Recollections from a 31st/91st Intelligence Staffer

Introduction by Web Site Manager, Chuck Stone
Recollections and observations by Robert (Bob) Stadille


The work of the various classified reconnaissance crews would have little chance of success, nor lasting meaning, if it were not for the intelliegence-gathering and processing systems on which the missions were based. One of the key links in this process was that of the intelligence briefers and debriefers of the recon crews. My own memories of these contacts are all positive. There was a sense of comradery in these encounters, whether it was going in or coming out of the mission experience. The only times I felt uncomfortable about the whole process was when one of the briefers would, in a very low keyed way, let you know that they could provide you with a small pill to take with you that would quickly end your life, if you were faced with imminent capture, if you so chose. Regarding this latter statement, Bob Stadille commented: "I've never given 'pills' to anyone. I have, however, put gold coins and gold bars in medical kits ...something of value to be used by a downed crew member. I remember a Captain Oliphant at FEAF Hqs. who gave me an escape and evasion briefing one day saying that the gold we gave to crew members might not be recognized by Koreans as the Japanese had long ago (when they first occupied the peninsula) confiscated every piece of gold in Korea.

The comradery business was a two-way street. The debriefers had a need to milk every drop of information from a tired crew who were long overdue to hit the sack for some well-earned rest. An illustration of some of their strategy can be found in a recent communication from Earl Myers, one of Bob’s RB-29 Aircraft Commanders, who says:

"Bob Stadille was in Sq. Intelligence and was a brief/debriefer. He poured out the Old Methuselah at debriefing. One shot given, we told the routine; two shots, we told a lot; and three shots, we told them all they wanted and more. 'He was and is one hell of a guy'. More moxy than moxy itself."

Earl’s impression is plenty good enough for me. I have never met Bob, in person, but, from what I have learned in the process of hatching and mothering this web site, I am in full agreement that Bob has proven to be one really "classy" fellow — Read on and find out for yourself.


I worked for the finest man I've ever known while a member of the 31st and 91st Squadrons: Captain Thomas P. Coleman (Ret. Brig. Gen.). When the Korean war started I was reassigned to the Intelligence Section of the 31st. The complement included M/Sgt Irby Enfinger, T/Sgt Pralow, and Tom Coleman. At the beginning of the war, we supported the 19th Bomb Group which had been deployed to Okinawa from Guam and flew a mission to Korea 24 hours after touching down at Kadena. I stood next to their Commanding Officer (Col. Graf ?) watching several '29s take off in the early morning hours. I remember being thrilled by the sight!

We were transferred to Japan shortly after and our squadron flew out of Johnson and Yokota. Captain Coleman and I worked closely together on the mapping, photo, and visual reconnaissance missions over Korea. He had responsibility for briefing and interrogating air crews. I accompanied him, took some notes, learned a lot, and typed the messages to the various commands concerned with this intelligence. The important skill that I brought to the Intelligence Section was my ability to type 100 words per minute on an old, standard typewriter with a high degree of accuracy. Captain Coleman called me "his salvation" as he could dictate those long and involved messages to me rather than having to reduce them to written copy for me to type. In this way, both of us got the task done quickly and effectively and still had a little time to rest. During this period I was also typing results of electronic reconnaissance missions but didn't have a clue as to mission routes. That came later.

Major Nunn, Executive Officer for 31/91st SRS, Okinawa, presents Robert Stadille with The Airman of the Week Award, ca 1950

Photo. Ctsy. Bill Sutton

Captain Coleman was a truly effective officer. He was an inspiration to others in that he "walked his talk." He was a warm, friendly man who was intelligently dedicated to his work. He was thorough, imaginative, decisive, resolute, a marvelous teacher and communicated effectively. He was able to help others bring clarity to their mission, their problems and concerns. He was not our commanding officer. He was more important: his spirit, dedication, and intelligence were the most singular factors in the Squadron's development and success. When his tour was over, he was reassigned to March AFB, 15th AF Intelligence. I might add that Captain Coleman flew many missions over Korea. Unlike some others, he didn't pick "milk runs." Earl Myers can confirm this. [Editors Note: Bob informs me that "Captain Coleman passed away in Tucson, Arizona, September 5, 1995. He retired as a B/G. I think he worked at the Pentagon doing P/R. He is interned at the National Cemetery, Riverside, California."]

