Tag Archives: North American Aviation P-51D Mustang

12 October 1944

1st Lieutenant Chuck Yeager. (American Air Museum in Britain)

12 October 1944: During World War II, First Lieutenant Charles Elwood Yeager, Air Corps, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), was a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot assigned to the 363d Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group, stationed at RAF Leiston (USAAF Station 373), near the village of Theberton, Suffolk, England.

Recently promoted from the warrant rank of Flight Officer, Lieutenant Yeager—as one of the most experienced pilots in the group— was leading the 357th on a bomber escort mission against Bremen, Germany. While the Group’s 362nd and 364th Fighter Squadrons remained with the B-24 bombers, Yeager and the 363d patrolled 50 to 100 miles (80 to 160 kilometers) ahead.

At 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) over Steinhuder Meer, northwest of Hanover, Yeager sighted a group of Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters (also called the Me 109). He was soon able to count 22. Yeager and his squadron of 16 Mustangs circled and attacked out of the sun.

A flight of three Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters, 20 July 1944. (Bundsarchive Bild 101l-676-7975-36)
A flight of three Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters, 20 July 1944. (Bundsarchive Bild 101l-676-7975-36)

As Chuck Yeager maneuvered his P-51D Mustang, named Glamorous Glenn II, to fire at a trailing Bf 109, the German fighter suddenly turned left and collided with his wingman. Both pilots bailed out of their fighters and the two Bf 109s went down.

It was almost comic, scoring two quick victories without firing a shot. . . By now, all the airplanes in the sky had dropped their wing tanks and were spinning and diving in a wild, wide-open dogfight. I blew up a 109 from six hundred yards—my third victory—when I turned to see another angling in behind me. Man I pulled back the throttle so damned hard I nearly stalled, rolled up and over, came in behind and under him, kicking right rudder and simultaneously firing. I was directly underneath the guy, less than fifty feet, and I opened up that 109 as if it were a can of Spam. That made four. A moment later, I waxed a guy’s fanny in a steep dive; I pulled up at about 1,000 feet; he went straight into the ground.

Yeager, An Autobiography, by Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos, Bantam Books, New York, 1985, at Page 57.

1st Lieutenant Charles E. Yeager with “Glamorous Glenn II,” at USAAF Station 157, Raydon, Suffolk, England, 17 October 1944. (American Air Museum in Britain)

Lieutenant Yeager’s official report of the air battle reads (in part):

“H. Five Me. 109s destroyed

“I. I was leading the Group with Cement Squadron and was roving out to the right of the first box of bombers. I was over STEINHUDER LAKE when 22 Me. 109s crossed in front of my Squadron from 11:00 O’Clock to 1:00 O’Clock. I was coming out of the sun and they were about 1½ miles away at the same level of 25,000 feet. I fell in behind the enemy formation and followed them for about 3 minutes, climbing to 30,000 feet. I still had my wing tanks and had close up to around 1,000 yards, coming within firing range and positioning the Squadron behind the entire enemy formation. Two of the Me. 109s were dodging over to the right. One slowed up and before I could start firing, rolled over and bailed out. The other Me. 109, flying his wing, bailed out immediately after as I was ready to line him in my sights. I was the closest to the tail-end of the enemy formation and no one, but myself was in shooting range and no one was firing. I dropped my tanks and then closed up to the last Jerry and opened fire from 600 yards, using the K-14 sight. I observed strikes all over the ship, particularly heavy in the cockpit. He skidded off to the left. I was closing up on another Me. 109 so I did not follow him down. Lt. STERN, flying in Blue Flight reports this E/A on fire as it passed him and went into a spin. I closed up on the next Me. 109 to 100 yards, skidded to the right and took a deflection shot of about 10°. I gave about a 2 second burst and the whole fuselage split open and blew up after we passed. Another Me. 109 to the right had cut his throttle and was trying to get behind. I broke to the right and quickly rolled to the left on his tail. He started pulling it in and I was pulling 6″G”. I got a lead from around 300 yards and gave him a short burst. There were hits on wings and tail section He snapped to the right 3 times and bailed out when he quit snapping at around 18,000 feet. I did not blackout during this engagement due to the efficiency of the “G” suit. Even though I was skidding I hit the second Me. 109 by keeping the bead and range on the E/A. To my estimation the K-14 sight is the biggest improvement to combat equipment for Fighters up to this date. The Me. 109s appeared to have a type of bubble canopy and had purple noses and were a mousey brown all over. I claim five Me 109s destroyed.

