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Curator's Choice Video Collection

Cradle of Aviation Museum Historian and Curator, Josh Stoff, curates interesting short YouTube videos and provides commentary.

Virtual Museum Home > Curator's Choice > The Bridges at Toko-Ri

The Bridges at Toko-Ri

YouTube Channel: War Movies, posted May 4, 2019

The Grumman F9F Panther was a carrier-based jet fighter/bomber produced in Bethpage, NY between 1947 and 1952. One of the Navy’s first jets, a total of 1382 were produced. The Panther was used extensively by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the Korean War (1950 – 1953) and it was the first jet aircraft flown by the Blue Angels aerobatics team.

Panthers flew a total of 78,000 missions during the war and they scored the Navy’s first air-to-air ‘kills’. Grumman Panthers became known as rugged attack aircraft and were able to sustain operations even in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire. Among the more famous people to fly the Panther in combat were future astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong and Hall of Famer Ted Williams. Due to its ruggedness, versatility and hefty payload, Panthers were mainly used in the ground attack role in Korea, attacking North Korean supply lines, bridges, dams and troop concentrations. A Grumman F9F Cougar, a later swept-wing development of the straight-wing F9F Panther, may be seen in the museum’s ‘Jet Age’ Gallery.

The 1954 film ‘The Bridges at Toko-Ri”, starring William Holden, was a story about U.S. Navy pilots assigned to attack a group of heavily defended bridges in North Korea. Although the story is fictional, it is loosely based on Panther attacks on the Sui-Ho dam and the Majon-Ni bridge. Fortunately, the film was made in the days before computer graphics existed, so many actual Navy Panthers were used in the production of the film. Thus we can still see gorgeous color footage of Panther carrier operations and in-flight action. This is as close as we can get to seeing real Panthers in flight as none are currently airworthy. When the film switches to the attack on the bridges only models are used, but it does give a reasonable representation of low-level Panther attacks in Korea.

So put it on full screen and watch Grumman Panthers in action – in Technicolor!