Lt. Col. Clyde J. Whaley, USAF, P-47 Thunderbolt Pilot, 507th Fighter Group
Clyde Whaley is 89 years old at the time of this interview and he is from Caldwell, Texas. He was born in 1921 and raised on his parents' farm outside of Caldwell. He had four brothers and three sisters. Clyde graduated from Caldwell High School in 1940. College was not possible so he worked to help his dad with the farm. He had joined the National Guard at the age of 15 and he was assigned to Company E, 143rd Infantry, 36th Division. His unit was mobilized in November of 1940 and assembled at Camp Bowie in Brownwood, Texas. The Army gave no reason for the mobilization. His unit was later shipped to Camp Branden, Florida for 10 months and then on to Cape Cod, Massachusettes. In the summer of 1942 he and two friends decided to take the aviation cadet exam for flight school. Clyde stated, "We all passed it and left the walking army behind!" The three were sent to Nashville, Tennessee for classification into the Army Air Corps.
This began a two year aviation learning curve for Clyde. They were in ground school eight hours a day for six months. Clyde was selected as a pilot trainee in November 1942. He then went to Maxwell Field in Alabama to flight school. Clyde was selected as a platoon leader because he could march the troops. He was then sent to Arcadia, Florida where he learned to fly on a PT-17, a biplane in which he soloed after his 4th flight. The Army sent him to Bambridge, Georgia for more flight training. He was the first in his group to solo in a PT-13 Steerman biplane. He then went to Mariana, Florida where he graduated and got his wings in 1943 and commissioned as a "Flight Officer". He was chosed to fly fighters and his first fighter was a P-47 Thunderbolt, which was affectionally called "The Jug". He loved to fly the P-47. He was then sent to Galveston for more training. The Army then sent him to Bruning, Nebraska. He married his high school sweetheart, Ella in Nebraska. Clyde told me about a flight he was leading and two wingmen got too low and hit some power lines. The two pilots were court martialed and during the trial the defense attorney attempted to blame him also. The court did not see it that way. His next stop was overseas, the Pacific.
World War II: Ie Shima, Japan 507th Fighter Group
Clyde was assigned to the 507th Fighter Group, 20th Air Force and sent to "Ie Shima" island near Okinawa. He flew the P-47 Thunderbolt. Clyde flew 18 combat missions in World War II mostly straffing ground targets. He said that his missions in the P-47 were air to ground, shooting trains, train stations, locomotives. Clyde was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 6 or 8 stars.
You Tube video of the 507th on Ie Shima Island: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ah1xPE_4pXQ&feature=related
Clyde said some pilots on air to ground missions could not stand the ground fire and turned in their wings. Clyde said that shortly after Japan surrendered the Japanese military generals who surrendered landed on their base in two Vega bombers which were white (surrender color). They landed on Ie Shima escorted by P-51s. The Japanese got in a C-54 which flew to the Phillipines.
After WWII Clyde stayed in the Army Air Corps which became the Air Force in 1947. He became a flight instructor for the four years after the end of WWII. In his Air Force career he flew the P-47, P-51, F-80, F-86, F-100 all in combat.
Korean War: 16th Fighter Squadron & 23rd Fighter Squadron
Clyde said that he was on Okinawa when the Korean War broke out and his group began air operations immediately. Clyde said that he shot down the 2nd Mig downed in the Korean War in an F-80 Shooting Star fighter. The Mig was a Mig-15. On November 11th, 1950 Clyde was leading a flight of four F-80s near the Yalu River in the early afternoon. The Mig-15 got after him and he got separated from his group and found himself battling this Mig-15 by himself. The Mig-15 attempted to get inside of his turn but Clyde said that he would not let him. Clyde couldn't shoot the Mig either because he was pulling too many G's. Finally the Mig rolled over and went and Clyde led him with his guns and hit the Mig. The enemy rolled over went into a spin and headed to the ground. It was later confirmed by ground forces. This was his last air to air combat. Most of his missions in Korea were air to ground, bombing and straffing targets of opportunity. Clyde said that he flew combat missions the entire length of the Korean War, at total of 34 or 35 combat missions.
His shootdown of the 2nd Mig of the Korean War is documented in the book, the Korean War Almanac: see below link
http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_307.shtml Korean War Aviation History: The entry reads across as:
11-Nov-1950 USAF 16 FIS, 51 FIW F-80C Clyde J. Whaley 12.7 mm MiG-15 Nasonov - KIA 72 GIAP
It should be noted that the pilot of the Mig-15 was a Russian by the name of Nasonov. This was confirmed by the Russian Air Force.
After the Korean War Clyde stayed in the United States Air Force and he was stationed in Arizona. Clyde climbed to the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and retired and went to work for General Dynamics and worked on the FB-111. He also flew this aircraft.
Clyde was a joy to talk to and I really enjoyed interviewing this American hero.