Major Harry Crim of the 21st group’s 531st squadron was a veteran pilot with 2,200 hours total time, & had logged 35 in the P-51. It was enough to become well acquainted with the Mustang’s characteristics, though Crim still favored the P-38 from his Mediterranean tour.
An aggressive Floridian, Crim was one of the more experienced fighter pilots on Iwo. He had flown a full 50-mission tour in North Africa, Sicily and Italy with the 14thF. G. in P-38s. After the sand, flies and disease of Tunisia, where he lost 50 pounds, Crim became something of an Iwo booster. He believed that 100% concentration on combat, with no serious diversions, was one of the island’s strong points. He helped his pilots devote full-time attention to flying and fighting, thus preventing them from going “rock-happy.”
Japanese Banzai Attack
An entirely unexpected diversion came even before the first VLR mission, bringing the war literally to the pilots’ front door. The 21st F. G. had been on Iwo barely one week when eight dawn CAP pilots were leaving their camp for the field at about 0400 on March 27. They were suddenly overrun by 350 to 400 Japanese who poured out of underground caves and tunnels. Amid terrific confusion the Mustang pilots found themselves engaged in a frantic, vicious infantry war.
Some like Harry Crim got the news more forcibly than others. A mortar shell exploded outside his tent and a piece of shrapnel penetrated the bottom of his cot, hit the .45 automatic under his flight jacket pillow, and tossed him to the floor.
Crim grabbed another .45, ran outside and saw the group commander’s tent collapsed from a mortar round which wounded the senior officers. He picked up a carbine and several magazines and dashed about 100 feet to a small rise where he could shoot at “about 30 Japs in a large hole, right on the edge of the camp, about 150 feet away.”
By now the Japanese had occupied three tents and were also in a trench on the far side of camp. Crim dashed back to camp and ordered everyone out of the tents in order to separate the Americans from the Japanese. Meanwhile, the 46th squadron’s flight surgeon, Dr. Hart, had set up a first-aid station in a bulldozed depression.
But others were still fighting in the camp. Irate cooks chased six Japanese out of a mess tent, armed only with kitchen utensils. Lt. Harve Phipps of the 72nd F.S. shot two or three Japanese from his tent door, then was wounded by a grenade. Major Sam Hudson, C.O. of the 531st, took Crim and Lt. Harry Koke from tent to tent checking for stragglers and wounded. “We operated as a team, two covering the tent while one raised a flap and looked in,” Crim related. “The wounded we found, we’d put on a blanket and drag back to Dr. Hart.”
Reaching the far side of camp, the trio came under fire from three tents occupied by Japanese. Koke was wounded but stayed with Hudson and Crim, who checked every tent but one they knew had five pilots in it. Koke then went to the first-aid station, while Hudson and Crim organized a skirmish line to advance through the camp and attack the enemy occupying a trench. Meanwhile, other personnel were acting independently. Tech. Sgt. Philip Jean, wielding a borrowed Browning Automatic Rifle like an expert, accounted for eight Japanese and possibly three more with only 50 rounds. Other mechanics and support people quickly became proficient with carbines, rifles and pistols.
Marines now pinned down the enemy while Army personnel rushed through the tents and quickly killed the enemy found there. Advancing towards the trench, Major Hudson came to a pillbox and looked inside. A Japanese pushed a hand grenade out in Hudson’s face and he tucked up in a crouch, head down. The explosion ruined Hudson’s carbine and helmet, and though he lost three fingers he was otherwise not seriously harmed. Crim dragged him back to Dr. Hart.
At length a Marine tank came down the hill and ran the length of the trench. Those Japanese not killed immediately, committed suicide. By about 0900 some 330 of the enemy were dead; 98 in the 21st group’s compound alone. Another 18 were captured, but 7th F. C. had suffered heavily. Forty-four were killed and upwards of 100 wounded. But some pilots like Harve Phipps later returned from hospital to fly again. Crim replaced the wounded Hudson as CO. of the 531st F. S., and the next day the 21st group flew its first mission, strafing Haha Jima.
The Japanese were not going to let the Americans get much more sleep after the predawn commando raid. At least not if “Tokyo Rose” had her way. In a radio broadcast monitored at Iwo she said that as the island was so small, it had been completely mined so that in event of capture “the island could be blown back into the sea.” She added that the fuse was lit and the explosion would occur at midnight one week after the first announcement. She repeated her story every night along with the usual news and music. The night the great explosion was to occur she repeated the warning and played funeral music. “Of course nobody believed it and we went to bed as usual,” Crim said.
But about midnight, almost exactly on schedule, a terrific explosion rocked the island. With Rose’s week-long series of threats well in mind, several pilots dashed out of their tents, inflated their life rafts and jumped in. After a few minutes they realized the island showed no indication of sinking under them, “so we all sheepishly went back to bed.” Cause of the explosion—a trip flare which set off a bomb dump.
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.506thfightergroup.org/Iwo Feb-Apr.asp
Visitor: 1673106. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.506thfightergroup.org/mustangsofiwo.asp
Molesworth, C. (2006). Very long range P-51 Mustang units of the Pacific War. Oxford: Osprey.
There isn’t much I can say about this kit that hasn’t already been said over the past 6 months or so, which is about how long I spent on it. I will, however, say that the parts tolerances are extremely low. If something is misaligned 0.5 nanometers, it will have a ripple effect on subsequent steps. I felt like I had the fuselage cemented together perfectly, but when it came time to add the wings I had issues with the starboard wing root. After some wrestling, I managed to get it seated properly. Then, I had difficulty adding the starboard landing flap. Again, after much unnecessary effort, I got it seated properly. I’m not sure where I went wrong, but something had to be slightly off somewhere.
The detail on this kit is amazing, and, really, the only thing about it I disliked is that the fuselage halves have no positive locator points. The cockpit tub is basically the only locator point, and I’m sure that was part of my problem.
I used Kitsworld decals #KW148154. After priming the model in Testor’s enamel Gloss Black, I sprayed Alclad Aluminum overall. Weathering was done with MiG Ammo dark brown enamel wash. This was the first NMF I’ve sprayed in about 6 years, and I’m not thrilled with the results. Oh well. Overall, a satisfying project that I’m glad is over.