``Mustang Pilots? Eat my Exhaust!"

by:  RAF_Yank

During the Battle of the Bulge, after the weather cleared, the Germans didn't have a chance. We were able to get airborne and really let then have it. They also had the problem of limited fuel supplies. When New Years Eve came along, a buddy and I were given a 3-day pass. I had been flying almost everyday day, sometimes twice a day, and was exhausted.

We grabbed a jeep and found a town that had running water and clean sheets. New Years Eve was quiet. We had a few drinks and went to bed early. I woke up at about 5:00 am with the sounds of aircraft overhead. Every allied aircraft gave a different distinctive engine sound. These were not allied. I peeked out the window and saw a large flight of FW-190's zipping overhead. This was not supposed to be! We were around 30 miles behind the lines, ``What was happening!" I wondered. I woke up my buddy and said ``Lets get the hell out of here and back to base!" He moaned that we had another 36 hours of liberty, but I got him going. We packed our stuff and were in the jeep in 10 minutes flat.

We got back to the base in under an hour. We had seen several other flights of German planes and some allied planes heading to engage them. As we got closer I could see a pall of smoke coming from over the hill. When we got back to the field my worst fears had been confirmed. Out of 16 planes (not including 2 for spares) 8 were destroyed and 3 others damaged. ``Wonderful Winnie" was a smoldering wreck. Fortunately our casualties were light and there were no fatalities. For a moment I started to think about the damage we inflicted on the enemy and what the Germans must have been thinking after we got through with them.

As it turned out the Luftwaffe had launched a last ditch effort to stall the allies by mounting a massive air raid by attacking us on the ground. They inflicted a heavy toll with several hundred allied planes destroyed or damaged. But in return they lost hundreds of there own planes and more importantly took a major loss of irreplaceable pilots. Many German squadron leaders and other senior officers were lost in this raid.

I didn't know much of anything at this point except we were about out of business. This was my second ``Winnie" I had lost, and third plane overall. I had to bail out of one unnamed plane due to flak damage that made it unflyable, and wrote off the first ``Winnie" after a belly landing.  The silver lining to this dark cloud was we were one of the first units to get new aircraft. We got some new P-47D's as well as four of the first P-47M models. These P-47M were real screamers. They added over 500 more horsepower under the hood. The 56th Fighter Group had gotten some of these, and we lucked out as well. Unfortunately they were not fitted with under wing racks so we had to use them in a strafing role only. We flew them along with 3 other P-47D's as a sort of an escort for the strafing unit.

A beautiful P-47 still flying

I immediately laid claim to one. Performance of the P-47M-1-RE included a maximum speed of 400 mph at 10,000 feet, 453 mph at 25,000 feet, and 470 mph at 30,000 feet. Initial climb rate was 3500 feet per minute at 5000 feet and 2650 feet per minute at 20,000 feet. Range (clean) was 560 miles at 10,000 feet. Armament was six or eight 0.50-inch machine guns with 267 or 425 rpg. Weights were 10,432 pounds empty. 13,275 pounds normal loaded, and 15,500 pounds maximum. Dimension were wingspan 40 feet 9 3/8 inches, length 36 feet 4 inches, height 14 feet 7 inches, and wing area 308 square feet.

After my first or second combat mission with ``Wonderful Winnie" number three I met up with some P-51 Mustang pilots. By this time of the war escort planes were often freed from escort duty after their bombers had headed home. This left them available to attack ground targets and enemy planes heading back their bases. These guys thought they were real ``Hot Shots" and some of them were. A lot more were rookies in a hot plane that the Mustang certainly was. It did have a deficiency in the ground attack role. It had a water-cooled Rolls Royce engine. If it took any kind of hit in the cooling system, you had better look for a place to land or check your parachute. The engine would overheat and seize up in no time. Our P-47's had to be practically blown apart to go down. Guys, including me, came back with pistons shot out and the engine still kept going.

This group of guys came over as we headed back to our field. We gave them a wave and I got them on the radio. My sense of larceny got the best of me again and I challenged them to a race. There were four of them in this flight and I said, `` I `ll bet you $50.00 buck a piece I can beat you to the next town?" These guys thought I was nuts and immediately agreed. We exchanged particulars so someone could collect the debt. My Wingman climbed up along with me to 10000 feet to call the start of the race. We lined up as best we could and my Wingman gave the go. The P-51s's jumped out in front as I crammed the throttle forward. Slowly but inexorably I started to gain and pass these guys. I saw the look of incredulity on their faces as I pulled along side and passed each one. By the time we passed the outskirts of the town I was way out front. These guys were about ready to chew nails when they caught up to me again. No one had told them about this new plane and I certainly wasn't going to enlighten them. To their credit, a week or so later I got a letter in the mail with 200 clams in it. I managed to pull this trick several more times before guys got wise. I sent the money home to Winnie we put it to good use.

So, to the Mustang pilots out there, many thanks. Winnie and I appreciated your generosity.

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