607 AC&W "TADPOLES"
Radar in Korea began with a very slow start. First AT6 aircraft along with ground spotters were used to direct fighter/bombers to their targets. This action proved costly both in lives and aircraft as the spotter aircraft were slow and provided good targets to the enemy ground troops. Bad weather also limited their use.
The introduction of ground based radar to direct bombers for nighttime and bad weather missions was introduced early in the war but the rough treatment and the age of the equipment caused many problems. Although radar had been used in the Second World War with limited success, the techniques had been forgotten and the equipment had not been upgraded. Ground based radar was first tried on 28 November, when a detachment of the 3903rd Radar Bomb Scoring (RBS) Squadron used truck mounted AN/MPQ-2 radars to guide B-26s against enemy positions in front of the 25 Infantry Division. Although successful, no more missions were flown for approximately two months.
General Stratemeyer ordered the Fifth Air Force to come up with a plan to aid the B-29 bombers in night bombing along the front lines. The 502nd Tactical Control Group (TGC) was given the task of developing the procedures and equipment for this mission. In January 1951 the group assumed control of the 3903's three MPQ-2 radar sets. The detachments then became full-scale tactical air direction posts called Tadpoles with the code names of “Beverage”, “Chestnut”, and “Hillbilly”. The MPQ-2s were to be positioned behind the front lines near the command posts of the I, IX, & X Corps. The bombing technique that was designed was simple and straight forward. When the ground commander needed an air strike he called the coordinates of the target to AF who in turn called the proper Tadpole site and dispatched the aircraft who was first assigned to a search radar (TACC) and vectored to one of the Tadpoles. When picked up by the MPQ-2 radar, radio contact was made between the controller and the pilot who then gave the pilot the altitude, airspeed, and the heading that the plane was to proceed. With the coordinates of the target marked on a map of the area the controller “talked” the pilot using the visual reference of the aircraft provided by the radar to the target area. At a certain distant the radar controller ordered the aircrew to open the bomb bay doors and arm the bombs. At 10,000 yards from the target, the controller began a countdown to “zero” at that time the bombardier dropped his bombs. Though simple, the technique proved very effective and on 13 March 1951 FEAF Bomber Command began to use this technique. The results was immediately noted by the Army. On the night of 10 April they destroyed enemy regimental command posts, three supply dumps and two villages that were concealing enemy troops and supplies. Soon enemy prisoners stated that the night bombings often caught them in the open and raised havoc with their previously successful night time movements.
The missions were not all successful though. There were some kinks that needed to be ironed out in the system. Using the newer MSQ radar on one mission the controller did not follow through with the bombing procedure and directed the B-29 bombers against his own installation. There was no loss of life, but several tents were burned as was the ego of the controller. Eventually it became a highly effective means of close air support for the front line troops and was used for the remainder of the war.
Many of the night air raids were done within a few hundred yards from friendly troops who were amazed at the accuracy and effectiveness of the missions.
Napalm bombing was proven a very successful and effective means of disrupting many of the enemies movements, especially when replacing or reinforcing his front line troops. There is no way to tell how many UN lives were saved by this “pin-point” method of bombing.
Air support for the X Corps totaled over 3,000 shorties that included 2380 daylight and 204 nighttime raids. Not only was the USAF in on the bombing, but over 900 of the raids were flown by Marine Corps F4Us.
Maj. Gen. Gerald C. Thomas commander of the 1st Marine Division who was heavily engaged during September in the Punchbowl area of eastern Korea saw that the close air support provided by the Tadpoles was very effective and a welcome weapon in fighting the enemy.
Although they were unable to place the ordinance in the door as it is done now, they paved the way by placing it in the yard. As a result, the "Tadpoles" of the Korean war became perhaps the first step in precision radar controlled bombing.