Iejima (伊江島) is an island in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, lying a few kilometers off the Motobu Peninsula of Okinawa Honto. It measures 20 km around and has a population of 5,055. The island constitutes Ie Village and is connected to the Okinawa Motobu-Wan by ferry (also going to Tomari).
The most notable geographic feature is a peak called Gusukuyama (or 'Tacchu') at a height of 172 meters resembling a volcano but is actually an erosion artifact.
Ie island is the setting of a traditional Okinawan drama where a sad girl by the name of Hando-gwaa fell in love with a man named Kanahi, Ie-shima's headman. When Hando-gwaa learned that Kanahi had already wed she climbed up to Tacchu Mountain and hanged herself with her long, black hair. One can find a statue of this woman in a garden that sits below Gusukuyama.
U.S. journalist Ernie Pyle died there during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. There is a monument dedicated to his memory on the southern part of the island. Every year on the weekend closest to his death, April 18th, there is a memorial service.
Alternately called "Peanut Island," for its general shape and peanut crop, or "Flower Island," for its abundant flora and more sizeable crop, Ie draws tourists by ferry, especially during late April when the Ie Lily Festival begins.
The Youth Excursion Village accommodates campers for 400 Yen a person and includes access to a good beach. The YYY Resort and Hotel located just east of the ferry port is available for those who do not wish to camp.
The island of Iejima, also called Ie Shima, was the major starting point for the Surrender of Japan in World War II. It was the home of the 413th Fighter group which comprised the 1st, 21st and 34th Fighter Squadrons, and the 345th Bomb Group, consisting of the 498th, 499th, 500th and 501st Squadrons. Both groups were stationed there toward the end of the war. The surrender preparations started on August 17th, 1945, with the flight of two Japanese Betty bombers to the island of Ie Shima where the Japanese emissaries transferred to U.S. Army Air Force C-54's to complete their journey to Corregidor to meet with General MacArthur's staff. B-25 Mitchells of the 345th were assigned to escort the Japanese from their homeland to Ie Shima, and P-38s were assigned the duty of top-cover.
Japanese officials ordered the remaining Japanese Air Force to shoot their own bombers down because they believed in the honorable idea that Japan should fight to the very last person. Instead of flying directly to the island of Ie Shima, these two Japanese planes flew northeast, toward the open ocean, to avoid their own fighters. One of the Japanese delegates aboard remarked, after looking through a bullet hole in the side of the plane, that a squadron of fighters was approaching and he thought that their surrender mission had failed. However, the squadron of fighters were U.S. P-38 Lightnings assigned as top-cover.
The 345th had been directed to send two B-25's as escorts. However, fully aware of the difficulty in communication with the Japanese and correctly anticipating the possibility of necessary deviation from plans, the 345th had dispatched three flights of 25's so as to bracket the enemy's proposed flight path. This proved to have been excellent planning, as only the second of the three flights intercepted the Japanese and the top-cover, off-course and headed on a route that would not have brought them to IeShima. Operating under orders to come no nearer than 1000 feet to the Japanese planes, Major J.C. McClure found it impossible to keep the Japanese on the proper course flying abreast of them, so he pulled out well ahead of them to lead their formation. Seconds later he was surprised to find the Japanese tucked in tightly under his wings. To them it was the safest way to approach the island which had only days before been their target. The four planes arrived over IeShima in perfect show formation.
The Japanese emissaries continued on to the Philippines as planned, concluded the arrangements for the formal surrender scheduled to take place in September 2 in Tokyo Bay, and returned to IeShima on August 18th. As the Bettys were taxiing into place to receive their passengers for the return trip to Tokyo, one of them ran off of the runway and broke its landing gear leaving it unable to continue the trip that day. The Japanese delegation split, with the lesser lights staying on IeShima overnight as the damaged plane was repaired, while the operable aircraft proceeded that evening. Ironically, and for some unexplained reason, that plane ran out of gas some 130 miles from their destination and was ditched in shallow water. The emissaries waded ashore and arrived in Tokyo the next day.
The United States military maintains a small 'auxiliary landing strip' on Ie; this airstrip is now a military training facility run by the U.S. Marine Corps. There is a detachment of usually less than 20 US Marines which operates the range. The north-west corner of the island that contains a 5000 foot coral runway, a simulated LHA deck, and a drop zone for parachute training.
The three runways that were in use when World War II ended still exist, however. The eastern one is now abandoned and is used as a thoroughfare for the locals to get from the north to the south side of the island. The middle one is now used by a small civilian air carrier, and the western one is still unimproved and is part of the training range.