Mustang Mk.I in USAAF Service

Mustang Mk.I in USAAF Service

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Mustang Mk.I in USAAF Service

Here we see P-51-1-NA 41-37320, originally destined to join the RAF as a Mustang I. However it was taken back by the USAAF, and used as a reconnaissance aircraft (official conversions were designated as the F-6). Two camera positions have been installed. The camera behind the pilot's seat is in full view. The second camera is in the rear fuselage, just behind the radiator outlet. A hand crank in the cockpit allowed the pilot to move this camera from the vertical to an aft oblique position.

Many thanks to Robert Bourlier for sending us this photograph.

World War Photos

North American Mustang Mk IA FD474 2 Mustang Mk IV TK589, A&AEE at Boscombe Down Mustang Mk IA FD474 Mustang Mk III HB876 9G-L of No. 441 Squadron RCAF
Mustang Mk IV KM348 AK-V of No. 213 Squadron RAF Soviet Mustang Mk I June 1942 Soviet P-51 AG348 P-51 AG345 in flight
Mustang Mk I AL975 with Merlin engine Mustang Mk I AM106 with 40 mm cannons in flight Mustang Mk I AM148 RM-G of No. 26 Squadron RAF August 1942 Mustang Mk X AL975/G
Mustang Mk X AM208 in flight Mustang Mk X AL975 Prototype Mustang Mk X AM208 in flight Mustang Mk I AG550 XV-U of No. 2 Squadron RAF in flight, 1942
Mustangs Mk I AG550 XV-U and XV-X of No. 2 Squadron RAF Mustang Mk I AL966 Mustang Mk I AM148 RM-G of No. 26 Squadron RAF August 1942 2 North American Mustang Mk I AP247 of No. 4 Squadron RAF
Mustang Mk I AP247 of No. 4 Squadron RAF 2 Mustang Mk I XV-U of RAF No 2 Squadron in flight 1942 Mustang Mk I AG346, USA Mustang Mk I AG348 Mines Field 9 June 1941
Mustang Mk I AG348 Mines Field 9 June 1941 2 North American Mustang Mk I AG348 Mines Field 9 June 1941 3 Mustang Mk IA Mount Farm 1944 Mustang Mk III FB104 in flight
Mustang Mk III FB108 Mustang Mk III FX893 with rockets Mustang Mk III FZ893 being used for weapons trials Mustang Mk I November 1941
Mustang Mk I AG351 in flight Mustang I AL960 used to test-fit a Rolls-Royce Griffon 63 engine mounted amidships, 1944 Mustang I AM106 at Boscombe Down Mustang I AM106 at Boscombe Down 2
Mustang Mk I AM148 RM-G of No. 26 Squadron RAF August 1942 2 F-6D 44-14717 R7-L of the GR II/33 “Savoie”, Armee de l’Air Lightweight Mustang Mk V FR409 Mustang Mk II with oversize fuel tanks
Mustang AM203 with Merlin engine and in high-speed paint finish Mustang I AL995 XV-S of No. 2 Squadron RAF, 1942 Mustangs Mk I of No. 430 Sqn RCAF line in Belgium 1944

Operational service in RAF and other air forces.

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In 1938, the British government established a purchasing commission in the United States, headed by Sir Henry Self. [13] [14] Self was given overall responsibility for RAF production, research, and development, and also served with Sir Wilfrid Freeman, the Air Member for Development and Production. Self also sat on the British Air Council Sub-committee on Supply (or "Supply Committee") and one of his tasks was to organize the manufacturing and supply of American fighter aircraft for the RAF. At the time, the choice was very limited, as no U.S. aircraft then in production or flying met European standards, with only the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk coming close. The Curtiss-Wright plant was running at capacity, so P-40s were in short supply. [15]

North American Aviation (NAA) was already supplying its T-6 Texan (known in British service as the "Harvard") trainer to the RAF, but was otherwise underused. NAA President "Dutch" Kindelberger approached Self to sell a new medium bomber, the North American B-25 Mitchell. Instead, Self asked if NAA could manufacture P-40s under license from Curtiss. Kindelberger said NAA could have a better aircraft with the same Allison V-1710 engine in the air sooner than establishing a production line for the P-40.

John Attwood of North American spent much time from January to April 1940 at the British Purchasing Commission's offices in New York discussing the British specifications of the proposed aircraft with British engineers. The discussions consisted of free-hand conceptual drawings of an aircraft with the British officials. Sir Henry Self was concerned that North American had not ever designed a fighter, insisting they obtain the drawings and study the Curtiss XP-46 experimental aircraft and the wind tunnel test results for the P-40, before presenting them with detailed design drawings based on the agreed concept. North American purchased the drawings and data from Curtiss for £56,000, confirming the purchase with the Purchasing Commission. The Purchasing Commission approved the resulting detailed design drawings, signing the commencement of the Mustang project on 4 May 1940, firmly ordering 320 on 29 May 1940. Prior to this, North American only had a draft letter for an order of 320 aircraft. Curtiss engineers accused North American of plagiarism. [16]

The British Purchasing Commission stipulated armament of four .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns (as used on the Tomahawk), a unit cost of no more than $40,000, and delivery of the first production aircraft by January 1941. [17] In March 1940, 320 aircraft were ordered by Freeman, who had become the executive head of the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) and the contract was promulgated on 24 April. [18]

The NA-73X, which was designed by a team led by lead engineer Edgar Schmued, followed the best conventional practice of the era, designed for ease of mass manufacturing. [16] The design included several new features. [nb 2] One was a wing designed using laminar flow airfoils, which were developed co-operatively by North American Aviation and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). These airfoils generated low drag at high speeds. [19] During the development of the NA-73X, a wind tunnel test of two wings, one using NACA five-digit airfoils and the other using the new NAA/NACA 45–100 airfoils, was performed in the University of Washington Kirsten Wind Tunnel. The results of this test showed the superiority of the wing designed with the NAA/NACA 45–100 airfoils. [20] [nb 3]

The other feature was a new cooling arrangement positioned aft (single ducted water and oil radiators assembly) that reduced the fuselage drag and effects on the wing. Later, [22] after much development, they discovered that the cooling assembly could take advantage of the Meredith effect: in which heated air exited the radiator with a slight amount of jet thrust. Because NAA lacked a suitable wind tunnel to test this feature, it used the GALCIT 3.0 m (10 ft) wind tunnel at the California Institute of Technology. This led to some controversy over whether the Mustang's cooling system aerodynamics were developed by NAA's engineer Edgar Schmued or by Curtiss, as NAA had purchased the complete set of P-40 and XP-46 wind tunnel data and flight test reports. [23] [24] The NA-73X was also one of the first aircraft to have a fuselage lofted mathematically using conic sections this resulted in smooth, low-drag surfaces. [25] To aid production, the airframe was divided into five main sections—forward, center, rear fuselage, and two wing halves—all of which were fitted with wiring and piping before being joined. [25]

The prototype NA-73X was rolled out in September 1940, just 102 days after the order had been placed it first flew on 26 October 1940, 149 days into the contract, an uncommonly short development period, even during the war. [26] With test pilot Vance Breese at the controls, [27] the prototype handled well and accommodated an impressive fuel load. The aircraft's three-section, semi-monocoque fuselage was constructed entirely of aluminum to save weight. It was armed with four .30 caliber (7.62 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns in the wings and two .50 caliber (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns mounted under the engine and firing through the propeller arc using gun-synchronizing gear. [nb 4]

While the USAAC could block any sales it considered detrimental to the interests of the US, the NA-73 was considered to be a special case because it had been designed at the behest of the British. In September 1940, a further 300 NA-73s were ordered by the MAP. [17] To ensure uninterrupted delivery, Colonel Oliver P. Echols arranged with the Anglo-French Purchasing Commission to deliver the aircraft and NAA gave two examples (41-038 and 41-039) to the USAAC for evaluation. [28] [nb 5]

The Allison engine in the Mustang I had a single-stage supercharger that caused power to drop off rapidly above 15,000 feet (4,600 m). This made it unsuitable for use at the altitudes where combat was taking place in Europe. Allison’s attempts at developing a high-altitude engine were underfunded, but produced the V-1710-45, which featured a variable-speed auxiliary supercharger, and developed 1,150 horsepower (860 kW) at 22,400 feet (6,800 m). In November 1941, NAA studied the possibility of using it, but fitting its excessive length in the Mustang would require extensive airframe modifications and cause long production delays. [30] [31] In May 1942, following positive reports from the RAF on the Mustang I's performance below 15,000 ft, Ronald Harker, a test pilot for Rolls-Royce, suggested fitting a Merlin 61, as fitted to the Spitfire Mk IX. [30] The Merlin 61 had a two-speed, two-stage, intercooled supercharger, designed by Stanley Hooker of Rolls-Royce. [32] Both the Merlin 61 and V-1710-39 were capable of about 1,570 horsepower (1,170 kW) war emergency power at relatively low altitude, but the Merlin developed 1,390 horsepower (1,040 kW) at 23,500 feet (7,200 m) versus the Allison's 1,150 horsepower (860 kW) at 11,800 feet (3,600 m), [33] [34] [31] delivering an increase in top speed from 390 mph (340 kn 630 km/h) at

15,000 feet (4,600 m) to an estimated 440 mph (380 kn 710 km/h) at 28,100 feet (8,600 m). Initial flights of what was known to Rolls-Royce as the Mustang Mk X were completed at Rolls-Royce's airfield at Hucknall in October 1942. [30]

At the same time, the possibility of combining the P-51 airframe with the US license-built Packard version of the Merlin engine was being explored on the other side of the Atlantic. In July 1942, a contract was let for two prototypes, briefly designated XP-78, but soon to become the XP-51B. [35] Based on the Packard V-1650-3 duplicating the Merlin 61's performance, NAA estimated for the XP-78 a top speed of 445 mph (387 kn 716 km/h) at 28,000 feet (8,500 m), and a service ceiling of 42,000 feet (13,000 m). [30] The first flight of the XP-51B took place in November 1942, but the USAAF was so interested in the possibility that an initial contract for 400 aircraft was placed three months beforehand in August. [36] The conversion led to production of the P-51B beginning at North American's Inglewood, California, plant in June 1943, [37] and P-51s started to become available to the 8th and 9th Air Forces in the winter of 1943–1944. Conversion to the two-stage supercharged Merlin 61, over 350 lb (160 kg) heavier than the single-stage Allison, driving a four-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller, required moving the wing slightly forward to correct the aircraft's center of gravity. After the USAAF, in July 1943, directed fighter aircraft manufacturers to maximize internal fuel capacity, NAA calculated the P-51B's center of gravity to be forward enough to include an additional 85 US gal (320 l 71 imp gal) fuel tank in the fuselage behind the pilot, greatly increasing the aircraft's range over that of the earlier P-51A. NAA incorporated the tank in the production of the P-51B-10, and supplied kits to retrofit it to all existing P-51Bs. [30]

