The heroic story of the P-51 Mustang has been told before. But it’s such a remarkable story that it bears retelling. No fighter plane in World War II had more impact on the outcome of the air war in Europe as the Mustang. No fighter plane can boast of the deeds that were perpetrated by the legendary Mustang.
The P-51 Mustang helped end the war and saved thousands of lives. The Mustang made it’s appearance late in World War II in early 1944, but proved to be the catalyst that the allies needed to out-class the Luftwaffe and end their air superiority in Europe.
What the allies were in desperate need of was a long-range fighter that had the horse-power and range to effectively protect bombers flying missions over Germany.
The original P-51 Mustang had some bugs and needed to be redesigned with a better engine, “The Packard-built version of the Rolls-Royce 12-cylinder Merlin engine” before it became a serious threat to German air might.
Flying Fortresses (B-17’s) and other Allied bombers had been easy victims for Axis “War Birds” until the arrival of the P-51 Mustang. Thunderbolts and Lightning’s had been the primary escorts up until this point, but with their limited range were unable to provide protection all the way to the target and back.
The P-51’s were hot-rod’s of the air in 1944 and were well-made and durable. They sported six Browning .50 mm machine guns, and could reach speeds of up to 440 mph at 30,000 feet.
The P-51 had been designed to have the performance of a fighter plane and the long-range capabilities of a bomber. The Mustangs were faster, could out-climb, and out-perform nearly any aircraft the Luftwaffe possessed including the Junkers, Me-110’s, FW-190’s, and even had remarkable success against the advanced twin-jet Messerschmitt 262s.
The P-51 became the conflict’s most deadly and notorious aircraft and met and conquered every German plane that Hermann Goring (Luftwaffe Supreme Commander) could put in the sky.
With the accomplishments of the Mustang, the Allies were not only able to hold their own and protect Flying Fortress( B-17‘s) and other bomber’s missions, but became aggressive and began penetrating deeper into German territory.
The P-52 Mustangs were the first single-engine plane in the U.K. to breach the heart of Germany and reach Berlin and the only fighter to purposely seek out and destroy Luftwaffe “War Birds.”
The Mustang pilots started leading daring raids on German airfields and destroying Luftwaffe planes on the ground. If the Luftwaffe wouldn’t come out and play, the Allied Aces were determined to track them down and eliminate them before they reached the sky.
With the security the Mustangs offered and with the almost complete decimation of the Luftwaffe’s air force, Allied bombers were free to annihilate Germanys manufacturing capabilities thus preventing them from replenishing their air force.
Once called, “The Most Aerodynamically Perfect Pursuit Plane in Existence” the P-51 Mustang took a major role in shortening the war in Europe and defeating the German Luftwaffe, and achieved a well deserved place in aviation war history.
Today, only a hand-full of original P-51 Mustangs exist and are mostly owned by private collectors, I am fortunate and have personally born witness to their graceful, fluid motions, and spectacular dives as they soared and dipped through the morning air at Reno’s world famous Championship Air Races, which are held in my hometown every September in Reno, Nevada.