Like Hell with the Fire Out Iwo Jima, lying about half way to the Japanese mainland from Saipan and about 750 miles from Tokyo, was invaded on the morning of 19 February by 60,000 Marines. - The 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions were involved. The 22,000 Japanese ground forces dug in on Iwo turned out to be more tenacious than expected and the airfield didn't become available until D +15 instead of D +5 or so as was planned. An advanced party of the 15th Ground Echelon did get ashore on D +5. - On 6 March 1945 Brigadier General "Mickey" Moore, the commander of the 7th Fighter Command, led the 47th Fighter Squadron to Iwo. The following day the 7th of March, Colonel Jim Beck with the 15th Fighter Group CO led the 45th and 78th Fighter Squadrons to the island. About this same time a couple of B-29's returning from missions over Japan and in dire straits used the newly acquired but very crude airstrip as a last resort choice. This was the first of many such "saves" to come. The 548th Night Fighter Squadron with a detachment of the 6th Night Fighter Squadron came in with the 15th Group to provide night time air defense support. Iwo as the 7th Fighter Command found it was “the hell hole of creation". - The months of shelling and bombing by the Navy, 7th and 20th Air Forces had laid all vegetation and structures to waste. Shell and bomb craters were everywhere including unexploded ordnance of all types. Hulks of landing craft and ships fouled the beaches. Iwo Jima means 'Sulphur Island' in Japanese
Overhead view of Iwo Jima Motoyama No. 1 (Chidori, Central Field) - Japanese built airfield on the southern corner of the island Motoyama No. 2 (Airfield No. 2, North Field) - Japanese built airfield in the center of the island, still in use today Motoyama No. 3 (Airfield No. 3) - Japanese built airfield in the center of the island, still in use today - After occupation, the area was converted into aircraft revetments and installations to support the other two strips on the island.
Battlefield Motoyama No. 1 Chidori, Central Field Japanese built airfield on the southern corner of the island. -The airfield became a battlefield during the battle of Iwo Jima. The strip was put into action by Americans as the battle still raged. On February 26, 1945 the first American aircraft landed on the strip, a OY-1 Sentinel piloted by Lt. Harvey Olson of Marine Observation Squadron 4. - Later, On March 4, with the battle still raging, a B-29 force landed, the first 2,400 emergency landings by American aircraft on Iwo Jima. Several Japanese wrecks were abandoned and captured at the airfield including Ki-46-III Dinah. American Units Based at 'Central Field‘ 21st FG, 72nd FS, 531st FS (P-51) Mokuleia - March 26, 1945 American Units Based at Iwo Jima (Unsure which airfield) 7th FC HQ Hawaii March 1, 1945 - ?15th FG, 78th FS (P-51) March 1, 1945 - ?15th FG HQ Hawaii March 6, 1945 - ?548th NFS (P-61) Saipan March 6, 1945 - ?549th NFS (P-61) from Hawaii/Saipan March 20, 1945 - ?433d TCG, 67th TCS (C-46) Clark Field Aug 27, 1945 - ?548th NFS (P-61) Saipan Mar 6 - June 8, 1945 Ie Shima (Small island three miles to the west of Okinawa).
Aerial view looking southward over Iwo Jima's South Airfield (formerly Japanese Airfield # 1) with Mount Suribachiin the distance, 26 May 1945; note B-29 bombers on the field (lower left)
The Bonin Islands, known in Japan as the Ogasawara Group are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands, some 1,000 kilometers directly south of Tokyo, Japan.
Map of the island of Iwo Jima, showing the situation at the end of D - Day 19 February 1945. Numbers to the left of the unit denote the battalions, those to the right the regiments.
