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From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: p-40
Date: 30 Sep 1997
Newsgroups: alt.history.what-if

Re the P-38:  The intercoolers were the problem with the P-38 prior to the
J model.  After the J was introduced there were no problems.  The J and
later P-38s performed very well in Europe.  The decision had been made,
however, for logistical reasons, and because the P-38 was in such demand in
the Pacific and Med, to use the P-51 for escort in northern Europe.  The
P-51 had plenty of its own teething problems, most of which have been forgotten.

Re the P-40:  It seems it is always compared with the Zero.  Why not
compare it with the Bf 109?  The only advantage the most commonly
encountered G models had over the Curtiss was a faster rate of climb and a
higher critical altitude.  In the MTO and the Eastern front, most combat
took place below 10,000 ft., making this advantage of little value.  The
P-40 could out dive, out roll and out turn the Bf 109, it was more rugged
in construction and better protected against battle damage.  The radiator
and associated plumbing were bunched forward in the nose and protected by
armor, while the Bf 109 had exposed and unprotected radiators under the
wings.  The P-40 also outgunned the Bf 109, except for the models with two
extra cannon slung under the wings.  But these versions were dead meat for
the P-40, their performance was so degraded.

The fate of Curtiss-Wright  is an interesting one.  It suffered from
designers and engineering  personnel jumping ship to other manufacturers.
Don Berlin, designer of the P-36/P-40, himself went over to General Motors.
 Curtiss also suffered from the success of the P-40.  With government
contracts that allowed it to build some 14,000 of the machines, there was
no compelling reason for it to come up with something else.  The C-46 was
certainly an exceptional transport, the size of other makers' four-engine
transports, but using only two huge engines.
Part of the trouble Curtiss faced is the fact that no post-war civilian
version of this transport was ever produced.
But these were all minor parts of the real problem.
At the end of the war, Curtiss was the second-largest manufacturing firm
in the world, behind only General Motors.  It had more than $300 million in
cash reserves (a stupendous sum in those days).  It had some of the most
modern manufacturing plants in the world.  And it was manufacturing a line
of excellent aircraft engines--Wright Cyclones, etc.  It purchased Packard,
not only licensed manufacturer of Merlin aircraft engines, but producer of
the Packard motor car, the Mercedes of the United States.  It also obtained
a license to produce the British Nene jet engine.
So what happened?  In a nutshell:  asset stripping.  Speculators bought
enough stock to control the company and basically broke it up and sold it
off to turn it into ready cash.  That's one reason there was no new
product, not even a civilian version of the C-46.  The asset strippers
would allow no money to be spent on anything.  It's a long, complex, rather
sad story.  It has nothing to do with the quality of the P-40 as a fighter,
which was quite good, although it was obviously surpassed by later designs.

Re the P-39:  It was put into production before all the bugs were worked
out.  And, yes, it certainly should have retained the turbo-supercharger it
was originally equipped with (which gave it a top speed of 390 mph at
20,000 ft when it was first flown in 1939, making it much faster than any
European fighter of that era). The P-63 was the aircraft the P-39 should
have been.  The early versions of the P-39 were underpowered.  The Q
version was actually quite good, performance-wise, but still suffered from
over-sensitive controls and the rearward movement of the center of gravity
once the nose ammo was expended.  This made the plane susceptible to flat
spins.  Experienced pilots could handle it.  But most service pilots first
got their hands on a P-39 with less than 300 hours in their logbooks.
It was an easy plane to bail out of:  merely jetison the door and roll
out.  It was actually easier to bail out of that most other fighters.
That's not really saying very much.  The chances of a successful bailout
averaged between one in four and one in two, regardless of aircraft type.
The chances of successful bailout varied based on the reason you had to
bail out, the attitude of the aircraft and its motion, and what the
altitude was.  P-39s were notorious for killing their pilots because they
used an unreliable electric propeller that often ran wild.  At altitude, no
problem.  The pilot merely exited and floated to safety.  But if it
happened at low altitude--and it seemed to happen most often when pilots
were practicing touch-and-goes in the landing pattern--the pilot usually
died.  This was because the pilot tried to do something to bring the prop
under control, all the while losing altitude and airspeed.  He often stayed
with the plane until it stalled and then it was too late.  Veteran P-39
pilots got the hell out at the first sign of a runaway prop.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: P-51 D   mustang vs F-4u corsair
Date: 11 Mar 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

