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America’s Most Famous War Bird Turned The Tide Of The War In Europe

Designed in 1940 by North American Aviation, the P-51 Mustang is a long range, single seat fighter plane made in America. It was used in WWII and the Korean War, among other conflicts. The P-51 was first introduced in 1942. Shortly thereafter, more than 15,000 P-51 fighter planes were built, at a cost per unit of about $51,000. This was back in 1945. Eventually, there were four versions of the P-51 fighter. The first one (P-51A) had an Allison engine, which caused a drop in air speed when the plane exceeded 15,000 feet in altitude. Someone suggested the Merlin-61 engine, designed by Stanley Hooker of Rolls Royce. This gave rise to the P-51B. The new engine provided the necessary increase in horsepower (from 1,200 to 1,720), air speed (from 390 to 440 mph) and altitude capability (from 15,000 feet to 42,000 feet). The P-51B became available to WWII flyers in 1943. The Mustang P-51 was clearly superior to earlier American designs.

By May of 1945, the groups of pilots with the Mustang P-51 planes (the 8th, 9th, and 15th Air Forces) claimed to have shot down nearly 5,000 enemy planes. The top Mustang ace was George Preddy, who scored 23 air victories with the Mustang P-51. Preddy was shot down and killed by friendly fire on Christmas day, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge.

The P-51 fighter was retired from military service in 1956 but continued on in the Dominican Air Force all the way until 1984!

The P-51 is featured here, in a video entitled Warbirds of WWII. The movie shows some interesting vintage footage of Mustang P-51 fighter planes and interviews a series of actual Mustang pilots who flew the war bird through the darkest days of WWII.

 

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