3rd ARS Prepares Casualty for Evacuation
Preparing a casualty for evacuation to a hospital in a 3rd ARS H-5. During the Korean War, men of this unit (later designated a group) earned more than 1,000 personal citations and commendations. (U.S. Air Force photo)


Maintenance personnel with an H-5A on Cho-Do Island, located just off the North Korean coast, 50 miles north of the 38th Parallel, in 1952. Rescue aircraft and a ground control intercept radar facility occupied the island despite the nearness to the enemy mainland. (U.S. Air Force photo)

During the Korean War, the increased use of helicopters on rescue missions became a dominant factor in saving lives. By the war’s end, ARS crews were credited with the rescue of 9,898 United Nation’s personnel; 996 were combat saves.


Air War Korea, 1950-53


To commemorate the Korean War, the US Air Force Historian commissioned Air Force Historical Research Agency to compile a chronology of significant events in USAF's operations. The result was "The US Air Force's First War: Korea 1950-1953," edited by A. Timothy Warnock.


A condensed version may be viewed at



The following helicopter related items have been extracted from the condensed version.



June 25: North Korea invaded South Korea.


Sept. 4: In the first H-5 helicopter rescue of a downed US pilot from behind enemy lines in Korea, at Hanggan-dong, Lt. Paul W. Van Boven saved Capt. Robert E. Wayne.


Oct. 10: A 3rd ARS H-5 crew administered, for the first time while a helicopter was in flight, blood plasma to a rescued pilot. The crew members received Silver Stars for this action.


Oct. 21: UN forces from Pyongyang linked up with the 187th paratroopers in the Sukchon and Sunchon areas. H-5s of 3rd ARS evacuated some 35 paratroopers in the first use of a helicopter in support of an airborne operation. H-5s also evacuated seven American POWs from the area.


Dec. 23: Three H-5 helicopter crews with fighter cover rescued 11 US and 24 South Korean soldiers from a field eight miles behind enemy lines.




Feb. 13-16: H-5 helicopters delivered medical supplies to the troops and evacuated more than 40 wounded.


March 24: For the first time, Far East Air Forces (FEAF) used an H-19, a service test helicopter, in Korea for the air evacuation of wounded troops. The H-19 was considerably larger and more powerful, with greater range, than the H-5s.


March 31: The 3rd ARS used the H-19 to retrieve some 18 UN personnel from behind enemy lines, the first use of this type helicopter in a special operations mission.


April 17: An intelligence operation behind enemy lines resulted in the recovery of vital components of a crashed MiG-15. In Operation MiG, a YH-19 helicopter transported a US and South Korean team to the crash area south of Sinanju. Under friendly fighter cover, the party extracted MiG components and samples and obtained photographs. On the return flight southward the helicopter came under enemy ground fire and received one hit. The successful mission led to greater technical knowledge of the MiG.


April 18: H-5 helicopters from the 3rd ARS evacuated 20 critically wounded US soldiers from front-line aid stations to the nearest field hospital. Five of the 10 sorties encountered enemy fire.


April 24: On separate pickups, an H-5 helicopter from the 3rd ARS rescued first the pilot then the navigator of a downed B-26 near Chorwon, about 15 miles north of the 38th parallel, in the central sector. The navigator, suffering a broken leg, had been captured by two enemy soldiers. But he managed to seize a gun belonging to one of the enemy, causing them to run for cover. Friendly fighters kept them pinned down, while the helicopter made the pickup.


April 30: , two H-5 helicopters each picked up a downed UN pilot behind enemy lines. Small-arms fire damaged one helicopter.


May 5: An H-5 helicopter from the 3rd ARS rescued a downed F-51 pilot north of Seoul, encountering small-arms fire in the area.


May 8: Another H-5 helicopter picked up two US soldiers north of Seoul, encountering small-arms fire in the area.