“J. Ammunition Expended: 587 rounds .50 cal MG.

“Charles E. Yeager, 1st Lt, AC.”

Lieutenant Yeager had destroyed five enemy fighters during a single battle. He became “an Ace in one day” and was awarded the Silver Star. Of the twenty-two Me 109s, the 363rd had destroyed eight without losing a single Mustang.

Yeager’s Glamorous Glenn II had previously been assigned to Captain Charles K. Peters and named Daddy Rabbit. Flown by another pilot, Second Lieutenant Horace Roycroft, 44-13897 was destroyed six days later when it crashed in bad weather. Lieutenant Roycroft was killed.

North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA 44-13366 on a test flight near the North American plant at Inglewood, California. This is from the same production block as Yeager's Glamorous Glenn II.
North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA 44-13366 on a test flight near the North American plant at Inglewood, California. This fighter is from the same production block as Yeager’s Glamorous Glenn II.

The P-51D was the predominant version of the North American Aviation World War II fighter. It was a single-seat, single-engine fighter, initially designed for the Royal Air Force. The P-51D was 32 feet, 3.5 inches (9.843 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet (11.278 meters). It was 13 feet, 4.5 inches (4.077 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 7,635 pounds (3,463 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 12,100 pounds (5,489 kilograms).

The P-51D was powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with Military Power ratings of 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m with 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3), or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). These engines were versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66, built under license by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)
A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)

The P-51D with a V-1650-7 Merlin had maximum speed at Sea Level of 323 miles per hour (520 kilometers per hour) at the Normal Power setting of 2,700 r.p.m. and 46 inches of manifold pressure, and 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour) at War Emergency Power, 3,000 r.p.m with 67 inches of manifold pressure (5 minute limit). At altitude, using the Military Power setting of 3,000 r.p.m. and 61 inches of manifold pressure (15 minute limit), it had a maximum speed of 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 28,000 feet (8,534 meters). With War Emergency Power the P-51D could reach 442 miles per hour (711 kilometers per hour) at 26,000 feet (7,925 meters).

The P-51D could climb to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 6.4 minutes, and to its service ceiling, 41,600 feet (12,680 meters), in 28 minutes. The airplane’s absolute ceiling was 42,400 feet (12,924 meters).

With 180 gallons (681 liters) internal fuel, the maximum range of the P-51D was 1,108 miles (1,783 kilometers).

Armorers carry AN/M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns and belts of linked ammunition to a P-51 Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)
Armorers carry Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns and belts of linked .50-caliber ammunition to a P-51 Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-51D was armed with six electrically-heated Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with three mounted in each wing. 400 rounds of ammunition were provided for the inner pair of guns, and 270 rounds for each of the other four guns, for a total of 1,880 rounds of ammunition. This was armor piercing, incendiary, and tracer ammunition. The fighter could also carry a 1,000 pound (453.6 kilogram) bomb under each wing in place of drop tanks, or up to ten rockets.

North American Aviation P-51D Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation P-51D Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)

A total of 8,156 P-51Ds were produced by North American at Inglewood, California, and Dallas, Texas, and another 200 by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Melbourne, Australia.

The North American Aviation P-51D Mustang remained in service with the United States Air Force until 27 January 1957, when the last aircraft were retired from the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia National Guard.

North American Aviation P-51D-25-NT Mustang 44-84900 at NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, circa 1945–1952. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 August 1950: Medal of Honor, Major Joseph Louis Sebille, United States Air Force

Major Louis Joseph Sebille, United States Air Force.

Medal of Honor

Major Louis J. Sebille

Rank and Organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, 5th Air Force.
Place and Date: Near Hanchang, Korea, August 5, 1950.
Entered Service At: Chicago, Ill.
Born: November 21, 1915, Harbor Beach. Mich.

Citation:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Major Louis Joseph Sebille, United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Fifth Air Force in action against enemy forces near Hanchang, Korea.

