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Author Topic: SCARWAF, our roots? MSGT Andrew Butcher Jr. US Army (RET) (SCARWAF member 1952-1  (Read 4861 times)
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Tom Gallagher
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« on: January 10, 2007, 02:37:02 pm »

  SCARWAF ENGINEERS 1947-1956 A lot of information has been written about the SCARWAF (Special Category of the Army With the Air Force) Aviation Engineers. Established in 1947 to support the newly organized US Air Force, SCARWAF was made up of Aviation Engineer units, which had been organized during World War 11. Some were attached to the Air Force in support of Air Force Operations in Europe and the Far East (FEAF); others were placed in the ready reserves. When North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950,these SCARWAF units were not ready to accomplish the tasks laid out for them. Some reports were that the units were not properly trained and equipped and woefully understaffed. Equipment was old, not maintained properly; repair parts problems, operator shortages, etc. However, these units’ problems were corrected in a very short time, some of the units were sent into the battle for Korea and they performed in a remarkable manner for all their shortcomings. The adverse effects of war and weather did not stop these SCARWAF units from completing their assigned missions. Some of the units came from the Reserve Force to augment the active duty units. They all performed to the highest degree. As I stated, a lot has been written about SCARWAF, these are my personnal observations. When I underwent training (basic and engineer Jul -Nov 1952) at Ft Leonard Wood, MO, I can remember most of our engineer training was in building “Bailey” bridges, “Pontoon” bridges, demolitions, fortifications, etc. We had NO equipment operator training, i.e., dozer, grader, and roller, rock crusher, dump truck, etc (I believe this type of Engineer training was being conducted at Fort Belivor, VA). We had NO training on building roads, air fields, permanent buildings, etc. We did have training on setting up various size tents, camouflage, field sanitation, etc. Supposedly, OJT (on-the-job-training) would be accomplished when we were assigned to our regular units. When we arrived at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan (via the USNS Collins and a Japanese train from Yokohama Port) those of us under 18 years old were separated and put on orders for SCARWAF. So when I got to my unit in Korea (Co B 839th Engr Avn Bn) at Osan, K-55, I had to undergo a lot of equipment on-the-job training (OJT) before I could contribute anything for my unit. This seemed to be the standard with incoming replacements. And I might add, I got the feeling from others that new replacements were a pain-in-the-butt and no help in getting the job done. So much equipment was messed up or broken by OJT,s. I myself turned a Euclid truck over in a rice paddy. It took the motor pool a week to get it back on the road. Boy, did I feel bad about that.  Now back to training to build an Air Base from scratch! There was NO training to build an Air base from scratch to support all the new Jet aircraft and heavy cargo planes!! All the former training was directed towards building short temporary airfields to support WW11 aircraft, repairing damaged facilities, by using PSP, filling in bomb holes/pot holes, etc. Therefore, when the order came down late 1951 in Korea to (a) select sites for 4 each 9,000 foot, state of the art air fields with sufficient support facilities, ie, fuel, ammo, troop housing, etc. (b) build them using present Engr Avn units and do it in record time, “HEY”, folks thought the top brass had really flipped out. “No way , Jose” There just was no way this could be done! The expertise for such an under-taking did not exist in the Engr Avn units! So plans were revised to build only (1) Air Base from “scratch” and that was Osan, (K-55). Top brass realized this and called on civilian personnel from the Vinnell Corp to provide the expertise and assistance required. This worked out pretty well, construction began and K-55 was completed in a record 6 months, June-Dec 1952, with flight operations started by Feb 1953. Additional construction and maintenance were continued by the 839th until inactivation in May of 1956.Plans for other 9,000 foot runways at Suwon, Kunsan & Taegu were modified to upgrade exiting runways to 9,000 feet at those locations. While this was going on in Korea, the Air Force, needing a better trained engineer force, had opened 2 US bases (1) Beale AF Base, CA., (2) Wolters AF Base, TX (aka SCARWAF bases) in 1951,to better train Aviation Engineer units to meet the needs of the Air Force missions. The plan called for transfer of the Army SCARWAF engineers units to the new Air Force “Air Engineer Force” ( some of us at Wolters were looking forward to donning the AF blue uniform).The Air Engineer Force completed training of 33 of these Engr Avn battalions during the period 1951-1955, and were