Ted Williams and John Glenn were Wingmen in Korea – Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
Ted Williams and John Glenn were “wingmen” and flew F-9 Panther jets on combat missions together in the Korean War.
It’s true that Ted Williams and John Glenn flew combat missions together in the Korean War.
Years before he was inducted into the baseball hall of fame, Williams was called to active duty as a pilot in the Korean War. He was dispatched to Korea in 1953 and carried out nearly 40 missions there, MLB.com reports:
“He arrived in Korea in February 1953 as a member of the first Marine Air Wing. It was then he began his friendship with Glenn.
‘By luck of the draw, we went to Korea at the same time,’ Glenn said. ‘We were in the same squadron there. What they did at that time, they teamed up a reservist with a regular to fly together most of the time just because the regular Marine pilots normally had more instrument flying experience and things like that. So Ted and I were scheduled together. Ted flew as my wingman on about half the missions he flew in Korea.’
This wasn’t a goodwill tour. Williams got hit on several occasions, managing to escape death each time.
‘Once, he was on fire and had to belly land the plane back in,’ Glenn said. ‘He slid it in on the belly. It came up the runway about 1,500 feet before he was able to jump out and run off the wingtip. Another time he was hit in the wingtip tank when I was flying with him. So he was a very active combat pilot, and he was an excellent pilot and I give him a lot of credit.’”
The eRumor’s claim about Williams’ role in World War II also appears to be true. He was drafted into service after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but he initially received a deferment because his mother depended on him, MLB.com reports:
“This was not portrayed well in the press or taken well by the fans. He was painted as ‘un-American.’ Fans heckled him mercilessly. He made it through the 1942 season, voluntarily enlisting in the Navy reserve and being called to active duty in November of that year.”
Williams would spend the next three years “studying and learning how to fly.” He excelled as a pilot and set “still-standing” gunnery records in reflexes, coordination and visual reaction time, but he was never deployed into combat.