During an attack on a camouflaged area containing a concentration of enemy troops, artillery, and armored vehicles, Major Sebille’s F-51 aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Although fully cognizant of the short period he could remain airborne, he deliberately ignored the possibility of survival by abandoning the aircraft or by crash landing, and continued his attack against the enemy forces threatening the security of friendly ground troops. In his determination to inflict maximum damage upon the enemy, Major Sebille again exposed himself to the intense fire of enemy gun batteries and dived on the target to his death.

The superior leadership, daring, and selfless devotion to duty which he displayed in the execution of an extremely dangerous mission were an inspiration to both his subordinates and superiors and reflect the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the armed forces of the United Nations.

Major Louis J. Sebille, U.S. Air Force, with a Lockheed F-80C-10-LO Shooting Star, 49-590. (U.S. Air Force)

Louis Joseph Sebille was born at Harbor Beach, Michigan, 21 November 1915. He was the son of Louis Joseph August Sebille, M.D., a physician, and Edna I. DeLish Sebille. In 1934, Sebille attended Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, where he was a member of the Gamma Phi Delta (ΓΦΔ) fraternity. He was also a member of the drama club.

Sebille enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, 19 December 1941. Cadet Sebille underwent flight training at at Tulsa, Oklahoma, Perrin Field, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve, 10 July 1942. He then was assigned to MacDill Field, Florida, for advanced training as a Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber pilot.

Lieutenant Sebille married Miss Elizabeth Jane Young of Chicago, Illinois, at Barton, Florida, 26 September 1942. W.F. Hutchinson, a notary public, officiated at the civil ceremony. They would have a son, Louis Joseph (“Flip”) Seville III, born in 1950.

“Lou” Sebille deployed to Europe with the 450th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium), based at RAF Bury St. Edmunds. He was appointed a First Lieutenant, Army of the United States, 13 January 1943. The group flew the first B-26 mission from England, 14 May 1943, making a low-level attack against a power station at Ilmuiden, Holland, in enemy-occupied Europe. Lieutenant Sebille flew that first mission. The 322nd’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert M. Stillam, was killed when his B-26 was shot down. On 17 May, eleven B-26 bombers from the 322nd flew another low-level mission over Holland. Ten airplanes were shot down by antiaircraft artillery, and 60 airmen were lost. After that, the group concentrated on medium altitude attacks.

Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers of the 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium) at Andrews Field (RAF Great Saling), circa 1944.

Sebille was promoted to Captain, A.U.S., 17 August 17 August 1943, and to Major, A.U.S., 7 September 1944. After 68 combat missions, Major Sebille returned to the United States.

In April 1945, Major Sebille attended the Airborne Radar Familiarization Course at Orlando, Florida. He was released from active duty 5 August 1945. His permanent rank was First Lieutenant, Air Corps, with date of rank retroactive to 21 November 1943. In September 1945, Major Sebille went to the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Major Sebille was recalled to active duty in July 1946. He held several staff assignments, before being assigned to the Air Tactical School at Tyndall Field, Florida.

In September 1948, Major Seville took command of the 67th Squadron, Jet, 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, stationed Clark Air Base in the Philippines. At the outbreak of the Korean War, the 67th was transferred to Ashiya, Japan.

(Mrs. Sebille and Flip were returned from the Philippines to the United States aboard the troop ship USNS General Simon B. Buckner. They arrived at San Francisco, California, on 4 August 1950—5 August in Korea.)

Louis Joseph (“Flip”) Sebille III, with Mrs. Elizabeth J. Sebille and General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, at March AFB, California, 24 August 1951. (University of Southern California Libraries, Los Angeles Examiner Negatives Collection)

The aircraft flown by Major Sebille on 5 August 1950 was a North American F-51D-25-NA Mustang, serial number 44-74394.

In a ceremony at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California, 24 August 1951, General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, presented the Medal of Honor to Mrs. Elizabeth J. Sebille, Major Sebille’s widow, and their 17-month-old son, Louis Joseph (“Flip”) Sebille III.

Major Sebille was the first member of the United States Air Force to be awarded the Medal of Honor since its establishment as a separate military service, 18 September 1947. In addition to the Medal of Honor, during his military career Major Sebille had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (two awards), the Air Medal with two silver and one bronze oak leaf cluster (twelve awards), and the Purple Heart.

Major Sebille’s remains are buried at Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.