Lt. Cmd. Daniel. J. Wallacetook command of Air Group 31on June 29, 1944 and Task Group 58.2left Kwajalean Atoll the following morning (June 30, 1944), en-route to the Bonin Islandsand the 1st attack on Iwo Jima and its airfields. The Bonin Island group is only 500 miles off of the coast of mainland Japan. They are made up of around 30 islands, the largest of which are Iwo Jimawhich had 2 airfields holding 80 fighter aircraft and Chichi Jima which had a large garrison and a good harbor with a substantial naval base. This would be the first deep penetration into the Japanese homeland and it would be met with some of the fiercest fighting by some of the finest Japanese pilots, equipped with the latest fighter aircraft that were as yet encountered. The pilots stationed at the airfields on Iwo Jima would be defending the Japanese homeland as the Bonin Island group had been a part of Japan since 1875. Iwo Jima had been undergoing reinforcement by the Japanese since June 8th 1945 when Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi was put in charge of fortifying the island. By the time the US naval aircraft made their first assault on the morning of July 4th the Japanese were fully ready for them.
7th Fighter Command The 7th Fighter Command had its beginning at Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. On 7 December 1941 nine squadrons were based at Wheeler Field. They were split between the 15th and 18th Pursuit Groups of the 14th Pursuit Wing. The Wing, commanded by Brigadier General Howard C. Davidson, was the fighter element of the Hawaiian Air Force (HAF) which was a major unit of the Hawaiian Department, United States Army. The HAF also included the 18th Bomb Wing based at Hickam Field and the 86th Observation Squadron based at Bellows Field. Ninety nine (99) P-40's and 39 P-36 aircraft were assigned to the 14th Wing. The 18th Wing had 33 B-18 and 12 B-17D aircraft assigned to it. The 86th Observation Squadron was equipped with O-47B aircraft. On 7 December two of the Fighter Squadrons had their aircraft at Haleiwa on the north coast and Bellows Field where they were undergoing gunnery training. A capability to detect and intercept attacking aircraft was demonstrated on the 17th of November. However, fate, in a series of decisions, events, and personalities would step in to prevent this capability from being used. As a result, the deplorable, unready condition on that fateful Sunday morning in December lead to the decisive, if short lived, one sided victory for the Japanese. It was from their perspective as decisive as any air battle that would be fought over the next four years. Five of the nine 7 December squadrons joined the 20th Air Force on Iwo Jima. (A detachment from the 6th Squadron provided the initial night air defense of the island). These were the 45th, 47th, and 78th Squadrons of the 15th FG , and the 46th and 72nd Squadrons of the 21st FG. The 21st Group headquarters was established in May 1944. The 531st Squadron which was transformed from an attack (A-24's) to a fighter squadron and joined the Group then. Another Wheeler squadron, the 44th, along with the 18th Group headquarters was moved to the South Pacific Theater early in the game. They joined the 12th Squadron which had been under the 7th at Christmas Island since August 1942. The Group was joined by the 70th Squadron and they went to Guadalcanal and the 13th Air Force in April of 1943. The Group's 78th and 6th squadrons were transferred to the 15th Group and the 19th Squadron to the 318th Group when the 18th left the 7th Fighter Command.
The P-51's and P-61's immediately began an intense air defense effort anticipating heavy air attacks by the Japanese. Interdiction of Chichi Jima began also to preclude the Japanese from using its airfield for attacks on Iwo Jima 165 miles to the southwest. The need to provide ground support to the Marines was not planned, as it was anticipated that the ground battle would be essentially over with when the 7th Fighter Command arrived. This support was being provided by the carrier forces off shore. All most immediately the Marines asked for help from the 7th Fighter Command and ground support began. The Command had developed the use of napalm delivery by fighters but was told to leave that capability behind since the island would be secured by the time the 7th arrived. The ground support was restricted to the use of the P-51's six 50 caliber machine guns and two 500 pound bombs per aircraft. On 23 March, after the middle airfield had been captured and repaired sufficiently, Col. Kenny Powell's 21st Fighter Group, which left Pearl Harbor aboard the "Jeep" carrier Hollandia, moved in. The 15th Group was eager for them to participate in the dawn to dusk Combat Air Patrols (CAP) which proved to be very boring because of the total lack of daylight activity on the part of the Japanese Air Force. The P-61's of the 549th Night Fighter Squadron came in about the same time as the 21st Group. - Light night attacks were experienced and the P-61's got a few. One of these attacks, before midnight on 25 March 1945, caused the Marine 155 mm howitzers to stop firing star shells for battlefield illumination and several hundred Japanese broke out of a pocket and proceeded through the 21st Group and 549th tent area and headed for the airfield and the newly arrived aircraft. All hell broke loose at 0400 hours and before it was over the 21st Group suffered 15 killed (Nine pilots) and 50 wounded while the 549th lost six of its enlisted men. One of the wounded was the group commander Col Kenny Powell. - Initially the battle was engaged by the 21st Group pilots who suddenly turned infantry and performed brilliantly. They were eventually helped by a few Marines and men from the 137th Army Regiment who were moving onto the island to take over as the Marines left. An enemy force of over three hundred Japanese were killed and only a handful taken prisoner before the battle ended at 0930. - They were the only aviation unit of World War II to be so engaged. Major Harry C. Crim, Lt. Henry Koke and Lt. Joe Koons were presented Silver Stars by General of the Air Force "Hap“Arnold for their exceptional feats and bravery in the action.
