The Ordeal of VF-653

From a Navy Reserve pilot’s letters home, a picture of the darkest days of the Korean War

The squadron pilots pose on Valley Forge in July 1952, with 13 flight helmets for their fallen colleagues. Among the survivors are Cleland (back row, middle), Edinger (to his immediate left), and Balser (to Cleland’s right). (US Navy)
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That year, Dan learned that he would have to wear glasses. “It was devastating,” he says. “I knew it meant the end to any hopes I had of following in my dad’s aviation footsteps.”

Today a health insurance industry business analyst in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, Dan Sanko is also an avid amateur aviation photographer who attends as many airshows as he can. When he goes, he especially likes to photograph Corsairs.

David Sears is a former U.S. Navy officer and military historian. His two most recent books, Pacific Air and Such Men as These, portray naval combat aviation during World War II and the Korean War.


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