Winton "Bones" Marshall, an ace jet fighter in the Korean War with more than six "kills," joined in a blessing ceremony yesterday for a Pacific Aviation Museum exhibit honoring Korean War veterans.
"MiG Alley," whose name comes from the nickname American pilots gave to northwestern North Korea because enemy MiG-15 jets regularly engaged with Americans, opens to the public on Friday, the 60th anniversary of the war.
"It was pretty exciting. We were so outnumbered," said Marshall, a major and squadron commander in the Air Force at the time. He recalled about 15 U.S. planes would be swarmed by about a hundred Soviet-designed MiG fighters.
The museum exhibit depicts a renovated MiG-15 fighter jet soaring over a refurbished U.S. F-86 Sabre jet in takeoff position.
The F-86 — the most advanced fighter jet at the time — and the MiG-15, which was flown by the Chinese, Russians and North Koreans in the war, were the first fighter jets to engage in midair combat, museum officials said.
The display also has video screens, a torii gate like on Kimpo Airfield in Korea, and a replica of the headquarters at Suwon Air Base.
Museum officials hope the exhibit will help future generations understand the sacrifices made for freedom in the Korean War, which never officially ended.
Jim Goodall, associate curator, said 18 workers finished repairing the F-86 in 3 1/2 months, instead of the expected 18 months, to meet the anniversary.
"They performed magic," he said.
A "gate guard" at Hawaii Air National Guard for 50 years, the F-86 on display had been heavily corroded by ocean elements and lost about a third of its weight in decomposition. It would have crumbled in another three years, Goodall said.
With its new aluminum skin and paint job, it will survive 15 to 20 more years, he said.
Capt. Hong Beom Hur of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea said the display signified America’s sacrifice to bring freedom and democracy to South Koreans.
"What they sacrificed, blood and sweat, it’s not just in vain," he said. "It’s very meaningful to the Korean people."