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