506th Fighter Group - History

 

 


Iwo-based Group patches

Missions to Japan

May/June


June

July/August

  • 28 May - Fighter Strike against airfields in Tokyo area
  • 1 June Black Friday - VLR Fighter Escort of XXI BomCom maximum effort against Osaka
  • 7 June - VLR Fighter Escort of XXI BomCom maximum effort against Osaka
  • 8 June - VLR Fighter Strike against airfields in the Nagoya area
  • 9 June - VLR Fighter Strike against airfields in Nagoya area
  • 10 June - Fighter Escort of B-29s against Tokyo area
  • 11 June = VLR Fighter Strike against airfield
  • 14 June - Bonin's mission
  • 15 June - Escort of B-29s over Osaka area.
  • 19 June - VLR Fighter Strike against Kagaraigahara and Meiji airfields
  • 23 June - VLR Fighter Strike against airfields in Tokyo area
  • 26 June - VLR Escort of B-29s over Nagoya and Kobe
  • 27 June - Fighter Strike against Japanese airfields in the areas NE and E of Tokyo
  • 3 July - Death at Chichi Jima - tale of the rescue attempt of a downed pilot
  • 14 July - TSUKUBA primary target with the 462nd Fighter Squadron providing close escort for two photographic B-24's over the Yokosuka Naval Base
  • 16 July - this is the mission in which Captain Benbow was lost over Nagoya, Japan.
  • 28 July - stories from Jack K. Westbrook, Edwin Warfield III.
  • 3 August - Ed Mikes rescued after being strafed by Jap Zeroes.

506 FG 607 Dolly kopia
 
  • 506 FG 607 Dolly kopia
    462nd Dolly Pilot Captain JJ Grant
  • JJ Grant poster
    Captain JJ Grant of the 462nd
  • 502 ver2
  • Aust-in-color-ver-4-kopia
    Abner Aust 1 Capt. Abner Aust, “A” Flight Commander, and the 457th Squadron’s only ace.
    (From Larry Dolan)
  • 506_FG_599_kopia[1]
    2 P-51's flying CAP over Iwo Jima
  • 539
    539 “Lil ol’ Meanie” Lt. William “George” Hetland, pilot, September, 1945. (From Jack Lambert,
    credited to Martin Ganschow)
  • 506_FG_556_kopia[1]
  • 540 in air
    540 in air “Kwitcherbitchen.” Pilots were Capt. William Lawrence and Lt. Alan Kinvig.
    Crew Chief was S.Sgt. George Wagner. (Mark Stevens)
  • 540
    540 “Kwitcherbitchen.” This Mustang was usually flown by William Lawrence
    and Alan Kinvig. Crew Chief was S.Sgt. George Wagner. (John Benbow)
  • P-51D616Linfante
  • 501
    501 Unknown pilot and ground crew with #501.
  • 557a
    557 Lt. Raymond Feld’s Mustang being prepared for a mission. (USAAF photo)
  • 506_FG_616_kopia[1]
  • 602
    602 Good aerial view of this plane. The pilot is unidentified. (Ed Bahlhorn)
  • A-42160
    Plane crew pushes #603. (Official USAF photo)
  • A-42218
    A flight of Mustangs starts the landing break over the flightline.
  • P-51D542FightingLady
  • AustIwoGroup_gs
    457th Officers - Fighter Ace Captain Abner Aust front row right
  • Bahlhorn and Manno
    Bahlhorn and Manno……Lt. Ed Bahlhorn and Sgt. Dom Manno, pilot and crew chief of “Meatball.”
    (From Ed Bahlhorn)
  • p51-25
  • p51-26
  • p51c1
    She's a beauty

The 506th Fighter Group Constituted as 506th Fighter Group on 5 Oct 1944 and activated on 21 Oct. Equipped with P-51 aircraft. Moved to Asiatic-Pacific Theater, Feb. - Apr 1945, the air echelon flying patrols from Tinian (Map)(Satellite View) before joining the rest of the group on Iwo Jima (Map)(Satellite View) . The group, assigned to the Twentieth AF, flew its first mission from Iwo on 18 May when it bombed and strafed an airfield in the Bonin Islands. Afterward attacked airfields, antiaircraft emplacements, shipping, barracks, radio & radar stations, railway cars, and other targets in the Bonin Islands or Japan. Also provided air defense for Iwo and escorted B-29's during bombardment missions from the Mariana's MAP to Japan. Received a DUC for defending B-29's against attacks from fighter aircraft during the period 7-10 June 1945. Returned to the US in Dec 1945. Inactivated on 16 Dec 1945.

