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Ie Shima Airfield
伊江島補助飛行場
Ie Shima, Ryukyu Islands, Japan
Ieshima-1945.jpg
Aerial photo of Ie Shima Island, off the northwest coast of Okinawa, 1945 looking east over the 77th Division landing beaches, toward the Pinnacle.
Type Military Airfield Complex
Coordinates 26°43′23.20″N 127°46′40.78″E / 26.723111°N 127.7779944°E / 26.723111; 127.7779944
Built Prior to April 1945
In use 1945-1946
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces

Ie Shima Airfield (伊江島補助飛行場 Iejima Hojo Hikōjō ?) is a gunnery and training facility, managed by the United States Marine Corps and a former World War II airfield complex on Ie Shima, an island located off the northwest coast of Okinawa Island in the East China Sea. The airfield was inactivated after 1946 and largely returned to Japanese control in 1972.

Contents

History

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Invasion and construction

The airfields on Ie Shima was built by the Japanese prior to the American invasion and subsequent Battle of Okinawa in April 1943. It was seized by elements of the United States Army 77th Infantry Division after intermittent bombardment of the island by the United States Navy Fifth Fleet from 25 March through 16 April when the invasion of the island commenced. The island was not declared secure until 24 April.

Prior to the invasion, the Japanese commander on Okinawa, believing that Ie Shima could not be held for more than a few days, ordered that the airfields on the island be destroyed by the end of March 1945. Thorough demolitions followed. The runways were ditched and blasted and the entire central area sown with mines, as defense against possible airborne attack. The airfields were also mined by unused aerial bombs and mines made from drums of gasoline.

Base development proceeded rapidly once the mopping up was completed. Although initially delayed by the large number of mines, soldiers from the 805th Engineer Aviation Battalion, 1892nd Engineer Aviation Battalion, and several other engineering units quickly repaired the enemy airfields and began the construction of new runways, along with a series of interlinking taxiways, revetments, maintenance facilities along with a containment facility for personnel. The coral foundation of the island and the rubble of the town of Ie facilitated the work. There was ample room for dispersal area, and the sloping ground on the sides and ends of the central plateau provided space for housing base personnel. Japanese civilians were evacuated to Tokashiki in the Kerama Islands. Engineers discovered a large limestone basin on the north coast which produced 100,000 gallons of fresh water. Under these conditions work proceeded rapidly and by 10 May one fighter group was based on the island. By the middle of the month three runways were ready for operational use along with taxiways. In additon, radar and air warning facilities installed, although much construction work remained.

Operational units assigned

By 14 June three fighter groups and one night fighter squadron were operating from the airfield. As expected, Ie Shima proved to be an ideal base for the support of operations on Okinawa and for preparing later attacks on the Japanese homeland.

