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Memories / Misawa Stories

David and Giant MiG-15

David Armstrong

[DutchNote ~ This incident took place sometime during the 1950's at Detachment 29, on the island of Okushiri-shima located in the Sea of Japan off the coast of southwest Hokkaido.]

It was a clear day. Cool. A biting cool that was common to the peak of the island of Okushiri-shima where we were sited at a US Air Force advanced radar site. The morning had been uneventful. No one was in a mood to talk. Talk about what? This day was just like all the others. We hadn't been assigned to make any observation trips into areas where Russian was spoken for over two weeks, so our time was spent from our self-motivated normal early rising to replace the mid-shift, then a brisk walk to the chow hall to have a couple of eggs - the eggs had chartreuse yolks and smelled like singed feathers, probably since they were too old for American civilians to eat - five or six slices of bacon, two slabs of really delicious SOS, and coffee which can't be described in polite company. The egg cases were dated with one of the years of WWII.

Thus fortified, we went to our ops center and worked until lunchtime when a couple of the group would return to the chow hall to bring back sandwiches and more of that, that coffee.

Funny - we had no officers. There were no posted orders regarding specific duties, yet never once did any of our group shirk performing the much needed ten to fourteen hour work day, seven days a week, analyzing collected Soviet documents and photographs, and other data and recorded radio transmissions. No one had ever told us we had to do these things. We just assumed someone at USAFSS/NSA headquarters back in the States hadn't thought about telling us, but never got around to it for one reason or another. Hadn't thought about telling us we weren't supposed to consider not showing up for duty, not to go AWOL, to always continue to do the work at hand until it was finished - even though that had meant forty-eight or seventy-two hours straight duty on occasions. (Who was there to give us "official leave" anyway?)

Nor had we ever considered that those "at the top" might not have been so busy they just really didn't have the time to keep track of the fact we often went two or three weeks without food resupply. Once, we went three months without on-site water because the two diesel water pumps that were required to supply us with non-brackish water from a spring and small reservoir far below us near sea level had broken. There were the typical series of snafus regarding sending replacement parts for those pumps. So we drank Nippon beer ... and for the first three days it tasted good. And, we washed as often as we could stand it from the stagnent, dirty water in the fifty-five gallon fire-water drums disbursed around the site. (All the houseboys wore face masks.)

Anyway, in the early afternoon while we were working in our ops center, we heard the distinct low howl of aircraft jet engines. It was loud! But the noise level continued to rise until it peaked with sound of a massive clap of thunder. Coffee mugs danced across the table, paper files spilled in every direction out of their holders and the hanging light fixtures swung like the bells in Notre Dame. One's first reaction was that some USAF flyboy had thought it would be great fun to skim over the tops of our Butler Huts and the single-design issue of rectangular sheds. But then someone outside shouted that we had been buzzed by a couple of Soviet MiGs.

Well, no one was going to cause coffee to spill on my work. I grabbed one of the M-2 carbines we had hanging on the walls - all of which, of course, had three fifteen-round banana clips taped together and locked in ready for action - and headed out our double-door tunnel entry. I ran to the edge of the cliff that overlooked the largest canyon on the island. That canyon started at the sea level and steeply swooped up, ending at the cliff edge on which I was standing.

Looking down and out over the Sea of Japan, I saw the metallic flash of one of the MiGs flying low over the water. Then I saw the second MiG slicing in from the sea, coming in and up at treetop level, just skimming the trees and tall bamboo - right towards where I was standing.

Now, it may seem silly that I then chambered a round into the M-2 carbine, thumbed off the safety, shouldered the weapon and sighted right down at the MiG. The pilot was coming up the canyon directly at me. I was aiming right down the throat of the plane's air intake and, with one squeeze, could have sent fifteen 30-caliber rounds right into the fan of that jet. Now, one must understand a MiG-15 is a straight-line stovepipe jet engine surrounded with wings, a rudder/elevator assembly, petrol tanks and a pilot in a very small compartment sitting on top of that stovepipe. Fifteen 30-caliber bullets traveling some four hundred miles an hour crashing into a spinning jet fan blades unit traveling, then, say, about 300 miles an hour would simply result in the jet engine disintegrating and tearing the MiG into a massive ball of flame and shearing metal ... and all of it would continue to come directly at me.

In a fraction, nay a fraction of a fraction of a second, I realized it would be the dumbest - and last - thing I would ever do. Ever so quickly I lowered the M-2 carbine and looked at the pilot. Yes, I could see him clearly, and he could see me clearly. So I did the next best thing to killing him - and me - I could do. I gave him the "Roman Salute", "Flipped him the Finger", "Showed him that I knew his mother had an IQ of one." We looked at each other, and I'm not sure but that we both didn't just have an expression of some form of astonishment on our faces.

The MiG-15 pilot than banked hard and put enough G-forces on his fanny to where I could feel it, and dove back down to sea level. I stayed on the cliff edge to see where he was going, when suddenly I saw him again roaring up the canyon right at me. He passed by me not fifty to sixty meters away. Our eyes locked. I again gave him "the finger." And he, having taken off his gloves, put his thumb between his index and middle finger and gave me "the Russian Finger."

Enemies we were, but I'll bet dollars to donuts, or rubles to piroshki, he remembered that instance for the rest of his days ... and thought that we, for the briefest period of time, had stood above all the hate and killing of the war.

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