IE SHIMA, RYUKYU ISLANDS
. . . when he was half way down the runway, we knew he (Parker) wasn't
going to make it."
Capt. Joe Townsend, 19th Squadron
Unlike Saipan, Ie Shima was mostly secured when the 318th arrived, although fighting on nearby Okinawa was continuing. Everyone was confined to a narrow strip while the mines were cleared from their bivouac. But in some ways, Ie Shima would be even hotter than Saipan was. For starters, it was within range of enemy planes and about 90 minutes away the Japanese home islands. 2nd, that part of the Pacific generates much nastier weather than the Central Pacific. And the Japanese were getting desperate. Suicidally desperate. The old hands were used to mud, grit, supply shortfalls, snipers, and equipment breakdowns. Kamikazes were something new. The Hall Young took a Kamikaze in the #5 hold that first night, and the 318th lost some much needed equipment including the decontamination truck, which meant everyone bathed with their helmets for the duration. But the fires didn't reach the 180 tons of rockets and 350 tons of .50 cal ammo and the ship was saved. There were lots of Kamikazes flying in and lots of anti-aircraft fire. The 318th went on 76 alerts in May alone. The Kamikazes sank 15 ships, damaged 139 and killed and injured thousands of sailors between March 27 and April 30. The 318th Thunderbolts were rushed in between May 13th and 17th. Pilots were appalled by the airfield they found. Instead of the 5,800 dry feet needed to take off with 10 tons weight of plane and stores, they had 3,700 feet of wet sticky rock. Way too short for the big P-47 and the loads they were expected to lift. Major John Hussey, the 73rd CO, cut the tops off some trees on his first takeoff. 333rd CO Major Paul Fotjik described take off this way: "You put the tail wheel at the end of the runway, applied full throttle, full turbo, and the water injection (a "no no" on the ground). As the tail came up, we released the brakes. Sometimes we had to pop the flaps at the far end of the runway to get off. Fortunately, after clearing an embankment, we had a 400 foot drop-off to the ocean going north. We left many a wake in the water". They sometimes left tire tracks in the embankment as they took off too.
group arrived with both 165 and 300 gallon external tanks. There was no
thought of using the 300 gallon tanks at Plum Field. Sanders complained
to Marine General F.P. Mulcahy in what was the beginning of a rocky
The strip would be lengthened eventually, but it would take time.
there were missions to be flown over China, Korea, and the Japanese
Vincent Dauro's (19th) Mission Log courtesy of Frank Dauro
Glory Gal (73rd) Loaded for bear
May 18th. Capt. Bill Fancher and 1st Lt. John A. Dooling flew the 2nd heckler mission. All land masses were obscured. There was no visual depth reference and they got separated near Tanega Shima. Dooling climbed out of the clouds, circled and fired his rockets and short gun bursts hoping to attract Fancher. No luck. He headed for home. No homing signal came through. He only found his base due to a nighttime raid by the enemy. Tracer bullets point both ways. After the anti aircraft fire had ended, he landed alone. Fancher was never found.
The next morning, as search missions began, Rodney Selfridge (73rd) crashed and died on takeoff. When Rasmussen and Goff flew the third heckler mission, it was the hairiest yet. Rasmussen groped his way back fighting vertigo and bad weather, and was so mentally and physically spent he had to be helped from his plane. Goff was lost. Sanders was furious. He and Rasmussen had a meeting with General Mulcahay. The General was unswayed. Ironically, there were excess P-61 night fighters on Iwo Jima that were far better suited for this work. The missions continued, but Sanders scrubbed them when he could due to weather and bent his orders as far as he dared. The missions continued without the previous losses, but they had lost 3 good men with little to show in return. The pilots were hacked off. With all the B-29s were dumping on Japan, including the destruction of Tokyo, what more damage could these missions do? In the meantime, there were all sorts of daylight raiders flying in. They were frustrated. When Group Memo 18 waved offensively from the bulletin board, it did nothing for their morale either.
had started growing beards in part due to lack of water on their desert
island bases, and by this stage of the war, took fierce pride in
a little scruffy. A few months before, they had been the only fighter
in an area 5 times the size of the 48 states. But with the invasion of
Japan looming and the 5th, 7th, 13th
, and even part of the 8th Air Forces converging on Japan, they stood
like the Dead End Kids. The brass didn't like it. "Chin whiskers will
removed" said Group Memo 18. Stripes and insignia will be worn. It was
met with short ugly words, but it had the force of law.
