506th Fighter Group - History
This aircraft score, though, was not the only measure of the Group’s effectiveness. Our tally of rolling stock, power lines, and shipping which, due to the nature of the targets, cannot be as accurately estimated as the aircraft score, should be included in the record.
February 19, 1945
February 19, 1945 was D-Day on Iwo Jima. We read about it en route to the Port of Embarkation. We left San Francisco nine days later, and there was little doubt in our minds that the there was more than coincidence in the two events."
Captain JJ Grant
From the memoirs of Capt. JJ Grant - 462nd Flight Officer
At Lakeland they found out what VLR meant. After a short period in which to get acquainted with their new plane, they started training. Pilots flew for half the day; the other half was spent in school. Aircraft identification, code, survival in the Tropics and in the Arctic, bailout procedures, parachuting, survival in the water and on land, navigation, instrument training & best of all, combat warfare.
"Our half day in the sky was spent on simulated escorts of Bombers over distant targets. They were trying to answer fundamental questions about long distance flying - how high to fly; what would be our mixture setting; what speed conserves most fuel. We flew from Lakeland to Miami to Dallas to Washington and back to Lakeland. Pilot fatigue was a factor. We were assigned the greatest fighter plane ever built to that time, the P-51 Mustang Fighter with its Rolls Royce engine. It had the reputation of being the most versatile fighter - tough, maneuverable, long distance, great firepower - the answer to the bombers prayers, an escort to Berlin and back and from Iwo to Japan and back." We flew together, we played together, we drank together, we became a tough fighter group, anxious to put our training into use." We received their orders. About 100 officers & 100 enlisted men were assigned to the "Flight Echelon" and the remainder were assigned to the "Ground Echelon". On February 16, 1945. the flight echelon left Lakeland by troop train for Camp Stoneman, Pittsburgh, CA. were they boarded with new P-51D's. After a brief stop at Pearl Harbor, they sailed on to Guam (Map) where the men & planes were unloaded and hauled to Orote Field. After preparing our Mustangs we moved again to Tinian, and later we flew to Iwo when the airstrip was ready. The ground crew left sunny Lakeland March 5, 1945, by troop train for frozen Ft. Lawton, Seattle. The next stop was Eniwetok Atoll for a boring layover of ten days before steaming, finally to Iwo Jima."
From the memoirs of Charles F. Updike - Communications Officer 458th Fighter Squadron
The 506th Fighter Group was put together as a long range escort unit to operate from Iwo Jima escorting B-29s on their missions bombing the Empire of Japan, and that is where we ended up in late March and early April 1945. We were not immediately informed of our destination, but we guessed correctly. I don't remember when we were officially told. We, in the ground echelon moved to Seattle via troop train and the last leg of the trip was made on the CMSTP & P railroad which in those days was all electric. The winter scenery through the mountains of northern Idaho was beautiful and at one point the train stopped for a spell and we got out and participated in snow ball fights."
The train was dirty, crowded, hot; we ate, slept, read, played interminably at bridge and poker. And we fought a losing battle with the soot that crept through every crack and cranny of our neolithic Pullmans.
At 0530 on 21 February, we detrained on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, California: in the cold and sleepy dawn we marched long miles to our barracks and set about washing off the accumulated dirt of a continent. In the six days following we were not pressed for time, but drew our final issue of equipment, received a lecture or two on censorship, and received a cursory final medical examination. Tough break number one came when Lt. tfidner innocently tried to get treatment for his trick knee, was examined, declared unfit for overseas duty, and transferred from the squadron.
Some few of us were lucky with passes to San Francisco before we were alerted on the 27th. On the morning of the 28th, we entrucked for Alameda NAS; we arrived, and one thing caught and held our attention; a CVS, the USS-Kalinin Bay, loaded to the gunwales with P-5lD's. After nearly a month of waiting, on Monday, 5 March, the first section of our troop train pulled into the siding at IAAB; the 457th, half the 458th boarded and began the journey to Seattle. They were followed, that afternoon, by a train filled with the 462nd and the remaining half of the 458th. The trip was long, filled with scenery and poker and the exchange of tidy sums. At Fort Layton staging area, the processing routine was simple: a perfunctory medical examination, a lecture on censorship, a session at the obstacle course, and the inspection of weapons.
After processing at Ft. Lawton we boarded the Dutch Transport Bloemfontein and sailed for 40 days my count was 37 days, via Pearl Harbor and Eniwetok Atoll arriving at Iwo and landing via LST's on April 25, 1945. The Bloemfontein was under lease by the Dutch to the British and subleased to the U. S. The crew consisted of the following: A Dutch Commodore, a Dutch barber, an American Captain, crewed by Indians, British subjects at the time and it was protected by American Naval Gun Crews."
On February 19 the first half of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Marine Divisions' combined 70,000-man strength went ashore on the southeastern beaches. The intensity and viciousness of the fighting is too well known for recounting. Suffice it to say that when Iwo was declared secure nearly a month later, on March 16, one-third of the assault force had become casualties: 23,200 in all, of which 4,554 were killed or missing. As Iwo Jima is eight square miles in area, it had taken about 2,900 Marine casualties per square mile to capture the island. Only Tarawa (MAP) in the Gilbert's (MAP) was more costly, yard for yard, in the entire Pacific War. Nor was little Iwo as secure as the Americans believed, for about 3,000 Japanese remained alive, hiding in underground caves.
The group spent about 40 days aboard the "Little B" before hitting the shore in LST's on April 25, 1945.
