The sign accompanying the P-51. It reads
North American P-51D "Mustang"
||37 ft. 0 in.
||32 ft. 3 in.
||13 ft. 8 in.
||55,000 lb Max
Six .50 caliber machine guns
2,000 lbs. of bombs
||Packard built Rolls-Royce
"Merlin" V-1650 of 1,695 hp
The P-51 was designed as the NA-73 in 1940 at Britain's request. The design
showed promise and the Army Air Forces' purchase of Allison-powered Mustangs
began in 1941 primarily for photo recon and ground support use due to its
limited high-altitude performance. By in 1942, tests of P-51s using the
British Rolls-Royce "Merlin" engine revealed much improved speed and service
ceiling, and in Dec. 1943, Merlin-powered P-51Bs first entered combat with the
"Mighty Eighth" over Europe. Providing high-altitude escort to B-17s and
B-24s, they scored heavily over German interceptors and by war's end, P-51s had
destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in the air, more than any other fighter in
Europe. The famed Tuskegee
Airmen flew the P-51 and never lost a bomber that they escorted.
Mustangs served in nearly every combat zone, including the Pacific where they
escorted B-29s to Japan from Iwo Jima. Between 1941-45, the AAF ordered 14,855
Mustangs (including A-36A dive bomber and F-6 photo recon versions), of which
7,956 were P-51Ds. During the Korean Warn, P-51Ds were used primarily for
close ground support until 1953.
The P-51D on display is affectionately referred to by the museum staff as a
"Heinz-51" as it is made up of several different surplus P-51s. Obtained in
1985 from Van Nyus, CA and "flown" to Barksdale AFB in a California ANG C-130,
this P-51 is marked to represent the P-51D flown by Col. William
"Bill" Whisner, a native of Shreveport, LA and an Ace in two wars.
Whisner's P-51 assigned to the 8th Air Force's 352d Fighter Group which flew
out of Bodney,
England. The name "Moonbeam McSwine" is a female character from one of
Whisner's favorite comic strips, L'il