One of the most iconic and celebrated single seater fighters of WWII was the North American P-51 Mustang.
A long range, single seater fighter and fighter/bomber, the Mustang saw service in the European theatre of war from late 1942; the Pacific campaign and right through to the close of the Korean War. By the end of WWII, P51 pilots had claimed over 4950 enemy aircraft destroyed across all theatres of conflict.
The USAAF’s 8th Air Force had commenced daylight bombing operations over Germany from mid 1942 - initially with minor losses to enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft. This quickly changed as the Luftwaffe’s capability dramatically increased when more and more German fighters were quickly moved from other frontline operations to meet the US attacks.
As the US missions pushed further into Germany, far beyond the protective escort range of existing allied fighters, US losses began to skyrocket. The Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission in August lost 60 B-17s out of a force of 376, an October mission lost 77 of a force of 291—26% of the attacking force.
The policy of ‘self-defending’ bomber formations had taken a major hit with losses becoming so severe that long-range missions were eventually called off until an effective long range fighter escort was found. The solution was the fast and highly maneuverable P51 Mustang with its long range drop tanks and 6 x Browning machine guns.
Initially the US P38's & P47's escorted the US bombers across the Channel before handing over to the P51 Mustangs. The P51's then stayed with the bombers to the target areas before returning with them to the British bases. It quickly became apparent that the P51 was the vastly superior fighter escort and soon took over full escort duties. By the end of 1944, 14 out of the 15 US fighter groups were flying the P51.
The Luftwaffe’s primary attack aircraft to deal with the increasing waves of US bombers was the twin engine Messerschmitt Bf 110 but it soon became easy prey to the Mustangs and was quickly withdrawn whilst the early Focke-Wulf 190’s suffered from poor high-altitude performance and also suffered heavy losses. This left the main defensive role to the Messerschmitt Bf 109 which whilst claiming comparable high altitude performance to the Mustang, suffered from the increased airframe weight of their heavy armament.
The Mustang escort formations were soon moving far ahead of the main bombing group formations as 'fighter sweeps' designed to intercept the enemy fighters long before they reached the US bombers. The Germans responded by throwing more and more 109's at the mustangs in order to distract them while the Focke-Wulf's snuck through to attack the bombers from astern.
Eventually the Mustangs were given free reign to straffe enemy airfields where ever they were found which dramatically reduced the number of aircraft the Luftwaffe could muster to meet the US bomber raids.
By the surrender of Germany in May 1945, many of the European based Mustang fighter groups had already been moved to other theatres of war with similar success and went on to contribute significantly to the US offensive in the Korean War of 1950-53, where they were flown by very experienced and battle hardened US pilots.
All P-51 Mustang Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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