On May 24th, the weather allowed a 32 plane strike. 318th planes bombed Kyushu airfields, and shot up railroads, barracks, radar, and some shipping. William B. Spencer (73rd) downed a lone fighter who intruded.
May 25th became a highlight of the 318th's war record.
28 T-bolts tried again to raid Kyushu, but were forced to jettison the bomb loads due to weather. Meanwhile, the Japanese had mounted a major night air assault including an airborne troop landing via two "Sallys" landing at Yontan, Okinawa. Ie Shima was also hit with delayed action bombs. And then came nearly 500 suicide and conventional planes just as the 318th was aborting their bomb raid. 19th Lts. Richard Anderson and Don Kennedy (minus chin whiskers -- Group Memo 18) had gotten separated from their flight and spotted 30 "Zekes" below. Outnumbered 15 to 1, the two charged in. In the next few minutes, Kennedy splashed 3 and Anderson splashed 5 (becoming the 7th AAF's first 'Ace In A Day'). Anderson's ammo ran out on a 6th plane. There was little evasive action: they were likely Kamikazes with minimal training. Meanwhile Lt. Bob Shephard (73rd) scratched another after a chase. Hearing radio reports, the canceled mission flew into 3 widely separated fights. Capt. Jim Snyder (73rd) got 2 "Vals", ran away from some fighters and turned back, than bagged a "Tony". Lts. Karl Pack (73rd) and Henry Yaeger (73rd) got one each in the same fight. Major Charles Tennant (now the 19th Squadron Operations Officer) led 4 T-bolts out from the field and exploded a lone "Zeke" off the North tip of Okinawa. Then they ran into a flight of "Oscars". Tennant shot down one and 1st Lt. Stanley J. Lustic shot down 3. The planes took little evasive action, and the survivors bore on toward the fleet. Elsewhere, 1st Lt. Leon Cox's flight (19th) splashed 3 hapless "Oscars"that seemed incapable of mutual defense or maneuverability.Two "Vals" with them were more competently flown: both maneuvered violently before being downed. On another flight, John Dunn encountered a sedate "Tony" and an aggressive pro flying a old "Nate" who tried a head on ramming maneuver!! He put up quite a fight before Dunn shot him down about 20 feet off the deck. All told, 20 pilots scored comfirmed victories.
There was a price. Lt. Melvin L. Byfield (333rd) crashed attempting takeoff on May 28th. Two other T-bolts would have if they hadn't jettisoned their wing tanks and gotten enough speed to take off. They would not be the only two. (I'm told if the engine started to miss after it was too late to abort takeoff, the plane could lift off if you dropped all your external fuel, bombs, and rockets, but if a pilot had napalm and dropped that, he was history! ) The weather conditions, airfield, and more engine problems on takeoff bedeviled the 318th. On May 30th, Major Winston Park, and Lts. Albert Heilman and Duane Jones ( 333rd) were lost in the mists of the Nansei Shoto. The 318th gamely flew their missions, and tried to solve the engine failures. Possible factors: Water in fuel, moisture in ignition wires, nonstop rain and humidity, leakage from water/methanol injection boost switches, lack of the 50% methanol the water injection required (all requisitions had gone unanswered and distilled water was being used as a substitute), and of course the runway itself. Sanders and his men worked the problem. Fuel samples were sent back for analysis. They also sought advice from Pratt and Whitney. The engine power losses were a mechanic's worst nightmare because they were intermittent and non reproducible. The plane usually ran fine next time out. And the takeoffs were scary enough without any engine problems. Lt. James Reed (333rd) died in a plane crash on May 31st. More would crash or nearly crash on takeoff soon. The missions and war went on without reprieve. 2nd Lt. Irving Albert (333rd) failed to pull out of a dive going after a wave skimming fighter. Sanders was badgering the command structure about the runway, and slowly getting results, but even after reaching 4,200 feet it was still too short. Lt. Marshall O. Blackwood (73rd) went MIA on June 7th. 2nd Lt. Billy Reagan (333rd) was killed over the Ryukus. So were Lts. Horace D. Bennett (73rd), and George C. Slusser (19th). 27 pilots in the 318th lost their lives before it was over : 11 missing, 6 killed in crashes, and 10 killed in action. And 2nd. Lt. Billie D. Holt (333rd) would become a POW on July 8th.