The pace of change didn't slow down as a consequence of these activities. Preparations were made for the first B-29 escort mission to Japan scheduled for the 7th of April. A practice run that was made down to Saipan and back on 30 March was somewhat discouraging. Several aircraft had to land at Saipan unable to make the return trip nonstop. The trips to Japan would not afford such a luxury. Plans were amended accordingly. Each squadron would fly 16 airplanes. Certain squadrons would provide spares that would go along with the main force of P-51's and their B-29 Navigators until just short of the P-61's point of no return. The P-61's would provide navigation support to the P-51's that returned to Iwo Jima. Anyone having problems was to abort and the spares fill in. In addition, 8 aircraft were to provide top cover for the rescue submarine and aircraft as well as the B-29 navigators at the rally point just off Japan. Early on the morning of 7 April the 15th and 21stGroups were poised ready for the signal to start engines. The briefings of the day before and that morning had everyone eager to get the operation underway. Since there were a large number of aircraft to get off in as short a time as possible, there could be no dallying around. At about 0700 the signal came. All aircraft got airborne promptly and proceeded to the assembly point at Kita Iwo Jima, just north of the main island, where the navigation escort B-29's were waiting. Anticipating that the pilots might get weary from the long flight to Japan, they were issued pep pills. Those that took them found that the let down after relaxing for the flight home was too deep and most never used them again. Besides Mother Nature built in her own chemical for this purpose. She also arranged for reality to return. All of a sudden that survival gear seat became harder and lumpier than ever, hunger and thirst set in, and the desire to use the relief tube became strong. To control the air speed at 210 MPH indicated, the throttle was wide open and the RPM reduced or increased with the propeller control. As the aircraft got lighter and particularly on the way home the pilot had to go to every lowering RPM in the 1,600 to 1,800 range. This of course caused the engines run very cool. The Command had begun using the 115/145 Octane leaded gasoline. This caused "lead" globules to form on the spark plugs shorting them out. The loss of even one plug out of 24 made the engine run very rough. This was most disconcerting to the pilots. It was found that by running the engine at full RPM and manifold pressure periodically during the cruise portion of the mission helped greatly to prevent the fouling from occurring. It was a long enough ride home without all the problems. This first mission and those that followed averaged about seven and a half hours.
