Saturday, 23 April 2016
501st FG Iwo Jima 25 March 1945
Dark chapter in air war history - the last 300 Japanese on Iwo Jima silently attacked the P-51 pilots sleeping in their tents - nearly 3 dozen pilots died before the Japanese were all eliminated.
"...It was the evening of 25 March, D+34, and the amphibious assault on the rocky fortress of Iwo Jima finally appeared over. The island grew strangely quiet. There were far fewer illumination shells. In the flickering false light, some saw shadowy figures, moving south, towards the airfield. General Schmidt received the good news that the 5th Marine Division had snuffed out the final enemy cave in 'The Gorge' on the evening of D+34. But even as the corps commander prepared his announcement declaring the end of organized resistance on Iwo Jima, a very well-organized enemy force emerged from northern caves and infiltrated down the length of the island. This final spasm of Japanese opposition still reflected the influence of Kuribayashi's tactical discipline. The 300-man force took all night to move into position around the island's now vulnerable rear base area, the tents occupied by freshly arrived Army pilots of VII Fighter Command, adjacent to Airfield No. 1. The counter-attacking force achieved total surprise, falling on the sleeping pilots out of the darkness with swords, grenades, and automatic weapons. The fighting was as vicious and bloody as any that occurred in Iwo Jima's many arenas. The surviving pilots and members of the 5th Pioneer Battalion improvised a skirmish line and launched a counterattack of their own. Seabees and elements of the redeploying 28th Marines joined the fray. There were few suicides among the Japanese; most died in place, grateful to strike one final blow for the Emperor. Sunrise revealed the awful carnage: 300 dead Japanese; more than 100 slain pilots, Seabees, and pioneers; and another 200 American wounded. It was a grotesque closing chapter to five continuous weeks of savagery...."