North American Aviation F-51D-25-NA Mustang of the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Bomber Group, Republic of South Korea, 1950. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 July 1983

Dago Red, Reno, 1988 (Wikimedia)

30 July 1983: Flying a modified World War II-era fighter, Frank Taylor set a  Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 15/25 Kilometer Straight Course¹ with an average speed of 832.12 kilometers per hour (517.056 miles per hour)—(0.686 Mach). The record flight took place at Mojave Airport (MHV) in the high desert of southern California. The runway elevation at MHV is 2,801 feet above Sea Level (853.8 meters). The airport is about 19 miles (30.6 kilometers) northwest of Edwards Air Force Base.

Flying magazine briefly commented the record run:

“. . . he ran the Mustang’s Merlin engine at 110 inches of manifold pressure [7.93 Bar] and 3,800 r.p.m. (it was designed for 61 inches and 3,000 r.p.m.) and fed it 110 gallons [416.4 liters] of 115/145-octane fuel with manganese additive, enough for only two passes.

Flying, Vol. 112, No. 1, January 1985, at Page 64.

Taylor’s air racer was Dago Red,² a North American Aviation P-51D-30-NA Mustang. The fighter had been built at Inglewood, California, in 1944 with U.S. Army Air Corps serial number 44-74996. When the U.S. Air Force retired the last of its Mustangs from Air National Guard service in 1957, 44-74996 was sold as surplus.

Dago Red would have appeared like this F-51D when in U.S. Air Force markings. This fighter, 44-74998, was the second Mustang to be built by North American Aviation at Inglewood after Dago Red. (U.S. Air Force)

It was issued the civil registration N5410V. The Mustang changed ownership many times before it crashed following an engine failure at Concorde, California, 16 August 1970. After a decade in storage, the wreck was rebuilt as an air racer.

North American Aviation P-51D-30-NA Mustang 44-74996, N5410V. (Unattributed)

The P-51D was modified for air racing. It’s wings were “clipped” (shortened) and the upper fuselage re-shaped, both intended to reduce aerodynamic drag. Approximately 2½ feet (0.76 meters) were removed from each wing tip. The Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engine also received many internal modifications to increase power output, and to survive that increase. The Merlin turned a Hamilton Standard “paddle blade” propeller. (Dago Red‘s current engine is based on the post-war Rolls-Royce Merlin 620-series commercial variant.)

On 21 August 1989, an Unlimited Class Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, Rare Bear, exceeded Dago Red‘s record speed while setting its own FAI record,³ averaging 850.24 kilometers per hour (528.315 miles per hour) over a shorter 3 kilometer course. Both airplanes’ records stood until they were retired due to changes in the sporting code.

In addition to its world speed record, Dago Red has won the National Championship Air Races six times.

Dago Red (Dago Red LLC)
Carrari Dago Red

¹ FAI Record File Number 8434

² “Dago Red” is a derogatory American slang term referring to an Italian-style blended dark red wine. It was also the name of a commercial brand sold in the 1970s. Dago Red sold for about $2.00 per bottle ($13.00 in 2017). (Thanks to “Dr. Vinny” for the info).

³ FAI Record File Number 8437

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

 

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26 July 1944

North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs, "The Bottisham Four", 26 July 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs, “The Bottisham Four,” 26 July 1944. (U.S. Air Force)

26 July 1944: This iconic World War II photograph, The Bottisham Four, is one of a series depicting a flight of four North American Aviation P-51 Mustang fighters—three P-51Ds and one P-51B—of the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, based at Air Force Station F-374 (RAF Bottisham), Cambridgeshire, England, as they flew formation with a B-17 Flying Fortress camera ship from the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy).

None of these aircraft would survive the war. Fourteen days after this photo was taken, 9 August 1944, the number two plane, 44-13926 (E2 S), crashed during a training flight near Stalham, Norfolk, killing the pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Donald D. Dellinger.

Three days later, 12 August 1944, at 1505 hours, 361st Fighter Group commanding officer Colonel Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr., flying the lead plane, Lou IV, was killed and his Mustang destroyed in a dive-bombing attack against the Arras railroad marshaling yards in Boisleux-au-Mont, France.

The number four plane, the P-51B Suzy G, crash-landed following a combat mission and was destroyed, 11 September 1944.

Sky Bouncer, the number three P-51D, crashed on takeoff, near Cambron Casteau, Belgium, 3 April 1945.

