506th Fighter Group - Iwo to Japan
Their heritage began at Pearl Harbor
Missions to Japan
From the Departure Point until aircraft reached the Rally Point the Mustangs encountered an estimated 100 enemy-fighters. Franks predominated with Oscars, Zekes, Hamps, Georges, Tojos and Jacks following in that order. Enemy attitudes ranged from unaggressive to very aggressive with the aggressive attacks usually occurring where the enemy had numerical or altitude advantage. One P-51 was damaged by fire from a George, but managed to return to base. No bomber appeared to be in difficulty over.
It was not until June 10th, almost a month after our aircraft landed on the Island, that our first successful escort mission was run. The Tokyo escort mission on that date in which the 506th and 15th Fighter Groups supported a medium effort XXI BomCom strike against selected targets, was the first occasion on which the itching trigger fingers of the 506th pilots had an opportunity to fire at and shoot down a sizeable number of Jap airborne opposition. The 506th, providing the leading escort from the DP to the target, took off in the morning at the uncomfortable hour of 0545 (25). Reaching the DP at 0900, the 462nd as high cover, the 457th on the left, and the 458th on the right, lower and slightly astern, the Group proceeded inland. They sighted a squadron of Tony's apparently lying in ambush for the bombers. The Nips took to their heels. Three or four of them who failed to get away fast enough were jumped by Major Dejarnette's flight, 462nd Squadron, and one each was racked up by the Major, Lt Bash, and Lt Rosebrough. Another stray from this squadron of Tonys was jumped by Capt Lee, 462nd ; Capt Lee made two passes at the Jap who spiraled down and crashed into the mountains. Lion's share of the kills was bagged by the 458th; picturesque, mustachioed Capt Pete Nowick, the Mad Russian, bagged two Franks or Tojos. His wingman Lt Neil Smith remarked later, "I called out the bogies to him and he went after them. And boy, did he get them". Lts Feld and Sowers each: blew one up in the air and one shot down in flames is split between Lt Mikes and Lt Seegers.
The 457th had, comparatively speaking, a much more tranquil afternoon than either of its neighbors. Action was recorded on only one flight, Dooley Green. Lt Lawrence and Lt Hetland got a short burst into one Tojo, Lt Skiver and Lt Gardner got hits in the cockpit of a Tojo; Lt Skiver ripped off a short burst at another and Lt Gardner flamed still another. Our total score was 10 destroyed, 4 probably destroyed, and 2 damaged. Over and beyond the fact that the mission was our first real pay dirt job over the Empire it was of great value to the Group as an indication of combat problems and techniques to be worked out in the future. The 506th pilots, it was agreed, were eager to close and come to grips with the enemy, so much so in fact that they, very nearly ran one another down in the mad scramble to tap the few Nips sighted. As Lt Newcomb of the 457th put it, "It's, getting so we've almost got to fight the other boys off to get to take a solo shot at a Jap plane". Net result of this policy was, of course, poor air discipline (26) . Nobody was lost on this mission, the quality and number of Jap fighters being what it was, so that the lesson learned was entirely gratuitous.
The 1800 tons of bombs dropped by the 300 B-29's escorted were divided between the Hitachi Aircraft factory and engineering works at Chiba, the Nakajima Aircraft factory at Omiya, the Japan Aircraft factory at Tomioka, the Tachikawa Army Air Depot, and the Kasumigaura Seaplane Base and Air Depot. Most of the buildings at the Kasumigaura Depot and all the major buildings at the Hitachi engineering works were destroyed (27).
Seven P-51s were damaged by enemy flak and one pilot was wounded. One squadron maintained high cover while the other squadrons strafed Tokorozawa. Two flights lost the airfield in the haze and hit Toyooka instead. After their attacks the two squadrons regained altitude to protect the high cover squadron which came down and strafed Atsugi airfield (secondary target). Tokorozawa was reported as having only 5 or 6 operational aircraft while Atsugi had approximately 100 to 150 planes. Mo attacks were made by aircraft sighted in air and the majority remained beyond attacking range. One Nick claimed destroyed in air. It attempted no evasion and was seen to flame, crash and explode. All planes returned to the base safely.
The following day a Chichi strike was run against Radio Stations 6 and 7 (28). Results of the 16 bombs (8 instantaneous and 8 delay) dropped on the target by the 462nd were unobserved. ("Unobserved" is a term sometimes employed by the intelligence officer to indicate that, inasmuch as no one saw the bombs miss the target, his conscience is relieved of the necessity of reporting the mission as a failure.) Four additional A/C were detailed on this mission as cover for several F6F photo snips. Arriving over Chichi the strike leader tried to reach the photo planes on the radio, but the reply which he received was inadequate to permit rendezvous, although visual contact with one of the photo Joes was made and 2 of our designated escorts were dispatched as cover.
A view of the 'office' of the P-51 Mustang. Note the K-14 gunsight at the top of the cockpit picture. The pilot is wearing standard A-11 flight helmet and B-8 flight goggles.
Received on 12 June was a teletype from VII Fighter Command enunciating a change of policy for strikes against the Bonins. The three Fighter Groups were given permission to dispatch training missions to the Bonins on their own initiative (29). It was becoming embarrassingly obvious that the tactical significance of the bombs that were plowing up the ground on Chichi, Ani, and Haha, or killing the fish in Futami Harbor was exceedingly dubious. Having discharged their primary duty, watering Susaki A/F, the extra dividends picked up by damage to shipping which for some reason was a particularly elusive target for our dive bombing P-51's — radio towers, buildings, and docks were very small potatoes indeed. The degree of accuracy attained by the 506th on targets other than Sasaki cannot be accurately estimated due to inadequate observation and meager reports of bomb hits supplied by the pilots to the S-2's. Of the 85 tons of 500 lb GP bombs dropped by the 506th during May and June, 19 1/2 tons were devoted to Susaki A/F, 52 tons to such targets as shipping, barracks areas, radio installations, gun emplacements and piers, while the remaining 134 tons were jettisoned in the water, on Susaki, our bombing results seem to have been fairly good: 11 1/2 tons appear to have hit either in the center or along the edges of the field, with the remaining 8 tons either observed or presumed to have fallen on the grounds adjacent to the airfield. Tabulation of the mission reports for bombing results on other targets is complicated both by the number of "unobserved" hits and the number of hits for which nothing but the general target grid area was reported. Of the 52 tons dropped on barracks, shipping, etc, about 8 1/4 tons or l6% was observed to register either a direct hit or a near miss on enemy installations in the Bonins.
Of the remaining 43 3/4tons, 32 3/4 were observed or presumed to be misses (about 6 1/4 tons of these misses did anti fishing duty in Futami Harbor and adjacent waters) while 11 tons were either "unobserved" or were reported to fall in areas where the specific target was not enumerated. The amount of damage wrought by the l6% of hits and near misses cannot be determined; unless the misses lay within 60' of the target, it is unlikely that anything more than superficial damage would be caused by the blast effect of a 500 lb bomb (30)
On the 14th of June the next Bonins mission after this "training" directive was received, 8 planes of the 458th Squadron had a better than average day against shipping targets at Chichi. Hits were scored on a couple of small vessels in Futami Harbor (31), with a very satisfactory amount of smoke and flame observed from both targets. The occasion was all the more noteworthy in that it was the first instance in which a 506th aircraft actually hit a shipping target with a bomb.
The 506th together with the 15th Group ran an abortive escort mission to Osaka. (32) A weather front encountered at about 31° or 32° on course was responsible for the decision to return to base. Sixty-four A/C were involved in the mission, all of which returned safely. One accident occurred in connection with this mission when Lt McClure of the 462nd buckled his wings during a 7 or 8 point landing with heavily loaded wing tanks. On the l6th during a Bonins strike two of the 462nd aircraft made the Group's first rocket sortie. Twelve rockets, plus 8 bombs from 4 other ships, were discharged in the direction of radio station #6, with hits observed in the station area east of the power plant. Four bombs were dropped, toward radio station #5 and 4 more along gun emplacements near station #6 (33). Next day the 462nd loaned 2 of its 5 rocket ships to the 458th who scored a direct hit on a large building in the center of the radio station #7 area. Strafing passes were made by the 11 A/C strike force on stations 6 and 7. The rockets fired by the second ship, presumably on station #7, ended up in the reservoir about 300 yards to the south (34). On the morning of the 19th the Meiji-Hamamatsu strafing mission, briefed on the 15th, postponed on the l6th, postponed (after being twice set forward at 1 hour intervals with the pilots chewing their nails in the cockpits) on the 17th, and ditto on the 18th, finally became airborne at 0952. Meiji, however, continued to be a jinx for the 506th. A front was encountered about 250 miles out and 59 A/C strike force pancaked on North Field at 1230. The 457th, determined on earning its salary one way or another, made a run on Chichi on the return trip hitting radar station #1 and radio station #2 together with assorted barges and a Sugar Dog. One of the pilots had the edge of his wings clipped by flak (35).
