“To enable us to turn downward the rising curve of N.K. aggressiveness in the face of continuing evidence of Kim Il Sung’s fanatic and sometimes seemingly paranoic megalomania …. ” –Gen. Charles H. Bonesteel, III, COMUSKOREA


As soon as the rescue effort was established, actions were taken which would place U.S. forces in the optimum posture for the most probable North Korean reaction. The freeze on the movement of tactical aircraft to Korea remained in effect during the period of the rescue effort. However, numerous plans for punitive action were being readied

which would allow options over a wide spectrum of conflict. In addition to the high levels of response provided in CINCPAC OPlans FRESH STORM, FREEDOM DROP, and 27 YEAR, (2) CINCPAC forwarded the following options to JCS: (3)

  • Seizure of the fish factory built for N.K. by the Netherlands.
  • Position a TALOS ship 50 miles off Wonsan to destroy identified N.K. aircraft.
  • Impound or harass fishing boats and N.K. coastal shipping vessels that venture beyond the 12-mile limit.
  • B-52s attack of two N.K. airfields.
  • CVA based A-6 attack on Wonsan and Sondong Ni Airfields.
  • The use of subs against N.K. shipping.
  • The use of the USS New Jersey to fire on selected N.K. targets.
  • Support ROK raids into the DMZ and north of the DMZ.
  • Destroy targets north of the DMZ with artillery.
  • Conduct amphibious raids into N.K.
  • Conduct special operations against N.K.
  • Seizure of N.K. shipping.

At first, there was a very strong desire to “clobber them,” and with considerable justification, Adm John S. McCain, Jr., CINCPAC, on 16 April 1969 stated in a message to JCS regarding employment of CVAs: (4)

“In response to Pueblo seizure, essentially similar Navy forces were deployed to the Sea of Japan for a lengthy period. Coordinated strike plans were developed, with several options to utilize both USAF land based air from S. K. and CVA assets in destruction of important N.K. targets. None of these plans was executed and in fact tactical air was restricted from flying close to N.K. ·

“The CVAs are again steaming north to join forces with the tactical air in S.K. No guidance has been provided as to the possible mission of the CVA groups. During the elapsed transit time a mission should be assigned that will provide for positive action upon arrival of the CVA Task Groups into the Sea of Japan. This could eject an element of surprise, particularly in view of the fact that past performance might lull N.K. into false sense of security. If we operate again in the Sea of Japan only as a show of force, and without positive action, I believe that we continue to provide justification to their judgment of us as ‘Paper tigers’. The end result might well be the opposite of our intended purpose and encourage rather than discourage further belligerence.”

As a more searching review of the possibilities was made, however, the risk of escalation and its effect on the ROK brought out a considerably more conservative point of view, and a 11 Second look 11 was made by General Bonesteel, COMUSKOREA/CINCUNC, on 17 April: (5)

“Much as all of us here would like to take a crack at N.K. there are certain general considerations bearing on contingency plans that a deeper responsibility to U.S. position world-wide and more particularly to our avowed mission ‘to defend the

Republic of Korea against Communist aggression’ requires us to set forth. Most important is question as to whether N.K. would respond to a U.S. – retaliatory strike by taking retributive offensive action against the ROK. On above question it is most difficult to assess risk of N.K. retributive attack. All N.K. psywar over the last two years has been designed to create surety that ‘any U.S. attack on the north would bring instantly a hundred fold retribution to annihilate U.S. forces in Korea and ROK puppets’. How much is propaganda and how much is paranoic zealotry cannot be said but there is some risk that N.K. would in actuality react militarily against ROK.

“Another potential impact is on the well-being of ROK economy.  ROK economic growth s dependent on a sense of security in the country, on foreign investment and on internal investment.  One of the N. K. clearly stated objectives is to wreck this economic growth.  Thus, effect of U.S. retaliation, short and long term, pro and con on security aspects and economic growth needs careful evaluation.”

