After more than fifty years, the riveting story of the Korean War’s most heroic—and costly—helicopter rescue can now be told. It took declassification of official records, extensive research, tracking down the scattered families of brave airmen, and use of the Freedom of Information Act, to piece together the story of what five incredibly determined Air Force and Navy pilots did that long June afternoon in the infamous “Iron Triangle.”
Never before has a formerly classified combat mission been so carefully dissected and examined from the standpoint of those who flew the mission, starting with their complete life stories and those of the women they loved. Several hundred photographs from personal scrapbooks and official records, never before published, illustrate the people and their lives with unique imagery.
Baited Trap illustrates and shares through the photographs and words of those who lived it the human costs of any military mission that results in death or injury—a cost that the affected families continue to bear to this day. The mission itself is hair-raising, the result devastating, yet from the ashes of the lives given so valiantly comes a compelling love story that offers hope for all of us.
Wednesday morning, June 25, 1952, the Second Anniversary of the start of the Korean War…
For the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, the Third Air Rescue Squadron and the USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CV-31), it was just another day of combat like the 729 days that preceded it.
The “Bedevilers” of Navy Fighter Squadron 74 were preparing to launch on a close air support mission over North Korea.
Detachment One, Third Air Rescue Squadron was standing by its helicopters at an advanced air base near the front lines in case a pilot went down.
The “Truckbusters” of the 18th were on call to provide a RESCAP—a rescue combat air patrol—to protect the helicopter and any downed pilot. The mission, if needed, would be designated by Fifth Air Force as Mission 1890.
Shortly after noon, the Fifth Air Force Joint Operations Center in Seoul teletyped an urgent message to both ARS 3, Detachment One and the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing Operations Officea—a Navy Ensign from the “Bonny Dick” was on the ground and needed help.
Mission 1890 had begun…
Baited Trap, the Ambush of Mission 1890 tells the story for the first time of perhaps the most dangerous Korean War rescue mission in compelling detail gleaned from formerly classified official records, first person accounts, and family documents long unknown. Master Sergeant (retired) Bobby Holloway, the only one of nine air rescue pilots and crew lost to enemy fire in the Korean War to survive being shot down and imprisoned for over a year, provides the eye witness account by the only living survivor.
Baited Trap is much more than a heroic war story from the “forgotten war.” It follows Wayne and Della Lear, Bobby Holloway, Ron Eaton and Dolly Sharp, and Frankie and Archie Connors as they tried to put their lives and families together even as the Korean War was reaching out to engulf them. The author of Mission 1890 has located and interviewed the families of all five airmen aboard the helicopter and the two “low cover” Mustangs.
Baited Trap follows in close-up detail the lives of three young men and their sweethearts from childhood until they are brought together by chance to fly a dangerous rescue mission into heavily defended enemy territory in North Korea on the day of the Second Anniversary of the start of the Korean War. The harrowing mission of plucking the downed Navy pilot off the side of a mountain was finally completed after three punishing attempts. The brave, wounded helicopter pilot fought to control the damaged “copter” as he headed down the valley after picking up Eaton—south towards friendly lines—and safety. A direct anti-aircraft hit on the rotor sent the helo spinning to earth—killing three of the airmen, two on the helicopter and the pilot of an escort Mustang fighter. The successful rescue mission had come to a tragic conclusion—the mission was over but the story would continue—for over fifty years. For the Air Force, Mission 1890 was quickly forgotten—but, readers will learn, it continues to this day—with many surprising twists and turns—hope and love overcoming numbing tragedy.
Baited Trap is much more than the graphic story of a tragic rescue mission; it’s the personal story of these five men and the families they left behind when they were sent off to war in Korea—an unequaled profile of three young couples and their families caught up in the vortex of the Korean War.
Baited Trap is a unique look at the once classified activities and photographs of Air Force units in combat during the Korean War. The Air Force was fighting a shooting war with outmoded aircraft—H-5 helicopters and F-51 fighter-bombers—while publicizing the achievements of newer aircraft just being introduced.
Baited Trap follows the families before, during and after the arrival of the “I regret to inform you…” telegrams they received after the mission, for the pilots, was over. Many lives were changed forever.
For the families involved, the tragic events of Mission 1890 continue to this day. Readers share the grief and anxiety of the families as they tried to keep up hope in the face of tragic reality—letters and photographs found in family albums let readers know the heartbreak of mothers, fathers, wives and sweethearts who tried to maintain contact in the face of clueless bureaucracy.