It was beginning to be feared that the fighter Command was losing faith in the prognostications of its weathermen, dispatching the fighters as a sort of weather reconnaissance unit in case the forecast turned out to be wrong. Our comment on this practice in the remarks section of the mission report was a model of restraint. It stated simply, "Weather forecast was received, prior to takeoff, correctly forecasting the actual conditions prevailing." The bad taste left in our mouth by the weather reconnaissance missions luring the middle of the month was quite obliterated by the notable Hyakurigahara strafing mission of the 23rd.
Mission was non-effective due to weather. Front was encountered about 200 miles from base and the fighters were ordered back to base by group leaders. One P-51 of 15th Group was totally destroyed by fire in takeoff accident. Pilot suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Two additional planes were damaged on takeoff with pilots uninjured.
One group encountered such heavy airborne opposition in vicinity of primary target, Shimodate airfield, that only one squadron was able to go down and attack field. Three Franks were destroyed and 1 Frank and 1 Jill were damaged on the ground. Remaining squadrons encountered an estimated 60 to 65 enemy airborne planes. Enemy attacks were aggressive and were concentrated on overhead, head-on and high side passes. Nine enemy aircraft were destroyed, 1 probable and 9 damaged. One of our P-51s was shot down over target area and pilot was seen to parachute. This fighter sweep was the deepest penetration accomplished by planes of this Command-for the reporting period. Both primary targets were north of 36°, between 680 and 690 nautical miles from two by direct route. A greater number of enemy fighters was encountered, both in the air and on the ground, than on any previous mission. Despite cloud conditions and haze over the target area, our planes achieved their-record score to date, a total of 91 enemy planes being destroyed, probably destroyed or damaged.
Scheduled to strike Hyakurigahara and Katori while the 15th Group attacked Shimodate and Kjasumigaura (36). 55 A/C of the 506th were airborne rather late in the morning at 1019. In addition to the regular load of 1800 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition, several aircraft of the flak-buster detachment from the 458th Fighter squadron were equipped with 6AR rockets each (37). The mission rendezvous over Kita was snafue'd somewhat by the B-29's being on the west instead of their briefed position east of the rock (38). It was, in fact, a rather bad day for the B-29's for not only did they foul up the rendezvous, but they also delivered the Group at a DP some 10 miles further up the coast than originally planned. Moreover, at landfall they received several uncomfortably close bursts of heavy flak. "Uncle Georges" Olson, S-2 of the 462nd who had bummed a ride on one of the navigators came back from the mission white as a sheet and strangely silent. "This is my first and last ride in a B-29", quoted he. The 458th was the first to hit the primary target, Hyakurigahara A/F making a steep dive on the target through a hole in the soup. With the exception of a trainer that sustained a direct hit from one of Maj Shipman's rockets, no damage was observed at this target. The 457th stumbled out of the overcast on Mito South A/F which was mistaken for the primary target and strafed in a steep dive before the error was discovered. The 462nd , however, had somewhat better luck; they had ascertained the northerly drift of the departure point and arrived at Hyakurigahara as planned. A strafing pass was made on the northern section of the field from west to east in a 30° dive. A total of 5 destroyed and 6 probable's was racked up on this pass. Meanwhile the 457th was having a field day at Naruto where 4 A/C were destroyed and 22 were damaged.
Somewhere in the passage between MitoSouth and Naruto, Capt Benbow, a flight leader of the 457th , lost sight of the remainder of the Squadron. Cool, calm, and collected, the Capt thereupon proceeded to Naruto on his own and made 6 separate sweeps over the field. Such unparalleled effrontery if performed over a Nazi airdrome, for example, would have been an open invitation to destruction. While the 457th and the 462nd were ringing up their totals in destroyed and damaged on the ground, the 458th had become engaged in a hell for leather aerial fight in the vicinity of Yachimata. The bogies were sighted in flights of 4 about 6000' down. Licking their chops hungrily, the 458th dove down for the kill. In a few brief moments, 10 Japs were destroyed, 2 probably destroyed, and 1 damaged. The repertoire of evasive tactics employed by the 20 or so Nips engaged was extremely limited, consisting mostly of half rolls and split S's. Incidents of this type contributed to the somewhat unflattering opinion many of the fliers were beginning to form of the combat effectiveness of the Nips. The box score of the mission is as follows:
From these encounters all of the 506th aircraft returned safely although LT. Buzze of the 462nd had a 7.7 mm slug in his wing tip and Lt. Sulivan of the 462nd had his canopy shot off over Hyakurigahara; Lt. Sullivan's trip back to Iwo in his well ventilated cockpit was exceedingly cold. All but one of our aircraft landed shortly before 1800 and we sat down, then, to sweat out the missing pilot, Lt. Moore of the 457th. During the wait, a bogie appeared on the instruments and several flights were scrambled to repel the invader. Eventually, the bogie turned out to be our absent birdman, Lt. Moore, who had gone astray somewhere over the Empire and made the long trip back from the rally point all by himself. While fifty miles from Iwo he was called on VHF and given a steer to base. The alert was precipitated by the failure of the IFF (39). Lt. Moore landed at 1025. The newspaper's account of the strike with their customary inattention to detail, gave the following interpretation to the report of Lt. Moore's 8 hrs and 20 minutes in the air: "The 1645 mile round trip was the longest combat flight yet made from here by Mustangs. They were out as much as 8 hours and 20 minutes including time over the targets". (40) At the critique presided over by diffident, soft spoken, Major Shipman, CO of the 458th Squadron, and leader of the mission, a number of interesting suggestions were brought forward for the conduct of future operations. The navigators came in for some criticism: their conduct at the rendezvous, their spacing en route to the target, and their navigational errors in regard to the DP were commented upon at some length.
Replacement of aborting A/C by the spares was attended with a good deal of confusion; it was suggested that henceforth a leader of the spare flight be designated through which all requests for replacements en route to the target would be channeled. Having reached landfall the violent evasive action taken in response to the packet of heavy flak encountered there resulted in partial disintegration of the formation. It was determined that evasive action, in the future, should be taken by flights rather than by individual aircraft. The usual admonitions were directed against excessive radio chatter over the Empire. In this instance, a particularly violent urge to employ radio unnecessarily, overtook the pilots of one squadron during the jettisoning of wing tanks shortly before the attack on the PT. In lieu of a radio conversation to inform an adjacent member of the flight that his wing tanks are now safely on their way to do their bit for the Americanization of the Jap landscape, a hand signal of some kind was suggested.
Regarding tactics over the target, favorable comment was passed on the use of 5 degrees of flaps during the strafing run by Lt Willis, a high class operator with the A-36 during an eight months booking in the Mediterranean Theater. Use of flaps enable the pilot to maintain a nose down attitude permitting better sighting and a longer burst of fire on the target while strafing on the deck. Having given a satisfactory account of ourselves on a strafing mission, we were rewarded by an escort mission to the Nagoya area scheduled for the 26th (41).
Supporting a maximum effort of XXI BomCom, the 506th was to patrol from IP to Target at Nagoya with the 15th. patrolling the same beat at Kobe (42). Airborne at 0647 with 60 aircraft, we rendezvoused over Kita without incident. About 100 miles short of the Empire, a medium size front was encountered and we went to 21000' to pass over it, raising to 22000' at the DP. The 506th tacked onto a number of the bombers first observed circling near the entrance to Ise Wan in the belief that they were the boys we were supposed to take. They led us astray half way across the peninsula to Osaka before it was realized that we were intruding on 15th Group territory. Breaking contact, the Group swam through the soup to the vicnity of the Dog Leg at Biwo Ko. From Biwo Ko course was set for the IP and from there toward Nagoya, with the soup thickening minute by minute; the mission leader, Lt Col Harley Brown growing more and more dubious of accomplishing the scheduled patrol from IP to target, a 180 was ordered. In the turn something appears to have happened to the Group formation; the 458th took off toward the eastern shore of Ise Wan; the 462nd stooged up and down the western shore from DP to IP; and the 457th, also on the west, escorted scattered fragments of the B-29 stream from one section of the overcast to the next. During this entire operation, encounters with enemy fighters were extremely meager, on the blind alley run to Osaka, a couple of bandits were sighted out of range by the 462nd . Since our job was to stick with the bombers, pursuit of the distant enemy was not undertaken. A bit later on the same course, 2 Georges offered themselves for sacrifice about 1500' below our formation. Capt Norman Miller's flight pounced for the kill. Hits on one of the Georges — the other having fled into the clouds — were scored by Capt Miller and Lt Colley; the Nip disappeared straight down, smoking. During the patrol from IP to DP, after the squadrons had begun to operate separately, two more encounters with Jap aircraft were registered by Lts McFarlane and Colley of the 462nd.
