339th Fighter Group (USAAF)
History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To
The 339th Fighter Group (USAAF) served with the Eighth Air Force, mainly as a bomber escort group, but with some other missions added.
The group was constituted as the 339th Bombardment Group (Dive) on 3 August 1942 and activated on 10 August. It was originally equipped with the A-24 Banshee and A-25, both generally naval ships (the SBD Dauntless and SB2C Helldiver) for training purposes, but converted to the P-39 in July 1943 and became the 339th Fighter-Bomber Group in August 1943.
The group moved to Britain in March-April 1944 where it converted to the P-51 Mustang and joined the Eighth Air Force.
The group's first combat mission was a fighter sweep on 30 April 1944, but after this its main role was to escort the heavy and medium bombers of the Eighth Air Force. The group also carried out ground attack missions on suitable targets during its escort missions.
The group provided part of the fighter cover over the invasion beaches and the English Channel during Operation Overlord of June 1944.
During the battle of Normandy it was used to attack transport targets, anti-aircraft batteries and troop concentrations.
During the breakout from Normandy the group attacked transport targets.
During Operation Market-Garden the group was used to fly fighter patrols over the battlefield.
The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its actions on 10-11 September 1944. On 10 September it escorted bombers attacking Germany and then attacked an airfield near Erding, and on 11 September it defended a bomber formation heading for Munich and attacked an airfield near Karlsruhe. On both days the group destroyed a large number of German aircraft.
During the battle of the Bulge the group flew patrols over the battle area.
The group flew area patrols to support the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.
The group returned to the United States in October and was inactivated on 18 October 1945.
August 1942-July 1943: Douglas A-24 Banshee (SBD Dauntless ) and Curtiss A-25 (SB2C Helldiver)
July 1943-April 1944: Bell P-39 Airacobra
April 1944-1945: North American P-51 Mustang
|3 August 1942||Constituted as 339th Bombardment Group (Dive)|
|10 August 1942||Activated|
|August 1943||Redesignated 339th Fighter-Bomber Group|
|March-April 1944||To Britain and Eighth Air Force|
|October 1945||To United States|
|18 October 1945||Inactivated|
Commanders (with date of appointment)
2nd Lt Harold Garret: c.18 Aug 1942-unkn
Lt Col Marvin S Zipp:Feb 1943
Maj Harry L Galusha: 19 Feb1943
Col John B Henry Jr: Aug 1943
Lt Col Harold W Scruggs: c. 1 Oct 1944
Lt Col Carl T Goldenberg: 24 Dec 1944
Col John B Henry Jr: 29 Dec 1944
Lt ColWilliam C Clark: 14 Apr 1945-unkn
Hunter Field, Ga: 10 August 1942
Drew Field, Fla: February 1943
Walterboro AAFld, SC: July 1943
Rice AAFld, Calif: Sept 1943-Mar 1944
Fowlmere, England: 4 April 1944-October 1945
Camp Kilmer, NJ: c.16-18 October 1945
Eighth Air Force: 1944-1945
339th Fighter Group
From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
The 339th Fighter Group was a unit of the United States Air Forces during World War II. Ώ] ΐ] It comprised the 503rd, 504th, and 505th Fighter Squadrons.
The group was an Eighth Air Force fighter unit stationed in England assigned to RAF Fowlmere. It had the highest claims of air and ground enemy aircraft victories in one year, and was the only group to claim over a hundred ground strafing victories on two occasions – 105 on 4 April 1945 and 118 on 16 April 1945. It was inactivated on 18 October 1945.
339 th Fighter Group
To the fighter pilots of the 339 th Fighter Group, U.S. Eighth Air Force, who gave their lives in the air battles over Europe 1944-1945. This plaque is placed here by the comrades of those men as an everlasting tribute to their heroic sacrifice and unselfish devition to duty..
To the fighter pilots of the
339 th Fighter Group,
U.S. Eighth Air Force,
who gave their lives in the
air battles over Europe 1944-1945.
This plaque is placed here by the
comrades of those men as an
everlasting tribute to their
heroic sacrifice and unselfish
devition to duty.
Erected 1984 by the Members of the 339th Fighter Group.
