Gemini Aces GEMA2005 USAAF North American P-51B Mustang Fighter - Wallace Hopkins, "Ferocious Frankie", 361st Fighter Squadron, 374th Fighter Group, RAF Bottisham, England, June 1944 (1:72 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 1:72 scale replica of a P-51B Mustang that was piloted by "Wallace Hopkins and nicknamed "Ferocious Frankie", which was attached to the 361st Fighter Squadron, 374th Fighter Group, then deployed to RAF Bottisham, England, during June 1944. Sold Out!
Wingspan: 6.75 inches
Length: 6 inches
Release Date: June 2008
Historical Account: "Frankie" - Wallace Hopkins was born in Washington, Georgia and flew a total of 76 combat missions with the 361st where he flew as Operations Officer. He was an ACE credited with 8 victories and 1.5 damaged. His decorations include the Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross both with Oak Leaf Clusters and the French Croix de Guerre, one of four awarded to members of the 361st.
A native of Washington, Georgia, â€śHopâ€ť Hopkins enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in 1939 and a year later entered pilot school. After graduation on July 1941, he flew P-39s, P-40s, and P-47s with the 8th Pursuit Group at Mitchell Field, New York. Reassigned to the 361st Fighter Group in 1943, Major Hopkins was appointed Group Operations Officer and flew P-47D, P-51B, P-51D and P-51K aircraft on bomber escort and ground attack missions from Bottisham and little Walden in England, St Dizier, France and Chievrers, Belguim. Having been promoted to Lt. Col. In 1944, Hopkins was appointed Deputy Group Commander in April 1945.