Action in the 457th during their patrol run and escort on the western shore of the Bay consisted of a short razzle dazzle with 2 Georges on whom hits were scored by amiable chubby faced Capt Duan Anthony the Squadron C.O., and Lt Cawley, Lts Hutchinson and Newcomb had a rather hectic afternoon. Lt Hutchinson, shortly before crossing the front enroute to the coast, found that in order to operate his supercharger he was obliged to engage it by hand. The flight leader told him to head for the rally point and take another pilot, Lt Newcomb, along with him, "Hutch" was eager that day, however, and after fiddling around in the cockpit for about a quarter of an hour, he was able to secure the recalcitrant gadget with a piece of parachute string that he had used to tie his pocket knife onto his suit. He and Lt Newcomb, therefore, carried on a two man war up and down Ise Wan, stooging around in the soup, they observed elements of the B-29 formation appear and disappear in all directions. At 1140 they saw a sub sneak into the mouth of the bay to pick up the survivors of a crashed and burning B-29. Going in for a closer look, one of the B-29's took a pot shot at them out of range and they called him on the radio and requested him to please stop shooting at them. They went down to the deck to help spot a lone survivor of the crash.
Resuming patrol, they saw an aircraft explode and spiral downward in a ball of fire and smoke near Matsuzaka. Deciding at that point that they'd had enough, they turned to head for home, reaching Base some time after the rest of the Group had landed. Commenting on the mission, the Fighter Command, shaking its heed ruefully, observed that, "The reluctance of the enemy to send up his fighters when an overcast is present over the target area was again demonstrated" (43) The 460 escorted B-29's dropped 3000 tons of demolition bombs on 9 targets in the Nagoya, Osaka, Akahi, and Gifu areas; the Atsuta Plant of the Nagoya Arsenal, the Sumitomo duralumin mill, the Eitoku plant of the Aichi Aircraft Company, the Chigusa ammunition factory of the Nagoya Arsenal, the Mitsubishi and Kawasaki Aircraft plants at the Kagamigahara Army Air Depot, the Sumitomo duralumin and propeller factory, the Osaka Army Arsenal, and the Kawasaki Aircraft (44). As a result of the raid the reported damage included 77% of the roof area of the Chigusa factory of the Nagoya Arsenal complex (to which previous raids had also contributed), 12% damage at the Sumitomo Aluminum plant, Osaka and 26% new damage at Kawasaki Aircraft of Akashi (45). VLR operations for June ended as they had begun, with a weather mission. Scheduled to hit E Tsukuba and Konoike on 27 June.
Mission was non effective because of bad weather which was encountered approximately 400 miles north of base. Weather plane preceding force reported passage through front was impossible. On return to base, one group made reconnaissance passes over Tori Shima. All of our craft returned safely.
6l A/C of the Group were up at 0926 and down by 1502. The front was encountered at about 1205 just short of Hachijo Jima; after milling around for about 15 minutes and attempting to scale the front at a height of 23000', a "sour" quiet report was received from the weather ship and the Group turned for home. (46)
Combat operations for the month were wound up by 4 Bonins strikes on the 28th , 29th , and 30th , for which results might be described as meager, inaccurate, trailing, on the mission of the 28th run by a 10 A/C strike force of the 458th plus Josephine and escort, the Japs revealed much to our chagrin, an interesting bit of operational deception (47) on Susaki A/F. After dumping the bombload in the general vicinity of radio station #6, on the pier, and on several buildings, a strafing made on 6 SE A/C in a line SW to NE across the field, was met by intense and accurate light and medium flak. No one was seriously damaged although Lt. Jake Pilecki had an M/G slug careen off his windshield and another slug lodge in his wing root. Evaluating the incident the Group S-2 hazarded the opinion that the Nips had stuck a bunch of class 26 aircraft on Susaki in order to lure our pilots into zones of prearranged AA fire or land mines (48); a double barrelled attack on the Bonins was made on the afternoon of the 29th. The 457th led off with a bombing run on what was believed to be the entrance to an underground hangar, sheltering several operational aircraft, NE of the airfield. The reasoning behind the selection of this target serves to illustrate some of the devious ways in which information about the enemy originates and spreads in the Iwo Jima Theater of Operations. A report had been relayed to the 457th S-2 via one of the 506th Staff Officers who picked it up from the 15th Group, that the presence of such a hangar had been disclosed by one of the small boys captured a few days previously by the destroyer Dunlap. DD 384 (49)
A run was made against what was thought to be the door of the hangar, with the result that 2 bombs exploded on the bluff above and several others fell in the water or on the land beyond. Other bombs were directed, against radar station #1 (50). A little later that afternoon, the 462nd, with 11 P-51's (Josephine and escort furnished by the 457th went aloft to drop bombs on what later proved to be a Sugar Class hulk at Haha Jima. Before being positively identified, however, this vessel raised quite a furor among intelligence circles at higher headquarters. The preliminary report which tagged the ship as a Fox Baker, vastly overrated its actual importance (51). Examination of the gun camera film the following morning by the 462nd S-2, revealed that the ship was a Sugar type vessel, non operational. In addition to the "near misses" scored on the Sugar vessel at Haha, bombs with "unobserved" results and 17 rockets were fired at radio station #1 (52).
The next morning a 12 A/C strike force (plus a Josephine and her escort) of the 458tb, took off for Haha to plaster the Sugar; comparatively speaking, they did rather well, some of the bombs coming within a hundred feet of the target. Observed with open hatches in the long narrow harbor off Kitamura town, the vessel was definitely established as a Sugar Charlie hulk (53).
In summarizing combat operations for June the general expression of opinion among Squadron pilots and the Group staff was that the month had been, if not spectacularly successful, at least reasonably productive. Although a subsequent report was published on 17 July, devoted exclusively to the disclosures of this loquacious young man in which the location of this installation was given.
Flying a total of 207 completed sorties. (54) and 4 completed missions we scored 21 A/C destroyed, in the air and 10 on the ground, together with 6 probables, (air) and 7 (ground). Enemy A/C damaged included 7 in the air and 30 on the ground. It was generally realized, though, that the type and quality of our offensive depended, at least in some degree, upon the skill, aggressiveness and number of the enemy encountered. The enemy we met in June 45 was a far cry from the combat seasoned veterans who flew aloft against the U.S. pilots in the earlier years of the war. The caliber of his resistance may be described, even on the most charitable interpretation of his conduct as meager, indecisive, and uncoordinated. At no time, for instance, were more than 40 Jap planes sighted in the air on one mission (55). Few of these aircraft seemed desirous of locking horns with our Mustangs. The ground defenses around Jap airfields and strafing targets were an agreeable surprise. Both the volume and accuracy of the fire encountered was, from the Jap point of view, disappointing. We were permitted, therefore, to work out our tactics under what might almost be called "laboratory" conditions. Not a single pilot was lost to enemy ground or air action during the month. Errors in planning and mistakes in fighter tactics made during the heat of battle instead of being visited with the supreme penalty might entail nothing more serious than a chewing out, by the Squadron Co at the close of the mission — and sometimes not even that.
