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U.S. Pilots Help Russians Trace Korean War MIAs

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 15, 1998 – Five American Korean War combat pilots faced six Russians here Sept. 24 during an unprecedented meeting geared toward helping the Russians account for missing fliers.

The American pilots joined Russian members of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs in a crowded hotel suite to tell where and when they shot down MiG-15 aircraft in Korea.

The five retired U.S. Air Force pilots were Lt. Col. Brooks J. Liles of Goldsboro, N.C.; Brig. Gen. Paul A. Kauttu of Spinnaway, Wash.; Lt. Gen. William E. Brown Jr. of Alexandria, Va.; Col. Dale W. Smiley of Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Lt. Col. Gene F. Rogge of Fountain Hills, Ariz. All told, the five accounted for 10 MiG-15 kills and four probables.

"This was the first time the Russians have asked us for assistance in resolving cases of Russian airmen missing in action from the Korean War," said Larry Greer, spokesman for DoD's POW/Missing Personnel Office, which arranged the meeting.

"The Russians have assisted U.S. investigators in clarifying the fate of 70 of 249 American pilots since the commission was established in 1992," he said. "In turn, the U.S. has helped them account for 10 of their missing pilots."

"This first meeting with American fighter pilots is very valuable and creates a new stage of our work in the Korean section of our commission," said Russian Col. Aleksandr S. Orlov, who co-chairs the commission's Korean War Working Group with U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson.

"We were able to get more information that will help us determine the fate of our missing pilots in the Korean War," said Orlov, a Russian army veteran of World War II and the only one of the Russian officials who also served in Korea.

The Russians were particularly interested in Lt. Col. Liles. The F-86 Sabre pilot flew 100 combat missions during the war with the 336th Fighter Squadron and shot down four MiGs -- possibly a fifth. Liles spent two months during World War II as a POW after being shot down on his 70th mission.

"I shot down MiGs on certain dates and couldn't determine whether the pilot survived," Liles told the Russians. "There is no way possible for a pilot at 40,000 feet to determine where a pilot fell, but there are some cases where you can immediately say, yes, he was killed, or, no, he bailed out and appeared to be OK."

Liles reported shooting down a MiG-15 on Feb. 21, 1952, and said the pilot was killed. The pilots he shot down on March 21 and 25, 1952, might have survived. "On April 4, 1952, I shot down a MiG and the pilot definitely ejected and appeared to be OK," he said.

He drew laughter when he said he "probably" shot down a MiG on April 27, 1952. "He was headed to China the last time I saw him," Liles quipped.

There were other good-natured exchanges between the former enemies. Brig. Gen. Kauttu said he could only see the color and shape of the MiGs during one of his dogfights. "I was surprised to see the MiGs painted different colors, from silver to sky blue," he told the Russians.

The room erupted in laughter when Col. Orlov responded, "That wasn't tactics. There wasn't enough paint to paint them all the same color."

Kauttu told the Russians the pilot ejected from the MiG he shot down south of Sinuiju, Korea, on Oct. 12, 1952. "I flew around him several times because his parachute and uniform intrigued me," he said. "He waved at me on the way down and I waved back."

The Russians told the American pilots that Russians flew about 75 percent of the enemy sorties in the Korean War.

"I didn't know that. That puts a different perspective on the air war," said Kauttu, who flew 100 missions in an F-86 with the 16th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. He's credited with two solo MiG-15 kills, one shared kill and one probable.

"I'm really excited about the Russians wanting us to help find their pilots," he said. "In a sense, those pilots are my friends. Anything we can do to help locate their remains or find out about the history of their loss will be great."

The exchange was not one-sided. "We handed over copies of 68 pages of archival materials that are in the Central Military Archives of Russia," said Col. Valeri A. Filippov of the Russian general staff. The documents included Russian pilots' accounts of air victories, eyewitness statements and report of a survey done at a crash site, with photos of wreckage and bodies.

"We will continue trying to provide documents that will shed light on the fate of American missing in action pilots," he said.

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