Location. 39° 0.979′ N, 104° 51.31′ W. Marker is in United States Air Force Academy, Colorado, in El Paso County. Marker is in the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery, on Parade Loop west of Stadium Boulevard, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: USAF Academy CO 80840, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 379 th Bomb Group (H) (here, next to this marker) World War II Glider Pilots (here, next to this marker) 306 th Bombardment Group (H) (here, next to this marker) 95 th Bomb Group H (here, next to this marker) 492nd Bomb Group (H) & 801st Bomb Group (P) (here, next to this marker)
416th Bombardment Group (L) (here, next to this marker) 20th Fighter Group (here, next to this marker) 344 th Bomb Group (M) AAF (here, next to this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in United States Air Force Academy.
More about this marker. Must have a valid ID to enter the USAF Academy grounds.
Also see . . .
1. 339th Fighter Group. (Submitted on February 25, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. 339th Fighter Group (USAAF). (Submitted on February 25, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. 339th Fighter Group. (Submitted on February 25, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. 339th Fighter Group Association. (Submitted on February 25, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
5. 339th Fowlmers - P51 Mustang Life on YouTube. (Submitted on February 25, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
History [ edit | edit source ]
World War II [ edit | edit source ]
Spitfire MK V of the 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group in 1942. Note the RAF 71 Eagle Squadron markings on the fuselage with the USAAF emblem overlaid over the RAF roundrel.
North American P-51D Mustangs of the 335th Fighter Squadron, 1944
The unit was activated in England in September 1942. Ώ] The initial cadre for the group were former U.S. members of RAF Eagle Squadrons. ΐ] Served in combat over Europe from October 1942 to April 1945.
The American fliers of the Eagle Squadrons, which had begun fighting ten months before Pearl Harbor, were taken into the U.S. Army Air Forces to form the 4th Fighter Group (FG)- based upon VIII Fighter Command (FC) order of 12 September 1942. This VIII FC order originated based upon the recommendation and urgent requirements provided by Brigadier General Hunter and his USAAF staff at Bushey Hall, Hertfordshire. An official ceremony was conducted at the RAF North Weald Airfield, in Debden, near to the Essex town of Epping, at noon, Tuesday, 29 September 1942- following a typical brisk English rainstorm that left a misty, overcast sky and wet grounds for the remainder of the day. This joint RAF/USAAF ceremony was held adjacent to the airfield administration building on the concrete parking area. Present at this ceremony included USAAF leaders Brigadier General Frank O'D. Hunter and Major General Carl A. Spaatz, Brigadier General Ira Eaker, U.S. and English war correspondents, Air Marshal Harold "Gus" Edwards RCAF, along with Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas, RAF. The ceremony officiated both the commissioning of the 4th Fighter Group under the command of Colonel Edward W. Anderson (Manhattan, Kansas) USAAF, and the establishment of the airfield as a new airbase of the 4th Fighter Group. With such ceremonies presentation of awards are usually conducted. Along with Colonel Anderson, Brigadier General Hunter stepped forward and awarded these combat-experienced American pilots. Squadron commander William James Daley (Hemphill, Texas) was made a major in the USAAF and given his USAAF pilot wings, commencing command of the 335th FS that afternoon. The two other squadron commanders promoted to major and given their USAAF pilot wings of the USAAF were Carroll Warren McColpin (Buffalo New York) of the 336th FS, and Gregory A. "Gus" Daymond (Great Falls, Montana) of the 334th FS. The remaining 31 American pilots received their USAAF wings, as well. [ citation needed ] Following this award presentation, Air Marshal Douglas, who had earlier complained to Lieutenant General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold accusing these very same combat-experienced American pilots as prima donnas, stepped forward to the BBC and U.S. microphones with his typed-speech in hand and spoke to the assembled joint air force officers and enlisted personnel standing at attention on the wet concrete flightline. Paying tribute to these American pilots in his typical clipped, political speech: "I want to wish on that, my first opportunity of addressing the Eagle Squadrons, together on one station, my words should have been other than words of farewell. We of Fighter Command deeply regret this parting. The U.S. Army Air Corps- their gain is very much the Royal Air Force's loss. The loss to the Luftwaffe will no doubt continue as before. You were the vanguard of that great host of your compatriots who are now helping us to make these islands a base from which to launch that great offensive which we all desire. Goodbye and thank you Eagle Squadrons, numbers 71, 121 and 133, and good hunting to you." Douglas was followed by General Spaatz who gave an official welcome to his battle-proven American fighter pilots: "Men of the Eagle Squadrons, I welcome you to the 8th Air Force. Before turning you over to your new commanding officer, General Hunter, I must express my appreciation for the contribution which the ranks of the Royal Air Force have with you filled up your splendid organization. Its with pleasure and pride I welcome you into the VIII Fighter Command- the United States Army Air Forces." After these two speeches, the Royal Air Force and newly established 4th Fighter Group personnel marched by in "pass & review". Following the closing of this ceremony, pilots and guests were shown the new USAAF star that was earlier painted over the RAF emblem on the Spitfire V aircraft of the newly created 334th, 335th and 336th USAAF squadrons. [ citation needed ] The 4th Fighter Group destroyed more enemy planes in the air and on the ground than any other fighter group of Eighth Air Force. The group operated first with Spitfires but changed to P-47s in March 1943 and to P-51s in April 1944.