Lead: P-51D-5-NA 44-13410, E2*C, named Lou IV after the pilot's daughter. (U.S. Air Force)
Lead: North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA Mustang 44-13410, E2 C. (U.S. Air Force)

Lead: P-51D-5-NA 44-13410, E2 C, flown by group commander Colonel Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr., and named Lou IV after his wife, Marjorie Lou Ashcroft Christian.

Jack Christian was a 1939 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He served as a B-17 pilot with the 19th Bombardment Group at Clark Field, Philippine Islands. After the B-17s were destroyed in the attacks of 8 December 1941, Christian was at Bataan before being evacuated to Australia.

While ferrying a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, he was shot down over Timor and listed as Missing in Action. He eventually made his way to Allied territory.

A few months later, Christian, while flying a Bell P-400 Airacobra with the 67th Pursuit Squadron, was the first U.S. Army Air Corps pilot to land at Henderson Field, on the island of Guadalcanal, 12 August 1942.

On 10 February 1943, Major Christian was given command of the 361st Fighter Group at Richmond, Virginia. The group deployed to England in November 1943.

For his service in World War II, Colonel Christian was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster (two awards), Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters (four awards) and the Purple Heart.

There is a Special Memorial in honor of Colonel Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr., United States Army Air Corps, at the Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Colonel Thomas Jonathan Jackson ("Jack") Christian, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)
Colonel Thomas Jonathan Jackson (“Jack”) Christian, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)

**********

Number two P-51D-5-NA 44-13926, E2*S (note the dorsal fin fillet at base of vertical fin). (U.S. Air Force)
Number Two: North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA Mustang 44-13926, E2 S. (Note the dorsal fin fillet at base of vertical fin for increased longitudinal stability). (U.S. Air Force)

Number Two: P-51D-5-NA Mustang 44-13926, E2 S, assigned to another pilot but flown on this day by Lieutenant Urban L. (“Ben”) Drew. (Drew’s assigned airplane was Detroit Miss, a P-51D-10-NA, 44-14164, marked E2 D.)

Urban L. Drew joined the U.S. Army Air Corp in 1942 and trained as a P-51 fighter pilot. He joined the 361st Fighter Group in England in October 1943. He flew 75 combat missions with the 361st and shot down six enemy aircraft in aerial combat, two of which were Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters, destroyed 7 October 1944. Nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross, the medal was denied because his gun camera failed and the shoot-downs were not recorded. His wingman was shot down during the air battle and captured, so Drew’s claims could not be verified. However, the kills were later confirmed with German records, and in 1983, Major Drew was awarded the Air Force Cross. In addition to scoring the first kill of an enemy Me 262 by an Allied pilot, Drew also destroyed the Blohm & Voss BV238-V1, a prototype six-engine flying boat, the world’s largest airplane at the time.

In 1945, Ben Drew was transferred to the 413th Fighter Squadron, 414th Fighter Group, 10th Air Force, in the western Pacific, flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts from the island of Iwo Jima. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, twice, and fifteen Air Medals.

Following World War II, Ben Drew joined the Michigan Air National Guard in which he served until 1950.

Major Drew died in 2013 at the age of 89 years.

Captain Urban L. ("Ben") Drew, United States Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)
Captain Urban Leonard (“Ben”) Drew, United States Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)

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Number three P-51D-5-NA 44-13xxx, E2*A, Sky Bouncer. (U.S. Air Force)
Number Three: North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA 44-13568, E2 A. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Bruce W. ("Red") Rowlett, U.S. Army Air Corps, Operations Officer, 375th Fighter Squadron. (American Air Museum in Britain)
Lieutenant Bruce W. (“Red”) Rowlett, U.S. Army Air Corps, Operations Officer, 375th Fighter Squadron. (American Air Museum in Britain)

Number Three: P-51-D-5-NA Mustang 44-13568, Sky Bouncer, flown by Captain Bruce W. (“Red”) Rowlett, U.S. Army Air Corps, Operations Officer, 375th Fighter Squadron.

Sky Bouncer, flown by Jared M. Lundin, crash-landed after an engine failure on take off at Cambron-Casteau, Belgium, 3 April 1945. The airplane was destroyed.

