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Japanese and Allied Air Forces in the Far East Please use this forum to discuss the Air War in the Far East.

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Old 2nd July 2005, 00:46
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Jim Oxley Jim Oxley is offline
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P-51 Effectiveness in the PTO

It's often struck me that the P-51 was no where near as effective in the PTO as it was in the European Theatre. In fact only 279 kills are credited to the P-51 in this Theatre.

A common held belief for it's less than sterling performance was that it came late to the Theatre ie in 1945 with the advent of VLR escort missions to Japan for the B-29's.

However that is not the case. The P-51 was operational in the Pacific from late 1943 onwards. And surprisingly a number of units used it. They are listed below:

1st Air Commando
Operated from bases in india over Burma from February 1944 to May 1944.

2nd Air Commando
Also flew from bases in India and operated over Burma and Thailand from November 1944 to May 1945.

3rd Air Commando
Operated over the Philippines from late 1944 through to the end of the war. Mostly flew ground attack missions, but did fly escort and fighter sweep missions to Formosa.

8th Reconnaissance Group
Used some F-6 Mustangs from mid 1944 on photo and recon missions over Burma, China, French Indochina and Thailand.

15th Fighter Group, VII Fighter Command
Operated P-51D's from Iwo Jima from February 1945. Initially flew ground missions on nearby islands and shipping in the Bonins until late March. Then commenced VLR escort and fighter sweep missions to Japan on April 7, 1945.

21st Fighter Group, VII Fighter Command
Moved to Iwo Jima with P-51D's in late February 1945. suffered casualties during the japanes banzai charge on the night of March 26-27. Flew it's first combat mission the next day. Mixture of VLR escort and fighter sweeps over the main Japanese Islands through to the end of the war.

23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force
Famed 'Flying Tiger' group flew it's first P-51A mission on November 23, 1943. Operated from bases in China and flew as far afield as Formosa, Shangai, Canton and Hong Kong.

35th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force
Received P-51D's while stationed on Luzon in the Philippines in March 1945. Flew a mixture of ground support, fighter sweep and bomber escort missions.

71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, 5th Air Force
Received some F-6 and P-51 Mustangs in late 1944. Flew numerous missions over the Philippines, China and Formosa. William Shomo won the Congressional Medal Of Honor flying a Mustang on January 11, 1945 when he shot down seven enemy planes.

311th Fighter Group, 15th Air Force
Began operations with A-36'sin late 1943 from bases in India. Converted to P-51B's in 1944. In July the unit moved to Burma. In August 1944 the unit was moved again, this time to China for gound attack for the remainder of the war.

348th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force
Converted from P-47 Thunderbolts to P-51D's in May 1945 in the Philippines. Mostly flew ground support missions, with occassional escort and sweeps over Formosa.

506th Fighter Group, VII Fighter Command
Flew it's first mission from Iwo Jima against the Bonin Islands on 8th May, 1945. Conducted VLR mission over Japan from June onwards.

So why didn't it rule the roost as it did in Europe? I would be interested to hear in others views.
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Old 3rd July 2005, 00:35
ArtieBob ArtieBob is offline
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Re: P-51 Effectiveness in the PTO

Factors to consider are the target rich environment of Europe, even fairly late in the war, as compared to the Pacific. Also, the fighters from aircraft carriers played a much larger role in the Pacific. I think that to compare raw numbers is extremely misleading in this instance. To begin to get an evaluation with much meaning, one really needs to compare the kills as a percentage of encounters for both Europe and Pacific. But there are additional factors that also should be considered based on the type of aircraft destroyed and type of missions being flown.

Best regards

Artie Bob
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Old 3rd July 2005, 17:06
JACK COOK JACK COOK is offline
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Re: P-51 Effectiveness in the PTO

I think that it's quite simple.

1. Lack of aerial opposition and type of mission performed by the majority of units named ie ground support.

The only fighter units scoring any kills in the last months of the war did so over Japan itself.
For example:
80th FS scored 213 kills but none after 12-30-44
The 39th FS scored only 4 P-51 kills after conversion.
342nd FS scored 123 kills but only 4 in all of 1945
Basically the same for the 49th FG

Now over Japan..............
15th FG scored 110 kills over Japan between April and August 45.
Except over Japan they're just wasn't anything left to shoot at.

Last edited by JACK COOK; 3rd July 2005 at 17:13.
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