United Kingdom operational service Edit

The Mustang was initially developed for the RAF, which was its first user. As the first Mustangs were built to British requirements, these aircraft used factory numbers and were not P-51s the order comprised 320 NA-73s, followed by 300 NA-83s, all of which were designated North American Mustang Mark I by the RAF. [38] The first RAF Mustangs supplied under Lend-Lease were 93 P-51s, designated Mk Ia, followed by 50 P-51As used as Mustang Mk IIs. [39] Aircraft supplied to Britain under Lend-Lease were required for accounting purposes to be on the USAAC's books before they could be supplied to Britain. However, the British Aircraft Purchasing Commission signed its first contract for the North American NA-73 on 24 April 1940, before Lend-Lease was in effect. Thus, the initial order for the P-51 Mustang (as it was later known) was placed by the British under the "Cash and Carry" program, as required by the US Neutrality Acts of the 1930s. [40]

After the arrival of the initial aircraft in the UK in October 1941, the first Mustang Mk Is entered service in January 1942, the first unit being 26 Squadron RAF. [41] Due to poor high-altitude performance, the Mustangs were used by Army Co-operation Command, rather than Fighter Command, and were used for tactical reconnaissance and ground-attack duties. On 10 May 1942, Mustangs first flew over France, near Berck-sur-Mer. [42] On 27 July 1942, 16 RAF Mustangs undertook their first long-range reconnaissance mission over Germany. During the amphibious Dieppe Raid on the French coast (19 August 1942), four British and Canadian Mustang squadrons, including 26 Squadron, saw action covering the assault on the ground. By 1943–1944, British Mustangs were used extensively to seek out V-1 flying bomb sites. The last RAF Mustang Mk I and Mustang Mk II aircraft were struck off charge in 1945.

Army Co-operation Command used the Mustang’s superior speed and long range to conduct low-altitude “Rhubarb” raids over continental Europe, sometimes penetrating German airspace. The V-1710 engine ran smoothly at 1,100 rpm, versus 1,600 for the Merlin, enabling long flights over water at 50 ft (15 m) altitude before approaching the enemy coastline. Over land, these flights followed a zig-zag course, turning every six minutes to foil enemy attempts at plotting an interception. During the first 18 months of Rhubarb raids, RAF Mustang Mk.Is and Mk.Ias destroyed or heavily damaged 200 locomotives, over 200 canal barges, and an unknown number of enemy aircraft parked on the ground, for a loss of eight Mustangs. At sea level, the Mustangs were able to outrun all enemy aircraft encountered. [43] The RAF gained a significant performance enhancement at low altitude by removing or resetting the engine’s manifold pressure regulator to allow over-boosting, raising output as high as 1,780 horsepower at 70" Hg. [43] [33] In December 1942, Allison approved only 1,570 horsepower at 60" Hg manifold pressure for the V-1710-39. [33]

The RAF also operated 308 P-51Bs and 636 P-51Cs, [44] which were known in RAF service as Mustang Mk IIIs the first units converted to the type in late 1943 and early 1944. Mustang Mk III units were operational until the end of World War II, though many units had already converted to the Mustang Mk IV (P-51D) and Mk IVa (P-51K) (828 in total, comprising 282 Mk IV and 600 Mk IVa). [45] As all except the earliest aircraft were obtained under Lend-Lease, all Mustang aircraft still on RAF charge at the end of the war were either returned to the USAAF "on paper" or retained by the RAF for scrapping. The last RAF Mustangs were retired from service in 1947. [46]

U.S. operational service Edit

Prewar theory Edit

Prewar doctrine was based on the idea "the bomber will always get through". [47] Despite RAF and Luftwaffe experience with daylight bombing, the USAAF still incorrectly believed in 1942 that tightly packed formations of bombers would have so much firepower that they could fend off fighters on their own. [47] Fighter escort was a low priority, but when the concept was discussed in 1941, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning was considered to be most appropriate as it had the speed and range. Another school of thought favored a heavily up-armed "gunship" conversion of a strategic bomber. [48] A single-engined, high-speed fighter with the range of a bomber was thought to be an engineering impossibility. [49]

Eighth Air Force bomber operations 1942–1943 Edit

The 8th Air Force started operations from Britain in August 1942. At first, because of the limited scale of operations, no conclusive evidence showed American doctrine was failing. In the 26 operations flown to the end of 1942, the loss rate had been under 2%. [50]

In January 1943, at the Casablanca Conference, the Allies formulated the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) plan for "round-the-clock" bombing – USAAF daytime operations complementing the RAF nighttime raids on industrial centers. In June 1943, the Combined Chiefs of Staff issued the Pointblank Directive to destroy the Luftwaffe's capacity before the planned invasion of Europe, putting the CBO into full implementation. German daytime fighter efforts were, at that time, focused on the Eastern Front and several other distant locations. Initial efforts by the 8th met limited and unorganized resistance, but with every mission, the Luftwaffe moved more aircraft to the west and quickly improved their battle direction. In fall 1943, the 8th Air Force's heavy bombers conducted a series of deep-penetration raids into Germany, beyond the range of escort fighters. The Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission in August lost 60 B-17s of a force of 376, the 14 October attack lost 77 of a force of 291—26% of the attacking force.

For the US, the very concept of self-defending bombers was called into question, but instead of abandoning daylight raids and turning to night bombing, as the RAF suggested, they chose other paths at first, bombers converted to gunships (the Boeing YB-40) was believed to be able to escort the bomber formations, but when the concept proved to be unsuccessful, thoughts then turned to the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. [51] In early 1943, the USAAF also decided that the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51B be considered for the role of a smaller escort fighter, and in July, a report stated that the P-51B was "the most promising plane" with an endurance of 4 hours 45 minutes with the standard internal fuel of 184 gallons plus 150 gallons carried externally. [52] In August, a P-51B was fitted with an extra internal 85-gallon tank but problems with longitudinal stability occurred so some compromises in performance with the tank full were made. Since the fuel from the fuselage tank would be used during the initial stages of a mission, the fuel tank would be fitted in all Mustangs destined for VIII Fighter Command. [53]

P-51 introduction Edit

The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the need for an effective bomber escort. It used a common, reliable engine and had internal space for a larger-than-average fuel load. With external fuel tanks, it could accompany the bombers from England to Germany and back. [54]

By the time the Pointblank offensive resumed in early 1944, matters had changed. Bomber escort defenses were initially layered, using the shorter-range P-38s and P-47s to escort the bombers during the initial stages of the raid before handing over to the P-51s when they were forced to turn for home. This provided continuous coverage during the raid. The Mustang was so clearly superior to earlier US designs that the 8th Air Force began to steadily switch its fighter groups to the Mustang, first swapping arriving P-47 groups to the 9th Air Force in exchange for those that were using P-51s, then gradually converting its Thunderbolt and Lightning groups. By the end of 1944, 14 of its 15 groups flew the Mustang. [55]

The Luftwaffe's twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighters brought up to deal with the bombers proved to be easy prey for the Mustangs, and had to be quickly withdrawn from combat. The Focke-Wulf Fw 190A, already suffering from poor high-altitude performance, was outperformed by the Mustang at the B-17's altitude, and when laden with heavy bomber-hunting weapons as a replacement for the more vulnerable twin-engined Zerstörer heavy fighters, it suffered heavy losses. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 had comparable performance at high altitudes, but its lightweight airframe was even more greatly affected by increases in armament. The Mustang's much lighter armament, tuned for antifighter combat, allowed it to overcome these single-engined opponents.

Fighting the Luftwaffe Edit

At the start of 1944, Major General James Doolittle, the new commander of the 8th Air Force, ordered many fighter pilots to stop flying in formation with the bombers and instead attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The aim was to achieve air supremacy. Mustang groups were sent far ahead of the bombers in a "fighter sweep" to intercept attacking German fighters.

The Luftwaffe answered with the Gefechtsverband ("battle formation"). This consisted of a Sturmgruppe of heavily armed and armored Fw 190 As escorted by two Begleitgruppen of Messerschmitt Bf 109s, whose task was to keep the Mustangs away from the Fw 190 as they attacked the bombers. This strategy proved to be problematic, as the large German formation took a long time to assemble and was difficult to maneuver. It was often intercepted by the P-51 "fighter sweeps" before it could attack the bombers. However, German attacks against bombers could be effective when they did occur the bomber-destroyer Fw 190As swept in from astern and often pressed their attacks to within 90 m (100 yd). [56]

While not always able to avoid contact with the escorts, the threat of mass attacks and later the "company front" (eight abreast) assaults by armored Sturmgruppe Fw 190As brought an urgency to attacking the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found, either in the air or on the ground. Beginning in late February 1944, 8th Air Force fighter units began systematic strafing attacks on German airfields with increasing frequency and intensity throughout the spring, with the objective of gaining air supremacy over the Normandy battlefield. In general, these were conducted by units returning from escort missions but, beginning in March, many groups also were assigned airfield attacks instead of bomber support. The P-51, particularly with the advent of the K-14 Gyro gunsight and the development of "Clobber Colleges" [57] for the training of fighter pilots in fall 1944, was a decisive element in Allied countermeasures against the Jagdverbände.

