Saturday, January 2, 2010

"The Rounds," Sunday, January 3, 2010 -- Update

I want to add a bit more to the lengthy Washington Square report I posted here a couple of days ago.

First, Korea War ace Harold " Hal" Fischer, who visited the Square some years ago and regaled us with stories of his experiences as a fighter pilot, died April 30, 2009 from complications arising from back surgery. He was 83.

Hal started his career intending to become a naval aviator, but due to conflicting orders and the creation of the Air Force, he managed, through what one historian has called "creative paper shuffling and clever wrangling," managed to transfer to the Air Force.

In Korea, he had 11 confirmed kils, 1 probable, and 1 possible (but unprovable). He hit double-ace status -- 10 confirmed kills -- in just 47 missions, an extraordinary accomplishment.

Hal wasn't the only truly noteworthy aces of the war; the top ace, with triple status, was USAF Captain Joseph C. McConnell, who claimed (and widely credited with) 16 kills. But 11 confirmed is a recford not to be sneezed at.

Much more notably, Hal got into a sticky situation when he pursued some MIG's north of the Yalu River, which separates North Korea and China -- a huge no-no at the time. That's when, according to him, he got his probable and unconfirmed kills. But the third MIG managed to jump him and mortally damage his aircraft, forcing Hal to bail out.

He was, of course, taken POW, though he said he was relieved to be a prisoner of the Chinese rather than the North Koreans, as the Chinese treated POW's as well as they did their own troops -- not that the impoverished, newly-founded country could offer much even to the latter -- and his guards would turn a blind eye when local Chinese came up to the fence to offer a few kernels of rice, a strip of cloth to use as a bandage, etc. He was especially moved by the humanity of the ordinary -- and themselves  desperately poor -- Chinese. The North Koreans, in contrast, were unbelievably cruel.

What gives Hal special notoriety as a POW is that when the truce was signed, the Chinese held Hal and, as I recall, about three dozen other POW's as political prisoners for a year or so. Hal was eventually tried in Beijing, where he falsely confessed to having waged germ warfare, a confession he regretted the rest of his days. But he was eventually -- obviously -- freed.

Among numerous other awards, Hall received the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross, America's highest military honors save the Congressional Medal of Honor itself; the latter two are just one step shy of the Medal of Honor.

We'll miss you, Hall. Rest in peace. . . .

Moving on . . .

Briefly, I want to report that Ted Secor has been in town; he divides his time between Bangkok and Hua Hin. He'll be heading back to Hua Hin in a few days. He's doing well, and is the same as when I first met him 15 years ago. Well, okay, older, too!

George Miller has been around a fair bit over the holidays, and he, too is doing well.

"English" Paul continues his serene drift along life's stream, as personable and involved as ever.

Now! -- I'm at the Silver Dollar, and Burma Richard just walked in, so I'm off!

Again -- Happy 2010 to one and all --

Mekhong Kurt.

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