An interesting book on the P-39 in Soviet Air Force service is "Eagles East" by
Richard Lukas.  Apparently, the Russians dumped the wing guns, which is what
the AAF boys in New Guinea did, in order to improve performance.  The Russians
also dumped radio equipment for the same reason.  And, apparently, they mostly
used the P-39 as a fighter.  The Germans, also apparently, chose to fly most of
their missions at low and medium altitudes, putting the P-39 right at its prime
fighting height.
Within its altitude envelope the Bell was, yet again apparently, competitive
with the 109, so using it as a fighter made sense.  Seventy-five percent of US
lend-lease fighters sent to the USSR were P-39s and P-63s, which the Soviets
specifically requested.  So they must have liked them.
In New Guinea, the AAF did not like the  P-39 because the Japanese bombers came
over at around 22,000 ft., sometimes higher, sometimes as low as 18,000 ft.,
but in any case well above the optimum fighting altitude of the P-39.  The P-39
also had to climb over high mountain ranges, not fight over Iowa-like terrain.
And to reach the enemy it had to fly to the very limit of its fuel
capacity--sometimes, as it would prove, beyond it.  Also, at any altitude the
P-39 was not competitive as a fighter with the Ki-43 or Zero. And the 37mm was
useless against such agile fighters, leaving the P-39 to fight with only its
two cowl .50s.
I also wonder about pilot skill.  The Soviets must have had a leavening of
Spanish Civil War veterans in their air units, while the AAF kids coming up
against veterans of the war in China and the Soviet border incident,  were
pretty green.
The P-39 pilots who went to Guadalcanal were pure green peas.  Their group, the
58th, had only been formed at the beginning of 1941.  It didn't get any pilots
until that fall, kids fresh out of flying school.  It had no veteran officers.
It was shipped overseas way understrength in Feb, 1942, to Australia, then sent
to New Caledonia.  It's 40 pilots had 45 P-400s delivered to them, all neatly
packed in crates, but with no manuals or assembly equipment, and no ground
crews.  The kids spend the next weeks unloading the planes, dragging them to
the airstrip, figuring out how to assemble them and doing that.  Only then
could they, for the very first time, fly a P-39.  About the time they had got
the planes put together, learned how to navigate the pattern with them and
land, they were sent to Guadalcanal, where the Japanese Navy's Zeros ate them
alive. Big surprise.

