Segment 6

Annotation

Anderson feels that the P-51 [Annotator's Note: American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] was a big factor in beating the Germans.When the P-51 was full of fuel it was unstable. Also, when in a high speed dive it could overstress the plane and the wings could come off.On the P-51-B there were some feed problems with the guns. The P-51-D had six guns that were mounted in line reducing the feed problem with the guns.The liquid cooled engine could be knocked out by one round through the radiator.The P-51 shot down more enemy fighters than any other aircraft during the war. Anderson states that historians claim that the spring of 1944 is when the Luftwaffe had it's back broken and that the P-51 is the reason.The 8th Air Force set escort tactics. The plan was to have the fighters fly formation with the bombers all the way through the mission. When Jimmy Doolittle [Annotator's Note: General James "Jimmy" Doolittle] took over, a new mission was instituted that had the fighter pilots pursue and destroy the enemy planes they came across.Anderson believes that the Germans did not have a large pool of replacement pilots to make up for their losses although they still had some very good pilots like Gunther Rall.The bombing raids had a lot to do with crushing the German air force but killing their pilots was the main thing. After a whole year of bombing the German aircraft industry was producing more planes than they had during the previous year.Anderson was very nervous on his first combat mission. In order to gain experience the flight leaders in Anderson's group were sent to the 354th to fly wing.The common theory was that if a pilot survived five missions his chances of survival went up significantly.

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