Biography of Ellis E. Stanley
Col., 311th Sqdn, 58th FG, Korea, 388th Sqdn, 480th Sqdn, 12th TAC Fighter Wing, Vietnam
I entered the Air Force through schooling at Auburn University. From there I went to Flight School and earned my pilot's wings. At the time of the Korea was I served with the 311th Squadron of the 58th Fighter Group. I flew F-84 fighters out of Taegu.
After the war I was in an exchange program with the U.S. Navy. I flew F3H2 All Weather fighters from the Bon Homme Richard, an angle deck carrier. We were near Hawaii doing our ORI, when word came that China was shelling the island of Quemoy near Thailand. The Communist Chinese wanted to take the islands of Matsu and Quemoy back from the Chinese under General Chang Kai Shek who had withdrawn to those islands and the main island of Taiwan after losing the Chinese Revolution in 1949. As Chang was our ally from World War II and as the Chinese under Mao were Communists, backed by Russia, we supported Chang. We steamed down there and spent 60 days running back and forth while America forced China to back down, which they eventually did.
In flying the F3H2 during this period, I flew mainly at night. The F3h2 served as the night guard over the carrier, to defend her from attack. We had four of them over the carrier all night. As a result, I had more night carrier landings than daytime ones. In all I had 150 carrier landings. It was a pretty easy thing to land on a carrier I thought, all you had to do was point the plane the right way at the angled deck, line up the meatball in the center of the mirror and fly the right speed and you would catch the three wire everytime. I had a lot of fun flying with the Navy.
I returned to Air Force duty flying F-102s and then F-106s. There were a couple of events of interest while I was flying the F-106. One was the Pueblo Incident.
The Pueblo incident began when the North Koreans seized a United States Navy vessel, the U.S.S. Pueblo, which was gathering intelligence in international waters off the Korean coast. When the Koreans took the Pueblo my squadron was rushed to Korea. We were on alert while we demanded the return of the ship and the surviving crew. The Koreans would not give them back, so a squadron of B52s were scrambled to bomb the North Koreans at Wusan. My squadron of F-106s flew top cover for them. We were airborne and with a time to strike the target of 12:00, when at ten to twelve the North Koreans said they would release the Pueblo and her crew. It was that close. Not much doubt that they knew we were coming when they made their decision.
I was also in the area when the Koreans shot down one of our C-121s off the coast of North Korea. Again this was an intelligence gathering operation in international waters. But the Koreans came out and shot her down. I called up my General, a three star who had also entered the Air Force through Auburn, and told him to scramble me to the scene. He told me, "Don't you go up there and start a war on me!"
I told him I would shoot down any Koreans that came out after us, but that I would not start a war. He told me to go out to my plane and he would scramble me, which he did. Myself and three others flew to the site in our F-106s. I left three and four over head and took two down with me to look for wreckage. We found it right away, wreckage on the water and bodies everywhere floating in their life presevers. There had been twenty one men on the aircraft.
As I climbed back to altitude I spotted a ship steaming towards us from the South. It was an American Destroyer. I got on guard channel and called him and told him that if he kept steaming straight ahead he would run into the wreckage and the bodies. We stayed overhead till he arrived and then headed south, being low on fuel.
We met a tanker and I asked the pilot if he had ever refueled F-106s. He said he had fueled a couple over Kansas. I recognized the incident he was talking about and told him that three of the four of us were pilots whose planes he had refueled that day in Kansas.
We kept aircraft over the wreck site as the Navy gathered all the bodies and wreckage they could from the sea. A Russian Destroyer arrived on the scene and picked up some of the bodies. They began to steam away to Russia as we radioed them to stop so we could take the bodies from them. They kept going. This was radioed up all the way to President Johnson. His answer which came back to us and was broadcast on the radio was to order us that if the Russian didn't stop, Sink Him. The Russian heard this of course and stopped. It was interesting to listen to and see all of this take place. We were there for four days before the recovery was complete. Unfortunately, even though the C-121 was in international waters, there was nothing we could do about the Koreans shooting it down. We all got air medals for that service, and I got the Distinguished Flying Cross for finding the wreckage.
Later I was flying back in the United States out of Tyndal Air Force Base in Panama City Beach, Florida. I was the first pilot to shoot down the Bomark Missile, a target drone. They launched it out of Eglin and I climbed out of Tyndal to meet it in a head on. The Bomark was so fast you couldn't catch it any other way. It was up at 100,000 feet and I was at 50,000. I snapped up and fired two homing missiles at it. They met together in the middle of the Bomark. The whole thing was visible by contrails, mine and the Bomarks, the two missile's and then a spray of contrails from the debris of the Bomark as it fell. It was a sight to see.
When Vietnam came, I flew there as well. I flew F-4 Phantoms with the 12th TAC Fighter Wing in the 388th and the 480th Squadrons. I flew out of Phu Cat, Vietnam.
I retired in 1974 as a Colonel. I am now the President of the 58th Fighter Group Association, which is a veterans group for men who served with the 58th or any of her squadrons in World War II, Korea or Vietnam. If you flew with any of those units, we would like to hear from you.
----- Col. Ellis E. Stanley, USAF(ret.)
You can contact Col. Stanley via email to the Curator
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