From: CDB100620 <>
Subject: Re: Airacobra question
Date: 07 Apr 1998

The USAAF needed fighters with range, and the P-39 simply didn't carry enough
fuel internally to be useful for much of the war.
Also, the old axiom has it that the bombers deterimine the altitude at which
fighters must fight.  In the SWPA, the Japanese sent their bombers over
generally at between 18,000 and 22,000 ft., sometimes substantially higher.
While the P-39 could get that high, it took it a long time to do so, so the
opportunities for high altitude intercepts were few.  Effectively, it was all
done by about 17,000 ft. It was at its best below about 12,000 ft.  Considering
that the mountains in New Guinea rose to over 14,000 ft., and in the early days
of the conflict both sides were going back and forth over those mountains to
get at each other, the P-39 was at an instant disadvantage.  Fortunately for
P-39 drivers, the Japanese bombers had a habit of dropping into a shallow
descent as they approached their objective, so they could increase speed and
so, presumably, reduce the risks associated with AAA and also complicate
fighter intercept, as well as increase accuracy by bombing at a lower altitude.
 This practice, however, often put them and their escorts into prime 'Cobra
fighting space.
The Soviets fought over terrain much like that of Iowa, were based close to the
enemy, and the Germans chose to send their bombers over at medium and low
altitudes.  So none of the factors that worked against the P-39 in New Guinea
were present on the Eastern Front.
Also worth noting.  An RAF Duxford comparison test of a captured Me 109E and
P-39C showed the Bell outperforming the 109 in every category except rate of
climb when below 15,000 ft.  The P-39 could easily out-turn the 109--it took
the 'Cobra less than 720 degrees to get on the tail of an Me that was planted
on its tail.
So the P-39 should have had no trouble dealing with the 109 at the altitudes
common in the East.
In the SWPA, however, the P-39 not only had to fight at altitudes above where
it was best, it had to contend with fighters that were much, much more
maneuverable than it was.  P-39 squadrons routinely stripped off the wing guns
to get more performance, and some even ripped out the armor plating (which
weighed about 750 pounds) to get yet more performance, prefering to reduce
their susceptibility to battle damage (as the Japanese did) at the expense of
vulnerability to it.
That said, the P-39 was not a failure in New Guinea.  The two groups equipped
with it--the 8th and 35th--performed quite effectively.  The two squadrons of
the 8FG that relieved RAAF 75 Squadron at Port Moresby at the end of March,
1942, were the only fighter force available to stop the Japanese air onslaught.
 This they did, although at great cost.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Saburo Sakai's book - what are its inaccuracies ?
Date: 12 Apr 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

Can't address the inaccuracies of "Samurai."  But "Winged Samurai," a biography
of Sakai by HenrySakaida apparently was written with the complete co-operation
of Sakai and was endorsed by the Japan Zero Fighter Pilots Association, for
whatever that may be worth.

Re the P-39 and the New Guinea P-39 pilots:  Sakai would have come up against
the 8th and 35th fighter groups.  The 8th was first in combat with Sakai and
his buddies, tangling with them from the end of March, 1942.  Among these boys
was  Charlie Falletta, assigned to the 36th fighter squadron,  who rose to
become a colonel.  He is credited with 16 air-to-air kills during the war, the
first six of these while flying the P-39.  The Bell boys had some rough fights
with the Tainan Kokutai in the April-May-June period, and had enough respect
for their foes to say they flew "Double Zeros"--each Japanese pilot was twice
as good as he had any right to be.  It's interesting to note, glancing at their
combat reports, that on numerous occasions Zeros dived away from them at speeds
in excess of 400 mph.  Apparently the Sakai and his pals had no fears about
diving the Zero.  It was still not a great tactic against the P-39, which was
an excellent diver, and should circumstances allow (no other Zeros making a
nuisance of themselves), a P-39 could pursue and overhaul any diving Zero.  The
problem, of course, came when the 'Cobra caught the Zero.  If he didn't nail
him with his first burst, the P-39 driver was in deep doo-doo, his best hope to
blow on by and keep going.
Col. Falletta liked the P-39 a great deal, and believed it more than a match
for a Zero at its prime fighting altitude, which he put at between 8,000 and
12,000 ft., which is a pretty limited envelope.
A combat report of John "Shady" Lane, 35FG 39FS, gives you a sense of the
airfighting going on in those days, and the attitude of the kids fighting it:
"One definite, one probable, one damaged, one possible, twenty impossible and
hell knows how many I didn't see."

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Airacobra question
Date: 13 Apr 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

