Tim Bryant was a Mosquito. During the Korean War he served as a forward observer for the Air Force. He called in air strikes on the enemy with the help of a pilot in a World War II single-engine, two-seat T-6 training plane and a radio.
Long before Bryant arrived in Korea, Air Force units with forward observers that worked with T-6 pilots were called “Mosquitoes.” “We were named Mosquitoes by North Korean troops because our T-6s were always buzzing around them overhead like a mosquito looking for the enemy,” he said. “That was early in the war.”
Bryant, a staff sergeant in those days, served as a radio repairman on the three-man observer team. Another sergeant, handled the radio. A pilot who was a lieutenant, was in charge. Together with the sergeants the trio was sent to the front lines in two Jeeps. The radio equipment filled one and the second Jeep provided transportation for the other two men.
“My unit, the 6142 Tactical Air Control Group supported all the Republic of Korea divisions serving in Korea. The three men in my group were attached to the 7th ROK at Chun Chon, south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone),” the 78-year-old Oyster Creek resident who lives in Englewood said.
The way it worked, a T-6 would take to the air with a pilot in the front seat and a Korean observer, or someone who knew the area, in the rear. If the spotter found a target it was marked with a white phosphorus rocket fired from the spotter plane. The T-6 pilot notified the observers on the ground who plotted the exact location of the enemy and called in tactical air support.
“We’d talk directly to the strike planes who usually were Navy carrier pilots. Most of the time they’d fly in and drop napalm on the Chinese and North Koreans,” Bryant said. “The T-6s were so effective, sometimes when they’d fly over the enemy troops would surrender because they knew napalm was coming next.”
When Bryant arrived in Korea in January of 1953 he stepped off a plane into 20 below zero weather and a war that was still very much alive even though the fighting would stop on July 27. In June the North Koreans and the Chinese overran the 10th ROK Division up along the DMZ next to the 7th ROK Division he and his outfit were supporting. This happened a month before the shooting stopped.
“I got word from a Korean officer that four Chinese tanks were out in the open in front of the 7th Division along the DMZ. This officer asked me, ‘Can you get me an air strike now!’
“I was just an Airman 2nd, but I got the coordinates and called in an air strike on the tanks. The four Navy pilots who flew the strike were going crazy because it wasn’t often they got to shoot at something like this,” he said. “The T-6 pilot who watched the strike called me back and said they got three of the four tanks. I just wonder how much guff the pilot who missed the fourth tank got?”
One time Bryant and his unit were called to a particular segment of the DMZ and told to coordinate the strike. Instead of planes a ship was called in to do the job.
“When we arrived on location along the DMZ, the T-6 pilot we were working with said, ‘Guess who your spotting for?’ We didn’t know. ‘You’re spotting for the Battleship Missouri,’ the aviator said.
“The battleship’s first 16-inch shell landed along the DMZ in front of us. When it hit it rocked the ground. The Missouri was determined to take something out big time because they fired 20 to 25 rounds of 16-inch stuff at their target,” Bryant recalled. I wondered what they were shooting at. I’ve tried to find someone who was on the Missouri at that time to tell me the story, but I’ve never had any luck.”
“It was early December when I left Korea and returned by troop ship to Seattle, Wash. When I arrived it was Dec. 23 and the guy at the ticket counter told me he had no more ticks for flights to the Boston area before Christmas.
“I was standing there shooting the breeze with him when his phone rang. When he hung up he said, ‘I’ve got five first class tickets to Boston. Do you want them?'” Bryant recalled.
He and four of his buddies rode in style back to the East Coast in time to make it home for Christmas.
“While I was in the Air Force I ate the same chow that the higher ranking officers did. I weighed 135 and was 6-feet, 3-inches tall and so skinny when I turned sideways you couldn’t see me,” he said. “When I returned I weighed 230 pounds. “My mother took one look at me and said, ‘I sent one son away to war and I got two back.'”
After being discharged from the service, Bryant got a job as a repairman working on early computers for IBM.
“My computer experience all came from the Air Force teaching me electronics,” he said. “I was in the first class of IBM 707 Computers. They were the first transistorized computers.
“My first computer was the last computer IBM made with tubes. It was a 610 IBM used to communicate with Russia’s Sputnik, the first satellite to circle the earth. We were also doing computations for the reentry shields for our satellites on this computer,” Bryant explained. It used to take 12 hours to do one computation. You could put the same computation on one of the PCs today and before you could take your fingers off the keys you’d have the answer.”
He worked for IBM until he retired. He and his wife, Ellen, moved to Englewood a decade ago. They have seven grown children: Mary, John, Judy, Daniel, Timothy, Michael and William.
Name: Timothy Bryant
D.O.B: 23 July 1932
Hometown: Hazelton, Mass.
Current: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 11 March 1952
Discharged: 10 March 1956
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Unit: 6142 Tactical Air Control Group
Commendations: National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with 2 Bronze Battle Stars, Good Conduct Medal
This story was first printed in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, Dec. 13, 2010 and is republished with permission.
Click here to view Bryant’s Collection in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.
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