The 318th had encountered over 60 enemy and destroyed 34 without loss.
It turned out to be a record for a single group in a single action.
Their celebration was not tempered by the ineptness and lack of flying skill by most of the enemy.
They had put a big dent in a major Kamikaze strike.
(And that record still stands to this day.)
Some survivors, unfortunately, got through everybody and bombed or rammed 9 ships, sinking 3, and causing over 200 casualties. Nevertheless, other ships and sailors were savedfrom death and destruction by the 34 kamikaze planes the 318th shot down. It was a good days work and it felt like a good contribution.
Lts. Carlton Berry and John Dooling (333rd) bagged a pair of dive bombers north of Okinawa on May 26.
May 27th was quiet.
May 28th was not: it produced two aces. Twenty-four T-bolts encountered 48 Japanese planes over Kanoya, and 10 pilots scored 17 kills, four probables, and 2 damaged. Stanley Lustic (19th) picked 2 off another pilot's tail and became an ace with 6 kills. And, in another two man show, Capt. John Vogt and his wingman Lt. Philip La Rochelle (19th) dropped their external tanks, and engaged 28 "Zekes" in a wild fight at 28,000 feet. Vogt got 5 and a probable, (ace in a day) and La Rochelle got 1 confirmed and 1 probable. The survivors had had enough and bugged out.
On another flight, Lt. Daton E. Rivas, 2Lt. Dan C. Owen, and Capts. Judge Wolfe and Fred J. Stephensen shot down 4 enemy planes. The 318th's kill loss ratio was now 54 to 0. (the mission report on this action will be coming to the feedback section soon.)
on June 6th, fighter sweeps were flown over Kyushu.
In the next 5 days, the 318th shot down 42 and destroyed several more on the ground.
Judge Wolfe (9 kills)
Judge Wolfe (333rd) became the first Army Air Force pilot
to shoot down an enemy fighter with a rocket on June 6th, 1945.
He spotted two "Zekes" with a 4,000 feet advantage, and didn't want to jettison two 5 inch rockets under his wings. He got into a head on attack position and tried them as air to air weapons. Said Wolfe later, "I don't know who was more surprised, him or me!" The Zeke just disintegrated. Wolfe's T-Bolt carried him through the debris cloud for kill number 6. A minute later, he had kill number 7. Four other pilots scored that day including Harry E. McAfee, the first army pilot to land on Saipan and Tinian. He got a bomber.
Wolfe got his 8th and 9th kills on a radar chaff dispensing mission on June 10th. He and 5 other 333rd pilots shot down all 7 planes in a formation they encountered. The score was Wolfe 2, Kenneth Keeton 1, Robert J. Stone 2, John D. Brunner 1, and Durwood Williams 1. Then Stone had turbo supercharger problems, due to damage on takeoff,
and got seperated.Meanwhile, Wolfe's flight had encountered about 30 of the new prestone cooled "Jack" fighters and killed 2 of them.He was jumped by a batch of Japanese fighters and dove to the deck in one long screaming dive. He ended up going cross country below treetop height, with two fighters behind shooting at him, and several others strung out farther back. He crested a hill and found himself in the traffic pattern at the Nittagahara air base! He banked to avoid a "Betty" bomber taking off under him on the runway, and became an ace as the Betty and two pursuers collided in his prop wash!! There was a big explosion and burning chunks of airplane all over when he checked his six. He evaded the rest of his pursuers. With no gun camera footage, it took time to confirm the 3 Nittagahara kills, but he was credited eventually.
Stone scored 5 that day, 3 with his T-Bolt's prop wash!
Lt. Robert Stone Ellis Wallenberg (73rd) before his death
Major John J. Hussey (73rd) shot down the 100th Ie Shima kill.
In those last months, the skill level of the Japanese air forces had deteriorated badly from their glory days of 1941. But you couldn't count on easy kills. Their rookies might try to ram you. And the enemy still had a few fine pilots left. Durwood Williams (333rd) killed a skilled veteran after a duel that left him with a damaged wing. He flew through a enemy formation on his return shooting blindly hoping to avoid a dogfight with a shot up wing. He made it back.