The numerical superiority of the USAAF fighters, superb flying characteristics of the P-51, and pilot proficiency helped cripple the Luftwaffe's fighter force. As a result, the fighter threat to the US, and later British, bombers was greatly diminished by July 1944. The RAF, long proponents of night bombing for protection, were able to reopen daylight bombing in 1944 as a result of the crippling of the Luftwaffe fighter arm. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, commander of the German Luftwaffe during the war, was quoted as saying, "When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up." [58] [59] [54]

Beyond Pointblank Edit

On 15 April 1944, VIII Fighter Command began "Operation Jackpot", attacks on Luftwaffe fighter airfields. As the efficacy of these missions increased, the number of fighters at the German airbases fell to the point where they were no longer considered worthwhile targets. On 21 May, targets were expanded to include railways, locomotives, and other rolling stock used by the Germans to transport materiel and troops, in missions dubbed "Chattanooga". [60] The P-51 excelled at this mission, although losses were much higher on strafing missions than in air-to-air combat, partially because the Mustang's liquid-cooled engine (particularly its liquid coolant system) was vulnerable to small-arms fire, unlike the air-cooled R-2800 radials of its Republic P-47 Thunderbolt stablemates based in England, regularly tasked with ground-strafing missions.

Given the overwhelming Allied air superiority, the Luftwaffe put its effort into the development of aircraft of such high performance that they could operate with impunity, but which also made bomber attack much more difficult, merely from the flight velocities they achieved. Foremost among these were the Messerschmitt Me 163B point-defense rocket interceptors, which started their operations with JG 400 near the end of July 1944, and the longer-endurance Messerschmitt Me 262A jet fighter, first flying with the Gruppe-strength Kommando Nowotny unit by the end of September 1944. In action, the Me 163 proved to be more dangerous to the Luftwaffe than to the Allies and was never a serious threat. The Me 262A was a serious threat, but attacks on their airfields neutralized them. The pioneering Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow jet engines of the Me 262As needed careful nursing by their pilots, and these aircraft were particularly vulnerable during takeoff and landing. [61] Lt. Chuck Yeager of the 357th Fighter Group was one of the first American pilots to shoot down an Me 262, which he caught during its landing approach. On 7 October 1944, Lt. Urban L. Drew of the 361st Fighter Group shot down two Me 262s that were taking off, while on the same day Lt. Col. Hubert Zemke, who had transferred to the Mustang-equipped 479th Fighter Group, shot down what he thought was a Bf 109, only to have his gun camera film reveal that it may have been an Me 262. [62] On 25 February 1945, Mustangs of the 55th Fighter Group surprised an entire Staffel of Me 262As at takeoff and destroyed six jets. [63]

The Mustang also proved useful against the V-1s launched toward London. P-51B/Cs using 150-octane fuel were fast enough to catch the V-1 and operated in concert with shorter-range aircraft such as advanced marks of the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Tempest.

By 8 May 1945, [64] the 8th, 9th, and 15th Air Force's P-51 groups [nb 6] claimed some 4,950 aircraft shot down (about half of all USAAF claims in the European theater, the most claimed by any Allied fighter in air-to-air combat) [64] and 4,131 destroyed on the ground. Losses were about 2,520 aircraft. [65] The 8th Air Force's 4th Fighter Group was the top-scoring fighter group in Europe, with 1,016 enemy aircraft claimed destroyed. This included 550 claimed in aerial combat and 466 on the ground. [66]

In air combat, the top-scoring P-51 units (both of which exclusively flew Mustangs) were the 357th Fighter Group of the 8th Air Force with 565 air-to-air combat victories and the 9th Air Force's 354th Fighter Group with 664, which made it one of the top-scoring fighter groups. The top Mustang ace was the USAAF's George Preddy, whose final tally stood at 26.83 victories (a number that includes shared one half- and one third victory credits), 23 of which were scored with the P-51. Preddy was shot down and killed by friendly fire on Christmas Day 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge. [64]

In China and the Pacific Theater Edit

In early 1945, P-51C, D, and K variants also joined the Chinese Nationalist Air Force. These Mustangs were provided to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Fighter Groups and used to attack Japanese targets in occupied areas of China. The P-51 became the most capable fighter in China, while the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force used the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate against it.

The P-51 was a relative latecomer to the Pacific Theater, due largely to the need for the aircraft in Europe, although the P-38's twin-engined design was considered a safety advantage for long, over-water flights. The first P-51s were deployed in the Far East later in 1944, operating in close-support and escort missions, as well as tactical photo-reconnaissance. As the war in Europe wound down, the P-51 became more common. With the capture of Iwo Jima, USAAF P-51 Mustang fighters of the VII Fighter Command were stationed on that island starting in March 1945, being initially tasked with escorting Boeing B-29 Superfortress missions against the Japanese homeland.

The command's last major raid of May was a daylight incendiary attack on Yokohama on 29 May conducted by 517 B-29s escorted by 101 P-51s. This force was intercepted by 150 A6M Zero fighters, sparking an intense air battle in which five B-29s were shot down and another 175 damaged. In return, the P-51 pilots claimed 26 "kills" and 23 "probables" for the loss of three fighters. The 454 B-29s that reached Yokohama struck the city's main business district and destroyed 6.9 square miles (18 km 2 ) of buildings over 1000 Japanese were killed. [67] [68] Overall, the attacks in May destroyed 94 square miles (240 km 2 ) of buildings, which was equivalent to one-seventh of Japan's total urban area. The Minister of Home Affairs, Iwao Yamazaki, concluded after these raids that Japan's civil defense arrangements were "considered to be futile". [69] On the first day of June, 521 B-29s escorted by 148 P-51s were dispatched in a daylight raid against Osaka. While en route to the city, the Mustangs flew through thick clouds, and 27 of the fighters were destroyed in collisions. Nevertheless, 458 heavy bombers and 27 P-51s reached the city, and the bombardment killed 3,960 Japanese and destroyed 3.15 square miles (8.2 km 2 ) of buildings. On 5 June, 473 B-29s struck Kobe by day and destroyed 4.35 square miles (11.3 km 2 ) of buildings for the loss of 11 bombers. A force of 409 B-29s attacked Osaka again on 7 June during this attack, 2.21 square miles (5.7 km 2 ) of buildings were burnt out and the Americans did not suffer any losses. Osaka was bombed for the fourth time that month, on 15 June, when 444 B-29s destroyed 1.9 square miles (4.9 km 2 ) of the city and another 0.59 square miles (1.5 km 2 ) of nearby Amagasaki 300,000 houses were destroyed in Osaka. [70] [71] This attack marked the end of the first phase of XXI Bomber Command's attack on Japan's cities. During May and June, the bombers had destroyed much of the country's six largest cities, killing between 112,000 and 126,762 people and rendering millions homeless. The widespread destruction and high number of casualties from these raids caused many Japanese to realize that their country's military was no longer able to defend the home islands. American losses were low compared to Japanese casualties 136 B-29s were downed during the campaign. [72] [73] [74] In Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Kobe, and Kawasaki, "over 126,762 people were killed . and a million and a half dwellings and over 105 square miles (270 km 2 ) of urban space were destroyed." [75] In Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, "the areas leveled (almost 100 square miles (260 km 2 )) exceeded the areas destroyed in all German cities by both the American and British air forces (about 79 square miles (200 km 2 ))." [75]

P-51s also conducted a series of independent ground-attack missions against targets in the home islands. [76] The first of these operations took place on 16 April, when 57 P-51s strafed Kanoya Air Field in Kyushu. [77] In operations conducted between 26 April and 22 June, the American fighter pilots claimed the destruction of 64 Japanese aircraft and damage to another 180 on the ground, as well as a further 10 shot down in flight these claims were lower than the American planners had expected, however, and the raids were considered unsuccessful. USAAF losses were 11 P-51s to enemy action and seven to other causes. [78]

Due to the lack of Japanese air opposition to the American bomber raids, VII Fighter Command was solely tasked with ground-attack missions from July. These raids were frequently made against airfields to destroy aircraft being held in reserve to attack the expected Allied invasion fleet. While the P-51 pilots only occasionally encountered Japanese fighters in the air, the airfields were protected by antiaircraft batteries and barrage balloons. [79] By the end of the war, VII Fighter Command had conducted 51 ground-attack raids, of which 41 were considered successful. The fighter pilots claimed to have destroyed or damaged 1,062 aircraft and 254 ships, along with large numbers of buildings and railway rolling stock. American losses were 91 pilots killed and 157 Mustangs destroyed. [80]

Pilot observations Edit

Chief Naval Test Pilot and C.O. Captured Enemy Aircraft Flight Capt. Eric Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, RN, tested the Mustang at RAE Farnborough in March 1944 and noted, "The Mustang was a good fighter and the best escort due to its incredible range, make no mistake about it. It was also the best American dogfighter. But the laminar-flow wing fitted to the Mustang could be a little tricky. It could not by any means out-turn a Spitfire. No way. It had a good rate-of-roll, better than the Spitfire, so I would say the plusses to the Spitfire and the Mustang just about equate. If I were in a dogfight, I'd prefer to be flying the Spitfire. The problem was I wouldn't like to be in a dogfight near Berlin, because I could never get home to Britain in a Spitfire!" [81]

The U.S. Air Forces, Flight Test Engineering, assessed the Mustang B on 24 April 1944 thus: "The rate of climb is good and the high speed in level flight is exceptionally good at all altitudes, from sea level to 40,000 feet. The airplane is very maneuverable with good controllability at indicated speeds up to 400 MPH [sic]. The stability about all axes is good and the rate of roll is excellent however, the radius of turn is fairly large for a fighter. The cockpit layout is excellent, but visibility is poor on the ground and only fair in level flight." [82]

Kurt Bühligen, the third-highest scoring German fighter pilot of World War II's Western Front (with 112 confirmed victories, three against Mustangs), later stated, "We would out-turn the P-51 and the other American fighters, with the Bf 109 or the Fw 190. Their turn rate was about the same. The P-51 was faster than us, but our munitions] and cannon were better." [83] Heinz Bär said that the P-51 "was perhaps the most difficult of all Allied aircraft to meet in combat. It was fast, maneuverable, hard to see, and difficult to identify because it resembled the Me 109". [84]

After World War II Edit

In the aftermath of World War II, the USAAF consolidated much of its wartime combat force and selected the P-51 as a "standard" piston-engined fighter, while other types, such as the P-38 and P-47, were withdrawn or given substantially reduced roles. As the more advanced (P-80 and P-84) jet fighters were introduced, the P-51 was also relegated to secondary duties.

