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.
Did you know this about Ted Williams ?
Ted Williams was John Glenn’s wingman on F-9Fs in Korea. The Boston Red Sox slugger who wore No. 9 as a major leaguer, would now be assigned to an F-9 Panther jet as a pilot. Ted flew a total of 39 combat missions in Korea. He was selected by his commander John Glenn (later the astronaut, senator, and “septuagenonaut”) to fly as Glenn’s wingman. While flying an air strike on a troop encampment near Kyomipo, William’s F-9 was hit by hostile ground fire. Ted commented later… “the funny thing was I didn’t feel anything… I knew I was hit when the stick started shaking like mad in my hands. Then everything went out, my radio, my landing gear, everything. The red warning lights were on all over the plane.” The F-9 Panther had a centrifugal flow engine and normally caught fire when hit. The tail would literally blow off most stricken aircraft. The standard orders were to eject from any Panther with a fire in the rear of the plane. Ted’s aircraft was indeed on fire, and was trailing smoke and flames. Glen and the other pilots on the mission were yelling over their radios for William’s to get out. However, with his radio out Williams could not hear their warnings, and he could not see the condition of the rear of his aircraft. Glenn and another Panther flown by Larry Hawkins came up alongside Williams and lead him to the nearest friendly airfield. Fighting to hold the plane together, Ted brought his Panther in at more than 200-MPH for a crash landing on the Marsden-matted strip. With no landing gear, dive brakes, or functioning flaps the flaming Panther jet skidded down the runway for more than 3000 feet. Williams got out of the aircraft only moments before it was totally engulfed in flames. Ted Williams survived his tour of duty in Korea and returned to major league baseball.
Pssst: Ted missed out flying combat missions during WW II, because his flying and gunnery skills were so good that he was kept as an instructor for much of the War. During advanced training at Pensacola, Florida Ted would accurately shoot the sleeve targets to shreds while shooting out of wing-overs, zooms, and barrel rolls. He broke the all time record for “hits” at the school. Following Pensacola, Ted was sent to Jacksonville for advanced gunnery training. This is the payoff test for potential combat pilots. Ted set all the records for reflexes, coordination, and visual reaction time. As a result of his stunning success he was made an instructor at Bronson field to put Marine aviation cadets through their final paces. By 1945 Ted got his wish and was finally transferred to a combat wing, but weeks later the War was over. He was discharged from the military in December of 1945. Seven years later, in December of 1952, Ted was recalled to active duty as a Marine Corps fighter pilot.
I dedicated a chapter in my book RETURN TO EDEN to Teddy Ballgame.