506th Patch

The 506th heritage springs from the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Further reading of those events leading up to this story is here: VLR History
|

Lt. Proctor Thombson Group Headquarters Ground Echelon
"The book says the 506th Fighter Group was activated on 21 October, 1944, The book may be right, but right only in the way of those who say the war started on December 7, 1941.

The war started long before that Sunday in December; it began as an incoherent idea and crystallized into a plan, and the plan culminated in the deed , decades later. The 506th came into being in just such a way.

Molesworth - credit for this section
On a sunny morning in early autumn 1944, Col Bryan B Harper welcomed Major Malcolm C Watters into his office at 53rd FG headquarters on Page Field at Fort Myers, Florida. Harper, 33-year-old commander of the training unit, had just received news that he had been waiting for since the war began nearly three years earlier. A new fighter group, the 506th, was being formed for a combat assignment to provide Very Long Range escort in the Pacific Theatre, and Harper would be its commanding officer. Now he needed a solid core of subordinates to help train and lead the new group, which was why he had summoned Watters to his office.

Harper was well acquainted with Major Watters, who had served in the 53rd FG during its deployment to the Panama Canal Zone earlier in the war, and now commanded one of its training squadrons. Like Harper, he had been hoping for a combat assignment for a long time, and now the colonel offered him a job as a squadron commander in his 506th FG. Watters was intrigued, and asked Harper who was in the group. 'If you say "yes", it's you and me!' Harper replied. Watters readily accepted command of the 457th FS, and the new VLR group was on its way. The 506th was activated on 21 October 1944 and set up shop at Lakeland Army Air Field, Florida. Soon pilots, mechanics, armorers and support personnel began arriving from all over. Harper tapped another of his squadron commanders at Fort Myers, Major Harrison B Shipman, to command the 458th FS. Major Thomas D DeJarnette, commanding the 462nd FS, was a combat veteran, as were the deputy group CO, Lt Col Harvey J Scandrett, and the group operations officer, Major Harley Brown. All three pilots had flown P-39s during 1942-43 in New Guinea, and Scandrett had one confirmed kill to his credit.

Many of the other pilots in the 506th were escapees from Air Training Command, with long flying resumes and great skill, but no combat experience. Typical of these men was Lt Wesley A Murphey, Jr, who had a total of 996.20 hours of flying time when he made his first Mustang flight at Lakeland on 3 November 1944; 'I was flying P-39s at Venice, Florida, in August 1943. About the end of the month, because of maintenance problems and a lack of flyable aircraft, a group of us were
transferred to a P-47 Replacement Training Unit at Fort Myers. After completing the 60-hour training course in this aeroplane, six of us were selected to remain at Fort Myers as instructors. Several months later I was appointed to the squadron gunnery officer's job. I completed the gunnery officer's course in P-47s at Matagorda, Texas, in April 1944. On 1 May our P-47s were transferred to II Fighter Command, and we received new P-40Ns in their place.

'Then in October our group commander, Col Harper, was selected to organize a long-range fighter group for escort duty in the Pacific Theatre. We were to train in P-51s at Lakeland. Chauncey Newcomb, Jack Folsom, John Benbow, Daun Anthony, Vance Middaugh, myself and several other pilots from Fort Myers went to Lakeland with Col Harper. The 506th FG was formed, and I wound up in the 457th FS as assistant flight commander of "C" or "Blue Flight" under Jack Folsom. Our squadron commander was Malcolm Watters.

'We started flying around 1 November, and had all models of P-51s -As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Ks. One night we were taking off to fly a group formation - all three squadrons. I had an old A-model, and shortly after take-off it had an engine fire. By the time I got back on the ground and the crash crew had put the fire out, the aeroplane was damaged beyond repair. We finished training in early February 1945.'