On numerous occasions the 4th FG escorted B-17/B-24 bombers that attacked factories, submarine pens, V-weapon sites, and other targets in France, the Low Countries, or Germany. The group went out sometimes with a small force of bombers to draw up the enemy's fighters so they could be destroyed in aerial combat. At other times the 4th attacked the enemy's air power by strafing and dive-bombing airfields. They also hit troops, supply depots, roads, bridges, rail lines, and trains.
The unit participated in the intensive campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry during Big Week, 20–25 February 1944. They received a Distinguished Unit Citation for aggressiveness in seeking out and destroying enemy aircraft and in attacking enemy air bases during the period 5 March – 24 April 1944.
The 4 FG flew interdiction and counter-air missions during the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and supported the airborne invasion of Holland in September. They participated in the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945, and provided cover for the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.
Cold War [ edit | edit source ]
4th Fighter-Interceptor Group North American F-86 Sabres, South Korea, 1951
The 4th Fighter Group was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 10 November 1945. Ώ] The unit was reactivated at Selfridge Field, Michigan, 9 September 1946, as the United States began to rearm due to Cold War pressures. Ώ]
On 15 August 1947, under the Wing/Base (Hobson) reorganization plan, the 4th Fighter Wing was formed, and the 4th Fighter Group became its subordinate operational flying component. Ώ] Following a period of training with F-80 Shooting Star aircraft, the 4th Fighter Group transitioned to F-86 Sabre jets in March 1949, just in time for advanced training and entry into the Korean War.
In December 1950, the 4th Fighter Wing's flying component (now the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Group> Ώ] was the first unit to commit F-86 Sabre jets to that conflict. Lt Col Bruce H. Hinton shot down a MiG-15 on 17 December during the first Sabre mission of the war. Four days later, Lt Col John C. Meyer, a World War II ace, led a flight of eight sabres against 15 MiGs in the first major all-jet fighter battle in history. The flight downed six MiGs without sustaining any losses. By the end of the war airmen of the 4th Operations Group had destroyed 502 enemy aircraft (54 percent of the total), becoming the top fighter unit of the Korean War. Twenty-four pilots achieved ace status. With the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, the group moved to Japan following the Korean armistice in 1953, continuing training and tours to Korea. The group was inactivated on 8 December 1957 Ώ] with its component squadrons assigned directly to the wing as the Air Force reorganized its wings into the tri-deputate structure.
Modern era [ edit | edit source ]
4th Operations Group McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagles 89-0495 (336 FS), 88-1704 (334 FS) and 89-0485 (333 FS)
On 22 April 1991, the 4th Operations Group was activated as a result of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing implementing the USAF objective wing organization. Ώ] Upon activation, the 4 OG retained the lineage and history of the 4th Fighter Group. The 4 OG was assigned the 334th, 335th and 336th Fighter Squadrons upon activation, all equipped with the F-15E Strike Eagle.
In addition to the objective wing organization, the 4 TFW became the Air Force's first composite wing and was redesignated the 4th Wing. The 4th Wing incorporated under it all the people, KC-10 aircraft, and assets of the 68th Air Refueling Wing, a Strategic Air Command unit, with the 344th and 911th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) being assigned to the 4 OG.
With the reorganization of the USAF major command structure, the unit's parent organization became part of the new Air Combat Command on 1 June 1992.
More changes occurred in the early 1990s. The 911 ARS was reassigned to Air Mobility Command bases in 1994 and 1995 and the F-15E formal training unit moved to Seymour Johnson in 1994 and 1995. The 333d Fighter Squadron returned to Seymour Johnson to accommodate the training mission and was assigned to the 4 OG. To accommodate the need to train more F-15E aircrews, the 334th Fighter Squadron became a training squadron on 1 January 1996.
