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The Kadena Chicken and Other USAF Myths and Urban Legends

The Kadena Chicken and Other USAF Myths and Urban Legends

Kadena AFB Hauntings and the 'Kadena Chicken'

Kadena Air Base Okinawa Japan gate sign


Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa is one of the U.S. military's most storied overseas postings. It was first captured from the Japanese during World War II and has been in continuous use ever since. It's also said to be haunted.

One of its base housing units was believed to be the site of a murder-suicide in the 1970s and has been haunted ever since. One of the base's gates gets a regular ghostly visitor in uniform asking for someone to light a cigarette. There's also the spectral figure of an old Japanese man that will murder someone else if he sees you.

Ghostly Image at Kadena Gate 

The "Kadena Chicken"

Kadena Air Base is the home of the 18th Wing, an Air Force unit that predates World War II. The legend of the Kadena Chicken is based on the 18th Wing's insignia, which features a black chicken, with its wings held high on a yellow background mixed with the unit's history during the Korean War. The legend is pretty gruesome, but it's also completely false. It's also a way to get an old-timer riled up by telling them it's false because they are so sure that it really happened. Some arguments in bars have degenerated into fistfights.

18th Wing F-15 Eagle at Kadena AB

By the end of November 1950, the Korean War was not going well for North Korea. United Nations forces had almost pushed the Communist North Koreans to the Yalu River, its border with China. On Dec. 1, 1950, the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing deployed to an air base near Pyongyang from its home in the Philippines, to support the UN move north.

While the 18th was getting settled near North Korea's capital city, the Chinese People's Volunteer Army intervened in the war and began pushing the UN back toward the 38th parallel. The UN made its "fighting withdrawal" against the overwhelming force as it moved south at a rapid pace.

F-51 Mustangs of the 18th FBW in Korea

18th FBW P-51 Mustangs in Korea

The speed with which the UN was forced to move caught many by surprise. By Christmas Eve 1950, 100,000 UN troops and 14,000 North Korean refugees had to be evacuated at the port of Hungnam, on the peninsula's east coast, or be destroyed. The (untrue) Legend of the Kadena Chicken begins around the same time, back in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang sits on the opposite side of the peninsula, pretty deep inside North Korea. It's said that the 18th Wing was surprised by the Communist counterattack and its pilots abandoned the airmen on the ground, evacuating the base in their aircraft. The aircraft maintenance crews were left undefended and faced the combined Chinese-North Korean assault on their own. Reprisals from the Communists were said to be brutal. The men of the 18th Wing who were not killed outright were tortured and executed, with some being hung from the rafters of their aircraft hangars using aircraft safety wire or barbed wire.

18th FBW F-86 Sabre aircraft

18th FBW F-86F Sabre in Korea

As a punishment, the story goes, the 18th Wing was forbidden by the Pentagon from having a home station in the continental United States until such time as they proved their bravery in combat. Further humiliation came from the Pentagon in the bestowing of an new insignia: a chicken with its wings in the air, surrendering on a yellow background to remind the 18th forever of its cowardice in the face of the enemy.

18th Wing Patch

None of this ever happened. The 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing also evacuated in the face of the Chinese intervention, first moving to Suwon Air Base (a few miles from today's Osan Air Base) and then being forced to Jinhae Naval Base on the peninsula's southern tip. An alternate version of the story says the Americans fled in disgrace from Suwon.

Except the Americans didn't flee in terror at all. The 18th received a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation for damaging or destroying thousands of enemy vehicles. Aircraft from the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing were in Korea for the duration of the war, only moving to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa in 1954. In Korea it earned the unit the nickname "Truckbusters” and 45,000 combat sorties isn't what anyone would call "fleeing in terror."

18th FBW truckbusters 45,000 trucks

As for the “cowardly chicken” emblem, it predates the Korean War. It was chosen in 1927 and first approved for use by the Army Air Corps in 1931, when the unit was still called the 18th Pursuit Squadron. The "chicken" isn't a chicken at all; it's a fighting gamecock. The unit motto "Unguibus et Rostro" is Latin for "talons and beak," meaning the unit fights with everything it has at its disposal.

In essence, while Kadena Air Base may be steeped in tales of the supernatural, the legend of the 'Kadena Chicken' serves as a reminder of the power of myth and the importance of separating fact from fiction in unraveling history's enigmatic narratives.

The Mysterious Black Goo Incident

The murky tale of the mysterious black goo incident at an undisclosed USAF base has left the airmen scratching their heads in bewilderment. It all started when a routine maintenance check on a B-2 bomber uncovered a sticky, gooey substance oozing from the aircraft's underbelly. No one could pinpoint the origin of this strange goo, and before they could analyze it, the substance mysteriously disappeared overnight, leaving behind a puzzling residue that defied scientific explanation.

B-2 Spirit Bomber

Rumors began to swirl among the base personnel, with some whispering about extraterrestrial involvement and others suspecting it to be a top-secret experimental material gone awry. The base went on high alert, and a thorough investigation was launched, but all leads turned up empty. To this day, the black goo incident remains shrouded in mystery, a cautionary tale of the strange and unexplained phenomena that lurk within the shadows of military installations.

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The Phantom Airman of Area 51

For those intrigued by the mysterious tales surrounding Area 51, the legend of the Phantom Airman is a must-hear. Rumored to roam the vast desert expanse in the dead of night, this spectral figure is said to be a ghostly reminder of a classified military experiment gone awry. According to local whispers, the Phantom Airman appears as a shadowy silhouette in full flight gear, haunting unsuspecting onlookers as they traverse the secluded desert roads.

