The 345th’s Final Show

After Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, General MacArthur set to arranging the formal surrender and occupation of Japan. A delegation was to meet with U.S. officials at Manila, and bring all their defense plans to stave off potential Japanese resistance. This would take place a week later. The delegation was ordered to fly to Ie Shima in airplanes that had been painted white with giant green crosses. They would be accompanied to Ie Shima by a bomb group chosen by MacArthur: the 345th. A total of six B-25s and twelve P-38s met the two white-painted Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers, although, with the cloud cover, it wasn’t easy to find the planes at the rendezvous point.

The Bettys were soon spotted by Maj. Jack C. McClure about 2000 feet below the B-25s, so he radioed to the other B-25s to follow him as he hurried to catch up with the Japanese planes. McClure later wrote, “Radio contact with them was not very good, and they seemed to have difficulty understanding what I told them. At one time they went off course, so when they couldn’t understand the corrections I gave them, I took over the lead and had them fly formation with me. Before the flight we had been told that a pilot would be court-martialed if he came within a thousand feet of their planes, so I kept my distance. Once in the lead, however, I glanced back and there was the Number 1 Jap plane tucked in close with his wing less than 20 feet from mine. Major Decker joined us, and we came in over the field. I gave the Jap plane landing instructions and prepared to land myself. The Jap still kept on my wing—I couldn’t shake him—and, as we went around in the traffic pattern, a P-38 cut in. The Jap called that he saw a P-38, so I told him to land after the Lightening, which he did. It was a big thrill to be in on the final show.”

Bettys coming in for a landing

A Betty bomber lands at Ie Shima with Japanese delegates aboard to discuss the surrender with Allied officials.

Delegation to Manila

Japanese delegates climbing into a C-54 that would take them to Manila.

A large crowd was watching the planes land. One of the Japanese pilots was so unnerved that he forgot to put down the flaps as he came down, leading to his plane bouncing on the runway. The Japanese delegation got out of the Bettys and were shown to the C-54 that would take them to Manila. In order to humiliate the Japanese, they made the delegation board the plane via a painter’s ladder at the back of the plane.

Betty's Dream Escorting Betty Bomber

A Betty bomber being escorted by BETTY’S DREAM of the 499th Bomb Squadron on August 21, 1945 after the surrender delegation met with Allied officials at Manila.

On the 20th, the Japanese returned to Ie Shima, where they would be escorted back to Japan by the 345th again. As one of the Bettys was taxiing, there was a minor wheel mishap, which put the plane out of commission for the day. The delegation was split up, with five men staying in Ie Shima overnight, while the rest of them boarded the other Betty bomber and were escorted back to Japan. Oddly, that Betty ran out of fuel near Honshu and required a water landing. The men aboard got out in knee-deep water, waded to shore and caught a plane back to Tokyo. The part of the delegation stuck in Ie Shima was able to return to Japan the following morning without issue.