WILLIAM G. EBERSOLE
U. S. Army Air Forces
2nd Lieutenant William G. Ebersole
Norwin Hines left and Bill G. Ebersole
reunited after 65 years at a reunion in Fort Worth, Texas. The
date of the event was
April 29 to May 2, 2010.
Photo taken of 2nd Lieutenant Ebersole on Iwo Jima in 1945 by a Life Magazine photographer.
I was born in Arcadia, Florida, in 1924. I entered the University of Florida in 1942, but since I was concerned about the possibility of being drafted into service in WW II, I joined the Army Air Corps. The Air Corps accepted me, despite an eye injury in my youth, which apparently did not affect my vision. At the age of 18, I joined the Air Corps Reserve and attended UF for almost two years before going on active duty.
One week into my second semester, the Air Corps Reserve was activated. I reported for active duty in February 1943 in Miami Beach. After only one month of marching up and down Collins Avenue, I was sent to Nashville to undergo physical and written tests to determine specialization. I was elated to be classified for pilot training. I then was ordered to Clemson College for “College Training Detachments” that included basic college training and elementary flight instruction in cub planes.
My training assignments took me to Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama; back home to Arcadia, Florida, for primary flight training; back to Montgomery at Gunter Field; Craig Field in Selma, Alabama, and Eglin Field near Panama City, Florida.
I took my last training flight at Bartow in early January 1945. Some of us were selected to fill some vacancies in a P-51 Mustang fighter group training in Lakeland. We joined the 462nd Fighter Squadron at that point—one of the three squadrons in the 506th Fighter Group in training at Drane Field in Lakeland.
I took a train to Seattle and boarded a converted Swedish hospital ship. We sailed to Hawaii then to Enewetok Island, then to Tinian, and on to Iwo Jima.
When we arrived at Iwo, we stayed on the ship for a week and could see the trip-flares going off all night from some of the remaining Japanese on the island who were coming out from hiding at night. We finally landed and made our camp on the east side of the island. Everyone was on edge. Just before we had left our ship, another group of pilots landed on Iwo Jima and almost a dozen were killed in a raid. The Japanese ran through their camp, slashed open their tents with machetes, and tossed in hand grenades. I couldn’t sleep on my army cot for the first few weeks, but instead made up my bed to look like I was in it and slept on the ground behind it with my .45 pistol in my hand, cocked and ready to fire.
We were on Iwo Jima for a couple of months—post battle which ended March 26. We watched the Seabees build our 5,000-foot-long airstrip, as well as two others, one of which was 10,000 feet long for B-29 emergency landings.
My first flight on Iwo was a local flight on May 13, 1945. I flew my first combat mission five days later when I dropped two 500-pound bombs on a radio installation on Chichi Jima—150 miles north of Iwo Jima. I flew almost every day on local air patrol when I was not preparing for a mission.
My first P-51 long-range mission to Japan was on June 7, 1945, lasting almost eight hours. This was an escort mission accompanying B-29s on a bombing run to Osaka. Also that month, I made another dive bombing raid on Chichi Jima, followed by aborted missions to Osaka and to Meiji. I strafed an airfield at Hyakarigahara, and received credit for probably destroying one Zero plane on the ground.
In July 1945, I flew a mission to Suzuka, and a second strafing mission to Yakurigahara and Hamamatsu. That same month, I flew missions to Akenegahara and Suzuka airfields where we encountered numerous airborne planes. Later that month, we flew over the Inland Sea of Japan, and I was the fourth plane in a four-plane flight when our flight leader decided we should attack an aircraft carrier. We made a near vertical dive on the carrier at full throttle from 15,000 feet with nothing more potent than our six .50-caliber machine guns. Because I was the last of the four, I was not only going the fastest but had to wait the longest before I could fire and begin pulling out of the dive. It was the fastest I ever traveled during my flying days, clocked at over 600 mph. When I pulled up, I blacked out and had no idea where I was or in what direction I was heading. It was a foolish thing to do and we were lucky we weren’t hit by the mass of anti-aircraft fire coming up at us.
In early August, we were scheduled to hit airfields at Himeji and Itami, but weather had closed these targets out so the squadron broke up into flights looking for acceptable targets. We attacked some trains in a train station, but there were so many planes that we left looking for better targets. I was flying the wing of Joe Diaz over the Inland Sea when the two of us spotted a small 100-foot-long freighter, which we called a “Sugar Dog.” The two of us set up the same type of flight pattern we used in gunnery training. When the gun camera films were reviewed, I received credit for probably destroying the freighter.
My final mission was on August 5, 1945, the day before dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The strafing mission was to Tachikawa.
A few days before my birthday (September 30), a friend and I hitched a ride on a transport plane to Atsugi airfield in Tokyo. We spent several days bumming around and took many photos. I was in Tokyo, returning to Iwo Jima on my 21st birthday.
At the end of October, I volunteered to ferry some planes to Iwo from Guam, but got stuck in Guam for 10 days due to bad weather. In mid-November, I flew the plane I had used on all my missions to Guam. The engine began running rough and I was on my final approach to Orote Field on Guam when it lost all power. I had already lowered the wheels and flaps, but I had to be towed off the runway. The planes were going to be scrapped so the last thing I did before I got out of the plane was to remove the eight-day spring-wound clock on the dashboard. I still have it.
I took my last flight on a P-51 on December 4, 1945, when I led a flight of four planes from Guam to Isley Field on Saipan where we boarded a ship and headed back to the U.S.
I took the train to Camp Blanding, Florida, received my discharge papers, and spent a few days in Arcadia. In February 1946, I started classes at the University of Florida.
Honest Mistake is the name of the P-51
2nd Lieutenant Ebersole flew.
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History of the P-51 Mustang
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