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Many of the 506th pilots came from other theaters of operations (Mediterranean, Europe) many instructors and most experienced flyers of other aircraft than the P-51D that they were flying at Iwo. Here Captain JJ Grant 462nd with his P-40 fighter. (click to enlarge)
Picture taken from a B-29 Superfortress with P-51D Mustang fighter planes escorting her to Japan.
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Letters From Iwo Jima: The Air War - aboard the Bloemfenstein somewhere in the Pacific Ocean heading for Iwo Jima. We are all rather anxious to get where we are going, to get to a place where we can unpack and fix it up and call it home for a little while. Most of us are anxious to start flying again - sometimes I think this flying business has gotten into my blood. I sure hope when peacetime comes that I can have a plane (of course a school teacher could not afford one) (JJ never did get his plane - he did obtain a Lt Colonel status in the Reserves but never flew after Iwo) All the enlisted men aboard got paid the other day. You could not walk around the decks without stepping into a crap game, a poker game or some type of game where they had a chance to increase their money.
Letters From Iwo Jima: The Air War
Our traveling days aboard the boat are over as we came upon the Island one morning early and guys who had not gotten out of the sack the whole trip before breakfast were up and anxious to have a look. Its as we talked about where we were anticipating our final destination. Its as small as we figured it would be but much higher above sea level that we thought. Its all volcanic and and hard clay.<P> We stayed aboard ship a couple of days out in the harbor. Each individual who went ashore came back with tales of the number of Japanese still left on the island and how each night they were on the prowl.. they told of so many being captures each day and about the damage they had done. Everyone looked forward to landing with a great deal of anticipation. Grant of course drew guard duty guading the supplies and guarding the camp at night. The first night we did not have to go ashore for which we all breathed a little a sigh of relief. They starting disembarking our supplies right after we got here.<P>The next day they told us to be ready and at a moments notice. Finally about noon we boarded our barge and came ashore. The ships we came ashore on were fast like those that were in the invasion in which made history. They go full steam ahead right up on shore, let down a walk that is in the water aand when the waves have subsided you run like hell with your baggage. Then the Island. You sink into this ash right up over the low shoe Oxfords most of us were wearing. We grabbed a truck, loaded our supplies and sat down on the dusty old seats and headed from the camp site. There had been rain in the AM so the roads were fairly hard but I guess when its dary its real dusty.<P>We finally arrived at our temporary camp site, grabbed a tent, got all our luggage together and proceeded to set up our cots and our sleeping sacks. There are six of us that will use this little tent plus all our luggage, so its a little crowded. Here again everything is underfoot. Directly behind out area is a clay cliff with marks of battle, fox holes, and cave areas.. The boys soon discovered a dead Jap, some stray hands and legs, all just partially deceased and swarming with flies.
Second day on our little island, have moved twice now and expect to move again. The organization here is not as good as in a boy scout troop I was in back home. The medical department is not setup yet; you can not even get a bandage for your finger, and any casualities have to be hauled off to the base hospital. Water is hard to get. they can have all they want but they have a poor arrangement of passing it out so we always seem short. We are on C rations and most of us have little fires to warm up the food we are going to eat. Everything is in cans. I had frankfurters beans for breakfast yesterday. This a.m. I had spaghetti with meat. We have large pipes dug into the ground for taking a leak. Our commode is a outdoor, open air job with ten seats, very public but you will use it and think nothing of it. I am still on guard duty and my outfit has it all night tonight, hope we do not have any Japs in the area. Today we are going scouting and we grabbed a ride up to the North end of the island with Treacy, Torg, Loomis and I. We got our 45s real handy and took off into the cliff country. Talk about a battle scarred area. This is really it. We walk up and down shell craters, here and there a cliff, then numerous cave areas that have been blown up. All around is war debris. Jap ammunition, gas masks, helmets, rations, saki wine bottles, field equipment, two toed sneakers, canteens, etc. Then we sight a corpse of a Jap. He seemed to be in a kneeling position. His guts had all been eaten by worms and these big green flys I was telling you about.
Our other outfit, Balhourn and them were do in today but for some reason did not show up. You know of course they were our flight eschelon. We are going to have an air strip here on the island. We are all anxious to see them. Our softball team practiced this afternoon for about two hours, that is about the only thing we have to do for another few days. Then you know what will start happening. These C rations are starting to get monotonous. Thus building a fire has its drawbacks also. Tonight the Red Cross gave us a carton of cigarettes, 10 candy bars, 2 packages of gum, matches and a bar of soap, toothbrush and tooth paste. Guess if I live I will be a coach, up at Rome (New York). They tell me they need a good one (JJ would go on to be that coach at Rome and had over 20 years as the head football coach (had many an undefeated team), then Director of Athletics and finally became President of the New York State Athletic Association before he retired) . That radio is a life saver. Get Leyte, Shanghai, Saipan, short wave from states, Australia and Tokyo - music all day and no commercials.