Colonel Bruce W. Rowlett, United States Air Force, enlisted as a private soldier in the 36th Infantry Division (then part of the Texas National Guard) in 1940, lying about his age. (He was seventeen). He appled for flight training as an aviation cadet in 1942. After earning his wings as an Air Corps fighter pilot, Lieutenant Rowlett was assigned to the 375th Fighter Squadron, initially flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. After completing a 50 mission combat tour, Rowlett volunteered for a second tour, just as the squadron was transitioning to the P-51 Mustang. Nearing the end of the second tour, and after flying 109 combat missions, Captain Rowlett was sent back to the United States.

Red Rowlett remained in the Air Force following World War II. He  later flew in the Berlin Airlift. From 1964 to 1967, Colonel Rowlett was Chief of Air Defense Operations, North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), then was assigned to the Pentagon, as Director of Studies and Analysis, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, 1968–1971.

Colonel Bruce W. Rowlett, United States Air Force, died at Wichita, Kansas, 28 January 1998, at the age of 74 years.

**********

North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang 42-106xxxx, SUZY-G. (U.S. Air Force)
Number Four: North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang 42-106811, SUZY-G. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Francis T. Glankler (American Air Museum in Britain)
Lieutenant Francis T. Glankler, U.S. Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)

Number Four: P-51B-15-NA Mustang 42-106811, E2 H, flown by Captain Francis T. Glankler and named Suzy G after his wife. The underlined letter H indicates that this airplane is the second in the squadron identified with that letter. Lieutenant Glankler was flight leader of D Flight, 375th fighter Squadron.

Lieutenant Glankler and Suzy G crashed-landed in a farm field at Thorpe Park, near Clacton, Essex, in following a mission on 11 September 1944. The Mustang was damaged beyond repair.

(Some sources indicate that another pilot was flying Suzy G, and that the crash occurred following a dog fight with a P-47 Thunderbolt.)

Wreck of North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA 42-106881, Suzy G, in a farm field, Essex England. (U.S. Air Force)
Wreck of North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA 42-106881, Suzy G, in a farm field, Essex England. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation P-51D Mustangs, The Battisham Four, 3
A different formation grouping of “The Bottisham Four.” (U.S. Air Force)

The P-51D was the predominant version of North American Aviation’s legendary World War II fighter, with a total of 8,156 produced by North American at Inglewood, California and Dallas, Texas, and 200 by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Australia. It was a single-seat, single engine fighter, which had first been designed for the Royal Air Force. The most visible difference between the previous P-51B and P-51C Mustangs was the cut down rear fuselage and the one-piece bubble canopy.

The P-51D was 32 feet, 3.5 inches (9.843 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet (11.278 meters). It was 13 feet, 4.5 inches (4.077 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 7,635 pounds (3,463.2 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 12,100 pounds (5,488.5 kilograms).

The P-51 B, -C and -D Mustangs were powered by the Packard Motor Car Company’s license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin, either a V-1650-3 or V-1650-7. These were right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter), single overhead cam 60° V-12 engines, rated at 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m at 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3), or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) These were Packard’s versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. This engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)
A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)

The P-51D was slightly slower than the P-51B/C. It had a maximum speed was 437 miles per hour (703.3 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel the maximum range was 1,650 miles (2,655 kilometers).

The P-51B and P-51C were nearly identical, with the B built in California, and the -C in Texas. North American built 1,988 P-51Bs at Inglewood and 1,750 P-51Cs at Dallas. They had a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and their maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707.5 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was also 41,900 feet. With internal fuel, the combat range was 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

The P-51B/C Mustang’s armament consisted of four air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted two in each wing, with 350 rounds per gun for the inboard guns and 280 rounds per gun for the outboard. The guns were installed leaning outboard from the vertical to reduce the overall height. This arrangement sometimes lead to ammunition feed problems.

The P-51D was armed with six AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with three mounted in each wing. In a change from the earlier airplanes, the guns were mounted vertically to improve ammunition feed. (This resulted in the requirement for a thicker wing.) 400 rounds of ammunition was provided for the inner pair of guns, and 270 rounds for each of the outer two pairs of guns, for a total of 1,880 rounds of ammunition. This was armor piercing, incendiary and tracer ammunition.

The fighter could also carry a 1,000 pound (453.6 kilogram) bomb under each wing, in place of drop tanks, or up to ten rockets.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 July 1922–14 June 2007

Major Robin Olds, United States Army Air Forces. 1946. (LIFE Magazine)
Brigadier General Robert Olds, U.S. Army Air Corps, circa 1942.