This is not to underrate, for a single minute, the operational hazards of VLR missions against the Empire. Weather and distance are not opponents who can be lightly dismissed, thirteen planes and 11 pilots were lost to weather plus mechanical failure in the course of VLR missions during the month (56). On the other hand, the bashful timidity of the Jap Air Force made it inevitable that the degree of experience our pilots obtained as well as the box score of our results would never reach that final pitch of effectiveness imparted through meeting and vanquishing an opponent worthy of our mettle. Fighters, unlike bombers, cannot effectively operate in a tactical vacuum. From the point of view of resolute irascible Maj. Gen. Le May and his bomber boys, Japan is the ideal test case for the airman's contention that the war potential of a modern industrial community can be effectively obliterated through air power alone. But from the fighter pilots' standpoint it was beginning to appear as though riding into battle against the Jap Air Force was like shadow boxing with and opponent who refuses to emerge from his dressing room. The combat habits which we acquire in, this relatively tranquil phase of our operations, it was felt, might be a source of no little danger in the event of some radical change in the conduct of the JAF. Particularly will this be true in the event that we are called upon to help provide aerial cover for an invasion of the Jap homeland. The resistance we shall meet will be infinitely more savage, more numerous, and more fanatical than anything the 506th has hitherto encountered. No doubt we shall give a good account of ourselves. Faced with a determined Kamikaze type attack, however, a lot of good men nay be needlessly lost because of Inadequate air discipline, indifferent gunnery (57), and poorly executed tactics. This melancholy estimate of our future must, of course, be tempered by the realization that this long period of comparative inactivity has doubtless had some effect on the Nip pilots and that their fighting potential will be reduced still further by systematic bombing of airfields in the invasion sector. Without the inclusion of at least one statistical table or summary, any Army history cannot be considered complete and definitive. In deference to this requirement, therefore, the following chart is presented covering VLR operations for the month of June:
The bulk of the S-2 stock of information is derived from the poop sent down by higher headquarters, supplemented by the eyewitness observations brought back by the pilots. General background information, objective folders, charts and diagrams of Jap airfields, teletype reports of shipping in Japan's harbors, of aircraft counts and of damage wrought in XXI Bomcom missions are supplied with commendable promptness. The A-2 sections of each of the numerous Army, Navy and Air Force Commands in the Pacific area evidently feel that they must issue a periodical of some sort at weekly or monthly intervals if they are to do their share in winning the war. The journals, reports and digests issued in response to this desire are received indexed, and filed in their proper niche on the shelves. One vitally important source of information, however, we do not have, namely, detailed, up-to-date photographic coverage in stereo of Jap airfields. Information on flak at Jap fields, other than what can be gleaned by the direct observations of the pilots at whom it is directed, is derived partly from the reports published under the imprint of the Central Interpretation Unit at XXI BomCom supplemented by the studies of Interpron Two, the Photo Intelligence Unit of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and by our own study of out-of-date and poorly reproduced photographs. The Bomber Command devotes only the most cursory attention to the location of MG and AW positions at these targets. The pictures; available, poor as they are, reveal countless errors, usually errors of omission in the CIU findings of light and medium flak around the airdromes. Given these conditions, it is imperative that the tactical unit flying the mission be given the best, most detailed photo coverage obtainable on the targets assigned to it. Precisely which of the many echelons lying between us and the source of the photographs bears the responsibility for our failure to receive them, we do not know. Suffice to say that the pictures we do receive are out of date and since they are seldom provided in stereo, of limited usefulness for interpretative purposes.
CUMULATIVE ENEMY LOSSES AS OF 30 JUNE 45
in /d.r in Air
Damaged on Ground
Total Destroyed or Damaged
43 ! 70
Use has been made of the gun camera film, particularly the Kodachrome film, in locating gun positions on strafing targets. During June, for instance, a study made of the color film of the Kasumigaura mission in late May verified the location of a number of positions previously reported and established the presence of several new gun batteries (58). Another type of photo coverage desperately needed for correct target identification on ground strafing missions was clear oblique or approach shots of the objectives from several different headings. Shortage of photo coverage of specific targets was not the only complaint registered by the S-2's against the intelligence material handed out by higher headquarters. It was felt that a composite picture of all land, sea and air operations in the Pacific should be provided for tactical units (59). At the Group briefings at 2000 in the west wing of the officer's mess, the Group S-2 presented the most complete information available of the air and ground situation for the mission. Target identification through the use of easily recognizable check points was stressed and the layout, flak, defenses and dispersal areas of the fields to be hit were represented on a bell Fshipman slide thrown on a screen during the briefing.
(3) During July, the 506th ran a total of eleven ground strafing missions. Two additional attests aborted due to weather. Our escort function had been completely abandoned, indeed, it was not till near the end of the year that we were again called upon to provide escort for the B-29’s. VLR Combat Operations in July opened with a series of five airfield strikes between the 4th and the 9th, as a sort of preliminary barrage for the Naval Carrier action that began on the tenth if the month. Tsukuba was hit on the 4th; on the 5th a strike at Hyakurigahara and Katori was weathered out of the target area and hit shipping along the coast.
During the last forty-five days of the war Iwo-based fighter aircraft intensified long-range aerial action against targets in the Jap Empire. Twenty-four effective escort and strike missions were flown against the Home Islands, an increase of 130 percent over the preceding forty-five days (15 May to 30 June). More effective operation of available planes, better weather conditions and more reliable reporting by advance weather planes were major factors contributing to this increase. Only three missions, or twelve percent of those flown, were non-effective due to weather as compared with seven missions, or forty-one percent of those flown in the preceding forty-five day period.
Escort of B-29s, which as originally planned was to comprise most of this Command’s VLR operations, assumed a subordinate role during July and August. Strikes against the Empire airfields; plus ground installations and shipping, accounted for over ninety percent of the sorties in this period. The significant factor leading to the growing importance of the strike mission versus escort was the Jap policy of hoarding aircraft for invasion day. Interception of B-29 strikes declined accordingly and in order to find targets, fighter aircraft concentrated on low altitude strafing and rocket attacks. During this period pilots claimed 399 enemy aircraft and 153 locomotives destroyed, probably destroyed or damaged. The use of rockets on strikes against Empire targets showed a marked increase during July and August when 1736 were expended compared with 232 in May and June. Less than twenty-five percent of the Command’s P-51s were equipped during this period to use this weapon.
In addition to the long-range strikes, units of this Command flew forty-five short range bombing and strafing missions against the Bonin Islands during July and August. Photographs taken by the Iwo Detachment of VMD 354, a Marine F6F photographic unit under operational control of this headquarters, greatly aided in the planning and execution of fighter operations in the Bonin area.
The 414th Fighter Group was added to the VII Fighter Command in July. It was the fourth group to be assigned to this headquarters and the first to be equipped with the P-47N. Thirty-eight of the group’s planes landed on Iwo’s Central Field on the 27th of July. Two days later a short-range combat mission was flown against the Bonins and on the 1st of August the group participated in its first VLR missing to the Empire.
Japanese Dispersal and Camouflage is a Major Problem
Japan had conceded the loss of Okinawa by the beginning of June. In that campaign she had suffered tremendous air losses and had proved no match for Allied air power, land-based or carrier. One hope still remained, however. Her suicide attacks had inflicted heavy damage to our ships and landing forces in the Okinawa operation. It was around this latter type of attack that Japan began building her plans to counter our invasion of the home islands. As an integral part of this program she hoarded her air strength. Interception of Allied attacks declined, and on Empire airfields every method of concealment of planes was employed, all of this dovetailed with her efforts to conserve fuel, spare parts and pilots. By the end of June this program was in full effect. Planes were parked (as later revealed by photographs) along highways two, three and four miles from an airfield, under trees, in camouflaged revetments-in every place of concealment. Pilots of this command soon were searching with small success for enemy planes so well hidden that they were impossible to see from a fast moving aircraft. The Japs used many tricks. Dummies were interspersed with operational planes, and decoys were parked in selected areas to attract the fliers into flak concentrations. (Flak damage and loss increased during July and August as discussed in a later section of this booklet). Command, group and squadron tactics during this period underwent continuous change to meet these new conditions; the pilots were briefed with all available information. Still only a fraction of the aircraft reported on an enemy field could be found.
The need for photo coverage of the airfields and dispersal areas was obvious, for therein existed the only means for satisfactorily locating concealed aircraft. Given such photos, pilots before the takeoff could be briefed on the exact position of every plane on the filed, and each pilot could be assigned specific planes for his attack. The type of photographs necessary to this end was never available to the Command and its pilots.
The forty-five combat missions against targets in the Bonins during July and August included 338 individual sorties. Photo coverage of both Chichi Jima and Maha Jima by the Iwo Detachment of VMD 354, a Marine Photo unit, enabled this headquarters for the first time to select targets with accuracy and with the assurance that information was current and reliable. Prior to that time sources of information except for a few old photographs were limited to reports made by pilots upon their return from the strikes against these islands. These reports were sometimes conflicting and seldom were sufficient in detail to serve the purpose as satisfactorily as would aerial photographs. An example was the mobile radar station in TA 172S at Chichi Jima. The presence of such an installation had previously been reported, but its location had never been definitely established until photos taken by an F6F from 300 feet altitude revealed the unit together wit its mattress type radar screen.
During July and August over 100 tons of bombs were dropped on Bonin targets, primarily radar and radio installations on Chichi and shipping and naval installations in Futami Harbor. Strafing and rocketing attacks also were made. Susaki airfield remained inoperational throughout this period although early in July the pilots reported that some of the bomb craters appeared to have been filled in. Following this report a dive-bombing run was made on 11 July. Thereafter the airfield was not assigned as a target. Eight Mustangs were lost during July and August Bonin operations. Five of the pilots were rescued and three were lost, one directly to enemy action as describe below:
P-51 #577, 'Dear Gloria' of the 458th Fighter Squadron. This aircraft also had the name "The Relunctant Wagon" on the port side and was piloted by 1st Lt. D.N. Richmond. Note the dive bombing site stripes on the wings and the rocket pylons under the wing.