The training regimen centered on learning cruise control techniques that would produce maximum range from the Mustangs. It also included practice scrambles, assembly and landing procedures, escort formations, aerial gunnery and bombing practice, and an occasional dogfight. A month after the 506th started flying, the USAAF produced document 50-100, which was the training directive for Very Long Range operations. Fortunately, the group had already met many of the requirements by then, two glaring exceptions being instrument flying and rocket firing. The final weeks of training were concentrated on mastering those tasks.

The day that the Marines landed on Iwo Jima, 19 February 1945, found the air echelon of the 506th FG aboard a train bound for California, where the aircraft carrier USS Kalinin Bay was waiting to carry them across the Pacific. On 6 March, when VII Fighter Command Mustangs first landed on Iwo Jima, the 506th was enjoying a night of liberty in Honolulu prior to setting sail for Guam the next day.

The ship delivered the 506th to Guam on 17 March, and a week later the pilots flew their new P-51 D-20s to Tinian. There they would stay for seven weeks, flying combat air patrols and practice missions while the field engineers on Iwo Jima prepared a new base for them at the northern end of the island. At some point, it was decided that the 506th FG would be assigned to the Twentieth Air Force, which would 'loan' the unit to 'Mickey' Moore's VII Fighter Command.

Meanwhile, the ground echelon of the 506th was proceeding to Iwo Jima aboard the MV Bloemfontein, which, incidentally, was the same ship that had carried many of the American Volunteer Group personnel to Burma back in 1941. The ship delivered the men of the 506th FG to Iwo on 25 April, and they set to work preparing North Field for the arrival of the group's pilots and aeroplanes. Lt. Proctor Thompson, a ground echelon officer assigned to group headquarters, wrote this account of the 506th's first weeks on Iwo; 'The dead Japs, the vegetation, dud shells, mines, rocks and caves had been cleared by the 81st Service Group bulldozers. The night found us cold, uncomfortable, apprehensive. In the next few days, the setting up of our temporary area was nothing but indescribable confusion. Pup tents, wall tents, pyramidal tents went up willy-nilly, helter-skelter, in no semblance of order. But toward the end of the month the confusion diminished. Men were housed in 12-man squad tents, and officers moved up the slope to a cleared area below Bloody Ridge. The more technically minded men scraped out foxholes and slit trenches.

'Meals were unadulterated C and K Rations, mostly C, which was substantial enough, but a trifle high in beans and extremely monotonous after the first few days. The first few nights were hideous, with apprehension and rifle fire squeezed off by trigger-happy guards. Men crept to the latrine only when pangs from their bulging bladders overcame their better judgment. One or two Japs were sighted on Bloody Ridge during the third night, but gradually things quieted down.

'From this time forward, the job was organization of the living areas, mess facilities and the line. Construction of our airfield - Strip No 3, or North Field — begun by the Seabees under Jap fire, was near complete by 5 May. The strip was dusty, bumpy and, by courtesy of Lucifer, sulphur-steam heated, but it was usable. The air echelon did not arrive on schedule because of dirty weather between Iwo and Tinian, but finally the skies cleared, and the aeroplanes came in. It was 11 May 1945.'


On October 21, 1944, the ETO possessed its full strength of fighter groups. It was clear that we were not destined for rest leaves in Paris. But, on October 21, 1944, Iwo Jima (MAP), Okinawa, the China Coast were as Japanese as Saki. We trained for Very Long Range Escort, and while we trained we had no bases from which we could, at our very longest, escort anything to the Empire. Someone in the Pentagon had us pegged in with the rest of the war, the war that was yet still plans for future operations. Someone had us laid neatly in columns of numbers, and though our planes were still boiling in the aluminum pots at Yakima and Memphis, in the steel mills at Birmingham and Gary, they were down on paper, too. The numbers and the blueprints, the dates and the days--all these were in being before we had an inkling of our place in the pattern. But the idea was there; maybe it was there in 1942 or early 1943; maybe it wasn't a plan until the first months of 1944, but it was down pat and all arranged before we spent our first shivering day in the drafty old barn at Lakeland. We were a part of a larger plan, a complicated mosaic into which we would be fitted, at the proper time, and at the proper place.

506th Insignia CollageOnce organized, we began training, on the ground and in the air. The difficulties were not few. 7th Fighter Command issued no training directive; some planned schedule was vital. While the squadron and group waited for 7th Fighter to hatch something, we trained again on subjects which had been stressed in RTU.