In 1947, the newly formed USAF Strategic Air Command employed Mustangs alongside F-6 Mustangs and F-82 Twin Mustangs, due to their range capabilities. In 1948, the designation P-51 (P for pursuit) was changed to F-51 (F for fighter) and the existing F designator for photographic reconnaissance aircraft was dropped because of a new designation scheme throughout the USAF. Aircraft still in service in the USAF or Air National Guard (ANG) when the system was changed included: F-51B, F-51D, F-51K, RF-51D (formerly F-6D), RF-51K (formerly F-6K) and TRF-51D (two-seat trainer conversions of F-6Ds). They remained in service from 1946 through 1951. By 1950, although Mustangs continued in service with the USAF after the war, the majority of the USAF's Mustangs had become surplus to requirements and placed in storage, while some were transferred to the Air Force Reserve and the ANG.

From the start of the Korean War, the Mustang once again proved useful. A "substantial number" of stored or in-service F-51Ds were shipped, via aircraft carriers, to the combat zone, and were used by the USAF, the South African Air Force, and the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF). The F-51 was used for ground attack, fitted with rockets and bombs, and photo reconnaissance, rather than being as interceptors or "pure" fighters. After the first North Korean invasion, USAF units were forced to fly from bases in Japan and the F-51Ds, with their long range and endurance, could attack targets in Korea that short-ranged F-80 jets could not. Because of the vulnerable liquid cooling system, however, the F-51s sustained heavy losses to ground fire. [4] Due to its lighter structure and a shortage of spare parts, the newer, faster F-51H was not used in Korea.

Mustangs continued flying with USAF and ROKAF fighter-bomber units on close support and interdiction missions in Korea until 1953 when they were largely replaced as fighter-bombers by USAF F-84s and by United States Navy (USN) Grumman F9F Panthers. Other air forces and units using the Mustang included the Royal Australian Air Force's 77 Squadron, which flew Australian-built Mustangs as part of British Commonwealth Forces Korea. The Mustangs were replaced by Gloster Meteor F8s in 1951. The South African Air Force's 2 Squadron used U.S.-built Mustangs as part of the U.S. 18th Fighter Bomber Wing and had suffered heavy losses by 1953, after which 2 Squadron converted to the F-86 Sabre.

F-51s flew in the Air Force Reserve and ANG throughout the 1950s. The last American USAF Mustang was F-51D-30-NA AF serial no. 44-74936, which was finally withdrawn from service with the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in January 1957 and retired to what was then called the Air Force Central Museum, [85] although it was briefly reactivated to fly at the 50th anniversary of the Air Force Aerial Firepower Demonstration at the Air Proving Ground, Eglin AFB, Florida, on 6 May 1957. [86] This aircraft, painted as P-51D-15-NA serial no. 44-15174, is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, in Dayton, Ohio. [87]

The final withdrawal of the Mustang from USAF dumped hundreds of P-51s onto the civilian market. The rights to the Mustang design were purchased from North American by the Cavalier Aircraft Corporation, which attempted to market the surplus Mustang aircraft in the U.S. and overseas. In 1967 and again in 1972, the USAF procured batches of remanufactured Mustangs from Cavalier, most of them destined for air forces in South America and Asia that were participating in the Military Assistance Program (MAP). These aircraft were remanufactured from existing original F-51D airframes fitted with new V-1650-7 engines, a new radio, tall F-51H-type vertical tails, and a stronger wing that could carry six 13 mm (0.50 in) machine guns and a total of eight underwing hardpoints. Two 1,000-pound (450 kg) bombs and six 130 mm (5 in) rockets could be carried. They all had an original F-51D-type canopy but carried a second seat for an observer behind the pilot. One additional Mustang was a two-seat, dual-control TF-51D (67-14866) with an enlarged canopy and only four wing guns. Although these remanufactured Mustangs were intended for sale to South American and Asian nations through the MAP, they were delivered to the USAF with full USAF markings. They were, however, allocated new serial numbers (67-14862/14866, 67-22579/22582 and 72-1526/1541). [87]

The last U.S. military use of the F-51 was in 1968 when the U. S. Army employed a vintage F-51D (44-72990) as a chase aircraft for the Lockheed YAH-56 Cheyenne armed helicopter project. This aircraft was so successful that the Army ordered two F-51Ds from Cavalier in 1968 for use at Fort Rucker as chase planes. They were assigned the serials 68-15795 and 68-15796. These F-51s had wingtip fuel tanks and were unarmed. Following the end of the Cheyenne program, these two chase aircraft were used for other projects. One of them (68-15795) was fitted with a 106 mm recoilless rifle for evaluation of the weapon's value in attacking fortified ground targets. [88] Cavalier Mustang 68-15796 survives at the Air Force Armament Museum, Eglin AFB, Florida, displayed indoors in World War II markings.

The F-51 was adopted by many foreign air forces and continued to be an effective fighter into the mid-1980s with smaller air arms. The last Mustang ever downed in battle occurred during Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic in 1965, with the last aircraft finally being retired by the Dominican Air Force in 1984. [89]

Service with other air forces Edit

After World War II, the P-51 Mustang served in the air arms of more than 25 nations. [11] During the war, a Mustang cost about $51,000, [90] while many hundreds were sold postwar for the nominal price of one dollar to signatories of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, ratified in Rio de Janeiro in 1947. [91]

These countries used the P-51 Mustang:

P-51s and civil aviation Edit

Many P-51s were sold as surplus after the war, often for as little as $1,500. Some were sold to former wartime fliers or other aficionados for personal use, while others were modified for air racing. [121]

One of the most significant Mustangs involved in air racing was serial number 44-10947, a surplus P-51C-10-NT purchased by film stunt pilot Paul Mantz. He modified the wings, sealing them to create a giant fuel tank in each one these "wet wings" reduced the need for fuel stops or drag-inducing drop tanks. Named Blaze of Noon after the film Blaze of Noon, the aircraft won the 1946 and 1947 Bendix Air Races, took second in the 1948 Bendix, and placed third in the 1949 Bendix. Mantz also set a U.S. coast-to-coast record in 1947. He sold the Mustang to Charles F. Blair Jr (future husband of Maureen O'Hara), who renamed it Excalibur III and used it to set a New York-to-London (about 3,460 miles or 5,570 kilometres) record in 1951: 7 hr 48 min from takeoff at Idlewild to overhead London Airport. Later that year, Blair flew from Norway to Fairbanks, Alaska, via the North Pole (about 3,130 miles or 5,040 kilometres), proving that navigation via sun sights was possible over the magnetic North Pole region. For this feat, he was awarded the Harmon Trophy and the Air Force was forced to change its thoughts on a possible Soviet air strike from the north. This Mustang now sits in the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. [122]

In 1958, the RCAF retired its 78 remaining Mustangs. RCAF pilot Lynn Garrison ferried them from their various storage locations to Canastota, New York, where the American buyers were based. Garrison flew each of the surviving aircraft at least once. These aircraft make up a large percentage of the aircraft presently flying worldwide. [123]

The most prominent firm to convert Mustangs to civilian use was Trans-Florida Aviation, later renamed Cavalier Aircraft Corporation, which produced the Cavalier Mustang. Modifications included a taller tailfin and wingtip tanks. A number of conversions included a Cavalier Mustang specialty: a "tight" second seat added in the space formerly occupied by the military radio and fuselage fuel tank.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the United States Department of Defense wished to supply aircraft to South American countries and later Indonesia for close air support and counterinsurgency, it paid Cavalier to return some of their civilian conversions back to updated military specifications.

In the 21st century, a P-51 can command a price of more than $1 million, even for only partially restored aircraft. [123] There were 204 privately owned P-51s in the U.S. on the FAA registry in 2011, [124] most of which are still flying, often associated with organizations such as the Commemorative Air Force (formerly the Confederate Air Force). [125]

In May 2013, Doug Matthews set an altitude record of 12,975 m (42,568 ft) in a P-51 named The Rebel for piston-powered aircraft weighing 3,000 to 6,000 kg (6,600 to 13,200 lb). [126] Flying from a grass runway at Florida's Indiantown airport and over Lake Okeechobee, Matthews set world records for time to reach altitudes of 9,000 m (30,000 ft), 18 minutes and 12,000 m (39,000 ft), 31 minutes. He set a level-flight altitude record of 12,200 m (40,100 ft) in level flight and an absolute altitude record of 13,000 m (42,500 ft), [127] [128] breaking the previous record of 11,248 m (36,902 ft) set in 1954.

Incidents Edit

  • On 9 June 1973, William Penn Patrick (43) a certified pilot and his passenger, Christian Hagert, died when Patrick's P-51 Mustang crashed in Lakeport, California. [129][130]
  • On 1 July 1990 at the National Capital Air Show (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), Harry E. Tope was killed when his P-51 Mustang crashed. [131]
  • On 16 September 2011 The Galloping Ghost, a modified P-51 piloted by Jimmy Leeward of Ocala, Florida, crashed during an air race in Reno, Nevada. Leeward and at least nine people on the ground were killed when the racer suddenly crashed near the edge of the grandstand. [132]

Over 20 variants of the P-51 Mustang were produced from 1940 to after the war.

Production Edit

Except for the small numbers assembled or produced in Australia, all Mustangs were built by North American initially at Inglewood, California, but then additionally in Dallas, Texas.

Read the History about the P-51D "Mustang"

1951: RCAF 9300
1958: N6313T
1977: N51TK, "Lou IV" racer #19 (Tom Kelly)
1986: N51KD, "Cutters Capers" race #91
1993: (Wally Fisk)
1999: Rep. new paint job "Slo-Mo-Shun" (Brian Reynolds)
2000: New name: "American Beauty"

The Mustang, designed initially to meet a British requirement for fighter service in Europe, became the leading US fighter in the European Theater of Operation during the final months of the war. The Mustang was designed and rolled out in 117 days. It was first flown on October 26, 1940. The P-51is the synergism of every contemporary advanced aerodynamic and structural design primarily, it was the first fighter with a laminar wing design. As a result, it held an exceptional internal fuel capacity and low drag enabling it to fly an extended combat radius.

The RAF first flew the P-51 on July 27, 1942 as the MK I Mustang, of which 620 were ordered. Although the aircraft had great potential, it was limited by its Allison engine and relegated primarily to ground attack and reconnaissance roles.

