The American Legion Magazine
Alan W. Dowd
THE KOREAN WAR may be called the "Forgotten War," but as the story of Charles Joseph Loring Jr. reminds us, the heroes who fought it are unforgettable.
Born in Portland, Maine, Loring was known as Charlie to his friends and family. "Charlie wasn't the type who would allow himself to be pushed around," his brother Robert remembered. "He was always a fighter."
In fact, after graduating from college with a degree in accounting, Charlie became a boxer, compiling a perfect 13-0 record as an amateur bantamweight in the late 1930s.
But there was more to Charlie than pluck and grit. Charlie was "a little brighter, a little quicker than most," recalled a local sports writer in a 1974 interview.
After Dec. 7, 1941, Charlie's sharp mind and bruising fists would be put into Uncle Sam's service. He piloted P-47s in Europe and flew heroically in the D-Day invasion. He was a decorated pilot who was shot down behind German lines and escaped from a German POW camp after four months of captivity. But he made an even bigger sacrifice in Korea.
A Shooting Star. When war broke out on the Korean Peninsula, Charlie immediately volunteered for duty. His request was not acted upon until February 1952, when he was finally deployed as an instructor for the 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing. But by July of that same year, Charlie was back in the cockpit flying F-80 Shooting Stars.
While some things had changed since the last war - in Korea, Charlie would fly jets instead of propeller-driven planes - much had remained the same. His missions still involved strafing, cutting supply lines and supporting ground troops.
On Nov. 22, 1952, Charlie led a package of four F-80s on an air-support mission over North Korea. It would be his 106th combat mission in two different wars, in two different decades, on two different continents. And it would be his last.
The mission was routine for the seasoned fighter pilot. For more than a month, Charlie's unit had tried to take out the communist artillery positions along what was known as "Sniper Ridge."
Charlie's jet was hit by a shower of anti-aircraft fire during that last raid on Sniper Ridge. But he refused to break off his attack, nor would he bail out and risk capture. Realizing the plane wouldn't make it back to friendly territory, Charlie aimed his crippled aircraft at the gun emplacements that had pinned down the U.S. infantry for weeks, plunging 4,000 feet into a nest of enemy artillery.
In an instant, the enemy's heavy guns were gone, but so was Charlie. He was soon approved for a posthumous Medal of Honor.