Crimson Sky : The Air Battle For Korea

Crimson Sky : The Air Battle For Korea (1999) by John Bruning is a book that looks at how the US Air Force fought in Korea in a war that would set the stage for Cold War conflict. Bruning wrote the book because he felt that the war in Korea had been neglected.

The war started with very few US jets in Korea and the appearance of the MIG-15 caused huge problems for the UN Force. A number of the US jets were considerably inferior to the MIG-15 and only the US F-86 Sabre was the MIG’s equal. The US had an advantage in that the training of the Korean and Chinese pilots was not nearly as good as the US pilots leading the US to have favourable kill ratios. However there were also highly trained Soviet pilots in the theatre with whom the UN Air Forces fought on an equal basis.

Bruning also details how vital close air support was for the UN Forces that faced North Korean and Chinese forces that had better tanks and superior numbers. The A-1 Skyraider was highly valuable in this role and indeed would continue to occupy this role during the Vietnam War. It is remarkable that the value of the Skyraider was not recognized and an earlier jet replacement not brought in soon after. The failure of propeller bombers once the North Korean air defences were organised and the interception forces included MIG’s is interesting to read about. Bruning writes admirably about how rapidly a bomber that had been faster than many WWII era fighters of 6 years ago was now completely out of date.

The book is written almost completely from a US perspective but that’s an understandable failing. Bruning is fairly even-handed and points out that there are still no really reliable statistics on losses during the war. For anyone interested in the Korean War and air combat in general the book is worth tracking down.

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