Provided nuclear weapons were not employed, a massive logistic effort over an extended period would be required to bring the ROKA and USAK up to a level of strength that would assure a successful defense. (6)

For example, a then-recent Hawk missile evaluation by USARPAC teams indicated approximately 80 percent of these missiles in Korea might have been unreliable for combat use. CINCUNC had requested that 500 Hawks be shipped as soon as possible. (7)

On 21 April 1969, CINCPAC also, had reservations. (8) If a preemptive attack was to be made by the U.S. or ROK:

“Maximum advantage should be taken of warning time to achieve the most creditable deterrent posture, and to have an optional capability to react to renewal of aggression. The initial action taken will have a vital influence in the course of events, the conduct of possible hostilities, and the outcome of the conflict. Once the N.K. attack is initiated, the risk involved in underestimating the degree of attack, based on an estimate of whether the attack is limited or full scale, is militarily unacceptable. Failure to respond to the limit of our capabilities would allow N.K. to retain the initiative. Therefore, the response to renewal of overt N.K. aggression into S.K. should be implementation of OPlan 27. “

Additionally, CINCPAC was concerned about any change in the U.S. force status in Japan and Korea that would preclude future cooperation of these governments: (9)

”Consideration should be given to the need for ‘prior consultation with the Government of Japan relative to increasing U.S. deployment to Japan significantly, and to use of bases in support of operations in Korea as stipulated in exchange of notes with respect to Article. V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the U.S. and Japan. The impact of actions postulated in current planning upon future use and retention of these bases should be carefully considered.”

General Bonesteel’s position as Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command (CINCUNC), required constant consideration of ROKG policies: (10)

“We must weigh the pros and cons of purely U.S. unilateral action, imposed, so to speak, on the ROKs, as against actions undertaken under the United Nations command umbrella.

“It is not too well realized outside of Korea that OPCON of ROK forces is given directly by ROKG to the CINCUNC and not repeat not to the U.S. This is most meaningful to the ROKs and enables them to accept the unique compromise to their sovereignty which OPCON to a foreigner implies. To me this means that we must deal and plan closely and frankly with the ROKs-the security of whose country is at stake and thus by example pressure other U.S. allies in eastern Asia. This may or may not be palatable

to U.S. public opinion. I should think it would be.”

The above quotations, taken out of context, may appear to imply a change in PACOM policy from one of all-out retaliation to a show of force. However, CINCPAC had maintained the position through all the provocations that if the U.S. retaliated, it should strike them very hard and accept ‘ the consequences. CINCPAC had always been against piecemeal commitment of his forces. CINCPAC recognized the necessity of bringing the ROKs into the planning phase, but higher headquarters believed it was inappropriate at the time. (11)

Protection for PARPRO

Immediately after the BEGGAR SHADOW was shot down, JCS directed that the PARPRO mission be suspended in the area of the shootdown until suitable able measures could be taken for their protection. (12) The plan to be prepared called for escort of the ‘missions when they were within the N.K. air defense environment. (13) The monthly sortie requirement for providing four fighters to escort mission aircraft over water and two over land below the DMZ, as stipulated in the JCS request, would result in considerable expenditure of USAF resources:

Based upon current program planning factors, the escort sorties indicated here would equate to approximately 5,140 flying hours/month, or 128 airframes, or the equivalent of more than five squadrons of F-4s assigned solely to· the mission of escorting recon platforms. Correspondingly, tanker sorties indicated would be equivalent to approximately 2,430 flying hours per month or 26 KC-135s. Dedication of this level of assets to the escort mission was beyond the capability of then-:-assigned PACOM forces.

In addition to the sortie requirements enumerated here, the requirement also existed for GCI radar augmentation in the Sea of Japan to extend the necessary friendly warning and control capability throughout the N.K.’s fighter operating range. COLLEGE EYE EC-l2ls.could perform this mission but were a limited resource within PACOM. (15)

An alternate plan, which was more within the capability of PACOM resources, was directed: (16)

  • Station a DLG, DOG, or other GCI capable destroyer in the SOJ to optimize aircraft control and warning for PARPRO tracks and fighters operating in that area.
  • Augment present F-4 fighter force in South Korea with additional fighter resources.
  • Provide protection for reconnaissance aircraft by fighter CAP rather than escort. Instead of requiring four aircraft fighter flights, employ two aircraft elements of fighters for CAP in optimum position relative to recon aircraft so as to thwart any
  • N.K. fighter attempt at intercept. CAP would operate similar to SEA BARCAP.
  • To extent feasible, adjust PARPRO schedule so as to take maximum advantage of protection afforded by single CAP flight, flying as many recon tracks simultaneously as collection requirements will permit.
  • Whenever possible, reroute PARPRO missions south of DMZ to minimize exposure and utilize fighters on ground alert to cover flights over the land mass of South Korea.