Gun cameera footage used with permission of Durwood Williams
By mid June, the 548th Night fighter Squadron was attached to the 318th and P-61s took over the heckler missions. The 548th would add 5 kills (1st Lt. Arthur C. Shepard, Capt. William H. Dames, Capt. James W. Bradford, 1st Lt. Robert O. Bertram, 1st Lt. Thomas W. Schultz) to the 318th's war record before the cease fire. And soon, the 413th and 507th groups came with their own P-47Ns. Their commanders had been in Europe and after conferring with Sanders, flew their first missions with the 318th. Weather scratched most missions in the 2nd half of June. There was another rash of aborts and Lts. James R. Clark (73rd) and George W. Schulton (333rd) both died trying to take off. The June 21st mission left 5 planes lost, one pilot injured, and 3 dead: 2 crashed and burned, and 1 KIA. By now, most every pilot had been through a power loss at a critical point during takeoff. It was affecting morale and pilot's confidence in their planes. But replacement boost switches and methanol finally appeared from somewhere in the Army supply system. Also command passed to Marine General Louis Woods. Sanders got assurances of better tactical deployment for his men and planes. Sanders preferred big fighter sweeps to take the war to the enemy airfields and to either bomb or strafe, but not both.
There were 3 more kills and some losses in the next 9 days. But there were no more big days like May 25th.
The 318th was now flying escort for photo recon missions over Japan. It was no big secret that invasion of the Japanese Home Islands was next. Operation Olympic in November would be the invasion of the Japanese Island of Kyushu, and Operation Coronet on Honshu after that. Every indication was that the invasion of Japan would be a bloodbath of epic proportion, even by World War 2 standards. Now the enemy was holding back resources for the defense of their home islands, and arming their civilians with grenades and spears. The US build up on Okinawa and Ie Shima continued. Elements of the 5th, 13th, 7th, and 20th Air Forces, and even some Marine squadrons were crammed onto Ie Shima by now. Even with two new airstrips, things were getting really crowded. The 318th became part of the 20th Air Force during this time.
In mid July, orders came relieving and reassigning Lew Sanders. It was a bolt from the blue. He had been in the Pacific since Feb. '41, had not sought leave, and would have stayed if he could. But orders were orders. His men threw a hell of a going away party for him, and emotions ratcheted up even higher on July 31 as he made the rounds to shake hands with each of his men. Said Lt. Col. John Hussey, "I shudder to think what operations would have been like during Saipan and Ie Shima operations under a lesser man." Several other old hands were rotated out too, including Hussey, Williams, Fotjik, and Tennant. Some enlisted men with 38 and 40 months of service left too. The face of the clan was changing. Group command went to Harry McAfee.
Two days later, First Lt. Gerald Kearney ( 19th) had just finished strafing a 1,800 ton ship and reassembling his flight when he saw a flash. Then someone radioed "Good God! Look at Nagasaki!". When he tried to explain what they had seen from over 40 miles away to his crew chief afterwards, the chief thought he had been drinking. On another flight, John Brunner (333rd) saw it too. He had just checked his watch: it was 10:40. The flash was so bright he thought his wing man had exploded.My father told me that Col. Fotjik and the Marine General had a discussion over reducing the P-47 payloads that turned angry and led to Fotjik being relieved of command. The new 333rd Squadron CO had red hair and was quickly labeled "The Red Snapper". He came in to straighten out the 333rd and was a real jerk. One of his first orders: personnel could only enter the mess hall in uniform and with a tie. As almost no one in the whole group still had a complete uniform or a tie, it was difficult to enforce. A few weeks into his command, he led a flight to Japan. He returned alone, saying the flight had all been shot down. The rest of the flight landed a half hour later, mad as hell. The fearless leader had turned tail and ran as soon as some fighting started. That was the last of the Red Snapper. The next day, Judge Wolfe, the 333rd's leading ace, became the 333rd Squadron CO, and was soon promoted from Major to Colonel.On August 7th, the 318th dive bombed a chemical plant on Kyushu.
(Sadly, like Richard Bong and George Welch, Colonel Judge E. Wolfe would die
flying the first generation of jet fighters soon after the war.)
