Veteran Stories:
Eric George Smith

Air Force

  • Mr. Smith's Certificate of Service showing he served from July 1, 1941 - August 1, 1968.

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"And then to see the contrast of North Korea to South Korea, it gave you a very good feeling that your efforts in the Korean War were very worthwhile and successful."

Transcript

We go to the war and World War II, when you go to war, you’re with a whole group of about 50 to 100 different buddies altogether in the same profession, all pilots or air crew. And the difference on my experience going to the war in Korea was I was all alone. The way it was arranged was the Canadian armed forced arranged one pilot a month to go to Korea and fly on exchange duties with an American squadron.

I was assigned to fly with Captain Bill Lilley was his name, who ended up with seven Migs [a nickname for the early Soviet jet-fighters] and I flew his wingman for about 15 to 20 missions before you graduated to an [Element] Leader and then finally to leading the flight. And on my second mission, he shot down a Mig and on my fifth mission, he shot down a Mig, so I was really enjoying this activity, getting into the action.

I never had any kills but I had a tangle on two different occasions and I had one [enemy fighter] behind me dropping down, trying to shoot me down but he was a very poor shot I guess. And of course, their method was, they could fly at 50,000 feet and we couldn’t get above 42,000 feet. So they’d dive down, take their pass and back up to altitude where you couldn’t get them. So when I reversed on him and by the time I got on his tail, he was zooming skyward. But I’ll tell you, with that one trying experience, we were in the middle of 46 Migs but we made it with a very smart withdrawal over the, when you’ve got two against 46, it was too one-sided.

In 1998, I was in a pilgrimage to [South] Korea with the Canadian [Department of] Veterans Affairs and I asked all the army, there was only two air force guys with them, and 48 army veterans with us, and I asked the question, did you ever see an enemy aircraft. And not one of those individuals had seen an enemy aircraft in the Canadian army while they were in combat in Korea. It was proved that we were there to provide air superiority, and their answer proved that we did. And if we hadn’t been there, of course, the Migs would have been able to come down and really raise havoc with the other squadrons that were shooting up the ground targets.

After the pilgrimage in 1998, 55 years after the ceasefire, and to see the modern country that South Korea was compared to any other modern country, the achievement is just unbelievable. And then to see the contrast of North Korea to South Korea, it gave you a very good feeling that your efforts in the Korean War were very worthwhile and successful.

It would be terrible to think that, when you look back on it, if we had not, if the Chinese and the North Koreans had taken over South Korea, that would have been a terrible disaster for those people.

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