ready for the transfer of these units into the Air Force. But, alas, a good plan was not to be, as orders from Sect of Defense in late 1955 ordered the end of the SCARWAF program and return of all SCARWAF units and facilities back to the regular Army. (It now appears that politics had a lot to do with the end of a great military organization) And so ended the 9 year saga of the SCARWAF Engineer Aviation Units(1947-1956), and their excellent service to The Army, the Air Force and our country. The Army continues today with engineer units identified as Combat Engineer units and Construction Engineer units. The Air Force continues with BEEF Engineer units and Red Horse Engineer units. When the end of SCARWAF came, I felt like I had lost my best friend. I spent 4 years in SCARWAF units (839th,Dec 52-Nov 53 Korea---800th EA Maint Co & 600th EA Maint Co, Wolters AF Base,TX,Jan 54-May 56), learned a lot, traveled a lot, met and said good-by to a lot of great guys. Even today, many years later, I swell with pride as my memories flood back to those days. I served in many excellent units during my Army career, but only SCARWAF and the 839th brings forth so much pride. As with the veterans of WW11, the surviving members of SCARWAF are getting fewer each year, but our history will live on.  NOTE: A bit of 839th Engineer Aviation Battalion history: This battalion was activated at Will Rogers Field, OK, as an “all black” engineer aviation battalion unit in Oct 1942.Assigned to Air Service Command, OK City Air Depot, Dec 1942. Transferred to Eglin Field, FL, assigned to the 923rd Engineer Aviation Regiment, Feb 1943.Left Eglin Field Aug 15 1943,arrived Camp Stoneman CA, Aug 20 1943.Left Camp Stoneman CA and San Francisco Port Aug 28 1943,arriving Australia Sept 23 1943. Reported on Lae, New Guinea Dec 8 1943 till Nov 5 1944. Reported in on the island of Leyte, Nov 19 1944. Reorganized July 1 1946 ,Luzan Islands, Philippines, attached to 13th Air Force,313th Bomber Wing,85th Fighter Wing. Reorganized Mar 1947 at Clark Field, Luzon. Released from 13th Air Force,1st Air Division, June 1 1948 with change of duty from Luzon to Okinawa. May 1949, attached to 20th Air Force. Dec 1950, attached to 5th Air Force under the 931st Engineer Aviation Group. Integrated, resupplied and after additional training, some elements of the unit departed Okinawa May 1951,arrived Kimpo Air Base, Korea, May 1951. The battalion moved to Osan, Korea Mar 1952, and was the lead unit for construction of Osan Air Base (K-55). Remained in Korea at Osan Air Base under the 934th Engineer Aviation Group (Reserve) ,joined by elements of the 84Oth & the 841st Engineer Aviation Battalions, (Reserve units), and was officially inactivated 1 May 1956 at Osan Air Base.   OSAN AIR BASE (K-55) Late 1952 nearing completion. OSAN AIR BASE (largest all weather airfield and home base to US Air Force in Korea, and the Korean Air Force Headquarters) completed. (photo about 1959).  NOTE: (1)Most of the 839th history was obtained from Charles E. Kalb, Ed McManus (former commander of A Co. 839th),Fred Williamson Jr. (former commander of B Co 839th) of the SCARWAF Engineer Reunion Group, Des Moines, IA. Additional data extracted from the AFCE magazine, winter 2001 issue, report prepared by Don K.Tomajan 111. (2a) Dept of the Army, General Order #80,Wash DC, 22 Nov 1954,pages 128 & 129. Titled: Battle Credits and Assault Landings for Korea. (2b) Dept of the Army- AGAO-O (M) 322 (21 Feb 56) DCSPER, dated 28 Feb 1956, re: DA message 387976, 7 Feb 1956,: The following units will be inactivated, effective dates indicated---“839th Engr Avn Bn“, 1 May 1956. (Personnel reasigned to other units, equipment transferred to Air Force) (3) Additional records can be obtained from the National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.Contact is Mr. Wilbert Mahoney, tel# 301-837-3510 (4) Pictures from Robert Evilsizors web page. (5) Awards for the 839th EA BN should include the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal,(1942-1946) and the Korean Service Medal (w/6 streamers),(May 1951 to July 1953).Other awards may apply. (6) The 839th Engineer Aviation Battalion served most of its 14 years of existence at overseas locations and did not return to the US. Members who served in this unit were a unique group of American servicemen who toiled day and night in the jungles of the Pacific and the rice paddies of Korea, under trying conditions, preparing air fields, roads, encampments and the many construction jobs needed in support of the Army &Air Force. A military unit that America can be proud of, and proud of the men who served. (7) Engineer Aviation patch worn by some units during and after WW11.  (Cool 9th Engineer Command, Europe, WW11 patch .  (9) 7th Engineer Aviation Brigade, (SCARWAF), Europe, 1951-1956 patch.  After 1956 ! (10) 417th Engineer Aviation Brigade, (SCARWAF), Korea, 1951-1956.  Prepared by: MSGT Andrew Butcher Jr. US Army (RET) (SCARWAF member 1952-1956). Comments are welcome. (sandrew8@juno.com
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