If Williams's tour of duty in World War II was marked by training and inactivity, it served him well during his second tour in Korea. His second military duty meant one thing: Combat.

At midnight, May 1, 1952, Ted Williams, slugger supreme, reported to Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, as Ted Williams, Marine captain. The baseball wars were over. Another was just beginning.

In Willow Grove, Ted immediately began an eight-week refresher course in flying. By this time his old Navy SNV was practically antiquated. Jets, the F-9s, were the combat aircraft of choice. He wanted to fly jets and put his name on the list for consideration

Ted boards his F9F Panther Jet
Shortly thereafter he had his chance. Once he got in one, he was impressed immediately with its performance. He described the F-9s as, “easy to fly, easier than props because they had no torque, less noise, tricycle landing gear. [The F-9s had] wonderful flight characteristics. Turn one over and it would just r-o-l-l, nothing to it.” Ted was rushed into ground school at Cherry Point, North Carolina, operational training at Roosevelt Roads and wrapped up cold weather training school in the Sierra Mountains. The Marines lived in near primitive conditions in the Sierra Mountains. Neither Ted nor any of his fellow pilots enjoyed the creature comforts. They were living on canned food rations, sleeping on spruce sprouts and using parachutes as tents.
USMC pilot Ted Williams being examined by LT Jayne MC, on board the USS Consolation.
Click here to read about Ted's
F9 Panther crash landing.
Only ten months after returning to active duty, on February 4, 1953, Ted Williams arrived in Korea as a member of the Third Marine Air Wing, 223rd Squadron. Ted got checked out on field procedure, landings, operating procedure and emergency procedure. With a few practice flights and bombing runs on an old bridge, he went into combat.
After about eight to ten missions, Ted began to get very sick. The weather was cold, foggy and just plain miserable. His ears and nose were blocked and he was visiting the infirmary every other day. Never a fan of cold and damp weather, Ted hated Korea. No sooner would he shake a cold than he would come down with another. As lousy as Korea was, it wasn’t the weather that nearly killed him.
February 17, 1953 ~ only 13 days upon his arrival to Korea ~ Ted was one of 200 flyers in a huge air mission aimed at Kyomipo, North Korea. He was flying low over his target, a troop encampment, when Ted lost sight of the plane in front of him. He dropped down to regain visual contact, but went too low. North Korean soldiers in the encampment blasted him with small arms fire. He lost his landing gear, hydraulic pressure, radio, and was on fire. He managed to land his burning plane and avoid serious injury. Click for unabridged story.
The next day Ted was back in the sky. Two months later, on April 28, 1953, he had another close call. He was on a Marine raid of Chinnampo on Korea’s west coast. Heavy winds forced the mission closer to the ground than usual and his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Fuel reserves in the wing did not ignite and Ted made it back safely. He considered himself lucky.
Williams awarded Air Medal and
two Gold Stars before receiving
a discharge for health reasons.
Williams' military career in Korea was beset with sickness. Often he would fly a few missions before getting sick and then spend several weeks on a hospital ship. He development pneumonia and military doctors discovered an inner ear problem that made it impossible for Ted to remain a pilot. Finally in June of 1953 the Marines decided that Ted Williams had enough. He was scheduled to be sent to Hawaii for treatment. Ted officially left the Marines in July 1953.
While in Korea, Williams flew 39 missions. He later downplayed his record, writing: “I was no hero. There were maybe seventy-five pilots in our two squadrons and 99 percent of them did a better job than I did.” His record is nothing to make light of. He served our country with distinction, when others might have resisted the call in the first place. Given his private feelings about the war, Ted’s record is all the more remarkable. He did his duty.