Flying the same PARPRO as scheduled under these guidelines, should have resulted in the following required sorties:

The sortie levels indicated here equate to 805 flying hours per month, or 21 airframes or one F-4 squadron. Tanker sorties are the equivalent of 430 flying hours per month or four KC-135s.

This would have provided a substantial measure of protection for reconnaissance flights in the Korea area. It must be emphasized, however, that neither fighter CAP protection nor fighter escort could have assured the safety of the reconnaissance platform. It would have been particularly difficult to protect, to a satisfactory degree of assurance, the lower flying and slower flying platform aircraft. If the enemy had made careful plans through observation of tracks and related operations and had made a concerted effort to destroy a reconnaissance platform, chances were good that he might have succeeded even though he might have lost some of his force in the effort.

Accordingly, the protection provided must be considered a deterrent rather than a positive shield. Most significant to the protection forces’ ability to do the job would be the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and operational guidance they follow.

Operational guidance was provided which permitted aggressive defense of the ARPRO utilizing BARCAP tactics. This provided that any aircraft track originating in North Korea which approaches a PARPRO flight within 24 miles on an intercept heading may be declared hostile without visual identification. (17)

Tactical Air Deployment

All Korea-based tactical forces were put at maximum readiness at 0839Z on 15 April.  However, in anticipation of this, force generation had already begun as indicated by the status of forces shown in Figure 1.

Except for normal rotation between the Main Support Base and the Forward Operating Base for scheduled maintenance, this force was directed by JCS to remain the same (18) until approval was obtained from them to increase it to 151 aircraft. (19) The tactical forces in Japan and Okinawa were cleared to fly 15 percent of their aircraft on 16 April and 30 percent of them on 17 April, to accomplish normal flying training. In Korea, only flights in support of the search were approved. (20)

Plans for a punitive strike against North Korea were being readied while the search effort progressed. Particular interest was being directed in support of a CVA attack option. (21) On 17 April, CINCPACAF sent the following recommendations to CINCPAC to obtain the optimum posture utilizing available forces: (22)

“In the event that 12 to 24 A-6s are directed to attack either Wonsan or Sondong Ni current SIOP alert aircraft in South Korea (14 F-4s) which are targeted against North Korean airfield targets with dial-a-yield MK-61 weapons should not be changed. These forces augmented by six additional sorties would provide a rapid launch capability with a back-up sortie on each of the 10 airfield targets under Option II of the Freedom Drop Plan. Remaining South Korean based forces will be conventionally configured.  The F-4s (other than 20 with the MK-61), F-102s, and F-106s will be configured with air-to-air ordnance/missiles to counter any attempt by the North Koreans to launch an air attack against South Korean based forces. The F-100Cs will be configured with air-to-ground (A/G) ordnance for rapid response to any contingency requiring A/G ordnance. The effect of an attack by North Korea on friendly forces would be minimized by this posture and configuration  and permits us to e:ceoute Freedom Drop should it be directed to do so. The ROKAF should be advised of planning actions at an appropriate time and included in the defensive role.

“It would be necessary to deploy 25 fighter aircraft from Japan and Okinawa to attain 151 fighter aircraft in Korea. This would consist of 19 F-4s, 3 F-105s and 3 F-102s. In addition to these movements to Korea, the ANG RF-101 squadron presently scheduled to redeploy from Itazuke to the CONUS on 20 April 1969 should remain in place and the RF-4C at Kadena would supplement this capability as required.

“a. Six EC-121 COLLEGE EYE aircraft operating from Itazuke are required to provide 24-hour early warning and control of interceptors at advanced CAP points from Yellow Sea orbit. Request four from CONUS resources. Remaining two can be provided from PACAF resources for ten-day period without seriously degrading SEA coverage. Appropriate Security Service support for Rivet Gym is highly desirable.

“b. Two EB-66C aircraft and six EB-66E aircraft would deploy from Takhli to Itazuke.

