North American P-51 Mustang

North American P-51 Mustang

Subject Index: North American P-51 Mustang

Aircraft- Combat Record

The P-51 Mustang was one of the most famous fighter aircraft of the Second World War. Having been developed to fulfil a British order in 1940, it earned its fame escorting the bombers of the 8th Air Force over Germany in 1944 and 1945, where it gain much of the credit for the final defeat of the Luftwaffe.

Aircraft

North American P-51 Mustang – Introduction and Development
North American P-51 Mustang - Timeline

British Versions

North American Mustang Mk I
North American Mustang Mk II
North American Mustang Mk III
North American Mustang Mk IV

American Versions

North American P-51
North American P-51A
North American P-51B
North American P-51C
North American P-51D
North American XP-51F
North American XP-51G
North American P-51H
North American XP-51J
North American P-51K
North American A-36A Apache
North American F-6


Combat Record

North American P-51 and the Strategic Bombing Offensive
North American P-51 (F-51) during the Korean War
North American Mustang in RAF Service




North American P-51 Mustang - History

By Sam McGowan

If a single airplane has captured the public imagination more than any other, it is undoubtedly the North American P-51 Mustang fighter. In the minds of many, including the young fighter pilots who flew it during the final year of combat in Europe, it was the P-51 that allowed the Allies to attain complete air superiority over Europe.

Many of the accolades bestowed upon the Mustang are not quite in tune with the facts, however. The airplane truly did develop into an outstanding fighter—but it did not start out that way. Oddly enough, the design of the Mustang came about completely by accident and was more the result of corporate pride than military necessity. Its subsequent development also was more accidental than by design. The U.S. Army never even wanted the airplane, and the British were not happy with it when they got theirs.

North America Makes Their Own Fighter

Before America entered the war, the British Purchasing Commission placed orders for a variety of American-produced military aircraft, including Curtiss fighters powered by Allison engines, which had been designated as the P-40 Tomahawk by the U.S. Army Air Corps. Curtiss lacked the facilities to meet the British orders and made an offer to North American Aircraft to have them manufacture some planes under license. North American’s president, West Virginian James S. “Dutch” Kindelberger, was not happy with the offer. He proposed instead that his company produce an entirely new fighter that would be built around the same Allison V-1710 engine that powered the P-40. Kindelberger believed his company could produce an aerodynamically superior airplane that could utilize new mass production methods that were just coming into use in the American aircraft industry.

On January 12, 1944, a row of Mustangs fills an assembly line at the Consolidated Vultee aircraft manufacturing plant in Tucson, Arizona. The Mustang served in both the European and Pacific Theaters during World War II.

The British asked for a preliminary design study. North American promised that a prototype would be ready to fly in an amazing four months! The North American management convinced Curtiss to furnish them data from the design of their P-40, thus cutting several months of preliminary design from the new fighter project. The company promised the British that they would begin deliveries in January 1941 and would produce 50 airplanes a month through the end of 1941. The British gave the airplane its name—Mustang—apparently adopting the name of the wild ponies that roamed the American West, although no reason for the choice is known. To cut down on production time, North American elected to use a non-turbocharged version of the Allison V-1710 engine, a move that would reduce the airplane’s high-altitude performance.

A Design Ruined by an Underpowered Engine

When the first Mustangs arrived in England, Royal Air Force test pilots quickly discovered that although the new fighter was very agile and fast its performance began to degrade at altitudes above 15,000 feet as the normally aspirated Allison engines lost power. Consequently, the RAF decided to assign the Mustangs to its Army Cooperation Command, which had previously used the light and maneuverable Westland Lysander as its primary aircraft.

The Mustangs were equipped with cameras and assigned to the tactical reconnaissance role, in which the airplane continued for the duration of the war. The first operational use of the RAF Mustangs was in support of the disastrous Dieppe raid in August 1942. It was also in the support role that the U.S. Army Air Corps assigned its first Mustangs, a batch of 57 airplanes that was diverted from the British production immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Perhaps prompted by the RAF’s use of the Mustang in the Cooperation Command, the U.S. Army decided to adapt the Mustang as a dive-bomber. At the time, the Army’s standard dive-bomber was the Douglas Dauntless, which the Army designated as the A-24. Unfortunately, their lack of defensive capabilities led to heavy losses among the A-24s in the Southwest Pacific in early 1942, a factor that no doubt influenced the decision to seek a more maneuverable and better armed design for dive-bombing.

Dive brakes and hard points to carry bombs up to 1,000 pounds were added to the basic design to convert the plane into a dive-bomber, which was designated as the A-36. The 27th and 86th Bombardment Groups (Light) were equipped with A-36s and sent into combat in North Africa in the spring of 1943. RAF Mustangs also saw combat duty in North Africa, although the primary tactical fighters used by the British in North Africa were Curtiss Kittyhawks and Hawker Hurricanes. The 311th Bombardment Group, also equipped with A-36s, was sent to China. Over time, the U.S. Army came to believe that the value of the dive- bomber had been overestimated, and even though more than 300 A-36s were built, they were all eventually replaced either by fighters or light and medium bombers. Dive-bombing would remain popular in the Navy and Marine Corps, but the Army abandoned the practice.

Transforming the P-51 Mustang With the Rolls Royce Merlin Engine

With the decision to assign its new Mustangs to the Cooperation Command, the Royal Air Force elected to continue the development of the already famous Supermarine Spitfire as its primary interceptor. Still, some of the RAF test pilots believed that with a high-altitude engine the Mustang would be suitable for air-to-air combat at the altitudes where combat usually took place in European skies. The turbocharged Rolls Royce Merlin was the ideal candidate, but the entire production of the Merlin-61 was slated for Spitfires.

To increase Merlin production, Rolls Royce contracted with the Packard automobile company in the United States to produce their engines under license. Although famous for its luxury automobiles, Packard had designed and produced the Liberty engine that came into use during the Great War, and which powered U.S.-built aircraft into the 1920s. The first flight by a Merlin-powered British Mustang took place in October 1942. A month later a Mustang powered by a Packard-built Merlin had been produced for the U.S. Army, and it took to the air for the first time.

With the Merlin engine, the Mustang was transformed. Comparisons between Mustangs and Spitfires revealed that the North American design had significantly greater range, while the Mustang’s high-altitude performance had been greatly improved. It was a combination that came about at the right time, as the U.S. Army Air Forces’ experience in Europe had demonstrated the need for a high-performance, long-range fighter.

Converted For Escort Missions

Throughout 1942 and most of 1943, the Mustang fighters sat out the war, although the A-36 and RAF Cooperation versions were seeing combat, particularly in North Africa. But events in Europe were leading toward the further development of the Mustang into the airplane that is so often referred to as the best Allied fighter of the war. By the summer of 1942, the U.S. Eighth Air Force had been waging a steadily mounting strategic bombing campaign against Axis targets in France and the other occupied countries from bases in England. In early 1943, the daylight bombing campaign expanded into German airspace. The B-17 groups that constituted the bulk of VIII Bomber Command strength at the time began taking very heavy losses from German fighter attacks. The Eighth Air Force leadership had gone to war believing that their four-engine Flying Fortresses were properly named, but soon found otherwise when the B-17s began encountering Luftwaffe fighters. Especially heavy losses in the late summer and early fall of 1943 led to the cancellation of further daylight deep- penetration raids into Germany until a long-range escort fighter could be developed.