Fewer resources and the need to use all Air Force assets to meet increased operational commitments called for yet another reorganization as the 20th Century came to a close. The expeditionary aerospace force concept was implemented to conform to the Air Force vision to organize, train, equip, deploy and sustain itself in the 21st Century global security environment. Under the concept, the 4 OG is one of two on-call rapid response aerospace expeditionary groups. The Fourth was the first to assume this on-call mission on 1 October 1999.
Global War on Terrorism [ edit | edit source ]
In October 2001, in response to the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, the 4 OG began flying OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE sorties, the first of its kind for the wing, providing coastal protection for Homeland Defense.
In January 2002, the 4 OG arrived in Kuwait in support of Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and ENDURING FREEDOM, flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. On 1 March 2002, Operation ANACONDA was launched, and the group's mission was to provide close air support into Afghanistan. Operation ANACONDA ended 21 March 2002 with the 4 OG's greatest highlight being their performance at Roberts Ridge. Members of the 335th Fighter Squadron successfully suppressed enemy fire from al-Qaida troops, as Army and Air Force personnel retrieved stranded and fallen comrades.
In January and February 2003, in response to the threat of Iraq's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their elusiveness with United Nation weapon inspectors, the 4th Operations Group joined other operational units in Southeast Asia. Two F-15E fighter squadrons deployed to Southwest Asia in support of OSW, which would later transition into support for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. On 18 April 2003, members of the 4th Operations Group returned to Seymour Johnson AFB after contributing to the initial U.S. led coalition invasion in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
Tag: Operation Vengeance
Books leave impressions. Maybe this is by virtue of a book’s very subject matter perhaps it’s because of an author’s literary style possibly this arises from a book’s symbolism and message. And maybe, just maybe, it’s a matter of “age”: That is, the chance intersection between the era symbolized by a book’s year of publication, and, your “own” age as a reader of that book.
I think this was so for me when I first read Quentin Reynold’s 70,000 to 1 in the late 1960s. Among the many books in my father’s library (the number seemed innumerable to me at the time, though in retrospect it was hardly so!), more than once I carried 70,000 to 1, Gene Gurney’s Five Down and Glory, or, William Green’s Famous Fighters of the Second World War (specifically, volume I of Famous Fighters I discovered Volume II some years later) – to elementary school, where – whenever free time permitted, I immersed myself with curiosity, wonder and not-a-little-awe, within a past that that only recently – just a little over two decades previously – had passed. After all – so yes, this “dates” me – this was in the late 1960s, only two and a half decades after the end of the Second World War.
As so, in 70,000 to I, I read with wonder about the experiences of Sergeant Gordon Manuel of the B-17 Flying Fortress Honi Kuu Okole, incorrectly noted in the book – as I discovered later! – as Kai O Keleiwa. As you can appreciate from Justin Taylan’s book review of 70,000 to 1 at Pacific Wrecks, author Quentin Reynolds combines themes of military aviation, escape and evasion, and wilderness survival, to create a contemporary, fast-paced version of Robinson Crusoe.
A particularly inspiring aspect of the book was Reynold’s account of how Manuel met, and was eventually rescued with, American fighter pilots Owen Giertsen, Edward Czarnecki and Carl Planck. Those names must have left an impression upon me: In 2014, as I reviewed the photos in Photographic Prints of Air Cadets and Officers, Air Crew, and Notables in the History of Aviation – NARA RG 18-PU, I was more than intrigued to discover Czarnecki’s and Planck’s portraits: “So, that’s who they were!”
Their pictures appear below.
But, first (!) here’s the cover of the first (1946) hardback edition of 70,000 to 1, which features art by Miriam Woods. (You can view this and other aeronautically themed book art, and many other examples of cover art from books and pulp-fiction magazines, at my brother blog, WordsEnvisioned. (* Shameless plug *)
Here’s Quentin Reynolds. Specifically, Quentin James Reynolds.
Quentin James Reynolds, at FindAGrave
Second Lieutenant Edward John Czarnecki
431st Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force
Here’s an official WW II Army Air Force Photograph of Lt. Czarnecki and two other fighter pilots, undated image 59978AC (A48682). Caption: “ This trio of P-38 Lightning pilots knocked down five Japanese Zeros in engagements near Wewak, New Guinea on August 16 and 18, 1943, when more than 200 enemy planes were destroyed. They are, left to right: Capt. William Walderman of Santa Monica, Calif. 2nd Lt. Edward Czarnecki of Wilmington, Del. and 1st Lt. Jack Mankin of Kansas City, Mo. Their count: Walderman, one and two each for Czarnecki and Mankin.”