Major Robert W. Moore, 23, of Louisville, Kentucky, is the newest ace in the Pacific War Theatre. He has shot down more enemy planes over Japan itself than anyone else. His score is not amazing by comparison with those obtained in Europe and in the Pacific during the early stages of the war against the Jap. He has only 11 planes to his credit; but they were all shot down over Japan after the long eight-hour round trip - 1600 miles - from Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands to the Empire - the longest and toughest combat flying in history. Major Moore is Commanding Officer of the 45th Fighter Squadron, 7th Fighter Command based on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands. Major Robert W. Moore, 23, of Louisville, Kentucky, is the newest ace in the Pacific War Theatre. He has shot down more enemy planes over Japan itself than anyone else. His score is not amazing by comparison with those obtained in Europe and in the Pacific during the early stages of the war against the Jap. He has only 11 planes to his credit; but they were all shot down over Japan after the long eight-hour round trip - 1600 miles - from Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands to the Empire - the longest and toughest combat flying in history. Major Moore is Commanding Officer of the 45th Fighter Squadron, 7th Fighter Command based on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands. 45th Fighter Squadron, 7th Fighter Command Major Robert W. Moore, 23, of Louisville, Kentucky, is the newest ace in the Pacific War Theatre. He has shot down more enemy planes over Japan itself than anyone else. His score is not amazing by comparison with those obtained in Europe and in the Pacific during the early stages of the war against the Jap. He has only 11 planes to his credit; but they were all shot down over Japan after the long eight-hour round trip - 1600 miles - from Iwo Jima, to the Empire - the longest and toughest combat flying in history. Major Moore is Commanding Officer of the 45th Fighter Squadron, 7th Fighter Command based on Iwo Jima.
Meanwhile the 5th Marine Division regrouped and prepared to take on the last major bastion of Japanese resistance on the island - 'The Gorge'. On the 17 March, Admiral Nimitz issued a bulletin stating that Iwo Jima was now secure and Japanese resistance was at an end. Of course, this didn't go down to well with the Marines - "This morning the island was officially secured. They ran the flag up at the base of Hot Rocks. We are still fighting, but it's called 'mopping up operations'." (Dale Worley) In fact another nine days of bloody fighting were ahead along with almost 2,000 casualties. 'The Gorge' was in fact only some 700yds long and 3 - 500yds wide but Lt General Kuribayashi had concentrated the remains of his garrison there (around 500 men) and prepared his last stand. The 28th Marines took up position on the cliffs overlooking 'The Gorge' while the remainder of the division attacked in the centre and from the east. In brutal fighting, the Marines gradually forced the Japanese back into a smaller and smaller pocket of resistance. The cost was staggering though, with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 27th Marines badly mauled (the 2nd was in fact withdrawn) in the struggle. A huge blockhouse barred the way for quite a time despite repeated pounding by tanks and demolition reams and it finally took an explosive charge of some 8,500lbs to destroy it. On D+32 (23 March 1945), a final message was received by Major Horie on Chichi Jima: "All officers and men of Chichi Jima - goodbye from Iwo." By the end of D+33, the Japanese had been squeezed into an area of around fifty square yards and the final act in a long and drawn out saga was approaching. The Americans once again tried to persuade the Japanese to surrender but to no avail. With the fighting gradually coming to an end, the remaining few defenders from 'The Gorge' and positions along the west coast, around 2 - 300 in number silently infiltrated the American lines in the early hours of 26 March and headed for the bivouac area not far from Airfield No. 2. - Led by sword wielding officers and armed with an assortment of machine guns, rifles and grenades, the Japanese launched a well-planned and coordinated three-pronged attack, not a last-ditch banzai charge, against a mixture of Marine shore parties, Air Force crewmen, AA gunners and Seebees. The Japanese attacked them with determination and the noise from the confrontation brought Marines from nearby Pioneer Battalions and an all-Negro shore party. Lt Harry Martin of the 5th Pioneer Battalion organized a hasty defense line, rushed into the fight to rescue wounded men and launched a counterattack that momentarily repelled the attackers. The Japanese however returned with an even greater fury an in the confused melee, other American personnel came and joined the frantic struggle. Lt Martin was also killed, earning him the final Medal of Honor of the battle. By dawn a detachment from the Army's 147th Infantry had arrived on the scene with tanks but by then it was mostly over. The daylight revealed some 44 airmen killed, another 88 injured, 9 Marines killed, another 31 wounded. Of the Japanese attackers, some 262 lay dead with another 18 captured. Even though it was rumored that General Kuribayashi (he had been promoted to full General on the 17 March) had led the charge, his body was never found.