The USAAF ordered 500 Mustangs, the first buy as A-36A dive-bombers in late 1942. With an Allison powered V-1710-87 engine, the aircraft demonstrated high power at low level however, it was inefficient above 15,000 feet with it's single-stage supercharger. The aircraft wasn't really wanted for an attack role, but was employed as a means to maintain the production line while the merits of the airframe was being argued. The A-36A was named the "Apache", then later the "Invader" until the name "Mustang" stuck. The aircrafts were moderately successful in the Mediterranean area of operation claiming its share of aerial victories against the Luftwaffe in air-to-air combat.

Cautiously, the USAAF ordered an initial 150 P-51s mounted with four 20 mm cannons. Thereafter, 310 P-51As were ordered, with a 1,200 hp V-1710-81 engine, and four 0.5-in machine guns with racks for two 500-lb bombs.

The British took a dramatic step that began to turn off the cautious attitude toward the Mustang by proposing the Merlin engine be fitted into the air frame. There was even discussion that the engine should be placed behind the cockpit, similar to the P-39 configuration. In 1942, with installation of the two-stage Merlin engines and four-bladed propellers, the Mustang performed extremely well, exceeding 400 mph and, the transformation produced a fighter that could equal or outperform any other aircraft in the air at that time. North American developed plans to manufacture the P-51 with the license-built Merlin 61, the Packard V-1650-3 in-line engine.

The USAAF ordered 2,200 P-51Bs followed on by the P-51Cs. The aircrafts were mounted with six 0.5 machine guns. The P-51D variant was ordered in 1943 and was introduced with the bubble canopy and dorsal fin to control stability problems. Even though the Malcom hood, which enhanced visibility on the British Mustang Mk II and Mk III, was employed by the USAAF, it was the bubble canopy that became the standard feature of the P-51. Few P-51Ds were operated by the British as the Mustang Mk V. Later P-51Ds included an additional 85-gal fuel cell behind the pilot's seat. This enabled the Mustang's combat radius to extend from England to Berlin and back.

P51D 44-13926, of the 361st FG, 8AF flown by 1st Lt. Urban Drew during WWII

In an effort to lower the Mustang's weight, the P-51H variant came about with a taller tail, of which 555 were manufactured. This version came late into the war and flew missions from the Philippines prior to VJ day.

The P-51K was the Dallas, Texas variant of the Inglewood, California
P-51D, sporting a different propeller, of which 1,500 were built.

In combat, the Mustang proved to be significant in its role to wartime victory. The aircraft was employed throughout 40 USAAF fighter groups and 31 RAF squadrons. The P-51 Mustang's combat record is generally considered to consist of: 4,950 aerial victories, and 4,131 ground kills resulting in an 11:1 "kill ratio".

Mustang in Flight: 1942

On Shorpy:Today’s Top 5

Packard Merlins

At the beginning of the war, 1939, the British air ministry sent a buying team to the USA to source a fighter superior to the british spitfire and a supply of Merlin engines. It appears that Rolls-Royce feared they would not be able to supply Merlins in sufficient quantity for the number of aircraft projected to use them, among them Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster bomber and others, so they contracted Packard to produce Merlins under licence.

When the US found itself at war after Pearl Harbour, it checked around it's its armament inventory and found Mustangs awaiting shipment to us British, these were immediately impounded, re-gunned and and impressed into USAAF service. They also discovered a ready supply of Merlin engines being built in their own backyard. The aircraft proved to be a disappointment in British service and was relegated to ground attack. It was only when a Merlin was fitted that it's its laminar flow wing came into it's its own. By the way it's its bubble canopy and drop tanks were also fitted by us first. The US never managed to fit a cannon of US design in it's its fighters and even in Korea the North American Sabre still had to rely on 0.5 machine guns against the Russian Mig-15 cannons. Mustangs were not much used by us British after that, we preferred to rely on the constantly improving Spitfire.


When North American designed the NA73-X, the factory named the entire project "Apache." The P51/Mustang IA was designed without British involvement and still had the original factory label. The P51, after production, was slated for half USAAF training units and half British deployment. The British commonly renamed American aircraft but in the case of the P51 (no A,B,C or D/K) the Americans had always referred to the planes as Apache. The Army echelon did not like the name and they were more than happy to change it to Mustang later.

"Invader" is what US Army theater personnel called the A36 Apache, but it was never an official designation.


Hello, I can't understand how to add your blog ( ) in my rss reader

[Click the "Shorpy RSS" link at the top of the homepage. - Dave]

This is either an I/P-51 or a P-51A

The inlet scoop over the engine behind the prop is indicative of the Allison powered versions of the Mustang. These were the very first models produced and saw limited service as attack aircraft due to their poor performance above 20,000 feet. The big change for the Mustang came with the addition of the British Merlin engine. the rest is history.

It did have an unique official designation of P-51-1 for 57 planes for AAF use withdrawn from an RAF Defense Aid (Lend-Lease) contract for 150 as their Mustang 1A. Serials for that contract were 41-11981 to -11980, but there is no found record of exactly which ones went to AAF. Confusion arises in that all were similar to Mustang I but for wing cannon however, Mustang 1 was factory Model 83, and Mustang 1A in this contract was Model 91 with no new model number assigned. To muddy the waters moreso, AAF first applied a designation of F-6A—as a photo ship—but that idea was tossed out. There is some thought that it was to be Model 92, but that had already been assigned to a Boeing B-29 contract which was canceled, so cooler minds took the easy way out by simply adding a dash 1 and moved on to other things.

A-36 was the Invader, not Apache

If the the P-51A (cannon armed) also was in the AAF Apache era I can't say for certain, but the reply below restricting the Apache appellation to the A-36 is in error. Later the A-26 assumed the Invader name, but that p[lane did not reach operational combat units until months after Overlord.


This is a P-51 (no suffix), RAF equivalent is Mustang IA. Only this version had the four 20mm Hispano guns. Mustang Mk. I's had two chin-mounted .50 caliber machine guns and one .50 caliber and two .303's in each wing for a total of eight. The Mk. I's were exported for use by the RAF and RCAF.

Apache? Not.

While basically the same airframe it's not an Apache. A-36's had dive brakes on the wings.

"Mustang I"

This is a Mustang I, the original version built for the Brits before the US put in their order. The primary clue is in the guns -- all US versions were armed with Browning 50 caliber machine guns, which have barrels short enough to almost fit in the wings. Only stubs will show for 50 calibers. On the other hand, the Mustang I was ordered with four Hispano 20 mm cannons instead of machine guns. The long gun fairings conclusively identify this as an Allison engined, 20mm cannon armed, Mustang I.

(The British gave their aircraft a snappy name, like "Spitfire" or "mustang", and identified models by roman numerals. On the other hand, the US relied on familiar type and model numbers, like "P" (for Pursuit)- 51. In the US system, versions were identified by letters, and minor modifications by "block numbers." For example, "P-47D-25")

Early vs. Late P-51 Mustangs

The Brits were not impressed with the first P51s we sent them, but some bright fellow thought to put an engine from the Spitfire in one.

We started making that Rolls-Royce Merlin engine over here (in a Packard plant?) to put in the later Mustang, turning it into a world-beater.


My records show this aircraft as being built for the RAF, but retained by the USAAC for testing. Serial number of the aircraft is 41-37416. Aircraft was destroyed during shipment to Europe in 1943.

Alfred Palmer: 1906-1993

Alfred Palmer's obituary from Feb. 2, 1993:

Alfred Palmer, a career photographer who got his first camera from Ansel Adams and who had his first public show at the age of 84, died Sunday. Mr. Palmer, a longtime Bay Area resident who most recently lived in Larkspur, died in San Rafael after a long illness. He was 86.

A staff photographer and film maker for such shipping companies as Dollar, Matson and American President Lines, Mr. Palmer had his debut exhibition in 1990.

"It's about time," he said during the two-part show at the Bank of America Concourse Gallery. The first exhibition included World War II photographs taken when he worked for the Office of War Information.

The second included pictures from his travels during the 1920s and 1930s and featured such photographs as an untouchable in Bombay, an old man in Beijing and temple dancers in Bali.

Mr. Palmer estimated that he traveled half a million miles at sea during his career and circumnavigated the globe "more times than I can remember."

In 1917, he helped a young Ansel Adams carry his heavy tripod and camera around the Yosemite Valley, where Adams took some of his most famous and striking photographs. At the end of the expedition, Adams presented Mr. Palmer with a $1 Box Brownie camera. "He made me a photographer," Mr. Palmer later told an interviewer.

A former merchant seaman, Mr. Palmer also produced films about the American Merchant Marine.

Mr. Palmer is survived by his wife, Alexa, of San Rafael three children, Julia Gennert of Bolinas, Donald Palmer of Stinson Beach and David Palmer of Los Altos and nine grandchildren.

Refining the Aircraft

In April 1942, the RAF asked Rolls-Royce to work on addressing the aircraft's high altitude woes. Engineers quickly realized that many of the issues could be resolved by swapping the Allison with one of their Merlin 61 engines equipped with a two speed, two-stage supercharger. Testing in Britain and America, where the engine was built under contract as the Packard V-1650-3, proved highly successful. Immediately put into mass production as the P-51B/C (British Mk III), the aircraft began reaching the front lines in late 1943.

Though the improved Mustang received rave reviews from pilots, many complained about a lack of rearward visibility due to the aircraft's "razorback" profile. While the British have experimented with field modifications using "Malcolm hoods" similar to those on the Supermarine Spitfire, North American sought a permanent solution to the problem. The result was the definitive version of the Mustang, the P-51D, which featured a completely transparent bubble hood and six .50 cal. machine guns. The most widely produced variant, 7,956 P-51Ds were built. A final type, the P-51H arrived too late to see service.