(3) In this initial period, the most annoying handicap faced by the Group was the wholly uncalled for delay in the receipt of a VLR Training Directive. Not until 4 December was III Fighter Command Regulation 50-100, VLR Fighter Group Training Guide, dated 2 December 1944, received at the H.Q. of the 506th Fighter Group. In the meantime, of course, the Group had not been idle. An intensive program of flying and ground training was underway. An attempt was made to surmise what the requirements of higher echelons would eventually be and the schedules were drawn up accordingly. Generally speaking, the type of personnel supplied to the Unit was of uniformly High caliber, though some on-the-job-training was necessary in the case of those mechanics and crew chiefs whose previous service had been with B-25 aircraft. The VII Fighter Command Training Program finally received, turned out to be the same old stuff, only more so, with a few refinements such as eight hours of long range missions. The ground training requirements were a rehash of tried end true G. I. subjects such as Chemical Warfare, tent-pitching, etc. Several of the required courses, the “Malaria Discipline” instruction for instance, were listened to with a bit more attention than usual because the men believed they might go someplace where this information would prove helpful.

For the enlisted men the classes were held mostly at night, in crowded classrooms, under indifferent instructors. Night classes were dictated by the necessity of maintaining aircraft during the day. Ground school started for officers and men alike. For the enlisted men, much of the training was by Army film. In the off times hot, sometimes cold, and always crowded intelligence hut. Pilots flew half a day, attended school the other half. Recognition classes none of us will ever forget. Lt. Wilson pounded at us, day after day, plane after plane, picture after picture... "and this is the Japanese Sally...and this, is the Japanese Zeke...Japanese Betty...Japanese...Nelly, Sally, Kate, Judy, George, Frank, Oscar, Jack, Mavis, Cherry, Rufe...Japanese Nate." Definitely Japanese. We recognized things, were blinked at and buzzed at until we remembered our code, took physical fitness tests to prove to our aching muscles that we definitely weren't. We rose in the black of early morning, stumbled through the alleged food at the mess, and stumbled further to the line, to the pot-bellied little stoves. They blinded us and choked us, they gagged us and smoked us, but they also kept us warm. It was cold on those Florida mornings, all propaganda to the contrary. The chill of the day wore off at 9 or 10 o'clock; by 2 in the afternoon it was unpleasantly hot for the winter uniforms we had just donned. But by 8 in the evening, we were shivering again. Colds and noses ran riot.

We learned cruise control, and took our first blushing attempts at squadron and group formations. We learned our landing and assembly procedures; made a few practice scrambles, practiced escort formations and practiced attacking them. We fought the Navy when the Navy felt like fighting; we bounced P-40s from Perry and Punta Gorda, P-51s from Bartow and Sarasota. We fired aerial gunnery and dropped uncounted numbers of 100 lb. practice bombs. And, every so often, we piled a P-51 up in a neat small ball. Most of our major accidents were due to materiel failure. They were few, and we were lucky. At any rate, we lost not a single pilot during our training period (458th ). Other Squadrons were not so lucky. When 50-100, our training directive, finally arrived from 7th Fighter Command, we were fortunate. What we had been doing coincided fairly well with what had to be done to meet requirements. We were low on instrument time, and BT's and P-51s meandered over the whole of the Florida sky to make it up. We had fired no rockets; Passage Key took a terrible pasting (as did Armament and Ordnance) from the little 2-.25" practice squirts we fired, day after day.(3) Flying training, on the whole, went much better than ground training. By the time the program was wound up, in early January, slightly over 21,000 hours of P-51 time had been logged. The provisions on flying training in the VII Fighter Command Directive were quite detailed: they were exceeded in nearly every instance. In Group Missions, of course, the emphasis was placed on interception and escort maneuvers; this proved to be a mistake in terms of the type of operations in which the outfit eventually became involved. It was a mistake, however, which could not possibly have been prevented inasmuch as the statue of the Jap Air Force in June and July of I945 could not have been (or, at least was not) prognosticated In November of ‘44 when this program was drawn up.

Had we realized how large a share of our work was to consist of airfield strafing, we would have emphasized ground gunnery, mutual support tactics at low level and other related matters. Several practice escort mission were run in conjunction with B-17’s and B-24’s of nearby combat craw training centers. Technical training of maintenance personnel proceeded satisfactorily, although the tools and equipment available at Lakeland were in an abominable condition of repair. Our percentage of planes in maintenance during the "statistics" period, hovered between 75 and 78. The confidence we had gained in our ability to perform our mission in combat was backed up by the rating which the Inspection Team gave us at the final combat readiness inspection.

