Sgt. Phillip Zupp

Sgt (Later F/O) Phillip Zupp in "Black Murray"

  • Flying Officer Phillip Zupp M.I.D

Phillip Zupp was born in 1925 in the fertile Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia. In a rural community reeling from drought and the Great Depression, he never imagined he'd have the opportunity to fly. Nevertheless, on leaving school at 14 he spent his first pay cheque on a copy of Every Boy's Fighting Planes and enlisted in the Air Training Corps, a cadet body.

Enlisting on the stroke of 18, he served in World War II with the Australian Army's 2/10 Commando Squadron in Wewak, New Guinea. Upon cessation of hostilities in 1945, the bulk of his unit was shipped to Hiroshima, Japan, as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF). On returning to Australia in 1947, he spent a year as a civilian cutting sugar-cane before re-enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force as a mechanic in 1948. He began to spend his Air Force wages on flying lessons.

With the outbreak of the Korean War and Australia's commitment to the United Nations Forces, the RAAF was busily training pilots. On the recommendation of a senior officer at Wagga Wagga, Zupp was selected for No. 4 Pilots Course at Point Cook, Victoria, graduating in February 1951.

His "Korean Experience" began in November 1951 when he converted onto the Gloster Meteor at Iwakuni, Japan.Six days later he flew his first operational mission as a member of 77 Squadron, a "scramble" in A77-368. With about 400 hours total experience under his belt and only a dozen on type, he later reflected that " was pretty much on-the-job training and the longer you lasted, the greater your chance of survival." His log-book for the next seven months is littered with entries relating to the ground attack role 77 Squadron fulfilled. There are references to numerous occasions in his 201 missions when his aircraft was holed or landed with minimum fuel, as well as the various targets the squadron had attacked. Inconspicuously glued in between a couple of pages is his Citation, "Mentioned in Despatches". It makes special mention of a mission on 6 February, 1952, when his canopy was shattered by ground fire and, wounded, he flew A77-15 back to base at Kimpo. His log-book reveals that he flew again the next day. In retrospect, this seems a little premature as he had shrapnel and perspex surgically removed from his face in 1990.

Extracting details from Phil Zupp about his combat days was never an easy task. He was a quiet man who believed "that was then and this is now". With the exception of his American decoration - the Air Medal - his medals remained unmounted in their brown paper boxes until his latter years. In fact, certain medals have only surfaced recently as a result of research since his passing. This is indicative of the modesty he always exhibited, not a lack of pride in his military service.

A newspaper article about Sgt. Zupp written on his return gives some insight into his perceptions of Korea. He speaks of the cold, the pile of rubble that was previously Seoul and the multiple currencies that were in use. Particularly telling is that when asked if he thought 200 missions were "too many missions for one flyer" on a tour of duty, he replied, "[The pilots] would probably growl if they weren't kept busy".

Subsequent to his RAAF career, Zupp remained in aviation for his working life. From international operations with QANTAS, to instructing, cloud-seeding and Aerial Ambulance duties. He always felt being paid to fly was a privilege he never dreamt of as a country boy in Queensland.

Phillip Zupp passed away on 31 July, 1991, after a short battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Edith, his children Pamela, Adrian and Owen and a number of grandchildren. Appropriately, his headstone bears the RAAF crest and the quote "Into the wild blue yonder".

Owen Zupp (August 2002)

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