On a muddy airfield in England, P-51 Mustangs sit ready for their pilots to climb aboard as two ground crewmen make a final check of an external drop tank. The extra range provided by the drop tanks allowed the fighters to escort bomber formations deeper into Germany.

Throughout 1943, the primary escort fighters available in Europe were RAF Spitfires and USAAF Lockheed P-38 Lightnings and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. While the P-38 had the range to go all the way to Berlin, the P-47s were limited owing to the higher fuel consumption of their radial engines, and there were not enough available P-38s for the job. All of the P-38s in England had been transferred to North Africa early in the year and were not replaced until late summer, leaving Spitfires as the only escorts available until April, when the first P-47s became operational in the theater. It was not until September that P-38s returned to English skies. Meanwhile, the bombers were left without escorts once they reached the operational range of the Spitfires.

The USAAF engineers at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, began looking around for a suitable escort fighter that could be mass-produced in a hurry, and their attention soon settled on the Mustang. The adoption of the Merlin engine had solved the Mustang’s high-altitude performance problems, and the Mustang had been shown to be highly maneuverable, with some restrictions, mainly owing to weight and balance considerations.

Increasing the airplane’s effective range was the primary problem. The Air Corps engineering facilities at Wright Field began working on modifications to increase the Mustang’s fuel capacity and thus increase its effective combat range. Additional fuselage tanks were added to complement the droppable external fuel tanks that had been previously developed for other types.

Donald Blakeslee: Advocate For Mustangs as Escort Fighters

Ironically, the decision to adopt the Mustang as the primary escort fighter did not come immediately after the adoption of the Merlin engine. Initially, the Merlin-powered P-51Bs were allocated to the tactical air forces that were being formed to support ground forces in Europe. The first P-51-equipped fighter group to see combat in Europe was the 354th Fighter Group, which arrived in England in October 1943 and was immediately assigned to the newly organized Ninth Air Force. The Ninth had previously been assigned to the Mediterranean, but the Allied victory in North Africa led to the unit’s transfer to England to become a tactical air force, with the mission of supporting the Allied ground forces when the invasion of Western Europe took place in mid-1944. Since the Ninth was scheduled to include a large number of fighter groups, the Eighth Air Force pressed for Ninth fighters to be temporarily assigned as bomber escorts.

In November 1943, Lt. Col. Donald Blakeslee, deputy commander of the 4th Fighter Group and one of the most experienced American fighter pilots in Europe, was sent to fly with the 354th Fighter Group. Blakeslee was a former RAF Eagle Squadron Spitfire pilot who had been flying Thunderbolts, and his lack of love for the P-47 was no secret. Whether he engineered the assignment to the 354th or was selected to evaluate the group’s P-51Bs is unclear his enthusiasm for the highly maneuverable airplane is not. The main advantage of the new P-51 was the reduced fuel consumption of the Merlin engine compared with the radial engine P-47, which was then the primary escort fighter. The first Mustangs to arrive in England were fitted only with 184-gallon wing tanks, but the reduced fuel consumption of the Merlin engines increased their range substantially over similarly equipped P-47s. Plans were under way for the installation of an additional 85 gallons in a fuselage tank, while the hard points under the wings allowed an additional 150 gallons when two 75-gallon drop tanks were carried. Blakeslee believed the Mustang was the solution to the long-range escort problem, but all of the Mustangs were slated to go to the Ninth Air Force.

In the winter of 1943, Allied military planners in Europe were preparing for the invasion of Western Europe, followed by an advance toward Germany. Experiences in North Africa and New Guinea had revealed that air power served as what would come to be known as a “force multiplier,” an element that could aid ground commanders in the age-old endeavor of capturing territory.

The Ninth Air Force was a tactical unit, with the primary mission of supporting the theater commander, and a massive effort was under way to build up its force of fighter-bombers and light and medium bombers to support the ground forces. Once the troops were ashore in France, the war in Europe would turn from what had primarily been an air war against the Luftwaffe to a ground war, with the objective being the ultimate capture of Berlin and the defeat of Germany. The new Mustangs were seen as an ideal weapon for securing and maintaining air superiority over the battlefield and for taking the war to the enemy rear areas.

The Eighth Air Force Receives Their Mustangs

At this point military politics reared its ugly head, as Blakeslee and the leaders of VIII Fighter Command began maneuvering to have the Mustangs transferred to the Eighth. They saw the Eighth Air Force mission as strategic bombardment and recognized that if this mission was to succeed it was important to have a long-range escort fighter that could go with the bombers to their targets deep in Germany and fight at high altitude. Much of Western Europe was still in German hands at the time, and aerial bombardment of strategic targets was still seen as the primary mission for the air forces.

Their arguments fell on receptive minds in the Army Air Forces headquarters in England and won out. Preparations were begun to equip nearly all of the VIII Fighter Command squadrons with new Mustangs. In the meantime, IX Fighter Command P-51s (and other fighters) flew under the operational control of the Eighth Air Force and were used in the escort role. Three P-51 groups were scheduled to go to Ninth, but a compromise led to the assignment of one of these groups to the Eighth in return for the transfer of the recently arrived 358th Fighter Group and its P-47s to Ninth Air Force. VIII Fighter Command received the Mustang-equipped 357th and began making plans to convert all of its P-47 and P-38 groups to Mustangs.

There was one exception—the 56th Fighter Group was the first group to fly P-47s, and it remained with the Thunderbolt until the end of the war. The 56th, which had been nicknamed the Wolfpack because of the group’s reputation for hunting Germans like a pack of wolves, was the highest scoring American fighter group in the European Theater. The 56th finished the war with a total of 674 enemy aircraft claimed in the air and 311 on the ground. By contrast, Blakeslee’s 4th Fighter Group, which was the first Eighth group to convert to P-51s and was the longest in combat of any American fighter group in Europe, finished the war with 583 air-to-air kills and 469 strafing claims.

Although the 4th—which flew Spitfires and P-47s before making the transition to P-51s—was credited with a few more total aircraft destroyed, the P-47-equipped 56th was credited with almost 100 more air-to-air kills. So much for the oft-stated assertion that the fabulous P-51 was the “superior” fighter! The third highest scoring group, however, flew only Mustangs. The 357th Fighter Group was the first P-51 group in VIII Fighter Command. The group put in claims for 609 air-to-air kills and 106 destroyed on the ground.

Did the P-51 Win Allied Air Superiority Over Europe?

Many writers mistakenly advance the proposition that it was the appearance of the Mustang as an escort fighter that signaled the gaining of Allied air superiority in the skies over Europe. In fact, this was not the case. The advantage of the P-51 was that the later models had the range to go deeper into Germany than the P-47s, but the longer range Mustangs did not make their appearance in England until mid-spring of 1944. By this time the effectiveness of the Luftwaffe was already beginning to decline owing to a number of factors. Not the least of these was the interruption of petroleum supplies from refineries in Eastern Europe, prompted in large part by the advance of Soviet forces into the oil-rich Balkans, and the air campaign on transportation, including railroads and bridges. The first U.S. Army Mustangs used in Europe lacked the additional fuel tanks that gave the later models the range to go deep into Germany.

There was also another reason for the decline of the Luftwaffe. Throughout 1942 and 1943 German fighter pilots had pretty much steered clear of the Allied fighters, waiting just beyond their effective range and then going after the bombers as soon as their escorts reached their fuel limits and turned back. By the spring of 1944, the VIII Fighter Command had managed to extend the range of the P-38s and P-47s significantly through the addition of suitable external fuel tanks, and the escorts were able to go much deeper into German territory with the bombers. In fact, the twin-engine P-38s were able to accompany them all the way to Berlin. With the increased range of the fighters, VIII Fighter Command authorized them to drop down on the deck and attack the Luftwaffe airfields to destroy the German fighters on the ground as well as in the air. By the time P-51s were available in Europe in large numbers, the Allies were already gaining air superiority.