The final score which the 506th had tallied on the twenty-two effective VLR Missions run in the period 28 May to 14 August was as follows:

Destroyed
Probable's
Damage
Losses
Air
Ground
Air
Ground
Air
Ground
Pilots
Planes
39
22
11
11
33
96
20
29

This aircraft score, though, was not the only measure of the Group’s effectiveness. Our tally of rolling stock, power lines, and shipping which, due to the nature of the targets, cannot be as accurately estimated as the aircraft score, should be included in the record.

February 19, 1945

February 19, 1945 was D-Day on Iwo Jima. We read about it en route to the Port of Embarkation. We left San Francisco nine days later, and there was little doubt in our minds that the there was more than coincidence in the two events."


Captain JJ Grant

From the memoirs of Capt. JJ Grant - 462nd Flight Officer
Pilots from all over were assigned to this unit, with the strange designation "VLR," which in military jargon means "Very Long Range,". Instructors in fighter aircraft, combat veterans from other fronts, recently graduated overseas duty pilots, all to report to Lakeland, Florida to receive their V.L.R. training. In a survey that was taken of the 506th it was found that the pilots surveyed averaged over 800 hours of flight time. Many were elated to be assigned to such a prestigious group. They were all of that.

At Lakeland they found out what VLR meant. After a short period in which to get acquainted with their new plane, they started training. Pilots flew for half the day; the other half was spent in school. Aircraft identification, code, survival in the Tropics and in the Arctic, bailout procedures, parachuting, survival in the water and on land, navigation, instrument training & best of all, combat warfare.

"Our half day in the sky was spent on simulated escorts of Bombers over distant targets. They were trying to answer fundamental questions about long distance flying - how high to fly; what would be our mixture setting; what speed conserves most fuel. We flew from Lakeland to Miami to Dallas to Washington and back to Lakeland. Pilot fatigue was a factor. We were assigned the greatest fighter plane ever built to that time, the P-51 Mustang Fighter with its Rolls Royce engine. It had the reputation of being the most versatile fighter - tough, maneuverable, long distance, great firepower - the answer to the bombers prayers, an escort to Berlin and back and from Iwo to Japan and back." We flew together, we played together, we drank together, we became a tough fighter group, anxious to put our training into use." We received their orders. About 100 officers & 100 enlisted men were assigned to the "Flight Echelon" and the remainder were assigned to the "Ground Echelon". On February 16, 1945. the flight echelon left Lakeland by troop train for Camp Stoneman, Pittsburgh, CA. were they boarded with new P-51D's. After a brief stop at Pearl Harbor, they sailed on to Guam (Map) where the men & planes were unloaded and hauled to Orote Field. After preparing our Mustangs we moved again to Tinian, and later we flew to Iwo when the airstrip was ready. The ground crew left sunny Lakeland March 5, 1945, by troop train for frozen Ft. Lawton, Seattle. The next stop was Eniwetok Atoll for a boring layover of ten days before steaming, finally to Iwo Jima."

UpdikeFrom the memoirs of Charles F. Updike - Communications Officer 458th Fighter Squadron
I was transferred to the Army Air Corps teletype school at Chanute Field, IL. From Chanute I went to Hillsboro Field near Tampa, FL. This was a small training base for fighter pilots.  I served a short stint as a teletype operator there then became chief clerk in the Communications Section. The pilots trained in P-51A aircraft—Allison Engines- and in P-51B’s-Merlin Engines. My office was next to the operations office and I was able to ride as a crew member in aerial searches and as an “observer” on tow target missions.  The search missions were conducted in a BT-13, the tow planes consisted of an A-24 “SBD” Dive Bomber and an A-25,Curtis “Hell Diver”. I married my first wife, Dorothy Kathryn Hopson in Tampa, on November 18 1944. In late fall of 1944 we moved to Lakeland Field, FL. We were consolidated with units from training fields, such as Punta Gorda, Bartow, Waycross, GA  and others.  At Lakeland we were organized as the 506th Fighter Group consisting of the 457th, 458th and 462nd Squadrons. The 506th Fighter Group was put together as a long range escort unit to operate from Iwo Jima escorting B-29’s on their missions bombing the Empire of Japan, and that is where we ended up in late March and early April 1945. We were not immediately informed of our destination, but we guessed correctly. I don’t remember when we were officially told.

