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Interdiction: Tightening the Noose

An F-80 pilot removes his flight gear as the ground crew checks the aircraft after a mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An F-80 pilot removes his flight gear as the ground crew checks the aircraft after a mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Entering service in Korea in December 1950, the F-84 became an important interdiction aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Entering service in Korea in December 1950, the F-84 became an important interdiction aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The ground-attack version of the Sabre, the F-86F, arrived in Korea in 1953. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The ground-attack version of the Sabre, the F-86F, arrived in Korea in 1953. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Air Force light bombers laid waste to this cluster of storage warehouses west of Pyonggang, North Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Air Force light bombers laid waste to this cluster of storage warehouses west of Pyonggang, North Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo)

USAF light bombers destroyed this railroad bridge north of Pyongyang, North Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo)

USAF light bombers destroyed this railroad bridge north of Pyongyang, North Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Rail bridge at Sunan, North Korea, under attack. In the upper middle part of the photo is a parachute bomb. The parachute slowed the rate of descent for low altitude bombing -- otherwise, the bomb would detonate directly below the attacking aircraft. U(U.S. Air Force photo)

Rail bridge at Sunan, North Korea, under attack. In the upper middle part of the photo is a parachute bomb. The parachute slowed the rate of descent for low altitude bombing -- otherwise, the bomb would detonate directly below the attacking aircraft. U(U.S. Air Force photo)

Napalm fireball about to engulf a communist supply building in March 1951. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Napalm fireball about to engulf a communist supply building in March 1951. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ground crews worked night and day to repair damaged aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ground crews worked night and day to repair damaged aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Engine change on an F-84 at Taegu airfield. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Engine change on an F-84 at Taegu airfield. (U.S. Air Force photo)

F-84 crew chief cleans the canopy as the pilot straps in before a mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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F-84 crew chief cleans the canopy as the pilot straps in before a mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-26 gunner C.W. Ledbetter inspects his aircraft. The number of missions he has flown is proudly displayed as bombs on his A-2 jacket. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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B-26 gunner C.W. Ledbetter inspects his aircraft. The number of missions he has flown is proudly displayed as bombs on his A-2 jacket. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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B-26 and F-84s, like other USAF aircraft in Korea, often had nose art. (U.S. Air Force photo)

OPERATION HIGH TIDE, which saw the first aerial refueled strike missions, began in May 1952 when twelve F-84Es flew non-stop from Japan to bomb targets in North Korea. In the same year, aerial refueled FOX PETER operations began flying F-84s non-stop across the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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OPERATION HIGH TIDE, which saw the first aerial refueled strike missions, began in May 1952 when twelve F-84Es flew non-stop from Japan to bomb targets in North Korea. In the same year, aerial refueled FOX PETER operations began flying F-84s non-stop across the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The refueling probe of the type used during OPERATION HIGH TIDE is visible on the front of the wing tip fuel tank of this F-84E. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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The refueling probe of the type used during OPERATION HIGH TIDE is visible on the front of the wing tip fuel tank of this F-84E. (U.S. Air Force photo)

USAF interdiction aircraft carried a number of different weapons, including the fragmentation bombs pictured here. The bomb casings were partially cut so they detonated into more pieces. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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USAF interdiction aircraft carried a number of different weapons, including the fragmentation bombs pictured here. The bomb casings were partially cut so they detonated into more pieces. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This F-51D is rolling out for takeoff on a mission, carrying a pair of high-explosive bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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This F-51D is rolling out for takeoff on a mission, carrying a pair of high-explosive bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Armorers load a napalm bomb onto the wing of an F-51D. Napalm is a mixture of gasoline and a thickening agent which gives it the consistency of jelly. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Armorers load a napalm bomb onto the wing of an F-51D. Napalm is a mixture of gasoline and a thickening agent which gives it the consistency of jelly. (U.S. Air Force photo)

"There is every evidence that the enemy has been caused increasing difficulty by our concerted efforts in destroying his trains, trucks and other equipment."
- Gen. Earle E. Partridge, Commander, 5th Air Force, March 1951

Interdiction destroys an enemy's transportation system and materiel en route. Interdiction missions accounted for nearly half of U.S. Air Force combat missions in Korea. USAF interdiction efforts, using new technology and tactics, destroyed large amounts of enemy materiel and limited communist build-ups for large-scale offensives.


During the first year of the Korean War, USAF interdiction destroyed trains, bridges, roads and trucks in an effort to slow or halt North Korean transportation. The communists were vulnerable to this kind of attack because of their higher supply needs while attacking and retreating, and they lost large amounts of war material.

By the summer of 1951, the Korean War had changed to a static war and FEAF reexamined the roles of airpower. Interdiction seemed to hold the most promise as an offensive use of airpower. While many ground commanders throughout the war believed the Air Force should focus on providing direct air support for ground troops, USAF leaders stressed the importance of interdiction. Large-scale interdiction campaigns in 1951 and 1952 enjoyed some success, although the static enemy did not need as much supply as during previous major operations and was quick to rebuild railways and bridges.

Interdiction tactics changed constantly as the communists adjusted their movements. Enemy trains and trucks moved by night and remained hidden by day. In the last year of the war, new tactics involving the combined efforts of fighter-bombers by day and light bombers by night proved successful.

Interdiction continued in the strategic "air pressure" campaign from 1952 until the signing of the armistice in 1953. The air pressure campaign was targeted to produce costly economic damage to the communists and reduced their will to continue fighting (many communist prisoners complained of inadequate supply as the biggest cause of poor morale). Perhaps more importantly, interdiction efforts during the last two years of the war prevented the enemy from starting major offensives by limiting his ability to transport material.

Click on the following links to learn more about interdiction during the Korean War.

5-inch HVAR
Tetrahedrons
A-Frame
49th Fighter Bomber Group
B-26 Invader in Korea
Leading from the Front: Col. Joseph Davis Jr.

Click here to return to the Korean War Gallery.

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