Scott Air Force Base News

Korean Vet ‘Mosquitoes’ visit with Scott Airmen

Korean War veteran and Mosquito member Al Jorgenson talks to Scott Air Force Base Airmen about his experiences in the military. The Korean War Mosquitoes visited Scott to learn about the present day Air Force and the installation, and the members shared their many stories about their jobs and missions as radio operators and pilots during the Korean War. For more photos, see www.scott.af.mil.
Korean War veteran and Mosquito member Al Jorgenson talks to Scott Air Force Base Airmen about his experiences in the military. The Korean War Mosquitoes visited Scott to learn about the present day Air Force and the installation, and the members shared their many stories about their jobs and missions as radio operators and pilots during the Korean War. For more photos, see www.scott.af.mil.

Sixteen veterans of the Korean War visited Scott AFB Aug. 26, and upon their arrival, they were welcomed by the 375th Air Mobility Wing leadership and Team Scott Airmen.

These veterans are a part of a group known as “Mosquitoes,” named after the radio call signs they used and the planes they flew. They were radio communicators, and these particular veterans, enlisted and pilot officers, served in the 6147th Tactical Control Group in the time range of July 1950 to June 1956. During the Korean War, the Mosquitoes were responsible for creating a large-scale, effective forward air control system that included both airborne and ground-based FACs.

Every year, the Mosquitoes get together for a reunion, this time around St. Louis, and they included Scott AFB on their list of stops. The base has a unique history with radio communicators and the oldest brick buildings in the historic ward of Scott could tell tales about the many missions the installation has transitioned through over the decades.

One such mission at Scott was being a radio communications hub from 1940-59, providing technical school training to over 150,000 people.

Of the Mosquito members who visited, two of them attended Scott’s radio school, learning airborne communications and radio mechanics.

After seeing some of present day Scott AFB, Mosquito member Ray Vold said, “The base has changed dramatically since 1951, I did not recognize any site … I can remember the barracks and the school buildings, but I didn’t see all this other stuff … more buildings, more grounds.”

Vold said there were many pleasant memories, but his worst memory was his arrival at Scott from Lackland AFB, if only because he was one of the few present on base during his first Christmas away from home. His only company was the gentleman who fed coal to the furnaces during that bitter Illinois winter.

For fellow Scott alumnus and Mosquito member Hal Prather, who had grown up during the Great Depression, joining the service was a launching point. He had never been more than 200 miles from home, but he had his sights set on doing something that would permit discovery.

“When I went into the Air Force … this was a big trip for me, and I was enjoying seeing everything. I enjoyed the whole experience. The best thing that had ever happened to me was going into the service, but I didn’t like this ‘hurry up and wait’… I knew right away this wasn’t my life’s work. So I put in four years, and I’m proud that I did it,” he said.

Prather learned the basics of electronics and radio repair in the schoolhouses of Scott AFB and eventually his skills led to his first civilian profession in electrical engineering.

He worked for IBM after he separated and worked for product development.

After the turmoil of the Korean War had settled, these Mosquitoes either continued their military careers or took their skills into civilian professions around the country like Prather did.

But in the case of Mosquito pilot and retired Col. Jack Taylor, his next chapter waited until Sept. 6, 1953, and it was a date he wouldn’t likely forget.

“I flew 39 combat missions in Korea before I was shot down. They had a machine gun on the hill that I didn’t know anything about, so I ended up spending the rest of the war as a guest of the Chinese Communists, which wasn’t pleasant,” Taylor said.

It was common practice for Mosquito pilots to accomplish their surveillance goal by flying low so that the airborne FACs could find enemy targets. This put them at a particularly heavy risk of being shot down, but was necessary to find the most effective targets for strike aircraft.

Taylor was repatriated and brought home that September during Operation Big Switch, which rolled out after the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, signaling the end of the war. He continued his military career with his next assignment at Eglin AFB, Fla.

I flew 39 combat missions in Korea before I was shot down. They had a machine gun on the hill that I didn’t know anything about, so I ended up spending the rest of the war as a guest of the Chinese Communists, which wasn’t pleasant.

(Ret.) Col. Jack Taylor, former Mosquito pilot

“At Eglin, I was in a very sensitive position, and since they felt that anybody who had been a prisoner of war might not be all that trustworthy, I was relieved from that and moved down to a squadron level. My wife raised hell about that,” Taylor said.

Taylor earned a Master’s Degree and had the opportunity to spend time in Italy flying the U.S. ambassador around. He flew the Ho Chi Minh Trail and served as Director of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Mosquito members sat around a table in one of Scott’s historic buildings, P-3, and shared some of their memories of their service and photos with Col. Laura Lenderman, 375th AMW Commander, and her Airmen.

This experience brought back memories for some Mosquito members such as Vold, who said his last time at Scott was his beginning.

“The foundation I think really began here. I learned how to study and acquire knowledge. I came here as a 19-year-old farm kid, without a lot of experience, so this was my start in life,” he said.

Vold was stationed at Scott AFB for his eight-month technical training, which started in December 1951 for airborne radio communications.

Vold said there were many pleasant memories, but his worst memory was his arrival at Scott from Lackland AFB, if only because he was one of the few present on base during his first Christmas away from home. His only company was the gentleman who fed coal to the furnaces during that bitter Illinois winter.

“My best memory was really going to radio school; I enjoyed it a lot,” said Vold. “I got to love this place, ate a lot of food, and I went to many Cardinals and St. Louis Browns ball games.”

According to the National Museum of the Air Force, by the end of the war, the Mosquitoes flew over 40,000 sorties in support of United Nations ground forces. The Air Force disbanded the Mosquitoes and their mission in 1956, believing that slow flying airborne FACs were not practical with upcoming new technology.

Vold’s love of St. Louis baseball helped him make his decision when it came time to pick his first assignment after technical school. Because he excelled on his final test, his instructors let him choose his first base, which was Scott.

“The training I received here allowed me to be the youngest staff sergeant in my Korean group in charge of 21 people repairing airborne radios,” said Vold. “I think it helped me all the way through life. I ended up being successful in business, and I have a degree in economics, mathematics and accounting.”

Vold said Scott AFB was the stage where he learned skills that were the foundation of his eight years in the Air Force. He served the second four years in the reserves, and served in Korea from 1954-55.

According to the National Museum of the Air Force, by the end of the war, the Mosquitoes flew over 40,000 sorties in support of United Nations ground forces. The Air Force disbanded the Mosquitoes and their mission in 1956, believing that slow flying airborne FACs were not practical with upcoming new technology.

For more information about the Mosquitoes and how they impacted the Korean War, please see their website at mosquitokorea.org.

  Comments