MACR 1235 for P-38H 42-66849 and Lt. Planck, missing on October 23, 1943. These digital images were scanned from paper photocopies which were themselves made from a fiche copy of the MACR.
Edward Czarnecki’s name appeared within a list of military casualties published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on November 28, 1943. Since northern Delaware and southern New Jersey were (still are) within the Inquirer’s primary geographic area of news coverage (…not that I actually r e a d the Inquirer…I don’t…but that’s off topic…), the names of military casualties from Wilmington, Delaware, the vicinity of Camden, New Jersey, and southern ‘Jersey “in general” not uncommonly appeared in the newspaper.
The image below shows “setting” of the above article: Page 2. Unlike The new York Times, where WW II casualty lists – regardless of length – appeared several pages well “into” the body of the newspaper, WW II casualty lists in the Inquirer always appeared or at least commenced on the paper’s first or second pages. As the war progressed and casualty lists inevitably became longer, the “first” part of most lists would typically appear “below the fold” on the newspaper’s front page, and continue a few pages into the body of the paper.
The timing of publication this particular list is actually typical of the appearance of most WW II casualty lists in the (then) print news media: There was usually (usually…) about a month time lag between the date on which a serviceman was killed, wounded, or missing in action, and the appearance of his name within Casualty Lists released by the War Department. Thus, a little over one month transpired between Czarnecki’s shoot-down on October 23, 1943, and his name’s appearance in the Inquirer on November 28.
First Lieutenant Carl G. Planck
9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force
Here’s Lt. Planck in an official Army Air Force (undated, but obviously (!) pre-November 1, 1943) photo (122747AC (A32518)). Caption: “A member of the United States Army Air Force fighter squadron that destroyed seventy-two Japanese planes in aerial combat in New Guinea from June 1, 1942 to January 8, 1943 shortly after the fall of Buna Mission, is shown here. He is Second Lieutenant Carl G. Planck, 8 Sutherland Avenue, Charleston, South Carolina, with one confirmed victory.”
MACR 1016 for Lt. Planck and P-38H 43-2387, missing on November 1, 1943. Akin to the MACR for Lt. Czarnecki, these digital images were scanned from paper photocopies, made from fiche.
First Lieutenant Raymond K. Hine
339th Fighter Squadron, 347h Fighter Group, 13th Air Force
Operation Vengeance – the aerial interception and killing of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by P-38 Lightnings of the United States army Air Force (specifically, the 339th Fighter Squadron of the 347th Fighter Group) on April 18, 1943 – has continued to be the subject of a vast amount of attention, commentary, and study. I myself first learned about this story in the Ballantine Books’ paperback Zero, by Masatake Okumiya, Jiro Horikoshi, and – a h e m – Martin Caidin, where the story is covered in Chapter 20. Appropriately headed “Admiral Yamamoto Dies in Action”, the events of that day are presented from both (primarily) the Japanese, and (secondarily) the American vantage points. Therein, in terms of American losses, is found the simple statement, “Our pilots shot down Lieutenant Ray Hine’s P-38 and, we verified later most of the fifteen P-38s which returned to Guadalcanal were badly shot up.” Regardless of the degree of accuracy in the account given in Zero, I was struck by the irony – for lack of a better word – of Hine being the only American pilot not to have returned from the mission. And then, years later, I found his photography in NARA RG 18-PU. “So, that’s who he was…”
This portrait of Raymond Hine was taken at Kelly Field on September 29, 1941. Two additional portraits of him (one of which also appears at Pacific Wrecks) at can be found in his biographic profile at FindAGrave.
Flying Legends 2017
This latest edition of Aerodrome marks a significant milestone in the history of our aviation related blog – seventy-five editions and counting! First published on Friday 17 th April 2015, Aerodrome has come a long way since these humble beginnings and over the course of the past twenty-six months has included features on the history of individual aircraft, covered Airshows and aviation related events, as well as visiting museums and aerodromes around the country. We have even been lucky enough to see a Lancaster in the all-together and take part in a classic Gazelle helicopter training flight. On behalf of everyone involved in publishing Aerodrome, I would like to thank the many people who have helped us obtain pictures and material for inclusion in our blog and allowing us to have access to their aircraft. I would also like to thank our loyal readership, who continue to support what we are doing, sending in suggestions and photographs for inclusion in future blogs and spreading the Aerodrome word, ensuring that we continue to attract new readers with each new edition. We have plenty of ideas for future subject matter, but are always interested to hear what you think – if you have any suggestions regarding the format and frequency of Aerodrome, or if there is anything you would like to see covered in a future edition, please do send in your suggestions to us at [email protected] or [email protected] .