Thunderbolts Shoot Down an Enemy Plane During CAP
On 7 March 1945, the first day following their arrival on Iwo Jima, P-51 pilots of this Command began flying combat air patrol over the island and its immediate vicinity. For approximately five months they continued these flights; over 4,000 sorties were flown; over 8,000 hours were spent in the air. Yet not a single enemy plane was sighted. Then the P-47Ns came to Iwo Jima. Nine days later with only three days of CAP to their credit they sot down an enemy plane. The action took place on the morning of 4 August, ten to fifteen miles west-northwest of Iwo. The bogey, a Dina 3, was sighted at 33,500 feet, cruising at 180 miles per our, evidently making a reconnaissance of the area. One flight of P-47ns closed to fifty feet in an up-sun attack. The enemy was completely surprised. He was hit, went into a left spin and during his downward course fired at our fighters from the rear cockpit guns. At 2,000 feet the Dinah leveled off with white smoke pouring from its right engine. The P-47ns closed for the kill, the enemy’s right engine and wing were set afire, he pulled up sharply, did a wing over and crashed into the water.
The Majority of VLR Missions Are Fighter Strikes
A breakdown of VLR missions flown during the months of July and August follows: (All figures of aircraft destroyed or damaged are derived from interrogation of pilots and are subject to revision after their review by Claims Boards.)
Unfavorable weather conditions made it impossible for two of the groups to reach their assigned targets. The 506th returned to base early and the 15th attacked shipping along the Japanese Coast, destroying five ships and damaging a seaplane hangar at Hamashima, located at the mouth of Ise-Wan below the city of Nagoya. Only the 21st Group found weather conditions over its assigned targets suitable for attack. Planes released rockets into the hangars, shops and ammunition storage areas of Hamamatsu airfield and strafed Mikatagahara airfield, north of Hamamatsu, destroying two planes and damaging two.
Pilots striking aircraft on the ground at Hamamatsu and Mikatagahara reported difficulty in causing planes to burn, despite considerable strafing and many observed hits. This gives credence to previous reports that the Japanese are draining gas from the parked aircraft due to a critical shortage of aviation gasoline.
On 3 July eight rocket-equipped Mustangs of the 15th Group attacked shipping in Futami Harbor. When the last element leader over the target pulled up from the attack the plane of his wingman was observed to be on fire. The pilot parachuted into the middle of the entrance to the harbor, climbed into his life raft and attempted to paddle out to sea; however, the currents caused him to drift to the north among some rocks close to the shore. During this time other planes of his flight orbited his position strafed gun emplacements along the shore from which fire had seen directed toward the downed pilot. Forty additional Mustangs were sent to the area to give assistance. A B-17 succeeded in dropping a lifeboat, which grounded, on one of the many reefs in the area and although the pilot reached the boat, he was later killed by machine gun fire from shore as verified by a PBY which landed nearby for an attempted rescue. Mortar and machine gun fire force the PBY to retire without recovering the body.
MISSION JUL 3 - READ THE ENTIRE STORY HEREFor five hours the war stood still while scores of his fellow pilots sweated and worked and risked their lives to save him. And as long as hope remained, nothing was more important than the life of one man.
Mission: VLR Fighter Strike against Japanese airfields in the northeast and east areas of Tokyo by 159 Mustangs, with one squadron of fifteen planes escorting two Navy B-24 photographic planes over the Yokosuka Naval Base.
Results: Nine enemy aircraft destroyed, three probably destroyed and twenty-two damaged. Miscellaneous ground installations in the Tokyo area, and shipping, mainly on Kasumiga Lake and in the Tone River, were destroyed or severely damaged.
Our losses: One P-51 shot down over Kasumigaura with pilot missing. Nine aircraft were damaged, seven by enemy flak, and two as the result of a Japanese plane exploding on the ground. None of the pilots was injured.
The escort assignment was given to the 462nd Fighter Squadron. Led by a navigational B-29 this Squadron departed the strike formation approximately 125 miles south of the Empire and proceeded to the rendezvous with the B-24s set for 34*30’ N – 140*00’ E. The Navy A/C was not found at the briefed altitude of 20000’ and the escort did not join as planned. Apparently both B-24s were transmitting DU simultaneously greatly complicating the rendezvous problem. After orbiting Sagami Wan for half an hour the photo ships were sighted and course set for the photo run.
Unfavorable weather conditions continued during this second July long range mission, although not to the extent as previous strikes. During this mission considerable cloud coverage prevented clear observation of airfields until the planes were already in dives and committed to strafing runs. Enemy aircraft not already in the line of flight could not be brought under fire without unduly endangering friendly aircraft to flak and uncoordinated passes. For this reason many of the aircraft sighted during low-level runs were not attacked.
Kasumigaura, Imba and Tsukuba airfields were brought under heavy assault by the Mustangs, both aircraft on the ground and installations on the fields being subjected to rocket and strafing attacks. Individual planes or flights also hit many secondary targets of opportunity, including installations on Kitaura, Miyakawa,Ikisu, Toke and Mobara airfields and Kasumigaura Seaplane Station. The flight of the squadron detailed to escort the Navy photo planes was uneventful.
Lts. Ed Bahlhorn and Steve Treacy sitting on the wing of 'Meatball', P-51 #602 of the 462nd Fighter Squadron. Mission markings can be seen between both men, as well as the 462nd squadron insignia to the right.
The 458thFighter Squadron had the strafing assignment at the primary target. After which navigational difficulty due to weather, the squadron became separated. Blue and Green flights strafed the PT at 1315 from NW to SE. Blue flight covered the SE side of the field and Green flight the NE. 10 A/C damaged on the ground are claimed as a result of the run. Continuing beyond the target a loaded truck was fired by Lt. Max E. Ruble who also strafed a 50-60 foot fishing boat as he went back over the water. Red and Yellow flights were unable to locate the PT in the weather but upon letting down through the overcast saw what appeared to be commercial airport in the neighborhood of the west arm Kasumiga Ura. The field had a sodded landing area, 4 or 5 hangars and had several dummy A/C parked along the west edge. The A/F installations were strafed but believed only minor damage was inflicted. Only 1 or 2 non combat type planes were seen on the field.
The planned attack could not be carried out due to weather and the fighter strike resolved itself into a haphazard and generally ineffective mission.
a. 4 small ships estimated from. 12000’ to be 1 – 100’ and 3 – 50’ anchored about 100 yds off Choshi Pt
b. Two tank farms containing an estimated 100 tanks each were observed near the northern edge of Kasama, a town directly west of Mito. There was a built up area directly east of the farms consisting of regularly spaced one story buildings.c. A large camp area was observed about 3 miles W of Mito S A/F d. No A/C were seen on Konoike A/F from 12000’ e. No A/C were seen on Mito S A/F from 10000’ f. A barge was seen burning on Kasumiga Ura as a result of strafing, by an A/C of another group.
Satisfactory. The photographic B-24s transmitted IU simultaneously.
Iwo to Kita 3/10 cirrus at 30000', 2/10 thin altostratus at 16000’', end 5/10 cumulus based at 1500’ with tops at 8000'. Visibility 10 miles in haze.
Kite to Hachijo Jima 3/10 cirrus at 30000', 2/10 thin altostratus at 16000’ and 4/10 cumulus based 2000’ with tops at 5000’. Near 30*N the coverage of lower clouds became 10/10 over a band 70 miles wide perpendicular to route. Visibility 10 miles in haze.
Hachijo Jima to Tokyo Area and Tokyo Area
8/10 cirrostratus at 22000', 2/10 thin altostratus at 16000’ and 8/10 to 9/10 stratocumulus and cumulus based at 1500' with tops at 8000'. Visibility 8 miles in haze.
Remarks: This mission demonstrated that a well coordinated and effective ground strike cannot be carried out under weather conditions which prevailed. The cloud coverage prevented certain location and identification of the target from an altitude which would permit a satisfactory approach. A large formation could not be held together while descending through several thousand feet of heavy cloud structure. A form up for a concerted attack under the 1500’ ceiling should have been extremely hazardous in a heavily defended area. With the formation intact at 1500’ a full throttle dive to the deck would not provide the speed necessary for surprise or defense against accurate tracking by automatic weapons.
Mission: VLR Fighter Strike against airfields in the Tokyo area, 100 Mustangs of the 15th and 506th Groups taking part.