After Captain Coleman's tenure, we had two Intelligence Officers assigned. One, a good man in his own right, was simply too insecure to do the job. I assumed his responsibilities for the interrogation of crews and the development of intelligence reports. He was simply out of his element. We maintained a positive relationship despite the obvious conflict. Thank goodness Captain Coleman had been a good teacher. The second Intelligence Officer assigned was, quite simply, alcoholic. He was a reserve officer and should have stayed in his civilian position as a newspaper editor. He became a security risk.

Following Coleman's departure, the Commanding Officer (I can't recall his name, yet I worked with him every day for months) designated me as his personal secretary. He, like the former C.O. (Edwards), carried on a personal correspondence with General Rosie O'Donnel, 15th AF CG. At this time, I believe the 91st was the only SAC unit permanently stationed overseas. Thus, I suppose, Gen. O'Donnel wanted a direct link to the organization he commanded rather than communicate through another command in the Far East. My Commanding Officer asked me to write letters regarding the efficiency of both Intelligence Officers assigned after Captain Coleman's departure and ask for replacements. Charles, I think I was nineteen years old at this point and despite my youth and inexperience in the ways of the military, I was stunned by this order. I obeyed it, of course.

The Intelligence Officer who was considered a security risk was not permitted to become involved in anything to do with missions involving electronic reconnaissance, overflights, big-camera work, or B-45 flights. The C.O. asked me to establish a special section within the Intelligence Section and handle the section's responsibilities regarding these missions. The C.O. made the new rules very clear to the regular Intelligence Officer. As the saying goes, he "damned near went postal." It was an uncomfortable position for me as a S/Sgt to have to, literally, place my hands over classified material when the Intelligence Officer leaned over my back to see what I was typing. He deeply resented the fact that his authority had been compromised and often became verbally abusive. I had some empathy for him, Charles, and, more often than not, was able to calm him down. As an indication of how difficult things eventually became, Sgt. Mickey Korabell, one of the clerks in the Intelligence Office and responsible for getting things ready for aircrew briefings, had to restrain the Intelligence Officer from entering the briefing room one day when he insisted he was a part of the briefing team. His name did not appear on the Security List and Sgt. Korabell acted correctly in denying him access. The fact is, that Sgt. Korabell, after repeatedly warning the Intelligence Officer to leave the area, pointed his gun and finally got the desired result.

Since you are writing about B-45s, I can tell you a couple of stories. First, I know that a B-45 was lost in (I think) 1950. It was on a flight in the area of Port Arthur. I faintly remember Captain Coleman telling me that it was shot down over the China Sea. The B-45 crews that I dealt with flew recon missions over Korea (they'd do the task that would take a '29 eight to ten hours in half the time). They were young guys, enthusiastic. I enjoyed the interrogation as they would, for my benefit, exaggerate their prowess as pilots and tell me tall tales about their observations from forty thousand feet and flat on their back. B-29 crews never horsed around in a briefing by comparison. They were really "cotton stocking." Ten or twelve hours in '29 can do that to you. The '45 crews flew a night mission over Mukden Manchuria taking radar scope photography. I remember that they reported "lights in formation" following them as they left the target area. We, in turn, reported this as a UFO sighting. The most important mission that I remember was flown over Sakhalin. As I remember, I was TDY with a '29 crew to Misawa AFB at that time. They were going to fly a mission up in the Kuriles. The B-45 crew was also at Misawa (I'm almost sure of this but one's memory can play tricks) and began their mission from there flying right on the deck until an appropriate distance from the target area then rising to 20,000 feet and shooting visual photos. This mission resulted in the first sightings of Russian missiles in the Far East. The crew did a great job. In one of the photos, it showed a couple MIG-15's taking off ....probably on their way to intercept them.