Summary of P-51 Variants [ edit | edit source ]

NA-73X The initial prototype was designated the NA-73X by the manufacturer, North American Aviation. Mustang Mk I (NA-73 and NA-83) The first production contract was awarded by the British for 320 NA-73 fighters. A second British contract for 300 more Mustang Mk Is was assigned a model number of NA-83 by North American. The RAF mostly used its Allison-engined Mustangs as tactical-photo reconnaissance fighters, fitting many of its Mustang I, IA and II variants with camera equipment. XP-51 Two aircraft of this lot delivered to the USAAF were designated XP-51. P-51 (NA-91) In September 1940 150 aircraft were ordered by the USAAF. These were designated by the USAAF as P-51 and initially named the Apache, although this name was dropped early-on for Mustang. The British designated this model as Mustang Mk IA. They were equipped with four long-barrelled 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk II cannon instead of machine guns. Following British practice, a number of aircraft from this lot were fitted out by the USAAF as tactical-photo reconnaissance fighters designated F-6A. ⏄] A-36A Apache (NA-97) In early 1942, the USAAF ordered a lot of 500 aircraft modified as dive bombers and designated A-36A. This model became the first USAAF Mustang to see combat. One aircraft was passed to the British, who gave it the name Mustang Mk I (Dive Bomber). P-51A (NA-99) Following the A-36A order, the USAAF ordered 310 P-51As, fifty of which were delivered to the RAF as Mustang IIs. ⏄] 35 P-51As were equipped with K-24 cameras and designated F-6B. ⏄] All these models of the Mustang were equipped with Allison V-1710 engines except the prototype XP-51B.

XP-51B (NA-101) Two USAAF ordered P-51s had been allocated to be fitted and tested with Packard-Merlins these were first called XP-78s by the USAAF, but were soon re-designated as XP-51Bs. ⏄] P-51B (NA-102) Beginning with this model the Packard V-1650-3 replaced the Allison, although from the P-51B-10NA series the V-1650-7 was used. ⏅] Almost 2,000 P-51Bs were built ⏅] P-51C (NA-103) In the summer of 1943, Mustang production was begun at a new plant in Dallas, Texas, as well as at the existing facility in Inglewood, California. The P-51C version mainly used the medium-altitude rated V-1650-7. The RAF named these models Mustang Mk III. 1,750 P-51Cs were built. ⏅] The RAF also used P-51Bs and Cs, designating them Mustang IIIs. A number of P-51Bs and Cs were modified as tactical-photo reconnaissance fighters and re-designated as F-6Cs. P-51D (NA-106) A P-51B-1NA (43-12102) was modified and tested with a cut down rear fuselage and clear-blown canopy structure, becoming the fore-runner of the production P-51Ds. ⏆] P-51D (NA-109) As well as the modified fuselage and new canopy the production P-51Ds had modified wings compared with the P-51B/C series and became the most widely produced variant of the Mustang, with 6,502 being built at Inglewood and 1,600 at Dallas - a combined total of 8,102. ⎶] 280 were used by the RAF and designated Mustang Mk IV. ⎶] P-51K A Dallas-built variation of the P-51D equipped with an Aeroproducts propeller in place of the Hamilton Standard propeller was designated P-51K 1,500 of these were built. ⎶] The RAF received 594 P-51-Ks and assigned them the name Mustang Mk IVA. ⎶] F-6D 136 Dallas built P-51Ds were converted to photo-reconnaissance versions designated F-6D. ⎶] F-6K The photo-reconnaissance versions of the P-51K, of which 163 were built, was designated F-6K. ⎶]

P-51B in flight showing wing planform

Dual control P-51C "Betty Jane" operated by the Collings Foundation.

P-51F As the USAAF specifications required airframe design to a higher load factor than that used by the British for their fighters, consideration was given to re-designing the Mustang to the lower British requirements in order to reduce the weight of the aircraft and thus improve performance. In 1943, North American submitted a proposal to do the re-design as model NA-105, which was accepted by the USAAF. The designation XP-51F was assigned for prototypes powered with V-1650 engines. A small number of P-51Fs were passed to the British as the Mustang Mk V. P-51G XP-51G was assigned to those variants with reverse lend/lease Merlin 14.SM engines. Modifications included changes to the cowling, a simplified undercarriage with smaller wheels and disk brakes, and a larger canopy. P-51J A third prototype was added to the development that was powered by an Allison V-1710 engine. This aircraft was designated XP-51J. As the engine was insufficiently developed, the XP-51J was loaned to Allison for engine development. [ Clarification needed ] P-51H The final production Mustang, the P-51H, embodied the experience gained in the development of the lightweight XP-51F and XP-51G aircraft. This aircraft, model NA-126, and, with minor differences, NA-129, came too late to participate in World War II, but it brought the development of the Mustang to a peak and was one of the fastest production piston-engine fighters to see service. The P-51H used the Merlin V-1650-9 engine, equipped with Simmons automatic boost control and water injection, allowing War Emergency Power as high as 2,270 hp (1,690 kW). Some of the weight savings inherited from the XP-51F and XP-51G were invested in lengthening the fuselage and increasing the height of the tailfin, greatly reducing the tendency to yaw, and in restoring the fuselage fuel tank. The canopy was changed back to more nearly resemble the P-51D style, over a somewhat raised pilot's position. Service access to the guns and ammunition was improved. The P-51H was designed to complement the P-47N as the primary aircraft for the invasion of Japan, and 2,000 were ordered to be built at the Inglewood plant. With the solution to the problem of yaw control, the P-51H was now considered a suitable candidate for testing as an aircraft carrier-based fighter but with the end of the war, the testing was cut short, and production was halted after 555 aircraft were built. Although some P-51Hs were issued to operational units, none saw combat. One aircraft was given to the RAF for testing and evaluation. Serial number 44-64192 was re-serialed as BuNo 09064 and used by the U.S. Navy to test transonic airfoil designs, then returned to the Air National Guard in 1952. The P-51H was not used for combat in the Korean War despite its improved handling characteristics, due to the lack of experience with durability of the lighter airframe under combat conditions as well as limited numbers in the USAF inventory. ⏇] P-51L With the cutback in production, the variants of the P-51H with different versions of the Merlin engine were produced in either limited numbers or terminated, including the P-51L, similar to the P-51H but utilizing the 2,270 hp (1,690 kW) V-1650-11 engine, which was never built. P-51M The Dallas-built version of the P-51H, the P-51M, or NA-124, which utilized the V-1650-9A engine lacking water injection and therefore rated for lower maximum power, of which one was built out of the original 1629 ordered, AAF Serial Number 45-11743. F-51 Redesignation of all P-51s in 1947 in the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard following establishment of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service. TF-51D Twin seat/dual control version of the F-51 with four versus six guns. Trans-Florida Executive Mustang ⏈] XR-51D

25 P 51XR Mustang N6WJ Precious Metal 2014 Reno Air Race

A Unofficial designation to the heavily modified P-51D Reno Air Racer "Precious Metal". Powered by an estimated 3,200 horsepower Griffon. The XR designation, created by the race crew, signifies the specially designed contra-rotating 3-Blade propellers. "Precious Metal" is the only P-51 of its kind flying in the world. Two other Griffon powered Mustangs have over the years "RB51 Red Baron" & Miss Ashley II, ⏉] a heavily modified airframe and cockpit that including Lear Jet wings F-86 F-86 tail. ⏊] Cavalier 750 ⏈] Cavalier 1200 ⏈] Cavalier 1500 ⏈] Cavalier 2000 ⏈] Cavalier 2500 ⏈] Cavalier Mustang II ⏈] Cavalier Turbo Mustang III ⏈] Piper PA-48 Enforcer

Piper PA48 Enforcer in USAF trials

Losing contender in the Light Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (LARA) tri-service competition, won by the North American OV-10 Bronco. A highly modified Cavalier modification powered by a Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engine.

North American Aviation P-51 Mustang

Unlike most of the famous aircraft of WWII, the P-51 Mustang had not even been thought of when the war started. It was developed quickly to meet a British order, and was at first of only passing interest to the US Army. Soon, however, its outstanding qualities brought it to the very forefront, and in the final 18 months of war it was the leading US fighter in the European theatre. Not least of its many attributes was its ability to escort bombers over long distances. Goering said, "When i saw the Mustangs over Berlin, i knew the war was lost".

Discussions between the British Air Purchasing Commission and North American Aviation began in late 1940. The British wanted NAA to build the Curtiss Hawk 87 (Kittyhawk) under licence, NAA said they could design a much better fighter and, after British counter-arguments, a contract was signed in April 1940 for a prototype NA.73. British hesitation was due to the fact NAA had never built a fighter (except for the P-64), but the NA.73X prototype was a masterpiece. Rolled out in just 117 days, and flown on 26th October 1940, it combined every modern aerodynamic, structural and systems advance, chief results of which were exceptional internal fuel capacity and low drag.

In April 1942 the Mustang I entered service with No.2 Squadron, RAF Army Co-operation Command, in the low-level reconnaissance role. It was obviously far better than any previous American fighter, but the low rated height of its engine resulted in poor performance above medium altitudes. Orders mounted, a September 1940 batch having specified four cannon armament. USSAF trials soon resulted in American orders, starting with the cannon-armed P-51 and following with 500 A-36A fighter bombers. Altogether 1579 Allison-engined models were built, called Mk I, IA and II by the RAF, the F-6A being a photo version.

By 1942 several observers had suggested overcoming the high-altitude limitation by fitting a 60-series Merlin engine, and the first 'Mustang X' flew on 13th October 1942. However, only a few weeks later NAA did a totally different conversion, and this was ordered in massive numbers (2200) before the first XP-51B flew in December 1942. Largely redesigned, the P-51B had an additional inter cooler radiator and augmented coolant and oil radiators, and a large area four blade propeller to absorb the power at high altitude, where it’s all round performance put the new variant in the very front rank.

By summer 1943 extremely large scale production of the P-51B was in hand at Inglewood and of the identical C at Dallas, and combat wings of the 8th Air Force in England received aircraft on 1st December 1943. The key to long-range escort, was a task expected to be met by a special design such as the unsuccessful XP-75 Eagle, which had extra fuel capacity. More fuel in the fuselage, at the expense of tricky stability until the extra tank had been emptied, was augmented by drop tanks of 75 and finally 108 US gallons (284 and 409 litre's) capacity under each wing, with which flights could be made to a target 850 miles away, covering every point in Western Europe. Once the tanks had been emptied and dropped the P-51 could out-perform any regular Bf 109 of Fw 190.