The modifications to the Mustangs to turn them into long-range fighters were not without problems. When the 85-gallon internal fuel tanks were added, test pilots discovered that full tanks affected the airplane’s control during combat maneuvers. To take advantage of the increased range, VIII Fighter Command was forced to fuel the fighters so that the tanks would have no more than 35 gallons in them when they reached the areas of likely combat. Since external tanks caused drag and were normally burned off first so they could be dropped, the stability problem reduced the effective range of the Mustangs. The stability problem was not the only problem with the Mustangs. They also experienced a lack of heating at high altitude, which had plagued the twin-engine P-38s during their early months in combat.

It is commonly believed that once the P-51s arrived in the European Theater, the P-47s were assigned solely to the fighter-bomber role while the Mustangs flew only escort. Such is not the case. With the appearance of the Mustangs, VIII Fighter Command adopted a strategy of assigning the more experienced P-47 groups to patrol the areas where the Luftwaffe fighters were most likely to hit the bomber stream while the longer legged P-38s and P-51s went all the way to the targets.

Mustangs as Ground Attack Aircraft

Mustangs were also used as fighter-bombers, especially after the Luftwaffe’s fighter squadrons were practically grounded because of lack of gasoline and oil. Thunderbolts and Lightnings continued flying escort missions until Mustangs replaced them in most VIII Fighter Command squadrons in the latter part of 1944. But the conversion did not take place until comparatively late in the war as more Mustangs became available. Thunderbolts and Lightnings continued to be the primary escort fighters in Europe until mid-1944. Ironically, at about the same time that Mustangs started appearing in European skies in large numbers, the air war moved down, as providing close air support for ground troops became the primary Army Air Forces mission.

During a fighter bomber mission, Lieutenant Colonel Wallace Hopkins of 8th Fighter Command releases his bomb load from his P-51 Mustang nicknamed “Ferocious Frankie.” The Mustang proved capable in both the escort and ground attack roles.

While the Mustang became the primary escort fighter with VIII Fighter Command, P-51s were not absent from the tactical air commands of the Ninth Air Force. Brig. Gen. O.P. Weyland’s XIX Tactical Air Command included one group of Mustangs when it went operational on July 31, 1944, to support General George S. Patton’s Third Army, and other Mustang groups transferred in and out as operational needs changed. The Mustang faced a major drawback when it came to low-altitude attack. The liquid-cooled Merlin engines made the P-51s more vulnerable to ground fire than the radial-engine P-47s, so they were often assigned to fly fighter cover over the battlefield to protect against German aircraft.

Thunderbolts were equipped with two more machine guns than Mustangs and were thus more suited for attacks on German armor and other ground targets. Still, the P-51s flew their share of ground attack missions, using their six .50-caliber machine guns to strafe and fire rockets and drop bombs and napalm. Eighth Air Force Mustangs often transferred to Ninth Air Force control, particularly during the battle to regain the Allied initiative during the German Ardennes offensive in the winter of 1944-1945.

The Red Tails of the Tuskegee Airmen

Mustang-equipped groups entered combat with the Fifteenth Air Force from Italian bases in the late spring of 1944 when three groups that had been flying P-40s received P-51s. The 52nd Fighter Group of the Twelfth Air Force traded in Spitfires for Mustangs as well. A fourth Fifteenth Air Force group that received P-51s was the controversial 332nd Fighter Group, an all-black unit popularly associated with the Tuskegee Airmen, that had most recently flown P-47s. Group pilots painted their airplane tails red, making them easily identifiable to both friend and foe. Group members would later claim that they “never lost a bomber” while flying escort missions, although the qualifications for such a claim are somewhat murky.

Standardizing the P-51

With the appearance and acceptance of the Merlin-powered Mustangs, the Army Air Forces began making plans to eliminate production of other types in an effort to standardize maintenance and supply roles. But all of the combat commanders were not as enthusiastic about the Mustang as was VIII Fighter Command’s Brig. Gen. William Kepner. When notified by Headquarters, U.S. Army Air Forces that his command’s P-38s and P-47s were slated to be replaced by P-51s, Far East Air Forces commander Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney flatly said “No!” Early in the war, Kenney had told General Henry H. Arnold that he really did not care what kind of airplanes he received in his theater, but as the war continued he developed a preference for the twin-engine P-38.

Kenney commanded a theater that included a great expanse of water, and he felt that the second engine on the P-38 gave his pilots a chance at returning home that the P-51 failed to offer. Furthermore, Fifth and Thirteenth Air Force P-38s in the Pacific had been doing a pretty good job of shooting down Japanese airplanes since they made their combat debut at the end of 1942. By mid-1944, Far East Air Forces P-38s were flying 700-mile missions, distances far greater than any encountered in Europe. The P-38 remained the fighter of choice in Far East Air Forces until the end of the war.

In spite of General Kenney’s initial refusal to accept Mustangs as replacements in his veteran fighter squadrons, some newly arriving units were equipped with the P-51. In early 1945, the 460th Fighter Squadron joined the P-47- equipped 348th Fighter Group with P-51s, and the rest of the group began making the transition to the more maneuverable fighter. The first Mustangs in the Southwest Pacific were actually F-6D reconnaissance airplanes that began operations in late 1944 with the 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron.

Mustangs in the Pacific

A few days after entering combat, Captain William Shomo, the squadron commander, was on a photography flight when he and his wingman encountered a formation of 13 Japanese aircraft, a bomber and 12 fighter escorts. Although both Shomo and his wingman, Lieutenant Paul Libscomb, were rookies with no combat experience, they managed to shoot down the bomber and 10 of its escorts. For their actions, Shomo received the Medal of Honor and Libscomb the Distinguished Service Cross. Other Mustangs operated in the Southwest Pacific with the 3rd Air Commando Group.

Air Commandos also brought Mustang fighters to the China-Burma-India Theater, where the P-51 played a major role with the Fourteenth Air Force during the final year of the war. After initially supporting British long-range ground operations in Burma, the Air Commando Mustangs were used primarily for ground attack, particularly against Japanese airfields and supply routes. The Air Commando Mustangs were not the first in the CBI, however. The agile fighters entered service in the theater in mid-1943 when the 311th Bombardment Group arrived with two squadrons of A-36s and one of early model Allison-equipped P-51As. They were joined by the 8th Photo-Reconnaissance Group, which flew the F-6 version of the airplane. Mustangs later replaced Curtiss P-40s in the famed 23rd Fighter Group, the Army Air Corps unit that replaced the American Volunteer Group known as the Flying Tigers, in early 1942 after the United States entered the war.

A Fifteenth Air Force armorer loads a belt of ammunition for one of a Mustang’s six .50-caliber machine guns. Flying from its base in Italy, this fighter plane was being readied for a mission over Germany. Often, when escort duties were completed, the Mustangs were allowed to seek targets of opportunity.

During the final months of the war, the Army Air Forces also began assigning P-51s to the Central Pacific to provide escort for Boeing B-29 Superfortresses flying long-range bombing missions over the Japanese home islands from their bases in the Marianas. To secure a forward base for the P-51s, U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima, an island 660 miles southeast of the Japanese home islands. The first mission over Japan took place on April 29, 1945, when 108 P-51s escorted B-29s. Mustangs were also based on Okinawa, whence they joined other American fighters and ground attack aircraft on sweeps over Japan.