Electronic Reconnaissance was conducted by B-29 crews along the coast of China, the Siberian coast north of Vladivostok, all the way up to Alexandrovesk. Large camera work, as I remember, was also done along the coast of China, Bay of Magadan, along the Siberian coast and the Kuriles. Our radar operators new the Russian radar scanning techniques so well that they claimed to be able to identify the Russians personnel operating their systems.

RB-29 # 1727, off on a recon mission

Photo Ctsy. Bill Sutton

Whether it was missions over Korea or along the Siberian Coast, crews from the 91st Squadron did their work effectively. I never heard a crew during a debriefing session complain about their assignment. They'd gripe a bit if I didn't pass the bottle of Old Methuselah around a second or third time ....but they didn't say a word about the hours they spent over the Sea of Okhotsk where, if they ditched, they wouldn't stand a chance of survival. They were regular guys ....none of them super heroes ....doing the job they had signed-up to do. The crew was the core of their belief system. Patriotism and mom's apple pie all played a part in their lives, but it was the crew that was the life force ....they'd do anything to maintain the reputation of the crew.

I want to mention a word about the entry of the Chinese into the war. Every morning, it was my job to brief the C.O. on the order of battle in Korea. I merely scanned the FEAF Intelligence Summary beforehand, noted changes in the front line position of our troops vs. the enemy, altered the map in the C.O.'s office, and provided a little commentary. I don't remember the date, but one morning when I scanned the Intelligence Summary, the number and position of enemy troops reported in North Korea astounded me. Knowing this was beyond my meager abilities to comprehend, I showed the map to Major Hegeyessey, who was a navigator aboard the Select Crew and had a secondary duty assignment in the Intelligence Section. The Major immediately understood what was happening and said, simply, "Sgt. Stadille, we are in serious difficulty ...their are 450,000 Chinese plotted on this map." I really caught the C.O.'s attention that morning with my intelligence report.

Just an hour or so later following my discussion with Major Hegeyessey, our C.O. received a message from Gen Banfill, Dir. of Intelligence, FEAF, asking for information about our surveillance of ground traffic in Korea ...had we seen any Chinese enter the country. Captain Coleman had me scan six months of reconnaissance reports. The answer, of course, was negative. I've often wondered about the "ability" of the Chinese to bring this number of troops to an area undetected especially when the skies above Korea were replete with USAF and USN aircraft, many, I would suppose, doing tactical reconnaissance? What did Gen. MacArthur know and when did he know it is my question. How could the FEAF Intelligence Summary report zero Chinese on one day, then change the order or battle to show the existence of 450,000 Chinese the next? It was Pearl Harbor all over again. Perhaps, there is a satisfactory explanation to all this but I haven't read or heard of one. Before the Korean War began, MacArthur and his Staff were caught napping ...US Army units were totally unprepared for the North Koreans. Then, caught napping again. I've wondered if MacArthur believed that the Chinese would never attack thinking we might use "the bomb" ....or, if they did attack, he (MacArthur) would be given the discretion to use our nuclear capability. There are other dimensions to this situation as well but this is not the proper forum for discussion and you may be bored with such speculation anyway. I remember that FDR was suspected of having "invited" Japanese aggression resulting in Pearl Harbor. Did the same occur at Chosin with different protagonists?

These are a few memories from the distant past, Charles ...fairly accurate I think. The only reason I mentioned the officers that replaced Captain Coleman and were subsequently relieved was to inform you of "how" I got involved with the classified aspects of the Squadron mission. If I can be of further assistance, please give me a hoot.

Bob Stadille

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