The Effects of the P-51 Mustang in World War Ii

Topics: Fighter aircraft, P-47 Thunderbolt, Messerschmitt Bf 109 Pages: 11 (4735 words) Published: October 8, 1999
AbstractThis 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 ContentsIntroductionReasons for the Pre-P-51 Air SituationThe Pre-P-51 SituationThe Allied Purpose in the Air WarThe Battle at SchweinfurtThe Development of the P-51The Installation of the Merlin EnginesFeatures, Advantages, and Benefits of the P-51The P-51's Battle PerformanceThe Change in Policy on Escort Fighter FunctionP-51's Disrupt Luftwaffe Fighter TacticsP-51's Give Bombers Better SupportConclusionWorks Cited IntroductionOn 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 SituationThe 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,...

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  • Bailey, Ronald H. The Air War in Europe. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1979. A simple, straight-forward book that includes much background on the development of military aviation, and includes many pictures that chronicle the air war.
  • Boyne, Walter J. Clash of Wings: World War II in the Air. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. A very informative and user- friendly book that dealt with the air aspect of all fronts and theaters of WWII. It includes much data on numerous planes in its appendices.
  • Brick, William. "Bombardier." American History, April 1995, pp. 60-65. A short magazine article following the story of how a U.S. airman was shot down over Austria, and his subsequent imprisonment by the Nazis.
  • Copp, DeWitt S. Forged in Fire: Strategy and Decisions in the Airwar over Europe, 1940-1945. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1982. A book dealing mostly with the U.S. involvement in the War, with particular emphasis on the politics of the military officials, and how the major strategic decisions were made.
  • Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt. The Air War in the West: June 1941 to April 1945. New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1963. A short, very basic book that did not go into depth, but did cover its material well.
  • Grant, William Newby. P-51 Mustang. London: Bison Books Limited, 1980. A relatively short book, but one that dealt solely with the P-51, and went into considerable depth concerning its construction and use during WWII and in later conflicts.
  • Overy, R.J. The Air War: 1939-1945. New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1980. A fairly dry book that dealt mostly with the economics and generalities of the air war, without dealing too much with the actual fighting.
  • Perret, Geoffrey. Winged Victory: The Army Air Forces in World War II. New York: Random House, 1993. A good book that covered its topic well, although in-depth discussion of the contributions of the other allies ' forces is not dealt with.
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