Eagles International EAG10004 USAAF North American P-51B Mustang Fighter - Major David "Tex" Hill, 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force (1:48 Scale)
"Why should we have a navy at all? There are no enemies for it to fight except apparently the Army Air Force."
- General Carl Spaatz, Commander of the US 8th Army Air Force, after WWII
No other aircraft of WWII could fly as high, go as far, or fight as hard as the famed Mustang. Piloted by a record 281 Aces, this agile and ferocious dogfighter tallied more kills than any other Allied airplane. As the bombers of the Eighth Air Force fought their way deep into Hitler's Germany, it was the Mustang that cleared the skies of Luftwaffe fighters. The powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine gave the Mustang a speed of 445 mph. Re-styled with an aerodynamic bubble canopy for greater visibility, and outfitted with 6 fast-firing .50 caliber machine guns, the P-51 became the best fighter of the war.
In April 1942 the RAF's Air Fighter Development Unit (AFDU) tested the Mustang at higher altitudes and found it wanting, but their CO was so impressed with its manouevrability and speed that he invited Ronnie Harker from Rolls-Royce's Flight Test establishment to fly it. Rolls-Royce rapidly realized that re-engining the Mustang with a Merlin 61 would result in a phenomenal improvement in performance. Freeman drove the Merlin Mustang conversion hard, and insisted on two of the five Mustangs that were being re-engined with Merlin 61s to be handed over to Carl Spaatz for trials and evaluation by the US 8th Air Force in Britain.
The result was astonishing. The high altitude performance and range with the use of drop tanks, enabled the mark to excel as bomber escort. After sustained lobbying at the highest level, American production of the Mustang with this engine was started in early 1943, and P51Bs and Cs started arriving in England in August and October 1943, not before time.
The pairing of the P-51 airframe and the Packard-Merlin 68 engine was designated P-51B/C (B being manufactured at Inglewood, California, and C at Dallas, Texas). The new version was used in 15 fighter groups, that were part of the 8th and 9th Air Forces in England, and the 12th and 15th in Italy (the southern part of Italy was under Allied control by late 1943).
The main role of the plane was bomber escort. It was largely due to the P-51 that daylight bombing raids deep into German territory became possible without prohibitive bomber losses in the middle of 1944.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a P-51B Mustang, which was flown by Major David "Tex" Hill of the 75th FS, 23rd FG, 14th Air Force. Only 756 pieces produced. Sold Out!
Historical Account: "Tex" - Hill earned his wings as a U.S. Naval Aviator in 1939 and joined the fleet as a Devastator torpedo bomber pilot before joining a Dauntless dive bomber squadron aboard Ranger. In 1941, he was recruited with other Navy, Army and Marine Corps pilots to join the 1st American Volunteer Group (better known by its later nickname of the Flying Tigers). He learned to fly the P-40 in the AVG training program in Burma, and did well as a fighter pilot in the 2nd Pursuit Squadron (Panda Bear) as a flight leader and then squadron commander, becoming one of the top aces under the tutelage of Claire Chennault.
Hill landed his first kills on January 3, 1942 when he downed two Nates over the Japanese airfield at Tak, Thailand. He shot down two more on January 23rd, and became an ace on the 24th when he shot down a fighter and a bomber over Rangoon. In March, he succeeded Jack Newkirk as Squadron Leader of the Second Squadron. By the time the AVG was disbanded in the summer of 1942, Hill was a double ace, credited with 12 ¼ victories.
On May 7th, 1942, the Japanese Army began building a pontoon bridge across the Salween River, which would allow them to move troops and supplies into China. To stem this tide, 2nd Squadron Leader Hill led a flight of four new P-40Es bombing and strafing into the mile deep gorge. During the next four days, the AVG pilots flew continuous missions into the gorge, effectively neutralizing the Japanese forces. From that day on, the Japanese never advanced farther than the west bank of the Salween. Claire Chennault would later write of these critical missions, "The American Volunteer Group had staved off China's collapse on the Salween."
On Thanksgiving Day 1943, he led a force of 12 B-25s, 10 P-38s, and 8 new P-51s from Saichwan, China, on the first strike against Formosa. The Japanese had 100 bombers and 100 fighters located at Shimchiku Airfield, and the bombers were landing as Hill’s force arrived. The enemy managed to get seven fighters airborne, but they were promptly shot down. Forty-two Japanese airplanes were destroyed, and 12 more were probably destroyed in the attack. The American force returned home with no casualties.