Having seen the beating the Marines took on Iwo a lot of pilots hated to bring home any ammunition. As a consequence, small ships, boats and the railroad running stock took a beating. Strikes against airfields were not everybody's favorite past time. Quite the contrary, no other action that the fighter pilots engaged in was more dangerous. In spite of this, the P-51's were out after ground targets until the very end. Col. Jim Beckwith went home after the second very long range (VLR) mission. He was replaced by Lt. Col. Jack Thomas. - Jack had been with the 7th Fighter Command from before the war. He lead the 45th Squadron in the Gilberts Campaign and returned to the States when it was over with. Eager to get back into combat he returned to the theater. On 19 July his aircraft disintegrated on a very high speed strafing run against Kagamigahara Airfield and he was killed. He was replaced by his vice commander Lt. Col. John W. Mitchell. - John was very well qualified for the job having served a tour in the South Pacific Theater with the 347th Fighter Group. On 18 April 1943, then Major Mitchell, led his squadron on a miraculously successful intercept of Admiral Yamamoto's Betty bomber that was bringing him to Bougainville from Rabaul on the eastern tip of the New Britain island. He led his squadron of 16 P-38's from Fighter Two airstrip on Guadalcanal on an over two hour dead reckoning flight at low altitude to arrive off Bougainville at the precise time Admiral Yamamoto's flight arrived. It was the longest successful intercept ever flown by Americans. It eliminated a powerful leader who had planned the Pearl Harbor attack. It was a big blow to the Japanese and a morale booster for the Americans. For this feat John was awarded the Navy Cross. Colonel Mitchell had 8 kills on his first tour with the 13th Air Force and 3 with the 7th Fighter Command. John was credited with 4 MiGs during the Korean war.
15th Fighter Group Operations Served as part of the defense force for Hawaiian Islands, using A-12, OA-9, B-12, P-36, P-39, and P-40 aircraft. Suffered numerous casualties and lost aircraft during Japanese attack on Hawaii, 7 Dec 1941, but was reorganized, and remained part of the Hawaiian defense system until 1944. Sent squadrons to the Central and South Pacific at various times for operations against the Japanese. Reequipped with P-51 Mustang aircraft in 1944 and trained for very-long range escort missions. Moved to Iwo Jima in Feb 1945, and in March, supported the invasion force, and began bombing Bonin Islands. In April and May 1945 escorted B-29 raids into Japan and struck airfields to curtail enemy attacks on invasion force at Okinawa. Continued fighter sweeps and long-range escort missions to Japan until end of war. In Nov 1945, transferred back to Hawaii without personnel and equipment. Components Group 15th Operations: Squadrons. 6th Night Fighter: attached 6-25 Mar 1943, assigned 26 Mar 1943 -5 Jun 1944; attached 1-30 Sep 1944. 12th: 23 Aug-1 Dec 1942. / 18th Fighter Control: attached 6-17 Mar 1943, assigned 26 Mar 1943-22 Jul 1944. 45th: 1 Dec 1940-15 Oct 1946. / 46th: 1 Dec 1940- 24 Apr 1944. / 47th: 1 Dec 1940-15 Oct 1946. 78th: attached 6-17 Mar 1943; assigned 26 Mar 1943-15 Oct 1946 (detached 26 Mar-10 Apr 1943). 318th Fighter Control: attached 6 - 17 Mar 1943.
The 21st Fighter Group (FG), activated on 21 April 1944 at Wheeler Air Field in what was then the territory of Hawaii. Assigned to VII Fighter Command, the group consisted of the 46th, 72nd and 531st Fighter Squadrons. True to rumor, leading echelons began deploying by ship to the island of Iwo Jima in the western Pacific in February 1945. Before the end of the month, the 21st began flying patrols over the critical island base in support of ground operations. The final group echelon arrived at Iwo Jima on March 25, 1945. Early the next morning, elements of the 21st were attacked in their encampment by Japanese soldiers. Assisted by a patrol of American Marines, 21st personnel counter-attacked and in the tent-by-tent fighting killed 250 of the enemy. Fourteen group personnel were killed and 50, including 21st FG commander Colonel Kenneth Powell, were wounded. The first long-range aerial mission of the 21st Fighter Group against the mainland of Japan began on 7 April 1945, when the group's Mustangs escorted a formation of B-29 bombers against the fortified and well defended Nakajima aircraft factory near Tokyo. This mission marked the first time fighters had escorted bombers over Japan. Moreover, this mission has been credited as having been the longest over-water fighter escort sortie to date. Over the following weeks, the 21st escorted American B-29s over enemy airfields and industrial targets and engaged rival Japanese fighter aircraft.
