The sleek P-51 Mustang is perhaps the best all-around fighter of World War II. In 1939, British officials approached North American Aviation in desperate need of additional aircraft for the war in Europe. Just 117 days after the order was placed, the first P-51 was rolled out of the factory.
Equipped with an American-built copy of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the P-51 quickly became one of the best-known and most feared fighters in the world—able to escort heavy bombers deep into enemy territory. A total of 15,567 Mustangs of all types were built for the Army and foreign nations. In combat, they destroyed nearly 6,000 enemy aircraft, making the Mustang the deadliest Allied fighter of World War II.
History of the Artifact
This P-51 is a combat veteran with the Eighth Air Force’s 353rd Fighter Group. It was assigned to Captain Harrison “Bud” Tordoff, who flew the aircraft during many of his air-to-air combats, including the day he shot down a German Me 262 jet fighter.
After the war, the plane served in the Royal Swedish Air Force and was later sold to the Dominican Republic. The plane spent more than 30 years in the Caribbean, most likely flying again in combat. The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum acquired the aircraft in 1998.
Tordoff was reunited with his plane in the summer of 2003—the first time he had seen it since the end of the war. This Mustang is restored to be almost exactly the same as it was in 1945.
Did you know?
The P-51’s laminar wing design was innovative, greatly reducing turbulent airflow across the wing and thus overall drag. The result was increased speed and range.