The 506th Fighter Group was put together as a long range escort unit to operate from Iwo Jima escorting B-29s on their missions bombing the Empire of Japan, and that is where we ended up in late March and early April 1945. We were not immediately informed of our destination, but we guessed correctly. I don't remember when we were officially told. We, in the ground echelon moved to Seattle via troop train and the last leg of the trip was made on the CMSTP & P railroad which in those days was all electric. The winter scenery through the mountains of northern Idaho was beautiful and at one point the train stopped for a spell and we got out and participated in snow ball fights."

The train was dirty, crowded, hot; we ate, slept, read, played interminably at bridge and poker. And we fought a losing battle with the soot that crept through every crack and cranny of our neolithic Pullmans.

At 0530 on 21 February, we detrained on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, California: in the cold and sleepy dawn we marched long miles to our barracks and set about washing off the accumulated dirt of a continent. In the six days following we were not pressed for time, but drew our final issue of equipment, received a lecture or two on censorship, and received a cursory final medical examination. Tough break number one came when Lt. tfidner innocently tried to get treatment for his trick knee, was examined, declared unfit for overseas duty, and transferred from the squadron.

Some few of us were lucky with passes to San Francisco before we were alerted on the 27th. On the morning of the 28th, we entrucked for Alameda NAS; we arrived, and one thing caught and held our attention; a CVS, the USS-Kalinin Bay, loaded to the gunwales with P-5lD's. After nearly a month of waiting, on Monday, 5 March, the first section of our troop train pulled into the siding at IAAB; the 457th, half the 458th boarded and began the journey to Seattle. They were followed, that afternoon, by a train filled with the 462nd and the remaining half of the 458th. The trip was long, filled with scenery and poker and the exchange of tidy sums. At Fort Layton staging area, the processing routine was simple: a perfunctory medical examination, a lecture on censorship, a session at the obstacle course, and the inspection of weapons.

After processing at Ft. Lawton we boarded the Dutch Transport Bloemfontein and sailed for 40 days my count was 37 days, via Pearl Harbor and Eniwetok Atoll arriving at Iwo and landing via LST's on April 25, 1945.  The Bloemfontein was under lease by the Dutch to the British and subleased to the U. S. The crew consisted of the following: A Dutch Commodore, a Dutch barber, an American Captain, crewed by Indians, British subjects at the time and it was protected by American Naval Gun Crews."

Train ride to Seattle 
The train was dirty, crowded, hot; we ate, slept, read, played interminably at bridge and poker.
 Read about this heroic ship & it's WWII history. The little aircraft carrier saw lot's off action & even took on Battleships, Cruisers & Destroyers at close range - <a href="kalininbay.asp">click here</a>.
The Bloemfontein<br>
                      37 days, via Pearl Harbor and <a href="glossary.asp#eniwetok" onClick="flvFPW1(this.href,'popupLink','width=500,height=500,scrollbars=yes',1,2,2);return document.MM_returnValue">Eniwetok</a> Atoll arriving at Iwo and landing via LST's on April 25, 1945
Train ride to Seattle
The Bloemfontein

On February 19 the first half of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Marine Divisions' combined 70,000-man strength went ashore on the southeastern beaches. The intensity and viciousness of the fighting is too well known for recounting. Suffice it to say that when Iwo was declared secure nearly a month later, on March 16, one-third of the assault force had become casualties: 23,200 in all, of which 4,554 were killed or missing. As Iwo Jima is eight square miles in area, it had taken about 2,900 Marine casualties per square mile to capture the island. Only Tarawa (MAP) in the Gilbert's (MAP) was more costly, yard for yard, in the entire Pacific War. Nor was little Iwo as secure as the Americans believed, for about 3,000 Japanese remained alive, hiding in underground caves.

The group spent about 40 days aboard the "Little B" before hitting the shore in LST's on April 25, 1945.

What was it? Where was it. When we left Lakeland it was in Japanese hands. En route we heard that President Roosevelt had died. Sad sad days. When we arrived in Saipan, we were told Iwo was ours.