What was it? Where was it. When we left Lakeland it was in Japanese hands. En route we heard that President Roosevelt had died. Sad sad days. When we arrived in Saipan, we were told Iwo was ours.
From the memoirs of Capt. JJ Grant - 462nd Flight Officer
Soon we became a part of this living hell. The purpose of our entire mission became apparent. A badly wounded bird came into sight, a crippled B-29. He was heading for a crash landing in the sea a short distance from our ship. He hit the water, bounced, then settled in. Crewmen start to escape; we start counting: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 -- where is Number 10? Finally he comes into sight; they are all safe. Another B-29 comes into sight. He heads to the runway. He is so badly crippled that he doesn't make it. A great ball of fire and ten humans are destroyed. Ten airmen — sons, brothers, fathers, lovers — all perish in a great ball of fire. This daily witness of death became a part of our lives. Soon we would be losing our friends in a valiant effort to defeat our enemy.
The black volcanic ash with its pungent odor became an integral part of our lives. The Island was supposedly secured. Every night we were awakened by gunfire, Japs searching for food and water. During the day while we were waiting for our planes to arrive from Saipan, we would wander around that island. There were dead Japs everywhere, grotesque in Death, with great green flies eating at their flesh. One day I visited the cemetery, 6872 white crosses. Catholics, Protestants, Stars of David; all ranks; all colors. I cried. What an awful waste of humans. We had 27,000 casualties; the Japs lost 23,000 men. Iwo Jima represented to me the most violent place on earth. Death was everywhere. I cried when I saw the 6872 white crosses representing Marines, Navy, Seabees and Army personnel. 25,000 casualties was the price we paid to secure this volcanic island. Everywhere there were ravages of war. Dead Japs not yet buried, tanks, trucks, ships, planes, dud shells and the awful stench."
(1) In February 1945, the island pair (Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima) were steep, rugged and uninhabited; they had probably never supported human life. But Iwo Jima itself was different. It had a flat plain the middle, between 556-foot Mount Suribachi to the south and a lengthy bluff, some 380 feet high, over most of the north end. This plain held three airfields, numbered one to three from south to north, though the latter was far from completion. Some 21,000 Japanese diehards defended this island, and not even the heaviest bombing or shelling could dislodge them.
On February 19 the first half of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Marine Divisions combined 70,000-man strength went ashore on the southeastern beaches (Battle of Iwo). The intensity and viciousness of the fighting is too well known for recounting. Suffice it to say that when Iwo was declared secure nearly a month later, on March 16, one-third of the assault force had become casualties: 23,200 in all, of which 4,554 were killed or missing. As Iwo Jima is eight square miles in area, it had taken about 2,900 Marine casualties per square mile to capture the island. Only Tarawa in the Gilbert's (MAP) was more costly, yard for yard, in the entire Pacific War. Nor was little Iwo as secure as the Americans believed, for about 3,000 Japanese remained alive, hiding in underground caves.
Lt. Proctor Thompson Group Headquarters - Ground Echelon
On the 16th, with a slightly smaller convoy, we set course for Saipan, where we anchored on 20 April, in the roadstead lying west of the island. It was there that Col. Scandretti, Major Brown, and Major. Shipman came aboard, with three precious sacks of l8285 mail rescued from the sands of Iwo. On the morning of the 21st, the Bloemfontein, in company with several other ships, left Saipan. On 24 April, the bleak, inhospitable shores of, APO 86 hove into view. As we rounded the tip of Suribachi the faint odor of sulphur wafted to our nostrils. The journey was ended; we had at last a home of sorts, a niblet of volcanic upthrust, a pinhead of land one day sodden with rain and the next filthy with flying dust." We debarked on the 25th . The dead Japs, the vegetation, dud shells, mines, rocks and caves had been cleared by 8lst service group bulldozers. We slept that night as the night found us, cold, uncomfortable, apprehensive. In the next few days., the setting up of our temporary, area was nothing but indescribably confusion. Pup tents, wall tents, pyramidal tents went up willy-nilly, helter-skelter, in no semblance of order. But toward the end of the month, the confusion diminished. Men were housed in 12-man squad tents, and officers moved up the slope to a cleared area below Bloody Ridge. The more tactically minded scraped out fox holes and slit trenches.
Meals were unadulterated C and K ration, mostly C which was substantial enough, but a trifle high in beans, and extremely-monotonous after the first few days. The first few nights were hideous with apprehension and rifle fire squeezed off by trigger-happy guards. Men crept to the latrine only when the pangs of a bulging bladder overcame their better judgment. One or perhaps two Japs wore sighted on Bloody Ridge during the third night. But, gradually, things quieted down. From this time forward, the main job was organization; organization of living areas, mess facilities, of the line. Construction of our airfield--strip 3, or North Field-- begun by the Seabees under Jap fire, was near completion on the fifth of May. The strip was dusty, bumpy, and by courtesy of Lucifer, sulphur-steam heated, but it was usable. The air echelon did not arrive on schedule because of dirty weather between Iwo and Tinian, but finally the skies cleared, and the planes came in. It was May 11.
When the 506th F. G. with the 457th, 458th and 462nd squadrons arrived in mid-May, some of the strain of operations was eased for the first two groups. The 506th alternated with the 15th and 21st in making two group missions to the Japanese Empire targets, so one of the three could anticipate a stand-down when the schedule was set. It also allowed more time for crucial maintenance.
The story continues as the 506th begins operations.
>PLEASE GO TO IWO TO JAPAN<
Missions to Japan
Arrival time: 6/27/2022 at: 11:25:58 PM
Webmaster ©506thFighterGroup.org. All Rights Reserved.