We have started to eat out of the mess tents now instead of our C rations. They have started building Quonset huts and a colsolidated Officers mess and housing area for the 48 of 52 officers in each Squadron. The plan also calls for an Officers club - we have plenty of supplies that we purchased back in the states and most of the boys are inpatient to get started. Our flight echelon came in yesterday May 11th (from Tinian). We came ashore April 25th. we have done most of the ground work in making the ara liveable and it sure was great ot see sonmew of the old gang again. the 462nd came in first led by the Colonel. The first fighters to land on airfield no. 3. There was a camera man to take pictures and a hell of a cross wind for them to land in. All planes and Squadrons got down safely. Soon we will start our misions and their then our troubles will start.
Today has been quite a day. Some of our boys were alerted for CAP patrol starting at 5:30 AM. Then at 10:00 AM we got paid and went directly to our lecture on air & sea rescue, bailing out over Tokyo, our attitude when and if we are a prisoner of war and the Jap treatment of prisoners. The weather is still stinking as usual. It is raining drizzling and being generally obnoxious. Our B-29's, 560 strong hit Nagoya today with incendiaries and the planes in distress that have landed here have told us that the majority of Nagoya was completely shrouded in smoke up to 15,000 feet. The ceiling was 19,000 feet, flak was intense and fairly accurate and only one enemy fighter was spotted. He made an air attack and pulled off to the side and bailed out. The ceiling has been varied from 50 feet to 150 feet. We have heard planes flying around here all AM and then ceiling lifted slightly so that could land and it was definitely a thrill seeing them handle those big babies as close to the ground. The landings were good, although very tricky and much could be said of the skill of the pilots. The engines all varied from inboards to outboards because of the low ceiling. I left the landing strip and headed for my tent. A B29 came overhead and down through the clouds came the boys in their chutes 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8- and finally the ninth man came tumbling down with no chute open. He tumbled on down and nearly went out of sight before his chute opened. A little later a B-29 went over the area and the men bailed out in the bay. You could see them float down; down and finally hit the water. The ships in the area scooted out and picked them up. One boy had already floated his dinghy. It\'s strange to sit here and watch the havoc and destruction of war. We pray that all the boys get in safely, and the hell with the airplanes. It seems just a matter of course that chutes in the sky, emergency landings and burning planes. I hope this war ends soon.
The story briefly is this. They had gone in North of Tokyo. They saw one enemy aircraft but all along the way they ran into flak. Concentrated and fairly accurate. They discussed later that they had gone in the same route as the B-29s had been using and the passage had been lined with heavy guns. They went in on the deck and concentrated flak fused to burst at 50ft kept popping all around them with the result that four ships did not return from our group alone. The other groups have not been accounted for.
Our missing pilot, a first lieutenant, his very first mission with this wife due to have a child in September suffered a direct coolant hit over the target and then bailed out over the Japanese mainland - we are hoping they have taken him as a prisoner. Freeman, a new boy, but more experienced, as soon as he got over the water started to burn. He bailed out and was seen to fall about 5000 feet. Meatball followed him down and saw him begin to cast out a die marker and start a smoke grenade. Meatball circled until the Dumbos picked him up it was reported at 3 AM this morning that Freeman has been picked up by Sub.
Mikes from group suffered a flak hit up over the RP rendezvous point. He was picked up as soon as he hit the water. Harrigan, the boy that had spent 50 hours in a dingy bailed out over the Jap mainland. All appear safe except Newby whose plane crashed and burned. One boy said he saw a shoot sailing to the ground about 2 miles distance from the plane but he was not sure. Many planes returned with flak holes and small ammo holes. One boy bailed out at about 150 miles from here. His wing had a hole in it. Another had a hole in his gas tank and landed in the water."left>
What a mission we had yesterday. Eight hours and 25 minutes, the longest group fighter mission ever flown and as for your fire aircraft. Course it wasn’t supposed to be going up we had to shoot skirt around a storm and there were coming back we got within a storm pocket, had to make a 180° turn and fly back north again, then east to get around the storm. You should hear the sigh of relief when we spotted a hole in the weather ahead. Those damn Japs don’t give us any opposition at all – we roam all over their damn country looking for parable and never get it. When we get back I played a game of ball – thank a few beers, took in a shower and slept like a baby all night. They have fresh water tubs that is a plus, alcohol rubdowns, osteopathic adjustments, really makes you feel good.
Remember Goss - he is here with P 47 group – he hasn’t changed a bit and is also a 1st Lieutenant yet. He had a flight but they gave it to someone else. His complaints are the same as ours. You have to come with someone you know with a little rank.
I'll close now honey. Hope the war ends soon so I can get back home and be with you.
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