Back to the subject of our latest blog - with this being such a significant edition of Aerodrome, we had to have something a little bit special as our main feature. For many aviation enthusiasts, July is the month when they make their latest visit to the Imperial War Museum’s airfield site at Duxford in Cambridgeshire, where this historic aerodrome plays host to one of the world’s best loved annual Airshows. In this 75 th edition of Aerodrome, we will be taking a trip back into aviation history and reviewing the latest instalment in the phenomenon which is Flying Legends – an annual indulgence in some of the world’s rarest classic aeroplanes.
Where Legends take to the skies
There is something special about the atmosphere at Flying Legends
For anyone who has not been fortunate enough to attend one of the twenty-five Flying Legends Airshows in the past, the following review may come across as a little sentimental in parts, however if like thousands of people this show is the first one to be entered into your diary at the start of the year, you will probably understand everything I am writing about. There is something very special about Flying Legends something that really sets it apart from all other Airshow events. Gathering some of the World’s finest examples of airworthy WWII era aircraft together for one weekend each July, the spectacle is played out in the historic surroundings of Duxford airfield, a place which saw hundreds of aircraft operating from its grass runway during WWII. The RAF’s first Spitfire fighters were delivered to Duxford airfield during the summer of 1938 and the airfield played a major role during the Battle of Britain, including playing host to the Hurricanes of Douglas Bader’s No.242 Squadron.
Early morning movements at Duxford need plenty of helpers
During the latter stages of WWII, the skies above Duxford reverberated to the sound of Pratt & Whitney radials and Packard Merlin engines as the USAAF operated their Thunderbolts and Mustangs from Duxford, creating an enduring link between the airfield and America that endures to this day. This rich aviation history makes Duxford a unique venue for hosting a Warbird event, as anyone lucky enough to be in attendance can easily imagine what it must have been like to be stationed in this sleepy corner of Cambridgeshire during the dark days of the Second World War. With Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs usually taking part in any Flying Legends display programme, these historic buildings once again play host to the sounds that were so familiar over 70 years ago.
Without question, any Flying Legends Airshow is mainly about the impressive collection of historic Warbirds the organisers manage to gather on the same airfield each July and whilst everyone would accept that this is indeed the highlight, this magnificent event also offers so much more. Although historic flying machines are the main focus, Flying Legends is also about people. It’s about the team that go to extraordinary lengths to make sure as many rare aeroplanes as possible are available for the show every year, many travelling from Europe or even further afield. It’s about the talented pilots with years of experience in flying powerful piston engined aircraft who make themselves available to fly these priceless aeroplanes for our enjoyment and for the professional pride of being able to say they were involved. It‘s also about the engineers who possess skills that are now in such short supply and an army of volunteer helpers who ensure that all the aircraft are in airworthy condition when it comes time for them to take their place in the flying programme. It is also about the re-enactors who add so much to the weekend’s events, helping to produce the unique atmosphere at a Flying Legends show, creating memorable photographic opportunities for visitors, whilst also helping to keep an eye on the aircraft they use as their props.
Photographers have the opportunity to try and re-create iconic images from WWII
On the other side of the fence, it’s about the spectators and enthusiasts who turn up year after year to witness this annual aviation spectacle and soak up the special atmosphere at Flying Legends. It’s about friends with a shared interest meeting at the same place on the same weekend in July ever year to catch up and to get their latest fix of Warbird action, knowing that they are in their own small way, playing their part in creating aviation history. It is about making new friends and acquaintances with people from all over the world, faces that have become familiar because of this show and all speaking the common language of aviation. Importantly, it’s an opportunity for families to allow younger generations to experience the sights and sounds of a WWII era airfield and see the Spitfires and Mustangs they have read about in history lessons taking off from this historic grass runway, helping to bring their studies to life. Ultimately, it is about immersing yourself in an incredibly appealing 1940s atmosphere for one weekend each year, whilst also contemplating the effort and sacrifice made by the men and women who served on airfields all over the UK during WWII.