The Ever-Evolving P-51 Mustang

As the first customer for the Mustang, the British Royal Air Force continued to use the type in a variety of roles throughout the war. After their initial use as reconnaissance aircraft, RAF Mustangs served as escort fighters and ground attack aircraft in Asia as well as Europe and the Mediterranean. Mustangs also served with the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Netherlands East Indies Air Force, and the South African Air Force, although the SAAF was operational only in the final weeks of the war.

Ironically, the feature that made the Lockheed P-38 the favored fighter in the Southwest Pacific led North American to propose the development of a twin-engine version of the Mustang. North American carried its design a bit further than Lockheed and added a second pilot. Essentially, the Twin Mustang, designated by the U.S. Army as the F-82, was two P-51 fuselages joined together with a short wing and single stabilizer connecting the two. Production began in early 1945, but only 20 had been produced by war’s end.

Author Sam McGowan is also a pilot. He resides in the Houston, Texas, area.

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Comments

The sole reason there were more P-47 kills is p-47 squadrons arrived in February 1943 and the Mustangs didn’t arrive until February 1944. If you break it down into kills per sortie the Mustang is far superior. If you look at ” big week ” in February 1944 you can see how few Mustangs were available. On February 21st 1944 we put 542 B-47 and only 68 Mustangs. Those P-47s claimed 19 air-to-air victories and the Mustangs claimed 14 which is a far superior number per airplane. February 25th 687 B-47 flew claiming 14 and only 149 Mustangs flew claiming 12. Again a far superior ratio. From that point until the end of the war all or almost all new fighter squadrons were equipped with the P-51D. The only P-47s arriving after that point we’re replacement aircraft if the dwindling number of P-47 Squadron as more and more of them converted to the Mustangs.

The P-47 was a fearsome weapon but the P-51 B Mustangs were clearly Superior in air-to-air combat. They had far more victories per sortie band The Jugs.


North American P-51 Mustang

North American P-51 Mustang known as “Red Nose” ( Photo by John Willhoff)

The Airplane That Started it All

This was the plane that launched the Confederate Air Force (now Commemorative Air Force). It was acquired by the founding members of the CAF including Loyd P. Nolen himself. This airplane is not only historically significant, but it is thoroughly engrained in the CAF’s heritage as well. The Airbase Georgia was selected to become the new home for the P-51 “Red Nose” by the CAF General Staff in November of 2002. We are very proud to have received such an honor and are doing our best to live up to that distinction.

Red Nose’s History

“Old Red Nose” has had a long and colorful history, dating back to the closing days of World War II. It was produced at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California, and rolled out on 11 April, 1945 and was to accepted by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) as serial number 44-73843. It was shipped to Page Army Air Force Base in Florida later that month and assigned to the 388th AAF Base Unit of the Third Air Force. Little is known of its service there, but it was probably used for training purposes. In September of 1945 the aircraft was transferred to the 336th Base Unit stationed at Sarasota, Florida. In November of that year, it was shipped to Hobbs AAFB in New Mexico and placed in storage. Its only other journey in the next six years was a transfer to the San Antonio Air Material Center at Kelly Air Force Base in 1947.

Though in storage for six years, this aircraft, now known as USAF F-51D-25NA s/n 42-73843, had not yet finished its tour of duty. In January of 1951, this aircraft was dropped from the USAF inventory and transferred to Canada under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. It was officially accepted by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on 11 January 1951, and was placed in stored reserve in Trenton, Ontario. A month later, on 26 February, this aircraft was once again flying, now with the No. 416 “Lynx” Squadron (regular) of the RCAF, based in Uplands, Ontario.

It served with this regular unit for little more than a year before transfer to the No. 10 Technical Services Unit in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on 28 March 1952. Here it stayed until assigned to the No. 420 “Snowy Owls” squadron (auxiliary) of the RCAF in London, Ontario. Its tenure with this unit lasted until 19 July 1956, when the aircraft was listed as awaiting disposal and placed into storage. It was then bought by a private company in the United States, and ended back in San Antonio, Texas, now as the property of Stinson Field Aircraft.

What followed was a fateful day in the history of the CAF. On 17 October 1957, Mr. Lloyd P. Nolen, then of “Mustang and Company,” bought the aircraft with three friends for $2,500. This signified the unofficial start of the CAF indeed, later that year, someone painted “Confederate Air Force” on its tail and the name stuck. In December of that year she was repainted with invasion stripes and coded VF*G, and at this time the members referred to the aircraft as “Old Red Nose.” She was officially donated to the CAF in 1977 and became part of the collection of the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum in 1991. The airplane was restored in 1993 and is in excellent shape. “Old Red Nose” was assigned to Airbase Georgia of the CAF in November of 2002 and took to the air for the first time in 4 years in September of 2003.


North American P-51 “Mustang”

Our fiberglass Mockup of the P-51 came from the MARC group and was previously up in Cleveland at the 100th Bomb Group Restaurant. However, due to a storm, the P-51 was damaged. She was donated and retrieved to MAPS Air Museum for restoration in the spring of 2011.

As part of a presentation held on October 2, 2013, a dedication of the P-51 was held to honor 2nd Lt. Robert “Bob” Withee, a WWII P-51 pilot from Jackson, Ohio. Bob flew over 200 missions during WWII in both the P-40 and P-51 in the South Pacific.

The ceremony was also to honor the first unit to fly out of the Akron Canton airport (CAK) after WWII, the 112th Fighter Squadron, (now part of the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, Toledo airport).

Bob Withee, Jean Ann II and Bob’s flag that flew over every duty station where he served.

Specifications/Performance (P-51D)

  • Role: Fighter
  • Manufacturer: North American Aviation
  • First flight: October 26, 1940
  • Introduction: January 1942
  • Retired: 1984 (Dominican Air Force)
  • Built: More than 15,000
  • Unit cost: $50,985 (1945) $570,000 (2018)
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 32 ft 3 in
  • Wingspan: 37 ft
  • Height: 13 ft 4.5 in
  • Empty weight: 7,635 lb
  • Max takeoff weight: 12,100 lb
  • Engine: 1 x Packard V-1650-7 Merlin 12-cylinder liquid cooled engine, 1,490 hp
  • Max speed: 440 mph
  • Cruise speed: 362 mph
  • Range 1,650 mi
  • Service ceiling: 41,900 ft

Armament, notable

  • Guns: 6 x .50 caliber AN/M2 Browning machine guns (1,840 total rounds)
  • Bombs: 1,000 lbs on each wing (1 hardpoint each)
  • Rockets: 6 or 10 x 5.0 in T64 HVAR rockets

Museum display notes: paintings and markings are to replicate Mr. Withee’s P-51 Mustang during WWII, “Jean Ann II” (in honor of Bob’s wife). The “Mustang” is located at the entrance to the museum off of Massillon Road.

Designed to replace: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

Replaced by: the stop-gap FJ-1 “Fury”, but eventually the North American F-86 Sabre


North American P-51D Mustang

The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II and the Korean War, among other conflicts. The Mustang was designed in April 1940 by a design team headed by James Kindelberger[6] of North American Aviation (NAA) in response to a requirement of the British Purchasing Commission. The Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation to build Curtiss P-40 fighters under license for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Rather than build an old design from another company, North American Aviation proposed the design and production of a more modern fighter. The prototype NA-73X airframe was rolled out on 9 September 1940, 102 days after the contract was signed, and first flew on 26 October.