“a. All remaining PACAF fighter and air defense Forces in Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines would assume suitable readiness posture and prepare for deployment to South Korea should additional deployments be required. Since the CHICOM and USSR response to an attack against a North Korea airfield cannot be determined advance, PACAF forces should maintain capability for immediate SIOP generation to maximum readiness posture.”

On 20 April, 5AF was directed by PACAF to “quietly increase force level in Korea to 151 aircraft utilizing current 5AF resources” and to have them in place by 1800L on 1 May. (23)

To increase the number of fighter aircraft in Korea, the 16th Tactical’ Fighter Squadron was diverted to Kunsan, Korea, while en route from the CONUS to SEA. Their F-4E, equipped with the much needed air to air w internal gun, substantially improved the fighter posture. It was in place at Kunsan on 23 April 1969.

The force disposition was then changed in the following manner:

The Single Integrated Operations Plan (SlOP) commitment in Korea was augmented by six F-4C aircraft and 5AF requested the option to strike from flush in the event of a N.K. retaliatory strike resulting from U.S. proposed punitive raids. Their rationale was they had only 37 minutes of hold time after flush prior to bingo fuel. (25) Permission for this was not granted.

In response to a JCS request, (26) PACAF prepared a plan based on the employment of 24 F-4s launching from either Korea or Kadena, Okinawa, striking Wonsan or Sondong Ni A/F with conventional ordnance. Configuration for 8 aircraft was to be CBUs for the parked North Korean aircraft and 16 aircraft were to use M-ll7s or MK-82s on the hard facilities. In good weather conditions, a low level approach over land was advisable; for poor weather conditions, a low level approach over the Sea of Japan was recommended. A last light attack was preferred because North Korea’s limited night attack capability would minimize the likelihood of an immediate retaliation strike. The TOTs were to be compressed, and pop-up target tactics were to be employed with a low level withdrawal over the water. COLLEGE EYE and COMMANDO ROYAL, if available, would also be employed during the attack, and in the following period of high tension, to monitor the N.K. reactions. The attack on Wonsan was preferred, due to the shorter exposure time and better possibility of a successful SAR effort. (27)

Strikes could be made from Okinawa, but this was not recommended by Fifth Air Force for the following reasons: (28)

“In order to be responsive to a fast reaction strike from Kadena with 12-14 aircraft, there would have to be a drawdown of Korean or Japanese-based forces.

“Forces could be deployed to Okinawa in times of heightened. tension but this would not be responsive to ‘fast reaction’ and may negate any surprise.

“Fighter aircraft carrying a full bomb load Launching from Okinawa with tanker support would give approximately 1-1/2 hours warning of an impending strike (Russian ELINT ships in area – observers at end of runway).”

The SAC Punitive Plan

The JCS requested that SAC submit a plan for striking Wonsan and Sondak Airfields with conventional ordnance. SAC’s proposal was to use the B-52s and KC-135 tankers based at Guam. The ratio was to be one bomber to one tanker en route to the target. They required a 30-hour notification prior to time over target (TOT) for a 20-aircraft strike and a 24-hour notification for a 14-aircraft strike to allow for preparation and flight time. With a 20-aircraft raid, they could still support ARC LIGHT with two missions of two aircraft each and with three missions of two aircraft each if a 14-aircraft raid were executed. (29)

A planned descent would be made prior to the N.K. early warning radar line to 1,000’ -1,200’ over land, and to 600’- 800’ over water. A “short look” maneuver to 1,500’-1,700’ would be made just prior to target. After bomb release, descent would again be made. They preferred a TOT between midnight and 0300 hours (local) and requested no additional CAP and no

ECM or IRON HAND to prevent compromising the element of surprise. Employing such tactics would involve considerable risk if the element of surprise were lost. (30)

The Russian picket ship stationed off Guam would monitor the departure of the strike, but by standing down and launching in a manner similar to the mass ARC LIGHT strikes in SVN, the Russians would probably assume the bombers were en route to SVN. (31) Later, SAC requested a plan be developed to jam the five Russian picket ships, which were with TF 71 in. the Sea of Japan off Korea, (32) but the resulting plan was not accepted by SAC, because it was believed the activity of the jammers would trigger the warning. (33)

Additionally, there was concern over the warning which N.K. could obtain from monitoring the Japanese early warning radar nets. As indicated in a message from 5AF on 25 April 1969, considerable thought was given to this unresolved problem: (34)

“General McGehee feels there is no way to assure JASDF track suppression. In his judgment_, if such an effort was made_, it would require direct communications between President Nixon and Premier. Sato. Unfortunately_, General McGehee also feels that should such a procedure be followed and Sato took action to insure suppression, he could not service politically.”