USAF Area 51 Warning Sign

Eyewitness accounts of encounters with the Phantom Airman describe a chilling presence that sends shivers down the spine. Some claim to have seen the ghostly figure standing silently on the tarmac of the restricted airfield, while others speak of a sudden gust of wind accompanied by the distant sound of phantom aircraft engines. Whether real or a product of overactive imaginations, the legend of the Phantom Airman continues to captivate believers and skeptics alike, adding another layer of intrigue to the enigmatic aura of Area 51.

The Haunted Hangar at Wright-Patterson AFB

A mysterious air of unease surrounds the mythical Hangar 18 at Wright-Patterson AFB. As the sun sets over the base, rumors of ghostly apparitions and eerie echoes fill the air, sending shivers down the spines of even the most experienced airmen. Legend has it that the spirits of fallen pilots from World War II still linger within the hangar's walls, their phantom footsteps echoing in the dead of night.

Wright Patterson AFB Hangar

Despite numerous attempts to debunk the haunting tales, a sense of unease still pervades the hangar's atmosphere, leading many to speculate on the supernatural forces at play. Whether it's the flickering lights, unexplained shadows, or sudden drops in temperature, something inexplicable seems to lurk within the confines of Hangar 18, leaving visitors with chills running down their spines. The stories of the haunted hangar at Wright-Patterson AFB have become an integral part of the rich tapestry of urban legends that shroud the world of the United States Air Force.

The Curse of the Ghostly B-29 Bomber

Tales of the cursed B-29 bomber have circulated around air bases for decades. Legend has it that any crew that comes into contact with this ghostly aircraft meets a tragic fate. The eerie whispers of aircrew spirits are said to accompany the sound of the phantom bomber's engines in the dead of night.

B-29 Superfortress Bomber

Despite efforts to exorcise the aircraft of its curse, the haunting presence of the B-29 bomber lingers on, striking fear into the hearts of those who dare to cross its path. Many airmen have reported seeing shadowy figures in 1940s Air Force uniforms surrounding the aircraft on moonless nights, a reminder of the mysterious and tragic history that surrounds the ghostly B-29 bomber.

The Legend of the Lost Nuclear Warhead

Deep in the archives of the United States Air Force lies a story that has baffled historians and conspiracy theorists alike: the mysterious disappearance of a nuclear warhead during a top-secret mission in the early days of the Cold War. Legend has it that a B-47 Stratojet bomber carrying the deadly payload vanished without a trace over the Pacific Ocean, leaving behind only a trail of unanswered questions and speculation. Some believe it was a simple case of mechanical failure, while others are convinced that the warhead was intercepted by unknown forces with an agenda shrouded in secrecy.

B-47 Stratojet Bomber

As the tale goes, the crew of the ill-fated bomber had been tasked with transporting the nuclear device to a classified location when communication was suddenly lost. Search and rescue efforts yielded no wreckage or survivors, leading many to speculate about the true fate of the lost warhead. Was it a case of human error or something more sinister lurking in the shadows of international espionage? To this day, the legend of the missing nuclear warhead continues to haunt the corridors of military history, a chilling reminder of the high stakes and hidden dangers of the Cold War era.

The UFO Encounter at RAF Bentwaters

The RAF Bentwaters incident is an old chestnut in the world of UFO lore. The story goes that back in 1980, a few USAF personnel stationed at the base witnessed strange lights in the sky. These lights were not your average shooting stars or passing satellites; they moved in ways that seemed to defy the laws of physics.

RAF Bentwaters UFO Base

Even more intriguing were the eyewitness accounts of seeing a mysterious craft on the ground, complete with strange hieroglyphic-like symbols etched onto its surface. The official explanation was that it was all just a misunderstanding, perhaps a satellite or experimental aircraft gone astray. But for those who were there that fateful night, the memories of the encounter linger like a half-remembered dream. The truth may never be known, but the legend of the UFO encounter at RAF Bentwaters lives on in whispered conversations and internet forums dedicated to the unexplained.

The Ghostly Pilot of Edwards AFB

Ever heard the eerie tale of the ghostly pilot haunting the runways of Edwards Air Force Base? Legend has it that a brave airman from decades past still roams the tarmac, his spectral presence sending shivers down the spines of those who dare to tread where he once soared. The story goes that on foggy nights, a faint outline of a vintage aircraft can be seen taking off without a pilot in sight, leaving witnesses questioning the boundaries between reality and the supernatural.

Edwards AFB California

Rumors persist that the phantom pilot met a tragic end during a top-secret flight mission, his soul forever tethered to the base where he met his untimely demise. Some claim to hear the distant roar of engines and catch fleeting glimpses of a ghostly figure in aviator gear, a haunting reminder of the dangers that come with defending the skies. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the tale of the ghostly pilot of Edwards AFB continues to intrigue and mystify those who venture into the realm of USAF urban legends.


Urban legends and myths surrounding the United States Air Force (USAF) have proliferated over the years, reflecting a blend of folklore, speculation, and occasional truths. From tales of experimental aircraft sightings in remote locales to rumors of top-secret bases hidden beneath the desert sands, these stories captivate imagination and often blur the lines between fact and fiction. Whether it's the legendary Area 51, purported encounters with extraterrestrial beings, or the enduring mystery of missing aircraft, USAF urban legends continue to fascinate and inspire speculation among enthusiasts and skeptics alike. Are they true? You be the judge.

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