Artist recreates late grandfather’s North Korean war rescue

Posted on Nov 10, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Shot Down in North Korea: Pilot James McCabe, 1951 | Korean war

On October 27th, 1951, downed pilot James J. McCabe ran “like an injured gazelle” past enemy lines to an approaching rescue copter in North Korea. After three failed pickup attempts, he grabbed the helicopter’s landing skiff and hung on for dear life as the chopper took off under a hailstorm of explosions. 

For illustrator Tim McCabe, f’00, his grandfather’s rescue and evasion report read like a Hollywood movie.

“We just knew him as ‘Grandpa Mac.’ Not a World War II and Korean War fighter pilot. I wish I had asked him more about his experiences.  But our family was lucky to have a copy of his bailout report that he kept years later.” 

Tim decided to bring his grandfather’s narrative to life in the form of a graphic-novel inspired video. Working with his friend Fred O’Neill, a war historian, Tim was able to recreate the scenes using a combination of his grandfather’s testimony, historical research, and his own artistic training. 

This month marks the 66th Anniversary of Captain James McCabe flying his F-51 Mustang on that fateful Korean War mission. The United States fought on behalf of the U.N. in what is sometimes referred to as “The Forgotten War.”

Tim McCabe, an artist for, dedicated the six-minute film to his own kids and relatives. “I realized I could do something more than just email a copy of Grandpa’s typewritten report to everyone. By bringing this story to life, I hope our family always remembers that he not only cared about us, but also cared about his country.”

Watch Tim McCabe’s latest creation honoring his grandfather who served in the Korean War. McCabe’s art has appeared on our website before: in a video illustrating how he met his wife on campus, and in a fun piece about Jayhawk Jedi he prepared for Star Wars Day.

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