The Mustang was designed to use the Allison V-1710 engine, which had limited high-altitude performance in its earlier variants. The aircraft was first flown operationally by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber (Mustang Mk I). Replacing the Allison with a Rolls-Royce Merlin resulted in the P-51B/C (Mustang Mk III) model and transformed the aircraft’s performance at altitudes above 15,000 ft (4,600 m) (without sacrificing range),[9] allowing it to compete with the Luftwaffe’s fighters.[10] The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the two-speed two-stage-supercharged Merlin 66, and was armed with six .50 caliber (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns.

From late 1943, P-51Bs and P-51Cs (supplemented by P-51Ds from mid-1944) were used by the USAAF’s Eighth Air Force to escort bombers in raids over Germany, while the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force and the USAAF’s Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944.[12] The P-51 was also used by Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean, Italian and Pacific theaters. During World War II, Mustang pilots claimed to have destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft.

At the start of the Korean War, the Mustang, by then redesignated F-51, was the main fighter of the United States until jet fighters, including North American’s F-86, took over this role the Mustang then became a specialized fighter-bomber. Despite the advent of jet fighters, the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s. After the Korean War, Mustangs became popular civilian warbirds and air racing aircraft.


North American P-51D Mustang

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image are the propellers on the P-51 Mustang.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image is the cockpit on the P-51 Mustang.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image is the cockpit on the P-51 Mustang.

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This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image is a wing on the P-51 Mustang.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image are the fuselage on the P-51 Mustang.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image are the nose on the P-51 Mustang.

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This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image are the propellers on the P-51 Mustang.

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This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image are the landing gear on the P-51 Mustang.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image are the wing-mounted machine guns on the P-51 Mustang.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII. Highlighted in this image are the vertical stabilizers on the P-51 Mustang.

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North American P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was originally designed for the Royal Air Force. However, it became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. armed forces against Nazi Germany. The production process was efficient and quick about 14,000 were built during WWII.

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North American P-51D Mustang

Single-engine, low-wing, long-range fighter. 1,128 cm (444 in.), Length 983 cm (387 in.), Height 371 cm (146 in.), Weight 3,465 kg (7,635 lb)

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North American P-51D Mustang

Single-engine, low-wing, long-range fighter. 1,128 cm (444 in.), Length 983 cm (387 in.), Height 371 cm (146 in.), Weight 3,465 kg (7,635 lb)

CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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North American P-51D Mustang

Single-engine, low-wing, long-range fighter. 1,128 cm (444 in.), Length 983 cm (387 in.), Height 371 cm (146 in.), Weight 3,465 kg (7,635 lb)

CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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North American P-51D Mustang

Single-engine, low-wing, long-range fighter. 1,128 cm (444 in.), Length 983 cm (387 in.), Height 371 cm (146 in.), Weight 3,465 kg (7,635 lb)

CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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North American P-51D Mustang

Single-engine, low-wing, long-range fighter. 1,128 cm (444 in.), Length 983 cm (387 in.), Height 371 cm (146 in.), Weight 3,465 kg (7,635 lb)

CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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North American P-51D Mustang

Single-engine, low-wing, long-range fighter. 1,128 cm (444 in.), Length 983 cm (387 in.), Height 371 cm (146 in.), Weight 3,465 kg (7,635 lb)

CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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North American P-51D Mustang

Single-engine, low-wing, long-range fighter. 1,128 cm (444 in.), Length 983 cm (387 in.), Height 371 cm (146 in.), Weight 3,465 kg (7,635 lb)

CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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North American P-51D Mustang

Single-engine, low-wing, long-range fighter. 1,128 cm (444 in.), Length 983 cm (387 in.), Height 371 cm (146 in.), Weight 3,465 kg (7,635 lb)

CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

North American P-51D Mustang

Single-engine, low-wing, long-range fighter. 1,128 cm (444 in.), Length 983 cm (387 in.), Height 371 cm (146 in.), Weight 3,465 kg (7,635 lb)

The P-51 Mustang

The P-51 Mustang became a long-range escort fighter for the U.S. Armed Forces against Nazi Germany.

North American P-51 Mustang in World War II Aviation

North American P-51D Panorama

Panoramic view inside the cockpit of the North American P-51D.

The Powerful and Fast P-51 Mustang

Many people consider the P-51 Mustang the best fighter of World War II. Its combination of speed, range, maneuverability, and firepower gave it great versatility. Its use in all major theaters of the war included long-range high-altitude escort, strafing, and photo reconnaissance.

Originally developed by North American for the British, the Mustang was later ordered in large quantities by the U.S. Army Air Forces. This P-51 is displayed in the markings of the 351st Fighter Squadron, 353rd Fighter Group,Eighth Air Force.

In 1940 British purchasing agents asked North American Aviation to build more Curtiss P-40s. The P-40 was the only American land-based fighter available at the time but it was also seriously deficient in speed, range, and altitude performance. North American declined to build it but proposed a completely original design and promised to finish it in less than three months. North American completed the NA-73 airframe 117 days later and installed an in-line, liquid-cooled Allison engine. This aircraft first flew on October 25, 1940. During flight tests, the airplane exhibited outstanding performance, particularly in level-flight speed. The British enthusiastically ordered 150 examples of the airplane and the Royal Air Force (RAF) named it the Mustang. The U. S. Army Air Corps also showed interest and in 1941 they ordered 500 ground-attack variants designated the A-36.

Early in 1942, the British tested four RAF Mustangs fitted with the two-stage, two-speed Merlin 65 engine. The supercharger in the Merlin 65 was optimized to produce sea-level horsepower up to approximately 9,150 m (30,000 ft). Urged on by Rolls Royce and British and American fighter pilots who sampled the new Mustang, North American obtained two Merlin 61 engines similar to the 65 and installed them in airframes designated XP-51Bs. The new variant had good range and outstanding speed, about 80 kph (50 mph) faster than previous models. Thus was born the world's best long-range, propeller-driven escort fighter. With improved range and speed, P-51 squadrons could now accompany 8th Air Force bombers on long-range raids over Europe. Bomber losses dropped sharply when fighters could protect them during their entire mission. The Mustang also proved itself in the Pacific theater. Again, the P-51 had the range, speed, and endurance to escort Boeing B-29 Superfortresses conducting long-range bombing attacks. The newly independent U. S. Air Force used the airplane during the Korean War for close-support, ground attack missions but it was not suited for this dangerous mission. One of the Mustang's few vulnerable spots was the cooling system. A single bullet through a radiator or pipe was usually enough to down a P-51.

North American built more than 14,000 Mustangs and more D-models (8,302) than all other variants combined. The most significant D-model features were a rear fuselage reduced in height to accommodate a new bubble canopy and an increase in armament from 4 to 6 fifty-caliber machine guns. The Air Force did not withdraw P-51s from service until 1957.


North American P-51 Mustang

On of the best fighters of the World War II. The first prototype flew on October 26, 1940. Entered production in 1941 and a total of 15386 aircraft were built in the USA.

The description is of the D model, but the plane shown in the color drawing is of a B or C, not an A. The B was manufactured at Inglewood, CA, not Palmdale, as J. Bassett says. The C model was, in fact, manufactured at the Dallas plant, as he correctly mentions.

The Mustang certainly help win the conflict in Europe and it was THE best choice for the USAAF as a high altitude long range escort. Especially if cost is considered. The P-38J /L had all the performance of the Merline powered mustangs and the range but at considerably more cost. The same could be said for the P-47N.
My personal choice for best all round WW2 piston engine fighter would be the F4U-4 Corsair.

