The Last Fighter Pilot Audio Book Review

The Last Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Final Combat Mission of World War II

Authored by Don Brown, Narrated by Robertson Dean

Audiobook, 4 hours and 40 minutes

Published by Blackstone Audio, July 2017

Language: English

ASIN: B07453C67Y

Captain Jerry Yellin flew P-51 Mustangs with the 78th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group.  In March 1945 the Group moved to Iwo Jima.  The island was not yet secure, and the pilots slept in foxholes at night and flew close support missions for the Marines during the day.  The Japanese defenders proved to be determined and resourceful, with many hiding out in extensive tunnel networks after the Marines had passed them by.  One of the last organized counterattacks was against the pilots’ bivouac area, with Japanese infantry infiltrating the area at night and throwing grenades into the tents.

The primary mission of the P-51 groups operating from Iwo Jima was Very Long Range (VLR) missions to Japan to protect B-29 Superfortress raids.  These were long endurance missions flown almost entirely over the vast, empty expanses of the Pacific.  While there were numerous search and rescue assets assigned (including submarines operating just off the Japanese coastline) weather was always a factor and losses in transit were common.  Over Japan the Mustangs covered sectors around the Superfortress formations, intercepting or driving off the opposing Japanese fighters.

After the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima (06AUG45) and Nagasaki (09AUG45) there was a lull as planners waited to see if the Japanese would accept surrender terms.  After a few days it was decided to resume operations, and Yellin’s squadron was assigned to conduct a fighter sweep against a Japanese airfield.  While the Mustangs were hitting their target the Japanese announced the surrender, although the pilots did not receive the recall notice.  Leaving the target, the formation entered a cloud bank.  Yellin’s wingman, 1Lt Phillip Schlamberg was not with the formation when they emerged.  Yellin had just led the last official combat mission of the war, and Schlamberg was the last casualty.

This is a rather short book, but a good one.  The long-range escort missions over Japan have received little attention in the book world, although there is some excellent gun camera film of the fighter sweeps in color available on line.  Recommended.


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