One of the features unchanged in the P-51B was the canopy, but it was soon realised the British Malcolm sliding hood was better and this was fitted as a field modification to RAF Mustang III's and to many USAAF P-51Bs and Cs. Later in 1944, NAA introduced the P-51D with a sliding 'bubble' canopy, cut-down rear fuselage, increased firepower and, later bigger bomb-load plus rocket attachments. By the end of 1944 an extended dorsal fin was standard. P-51s served with many Allied air forces. As well as the P-51K with a propeller of different make, NAA built prototypes of the P-51F and G lightweight Mustangs, from which emerged the final production model, the P-51H, a few of which saw action against Japan. The P-82 Twin Mustang, like the P-51J, was too late for the war.

The RAF was the first air force to operate the P-51, which was originally designed to meet RAF requirements. The first Mustang Mk I's (P-51A's) entered service in 1941, wearing the standard RAF fighter markings. Due to poor high-altitude performance, the Mustangs were soon transferred to Army co-operation and fighter reconnaissance duties. On 27th July 1942, 16 RAF Mustangs undertook their first long-range reconnaissance mission over Germany. During Operation Jubilee, the Dieppe Raid (19th August 1942), four British and Canadian Mustang squadrons, including No.26 Squadron saw action. By 1943/1944, British Mustangs were used extensively to seek out V-1 flying bomb sites. The final RAF Mustang Mk I and Mustang Mk II aircraft were struck off charge in 1945. The RAF operated several Mustang Mk III (P-51B/C) machines, the first units converting to the type in late 1943 and 1944. Mustang Mk III units were operational until the end of World War II, though many units had already converted to the Mustang Mk IV (P-51D/K). As the Mustang was a Lend-Lease type, all aircraft still on RAF charge at the end of the war were either returned to the USAAF "on paper" or retained by the RAF for scrapping. The final Mustangs were retired from RAF use in 1947.

After the war, the P-51 remained in US service with the Strategic Air Command until 1949, and with the Air National Guard and Reserves into the 1950s. It became one of the first fighters to see combat in the Korean War. In addition, over 50 air forces around the world acquired and used the Mustang for many more years, some as recently as the early 1980s. When the US Air Force realigned their aircraft designations in the 1950s, the Mustang became the F-51.

Mustang Mk.I in USAAF Service - History

Remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.

Valor in Combat

This site is dedicated to the men of the 354th Fighter Group during World War II. The group was assigned to IX Fighter Command under the command of Brigadier General Elwood R. "Pete" Quesada. The 354th Fighter Group was the first unit to take the Rolls-Royce Merlin P-51B Mustang into combat. The Pioneer Mustang Fighter Group, as they were famously known, was instrumental in the development of the P-51 for use in long-range missions to escort Eighth Air Force heavy bombers on strategic bombing raids deep into enemy territory at a very critical time. This unit achieved the highest record of 701 enemy aircraft destroyed in air-to-air engagements.

There are literally hundreds of recorded pages meticulously written by group and squadron historians detailing day to day operations from its activation in November 1942 to the end of hostitlies in May 1945. Presented here is only a concise narrative, this is their story.

354th HQ

353rd FS

355th FS

356th FS

Items of Interest

Lt. Col. James H. Howard Dedication

William W. Louie, 356th Fighter Squadron, commissioned a Bronze plaque to honor Lt. Col. James H. Howard’s heroic actions over Germany on 11 January 1944. The Bronze plaque was dedicated at Boxted Airfield Museum's 75th Anniversary Commemoration in 2018.

Tactical Markings 1943 to 1945

Twelve full-color illustrations showing squadron code letters, camouflage paint schemes, tactical markings and squadron recognition colors of 353rd, 355th and 356th Fighter Squadron Mustangs and Thunderbolts from November 1943 to May 1945.

The Stars Look Down

The Supreme Allied Commander's flight with the Pioneer Mustang Fighter Group on the Fourth of July 1944.

Top Ten Fighter Groups

In the entire ETO, the 354th Fighter Group had the highest total of claims against enemy aircraft destroyed in the air.

Pioneer Cinema

The P-51 Mustang's development as a long-range escort fighter. Interviews with combat veterans. Five other videos available.


These people provided assistance and contributed materials. I am eternally grateful to the 354th Pioneer Mustang Fighter Group Association, without them this website would not be possible:

354th Fighter Group Historians: Capt. Arthur F. Brown (354th HQ), Rudolph A. Tholt (354th HQ),
Capt. Fredrick S. Burkhardt (354th HQ), Lt. Albert J. Feigen (353rd FS), Lt Donald F. Snow (355th FS), Lt. Gabriel M. Bernstein (356th FS), Capt. Albert D. Fowler (356th FS), and Lt. Charles F. Kennaw (353rd FS).

354th Pioneer Mustang Fighter Group Association Members, William W. Louie, Charles "Chuck" Tighe, Raymond Bain, Clayton K. Gross, Norman E. Davis, Alan Grant, Rosemary Krebs, Larry Wood, Roberta Roddy, Robert D. Davis, Walter Harrington, Jon Teboe, JMT Productions, Robert W. Lamb, Paul Cornell, Jr., Joesph A. Kronek, Ted Skowronek, Hugh Gibson, Jeff Stephens, Al Styrsky family, Robert L. Young, Jr., Tripp Alyn, Michael F. Triventi, Jack E. Wimer, Doug Gifford, Jim Pierce, Walt Fink, Catherine and Millicent Carrizales.

World War II Database

ww2dbase When North American Aviation President "Dutch" Kindleberger approached Sir Henry Self of the British Supply Committee for the sale of the B-25 Mitchell bombers in 1939, Self responded with a more urgent need for fighters. Self initially asked if North American could produce the Curtiss Tomahawk fighters under license, but Kindleberger responded negatively. Instead, he promised, North American was to deliver a better design, and in less time than what the company would need to gear a new production line for the manufacturing of the Tomahawk design. By Mar 1940, the British ordered 320 of the new Mustang fighters. On 26 Jun 1940, production was expanded when Packard was given a license to build the design with a different, Rolls-Royce Merlin, engine.

ww2dbase It would be interesting to note that, initially, the United States Army Air Corps disliked the new design. Not only that it did not show any interest in purchasing aircraft of this design, it also attempted to block the export to Britain based on its protectionist philosophy. Relieved that USAAC eventually abandoned its effort to lobby against the export, North American promised that two examples would be given to the US Army at no cost. These two examples would be the first to carry the US Army designation P-51.

ww2dbase The first prototype, designated NA-73X, took flight on 26 Oct 1940, merely 117 days after the order was placed. It handled well, and most significantly, offered a long range with its high fuel load. It also had room to house heavier armament than the British Spitfire fighters. The first design suffered some performance drawbacks at high altitudes, but otherwise it still impressed RAF Air Fighter Development Unit's commanding officer.

ww2dbase The first combat action the Mustang fighters participated took place on 10 May 1942, when RAF pilots flew them against German counterparts.

ww2dbase In early 1943, a new Mustang design went into production. Designated Mustang X during prototype stages and P-51B and P-51C Mustang III after production began, these P-51 Mustang fighters equipped with Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 engines had much better performance in high altitudes, something the prior variants lacked. One improvement that had longer lasting effect was the possibility of a drop tank in these Merlin-equipped fighters, which provided the Allies candidates for long-range bomber escorts. Many of these new fighters began arriving in Britain in Aug 1943, while fewer numbers went to Italy late that year. By late 1943, they were the favored fighters to escort bombers on bombing missions deep into Germany. Their high speed also allowed them to pursue German V-1 rockets.

ww2dbase The next stage of development resulted in the P-51D variant, which was considered the definitive Mustang model bubble canopies that provided much greater field of vision and six M2 machine guns were the key characteristics of the P-51D fighters. When they first saw combat over Europe, gunners of US bombers were unfamiliar with their appearance, and there were incidents of bombers firing at their escorting "enemy Bf 109 fighters". By mid-1944, regardless of US Army's initial dislike for this design a few years prior, they quickly became the United States Army Air Forces' primary fighters. While their armament, reliability, and self-sealing tanks were all favorable attributes, the characteristic that the USAAF leadership liked most was the P-51 Mustang fighters' long range, allowing them to escort heavy bombers deep into Germany. The P-51D variant would also become the most widely produced variant of the Mustang design. By the end of 1944, 14 out of the 15 groups of the US Army 8th Air Force flew Mustang fighters of various variants. American pilot Chuck Yeager of later test pilot fame flew a P-51D Mustang fighter at this time, skillfully shooting down a German Me 262 jet fighter during its landing approach, making him the first American to shoot down a German jet fighter.

ww2dbase Two American pilots flying P-51 fighters were awarded the Medal of Honor during WW2, Major James H. Howard of the 354th Fighter Group for action over Germany on 11 Jan 1944 and Major William A. Shomo of the 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron for action over the Philippine Islands on 11 Jan 1945.

ww2dbase By late 1944, P-51 Mustang fighters were seen in the China-Burma-India Theater as well. They operated in both ground support and bomber escort roles.

ww2dbase The P-51H variant entered production just before the end of the war, yielding 555 of the fastest production Mustang fighters built, but none of them saw combat during WW2. Because of the lower availability of spare parts, most P-51H fighters would not see much action even during the Korean conflict, unlike their P-51B, C, and D siblings.

ww2dbase After WW2, P-51 Mustang fighters were selected as the main propeller-driven fighter of the US Army Air Forces, but the advent of jet fighters had already eclipsed the design. Nevertheless, they remained in service in 30 countries around the world, and remained in production in the form of a license-built variant by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Australia until 1948. By 1950, most of the American P-51 fighters, now designated F-51 under a new designation system in the US, were relegated to Air National Guard units. During the Korean War, many F-51 fighters were used as tactical ground attack aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft, particularly of the F-51D variant. After the Chinese-North Korean push that nearly conquered all of South Korea, F-51 Mustang fighters could actually reach targets that their jet counterparts could not.

ww2dbase After the Korean War, the United States continued to employ Mustang aircraft until 1957, then again after 1967 with Mustang aircraft built by Cavalier Air Corporation, which had purchased the design rights from North American in the early 1960s. The last US military use of the F-51 aircraft was in 1968, when the US Army used them as chase aircraft during the development of the YAH-56 Cheyenne helicopter. Many of them continued to be in service abroad, with the Dominican Republic Air Force being the last to retire them, in 1984.