When you consider all this, it is hardly surprising that Flying Legends keeps the crowds flocking back year after year, retaining its position as one of the most important events of its kind in the world. If you have yet to enjoy this experience, what are you waiting for?
A Tale of two Mustangs
All the way from America – two of the stars of Flying Legends 2017
Planning for a Flying Legends Airshow must be a significant undertaking and even though this year’s show has only just taken place, I am sure that the wheels are already in motion for 2018. Operating rare, historic aeroplanes is an expensive and challenging business and even though a particular aircraft can be seen in the impressive flightline at Duxford, this does not guarantee that it will be serviceable when it is required to take its place in the flying display. This must surely be one of the most frustrating aspects of staging a show such as this, when even at the eleventh hour, situations beyond your control can undermine all your best efforts. And then of course we have the nemesis of any outdoor event, the notoriously unpredictable British weather. Airshows are arguably the most weather dependant events in the UK and can succeed or fail on the whims of Mother Nature and certainly has thousands of enthusiasts avidly checking the forecast in the days leading up to the show. Despite all of this, enthusiasts know that whatever happens, there will be a magnificent collection of historic aircraft at Flying Legends and the 2017 show was no exception to this rule.
Amongst the many fascinating aviation delights assembled for this year’s show, there was one aircraft that made an extra special effort to take part in Flying Legends 2017. At the end of June, North American P-51B Mustang ‘Berlin Express’ was still sitting outside a hangar at its Comanche Fighters home airfield in Texas and if this magnificent Warbird was to take part in the latest instalment of the Flying Legends phenomenon, this restored WWII fighter would have to safely negotiate a daunting 5,470 transatlantic journey in just a handful of days. Attempting this incredible flight in a WWII era fighter aircraft would be famed Warbird pilot Lee Lauderback and whilst there was clearly little room of error or delays if he and his aircraft were to star in this year’s Legends show, the attempt was in good hands - he happens to be one of the world’s most experienced and proficient Mustang pilots in the world.
Berlin Express’ is one of the most flamboyantly presented fighters of WWII
The Razorback Mustang looks quite different from the more common D models
On leaving the aircraft’s home airfield in Texas, Berlin Express headed for the east coast of America and following the famous transatlantic ‘Northern ferry route’ used by so many US aircraft during WWII, to make her way from America to the UK. Operation Bolero was the codename given to the build-up of forces in preparation for the D-Day landings, which required tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of aircraft to transit to the UK. It was thought that the most efficient way to transport aircraft to Britain was for them to fly a route via Canada, Greenland and Iceland, with fighter aircraft grouped together in flights and usually relying on a single bomber or transport aircraft for navigation and communications. Attempting this wartime crossing in a restored WWII fighter was recreating this historic feat of transatlantic logistics and marking the endeavours of hundreds of US airmen who undertook the same dangerous flight. Although Mr Lauderback could rely on better navigation and communications equipment, as well as a modern support aircraft for back up, he was still flying a restored single-engined Mustang fighter and was relying on the quality of the restoration work carried out by Pacific Fighters.
One of very few airworthy razorback Mustangs flying in the world, the work to return this beautiful machine back to airworthy condition was started in 2009 by renowned Warbird restorers Pacific Fighters, at their impressive Idaho Falls facility. The project was based around the remaining components of North American P-51B Mustang 43-24837, which was assigned to the 363 rd Fighter Group of the US 9 th Air Force, flying out of Staplehurst airfield in Kent. The aircraft crashed on 10 th June 1944 near the village of Beckley, as the pilot was forced to abandon his Mustang after getting into difficulties during a training sortie, but seventy years later, parts recovered from the crash site would be used in this high-profile restoration project. Following a painstaking five-year restoration, this stunning P-51B Mustang made its first flight from the Pacific Fighters facility in Idaho on 27 th November 2014, further increasing the number of airworthy Mustang fighters in the world and unveiling one of the most distinctive historic aircraft in the world. In recognition of the outstanding workmanship and attention to detail throughout this project, the Mustang was awarded the prestigious ‘Most Authentic Restoration’ of a Warbird at the 2015 EAA Air Venture show at Oshkosh, along with the coveted ‘Golden Wrench’ for engineering excellence. The aircraft is now owned by long-time supporters of the Flying Legends Airshow Comanche Warbirds.