Results: Five enemy aircraft destroyed and eleven damaged on the ground by the 15th Group.
Our losses: None. Two P-51s of the 15th were damaged, one slightly, one moderately,over Shimodate airfield by machine gun and automatic weapon fire. The pilots were not injured.
Again adverse weather conditions reduced to a near minimum the effectiveness of this mission. The 506th Group failed to reach either its primary or its secondary target, and the 15th Group had difficulty in locating targets, although successful attacks were made on Shimodate, Yatabe and Naruto airfields after finding holes in the clouds through which the planes could go.
The success of this mission was again handicapped by poor weather conditions over target areas. The 21st Group found its target closed in and observations of other airfields in the area showed only a few planes visible. Tokorozawa was attacked with moderately successful results and Irumigawa was strafed. The 506th Group operating east and northeast of Tokyo where cloud conditions were much mproved, struck Katori, its primary target, with very modest results, and strafed Yachimata and Miyakawa. Dummy and inoperational aircraft were the principal sightings. In all, twelve to fifteen airfields were observed by pilots of the 506th Group and only forty of the estimated 1200 aircraft reported to be based in this vicinity were sighted.
During this mission, only nine aircraft were encountered in the air, one of which was destroyed and six damaged. Many of the planes sighted on the ground were so well camouflaged and dispersed in revetments, under the trees, and in areas one to two miles from the airfields that from a practical standpoint it was only possible to bring a relatively few of the sum total under fire. Again it was found that many operational aircraft on the ground had been drained of their gasoline supply. One plane of the 21st Group was hit by enemy flak and the pilot bailed out and was seen to enter a motor launch dropped to him. However, the pilot is still missing and it seems probable that he was captured by the enemy.
All aircraft returned early. At 30 degrees 31” north a solid weather front was encountered and word was received from the advance weather plane that the target area was closed in. This is the eighth VLR Mission turned back by bad weather since fighter operations against the Empire began on 7 April.
Mission: VLR Fighter Strike against Tokyo airfields by the 15th and 506th Groups.
Results: Forty-nine aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed or damaged.
Our losses: Seven P-51s and four pilots. Twelve Mustangs were damaged.
Aerial opposition was the most aggressive yet encountered. On retirement from the primary target, Hyakurigahara, 15th Group planes were attacked from 5,000 to 8,000 feet by two aggressive Zekes and one of our P-51s was shot down. One Zeke was destroyed by Mustangs and the other was damaged. On Hyakurigahara nineteen enemy planes were destroyed, three considered as probables and fifteen damaged. After leaving the target two squadrons were attacked both from high astern and head-on by an estimated eight to twelve aggressive Jacks which did not break off after initial contact. One P-51 was shot down and three Jacks are claimed destroyed and one damaged.
Tokorazawa, Narimasu, Irumigawa and Toyooka airfields, all four fields situated close together, were hit by the 506th Group. Total claims for the fields: two destroyed, one probable, two damaged. One flight sighted ten airborne Jacks above and ahead during retirement to the Rally Point and destroyed one and probably destroyed another. Flak over airfields targets brought down three planes over the mainland. A fourth plane was lost operationally.
Six P-51s of each group were damaged by flak and one pilot was slightly injured. Most of the damage was caused by machine gun fire. The extent to which the enemy is employing camouflage, dispersal and decoys in concealing his aircraft, as discussed in the introductory remarks in this section, was emphasized during this mission.
Little Que", was the P-51D Mustang assigned to 1st Lt. Quarterman Lee. This aircraft was number #590 and belonged to the 458th Fighter Squadron. 1st Lt. Lee was credited with shooting down a Japanese Mitsubishi J2M 'Jack' aircraft on a mission on July 8, 1945."
1st Lts. Jack Rice, 1st Lt. James Rosebrough, and Capt. John Findley next to a striped tail P-51 of the 462nd FS on Tinian, before arriving on Iwo. On the return leg of the July 9 mission, Rosebrough's P-51 reported a loss of oil pressure and he was forced to bail out. On exiting the cockpit, his wingman reported he had hit the tail of the Mustang, and no parachute was ever seen.
Mission: VLR Fighter Strike by the 21st and 506th Groups against airfields in the Nagoya area.
Results: Sixteen enemy aircraft destroyed, five probably destroyed and eleven damaged.
Our losses: One P-51 with pilot. Five aircraft received minor damage from enemy flak with no injury to pilots.
The 21st Group proceeded toward Osaka with one squadron as top cover which sighted four or five flights of Oscars and three or four flights of Tonys about 5,000 feet below. As Mustangs dropped down to attack, the Oscars broke formation and split-essed through a thin overcast coming out among the two strike squadrons below. Approximately thirty-six individual encounters followed. Twelve aircraft were destroyed in the air, four were probably destroyed and ten damaged. Itami airfield was strafed. The 506th Group strafed Hamamatsu, Mikatagahara, Toyohashi and Oitsu airfields. One friendly aircraft was seen to crash after the pilot reported loss of oil pressure and smoking engine. The Pilot bailed out but parachute was not seen to open and pilot is considered lost.
Mission: VLR Figher Strike against airfields in the Nagoya area.
Results: Negative. Strike force of 15th and 506th Groups encountered a cold front between 31 degrees and 32 degrees north and penetration proved impossible.
Lt. Charles 'Frank' Seale, in the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang. Seale, from the 462nd FS, was returning from a rocket mission in the Bonin Islands on July 13, 1945, when he lost coolant in his P-51. He was forced to bail out, but was successfully rescued after 2 hours and 45 minutes after a very successful and quick response by rescue personnel.
Group commanders ordered the planes back to base and all landed safely.
Mission: VLR Fighter Strike against airfields in the Nagoya area by 104 P-51s of the 15th and 21s Groups.
Results: thirteen destroyed, four probably destroyed and twenty damaged.
Our losses: Three Mustangs lost over targets with two of the pilots considered missing in action. One of the pilots was seen to parachute, land safely and walk away. He is presumed to be a prisoner of war. Seven P-51s were hit by flak with minor damage to six and moderate damage to one. No pilot was injured.
The 15th Fighter Group strafed installations on Nagoya East and Okazaki airfields, destroying and damaging seventeen planes on the latter field. No aircraft were sighted on Meiji airfield, the primary target. The 21st Group sighted nine Zekes northwest of the town of Yokkaichi and one squadron attacked. The enemy attempted evasion through use of tight turns or dives to the deck. Three are claimed destroyed, one probably destroyed and two damaged. Poor weather was again a major handicap to the success of the mission. Only one enemy aircraft was sighted in the air and few were sighted on the ground. As on previous missions many dummy and inoperational planes were observed.
MISSION JULY 16
This is the mission in which Captain Benbow was lost over Nagoya, Japan. Read more about this mission.
Number 36 (FC Mission #235) 16 July 45
Mission VLR Fighter Strike against Japanese airfields in the Nagoya area, ninety-six aircraft of the 21st and 506th Groups participating.
Results: Forty-four enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged in the air.
Our losses: One P-51 lost enroute to target when a gas leak set fire to the plane. Pilot was rescued. Another plane was lost in the Suzuka area. Four Mustangs were damaged but none of the pilots injured.
Standing near their P-51D, the ground crew of 457th Fighter Squadron's #531, are Sgt. Jaynes Gandy, Sgt. Louis Lascola (Crew Chief), and Sgt. Thomas Snyman (Asst. Crew Cheif). This P-51D, 'Nip Nocker', was assigned to Capt. Wesley Murphey, who on July 16, 1945 shot down 1 Japanese 'Tojo' aircraft.
Between fifty-five and sixty enemy aircraft were encountered in the air and prevented Mustangs from attacking airfields as originally planned. In general the enemy pilots proved more aggressive and able during this aerial combat than on any previous mission. However they did not use mutual support and our planes always had the advantage except when they became separated and several Japs could attack a stray Mustang.
The 21st and 506th FGs sent 96 Mustangs to attack airfields at Nagoya. One P-51 went down on the outbound flight when a fuel leak set fire to the aeroplane - its pilot bailed our and was rescued. The 21st FG, led by Lt Col Mitchell of VIl Fighter Command, was first into the target area and encountered an estimated 60 enemy aircraft before the Mustangs were able to strafe the airfields as originally planned. The 506th FG Mustangs joined the air battle a few minutes later, led by Maj Malcolm 'Muddy' Watters, formerly 457th FS CO, and now serving as group operations officer.
According to VII Fighter Command publication Fighter Notes, the Japanese defenders proved more 'aggressive and able' during this aerial combat than on any previous mission. 'However, they did not use mutual support, and our aeroplanes always had the advantage except when they became separated and several]aps could attack a stray Mustang'.