14 July 1922: Brigadier General Robin Olds, United States Air Force, was a fighter pilot and triple ace with 17 official aerial victories in two wars. Robin Olds was born Robert Oldys, Jr., at Luke Field Hospital, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. He was the first son of Captain Robert Oldys, Air Service, United States Army, and Eloise Wichman Nott Oldys. In 1931, the family name was legally changed from Oldys to Olds. As a child, Robert, Jr., was known as “Robin,” a dimunuitive of Robert.

Robin Olds entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, on 1 July 1940. During the summer months, he received primary, basic and advanced pilot training. With training at West Point accelerated because of wartime needs, Cadet Olds and his class graduated one year early, 1 June 1943. Olds was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army, (number 589 of 620 on the Air Corps list of second lieutenants), and was assigned to fighter training in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning at Williams Field, Arizona. On 1 December 1943, Second Lieutenant Olds was appointed to the rank of First Lieutenant, Army of the United States (A.U.S.). (His permanent rank remained Second Lieutenant, Air Corps, until after the War.)

On completion of all phases of training, Lieutenant Olds was assigned to the 434th Fighter Squadron, 479th Fighter Group, and deployed to England aboard the former Moore-McCormack Lines passenger liner S.S. Argentina, which had been converted to a troop transport.

Lieutenant Robin Olds with "SCAT II," A lockheed P-38 Lightning.
Lieutenant Robin Olds with “SCAT II,” a Lockheed P-38J-15-LO Lightning, 43-28707. (Imperial War Museum)

The 434th Fighter Squadron was based at RAF Wattisham in East Anglia. First Lieutenant Olds was promoted to Captain (A.U.S.) on 24 July 1944. He became an ace during his first two combat missions, shooting down 2 Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters on 14 August 1944 and 3 Messerschmitt Bf 109s on August 23.

The squadron re-equipped with North American P-51 Mustangs and Captain Olds continued to destroy enemy fighters. On 9 February 1945, just 22 years old, he was promoted to Major. On 25 March 1945, Major Olds was placed in command of the 434th Fighter Squadron. Major Olds completed the war with a record of 13 aerial victories,¹ and another 11.5 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground. He had flown 107 combat missions.

Major Robin Olds with “SCAT VI,” a North American Aviation P-51K-5-NT Mustang, 44-11746, in England during World War II. (U.S. Air Force via Crazy Horse Aviation)
Robin Olds’ Mustang, “SCAT VII” (P-51D-25-NA 44-44729), escorts a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber during World War II. This airplane still exists. (U.S. Air Force)

When the United States Air Force was established as a separate military service on 18 September 1947, Major Olds (along with hundreds, if not thousands of other officers) reverted to their permanent rank of First Lieutenant, with his date of rank retroactive to 1 June 1946. Olds retained the temporary rank of Major.

After World War II, Major Olds transitioned to jet fighters with the Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star at March Field, near Riverside, California. He flew in an aerobatic demonstration team, and on 1 September 1946, flew a Lockheed P-80A to second place in the Thompson Trophy Race, Jet Division, at Cleveland, Ohio. Olds averaged 514.715 miles per hour (828.354 kilometers per hour) over ten laps around the 30-mile (48.3 kilometers), four pylon course.

Major Robin Olds was scheduled to fly this Lockheed P-80A-1-LO Shooting Star, “SCAT X,” serial number 44-85027, in the 1946 Thompson Trophy Race. It had to be replaced shortly before the race. This fighter was damaged beyond repair and written off at Long Beach Army Airfield, California, 14 September 1946. (Kevin Grantham Collection via airrace.com)
Ella Raines (Universal Pictures)

While stationed at March Field, Olds met his future wife, actress Ella Wallace Raines (formerly, Mrs. Kenneth William Trout). They married on 6 February 1947 at the West Hollywood Community Church, just south of the Sunset Strip in the West Hollywood area of Los Angeles County, California. Rev. Gordon C. Chapman performed the ceremony. They would have two daughters, Christina and Susan. They divorced 15 November 1976.

In October 1948, Major Olds returned to England as an exchange officer in command of No. 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force, at RAF Tangmere. He was the first non-Commonwealth officer to command a Royal Air Force squadron. The squadron flew the Gloster Meteor F. Mk.IV jet fighter.

