The effects of the P-51 Mustang in World War II

P-51 Mustang w/ WWII
The effects of the P-51 Mustang in World War II

The Effect of the North American P-51 Mustang On the Air War in
Europe

by

David Buckingham
[email protected]

IBH 20th Century History
Mr. Peloquin
George Mason High School
Falls Church, Virginia

March 27, 1995

[Unfortunately, we don\'t have a digitized image of this photo.]

[Photo caption]

Harry R. Ankeny, Jr., the author\'s grandfather, with his P-51,
"Betsy,"
(named for the author\'s grandmother) at the end of his combat tour on
August 16, 1944.

Abstract

This paper deals with the contributions of the P-51 Mustang to the
eventual
victory of the Allies in Europe during World War II. It describes the
war
scene in Europe before the P-51 was introduced, traces the development
of
the fighter, its advantages, and the abilities it was able to contribute
to
the Allies\' arsenal. It concludes with the effect that the P-51 had on
German air superiority, and how it led the destruction of the Luftwaffe.
The thesis is that: it was not until the advent of the North American
P-51
Mustang fighter, and all of the improvements, benefits, and side effects
that it brought with it, that the Allies were able to achieve air
superiority over the Germans.

This paper was inspired largely by my grandfather, who flew the P-51 out
of
Leiston, England, during WW II and contributed to the eventual Allied
success that is traced in this paper. He flew over seventy missions
between
February and August 1944, and scored three kills against German
fighters.

Table of Contents

Introduction
Reasons for the Pre-P-51 Air Situation
The Pre-P-51 Situation
The Allied Purpose in the Air War
The Battle at Schweinfurt
The Development of the P-51
The Installation of the Merlin Engines
Features, Advantages, and Benefits of the P-51
The P-51\'s Battle Performance
The Change in Policy on Escort Fighter Function
P-51\'s Disrupt Luftwaffe Fighter Tactics
P-51\'s Give Bombers Better Support
Conclusion
Works Cited

Introduction

On September 1, 1939, the German military forces invaded Poland to begin
World War II. This invasion was very successful because of its use of a
new
military strategic theory -- blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg, literally
"lightning
war," involved the fast and deadly coordination of two distinct forces,
the
Wermacht and the Luftwaffe. The Wermacht advanced on the ground, while
the
Luftwaffe destroyed the enemy air force, attacked enemy ground forces,
and
disrupted enemy communication and transportation systems. This setup was
responsible for the successful invasions of Poland, Norway, Western
Europe,
the Balkans and the initial success of the Russian invasion. For many
years
after the first of September, the air war in Europe was dominated by the
Luftwaffe. No other nation involved in the war had the experience,
technology, or numbers to challenge the Luftwaffe\'s superiority. It was
not
until the United States joined the war effort that any great harm was
done
to Germany and even then, German air superiority remained unscathed. It
was
not until the advent of the North American P-51 Mustang fighter, and all
of
the improvements, benefits, and side effects that it brought with it,
that
the Allies were able to achieve air superiority over the Germans.

Reasons for the Pre-P-51 Air Situation

The continued domination of the European skies by the Luftwaffe was
caused
by two factors, the first of which was the difference in military theory
between the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force. The theories concerning
the
purpose and function of the Luftwaffe and RAF were exactly opposite and
were a result of their experiences in World War I. During WW I, Germany
attempted a strategic bombing effort directed against England using
Gothas
(biplane bombers) and Zeppelins (slow-moving hot-air balloons) which did
not give much of a result. This, plus the fact that German military
theory
at the beginning of WW II was based much more on fast quick results
(Blitzkrieg), meant that Germany decided not to develop a strategic air
force. The Luftwaffe had experienced great success when they used
tactical
ground-attack aircraft in Spain (i.e. at Guernica), and so they figured
that their air force should mainly consist of this kind of planes. So
Germany made the Luftwaffe a ground support force that was essentially
an
extension of the army and functioned as a long- range, aerial artillery.
The RAF, on the other hand, had experimented with ground-attack fighters
during WW I, and had suffered grievous casualty rates. This, combined
with
the fact that the British had been deeply enraged and offended by the
German Gotha and Zeppelin attacks on their home soil, made them
determined
to develop a strategic air force that would be capable of bombing German
soil in the next war. Thus, at the beginning of WW II, the RAF was
mostly a
strategic force that consisted of heavy bombers and backup fighters, and
lacked any tactical