During the early part of the Cold War, Strategic Air Command (SAC) wanted to know what Capabilities the Soviet Union had in regards of radar and its numbers of its air force.
Due to the growing tensions between the West and East, President Truman forbid any kind of overflights, so SAC turned to Britain for help.
The RAF, keen to show their worth in the "Special Relationship" agreed to crew the American loaned RB-45s. the cover story was that the RAF was evaluating the mid air refueling capbilities of the RB-45.
Both countries needed vital intel on the Soviet infrastructure, defences and offences.
These Reconnaissance Bombers were already at RAF Sculthorpe with the 91st SRW and perfect for the Job in hand......
The hand picked crews which formed the "Special Duties Flight" including SQD Leader John Crampton and Rex Sanders, trained at Lockborne AFB stateside before returning to Sculthorpe in early 1952.
Only Col Hack Mixson, commander of the 91st, Crampton and Sanders knew the true nature of the operation.
3 routes were chosen by Bomber Command across the Western areas of the Soviet Union with Crampton taking the longest.
On April the 17th, 1952 the 3 RB-45s left RAF Sculthorpe to carry out this daring operation.
It was a huge success and the vital information was gained.
It was decided that a follow up was needed later in 1952 and Operation Jiu Jitsu II was earmarked for December 1952.
The Crews changed a little with some of the original crew personel not being available this allowed the introduction of Navigator FLT LT Richard Hale. ( pictured 3rd from the right)
Shortly before codename "PEPSIN" was to be carried out it, was cancelled at the 11th hour by Winston Churchill on the advice of his Home Secretary, Antony Eden who thought the the RAF was doing the Americans dirty work by gaining atomic targets and not defences.
The aircraft returned to the states not before the most famous photos of Jiu Jitsu RB-45s were taken.
It also appears that the aircraft flew back to the states in RAF markings!
In early 1954, both powers decided that more intel was needed on the Soviets advances so operation Jiu Jitsu was earmarked for April 0f 1954.
The RB-45s of the 91st SRW were in the transition of being part of the 19th TRS which was on its way to a new home base, RAF Sculthorpe.
Again Crampton lead the 3 crews on a slightly more deeper penetration of the Soviet Union.
The flights left Sculthorpe on April the 28th, 1954.
Crampton with Rex Sanders, took the longest again, but this time the Soviet air defences had improved and his aircraft experienced more flak and was targeted by MIG 15s.
The MIGs had been instructed to ram Cramptons aircraft.
Crampton was unaware of the commotion he was causing, but he missed his refueling rendezvous and landed at Furstenfeldbruck AFB in West Germany to the bemusement of the personnel there.
Here was an American Aircraft in RAF markings landing unannounced from the wrong side of the Iron Curtain in the early hours!
Crampton refueled and safely landed at Sculthorpe.
These operations were a very daring and successful operation for both countries.
We are very pleased that on display at the RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre we have Flt Lt Richards Hales flight log book detailing his training for the later 1952 operation which was cancelled and his flight helmet in which he wore on these training ops.
We are very grateful to his daughter for the loan of these unique and priceless pieces of Jiu Jitsu history.
Just Recently, Sqd Ldr Rex Sanders medal grouping came to light and we were very pleased that War & son of Leominster gave us access to his log book detailing his training and " Special Duties Flight" over the Soviet Union.
War and Son - Home
We are also pleased to have collaborated with Runway 25 in Producing a 70th anniversary commemorative coin.
These can be purchased on the below link
Operation Jiu Jitsu 70th Anniversary Coin – Runway25
You can find out more about these missons at the RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre.........