In November 1950, the communists introduced the Soviet-built MiG-15 into battle. Its advanced design and exceptional performance startled United Nations forces. The US hoped one of the planes could be acquired for technical analysis and flight evaluation. However, MiG-15 pilots were very careful not to fly over UN territory where they might be forced down.
In April 1953 the US Far East Command made an offer of $100,000 for the first MiG-15 delivered intact. No enemy pilot took advantage of this offer, and when the Korean truce went into effect on Jul. 27, 1953, the US still had not acquired a MiG-15 for flight-testing.
On Sep. 21, 1953, a MiG-15bis (a more advanced version of the original MiG-15) suddenly landed downwind at Kimpo Air Base near Seoul, South Korea, greatly surprising the personnel there. The plane was piloted by 21-year old Senior Lt. No Kum-Sok of the North Korean Air Force, who had long before decided to escape to South Korea.
Shortly after landing at Kimpo AB, the young pilot learned of the $100,000 reward. To his relief, he also found out his mother had been safely evacuated from North to South Korea in 1951 and that she was alive and well.
The MiG-15bis was taken to Okinawa where test pilot Capt. H.E. “Tom” Collins, first flew it. Collins and Maj. C.E. “Chuck” Yeager made subsequent test flights. The airplane was disassembled and airlifted to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in December 1953, where it was reassembled and exhaustively flight-tested. The US then offered to return the MiG to its rightful owners but no country claimed the plane. It was transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio, in 1957.
At his request, No and his mother went to the US to lead full and free lives. He changed his name to Kenneth Rowe, married, became a US citizen, and graduated from the University of Delaware. Interestingly, just below the gunsight on his MiG-15bis was the following admonition in red Korean characters: “Pour out and zero in this vindictive ammunition to the damn Yankees.”
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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