Thursday, June 13, 2019

Kyushu Gypsies

Photo by George Portoukalian

Upon the Korean War's outbreak in 1950, the U.S. Far East Air Force scrambled to assemble air cargo assets to support the Army.  Not least among these assets were aircraft configured for evacuating wounded soldiers from the battle zone. These aircraft took off from the rough, unimproved Korean airstrips, whisking their passengers across the Sea of Japan to the southernmost Japanese island of Kyushu. It was here that the U.S. military maintained advanced medical treatment facilities.

The American-built Douglas C-47 Dakota (a.k.a. "Gooney Bird"), by virtue of its numbers available, was the workhorse of this airlift effort.  C-47s from all over Japan were assembled into a provisional squadron: The "Kyushu Gypsies." The name reflected the squadron's initial base of operations located on the southern-most of the Japanese islands.

Here, we see a curiously well-coiffed solder being hoisted aboard a Gooney Bird via stretcher. Depending on the severity of his wounds, he could look forward to treatment and rehabilitation in Japan or, if needed, he could be loaded onto a larger transport plane for additional transit to the continental U.S.   

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