From the memoirs of Capt. JJ Grant - 462nd Flight Officer
"The ground echelon aboard the Dutch Transport arrived off the coast of Iwo on the 21st of April. We rounded the tip of Iwo with its Mt. Suribachi, dropped our anchor and prepared to disembark. The faint odor of sulphur the inhospitable shores, the look and smell of death was everywhere. The shores were littered with war material — gutted tanks, wrecked boats, landing craft bobbing in the seas, shells of destroyed aircraft littered the landscape.

Soon we became a part of this living hell. The purpose of our entire mission became apparent. A badly wounded bird came into sight, a crippled B-29. He was heading for a crash landing in the sea a short distance from our ship. He hit the water, bounced, then settled in. Crewmen start to escape; we start counting: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 -- where is Number 10? Finally he comes into sight; they are all safe. Another B-29 comes into sight. He heads to the runway. He is so badly crippled that he doesn't make it. A great ball of fire and ten humans are destroyed. Ten airmen — sons, brothers, fathers, lovers — all perish in a great ball of fire. This daily witness of death became a part of our lives. Soon we would be losing our friends in a valiant effort to defeat our enemy.

7th Fighter Command
June 1945 Mt. Suribachi
7th Fighter Command area in foreground

The black volcanic ash with its pungent odor became an integral part of our lives. The Island was supposedly secured. Every night we were awakened by gunfire, Japs searching for food and water. During the day while we were waiting for our planes to arrive from Saipan, we would wander around that island. There were dead Japs everywhere, grotesque in Death, with great green flies eating at their flesh. One day I visited the cemetery, 6872 white crosses. Catholics, Protestants, Stars of David; all ranks; all colors. I cried. What an awful waste of humans. We had 27,000 casualties; the Japs lost 23,000 men. Iwo Jima represented to me the most violent place on earth. Death was everywhere. I cried when I saw the 6872 white crosses representing Marines, Navy, Seabees and Army personnel. 25,000 casualties was the price we paid to secure this volcanic island. Everywhere there were ravages of war. Dead Japs not yet buried, tanks, trucks, ships, planes, dud shells and the awful stench."

 

(1) In February 1945, the island pair (Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima) were steep, rugged and uninhabited; they had probably never supported human life. But Iwo Jima itself was different. It had a flat plain the middle, between 556-foot Mount Suribachi to the south and a lengthy bluff, some 380 feet high, over most of the north end. This plain held three airfields, numbered one to three from south to north, though the latter was far from completion. Some 21,000 Japanese diehards defended this island, and not even the heaviest bombing or shelling could dislodge them.

On February 19 the first half of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Marine Divisions combined 70,000-man strength went ashore on the southeastern beaches (Battle of Iwo). The intensity and viciousness of the fighting is too well known for recounting. Suffice it to say that when Iwo was declared secure nearly a month later, on March 16, one-third of the assault force had become casualties: 23,200 in all, of which 4,554 were killed or missing. As Iwo Jima is eight square miles in area, it had taken about 2,900 Marine casualties per square mile to capture the island. Only Tarawa in the Gilbert's (MAP) was more costly, yard for yard, in the entire Pacific War. Nor was little Iwo as secure as the Americans believed, for about 3,000 Japanese remained alive, hiding in underground caves.

Lt. Proctor Thompson Group Headquarters - Ground Echelon
"On 6 April, the little B steamed into the lagoon at Eniwetok atoll. We picked our way among the multitude of ships in the harbor and dropped anchor. From the 6th to the 16th, we lay there, marking time. Mail service was not to be had for transients; there was nothing to do but sweat and wait, and try, now and then, to enjoy such recent Hollywood productions as Thanks for the Memory and Broadway Melodies of 1950.

