GEORGIOS TSITSOGLOU

Antisminarchos (Wing Commander) | Royal Hellenic Air Force

After their own civil war, Greece mustered a total of seven Douglas C-47 Dakotas for the war in Korea and were operational in theater by November 1950.  Among them was Major Georgios Tsitsoglou who joined the 13th Flight as a pilot in one of the ships.  He had been flying for about ten years from the early years of the Second World War through the Greek Civil War, making Korea his third, but his first as a transport pilot after the 13th Flight had dropped its bombers since its reconstitution.  His youthful features, small stature and cheerful disposition did not allude to his years of experience and hardship – he could have passed for a young cadet still in training.

 

Even such an experienced pilot did find opportunity to continue to learn, and Tsitsoglou was among the first four Greeks to qualify under Instrument Flight Rules flights.  Flying in any conditions absent visuals with only instruments to guide was not something the RHAF had trained in, and the Americans offered abridged programs using a simulator for the Greek pilots to qualify with.  It proved to be extremely valuable training for low flights in terrible weather, but the conditions still claimed the lives of some crews.

 

On a flight from Taegu to Kimpo in late March, Tsitsoglou and a sister C-47 piloted by Vamvoukas entered a thicket of black clouds like tar as Tsitsoglou recalled them, and the plane began to buck in every direction despite his efforts to control it.  Deafening booms sounded as he lost altitude and the American soldiers he was transporting cried from the back that he was surely going to kill them all.  Helplessly he watched his instrument dials spin rapidly and he could not keep the plane horizontal.  He decided to pull 180 degrees and return to Taegu, for flying blindly with sporadic instruments surely would get him killed.  When he estimated he made the turn, he flew straight and the tar like clouds broke into clear weather and landed safely at Taegu where he waited for Vamvoukas.  Shortly after, the phone rang: “Alarm – A plane crashed into a nearby hill.”  It was the first of three total crew losses for the Flight and one of few dear friends of Georgios.

 

The Major remained in Korea until September 1951 flying air evacuations, transport, intelligence, and supply runs.  He was one of a select few ninety-one flyers in theater between November 1950 and their departure in 1955 – a small yet invaluable contribution to the war effort and a sense of pride for any man who wore the Korean ribbons on his uniform.

"Medallion of the United Nations - Presented to: Episminagos Georgios Tsitsoglou - Participation in the KOREAN campaign in favor of Freedom and Culture"

Sources:

National Air Veterans Association. GREEK WINGS IN THE WAR OF KOREA: The Action of the 13th Flight Transport 1950-1955. Aviation Publication Service, 2005.

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