Air Defense

A fully alerted Air Defense system in South Korea was expected to exact a heavy toll on a North Korean attacking force. (35) Therefore, concurrently, with the strike TOT, an optimum posture would be attained. Factors to be considered in attaining optimum posture were to be based on:

  • N.K. capability for retaliatory attack during night and weather conditions (the IL-28 force).
  • N.K. capability for retaliatory attack during daylight visual conditions.
  • Length of time alert posture was to be maintained.

Based on these factors, for night/poor weather conditions, an alert force on a five-minute reaction schedule of sufficient strength to counter an attack of up to 60 IL-28s was planned. At the approach of first light, up to 25 percent (number would depend on intelligence indicators) of the air defense force would be on Combat Air Patrol under close GCI control. Of the remaining Air Defense force, one-third would be on battle stations, one-third on 5 minute alert and one-third on 15 minute alert. (36)


1. Msg, CINCUNC/COMUSK, subj: U.S. Reaction to 11 BEGGAR SHADOW”

Aircraft Shot Down by KORCOMS, 160800Z Apr 69.

2. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: Punitive Action Options, 210240Z Apr 69.

3. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: Punitive Action Options, 020142Z May 69.

4. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: Mission of TF-71, 160840Z Apr 69.

5. Msg, CINCUNC/COMUSKOREA, subj: Effect of Punitive Actions, 171556Z Apr 69.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: Punitive Action Options, 210240Z Apr 69.

9. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: Effect of Punitive Action, 180756Z Apr 69.

10. Msg, CINCUNC/COMUSKOREA, subj: Effect of Punitive Action, 171556Z Apr 69.

11. Ltr, PACAF, DOPLNN, subj: Report Coordination, 2 Aug 69.

12. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: PARPRO Missions, 151925Z Apr 69.

13. Msg, JCS, subj: PARPRO Escort, 181808Z Apr 69.

14. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: PARPRO Escort, 2201213Z Apr 69.

15. Msg, 7th Fleet, 250226Z Apr 69.

16. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: PARPRO Escort, 230231Z Apr C9.

17. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: ROE for PARPRO and 5AF OPlan 103-69, 8 May 69, 020158Z May 68.

18. Msg, JCS, 151925Z Apr 69.

19. Msg, JCS, subj: 5AF Force Posture, 191314Z Apr 69.

20. Msg, 5AF, subj: Flying Activity, 161455Z Apr 69.

21. Msg, CINCPACFLT, subj: Mission Planning for TF 71, 161957Z Apr 69.

22. Msg, CINCPACAF, subj: 5AF ADVON Employment, 171948Z Apr 69.

23. Msg, CINCPACAF, subj: 5AF Posture, 300410Z Apr 69.

24. Msg, JCS, subj: Movement of 16th TFS, 201803Z Apr 69.

25. Msg, 5AF, subj: Flush Options, 221250Z Apr 69.

26. Msg, JCS, subj: Request for Plans, 170311Z Apr 69.

27. Msg, CINCPACAF, subj: Strike Plan, 100049Z May 69.

28. Msg, 5ADVON, subj: Punitive Planning, 30080.1Z Apr 69.

29. Msg, CINCSAC, subj: Strike Planning, 190240Z Apr 69.

30. Msg, CINCSAC, subj: Strike Planning, 172320Z Apr 69.

31. Msg, CINCSAC, subj: Plan for Jamming, 191645Z Apr 69.

32. Msg, CINCSAC, subj: Plan for Jamming, 242220Z Apr 69.

33. Msg, CINCSAC, subj: Plan for Jamming, l91645Z Apr 69.

34. Msg, CINCPACAF, subj: Muting Radar Nets;

      Msg, 5AF, subj: Muting Radar Nets, 250800Z Apr 69.

35. Ltr, PACAF, DOPLNN, subj: Report Coordination, 2 Aug 69.

36. Ibid.