History Channel: Dogfights – Tuskegee Airmen

Updated 5-14-17 original source for video gone.  Replaced by Military Channel  on YouTube.

I like the History channel; this is a good account of the only air group -inaccurately reported- to never lose a bomber to enemy aircraft!  Rather, they lost very few bombers to enemy aircraft.  They were awarded a unit citation for a mission to Berlin in the spring of 1945; another P-51 group which were scheduled to escort the bombers to the target didn’t make the rendezvous point; so the 332nd went the entire distance and defended the bombers from no less than the new and fearsome Me 262 jet fighters, shooting down three of them.  I need to preface this for accuracy on the aircraft involved; not the airmen. The P-51’s depicted are the “B” version, NOT the improved “B” and “C’s” which had a cockpit designed like the British Spitfire, with what was called a Malcolm hood.

An early P-51-B:


From Aerofiles.com:

The Malcolm Hood

When the Mustang III was delivered to England, the RAF decided that the hinged cockpit canopy offered too poor a view for European operations. A fairly major modification was made in which the original framed hinged hood was replaced by a bulged Perspex frameless canopy that slid to the rear on rails. This canopy gave the pilot much more room and the huge goldfish bowl afforded a good view almost straight down or directly to the rear. It was manufactured and fitted by the British corporation R Malcolm & Co, and became familiar as the Malcolm Hood. The hood was fitted to most RAF Mustang IIIs, and many USAAF Eighth and Ninth Air Force P-51B/C fighters received the modification as well.

In search of a more lasting solution to the problem cockpit visibility from the P-51B/C, a P-51B [43-12101] was modified with a teardrop-shaped all-round cockpit canopy and redesignated XP-51D. Having proved that the concept was valid, two P-51B-10-NAs [42-106539/106540] were completed on the production line with Plexiglas bubble canopies and redesignated P-51Ds. Those became the prototypes for the famed P-51D series of Mustangs.    

Yet many pilots regarded the Malcolm-hooded P-51B/C as the best of the entire series. It was lighter, faster, and had crisper handling than the bubble-hooded P-51D and actually had a better all-round view. Its primary weakness was in its armament—only four guns, which often jammed.* Some modifications applied to the P-51D to improve the ammunition feed racks were later retrofitted into P-51B/Cs, which made their guns less prone to jamming. With modified guns and a Malcolm hood, the P-51B/C was arguably a better fighter than the P-51D, with better visibility, lower weight, and without the structural problems which afflicted the D. Emergency bail-outs were also easier.

*interesting note, and observed in this video account.


Also, the first B versions had an Allison engine, our best, which gave them a top speed of approximately 380 mph. The Rolls Royce Merlin gave the modified B’s, C’s and the signature “D” version a  top speed of 425 mph.
From Wikipedia:

The Mustang was originally designed to use the Allison V-1710 engine, which had limited high-altitude performance. It was first flown operationally by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber (Mustang Mk I). The addition of the Rolls-Royce Merlin to the P-51B/C model transformed the Mustang’s performance at altitudes above 15,000 ft, giving it a performance that matched or bettered the majority of the Luftwaffe‘s fighters at altitude.*  The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 60 series two-stage two-speed supercharged engine, and armed with six .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns.

*This improvement made in mid 1944.  Weirdly the video speaks of them in action in “the winter of ’45”; must have meant ’44, since the war in Europe ended in May of ’45.

Uploaded on Sep 27, 2011   Dogfights The Tuskegee airmen. About Black fighter pilots in World War II.

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