Profile Publications No. 100 The North American P-51B & C Mustang

The North American by Richard Atkins P-51B-5-NA, 43-6913, VF-T o f the 335th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, U.S. 8th Air Force. The legendary “Shangri La" flown by Captain Don Gentile. (Photo: Imp. War Mus.) “MUSTANG, the small, hardy, half wild horse of America.” So defines the Winston Dictionary. moreNo fitting name could have been chosen for this sturdy little steed which was destined to carve a place in aviation history beside such great fighters as the SPAD, S.E.5. and Spitfire. No less impressive is the list of great fighter pilots who rode the Mustang to glory in bitter combat in every theatre of the War Gentile, Godfrey, Beerbower, and a host of other famous pilots as well as the tens of thousands of unheralded heroes who were privileged to fly her. No fighter plane in history, neither before or since, has matched the versatility of the Mustang. Designed as short range fighter, the P-51 ultimately served with distinction in the role of Long Range Escort Fighter, Fighter-Bomber, Photo Reconnaissance, Close Support, and Dive Bomber in not one, but two, major wars and dozens of minor ones (if one can classify any armed conflict as minor) and went onto become a sleek and sought-after executive transport machine, Cross Country &Pylon Racer, and movie star. Other fighter types have equalled the Mustang in one or more of the varied combat roles but none have ever equalled it in all of it's assigned missions. Such is the versatility and rugged dependability of the Mustang that it is as difficult to imagine the passing of the Mustang from the scene as it would be to visualize aviation without the DC-3. It is indeed sad to reflect that the P-51 B’s and C’s are practically extinct. While the P-5 ID is still quite plentiful, the Band Care only to be found in museums in extremely small quantity. Outside of those examples in the Air Force Museum, the National Air Museum (Blair’s Excalibur III), the Movieland Museum of the Air (M antz’s Bendix winner) and Ed Maloney’s Air Museum in Ontario, California, none are known to exist. In all proba­bility, some few examples lie rotting in old hangers and in scrapheaps in the U.S. and in Europe, but are known only to the local folk. Although inborn a spectacular fashion and possessing attributes which would ultimately mark if for greatness, the Mustang almost passed into history as an unsuccessful airplane because of the lack of a suitable powerplant and some behind the scenes nianoeuvering within Air Corps procurement channels. From the onset, the Mustang I, the first production model, suffered from alack of perfor­mance at altitude due to its Allison engine and was relegated to ground support activities with the British Army. In spite of the engine difficulties, it was still afar superior airframe to its contemporaries in America. However, for some mysterious reason, no official interest was shown by the U.S. Army Air Corps in spite of the growing tensions in Europe and the urgent need of a good fighter for the U.S.A.C. Although there are many reasons forgiven the delay, Cockpit o f the XP-51B No. 2,(41-7421) (Photo N.A.A.)
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