During the 1950s Travis AFB became known as the “Gateway to the Pacific.”
The Korean War, from June 25, 1950 until a cease-fire took effect on July 27, 1953 (the war has not officially ended) started as a civil war between North Korea and South Korea. When it began, North and South Korea existed as provisional governments competing for control over the Korean peninsula, due to the division of Korea. The Cold War-era conflict was a proxy war between the United States and its allies and the Communist powers of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Soviet Union. The principal combatants were North Korea, supported by People's Volunteer Army (PVA) of the People's Republic of China, and later Soviet combat advisors, aircraft pilots, and weapons; and South Korea, supported principally by the United States (U.S.), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada and the Philippines, although many other nations sent troops under the aegis of the United Nations (UN).
In South Korea, it is often called, "yugio" meaning "6•25" (the date of the start of the conflict), or, more formally, “Hanguk Jeonjaeng” simply meaning, "Korean war". In North Korea it is formally called the "Fatherland Liberation War." In the United States, the conflict was termed a police action, as the Korean Conflict, under the aegis of the United Nations rather than a war, largely in order to remove the necessity of a Congressional declaration of war. The war is sometimes referred to in the West as "The Forgotten War," primarily because it is a major conflict in the 20th century that is rarely referred to.
The outbreak of the Korean War, on 25 June 1950, strengthened the importance of Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base as one of SAC’s main West Coast facilities.
The Travis Crash exhibit is definitely a must see. It’s the story of how Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base was changed to Travis Air Force Base.
And, on the lighter side, “Operation Starlift,” will bring out the Hollywood stargazer in us all. This is the story of when the Special Service Officers and Hollywood Coordinating Committee made arrangements for screen celebrities to visit the base to entertain Korean War wounded which were pouring into base hospitals here and in Japan.
Korean War Gallery
For the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War, the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum Foundation and the Travis Heritage Center created a gallery filled with extensive photo, map and text coverage of the Korean War experience. Another portion of the exhibit, vividly portrays the “on base” experience.
“The Korean War: In Field”
Troops dropping over the Korean hills from C-119
Korea emerged from World War II a divided country, a communist North and a pro-Western South. The North and the South both hoped for unification, but on their own terms. By early 1949, North Korea seemed to be on a war footing. Its leader, Kim Il Sung, gave a bellicose New Year’s speech in which he excoriated South Korea as a puppet state. His army expanded rapidly. Soldiers drilled in war maneuvers and bond drives began to amass the necessary funds to purchase Soviet weapons. The thirty-eighth parallel dividing North and South Korea was fortified and border incidents began to occur. Neither P’yongyang nor Seoul recognized the parallel as a permanent legitimate boundary.
From air drops, to cargo loads, to casualties, for more Korean War “in-field” information visit the Travis Heritage Center’s Korean War Exhibit and or read the March 2001 Travis Heritage Center News.
“The Korean War: On Base”
David Grant Hospital
The Korean War brought big changes to Travis’ hospital staff. The new “hospital on the hill” opened about a year before the beginning of the Korean War. Indeed, it was still unfinished when the war started. Located on a hill near the runway, the hospital was unprepared for the heavy flow of casualties from the war. Between July and December 1950, the number of patients increased from 514 per month to 5,475 per month. This required a major expansion of the medical facilities. The airman’s barracks for the hospital and other structures were temporarily converted to wards until new wings were completed in 1952.
Barracks converted into Wards
For more information about the huge building boom, atomic deployments and the official base name change that took place at Travis during the Korean War, check out the Travis Heritage Center’s Korean War Exhibit and pages 5 thru 11 in the September 2001 Travis Heritage Center News.
More Korean War Stories:
If you would like to read more stories about the Korean War, check out the following articles from the Travis Heritage Center NEWS:
Korean War . . . President Truman’s “Secret” Trip to Fairfield-Suisun AFB
President Harry Truman
October 11, 1950 President Harry Truman departed Washington on the presidential aircraft “Independence” and headed west on a flight to an undisclosed destination. His first stop was St. Louis, where he visited family members and participated in his sister’s installation as Grand Matron of the Easter Star. The next day his plane was followed by another, a Constellation that had been readied for Governor Thomas E. Dewey, had he been successful in his run for president in 1948. Aboard this aircraft were such distinguished persons as General of the Army Omar N. Bradly, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; Ambassador W. Averell Harriman, Special Assistant to the President; and Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs.
Meanwhile, also on October 12, President Truman’s aircraft had departed St. Louis and six hours and forty-five minutes later, at 7:15 pm, landed at Fairfield-Suisun AFB. While his aircraft was being refueled, the President visited casualties of the Korean War at the base hospital. A day earlier Harpo Marx had entertained them. Still, despite the visit to the hospital, no specific information had been given to the press about the true nature of the President’s trip. Even the “X” destination of the correspondents’ tickets was not identified.
The rest of the article contains an intriguing cast of historical figures. From a frustrated San Francisco “Chronicle” reporter to General Omar Bradley to General Douglas MacArthur, Travis Heritage Center curator, Dr. Gary Leiser, tells a little known presidential Korean War story. It is available in the Travis Heritage Center News, issue September 2003.
Korean War . . . “Flying Cheetahs…”
At 0400 on Sunday, June 25, 1950, North Korean forces, supported by Russian T-34 tanks, poured across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. North Korean marines waded ashore on the East Coast near Kangnung while the army advanced on its two primary targets, Kaesongg, which fell at 0700, and Chuson. This was not a border skirmish. A full-scale attack on South Korea had begun.
This information account of the Korean War, written by J. E. Lello, Brig. Gen. SAAF (rtd.), continues on page 10 of the June 2000 issue of the Travis Heritage Center News.
Korean War . . . “Rescue Mission to North Korea”
Osan, K55, Air Base, April, 1953, with 18th Fighter Bomber Wing. We planned to take off just before daybreak. We boarded the aircraft at 0330 and took off. We headed for North Korea flying as low as we could.
Read more about this exciting story from former Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum Foundation’s board member Harry Alman on page 11 of the Travis Heritage Center News from December 1999.
Korean War . . . “SAC Aircrews from Fairfield-Suisun…”
It is generally well known that during the Korean War squadrons from the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) stationed at Fairfield-Suisun AFB provided airlift for UN forces. Much less known is that four combat-ready reconnaissance air crews from the 5th Recon Group at the base flew combat missions over North Korea. As a participant in these missions, I would like to provide a brief account of them in the early days of the Korean War.
Col. William H. Cox (Ret.) personal account of Travis Air Force Base during the Korean War continues on page 1 of the September 2000 Travis Heritage Center NEWS.
Today the Travis Heritage Center offers a glimpse back through the history books, and honors Travis’ roll as the Gateway to the Pacific:
Entrance to the Travis Heritage Center - Gateway to the Pacific
The following photographic collage is available for download as a PDF document.
Click on the image or click here to download.