P-51D "My Girl" of 457th Squadron

P-51D-20NA "My Girl" of 457th Fighter Squadron. On April 25, 1945 the 20th Air Force's 506th Fighter Group, which was composed of the 457th, 458th, and the 462nd Fighter Squadrons, arrived at Iwo Jima and began operations against Japan on May 28 from North Field. After Iwo Jima was secure in March 1945 the US Army Air Forces had a forward base for use in providing fighter escort for the bombers. Fighter escort operations of B-29s was the stated reason for taking Iwo Jima, 750 miles from the main Japanese island of Honshu, where most B-29 targets were. A round-trip mission from Iwo was thus 1,500 miles. Theoretically, a P-51D Mustang could fly 2,000 miles unrefueled, but in practice from Iwo such ranges were mostly unobtainable because of air maneuvering over Japan and the fact that winds to and from Japan were often extremely strong, requiring fuel use that the fighters couldn't spare. A number of fighters were lost from weather alone. As well, the P-51 had limited navigation equipment, making the fighters' ability to link up with the bombers difficult and fuel consuming. Six B-29s with homing beacons led the P-51s to Japan. One of the greatest limiting factors of fighter escorts from Iwo was the human factor. The B-29 was heated and pressurized. Compared to the unheated, unpressurized P-51, the bomber crews sat in secure comfort. The punishment on the fighter pilots' bodies was compounded by the extremely high altutudes they flew to escort the bombers, usually more than 30,000 feet. This was several thousand feet higher than fighter pilots flew in Europe, escorting B-17 and B-24 bombers. The round trip from Iwo to Japan and back was nine hours, spent in a physically battered state.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
United States Air Force
Date Photographed: 
Friday, June 1, 1945
Iwo Jima