Veteran Stories:
Austin Timmins

Air Force

  • A letter from Lee Myung-bak, former President of the Republic of Korea, thanking Austin Timmins for his service in the Korean War.

    Austin Timmins
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"Sometimes you’ve been flying in cloud for a very long time and you break out, get an astro-fix and find out you were some distance from where you thought you were."


I joined the squadron in the fall of 1949, so I was there at the beginning of the [Korean] Airlift.  I was on the – flew out with the squadron.  We departed Montreal on the 25th of July 1950.  So I was in the first group going to McChord Air Force Base [in the state of Washington, USA].  When established there, we were assigned to crews.  I was assigned to – my captain was Gordon Webb.  I flew 15 trips to Japan with him.

So the airlift initially was from McChord to Anchorage, Shemya in the Aleutians [Alaska] to Tokyo, returning the same route.  In the beginning of 1951, we began operating medevac [medical evacuation] flights, so the routing changed, so when we went to Tokyo, the same way as before, we picked up our medical evacuees either at Tokyo or Tome, near Nagasaki.  We flew them to Wake Island to Honolulu and then to Travis Air Force Base at Sacramento, for the final destination for the wounded, returned to McChord.

Later, in the operation, the squadron was returned to Montreal.  And it continued to fly flights to Tokyo.  Now, they would operate as domestic flights across Canada to Vancouver.  The crew would position with the aircraft in McChord Air Force Base, and they'd do round trip to Japan.  And then return, north routes, as before, position in Vancouver and fly a domestic schedule back to Montreal.

I was on the squadrons in 1954 when the last flight was flown, number 599, I think it was.  And, shortly after that, I was posted to a training assignment in Winnipeg.

We lost one [Canadair DC-4M] North Star during the airlift, and it occurred in Shemya.  The crew arrived from Tokyo.  The winds were very, very strong and they were across this long runway, the 10,000-foot runway.  So they elected to land on an older airport that was there, a short runway.  They got it down on the ground and the wind blew the aircraft off the runway, down the embankment and broke its back.  However, the crew were not injured.

If you're flying in cloud all the time, the wind changes very rapidly and you get very strong winds – you get 60, 70, 80 knots, and sometimes low speed jet, along that North Pacific route.

So, yes, so sometimes you’ve been flying in cloud for a very long time and you break out, get an astro-fix* and find out you were some distance from where you thought you were.

*Fixing the aircraft’s position through astronavigation

Follow us