The Japanese were in real turmoil. Some hot heads, mostly in the army, wanted to fight on in spite of the atomic bombings. Their navy had had enough. The war cabinet remained equally split on whether to continue, but now Emperor Hirohito cast the deciding vote. Surrender was still unthinkable. Japan teetered on the brink of civil insurrection. Hostilities continued for a few more days. There were some instances of American POWs being executed (again), but the mass execution of all Allied Prisoners Of War ordered if the home islands were invaded did not occur.
power loss problems had been resolved internally by the 318th and the
lengthened by this time, but the earlier inquiry to Republic
had brought a response. Republic Aviation's legendary Chief Test
Pilot, Joe "Baldy" Parker, had more hours in all the models of P-47s
anyone, and he had come to "show the boys how it's done". He proposed
take off with two 300 gallon external fuel tanks AND a full combat
Phil Rasmussen protested, "There
is no point in you flying this load because we are not going to fly it.
We have enough experience to attest that it can't be done routinely and
any gimmicks you show us are just going to be marginal stuff that won't
guarantee protection for our pilots, so why bother?"
It went up to General Thayer Olds, the 301st Wing CO. "This is nuts. It's just a stunt".
"Give him what he wants" said the General.
Col. McAfee had to explain to his men why the 318th would not be escorting the surrender delegation to Ie Shima as originally planned. The bottom line was aircraft identification. Two "Betty" bombers escorted by a bunch of P-47s could easily be misidentified as an enemy formation. Indeed, Marine F4U Corsairs had tried to attack 318th Thunderbolts at least once (they outran them rather than engage). No one wanted a SNAFU and there was no Japanese plane that looked anything like a P-38 Lightning. So P-38s would escort the surrender delegation. Period. But the 318th no longer had any. Escort would come from the 8th and 49th Groups. They had long records in the Pacific in their own right. But some 318th vets felt they were getting screwed again.Accounts of this incident refer to Parker as patronizing and that probably isn't fair to the man. Test pilots are a very confident bunch in an occupation that tends to kill them fast if they are not. But Parker didn't pay much heed to anyone on Ie Shima either. He had the 300 gallon drop tanks filled with water to add even more weight, and didn't even pause for a pre roll check. He never got the required 165 MPH take off speed. Republic's top test pilot crashed and burned in a 19th Squadron T-Bolt off the end of a runway a few days after Hiroshima, showing the boys how it was done.On August 14th, the 318th took part in a general sweep seeking targets of opportunity. About 10 minutes before the cease fire, Capt. Douglas V. Currey (333rd) got the group's 164th kill, a "Tony", somewhere near Honshu. He was over Japan for 7 hours and 45 minutes on his last mission. A 7th Fighter Command Lt. Colonel named Bob Rogers had the distinction of flying on a combat mission both during Pearl Harbor and on the last mission before the cease fire. When the radio call "UTAH" signaled the end of hostilities, the last Army Air fatality was a young Mustang driver from over in the 78th/18th named Phil Schlamberg. He got to fly the P-51 Mustang, but would never even learn to drive a car.
There is probably a moral in this story somewhere.
The last 318th pilot combat loss was 2nd Lt. Fred Harrington (19th), killed over Shikoku on Aug. 9th.
After the cease fire, 548th Night Fighter Squadron Capts. Robert W. Clyde and Solie Soloman splashed 2 renegades on the night of August 14/15th.
(To my knowledge, they were the last hostiles downed in World War 2.
They did not make it to the 318th's kill board or the Air Force Historical Association's data base.)
The surrender delegation would arrive in 2 "Betty" bombers, painted white with green crosses. Their radio call signs were "Bataan One" and "Bataan Two": a direct reference to the Americans captured in the Philippines who were abused so badly at Japanese hands. The Americans had eventually found out about the Bataan Death March and the barbaric mistreatment of their Prisoners of War. Their suffering and sacrifice was not forgotten: 65,000 American serviceman on Ie Shima all understood the call sign's significance. The Japanese delegation probably didn't have a clue.
Col. McAfee winced as one of the "Betty" pilots almost blew his landing. A crash with the surrender delegation on board and that many bystanders would have been FUBAR ugly. The pilot got the nose up at the last moment and the 2nd plane landed poorly, but successfully.
On August 19th, about 55,000 of them turned out to watch a little history.