The 531st Squadron achieved another first for the 21st FG in June 1945 by initiating aerial rocket strike sorties against select enemy targets which included ships and a radio station. In the meantime, the group's aircraft continued to duel in the air and two "aces" soon emerged - Major Harry Crim and Captain Willis Matthews, both of the 531st Fighter Squadron. - Aircrews of the 21st also strafed the airfields which the Japanese used for their increasingly dangerous kamikaze attacks. The 21st FG flew its last combat mission 14 August 1945, about two weeks before the official Japanese capitulation on 2 September. The group received the Distinguished Unit Citation on 13 November 1945 specifically for its outstanding conduct during the earlier raid on Nakajima. However, the 21st had played a laudable part throughout the final stages of the war in the Pacific. After the war, the group transferred from Iwo Jima, first to Saipan, then finally to Guam. The original 21st FG deactivated on 10 October 1946.
Jim VandeHey's personal P-51 being loaded with 50 Caliber Ammo on Iwo Jima
7th Fighter Command History Of the nine fighter squadrons at Wheeler on December 7th, eight eventually became involved in support of the WWII 20th Air Force. Three of these were the 6th, 19th and 73rd Squadrons which along with the 333rd Squadron participated in the Marianas campaign and operated out of Saipan. The 19th, 73rd and 333rd were part of the 318th Fighter Group which was formed in October of 1942. They were launched by catapult off "jeep" carriers and provided ground support for the Marine and Army units engaged in the battles for Saipan and Tinian. After Guam, Saipan and Tinian were secured, these squadrons along with the now independent 6th Night Fighter Squadron and their P-61's provided island air defense. In addition, the 318th Fighter Group aircraft flew interdiction missions to Pagan, Iwo Jima, Truk etc. with their P-47's and later acquired P-38's . With the taking of Iwo Jima a need for the Group no longer existed in the Marianas. After being re-equipped with long range P-47N's, they moved to Ie Shima and participated in the Okinawa Campaign. Five of the nine “7 December squadrons”joined the 20th Air Force on Iwo Jima. (A detachment from the 6th Squadron provided the initial night air defense of the island). These were the 45th, 47th, and 78th Squadrons of the 15th Fighter Group and the 46th and 72nd Squadrons of the 21st Fighter Group. -The 21st Group headquarters was established in May 1944. The 531st Squadron which was transformed from an attack (A-24's) to a fighter squadron and joined the Group then. Another Wheeler squadron, the 44th, along with the 18th Group headquarters was moved to the South Pacific Theater early in the game. They joined the 12th Squadron which had been under the 7th at Christmas Island since August 1942. The Group was joined by the 70th Squadron and they went to Guadalcanal and the 13th Air Force in April of 1943. The Group's 78th and 6th squadrons were transferred to the 15th Group and the 19th Squadron to the 318th Group when the 18th left the 7th Fighter Command. http://www.7thfighter.com/history.htm
The Fighter Command was further augmented in late July when Col. Henry Thorne brought in the 414th Fighter Group to Field #2. The 414th was equipped with the new, long range P-47N's - The 413th, 437th and 456th squadrons made up the Group. The Group had staged through Saipan and flew a couple of missions to Truk to gain experience. The Japanese on Truk had a lot of antiaircraft artillery experience and destroyed one P-47N killing the pilot and damaged two others. They flew their first VLR mission from Iwo on the 1 August. On 4 August there was a somewhat ironic event. After all the daylight CAP flights with no action since he arrival of the 7th Fighter Command on Iwo Jima, a Jap Dinah showed up. Being the "Johnny come latelys" a CAP flight from the 414th's 456th Squadron was up. The four pilots in the CAP flight each 1/4 aircraft apiece for the 414th's only kill. The 7th Fighter Command, as did other 20th Air Force units, flew escort and ground attack mission between and