Best Fighter of World War II
|P-51 Mustangs. The nearest one has D-Day Operation Overlord wing markings.|
|The NA-73X prototype as it prepares for its first flight.|
|Lieutenant Vernon R Richards of the 361st Fighter Group in his P-51D Mustang during a bomber escort mission in 1944. Note the extra fuel tank, he could get all the way to Berlin with that.|
|Prototype NA-73X flew perfectly in its maiden flight.|
|The Mustang undergoing wind tunnel testing.|
|The Allison V-12 was not a bad engine, it just wasn't right for the Mustang.|
While increasingly outclassed by new jet fighters, the P-51 remained iconic in the post-war period. There was a glamor and elegance to the P-51 that the new, faster planes could not match. Plying P-51Cs, stunt pilot Paul Mantz won the prestigious Bendix Trophy from 1946-1948, and actor Jimmy Stewart and partner Joe De Bona won it in 1949. After that, the trophy for piston-engine planes was discontinued, so the P-51 essentially closed out the category and an era of flight.
And how about Edgar Schmued, the plane's designer, the best aircraft designer of them all, the Unsung Hero of the Allies in World War II who you've probably never heard of and likely never will anywhere else?
Mr. Schmued was German, born in Hornbach, a municipality in the Südwestpfalz district, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. So, in a sense, the best fighter of World War II also was German: the P-51. It was a product of German design, American manufacturing, and British wartime experience and engine - the best of all possible combinations. Sometimes, indeed, it's a funny world.
The Best Fighter of World War II?
|North American XF-82 - an experimental P51 combination.|
|P-51 Mustang fighters beside a B-29 Superfortress bomber, Pacific Theater, 1945.|
|The P-51 Mustang sculpture at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Author's photo.|