B-24 Liberator, 26 Jul-10 Nov 1945
63d Bombardment Squadron, 25 Jul-10 Dec 1945
64th Bombardment Squadron, 26 Jul-10 Dec 1945
65th Bombardment Squadron, 24 Jul-10 Dec 1945
B-24 Liberator, 10 Aug-Dec 1945
319th Bombardment Squadron, 12 Aug-23 Nov 1945
320th Bombardment Squadron, 10 Aug-23 Nov 1945
321st Bombardment Squadron, 15 Aug-23 Nov 1945
400th Bombardment Squadron, 11 Aug-23 Nov 1945
B-25 Mitchell, 25 Jul-10 Dec 1945
498th Bombardment Squadron, 20 Jul-1 Dec 1945
499th Bombardment Squadron, 20 Jul-1 Dec 1945
500th Bombardment Squadron, 20 Jul-1 Dec 1945
501st Bombardment Squadron, 20 Jul-1 Dec 1945
Various Aircraft, Aug-26 Oct 1945
17th Reconnaissance Squadron, 29 Jul-26 Oct 1945
82d Reconnaissance Squadron, 28 Jul-7 Oct 1945
110th Reconnaissance Squadron, 28 Jul-6 Oct 1945
Various Aircraft, 23 Apr-8 May 1945;14 May-21 Jun 1945
P-51 Mustang, 9 Aug-27 Oct 1945
3d Fighter (Commando) Squadron, 9 Aug-27 Oct 1945
Squadron operated from Atsugi Airfield, Japan, 20 Sep-7 Oct 1945
4th Fighter (Commando) Squadron, 9 Aug-27 Oct 1945
Squadron operated from Atsugi Airfield, Japan, 20 Sep-7 Oct 1945
318th Troop Carrier Squadron, 25 Aug-7 Sep 1945, C-47 Skytrain
Squadron operated from Atsugi Airfield, Japan, 20 Sep-7 Oct 1945
C-46 Commando, 9-25 Sep 1945
C-46 Commando, 10-30 Sep 1945
C-46 Commando, 15-30 Sep 1945
P-38 Lightning, 6 Aug-22 Nov 1945
35th Fighter Squadron, 9 Aug-21 Nov 1945
36th Fighter Squadron, 6 Aug-21 Nov 1945
80th Fighter Squadron, 5 Aug-25 Nov 1945
P-38 Lightning, 16 Aug-15 Sep 1945
7th Fighter Squadron, 17 Aug-15 Sep 1945
8th Fighter Squadron, 17 Aug-15 Sep 1945
9th Fighter Squadron, 16 Aug-15 Sep 1945
P-47 Thunderbolt, 10 Jul-26 Oct 1945
69th Fighter Squadron, 8 Jul-26 Oct 1945
310th Fighter Squadron, 9 Jul-26 Oct 1945
311th Fighter Squadron, 8 Jul-26 Oct 1945
P-38 Lightning, 30 Apr-Nov 1945
19th Fighter Squadron, 30 Apr-Nov 1945
73d Fighter Squadron, 30 Apr-Nov 1945
333d Fighter Squadron, 30 Apr-Nov 1945
P-51 Mustang, 9 Jul-Oct 1945
340th Fighter Squadron, 9 Jul-9 Sep 1945
341st Fighter Squadron, 12 Jul-9 Sep 1945
460th Fighter Squadron, 25 Jul-24 NOv 1945
P-47 Thunderbolt, 19 May-10 Nov 1945
1st Fighter Squadron, 19 May-17 Nov 1945
21st Fighter Squadron, 10 May-21 Nov 1945
34th Fighter Squadron, 19 May-17 Nov 1945
P-38 Lightning, 8 Aug-23 Sep 1945
431st Fighter Squadron, 8 Aug-8 Oct 1945
432d Fighter Squadron, 8 Aug-28 Sep 1945
433d Fighter Squadron, 8 Aug-28 Sep 1945
P-47 Thunderbolt, 29 Jul 1945-29 Jan 1946
463d Fighter Squadron, 24 Jun 1945-29 Jan 1946
464th Fighter Squadron, 24 Jun 1945-29 Jan 1946
465th Fighter Squadron, 24 Jun 1945-29 Jan 1946

Japanese Surrender Delegation

On August 19, 1945, two B-25Js of the 345th Bombardment Group and 80th Fighter Squadron P-38 Lightings escorted two Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers. The Japanese aircraft carried a delegation from Tokyo en route to Manila to meet General MacArthur's staff to work out details of the surrender.

The Betty bombers were painted white with green crosses on the wings, fuselage and vertical tail surface and use the call signs Bataan I and Bataan II. After the delegation landed at Ie Shima, they boarded a C-54 Skymaster and were flown to Manila. After the meeting, they returned to Ie Shima. One of the two Bettys crashed on its way back to Japan out of fuel, due to an incorrect conversion of liters to gallons when the bombers were refueled. The crew were helped by local fisherman, and returned to Tokyo by train.

Postwar use

With the end of the war, many of the units assigned to Ie Shima were reassigned or inactivated. By the end of 1946, the facility was closed and placed in reserve status. Most of the island was returned to Japanese control in 1972.

Current use

The three runways that were in use when World War II ended still exist. The United States military maintains the western runway as a small unimproved 5000 foot coral runway. It also has a simulated LHA deck, and a drop zone for parachute training, being part of a military training facility operated by the United States Marine Corps. There is a detachment of usually less than 20 Marines which operates the range.

The eastern runway is now Iejima Airport and is used by a small civilian air carrier, and the central one is now abandoned and is used as a thoroughfare for residents to get from the north to the south side of the island.

See also

References

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links


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