506th Fighter Group

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Hon Mistake In The Skies Pilots Bill Ebersole/Jim Bercaw

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Lt. Bill Ebersole/Jim Bercaw Suitable for framing this high quality color print will look great on your favorite WWII display. More details...
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Hon Mistake In The Skies Pilots Bill Ebersole/Jim Bercaw
Hon Mistake In The Skies Pilots Bill Ebersole/Jim Bercaw
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When we arrived at Iwo, we stayed on the ship for about a week and could see the trip-flares going off all night long from some of the remaining Japanese on the island that were coming out from hiding at night. We finally landed and made our camp on the east side of the island. We slept in 4-man tents and everyone was on edge. Just before we left our ship, another group of pilots landed and almost a dozen were killed in a raid through their camp. They ran through their camp, slashed open their tents with machetes, and tossed in hand grenades. I wouldn't even sleep on my army cot for the first few weeks I was there but instead made up my bed to look like I was in it and slept on the ground behind it with my 45 pistol by my hand, cocked and ready to fire. It is no wonder someone wasn't hurt. No one would dare leave the tent after dark because everyone was up so tight.

We were on the island for a couple of months and watched the Seabees build our airstrip. The other group of pilots unloaded the planes at Tinian and began flying them there, waiting for the completion of the Iwo landing field. There were three different strips under construction. Ours and one other was a 5,000 foot runway, and there was a 10,000 foot one in the center of the island for emergency landings for the B-29's.

My first flight on Iwo was a local flight on May 13, 1945. I flew my first combat mission five days later when I dropped two 500-pound bombs on a radio installation on Chichi Jima, only about a half-hour away. I was flying almost every day now on local air patrol when I was not preparing for a mission. My first long range mission to Japan was a seven hour forty-five minute escort mission accompanying B-29's on a bombing run to Osaka, on June 7th, 1945. I made another dive bombing raid on Chichi Jima on June 11th, aborted a mission to Osaka on June 15th after 5 hours of flying time, and to Meiji on June 19th, after flying 2 1/2 hours, because of bad weather.

On June 23rd in an 8 hour mission to strafe an airfield at Hyakarigahara, I received credit for probably destroying one Zeke plane on the ground. I next flew a 7 hour mission to Suzuka on July 1st, and a second 8 hour strafing mission to Yakurigahara on July 5th. Then on July 9th, I flew an 8-hour strafing mission to Hamamatsu. On a July 16th 7 1/2 hour mission to Akenegahara and Suzuka airfields we encountered numerous airborne planes in the Suzuka area. On a July 22nd 7 1/4 hour strafing mission to Tokeshima, Takamatou, and Micato airfields, we flew over the Inland Sea of Japan and I was the fourth plane in a 4-plane flight when our flight leader decided that we should attack an aircraft carrier. We made a near vertical dive on the carrier at full throttle from about 15,000 feet with nothing more potent than our six 50-caliber machine guns. Because I was the last of four, I was not only going the fastest but had to wait the longest before I could fire and begin pulling out of the dive. It was the fastest I ever traveled during my flying days, clocked at something over 600 miles per hour. When I pulled up I blacked out and had no idea where I was or in what direction I was heading. It was a foolish thing to do and we were lucky we weren't hit by the mass of anti-aircraft fire coming up at us.

On August 2nd, we were scheduled to hit airfields at Himeji and Itami but weather had closed these out so the squadron broke up into flights looking for acceptable targets. We attacked some trains in a train station but there were so many planes there that we left looking for better targets. I was flying the wing of Joe Diaz over the Inland Sea when the two of us spotted a small freighter of about 100 feet in length we called a "Sugar Dog". We had plenty of time and there were only two of us there, so we set up the same type of flight pattern we used in gunnery training. When the gun camera films were reviewed, I received credit for probably destroying the ship.

My final mission was flown on August 5, 1945, the day before the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. It was a 7 hour 15 minute strafing mission to Tachikawa. We continued to fly regular air patrol missions and some long range missions but because I had more than most, the other pilots were chosen.


506th Fighter Group - 1608 W. Clark Ave, Burbank, CA 91506, US