No. 77 Squadron


No. 77 Squadron was first formed on 16 March 1942, during the Second World War. At the end of the war it was based at Labuan, Borneo. It was sent to Japan in February of 1946 as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF). It was stationed in Iwakuni as part of 81 Fighter Wing, RAAF, along with 76 and 82 Squadrons. These two squadrons were withdrawn from Japan in 1948, and 77 Squadron was preparing to return to Australia when the Korean War began in June of 1950.

77 Squadron was the only formed Mustang unit in the Far East Air Force that was ready for operational use. On 25 June it was put on immediate stand-by, although the Australian Government's formal commitment was not given until 30 June.

77 Squadron flew its first mission on 2 July. Sixteen sorties were flown without incident. The following day it was tasked to attack road and rail traffic between Heitaku and Suwon. Some members of 77 Squadron had doubts that the target was the enemy. The target was reconfirmed and the attack carried out successfully. However, the squadron was later informed that its misgivings had been correct, and they had actually bombed a friendly transport of ground forces from the Republic of Korea and the United States. Although 77 Squadron was absolved of any fault, it was still a horrible experience.

77 Squadron was based in Japan from June to October 1950. Pilots operated out of the US base at Taegu during the day, before returning to Japan when the mission was completed. It was tiring work. During this period, 77 Squadron was mainly employed in attacking enemy tanks, vehicles and troop concentrations. It also targeted buildings or villages suspected of supporting or sheltering the Communist forces. The squadron carried out strike missions in the Battle of Pusan Perimeter during August.

The Squadron relocated to Pohang, near Pusan on the Korean east coast on 11-12 October. It was regrouped into 91 (Composite) Wing with other RAAF units that were attached to the UN. It moved further north on 18 November to an airfield near the town of Hamhung. However, in December they were forced to move to the south of Pusan to the K-9 airfield, commonly called the "Dogpatch" by the Australians. The entry of China on the side of the north had caused a general retreat of all UN Command forces.

In November of 1950 the Chinese Air Force introduced the Soviet MiG-15 into the war. The Mustangs were unable to compete against this far superior aircraft. It was decided to replace the Mustangs with the Gloster Meteor F Mk8. After a period of training, 77 Squadron flew its first jet fighter combat mission on 29 July 1951. It was based in Kimpo. The first skirmish between Meteor and MiG-15 occurred on 29 August.

Initially the Meteors did not perform well against the MiG-15. The operational deployment of the Meteor was consequently restricted. 77 Squadron was not to be used in the area between the Yalu and Chongchon Rivers otherwise known as "MiG Alley". It was taken off aggressive fighter sweep missions, and was primarily employed in combat air-patrol sorties, the protection of light bombers and as ground-attack air craft.

On 2 December the squadron's role was limited further. It was no longer allowed to fly fighter sweeps or combat air patrols over North Korea. Instead, it took on a role in airfield defence.

The resulting boredom caused a drop in morale. To combat this, the squadron was given ground attack missions from 8 January 1952. For the remainder of the war 77 Squadron was primarily employed in flying these missions. It also undertook fighter sweeps, combat air patrols, bomber escorts, reconnaissance and search and rescue. In the closing days of the war in July, 1953, the squadron took part in large scale raids on reconstructed North Korean airfields.

Following the armistice on 27 July 1953, 77 Squadron remained in Korea preparing for a possible violation of the armistice by the Communist forces. It was stationed at Kimpo until March 1954, before moving to Kunsan. On 12 October it returned to Iwakuni, Japan. The Squadron departed for Australia on 14 November.

Related information