I finally got to fly the P-51D in 1945. I It was transferred out of the Reserve unit after I had 3+ 45 hrs in it. Great A /C! In 1952 I was at Tyndal field and flew about 500+ hours in the P51H model. It was the fastist a /c of the wwii. 487 @25000 feet. Another great a /c. Retired in September 1971 after 30 yrs.

The picture in DER ADLER of ANNA KREISLING testing a P-51D Mustang in 1944 is very interesting. She is dressed in a black SS uniform and in the footage, she removes her hat and just wears a standard Luftwaffe helmet and goggles. Albert Speer designed a bra for her that held a Walther PPK,which she could easily reach because of her breathtaking cleavage!!IN 1942 Heinrich Himmler presented a matched pair of Silver engraved Walther's with ivory grips. On the slide they say ANNA KREISLING, THE WHITE WOLF. They are currently on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.

How would this aircraft stack up to the fighter planes of this decade? Would it handle better or worse? Speed?

Both my Dad and I are military pepole. My father flew the P-51 and several other aircraft. He recently gave me the original Pilot training manual and the Pilot's Flight Operation instructions manual. I wasn't aware that the model was for the F-51-H aircraft. But I treasure these two manuals.

The Mustang was the greatest aircraft of World War II. It went from design to prototype in just 117 days and first flight in just 178 days thats unheard of at the time. It was developed for the British after North American approached them and tried to sell them the B-25 Mitchell. They were not intrested instead they asked if they could manufacture the Tomahawk under license from Curtiss. North American replied that they could make a new and better aircraft in less time than it would take to tool up for the Tomahawk.

1952 - Crew chief'd a P51D at K46 (Wonju , Korea. What a plane! Got to taxi each day between overnight storage and sortie area. Can't remember how many times I wanted to pull out to the runway and shove the throttle forward and gently pull the stick back!! Would probably be dead or still in Leavenworth. Would have been worth it.
Great book: "Flying Legends" published by MBI tells the P-51 story with GREAT pictures.

I had always heard that the air scoop was placed mid-ship because the engine was going to be behind the pilot and from the pictures it would have been possible. I also read that the British turned down our P-51 because because they wanted the engine in the front and we refused. Knowing what I read and believed, why is the air-scoop amid-ship and howe did it function properly ?? I was 11 at the end of the war.

Yes, as Leo below says, three lines for the Mustang? Saw one a couple of days from this date, at Foxley's Farm airshow in Leicestershire, beautiful, lovely sound from what may or may not have been a proper Merlin, but undoubtedly wonderful to see!(And hear)

Dive was red-lined at 571 for the P-51 B (equal to the Macchi C 202) and 533 mph for the D model. Of course they could dive another 100 mph faster (around 630mph) with some risk to the American pilots.

I'm looking for P-51D Mustang engine mounts (left and right hand engine mount).

Barely 3 lines of history for the Mustang? Bob Hoover and his yellow Mustang, best demonstration ever.(I never saw Zura fly) The allied fighter which projected power and achieved air supremacy over enemy skies. Blue nose, red nose, red tail,whatever,Greatjob.

Sat in P-51D cockpit, very unqiue experience, some air show.
Sitting in History.
Love 2 fly back seat in plane BUT cramped.
Neat.

. flew the NA A36 "Apache" just for a short time but enjoyed every minute of it! This was with the Allison engine then the Brits put a RollsRoyce in it and really made an airplane out of it.

I was lucky enough to check out in the P51 in 1982 after about 5000 hrs in high performance jets like the F5 and F104 as well as the ubiquitous T33. While in performance it was like a T33 with a Mack truck engine up front -it was a "Mustang" -with all the history and mystique that involves. I had soloed one 28 years earlier as a private pilot -I think the owner waqs hoping for thye insurance -but THIS time -I was qualified -and it was a delight!
This was done for a Canadian TV show called Thrill of a Lifetime -and it truly was!

The A or B model is pictured but the discription is the D model. I loved that airplane.

My dad worked for North American during World War II at Grand Prairie also. He was a machinist. Some where my sister has a picture of the first P51 prototype with the crew that built her. My dad is in the picture. I was born in Fort Worth in 1946 and we lived in Arlington.

My Dad worked for North American Aircraft at their Grand Prarie, Texas plant during WWII. He build the wooden frame for the oil cooler scoop under the plane's belly. My Mom would leave a little early to pick Dad up from work and park on an incline across the road from the north end of the North-South runway. I still get a thrill remembering sitting there and watching these beautiful, shiney brand new P-51s take off with a roar and a flash of silver.


North American P-51 Mustang

The North American P-51 Mustang was a single engined, long rage fighter/escort that was used also as a single engine bomber during World War II.

In the early days of the Korean conflict, the P-51 Mustang was the primary fighter in the United Nations arsenal. Then came the jet fighter age and the P-51 was used in a utility role such as recon aircraft, night fighter and other specialty roles.

Today, the P-51 is a favorite not only with air racing pilots and but a favorite with aviation enthusiasts.

The list of airworthy Mustangs is dwindling due to age and the high cost of keeping them flying, but there are many available for viewing at your local museum.

Design and Deverlopment

In early 1940, Britain was involved in World War II with Germany. The “Battle of Britain” was on and the British need a fighter to compete with the Luftwaffe aircraft.

Most of the United States military aircraft, at the time, were substandard and the only competent fighter was the P-40 Warhawk, but it was in short supply as the Curtis Aircraft Company was working around the clock to supply the U.S. military (The great American arsenal had not gone into full swing until after December 7, 1941).

Thus North American Aviation, at the request of the British government, built from an original design the (NA73X) in 1940. It originally used an Allison V-1710 engine which proved to be rather inadequate at altitudes above 15,000.

The British replaced the Allison with a Rolls Royce Merlin inline engine that exceeded the abilities of most of the Luftwaffe aircraft.

In later years, the Packard V-1650-7 a U.S. licensed engine version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 two stage, two speed super-charged engine that proved to be the best engine ever made for the P-51.

This version came out in 1944 as did the P-51D. The “D” had 6/50 caliber M2/AN Browning machine guns.

Operational History

In the pre-war strategy, the American military looked at large 4-engine bombers flying in a tight formation, assuming the combined fire power of the bombers machine guns would withstand any enemy opposition.

This turned out not to be the case as large bomber losses occurred from German interceptors like the ME-109 and Focke Wulf WF-190 as well as flack.

The military first looked to the Lockheed P-38 Lightning which was fast and deadly. However it had one major flaw, it did not perform well at high altitudes. This was where all the fighting was going on. Later in the war the P-38 overcame this flaw and proved a formidable fighter.

The United States Army Air Corp then turned to North American Aviation for the definitive long range fighter. The British had already had North American develop the NA-73X in 1940. The prototype became the P-51 Mustang.

This is what the U.S. military needed a long range escort fighter that could handle anything the Luftwaffe currently had until the German jets-ME 242, and others were developed.

When the British first acquired the P-51 Mustang, the original Allison engine was totally inadequate above 15,000 feet.

But Rolls Royce came to the rescue with a Merlin 61, two speed, two staged inter-cooled engine that already was used in the Spitfire.

The cruise speed went from 390 mph to 440 mph. Now the Mustang could perform at altitudes of over 41,000 feet.

Just as the P-51A had poor performance at higher altitudes, the German FW-190 was near useless at the bombers altitude while the Messerschmidt Bf-109G did well at high altitudes, but it’s air frame was too light and thin that the P-51 did quick work on both of these interceptors.