The group reported four Mustangs damaged in the fight, and Capt John W Benbow, 457th FS operations officers, was lost. Members of Capt Benbow's flight did not see him get hit in the dogfight, and thought his P - 51 may have been damaged by debris flying off a Japanese aeroplane shot down by the 'Green Flight' leader, Capt William B Lawrence.
For the loss of Capt Benbow, the 'Sun Setters' claimed 25 confirmed victories, two probable victories and 18 aircraft damaged on 16 July. One of the 506th FC pilots claiming his first kills of the war that day was Capt Abner M Aust Jr, a flight commander in the 457th FS. This was his report of the action;
High scorer in the 506th was Captain Abner Aust of the 457th F.S., who claimed two destroyed and two damaged initially. One 12.7mm bullet entered his fuselage , knocking out his radio, and another hit his left gun bay. Two more e/a then attempted a head-on attack; he flamed one of them and hit the other so badly that the pilot bailed out. Aust was later credited with three destroyed for this mission, which he identified as "Franks". On August 10, he shot down two Zekes over Japan, giving him a total of five kills and making him the only Ace of the 506th F.G.
'I was leading "Blue Flight" in the second section of our squadron in the Nagoya area when six bogies were called out at "nine 0' clock low". I called my section to drop their tanks, and we peeled off low on a flight of six "Franks". I made almost ahead-on pass at their "Number One" man, and gave him a rwo- or three-second squirt around the cockpit before he broke away to his right. As I turned with him, and left, I was almost on top of another Jap fighter. I split-essed with him and got hits with a three-second burst around the engine and cockpit area. After I passed him, my flight saw him bail out.
"I spotted 6 enemy fighters at about the same altitude approaching from my 11 o'clock position. I called drop tank and made head on pass taking the lead aircraft. Evidently the leader flamed and bailed out, I pulled up in a very tight turn, the next Jap fighter I was upside down when I shot him down. I then followed one down into the cloud getting hits and he was smoking. I pulled so many Gs that the wing had to be changed. I was after another Jap fighter getting hits on him. I could see a P51 higher to my 4 o'clock position. Evidently he was after the same enemy I was hitting. the P-51 was out of range to hit the enemy. I checked my left wing and could see three or four holes in my left wing. I lost my compass and one gun to the holes. Upon landing back at Iwo my crew chief dug 50 caliber slugs out of my wing. The 50 calibers had gone through the fuselage just behind the fuselage tank leaving a hole about one foot in diameter. Japs did not shoot 50 cal and the P51 belonged to the 462FS. Later that day I gave some pilots of the 462 some good advice about aircraft identification."
'As I pulled up, another "Frank" was almost in front of me, and when I closed in on him he split-essed and I followed him. I was getting hits all the way through, and I finished up with a burst into the cockpit. I believe that I killed the pilot, because he went straight into the clouds. As I pulled up another was coming at me almost head-on. I fired a burst into his engine, and he split-essed and I followed. I closed in on him and got hits in his right wing root and cockpit. He started smoking and burning in the right wing and fuselage as he went straight into the clouds.'We pulled off this one and I was almost behind another. As I closed in, he split-essed and I followed him as he went into a dive. I got hits in the root of the left wing, and before he went into the clouds I saw smoke coming out of the wing. I fired all my remaining ammunition at him and followed him down into the clouds to about 2000 ft and then pulled up because we were doing about 350¬375 mph and the elevation of the ground was about 1000 ft. He was going almost straight down, and made no move to shake us. I didn't believe he could have pulled out.'
In this, the 'Sun Setters" last big air battle of the war, Aust was top scorer with three Ki-84s confirmed destroyed and three more damaged. Three days later, on 19 July, VII Fighter Command tallied nine more kills, but their one pilot lost was Lt Col Jack Thomas, 15th FC commander. Ever aggressive, Thomas was diving straight down in his attempt to strafe a bomber on Kagamigahara Airfield when his Mustang entered compressibility and shed its wings, carrying the veteran 'Pineapple' pilot to his death. A few days later, Lt Col John Mitchell was appointed the new CO of the 15th FC.
Only one more Japanese aircraft was shot down during the rest of the month, although missions were flown on 20, 22, 24, 28 and 30 July. During the course of these missions, seven more 'Sun Setter' pilots were killed and one was taken prisoner.
Number 38 (FC Mission #240) 20 July 45
Mission: VLAR Fighter Strike by ninety-four aircraft of the 15th and 21st Groups against airfields in the Nagoya area.
Results: One destroyed, one probably destroyed and ten damaged.
Our losses: Three P-51s destroyed.
One plane was hit by flak over Okazaki airfield and the plane caught fire and crashed. The Pilot was not seen to parachute. Another plane was missing after a strafing run on factory area southwest of Okazaki, and a third plane crashed at sea five miles off the coast of Honshu, reason unknown. Eight aircraft were damaged due to flak and one was damaged when wing tanks were jettisoned.
The primary target of the 15th Group, Meiji airfield, was partially obscured by clouds and only one squadron broke through to make a minimum altitude pass in the face of intense, accurate machine gun and automatic weapon fire. No aircraft was seen on the ground. Okazaki airfield was attacked with better results. One aircraft was destroyed, one probably destroyed and eight damaged of the twelve seen on the field. Buildings, hangars, shops and gun positions were damaged. Intense, accurate, light and medium flak flamed one P-51 which crashed a mile south of the field. The 21st Fighter Group found its target weathered in and search of four airfields in the Hamamatsu area revealed no aircraft on the ground. Hangars and buildings at Oitsu were damaged and some destroyed, by rocket and strafing attacks.
Pilots from the 457th Fighter Squadron: Jim Hinkle, Martin Ganschow, Ray Miller, and Chet Jatczak. Lt. Hinkle's P-51 was hit by an explosive shell while over Takamatsu airfield on a VLR fighter strike mission on July 22. Hinkle was able to fly his stricken Mustang to the rally point, and bailed out. He was successfully picked up by a Navy flying boat.
The 21st Group strafed installations at Itami and Tambaichi airfields with no aircraft sighted at either field. Locomotives and rolling stock in the area were also attacked and hit. One Zeke flying at 3,000 feet was shot down. One Emily was destroyed on the inland sea by the 506th. Only one aircraft was sighted on the ground at the primary target, Takamatsu.
Our losses: One P-51 hit by flak over Takamatsu. The pilot reached the Rally Point, parachuted and was picked up safely by a lifeguard submarine. Seven additional Msutangs were damaged, five from flak with one pilot receiving a minor wound, one from flying debris from an exploding locomotive and one possibly by shell casings from another plane.
This mission was planned as a maximum effort strike with three groups scheduled to take off at approximate intervals of one hour each. The time of these strikes was planned to coincide with the Third Fleet carrier raids into the Kure-Kobe-Osaka areas to the west and with a maximum effort B-29 raid a few hours earlier into the same general areas. Because of bad weather the 15th Group was forced to return to base early, and the 21st Group was unable to reach its primary or secondary targets. The 506th reached its primary target, Yaizu airfield, and damaged the only operational plane sighted on the field. During a search for targets of opportunity after weather prevented their hitting the primary target, the 21st Group scored rocket hits on factory buildings, a cement factory and a bridge in Hamamatsu town, damaged four Nicks parked under the trees on the west side of Mikatagahara airfield and strafed two planes on Hamamatsu, damaging both of them. This search for targets of opportunity was handicapped by poor visibility. All of our planes returned.
MISSION JUL 28
Stories from Jack K. Westbrook, Edwin Warfield III (4 days in a rubber dingy) Number 41 (FC Mission #246) 28 July 45
Mission: Three VLR Fighter Strike against airfields and military installations in the Tokyo area.
Results: Three enemy aircraft probably destroyed and fourteen aircraft damaged.
Our losses: Seven P-51s and three pilots. Three aircraft losses were due to flak, two to operational failure, and two to unknown causes.
Groups were ordered to sweep the Tokyo area. The groups again were scheduled to take off at intervals of one hour, and each was assigned a search area. In these search areas three specific airfields were designated as important targets, but also to be considered as targets were all other airfields within these areas. This method of operation proved successful. Approximately one-half of the planes sighted and damaged on this mission were on fields of minor importance, Koga, Shiroi, Kashima SS and a small strip near Ishioka Town. Seventeen aircraft were destroyed or damaged on the ground, and shipping, locomotives, power stations and factories were attacked during both rocket and strafing runs.
Three groups each spent approximately one hour over the Osaka-Kobe area. Only seven aircraft were sighted in the air, all too distant to attack. Rocket attacks were made against Hanshin while Itami, Sano and Kakogawa were strafed. Osaka East, Minato, Tambaichi and Nishinomiya were observed from low level. Only five operational planes were sighted on the fields.