The Japanese surrender delegation was directed to 2 C-54s through two long lines of the tallest MPs the Army could find. None were under 6 feet tall and they towered over the Japanese delegation. It had to be an orchestrated bit of humiliation. Some un-orchestrated humiliation occurred later when one Betty had a wheel go off the tarmac. No help was offered. No one said a word. Under the cold gaze of thousands of pairs of eyes and lots of smiles, the flight crew had to wrestle it out themselves, sweating in their flight suits. Finally freed, it was towed to a revetment. The surrender delegation flew on to the Philippines to make the arrangements. When the largest fleet the world had ever seen showed up in Tokyo Bay, the surrender delegation came out on a tug boat. The surrender documents were signed near "B" turret on the starboard side of the USS Missouri. And it was over. For the 318th, Ie Shima was the last damned island.
2 kills during Pearl
Harbor by Sanders
the 318th got 166 confirmed kills, 116 at Ie Shima.
7,861 combat missions and 17,083 patrol sorties.
Dropped 1,926 tons of bombs and fired 3,190,907 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition.
Destroyed 44 vessels under 100 feet long and damaged 135 more, including
1 light cruiser (CL) and 2 destroyers (DD).
Total flying time was 68,094 hours.
They got the record for most kills in a single action.
And they produced some Aces.
Judge E. Wolfe
2Lt. Robert W. Stone 333rd 7
1Lt. Stanley J. Lustic 19th 6
1Lt. Robert W. Anderson 19th 5
1Lt. William H. Mathis 19th 5
Capt. John H. Vogt 19th 5
pondered now Lt. Col. Rasmussen. We've got such a skilled outfit, such
a superbly trained group of pilots here. What's our
What's our mission? But when Wing Commander Olds suggested an
flight training program, Rasmussen replied "Hell,
these guys have survived combat, they don't want to fly anymore".
Guys who lived and breathed flying didn't even want to do short
hops now. They had pushed their planes hard to the very edge too many
survived too many hairy takeoffs, lost buddies, and used up too many
With time to contemplate the abyss, it does stare back. It
had been a long gritty grind for everybody.
-------------------Central Pacific Campaign7 December 1941 - 26 May 1943
Air Offensive, Japan Campaign2 April 1942 - 28 January 1945
Western Pacific Campaign15 June 1944 - 2 September 1945
Ryukyus Campaign 27 February 1945 - 4 July 1945
318th vets with more then enough points to go home now found themselves in the newly arrived 8th Air Force. You can't go home, they were told; you just got here. Yeah. Right. That bird didn't fly. Some of their guys who came out early in '42 had an enormous amount of points. And they still had a few Pearl Harbor vets, including Col. McAfee. It got sorted out. Two months and a couple of typhoons later, all the Pacific WW2 vets began to go home via Operation Magic Carpet, in order based on their accumulated points.
left their bones on Oahu, Canton, Midway, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Truk,
Ie Shima, Okinawa,
Wake, Funafuti, Guadalcanal, Tulagi, Buna, Maleolap, Makin, Kwajalein, Cebu, Nauru, Wewak,
Marcus, Vella LaVella, Eniwetok, Tarawa, Mille, Jaluit, Mindinao, Wotje, Peleliu,
Palau, Luzon, Los Negros, Morotai, New Britain, Rabaul, Iwo Jima, Koror, and Bouganville.
(and a few more really obscure places.)
Sgt. William Sheehan (a 46th Squadron vet) probably summed up a lot of feelings telling off a young stateside clerk who told him he had on the wrong insignia. "I've been in the Pacific for years" he exclaimed.
"What is this crap about the 20th Air Force? I'm wearing the 7th Air Force emblem. That's our outfit!"
The planes did not come home. Many WW2 planes were discarded like empty beer cans. The 318th's P-47Ns were lined up and bulldozed off a cliff. I am told since I got this web site up that some of them were transferred to another unit before being lined up and dynamited in 1947. In any case, the the 318th's planes met a fate not unlike the wrecks on the Wheeler Field flight line on December 8th, 1941, except nobody was busting their tails to salvage a few of them. And ironically, they would be missed.
Just five short years later on the nearby Korean peninsula, as US ground troops desperately needed close air support, the more fragile, less heavily armed P-51 Mustangs had to carry the Air Force's load. P-51 losses would be high. But that's another story . . . .
Pacific Maps Oahu,