Korea veterans visit AFB Makhado


A two day visit to AFB Makhado, the SA Air Force’s (SAAF) fighter town, by South African Korean war veterans brought back the past, both in terms of camaraderie and memories.

Organised by the Soutpansberg branch of the SA Air Force Association (SAAFA) the visit saw “us treated like royalty” former SAAF Chief Denis Earp, one of those on the trip, told defenceWeb.

The visit to the Limpopo air force base was, for a number of those on it, the first time they had been back to “their” squadron (2 Squadron) since demobbing after the Korean War in 1953.

The brainchild of SAAF Soutpansberg, in the form of Francois van Zyl and the SA Korean War Veterans Association (Dirk Louw), the visit saw Korean War veterans and their families from all over South Africa gather at AFB Zwartkop ahead of a luxury bus ride to AFB Makhado.

On arrival at the home of the SAAF’s sharp point the veterans were briefed at 85 Combat Flying School by Officer commanding, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Ogden, and then had the opportunity to see the Hawk Mk120 lead-in fighter trainers in action.

Before moving on to the Flying Cheetahs – 2 Squadron, today flying Gripens – the six Korean War pilots were “ordered” to preserve their footprints for posterity in freshly poured concrete moulds.
“I’m not 100% sure why we did it at 85 CFS,” Earp said adding “we were told to do it and we did like good airmen. I would imagine at some stage they will be moved to a suitable site at 2 Squadron.”

Following a briefing by Officer Commanding, Lieutenant Colonel Musa Mbhokota, the group were given a guided tour of the squadron’s Gripen simulator and museum. The revetments provided just the right view sites for a display of the power and agility of the Swedish fighters to end to visual side of the AFB Makhado visit.

The visit ended with a formal quest evening which saw medals awarded, gifts presented and a big thank you given to sponsors Samsung.

The efforts of South African pilots and ground crew during the Korean War earned 2 Squadron the Presidential Unit Citation by the then President of the Republic of Korea.

The squadron was also honoured by the Americans, under whose 18th Fighter/Bomber wing it served during the Korean conflict.

A policy directive issued by the wing’s Officer Commanding and still in force today states: “”In memory of our gallant South African comrades, it is hereby established, as a new policy, that all Retreat Ceremonies held by this Wing, the playing of our National Anthem shall be preceded by playing the introductory bard of the South African Anthem, “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika. All personnel of this Wing will render the same honours to this anthem as our own.”