Richard L. McNulty USAF
By Joe McNulty
Born November 3, 1929, 1st Lt. Richard Lee McNulty was the son of Walter and Theresa (Cosgrove) McNulty. The second of nine children, he attended the local elementary school and graduated from South Kingstown High School. Throughout his childhood and early teens he participated in CYO sports and church musical productions. Service as an altar boy was also important, and as a result he developed a strong Catholic faith.
Dick was a good athlete who had the misfortune to be the backup for one of Rhode Island's best basketball players. Nevertheless, as a senior, he was able to claim the center position as his own. After high school work and amateur athletics filled his life for a short time, but he soon found greater fulfillment when he married his high school sweetheart. His first child, Karen, was plagued throughout her adult life with asthma and ultimately emphysema. Medical problems prevented a lung donation and she succumbed two years ago. Dick never got to see his son, Patrick, who was born while he was in Korea. Pat lives in Florida and was pleased to get the medals, letters and photographs his sister had. It changed his perspective on the loss of his Dad, and he has shown greater interest in the search for our MIAs.
A lifelong interest in aviation led to an enlistment in the R.I. air National Guard. This experience proved fruitful when he decided in the late 1940's to join the new U.S. Air Force as an aviation cadet. His application for the highly competitive flight program was enhanced by references from the Guard's commanding officer and a World War II fighter pilot. The latter, a close friend who was also a member of the Guard, was to transfer to the regular Air Force and to be shot down in Vietnam. He is listed as an MIA from that war.
Basic flight training was completed at Perrin air Force Base, Texas. Cadets used the T-6, Texan, which had been an advanced trainer in World War II. The greater demands of new technology meant more had to be done in less time. Student pilots were moving through training faster than their seniors had. Completion of basic led to Dick being sent to jet training at Williams Air Force Base, Chandler, Arizona.
But first there was Christmas leave, and we both enjoyed the two weeks we spent with our family. I had returned to Navy duty and was also home for a visit. Siblings have historically made life uncomfortable for each other. Our family was no different. I can truly say, however, that my brother and I weren't just family but good friends also. We shared athletic goals and rooted for each other in competition. The pride I took in his accomplishments made that Christmas very special.
The first jet flight at Williams was in a twin seat version of the F-80. He was to solo the airplanes he was to fly to Korea. Upon completion of advanced flight training, he was awarded his wings and commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
After a short leave, he reported to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for gunnery training. The intensity of the instruction was mirrored in the death of a fellow officer. Dick had the unpleasant duty of escorting the body home. Training young men to be the best often requires great sacrifice.
By October 1951 Dick was in Japan and being processed for duty with the 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. This unit had provided early support from Japan to troops in the Pusan Perimeter. It was now assigned Suwon, a base southwest of Seoul. The primary mission was interdictive strikes against lines of communication and supply. It was a most difficult assignment as they were carrying high explosives and napalm at low levels over difficult terrain. anti-aircraft fire and weather added to the hazards of the approach. The price of such an effort could be seen in the casualties the squadron sustained. However, on March 11, 1952, "The greatest number of sorties ever flown in one day was achieved by the 80th," This was also a testimony to the men who kept the airplanes flying.
The F-80 faced another menace in the MIG-15. The Russian built airplane was a superb jet that surprised the United Nations when it first appeared. Superior to the "Shooting Star", it met its match in the F-86, the Sabre jet, which provided cover for the F-80. Dick saw his first aerial combat when the enemy broke through and attacked his flight. Flying wing on his major, he was to share credit for a shootdown. His first Air Medal was followed by two Oak Leaf Clusters.
On January 16, 1952, Dick failed to return from an armed reconnaissance mission against Yangdok, North Korea. The last man in the run against the target, he was not missed until a radio check was called for at a higher altitude. An immediate search then was followed by another the next day. Although burning debris was spotted, neither a parachute nor downed aircraft was seen in the area of the attack. His status as a MIA was reinforced a year later when the Air Force conducted a review of his case. By September 1953, the debriefing of returning prisoners had supplied no encouraging news. On December 31, 1953, a presumptive finding of death was issued by the government fro my brother and thousands of other POW/MIAs.
My father and mother were
among the untold number of parents whose loss cannot be minimized by the
passing of time. At first there is the hope a strong faith provides. Gradually
however, as the years retreat, fatigue sets in, the spirit weakens, and
the loss becomes unbearable. For myself it was the frustration of not
doing anything and not knowing where to look for help. Today that experience
is behind me, and I feel more confident about the effort that the government
and families are making for "a full accounting".