Following the tour with the R.A.F., Olds returned to March Air Force Base as operations officer of the 94th Fighter Squadron, Jet, 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group, which had been equipped with the North American Aviation F-86A-1-NA Sabre. Soon after, he was placed in command of the 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, another squadron within the 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group.

North American Aviation F-86A Sabres of the 71st Fighter-Interceptor squadron at George AFB, California, 1950. The Sabre closest to the camera is F-86A-5-NA 48-214. (U.S. Air Force)

Olds was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, 20 February 1951, and to colonel 15 April 1953. From 8 October 1955 to 10 August 1956 he commanded the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Group based at Landstuhl Air Base, Germany. The group flew the rocket-armed North American Aviation F-86D Sabre. The 86th was inactivated 10 August 1956. Colonel Olds then was assigned as chief of the Weapons Proficiency Center for the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) at Wheelus Air Base, near Tripoli, Libya.

After assignment as Deputy Chief, Air Defense Division, Headquarters USAF, from 1958 to 1962, Colonel Olds attended the National War College, graduating in 1963. From 8 September 1963 to 26 July 1965, Colonel Olds commanded the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, at RAF Bentwaters, England.

Colonel Olds with a McDonnell F-101C Voodoo at RAF Bentwaters. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Olds with a McDonnell F-101C Voodoo at RAF Bentwaters. (U.S. Air Force)

Robin Olds returned to combat as commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, in September 1966. Flying the McDonnell F-4C Phantom II, Colonel Olds scored victories over two Vietnam Peoples Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17s and two MiG-21s, bringing his official score to 17 ² aerial victories. ³ He was the only Air Force fighter ace with victories in both World War II and the Vietnam War. (There have been rumors that he actually shot down seven MiGs, but credited those to other pilots to avoid being pulled out of combat and sent back to the United States.)

For his actions during the attack against the Paul Doumer Bridge, 11 August 1967, Colonel Olds was awarded the Air Force Cross. He flew 152 combat missions during the Vietnam War. His final combat mission was on 23 September 1967.

Coloenl Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, with SCAT XXVII, his McDonnell F-4C-24-MC Phantom II, 64-0829, at Ubon Rachitani RTAFB, 1967. U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, with SCAT XXVII, his McDonnell F-4C-24-MC Phantom II, 64-0829, at Ubon RTAFB, May 1967. U.S. Air Force)

On 1 June 1968, Robin Olds was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and assigned as Commandant of Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy. In February 1971, he was appointed Director of Aerospace Safety in the Office of the Inspector General at Norton Air Force Base, near San Bernardino, California. He retired from the Air Force 31 May 1973.

During his military career, Brigadier General Robin Olds had been awarded the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters (four awards), Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters (six awards), Air Medal with 39 oak leaf clusters (40 awards), Air Force Commendation Medal, as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross of the United Kingdom, the Croix de Guerre (France), and the Republic of Vietnam’s Distinguished Service Medal, Air Gallantry Medal with Gold Wings, Air Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Colonel Robin Olds, United States Air Force
Colonel Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, United States Air Force

In 1978, Robin Olds married his second wife, Abigail Morgan Sellers Barnett. They were divorced in 1993.

Brigadier General Robin Olds passed away 14 June 2007 at the age of 84 years. He is buried at the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Brigadier General Robin Olds next assignment was as Commandant of Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, where I had the pleasure of serving under his command. (U.S. Air Force)
Brigadier General Robin Olds’ next assignment was as Commandant of Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, where I had the pleasure of serving under his command. (Bryan R. Swopes) (U.S. Air Force photograph)

Note: Thanks to Ms. Christina Olds and Lieutenant Colonel R. Medley Gatewood, U.S. Air Force (Retired), for correcting a number of errors in the previous version of this article.

¹ Source: Air Force News Agency

² Ibid.

³ Under the rules in effect at the time, a pilot and WSO shared credit for an enemy aircraft destroyed, with each being credited 0.5 kills. Colonel Olds was officially credited with 2.0 kills. The rules were changed in 1971, retroactive to 1965. This gave Olds an official score of 4.0. —Source: To Hanoi and Back: The United States Air Force and North Vietnam 1966–1973, by Wayne Thompson. Air Force History Office, 2000. Chapter 4 at Page 11.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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