Eagle Profile

As a reconnaissance pilot, General Bryce Poe II helped write a chapter of aviation history during the Korean War. Born in 1924, he completed pilot training prior to graduating from West Point in 1946. Following graduation, he became a member of one of the Air Force’s first jet-equipped units and flew in more than 80 air shows demonstrating the new RF-80A. Poe was assigned to the 8th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in Japan when, in the predawn darkness of 25 June 1950, the North Korean Army crossed the 38th Parallel to signal the beginning of the Korean War.

Three days later, First Lieutenant Poe flew his RF-80A on the initial reconnaissance sortie of the Korean War–this was also the first American jet reconnaissance mission ever flown in combat. Before returning to the States in 1951, he flew a total of 90 combat missions, including reconnaissance of Inchon prior to MacArthur’s landing and multiple sorties to photograph the Yalu River bridges in “MiG Alley.” The following year, Poe was assigned as an exchange officer to the Allied Forces Northern Europe where he flew Vampires, Meteors, F-84s, and F-86s with the Royal Norwegian and Royal Danish Air Forces.

He later held various positions in Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command before going to Southeast Asia in 1969 as Vice Commander of the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. While in Vietnam, he flew 213 combat missions, of which 200 were in the RF-4C. After his tour of duty in Vietnam, General Poe served in numerous key positions, including Commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center, Vice Commander of USAFE, and Commander of the Air Force Logistics Command. Now retired, General Poe works as a defense management consultant.

Years Honored:


1984 Lithograph

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The first days of the Korean War were confusing, but MacArthur's staff realized the need for air support to blunt the enemy attack. However, due to a slow moving weather front over South Korea, US aircraft could not effectively find the battle area. In the early morning hours of 28 June 1950, First Lieutenant Bryce Poe II took off from Itazuke, Japan, on a solo mission to reconnoiter and photograph the vanguard of the North Korean Army. Initially flying in the "foulest imaginable" weather, he later found the conditions to be clearing and noted an enemy bridgehead near Seoul. His flight, the first successful reconnaissance sortie in the war, alerted the Far East Air Force of the improving weather and resulted in immediate air strikes by F-80s and B-26s, which inflicted costly damage to North Korean forces.