"The P-51 was the best prop fighter of World War II. It was the top air fighter and, hence, best for escort missions. The P-51 was a relative latecomer to the Pacific Theater. As the war in Europe wound down, the P-51 became more common: eventually, with the capture of Iwo Jima, it was able to be used as a bomber escort during Boeing B-29 Superfortress missions against the Japanese homeland.

In the Pacific—the largest theater of war in history—the Mustang’s long legs made the difference. In Europe the usual drop tank was 110-gallon capacity, but VLR missions produced 165-gallon “drops.” Fully loaded, two such tanks added a ton to the Mustang’s 10,100-pound “clean” combat weight, but they allowed an hour or more of loitering over Japan instead of 20 or 30 minutes on internal fuel.

The island of Iwo Jima was needed by the United States Army Air Forces Twentieth Air Force as an emergency landing facility for its B-29 Superfortress strategic bombing campaign against the Empire of Japan. 

Several operational fighter squadrons performed B-29 escort missions. American fighter pilots based on Iwo Jima flew “very long range” (VLR) missions against the Japanese home islands beginning April 7, 1945.

"The pilots called themselves the 'Tokyo Club'. It was a simple task to become a member. All you had to do was strap yourself into a heavily loaded P-51 Mustang, take off from Iwo Jima (a postage-stamp sized volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), fly 650 miles north over the sea - often through monsoon storms - in your single-engined aircraft to Japan, attack a heavily defended target in the vicinity of the enemy's capital city and then turn around and fly home while fretting over your shrinking fuel supply and perhaps battle damage as well. If your gas held out and you were not blown off-course on your return trip, you landed back at 'Iwo' after an eight-hour flight. Do it once and you earned membership in the club. Do it 15 times and you earned a trip home. But make one mistake or have one touch of bad luck, and you had a very good chance of ending up dead." (Carl Molesworth

Photograph showing  a US P-51 Mustang fighter that has crashed on Iwo Jima. U. S. Air Force photo

A North American P-51 takes off from Iwo Jima. U. S. Air Force photo

Photograph showing a P-51 Mustang which has crash landed on Iwo Jima. U. S. Air Force photo

Photograph showing the nose area of a P-51 Mustang named "Tommys Dad".  What makes the photo unusual is that the Mustang sports a German kill marking along with a number of Japanese kill markings. U. S. Air Force photo

Photograph showing a P-51 Mustang which has crashed on Iwo Jima and hit one or more parked P-51 Mustangs. Of particular note is that there appears to be a propeller blade from the crash impaled into the cowling of one of the parked Mustangs!!. U. S. Air Force photo 

Photograph  showing  a crash on the US Airbase on Iwo Jima follwing the US siezure of the island.   A B-29 has made a crash landing while a P-51 Mustang is being towed across the PSP.  Such events were very common as damaged aircraft tried to land on the field. U. S. Air Force photo

Photograph showing  a crash on the US Airbase on Iwo Jima follwing the US siezure of the island. A B-29 has made a crash landing and hit a parked P-51 Mustang in the process. U. S. Air Force photo

Photograph showing a B-29 Superfortress which has crashed on Iwo Jima and hit one or more parked P-51 Mustangs. U. S. Air Force photo

Photograph showing a flight of P-51 Mustangs over the captured airfield on Iwo Jima. U. S. Air Force photo

Thought to have been taken at Motoyama Airfield No. 2, largest of the three airstrips on crowded Iwo Jima, this overhead view shows P-51 Mustangs preparing for missions against Japan. U. S. Air Force photo

P-51Ds of the 21st Fighter Group at North Field Iwo Jima 1845, Note Mount Suribachi in the background. Tail of North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang 44-63381 Identifiable, was lost Aug 5, 1945. U. S. Air Force photo

P-51 Mustangs of the 45th Fighter Squadron lined up on South Field, Iwo Jima, Mar 7, 1945. Fire is from a P-51 from the 78th Fighter Squadron that crashed on landing and struck two parked 45th Fighter Squadron P-51s. U. S. Air Force photo

North American P-51D Mustangs of the 47th Fighter Squadron on Iwo Jima prepare for raid on Chichi Jima, Mar 15, 1945. Note Mt Suribachi in the background. U. S. Air Force photo

P-51D Mustangs of the 531st Fighter Squadron lined up at South Field, Iwo Jima, Mar 25, 1945. U. S. Air Force photo

North American P-51D Mustangs of the 46th Fighter Squadron on Iwo Jima prepare for mission, Mar 1945. Note the twin oversized drop tanks of the Very Long Range (VLR) escorts. U. S. Air Force photo

Source: 

Wikipedia | WWIIPublicDomain (Youtube) | Ebay,com | ww2db.com | AIR FORCE Magazine / April 2013
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