The Korean War
In the initial stages of the Korean War, American and South Korean forces were ill-prepared and were forced to fall back hurriedly in the face of the communist onslaught. Air bases in forward areas were suddenly overrun by the enemy.
The most significant tragedy was at Kimpo Air Base, Korea, which was overrun by a numerically superior Chinese communist force. The Air Police Squadron was so overwhelmed that they were forced to fight a rear guard action before being annihilated. The general base population was then easily defeated before reinforcements arrived to drive the enemy back. The remaining personnel found alive by the Chinese were hung in the main hangar on Kimpo. This hangar still stands today as a memorial to those who died without a chance to fight.
In many instances, AP was the only armed force on the base. These experiences led to the decision that the Air Force needed to develop a more extensive base defense capability by concentrating on the training of AP who would then train other members of the Air Force.
The first Air Police deaths of the Korean War occurred in November 1950. On November 1, twenty-two-year-old Corporal
Joseph R. Morin of Taegu’s 6149th Air Police Squadron was returning from a search detail looking for a downed pilot when he and an ROKA soldier left their jeep not far from Heyp Chen to “prepare food and to relieve themselves.”30 One of the two stepped on a land mine and both were killed. Five days later, while defending the 5th Air Force advance headquarters at K-23 near Pyongang, North Korea, Sgt Ira F. Lord, Jr. of the headquarters security detachment was killed in an engagement with enemy guerillas. Lord was awarded a Presidential Accolade posthumously.
The "Kempo Massacre"
Before Chinese forces recaptured Kimpo AB near Seoul, its aircraft had been evacuated and reportedly a force of Air Police and Airmen remained to defend the base. These defenders were outnumbered and outgunned and were quickly overrun. Word soon spread throughout the Air Force that the Chinese executed the captured Airmen and hung their bodies (skinned, depending on the source) on meat hooks from the rafters of a building or hanger that was then burned. The “Kimp’o Massacre” never occurred, but the story was used as an example of the human cost of being unprepared by those who advocated that the Air Force in general and the Air Police in particular needed to be responsible for, and trained and equipped to provide for, the defense of air bases.
Some also date the start of Air Force marksmanship training from the “Kimpo Massacre.” One apocryphal account had SAC commander Gen Curtis LeMay viewing the American dead upon Kimp’o’s recapture and finding Airmen shot dead in the act of vainly trying to fit .45 caliber pistol magazines into their .30 caliber M-2 carbines. LeMay supposedly swore that if he had anything to do with it, all Airmen would know how to handle a weapon in defense of their bases.