The early variants of North American’s famous fighter saw limited production. But some of these early Mustangs did see success.
Join me for a look at one such example from a lesser known theater.
The CBI Theater had sunk to lowest priority throughout 1943. It was very difficult to supply and support, and the local politics were beyond difficult. But it was not completely ignored. In September of that year the 311th Fighter-Bomber Group started operations in Burma. The Group’s component Squadrons consisted of two A-36 Apache Squadrons and one P-51A Squadron. This would be the first use of the Mustang as a fighter, it had earlier seen service as a tactical recon aircraft and light attack plane. But now one full squadron of Mustangs would be tasked with providing long range fighter escort for the 311th’s own A-36s and other groups’ bombers. Within a few weeks newer “B” model Mustangs would be making a name for themselves over Europe, but the “A” model saw action first, barely.
These early model Mustangs used an Allison V-1710 which lacked the high altitude capabilities of the more famous Merlin engine. It was felt this wasn’t a huge issue against the Japanese who only had a few specialized types that operated up high anyway. The “A” Mustang was very long ranged, fast and a capable dog-fighter. It would be very useful in Asia for bomber escort and fighter sweeps.
The Japanese still had significant air power in theater at this time and early combat would be difficult and deadly for the new fighter squadron.
By the end of 1943 then-Capt James J England had scored his first few kills. He would ultimately have ten kills in Allison Mustangs. This subject is Maj England’s assigned aircraft from the Accurate Miniatures kit. It is unclear how many kills were actually scored in this aircraft; conflicted records indicate two, eight or all ten of Maj England’s kills were in his own mount. But it is known a squadron-mate, Lt. William Griffith, won the Silver Star while flying this plane in late 1944.