rather embarrassing parade of inflated claims by both sides, with people becoming great heroes and aces for stuff that simply didn’t happen. Both sides were struggling to adapt to the new speed and range of jet combat, with afterburner smoke all too often being mistaken for a dying aircraft.

    If you haven’t read Osprey books of this kind, you have to keep in mind that these books are about records, photos and paint schemes first and literature second. However, for those who want something dramatic, visceral insight is actually very easy to get: just skip to ANYTHING written in quotes. There you’ll find a wealth of white knuckle accounts as flesh and blood as any: “There was no way out. I headed right into the shell bursts. The aircraft shook and was thrown from side to side as if it were taxiing on cobblestones. I gripped the control column tightly and sat there more dead than alive…”

    Obviously, the majority of encounters don’t have the benefit of a personal interview, and are thus just what can be gleaned from combat reports: “Having fought his way past eight escorting Sabres, Snr Lt Evgeniy Stelmakh single-handedly attacked four B-29s and managed to shoot one of them down…”

    If you want to actually decipher who was where when, I strongly recommend that first you download a few maps of Korea. Even so, the majority of the book is a torrent of facts, names and unit numbers, and if you’re not writing things down it’ll make your head spin: “17th and 523rd IAPs joined battle with the attacking fighter-bombers, while 14 MiGs from 18th GvIAP, which had climbed to 10,000 m (32,500 ft), were directed towards the B-29s…”

    I truly feel this book is a fabulous, ground breaking first step towards an understanding of Russian pilots in the Korean War, and with the aforementioned caveats in mind, it can serve you wonderfully no matter what your interest. Here is where its true wealth lies.

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