The Effects Of The P-51 Mustang In World War II

This paper deals with the contributions of the P-51 Mustang to the
victory of the Allies in Europe during World War II. It describes the
scene in Europe before the P-51 was introduced, traces the development
the fighter, its advantages, and the abilities it was able to contribute
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
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
Leiston, England, during WW II and contributed to the eventual Allied
success that is traced in this paper. He flew over seventy missions
February and August 1944, and scored three kills against German

Table of Contents

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
Works Cited


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
military strategic theory -- blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg, literally
war," involved the fast and deadly coordination of two distinct forces,
Wermacht and the Luftwaffe. The Wermacht advanced on the ground, while
Luftwaffe destroyed the enemy air force, attacked enemy ground forces,
disrupted enemy communication and transportation systems. This setup was
responsible for the successful invasions of Poland, Norway, Western
the Balkans and the initial success of the Russian invasion. For many
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
until the United States joined the war effort that any great harm was
to Germany and even then, German air superiority remained unscathed. It
not until the advent of the North American P-51 Mustang fighter, and all
the improvements, benefits, and side effects that it brought with it,
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
by two factors, the first of which was the difference in military theory
between the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force. The theories concerning
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
(biplane bombers) and Zeppelins (slow-moving hot-air balloons) which did
not give much of a result. This, plus the fact that German military
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
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
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
the fact that the British had been deeply enraged and offended by the
German Gotha and Zeppelin attacks on their home soil, made them
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 dive- bombers or ground-attack fighters. (Boyne 21)

The Pre-P-51 Situation

Because of these fundamental differences, the situation that resulted
the air war began was: bombers in enemy territory vs. attack planes. The
"in enemy territory" was the second reason for the domination of the
Luftwaffe. At the beginning of WW II, and for many years afterward, the
Allies had no long-range escort fighters, which meant that the bombers
forced to fly most of their long journeys alone. (Perret 104) Before the
P-51 was brought into combat, the main Allied fighters were the American
P-47 Thunderbolt