ww2dbase Mustang aircraft were sold to the civilian market as early as immediately after WW2, some for as little as US$1,500. Many of them entered air racing, such as the P-51C aircraft purchased by Paul Mantz, who won the Bendix Air Races in 1946 and 1947 and set a US coast-to-coast record in 1947. Today, Mustang aircraft are among the most sought after "warbird" aircraft on the civilian market, with some transactions exceeding US$1,000,000.

ww2dbase In total, 15,875 units were built, making the P-51 Mustang design the second most-built aircraft in the United States after the P-47 Thunderbolt.

ww2dbase Sources:
Robert Dorr, Fighting Hitler's Jets

Last Major Revision: Sep 2007

26 Jun 1940 Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, United States received the license from Rolls-Royce to build Merlin engines for the P-51 Mustang fighters, with an order at the size of US$130,000,000 being placed. The first Packard-built Merlin engine, designated V-1650-1, would be ready in Aug 1941.
26 Oct 1940 The P-51 Mustang fighter, NA-73X, took its maiden flight.
10 May 1942 P-51 Mustang fighters saw combat for the first time with RAF pilots in the cockpits.
23 Nov 1943 The USAAF commenced operations with the new P-51A fighter in Asia when eight P-51 fighters from Claire Chennault's 23rd Fighter Group escorted B-25 Mitchell bombers in an attack on the Japanese airfield in Shinchiku Prefecture (now Hsinchu), Taiwan.
1 Dec 1943 US IX Fighter Command aircraft began operations from the United Kingdom when 28 P-51B fighters flew a sweep over north-western France. The mission also marked the debut of the Merlin-powered Mustang fighter in USAAF service.
2 Jun 1944 US suttle-bombing between Italy and the USSR (Operation Frantic) began. Under command of Lieutenant General Ira C Eaker, 130 B-17s, escorted by 70 P-51s, bombed the railway marshalling yard at Debreczen (Debrecen), Hungary and landed in the Soviet Union the B-17s at Poltava and Myrhorod, the P-51s at Pyriatyn. 1 B-17 was lost over the target.
6 Jun 1944 Operation Frantic shuttle bombing continued as 104 B-17s and 42 P-51s (having flown to the USSR from Italy on 2 Jun) attacked the airfield at Galați, Romania and returned to Soviet shuttle bases 8 German fighters were shot down and 2 P-51s were lost.
11 Jun 1944 126 B-17s and 60 P-51s departed Russian shuttle bases for Italy to complete the first Operation Frantic operation. On the way, 121 B-17s bombed the Focşani, Romania airfield.
21 Jun 1944 145 B-17s began an Operation Frantic shuttle bombing mission between the United Kingdom and bases in Ukraine. 72 P-38s, 38 P-47s and 57 P-51s escorted the bombers to the target, the synthetic oil plant at Ruhland, Germany. 123 B-17s bombed the primary target while the rest bombed secondary targets. The fighter escort returned to England while fighters based at Pyriatyn, Ukraine relieved them. 1 B-17 was lost to unknown causes and 144 B-17s landed in the USSR, 73 at Poltava and the rest at Myrhorod. During the night, the 73 B-17s at Poltava were attacked for 2 hours by an estimated 75 German bombers led by aircraft dropping flares. 47 B-17s were destroyed and most of the rest were severely damaged. Heavy damage was also suffered by the stores of fuel, ammunition, and ordinance.
22 Jun 1944 Because of the attack on Operation Frantic B-17s at Poltava, Ukraine the night before, the B-17s at Myrhorod and P-51s at Pyriatyn were moved farther east to be returned before departing to bases in Italy once the weather permitted. The move was fortunate as German bombers struck both Pyriatyn and Myrhorod during the night.
25 Jun 1944 Following a visit to British No. 617 Squadron at Woodhall Spa in England, United Kingdom by USAAF Generals Carl Spaatz and James Doolittle, a crated Mustang fighter was delivered as a gift from the United States to Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire. Cheshire wanted to use it that evening for a raid on the V-bomb site at Siracourt, France, and his mechanics worked all day removing the grease and the guns. One hour after the Lancaster bombers had taken off Cheshire followed in the Mustang fighter (which type he had never flown before) and he arrived in time to mark the target at low level for the heavy bombers.
25 Jun 1944 At daybreak, B-17s and P-51s were flown from dispersal bases to Poltava and Myrhorod and loaded and fueled with intentions of bombing the oil refinery at Drohobycz (Drohobych), Poland before proceeding to bases in Italy as part of Operation Frantic’s shuttle-bombing plan. Bad weather canceled the mission until the following day. The aircraft returned to dispersal bases for the night as precaution against air attacks.
26 Jun 1944 72 B-17s departed Poltava and Myrhorod, Ukraine, rendezvoused with 55 P-51s from Pyriatyn, bombed the oil refinery and railway marshalling yard at Drohobycz (Drohobych), Poland (1 returned to the USSR because of mechanical trouble), and then proceeded to Italy as part of Operation Frantic’s shuttle-bombing plan.
2 Jul 1944 41 P-51s, temporarily in Italy while en route from the USSR to the UK during an Operation Frantic shuttle mission, joined Fifteenth Air Force fighters in escorting Fifteenth Air Force bombers against targets in the Budapest, Hungary area, claiming 9 aircraft destroyed and suffering 4 losses.
3 Jul 1944 55 B-17s in Italy on the return leg of an Operation Frantic shuttle mission join Fifteenth Air Force bombers in bombing railway marshalling yards at Arad, Romania. 38 P-51s also on the shuttle run flew escort on the mission. All Operation Frantic aircraft returned to bases in Italy.
5 Jul 1944 70 B-17s on an Operation Frantic shuttle mission (UK-USSR-Italy-UK) flew from bases in Italy and attacked the railway marshalling yard at Beziers, France (along with Fifteenth Air Force B-24s) while on the last leg from Italy to the United Kingdom. 42 P-51s returned to England with the B-17s (of the 11 P-51s remaining in Italy, 10 returned to England the following day and the last several days later).
22 Jul 1944 76 P-38s and 58 P-51s began the second of the Fifteenth Air Force’s Operation Frantic shuttle missions, attacking airfields at Ziliştea (Zilişteanca) and Buzău, Romania (claiming the destruction of 56 enemy aircraft) and landing at Operation Frantic bases in Ukraine.
26 Jul 1944 Fifteenth Air Force fighters on an Operation Frantic shuttle mission leave Ukraine bases, strafed enemy aircraft in the Bucharest-Ploeşti, Romania area, and returned to bases in Italy.
4 Aug 1944 In an attempt to comply with the first direct Soviet request for USAAF air strikes, over 70 P-38s and P-51s left Italy, attacked the airfield and town of Focşani, Romania, and landed at Operation Frantic bases in Ukraine.
6 Aug 1944 In an Operation Frantic mission, 75 B-17s from England bombed aircraft factories at Gdynia and Rahmel, Poland and flew on to bases in Ukraine. 23 B-17s were damaged. Escort was provided by 154 P-51s. 4 P-51s were lost and 1 was damaged beyond repair. Further, 60 fighters from the previous day’s strike took off from Operation Frantic bases in Ukraine, attacked Craiova railway marshalling yard and other railway targets in the Bucharest-Ploesti, Romania area, and landed at bases in Italy.
7 Aug 1944 In accordance with a Soviet request, 55 B-17s and 29 P-51s of the USAAF involved in Operation Frantic flew from bases in Ukraine and attacked an oil refinery at Trzebinia, Poland without loss and returned to Operation Frantic bases in the USSR.
8 Aug 1944 Operation Frantic shuttle missions continued as 78 B-17s with 55 P-51s as escort left bases in Ukraine and bombed airfields in Romania 38 bombed Buzău and 35 bombed Ziliştea. No German fighters were encountered and the force flew on to Italy.
10 Aug 1944 45 P-51s in Italy during an Operation Frantic shuttle mission are dispatched with Fifteenth Air Force aircraft to escort a troop carrier evacuation mission.
12 Aug 1944 The Operation Frantic shuttle-bombing mission UK-USSR-Italy-UK is completed. 72 B-17s took off from bases in Italy and bombed the Toulouse-Francazal Airfield, France before flying on to England. 62 P-51s (part of the shuttle-mission force) and 43 from the UK provide escort no aircraft are lost.
11 Sep 1944 75 B-17s of Operation Frantic shuttle missions left England as part of a larger raid to oil refineries at Chemnitz along with 64 P-51s that continued on and landed in Ukraine.
13 Sep 1944 73 B-17s, escorted by 63 P-51s, continuing the Operation Frantic UK-USSR-Italy-UK shuttle-bombing mission, took off from Ukraine bases, bombed a steel and armament works at Diósgyőr, Hungary and proceeded to Fifteenth Air Force bases in Italy.
15 Sep 1944 As part of Operation Frantic, 110 B-17s were dispatched from England to drop supplies to Warsaw resistance fighters and then proceed to bases in the USSR but a weather front was encountered over the North Sea and the bombers were recalled. Escort is provided by 149 P-51s and 2 P-51s collided in a cloud and were lost.
17 Sep 1944 An Operation Frantic UK-USSR-Italy-UK shuttle mission was completed as 72 B-17s and 59 P-51s fly without bombs from Italy to England.
22 Sep 1944 The last Operation Frantic mission ended as 84 B-17s and 51 P-51s return to England from Italy.


MachineryOne Packard Merlin V-1650-7 liquid-cooled supercharged V-12 engine rated at 1,695hp
Armament6x12.7mm machine guns, optional 907kg of bombs or optional 10x127mm rockets
Span11.28 m
Length9.83 m
Height4.17 m
Wing Area21.83 m²
Weight, Empty3,465 kg
Weight, Loaded4,175 kg
Weight, Maximum5,490 kg
Speed, Maximum703 km/h
Speed, Cruising580 km/h
Rate of Climb16.30 m/s
Service Ceiling12,770 m
Range, Maximum2,655 km


MachineryOne Packard Merlin V-1650-9 liquid-cooled supercharged V-12 engine rated at 2,218hp
Armament4x12.7mm Browning machine guns or 6x12.7mm Browning machine guns
Span9.83 m
Length11.28 m
Height3.38 m
Wing Area21.83 m²
Weight, Empty3,195 kg
Weight, Loaded4,310 kg
Weight, Maximum5,215 kg
Speed, Maximum784 km/h
Rate of Climb16.30 m/s
Service Ceiling12,680 m
Range, Maximum1,865 km

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