Our losses: Five planes lost, two downed by flak with two pilots missing, one shot down by flak with the pilot rescued and two lost due to operational difficulties with both pilots rescued. Seven planes were damaged.
Katori, Yachimata, and Miyakawa were our targets for the 6th. After a one day lay-off, Tokorogawa, Irumigawa, Narimasu, and Toyooka, were strafed on the 8th. The next day, we directed our attentions to Hamamatsu, Mikatagahara, Toyohashi, and Oitsu. Our score for the five days work was 28 aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed, or damaged; we ourselves sacrificed five planes and three pilots.
The change in results between the last strafing mission in June and this series of strikes in July were due to the new policy followed by the enemy. Time and time again the fields were dove down upon and proven to be either empty or else occupied by dummy and non-operational planes. The Japs had begun to hide their air-force in the weeds and bull-rushes or conceal it along the roads several miles away from the fields.
We couldn’t see them and we couldn’t hit them. Our next series of completed operations began on the 16th . Starting out on a Fighter Strike against Akenogahara and Susuka A/Fs, we ran into an intense dogfight on the West side of Iso Wan at a cost of one pilot lost. The 506th score was ten destroyed, one probable and nine damaged. This was the last high score mission which the 506th flew. Following this strike, five more missions were conducted during July. On the 19th, a strafing job was pulled on Itami and Nishinomiya A/Fs which developed into a rhubarb strike in the areas adjacent to Osaka. For the mission of 22 July, we penetrated into the hitherto unexplored territory of Shikoku Island. The assigned airfield targets Takamtsu and Takoshima on Shikoku and Minato on Awaji were empty of profitable targets and 4 rather interesting ship strafing mission we conducted in the waters of the Inland Sea.
Considerably hindered by low cloud coverage, Yaisu Airfield and targets of opportunity were struck on the 24th. Targets of opportunity plus several airfields in the area north and east of Tokyo were struck on 28 July. It was an excellent mission in terms of damage to railroad engines, power lines, and oil storage tanks. Six steam locomotives were destroyed and nine electric locomotives were damaged. The Koga radio station took a thorough lambasting and numerous power lines as well as four power stations were shot up. On Koga, on a small field near Ishioka and on the Kashima Seaplane Base, we racked up a score of one probable and eight damaged. Two pilots were mission though one of them was rescued a day or so later near a small island in the Nanpo Soto chain. A return to the Inland sea area was made on the 30th . Moderate shipping damage was inflicted on the enemy and Minato, Kakogawa and Himeji Airfields were strafed without result. Two pilots bailed out and were picked up in good shape. The total score for the last five missions in July was two destroyed in the air, one destroyed on the ground and one probably destroyed on the ground, six damaged in the air, and nine damaged on the ground. Five planes and one pilot were lost.
For the whole month of July the score stocks up as follows:
Air : Ground
13 : 7
2 : 3
18 : 24
This score, amassed on eleven effective missions, compares somewhat unfavorably with the comparable figures for the previous month. In four completed missions in June, the totals were 21-20-6-7-7-30. July’s VLR losses included five pilots and eleven aircraft; in June we lost eleven pilots and thirteen aircraft. (All the June losses wore incurred on the weather mission to Osaka.) Operations in August were quite uneventful. We ran four target of opportunity or area sweeps, one to the Osaka area and three to the sector of west Tokyo, and finished up the month by two escort missions, one to Tokyo and one to Osaka. The only mission of any consequence was the Tokyo mission of the 10th . The squadron flying tail-end-Charlie on this affair sighted several formations of Nip planes and succeeded in shooting down four, probably destroyed one and damaging six. On this mission a pilot, who accounted for two of the four kills, became the Groups one and only "ace”.
Providence Permittin' was the name given to P-51D 44-72855, assigned to the 462nd Fighter Squadron's 2nd Lts. Leonard Dietz and Allen Colley. The name was apparently a favorite saying of Colley's grandmother. Note the 165 gallon drop tanks on the wings. These were the largest that the P-51's carried. Drop tanks like this, gave the P-51's the extra reach to make the sometimes 8+ hour round trip missions to Japan.
This mission was scheduled as the first four-group VLR Fighter Strike by this Command. Three groups of P-51s and one with P-47s were scheduled for takeoffs at one hour intervals. Bad weather hampered the 21st Group takeoff and its subsequent rendezvous with navigator bombers with the result that only fifteen planes succeeded in reaching the Empire. The 414th, on its first VLR mission, was the second group off. Due to communication difficulties as well as other causes several of its planes aborted and a total of only twenty-one aircraft reached the target area. Because of the continued bad weather conditions which hindered the takeoffs of the first two groups, the mission for the remaining units was cancelled before their scheduled time of departure.
Of the fifteen Mustangs to reach the Empire, three were directed to the Rally Point as sub cover and the remaining twelve proceeded to Itami airfield where four aircraft attacked with rockets scoring several hits in the hangar and building area. Due to the absence of worthwhile targets at Itami the planes then left the field and strafed a marshalling yard near Fukida. Later, they followed a railroad track heading south from Fukida, hitting stations, yards, locomotives and rolling stock. One P-51 was hit by flak during this run and the pilot parachuted and was seen to land near Koriyama. The 414th Fighter Group strafed and damaged installations on Okazaki and Nagoya East airfields. These included hangars, shops and factory buildings. A large factory with two stacks (possibly a textile mill) southeast of Okazaki was strafed.
In addition to the aircraft shot down by flak, two planes were lost enroute to the target, possibly due to weather, while another aircraft was last seen at landsend with the cause of its later disappearance still unknown. Five planes suffered minor damage from flak. No pilot was injured.
Number 44 (FC Mission #249) 2 August 45
Mission: Three Group VLR Fighter Strike against airfields and military targets in the Tokyo area.
Results: A solid overcast covered sections of the target area necessitating some changes in briefed routes and targets.
All groups went down and attacked fields, however, and three enemy aircraft were destroyed or damaged on the ground. Our losses: No aircraft were lost to enemy action, but fifteen planes were damaged, twelve due to flak, one because of operational difficulties and one when a bird crashed into the plane’s canopy.
Three squadrons of the 15th Fighter Group attacked Komaki airfield scoring hits in the hangar, shop and building areas of the field and making strafing runs against targets and gun positions. A marshalling yard northwest of Kiyosu was strafed and attacked with rockets. Rolling stock was destroyed or damaged, the round house was fired and five factories were strafed. The primary target, Kiyosu airfield, was attacked with minor results, one single-engine unidentified plane being destroyed on the ground.
Cloud coverage hampered activities of the 506th Group. Both Himeji and Itami airfields, the assigned targets, were reached but no aircraft were observed on the fields. Random attacks on ground installations and shipping included strikes against railroad yards and trains, buildings on Kakogawa airfield, radar stations and lighthouses in the Himji area and ships in Harima Sea and Osaka Bay. The assigned airfield targets of the 21st Fighter Group were covered by the overcast. Targets of opportunity were strafed and rocket attacks were made against hangars and buildings at Meiji airfield and a factory in the Okazaki area.
Results: Nine enemy aircraft destroyed, two probably destroyed and seven damaged. Our losses: Six P-51s lost and pilots missing. Eleven planes were slightly damaged by flak and another plane received damage from rocket explosions.?The 15th Group was assigned the area east and northeast of Tokyo and was briefed to sweep the area for worthwhile targets, three specific airfields in the area being singled out for special attention. Ishioka East airfield was strafed by two squadrons and three enemy aircraft were destroyed. Hyakurigahara airfield was next attacked with rockets and strafed with resultant heavy damage in the hanger and building area. Rocket and strafing attacks were also made against Katori airfield, resulting in the destruction of six enemy planes and the damaging of six additional. Ground installations and targets were also hit.
The 506th Group was assigned the area west of Tokyo. All three squadrons strafed marshalling yards, railroad shops, ect. At Kawagoe, Omiya, Hashimoto and Numozu. Four iarcraft of this group, while covering a submarine which was heading into Sagami Bay to pick up a survivor, were attacked by an estimated six Zekes from up sun. The enemy had altitude and speed advantage and shot down one P-51 which crashed with its pilot. Two Zekes are claimed as probably destroyed and one damaged. Aircraft escorting the photo planes completed the mission without incident.
Ed Mikes had wasted no time in boarding the boat parachuted to him and was soon underway at his own "flank" speed, toward the mouth of the Bay when Morioka's retiring flight approached. "At first I thought it was the sub cover, but as they came nearer, I realized they were Zeros."
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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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