Inspite of the P-51 superiority, military strategy played the most import part of the air war When the P-51 started escorting the bombers to and back from their targets, they stayed in formation with the bombers.

The Luftwaffe would assemble “a line of fighters/(interceptors )” and attack in a single sweep thus trapping the bombers and P-51 escorts.

The Mustangs could not react quick enough to defend the bombers. When Major General Jimmy Doolittle took over the 8th AF in February 1944, he developed a plan of “fighter sweep” of his own.

This plan was to send the escort P-51 ahead of the bombers and attack the assembling Luftwaffe when they were most vulnerable.

This plan proved successful until the German military devised a code named “Company Front” plan where 8 of the most devastating interceptors flew abreast into the bomber formation destroying nearly everything in sight.

So it was the American turn to counter this effect. The P-51s were assigned to destroy Luftwaffe aircraft on the ground. At first the escorts returning after the bomber raid would strafe the German airfields.

Later on, P-51 squadrons were assigned to attack the airfields only. This resulted in a lot fewer Luftwaffe aircraft in the skies. This was the beginning of victory in the air war over Europe for the Allies.

Mustangs on Display

Here is a list of countries that have P-51 Mustangs on display:

Australia – Canada – China – Dominican Republic – France – Germany – Indonesia – Israel – Italy – Mexico – Netherlands – New Zealand – Philippines – South Korea – Sweden – Switzerland – South Africa -United Kingdom – Venezuela.

Check with you local air museum on the P-51 Mustang.

In the Unite d States, here is a partial list of places to see a Mustang:

Ferocious Frankie Museum of Aviation Warner Robins GA.

Wham Bam Charleston ANGB West Virginia.

Bad Angel Pima Air & Space Museum Tucson AZ.

Bunnie San Diego Aerospace Museum San Diego, CA

Derailer Battleship Memorial Park mobile, AL

Miss Judy Yanks Air Museum Chino, CA

Willit Run? National Air and Space Museum Washington DC

Second Fiddle Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum Cleveland OH

Even today there are several P-51s still flying. Some are used in air races, others give aviation enthusiasts ‘air rides” at a healthy price. It certainly is worth it for anyone that has opportunity to get a ride in the Mustang.

I treasure the memory of a event that occurred back in the “sixties” when an acquaintance of mine offered to give me a ride in a P-51D.

We took off from Van Nuys airport in California and flew out over the ocean, buzzing several sail boats, flying up a beautiful canyon and climaxing with a couple of loops and barrel rolls.

The final comments I will leave you with is the unanswered question that leads to many debates with aviation buffs. What was the best American fighter of World Was II ? The candidates are:

I don’t think there can be a conclusive answer as each had its’ own special qualities and mission assignments.

But the debate will go on for many more years I suppose. I have covered the F4U and P-51. In the near future, I plan to review the P-38. So stay tune.

TECH SPECS for the P-51 MUSTANG

Wing Span: 37 ft 1 in

Length: 32 ft 3 in

Height: 13 ft 1 in

Weight: 9,200 lbs (MTOW)*

Max Speed: 437 mph/Cruise 362 mp

Ceiling: 41,900 ft

Range: 1,650 miles w/external tanks.

Engine: 1 Packard Merlin V1650-7 2 stage, 2 speed inter-cooled supercharger rated at 1,490 HP (Licensed by Rolls Royce).


North American P-51 Mustang in Communist Chinese Service

The North American P-51 Mustang is considered one of the world’s most iconic warplanes from the Second World War, seeing action in nearly all theaters, as well as the Korean War and many other conflicts thereafter. However, one of the lesser known stories of the Mustang is its service with the Communist Chinese forces who would go on to form the People’s Republic of China shortly after. A total of 39 Mustangs were obtained from the Chinese Nationalist forces either by capture or defection. These Mustangs were used in various roles with the Communists, and nine of them even had the honor of flying over Beijing on October 1st 1949 for a parade to commemorate the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Although never seeing combat, the Mustangs still had served with the Communist Chinese forces as one of their most advanced fighters until the arrival of Soviet aid.

A photo displaying the rather impressive cache of captured Nationalist planes now in Communist service. In this photo, there are around nineteen P-51 Mustangs visible. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)

History

The Republic of China (i.e, Chinese Nationalists under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek) was a notable operator of the North American P-51 Mustang during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Since the United States entered the Second World War, plans were made to provide the Republic of China China with modern American warplanes to replace the worn and outdated planes that the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) were using. The Mustangs were initially flown by pilots of the Chinese-American Composite Wing (CACW) starting from November 1944. The models they operated were P-51B and P-51C, but later in February 1945, P-51D and P-51K variants were delivered and put to use against the Japanese along with the P-51B and P-51C. At the end of the Second World War, the ROCAF received 278 Mustangs from the USAAF, most of which were P-51D and P-51K models, but also with some F-6D and F-6K photo reconnaissance models. Soon after, the uneasy relationship between the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong and the Nationalist government under the leadership of Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) disintegrated. As such, the civil war between the two parties resumed after nearly nine years of truce. This time however, the Communist forces were more prepared to fight the Nationalist forces. As time went on, the Nationalist forces began losing their hold on mainland China and were forced to retreat to Formosa (Taiwan), but not before many of their soldiers, officers and generals defected, leaving a substantial amount of equipment behind.

The People’s Liberation Army obtained their first Mustang on September 23rd 1948 when Captain Yang Peiguang (杨培光) from the Nationalist 4th Fighter Wing based in Beiping (Beijing) defected with his P-51D to the Communist forces at Siping, Jilin Province. The bulk of the Mustangs which would be captured by the Communist forces were, however, from the Liaoshen Campaign which lasted from September 12th – November 2nd, 1948. With the Communist victory at the Battle of Jinzhou on October 15th, a considerable amount of Nationalist equipment was captured among these were thirty one Mustangs in various states of repair at the Jinzhou Airfield. Though now with thirty four Mustangs in total, the People’s Liberation Army was not able to press any into service due to many factors the most important two being the lack of able pilots and the varying states of disrepair that the Mustangs were in.

The city of Shenyang was finally captured by the People’s Liberation Army on October 30th 1948, and on the second day of the city’s capture on October 31st, the Northeast People’s Liberation Army Aviation School sent men to secure the Shenyang Beiling airport, factories, warehouses, personnel, and various other assets formerly belonging to the Nationalists. In November, the Shenyang Beiling airport was officially established as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Repair Factory Number 5 (中国人民解放军空军第五修理厂). With the establishment of this repair factory, the first machines to be repaired were the Mustangs. The repairs took top priority and the first Mustang was ready for service on December 30th. Since then, thirty six Mustangs were repaired within a span of eighteen to twenty months lasting until 1950.

On December 10th 1948, the People’s Liberation Army was able to capture the Nationalist-held Beiping (Beijing) Nanyuan Airport as part of the Pingjin Campaign. Three Mustangs were found in relatively good condition, and a total of 128 Packard-built V-1650 Merlin engines were captured as well. This boosted the total amount of Mustangs in the People’s Liberation Army to thirty seven, and provided plenty of replacement engines for maintenance. After this, two more Mustangs would fall in the hands of the Communist forces.

On December 29th, Lieutenant Tan Hanzhou (谭汉洲) of the Nationalist 4th Fighter Group defected with his Mustang from Qingdao to Communist held Shenyang. The last Mustang to fall into the People’s Liberation Army’s hands occured on January 14th of 1949 when Lieutenant Yan Chengyin* (阎承荫) from the Nationalist 3rd Fighter Group’s 28th Squadron defected from his home base of Nanjing to Communist held Jinan.

