Celebrate 75 years of the iconic World War II warbird that helped win the war and flew into the heart of American life.
From D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge, through reconnaissance missions and combat, fighting flying bombs and Me 262 Stormbird jets, P-51 Mustang pilots saw it all during World War II. P-51 Mustang celebrates the 75th anniversary of the most iconic American warbird written by Cory Graff, lead curator at the Flying Heritage Collection–one of the world’s most important collections and sites for warbird restoration.
The entire story of this plane is here, starting with the astonishing fact that the P-51 Mustang was built in less than 120 days. This first version was hardly a world-beater, and it took the addition of a Rolls-Royce-designed Merlin to make the Mustang a legend. These nimble and versatile fighters were able to escort Allied heavy bombers all the way to Berlin and back. In the Pacific, their long-range ability was pushed to its limit, with pilots flying 1,500-mile, eight-or-more-hour missions over water to attack Tokyo.
On the home front, Graff profiles the impact manufacturing Mustangs had on workers in Los Angeles and Dallas.
The United States wasn’t finished with the P-51 Mustang after World War II. It was used in the Korean War and, afterwards, as a symbol and icon of American ingenuity. Graff explores the post-World War II history of this iconic plane, making this a book that every single World War II, history, and aviation enthusiast will want to buy.
Published by Zenith press
A pair of 506th Fighter Group Mustangs cruise near Iwo Jima. The Boll Weevil and 599 (called Anything Goes) served in the same group, but different squadrons, hence the different tails. The airplane in the foreground was with the 457th Fighter Squadron (green tail) and 599 was assigned to the 458th Fighter Squadron (blue stripes). National Archives
Putting proper grammar aside, they say that if an airplane looks good, it flies good, too. This image shows the clean lines of the NA-73 after it was rebuilt. Note that for some reason, the airplane’s striped tail has been touched out of the print. National Archives
A lineup of airplanes shows all of the US Army’s fighter/attack fighter types, circa 1942. Front to
back are the Bell P-39 Airacobra, NAA A-36 Apache, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Republic P-47
Thunderbolt, and twin-engine Lockheed P-38 Lightning. All but the “jug-nosed” P-47 flew with an Allison engine. It is interesting to see how simple and geometric the shape of the Apache/ Mustang is when compared to its counterparts. The airplane’s simple form made it relatively easy to build. National Archives
With dive flaps deployed, a new A-36 sits parked on the ramp at NAA in Inglewood. The airplane has yet to be fitted with its weaponry in its wings or nose. In the background we see another famous dive-bomber of World War II—a Douglas SBD Dauntless. Santa Maria Museum of Flight
Someone at NAA got the idea that rubber was being wasted as workers moved new Mustangs around in the factory and on the ramp. Could substitute wheels be used in their place? Perhaps more of a PR stunt than actual long-term consideration, the wooden wheels were briefly affixed to an RAF Mustang Mk IA. How embarrassing for the sleek new fighter! National Archives
This glorious panorama shows the Mustang final assembly line at Inglewood, almost beginning to end. Wings are on the left with fuselages coming together nearby. Note the suspended tail and engines being added after the U-turn on the floor. On the right, after the wing join, nearly whole Mustangs get finishing touches as they migrate toward the factory doors. Santa Maria Museum of Flight
Lieutenant John Godfrey (left) and Capt. Don Gentile of the 4th Fighter Group made a lethal pair when they went hunting over Europe. Together they accounted for thirty-seven victories and were the most famous pair of pilots flying Mustangs during World War II. National Archives
Sky Bouncer, made famous in the iconic “Bottisham Four” Mustang formation photo, was flown by the 361st Fighter Group, 375th Fighter Squadron operations officer Capt. Bruce “Red” Rowlett. There was perhaps no more fitting name for the P-51 Mustang and its job over Europe. Sky Bouncer was wrecked on takeoff on April 3, 1945. National Archives
Tuskegee Airmen Capt. Andrew Turner and Lt. Clarence “Lucky” Lester of the 332nd Fighter Group discuss tactics near P-51C Skipper’s Darlin’ III in Italy in 1944. At the time, Lester had shot down three German airplanes in air-to-air combat. National Archives
A 506th Fighter Group Mustang is pushed over pierced steel planking in the dispersal area on Iwo Jima. Note the double antenna behind the cockpit. The airplane’s “Uncle Dog” system helped Mustangs navigate over endless miles of ocean and return home. When a pilot strayed to one side of the flightpath, he heard the Morse code letter D (“dog” or “dah dit dit”). If he strayed to the other side, he heard U (“uncle” or “dit dit dah”). National Archive