In the Pacific, the P-39's greatest drawback was lack of range.  And that was
made worse in the early Q models, which had only 87 gallons of on-board
go-juice.  Fuel consumption at low cruise rpm and low altitude was about 50
gallons per hour.  That jumped up to 170 gallons per hour at combat power.
The normal drop tank was 75 gallons.  The plane could carry a 175-gallon drop
tank and did when they were available.
On a typical mission with a 175-gallon tank, as much as 40 gallons would be
burned on the ground, during take-off, form up and climb to, say, 8,000 ft.
You'd allocate enough gas for 10 minutes or so of combat power, about 30
gallons, which would have to come from your internal fuel, leaving you less
than 60 gallons, gas you would need to get home on.  So you can only fly out a
radius of one-hour's cruise.  If you tightened up your take-off, form-up and
climb procedures, you could do the one-hour cruise mission with the 75-gallon
drop tank.
What the 175-gallon drop tank would do is give you some margin for snafus on
the outbound leg and give you loiter time to look for business, either in the
air or on the ground.
Note the large amount of gas burned in getting pointed down the trail.  That's
why a good fighter squadron would pride itself in firing up, taking off and
being formed up in double-quick time.  (The best outfits could have all the
planes formed up in less time than it took the first plane off to complete one
circuit of the field.) It could save lives. A pilot slow to get his gear up,
one who didn't "pull streamers" (get contrails from his wingtips) as he cranked
over hard turning to form up, would suffer unkind words from his confreres.
In any case, the P-39 simply didn't have enough range to get to where the
Japanese were for much of the Pacific campaign.  The P-40 had significantly
more internal gas than the P-39 did (the N had 158 gallons), making it
preferred.  But it burned more gas than the P-39.
The early D models of the P-47 which went to the Pacific had 305 gallons of
internal fuel, but burned gas at around 130 gallons per hour, so they actually
had an effective range slightly shorter than the P-40N.
Efforts were made to improve fuel consumption (cf C. Lindbergh), and some
P-39Q-1s equipped with 175-gallon drop tanks flew four hour and 15 minute
missions, covering 700 miles, returning with about 20 gallons of gas on
board--no combat power settings.  If they had needed combat power, they could
have had it for about 6 minutes max if they expected to touch their wheels down
on solid earth at the end of the mission.
P-40Ns were able to--and did--carry out 4 hr 45 min combat missions that
included provision for 10 minutes of combat power settings.
But in the case of either airplane, such missions were really pressing it.  The
need to go around unexpected weather would have put the planes in the drink, as
would the need for longer-than-expected combat time, or anything else that
would have required them to stay in the air a few minutes longer, or burn gas
at higher settings than planned, even briefly.
The P-47 faced a similar situation.
But not God's gift to the USAAF Pacific pursuit pilots, the P-38.
The P-38J models burned about 90 gallons per hour without special efforts at
fuel conservation, and carried 410 gallons internally and 300 (or more!--on
long, long missions, two 300 gallon tanks would be carried) gallons in drop
tanks. [Earlier models, including the much-liked H, carried 300 gallons
internally, still pretty good].  So the world was the P-38's oyster.  The Jap
could not get far enough away to escape the personal attention of the Lockheed.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Airacobra question
Date: 14 Apr 1998

> did the XP-39 have a turbosupercharger (exhaust driven)
>or a supercharger (camshaft driven).