after the two A-bombs. After a delay of two hours waiting for word on surrender on 14 August 200 P-51's and P-47N's took off various target areas in Japan. The word "Utah" was to be transmitted should the surrender word come from the Japanese. Hearing this the Command was to abort. The number of aircraft seen in the air and visible on the ground was very sparse. The 15th Group, with the 20th's top ace with 12 aircraft destroyed in the air, Major Robert W. Moore leading, was assigned airfields in the Nagoya area, but the airfields were bare. A bunch of steam locomotives in a marshaling yard in northern Nagoya took a beating as well as other rolling stock between there and the coast. Lt. Philip Schlamberg of the 78th Squadron was shot down and killed. Major Eddie Markham, the 47th Squadron CO had bailed out over the off shore submarine and Lt. Elmer Owens had to bail 100 mile north of Iwo. The 21st and 506th Groups escorted the 73rd Bomb Wing over Osaka. It was a milk run for them as there were no fighters aloft and the flack was light. No one suffered any losses. Lt. Col. Bob Rogers, Asst Ops Officer, 7th Fighter Command, who had flown against the Japanese on 7 December 1941, led the escort and was the only man in the AAF to fly combat missions on the first and last days of the war. The 414th Group was also assigned targets in the Nagoya area. They strafed three airfields and saw nothing but derelicts. Two of there aircraft were hit by anti-aircraft fire. On the way home Lt. Harold Regan bailed out of his P-47 over a Navy destroyer and was recovered but died of injuries. Thirty minutes south of Honshu the signal "Utah" was broadcast. The end had come.
One of the first planes to arrive at Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands - North American P-51 "Mustang" - comes in for a landing on the airstrip. - 6 March 1945
March 1945 - Due to a cross wind, this North American P-51 "Mustang" crashed on No. 2 Airfield on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands as it came in for a landing. It ran into a truck and upset the vehicle on a tent, causing much damage.
In the early morning hours of 26 March 1945 the 21st Fighter Group area was hit by a Japanese "Banzai" attack on Iwo Jima. It is estimated that approximately 300 Japanese, the remnant of 3 units, participated in this charge. This is a general view of the 21st Fighter GroupOfficers' tent area showing Japanese and American dead lying where they fell. After the battle 150 Japanese dead were found in the 21st Group Area. All hell broke loose at 0400 hours and before it was over the 21st Group suffered 15 killed (Nine pilots) and 50 wounded ,while the 549th lost six of its enlisted men. - One of the wounded was the group commander Col Kenny Powell. Initially the battle was engaged by the 21st Group pilots who suddenly turned infantry and performed brilliantly.
1 April 1945. - Services for men killed during a Banzai attack on 21st Fighter Group, VII Fighter Command, are held in the 4th Marine Division Cemetery, Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands.
The new Premier of Japan was ushered in with a bang on 7 April 1945, when for the first time in World War II land based fighters escorted Boeing B-29's over Tokyo, Two hundred B-29's based in the Marianas, and a hundred North American P-51's pulled a one two over industrial Tokyo that brought twenty-one Jap planes tumbling down. Shortly before take-off from their 7th Air Force base on Iwo Jima, for the Tokyo raid these pilots of both the 15th and 21st Fighter Groups study their maps. They are, left to right 1st Lt. A. W. Sherren, Jerome Yellin and 1st Lt. Phil J. Maher
7 April 1945 - Here, Lt. Sanders, S-2 (Intelligence) officer of the 47th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group, interrogates Major Piper and other Mustang pilots after they returned to their base on Iwo Jima after the raid on Tokyo.
45th Fighter Squadron - Lt. Ceil Dennis, atop Mount Suribachion a July evening in 1945, looks out over the 21st Bomber Command installations and the ships anchored near the shore of Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands.
