Did you know the US airforce flew spitfires during WWII?
And that most pilots of the groups not wanting to fly what they thought to an inferior Mustang?
Because the US was always ‘made in US is best’ – this story is little known.
(Continues to this day, looking at the spiralling costs of the JSF project going with the Eurofighter would have been a lot smarter for EU countries involved – better, cheaper, like the spitfire.)
The following is taken from a really interesting article on spitfiresite.com.
US air force flies Spitfire
I was researching a WWII thread for my 20th century historical fiction project recently and came across this fascinating article explaining the use of the Spitfire by the US airforce:
‘Uncle Sam’s Spitfires had written a little-known chapter in US fighter history. Though the USAAF used over 600 Spitfires during the war, the aircraft was never given a US designation, and little publicity was given to the exploits of the 31st and 52nd Fighter Groups – nothing like what they would get in the summer of 1944 during the wild air battles over Ploesti when they flew Mustangs. This is most likely a good example of the US military’s overall dislike of having to admit to using “NIH” (Not Invented Here) equipment.’
The story goes that the first fighter pilots to arrive in the UK were to be equipped with the Airacobra, but the RAF convinved the Americans it would be outclassed by the German FW 190 – so they were equipped with Spitfires. Despite losses die to inexperience in the beginning, the unit learned the rops and soon FW 190’s were being shot down for few losses. The FW (Focke Wulf) was an outstanding aircraft, but the sheer brilliance of the Spitfire’s continuously evolving design meant it was the best fighter of the war.
As the article points out at the end:
‘On March 11, 1944, the 31st FG had received their first P-51B Mustang. On March 24, the unit was taken off operations to handle full conversion to the Mustang, despite the feelings of many of the pilots that they were being asked to take an inferior airplane to their Spitfire Mk. VIIIs and IXs. On March 26, 1944, the 31st flew their last Spitfire mission, with four Spitfires Mk. VIII of the 308th FS finding 20 Fw-190G fighter bombers, of which they claimed one destroyed and three probables for the group’s last victories in the Spitfire.
‘The following month, the 52nd Fighter Group followed the 31st into the Mustang and on to the new 15th Air Force, with the last US Spitfire victories being 3 Bf-109Gs shot down of 6 that attacked the Spitfire IXs of the 5th FS of the 52nd FG during a bomber escort to Orvieto, Italy.
‘During their time in Spitfires, the 31st FG claimed 194.5 confirmed, 39 probables and 124 damaged; the 52nd claimed 152.33 confirmed, 22 probables and 71 damaged. Thirteen pilots became aces on the Spitfire. Leland Molland went on to score another 6 victories in the summer of 1944 in the P-51 to bring his score to 11. Harrison Thyng added 5 more victories to his 5.5 as CO of the 4th FIW in Korea, while Royal N. Baker, who scored 3.5 in Spitfires added another 13 in Korea.’