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thedrifter
06-20-06, 02:47 PM
June 26, 2006

The Lore of the Corps: a 5-minute history lesson
‘Dinah Might’ was first bomber to land on Iwo

By Charles A. Jones
Special to the Times


After the famous flag-raising on Feb. 23, 1945, perhaps the most memorable image from Iwo Jima was the first B-29 emergency landing on the island.

One reason for capturing Iwo was to provide an emergency landing strip for B-29 Superfortress bombers flying to or from Japan.

Less than a month after the Marines’ Feb. 19 invasion of the island, the first B-29 landing was highly symbolic. Returning from a mission over Tokyo on March 4, 1st Lt. Raymond Malo landed “Dinah Might” at Iwo’s Motoyama Airfield No. 1. Fighting still raged — Marines held half the airfield, the Japanese the other. Malo landed on the Japanese side but stopped on the U.S. half.


Several photographs show Marines and sailors surrounding the plane. Prominent tail markings indicated the aircraft was with the 9th Bomb Group, 313th Wing, 21st Bomber Command, 20th Air Force.

The plane was repaired and took off the same day. It returned to Iwo on April 12 heavily damaged and was eventually abandoned. But the March 4 landing boosted troop morale.

For Field Musician Charles Adams of the 5th Marine Division, it “was quite an experience.” During the landing, his unit was fighting along the west side of the airfield.

The landing emphasized the differences between aerial and ground combat. A battalion commander, Maj. Shelton Scales of the 4th Marine Division, watched the plane appear from the south and circle Mount Suribachi so closely that he thought it would crash.

In photographs, the Dinah Might dwarfs onlookers. When Scales went to examine her, he thought the plane was “the size of [a] monster.” The infantry world is small; infantrymen focus only on the ground they occupy. For aviators, the battleground is the sky.

The landing, as well as the ability to make other landings on the island, contrasted attitudes about Iwo.

Infantrymen cursed its ground because they faced the possibility of death there.

Aviators, who faced danger during takeoffs in planes loaded with bombs and fuel, flights to and from Japan, mechanical problems and landings in damaged aircraft, were relieved to be there; for them, the island represented safety.

On an April 15-16 night mission over Kawasaki, the 9th Bomb Group lost four crews, the most for any mission. One was Malo’s, who was flying another B-29. It crashed into the sea off Japan, killing 10 crewmen; one was captured but fatally burned during a prison fire.

At least two B-29s carried the name Dinah Might, but for infantrymen on Iwo, only one mattered; its first landing was a victory in a grim battle that would continue for many days.

The writer is a lawyer and Marine Corps Reserve colonel in Norfolk, Va. His father, Elmer Jones, was a radar observer for B-29 “Double Trouble,” which landed on Iwo Jima twice, once for repair and once for fuel.

Ellie