When the planes first approach the airstrip on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands, they are still flying in formations. The "pitch out" one by one as they fly a hundred feet or so from the ground and then, individually, they do an almost vertical twist into the sky. You can see the first plane of this formation "pitching out" in this photograph. The "pitch out" gives each plane a lot of distance from its neighbor. Then they circle around and come in to land one by one. This is a vital safety measure to prevent jamming on the strip.
After returning to his home field on Iwo Jima, Lt. John Kubis, sitting on the wing of his P-51 writes out a report on the mission. July 1945
As another North American P-51 Mustang takes off for Japan - Four foamite-drenched fire fighters of the 7th Fighter Command based on Iwo Jima combat the flakes of a burning P-51 which crashed on takeoff. The pilot, 2nd Lt. Loraine C. Lane, from Shelby, Montana, escaped with an arm burn. Exploding ammunition in the plane drove away fire fighters. The plane was a complete loss.
Brig. General Ernest M. (Mickey) Moore. Chief of Fighter Command in the Pacific. Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands.
Brig General Ernest M. Moore and other men listen attentively as a pilot describes his maneuvers against Japanese aircraft during recent mission. Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands.
Two North American P-51 "Mustangs" fly over 21st Bomber Command installations on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands.
Mt. Suribachi Highway, which serves radar and gun installations was constructed by the Seabees(Construction Battalions or CBs of the USN) on Iwo Jima Island in April 1945. Tents and Quonsets are part of 7th Fighter Command Headquarters. (SCR-270).
Saipan 6 March 1945 - Brig. General Ernest M. Moore, Commanding General of the VII Fighter Command who led the first flight of P-51 Mustangs to Iwo Jima, shakes hands with Colonel Lewis Sanders, General Moore is at the controls of his P-51 ,
Iwo Jima - Men discuss the first P-51 fighter escort mission over Tokyo, Japan on April 1945. They are, left to right Lt. Jerome Yellin, Capt. Lipstiz, Lt. Stadjuhar, and Chaplin A. L. Jamison
March 7, 1945 Jim Beckwith in "Squirt" of the 47th FS, 15th FG leads a group of P-51's from the 45th FS.
10 March 1945. - When a North American P-51 of the 78th FS, 15th Fighter Group came in for a landing at its base on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands, it slid into the 45th FS P-51 "Foxy" (left) setting it on fire, then nosed over and fell on the wing of another plane (background). Both planes are beyond repair and probably the third one because of the damaged wing.
May 1945 - A 78th Fighter Squadron North American P-51 Mustang flown by James B. Tabb, takes off from Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands, on the first rocket-launching mission against the Japanese. This was the first plane to take off with a full load of rockets and wing tanks
Perched on a weapons carrier, two 7th Fighter Command crewmen watch anxiously as a 78th Fighter Squadron, North American P-51 Mustang fighter, comes in for a landing on the treacherous Iwo Jima airstrip.
78th Fighter Squadron - The new Premier of Japan was ushered in with a bang on 7 April 1945, when for the first time in World War II land based fighters escorted Boeing B-29's over Tokyo. Two hundred B-29's based in the Marianas, and a hundred North American P-51's pulled a one two over industrial Tokyo that brought twenty-one Jap planes tumbling down. Here, on 8 April 1945, the day after the raid, Boeing B-29's, North American P-51's and Northrop P-6l's are parked along Number #1 strip on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands. Mt. Suribachi may be seen in the background.
Two hundred B-29's based in the Marianas, and a hundred North American P-51's pulled a one two over industrial Tokyo that brought twenty-one Jap planes tumbling down. Here, the sleek Mustangs have returned from their mission and a crowd gathers to get first-hand information from the pilots.
Wreckage of Lt. Dahlquist'sNorth American P-51 "Miss Jo III" of the 78th FS, 15th Fighter Group, which cracked-up at the 7th Air Force base on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands on 10 March 1945.
10 March 1945 - An endless line of North American P-51's of the 78th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group at their 7th Air Force base on Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands.