Operation Red Fox
23 Jan 1968 - 05 Feb 1969
On 23 January 1968 North Korean patrol boats seized the USS Pueblo, a US Navy intelligence-gathering vessel, in the international waters of the East Sea off Wonsan. One USS Pueblo crewmember was killed in the boarding and 82 were taken POW and held captive. The seizure, which took place a mere two days after a commando intrusion into Seoul, shocked the whole world, and there arose strong public demand in the United States for firm retaliatory action against North Korea. North Korea made the utmost use of the Pueblo incident in its crafty propaganda, believing that the United States, deeply involved in the Vietnam War then, would not be able to use the force of arms on the Korean Peninsula.
Between 26-31 January 1968 several 9th Air Force active units deployed to the Pacific in response to North Korea's seizure of USS Pueblo: the 4TFW sent 72 F-4Ds, the 354TFW sent 18 F-100s, and the 363TRW sent six RB-66s. In addition, several 9AF-gained ARC units were recalled to active duty: the 113TFW and 107th, 113th, 121st and 177TFGs. The 334th and 335th Fighter Squadrons, equiped with F-4 Phantom II fighters, rushed to Korea to support operations during the Pueblo incident. The squadrons returned to Seymour Johnson in June 1968. F-106 fighters were briefly deployed to Osan AFB in Korea in March of 1968 to provide air defense during the Pueblo incident.
The 347th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated at Yokota Air Base, Japan on 15 January 1968 . The mission was to provide air defense for the islands of Japan. Units assigned were the 34th, the 35th, and the 36th Tactical Fighter Squadrons (TFS); and the 556th and the 6091st Reconnaissance Squadrons. Aircraft assigned were the F-105 Thunderchief, the F-4C Phantom II, the EB-57 Canberra, and the C-130 Hercules. Between 23 Ocobert 1968 and 05 February 1969 all of the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing's F-4Cs were deployed to bases in South Korea to participate in the US response to North Korea's abduction of the USS Pueblo.
Six Air Force Reserve units were mobilized in the wake of the Pueblo Incident. The 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard was ordered into active Federal service as a result of the Pueblo incident, along with three other F-100 tactical fighter squadrons: 136th Tactical Fighter Squadron, New York, 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Iowa, 188th Tactical Fighter Squadron, New Mexico. The 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron entered combat in Vietnam on 5 May 1968, two days after its arrival, and completed its 1,000th mission 51 days later. During the Air National Guard's eleven months of service in Vietnam, the four F-100 squadrons flew 24,124 combat sorties and accumulated 38,614 combat flying hours.
The 445th Military Airlift Wing was activated after the Pueblo was seized, on January 26, 1968. The activation of the 445th found many support personnel stationed at eight different stateside bases and aircrews flying more missions to Europe, the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia. The Wing remained activated in support of the Pueblo incident for seventeen months until released from active military service on June 2, 1969. For superior performance and dedication during the Pueblo incident, the 445th Military Airlift Wing received its first Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
Eleven months after the seizure North Korea repatriated 82 Pueblo crewmen and one set of remains to the United States through P'anmunjom. Upon signature of the US admitting to espionage in the coastal waters of the Sea of Japan, the 82 POWs were freed. Upon their return on 28 December, 1968, the crew was treated poorly by the public and the military and only in 1990 did they receive the POW ribbons to which they were entitled. The ship remains in Wonson Harbor, North Korea.
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