WWII Aviation: The ‘P-51 Mustang’ Fighter Plane

The P-51 was the darling of the Army Air Forces. Aerodynamically agile and acrobatic, the Mustang was fast and furious in its effectiveness in downing enemy aircraft. A latecomer to World War II, it first saw combat over Europe near the end of 1943. The long-range fighter proved to be just what the Allies needed to escort bombers to and from Germany as they hammered enemy targets.

Aug. 2, 2021, 6 a.m.

“In terms of the air war over Europe with the strategic bombing campaign, the P-51 was a war-winning weapon,” says Jeremy Kinney, associate director of research and curatorial affairs at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “As a fighter escort, it enabled the successful bombing of targets deep in Nazi Germany from bases in England and Italy. That was a crucial component in the destruction of strategic sites such as factories and munition plants.”

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