On the 16th, with a slightly smaller convoy, we set course for Saipan, where we anchored on 20 April, in the roadstead lying west of the island. It was there that Col. Scandretti, Major Brown, and Major. Shipman came aboard, with three precious sacks of l8285 mail rescued from the sands of Iwo. On the morning of the 21st, the Bloemfontein, in company with several other ships, left Saipan. On 24 April, the bleak, inhospitable shores of, APO 86 hove into view. As we rounded the tip of Suribachi the faint odor of sulphur wafted to our nostrils. The journey was ended; we had at last a home of sorts, a niblet of volcanic upthrust, a pinhead of land one day sodden with rain and the next filthy with flying dust." We debarked on the 25th . The dead Japs, the vegetation, dud shells, mines, rocks and caves had been cleared by 8lst service group bulldozers. We slept that night as the night found us, cold, uncomfortable, apprehensive. In the next few days., the setting up of our temporary, area was nothing but indescribably confusion. Pup tents, wall tents, pyramidal tents went up willy-nilly, helter-skelter, in no semblance of order. But toward the end of the month, the confusion diminished. Men were housed in 12-man squad tents, and officers moved up the slope to a cleared area below Bloody Ridge. The more tactically minded scraped out fox holes and slit trenches.

Meals were unadulterated C and K ration, mostly C which was substantial enough, but a trifle high in beans, and extremely-monotonous after the first few days. The first few nights were hideous with apprehension and rifle fire squeezed off by trigger-happy guards. Men crept to the latrine only when the pangs of a bulging bladder overcame their better judgment. One or perhaps two Japs wore sighted on Bloody Ridge during the third night. But, gradually, things quieted down. From this time forward, the main job was organization; organization of living areas, mess facilities, of the line. Construction of our airfield--strip 3, or North Field-- begun by the Seabees under Jap fire, was near completion on the fifth of May. The strip was dusty, bumpy, and by courtesy of Lucifer, sulphur-steam heated, but it was usable. The air echelon did not arrive on schedule because of dirty weather between Iwo and Tinian, but finally the skies cleared, and the planes came in. It was May 11.

506th Arrives

When the 506th F. G. with the 457th, 458th and 462nd squadrons arrived in mid-May, some of the strain of operations was eased for the first two groups. The 506th alternated with the 15th and 21st in making two group missions to the Japanese Empire targets, so one of the three could anticipate a stand-down when the schedule was set. It also allowed more time for crucial maintenance.

The story continues as the 506th begins operations.

>PLEASE GO TO IWO TO JAPAN<


1. AIRPOWER, Volume 7, Number 1, page 30, January 1977 By Barrett Tillman

2. Black Friday on the Empire Run, by John W. Lambert, 1990 author of "The Long Campaign" and "The Pineapple Air Force: Pearl Harbor to Tokyo".

3. Summary Operational Analysis of VLR Operations

top

Missions to Japan

May/June


June

July/August

  • 28 May - Fighter Strike against airfields in Tokyo area
  • 1 June Black Friday - VLR Fighter Escort of XXI BomCom maximum effort against Osaka
  • 7 June - VLR Fighter Escort of XXI BomCom maximum effort against Osaka
  • 8 June - VLR Fighter Strike against airfields in the Nagoya area
  • 9 June - VLR Fighter Strike against airfields in Nagoya area
  • 10 June - Fighter Escort of B-29s against Tokyo area
  • 11 June = VLR Fighter Strike against airfield
  • 14 June - Bonin's mission
  • 15 June - Escort of B-29s over Osaka area.
  • 19 June - VLR Fighter Strike against Kagaraigahara and Meiji airfields
  • 23 June - VLR Fighter Strike against airfields in Tokyo area
  • 26 June - VLR Escort of B-29s over Nagoya and Kobe
  • 27 June - Fighter Strike against Japanese airfields in the areas NE and E of Tokyo
  • 3 July - Death at Chichi Jima - tale of the rescue attempt of a downed pilot
  • 14 July - TSUKUBA primary target with the 462nd Fighter Squadron providing close escort for two photographic B-24's over the Yokosuka Naval Base
  • 16 July - this is the mission in which Captain Benbow was lost over Nagoya, Japan.
  • 28 July - stories from Jack K. Westbrook, Edwin Warfield III.
  • 3 August - Ed Mikes rescued after being strafed by Jap Zeroes.

Arrival time: 11/23/2017 at: 1:34:21 PM

Flag Counter

Home | Reunions | Contact Us | VLR Story | Mustangs of Iwo Jima | Combat Camera Footage | Battle of Iwo | 457th |
458th | 462nd | The 506th Story | Iwo To Japan | P-51 Mustang | Newsletters | Links

Visitor: 1244663

Webmaster

©506thFighterGroup.org. All Rights Reserved.