May 19: An H-5 helicopter rescued a downed F-51 pilot southwest of Chorwon in the central sector, sustaining damage from small-arms fire during the pickup


Sept. 10: South of Pyongyang a 3rd ARS H-5 helicopter, with fighter escort, rescued F-80 pilot Capt. Ward M. Millar, 7th FBS. He had suffered two broken ankles during his ejection from the jet but escaped after two months as a prisoner and then evaded recapture for three weeks. The helicopter also brought out an NKA sergeant who had assisted Millar, delivering both to Seoul.


Oct. 25: In an unusually effective close air support strike, F-51 Mustangs inflicted approximately 200 casualties on enemy troops in the I Corps sector. Enemy small-arms fire hit a rescue helicopter picking up a downed UN pilot. The H-5 made a forced landing in enemy territory. The next day, two other H-5s hoisted all four men to safety from the mountainside where they had hidden from Communist troops during the night.





Jan. 25: A helicopter rescued a downed airman, near the coastline of the Yellow Sea, while F-84s strafed enemy troops in the area. Escorting F-86s destroyed three MiG-15s during the pickup.


Jan. 26: A rescue helicopter, behind enemy lines near the coastline of the Yellow Sea, received small-arms fire while rescuing an F-84 pilot, Capt. A.T. Thawley.


March 27: A helicopter crew, learning that Chinese troops had captured a downed US pilot near Pyoksong, made several low passes, enabling him to escape. While one helicopter crew member fired at the Chinese soldiers with a rifle, others lowered a hoist and rescued the pilot.


April 28: An H-19 helicopter of the 3rd ARS picked up a downed Royal Netherlands air force Sea Fury pilot. It was the second time in three weeks that the same pilot had been picked up by a 3rd ARS helicopter.


May 23: an H-19 helicopter from 3rd ARS flew most of a sortie on instruments and picked up a downed Marine Corps AD-2 pilot-one of the first instances of a primarily instruments helicopter rescue.


June 4: An H-19 helicopter of 3rd ARS picked up a downed British pilot, encountering automatic weapons fire during the rescue.


June 9: A 3rd ARS H-19 helicopter picked up a downed UN pilot, encountering moderate small-arms fire en route.


July 30: Following extended heavy rains, helicopters of the 3rd ARS carried approximately 650 flood-stranded US military members and Koreans to safety. Flying more than 100 sorties, five large H-19s transported some 600 evacuees, while two H-5s carried the rest. In the I Corps sector, two H-5s flew more than 30 sorties to rescue 60 flood-stranded Koreans and US soldiers.


Sept. 4: An H-19 from the 3rd ARS rescued a downed fighter pilot and two crewmen of a USN helicopter, which had lost power and crashed in the water while attempting to pick up the pilot.


Oct. 12: An SA-16 pilot, 3rd ARS, participated in two rescues within 30 minutes and more than 100 miles apart. After directing a helicopter pickup of a downed Sabrejet pilot, the SA-16 pilot landed in the Haeju Harbor and, while overhead fighters suppressed ground fire from the shore, picked up from a dinghy a 69th FBS pilot who had parachuted from his burning F-84.


Dec. 27-31: The 581st Air Resupply and Communications Wing (ARCW) flight of four H-19 helicopters at Seoul flew several experimental agent-insertion sorties into enemy territory for covert and clandestine intelligence activities.





Feb. 28: Third Air Rescue Group received two new and larger H-19 helicopters. MATS C-124s had flown the dismantled helicopters directly from the factory in the US to Japan, where they were assembled and test-flown before being ferried to Korea.


May 18: An H-19 helicopter rescued two members of a B-26 crew 20 miles inside enemy territory by using tactics presaging those of later conflicts. The helicopter scrambled from its base and flew to a small island off the Haeju Peninsula to await fighters to clear the path to the downed airmen. Penetrating enemy territory at 5,000 feet, the helicopter followed the fighter pilots' directions until it located the survivors who were signaling with a mirror. After the survivors set off a flare to indicate wind direction, the helicopter landed and rescued them, staying on the ground for approximately 30 seconds.