During a fierce battle over North Korea Lt. Comdr. William T. Amen of VF-111 Sun Downers made the Navy’s first MiG kill, on 9 November 1950. Amen, the Sun Downer’s skipper, led a group of F9F-2B Panthers flying from Philippine Sea (CV 47) that covered a strike force of Corsairs and Skyraiders against the Sinuiju Bridge when at least five MiGs flying from the sanctity of Antung, Manchuria, attacked them.
The Panther pilots lost no time as they aggressively streaked in to protect the bombers, and the battle swirled from just above ground level up to eighteen thousand feet. Turning inside of a tight loop on the tail of a nimble but poorly flown MiG-15, Amen closed the gap and shot down his opponent with a quick burst.
“I was coming head on at one of them and he didn’t even try to get in a shot,” Amen recalled. “When I got on his tail he tried to evade but he wasn’t very sharp.” Along with many of the pilots, Amen had already chalked-up quite a record during WWII and added Gold Stars in lieu of four Air Medals. Amen further received the Distinguished Flying Cross following no less than thirty-five missions over Korea.
For all the horror of the war, this first tangle with the dreaded MiGs nonetheless produced a macabre comedy. Admiring Panther pilots surrounded Comdr. Albert D. Pollack, the skipper of VF-51 Screaming Eagles, when he returned to the ready room on board Valley Forge (CV 45). “Were you nervous about those MiGs Dave?” they asked. “No, I was just keeping an eye on them”, wearily replied Pollack. “Then why did you report 20,000 MiGs coming in at five feet?” his men quipped.