Lieutenant Tan Hanzhou with his Mustang shortly after his defection. (blog.163.com)

Now with thirty nine Mustangs in total, the People’s Liberation Army began to put them to use. Starting from late January 1949, a large number of Mustangs were presented to the Northeast Old Aviation School’s (东北老航校) 2nd Squadron of the 1st Air Group with the purpose of training pilots. On August 15th 1949, the People’s Liberation Army formed their first flying squadron named at the Beiping Nanyuan airfield. The squadron consisted of two Fairchild PT-19 trainers, two de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers and six Mustangs. Shortly after the formation on September 5th, this squadron was assigned the task of defending Beiping’s airspace from Nationalist forces. At some point before October, eleven more Mustangs were assigned to this squadron. The squadron saw no combat.

* Mr. Yan later changed his name to Yan Lei (阎磊) after his defection.

Perhaps the most notable use of the Mustangs in Communist Chinese service was on October 1st 1949. By then, the bulk of the Nationalist forces were in discord and in the process of retreating to Formosa (Taiwan). With the Communist victory inevitable, Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. A Soviet-style military parade was held in newly-renamed Beijing’s (Beiping) Tiananmen Square which included sixteen thousand and four hundred soldiers, one hundred and fifty two tanks, two hundred and twenty two cars and seventeen planes were displayed to the public. Of these seventeen planes, nine were Mustangs. The Mustangs flew in groups of threes in a V formation and led the aerial convoy. Once over Tiananmen square, these Mustangs increased their speed and flew past the square and out of sight, they made a turn and reentered Tiananmen square for the back just in time to link up with the two Fairchild PT-19A trainers flying last. Because they re-entered the square so quickly, the spectators were led to believe these were nine different Mustangs, with a total of twenty six planes appearing over Tiananmen square instead of the actual seventeen. This was mentioned in a government made propaganda newsreel. Of these nine Mustangs, at least one was a P-51K model.

After the parade, the Mustangs were once again deployed in a defensive state awaiting possible Nationalist intrusions in Beijing. By November 1949, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force was officially established and a total of twenty two airworthy Mustangs were in service, with nine more awaiting repair. This meant that thirty one Mustangs still survived, with eight written off. It is unknown what precisely happened to these Mustangs but the author speculates that they could have been cannibalized for parts, destroyed in training flights, disassembled to study the structure, or simply scrapped.

One of the only known photos of the two seat P-51D trainer. The canopy seemed to have been removed to make space. (js.voc.com.cn)

On July 26th 1950, the Beijing defense squadron was renamed the “Air Force 1st Independent Fighter Brigade” (空军独立第一歼击机大队). By then, the Soviet Union was supplying the Chinese with more modern equipment and by mid-August, the brigade’s Mustangs were replaced by Soviet Lavochkin La-9 fighters. Once replaced, all Mustangs scattered across the country were collected and given to Aviation School No.7 to train new pilots. With this, Aviation School No.7 modified thirteen Mustangs to be two-seat trainers. This was done perhaps to speed up the training process, and to prevent accidents by rookie pilots without guidance. There is currently one known photo of the two seat trainer.

By September 1953, most Mustangs were retired from training service due to cracks in the landing gear. However, eight of them remained in service with Aviation School No.7 to train Ilyushin IL-10 pilots how to taxi their planes. A few more examples were used as teaching tools to train pilots on identifying plane parts. It is unknown when precisely the Mustang was retired once and for all.

An illustration showing three P-51 Mustangs flying over Beijing on October 1st of 1949. (thepaper.cn)

Surviving PLAAF Mustangs

To this day, only two Mustangs formerly in PLAAF service survive in museums. The first one is a P-51K-10-NT “Red 3032” with the serial number 44-12458. This P-51K is on public display at the Chinese Aviation Museum (中国航空博物馆), sometimes also known as the Datangshan Aviation Museum located in Datangshan, Beijing. It remains in relatively pristine condition as it was in an indoors display and sheltered from the elements. Bomb hardpoints are visible under each of the wings which signifies that this Mustang perhaps once served as a fighter/bomber for the ROCAF.

P-51K-10-NT “Red 3032” on display. It is in rather good condition due to being stored indoors. (George Trussell)

The other surviving PLAAF Mustang is a P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” with the serial number 44-73920. This Mustang can be seen at the China People’s Revolution Military Museum (中国人民革命军事博物馆) in the Haidian District of Beijing. What is notable about this specific plane is that it was one of the nine Mustangs that flew over Beijing on October 1st of 1949 for the Founding of the People’s Republic of China parade. This Mustang was displayed outdoors exposed to nature for the majority of its life until the museum went under renovation when it was finally moved indoors. The Mustang has gone through minimal restoration, as it looks considerably cleaner than when it was displayed outdoors. This Mustang also had bomb hardpoints under its wings.

The P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” in its new indoor display after the museum renovation. It looks considerably cleaner than when it was displayed outdoors. (Wikimedia Commons) The P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” in its old outdoors display, dust and slight rust can be seen on the machine. (Wikimedia Commons)

Variants Operated

A total of 39 North American P-51D Mustangs were operated by the Communist Chinese forces, and later the People’s Republic of China. Within these Mustangs, an unknown amount were P-51D and P-51K models.

  • P-51D – An unspecified amount of P-51D Mustangs of various block numbers were operated by the People’s Republic of China. A P-51D-25-NA is confirmed to have been in service as it flew over Beijing as part of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China parade and is now in the China People’s Revolution Military Museum (中国人民革命军事博物馆) in the Beijing.
  • P-51K – An unspecified amount of P-51K Mustangs of various block numbers were operated by the People’s Republic of China. A P-51K-10-NT is confirmed to have been in service as it is in the Chinese Aviation Museum (中国航空博物馆) in Beijing.
  • P-51 Trainer – A total of thirteen Mustangs were modified by Aviation School No.7 in 1951 to be two-seat trainers. The instructor sat in the rear while the student pilot was at the front. No surviving examples are preserved to this day.

The author would like to extend his thanks to Mr. Hemmatyar for restoring some of the photos used in this article.

Gallery

P-51K-10-NT “Red 3032” displayed in the Chinese Aviation Museum in Datangshan, Beijing. Illustration by Brendan Matsuyama P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” displayed in the China People’s Revolution Military Museum in the Haidian District of Beijing. Illustration by Brendan Matsuyama A PLAAF P-51D/K with a blue rudder. The unit and serial number is unknown. Illustration by Brendan Matsuyama A rare photograph of a mini P-51 Mustang model with PLAAF markings dated some time in the early 1950s. Two little boys accompany the cutout. This shows how impactful the Mustang was to the initial years of the People’s Republic of China. (eBay) 22 year old Lin Hu (林虎) with his P-51K before taking off to partake in the parade. (gogonews.cc) A still frame showing three P-51 Mustangs flying over Beijing. (Establishment of the People’s Republic of China Parade) A line of P-51 Mustangs awaiting inspection with their respective pilots standing at ease. (sohu.com) A PLAAF Mustang taking off. Note the rocket rails. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2) Mechanics and ground crew doing engine work on a Mustang. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2) Four Mustangs line up on the Beijing Nanyuan Airfield awaiting to take off for the participation in the 1949 parade. Two Curtiss C-46 Commandos can also be seen in the background. (windsor8.com)