The XP-39 did indeed have a turbosupercharger, specifically a General Electric
B-5.  This gave the airplane a critical altitude of 25,000 ft., where the
Allison V-1710-17 engine developed 1,150 brake horsepower.  In the actual
prototype, pressure losses in the induction system reduced critical altitude to
20,000 ft., but had development of the turbo version of the plane continued,
doubtless this would have been corrected.  During intial flights in April,
1939, the plane recorded a top speed of 390 mph at 20,000 ft.  Once the
induction problems had been corrected, there's a good possibility the aircraft
could have reached 400 mph or better at 25,000 ft.
The reasons why the turbo installation was abandoned on the P-39 are somewhat
involved, but chiefly involve a very critical NACA report.  The Bell
turbosupercharger installation was compact (necessary to fit everything into
what was quite a small airplane).  NACA engineers preferred the stretched out
arrangement of the P-47B, which had the turbo buried in the rear of the
fuselage.  Such an arrangement couldn't possibly be created in the P-39.  NACA
also blasted the intercooler design, rating it inadequate.  These and other
comments were part of an in-depth NACA criticism of the design based on
wind-tunnel tests that also ripped apart the plane's oil cooling and Prestone
systems.  NACA briefed Larry Bell and his crew in August, 1939, giving him and
his boys quite a shock.  They thought they were in like Flynn with a hot design
that had been burning up the skies for several months, but the NACA mavens were
telling them their airplane wouldn't work if they didn't make some major
changes.  Attempts by the Bell folks to interupt and say, "But, we've been
flying the thing just fine since April," were apparently brushed aside by the
NACA potentates.
Since the Air Corps tended to listen to what NACA said, to save the design and
get a government contract, Larry Bell told the AC  that if all the
drag-reducing suggestions NACA made in its report were incorporated in the
airplane and the turbo and related plumbing were also ripped out, the P-39
would still be able to meet Type Specification C-616 to which the P-39 had
originally been designed, and which had been relaxed substantially since the
P-39 design had been worked out. (The Air Corps, desperate for fighter planes,
was afraid the Type Specification was too demanding and not enough airplane
makers would be able to meet it.  It had originally called for a minimum top
speed of 360 mph at 20,000 ft.  This was reduced to 340 mph at 15,000 ft.)
The turboless XP-39B flew in December, 1939, recording a top speed of 375 mph
at 15,000 ft., well above the minimum requirement of the revised C-616.  Larry
Bell was quite pleased with this performance and apparently decided that the
troublesome turbo installation was well gotten rid of.
The rest, as they say, is history.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Airacobra question
Date: 14 Apr 1998

Re the P-39 being used as a tank buster by the Soviet Union:  the first
examples the Soviets got were 93 P-400s (Britishized versions with 20mm
cannon--not the 37mm) shipped at the end of June, 1942.
"Eagles East" by Richard Lukas indicates the Soviets used the P-39, P-400 and
P-63 primarily as fighter planes, not ground attack aircraft.
In total, Bell built 4,924 P-39s for the Soviet Union and 2,421 P-63s.
Lukas quotes Stalin as telling Wendell Wilkie "We are short of fighters to
cover our ground forces. What we need particularly is Spitfires and
The Russian author V. Roman has written in "The Airacobras Enter Battle" that
"The Airacobra seemed ideally to correspond to the character of the military
activities on the Soviet-German front.  The war was not for absolute aerial
supremacy but for domination over specific areas of current military
activities.  The German and Soviet air forces consisted of dive bombers and
assault planes carrying out tactical operations at low altitude."

From: (CDB100620)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: What undid the P-39.......
Date: 14 May 1998 05:39:03 GMT

>The P-39 served the RAF for less than 4 months before being withdrawn. That,
>I believe, is far more telling testimony than any "technical evaluation".

When Ben Kelsey was chief of the Fighter Project Branch at Wright Field before
the US entered the war, he was part of a team that evaluated the Spitfire for
possible production in the United States.  The plane was already legendary for
its performance in the Battle of Britain, and the American evaluators
approached the aircraft with mixed awe and enthusiasm.  But they quickly soured
on the airplane.  As part of the evaluation, Kelsey flew the Spitfire from
Wright Field in Ohio to March Field in California.  The trip was a nightmare.
Because of the short range of the airplane, he had to land at a number of
little-used secondary airfields and often touched down with the engine running
on little more than gas fumes.  At many fields, engine cooling was inadequate
to permit taxiing from the landing strip to the service area.  Long runways on
high desert airfields involved crosswind taxing that burned out the brakes.
The aircraft's marginal stability when airborne quickly exhausted the pilot,
especially in rough air.  It was impossible to safely skirt the edges of even a
mild midwestern thunderstorm because of the plane's skittish handling, and what
was routine heartland weather in a P-40--or P-39--was dangerous in a
Spitfire....  In short, there were so many things wrong with the Spitfire from
the American point of view that the Air Corps evaluation board ruled it
The point being that what one air force wants and needs is not what another one
does, and their evaluations of airplanes will be prejudiced by their own
requirements.  The fact that the RAF had no particular use for the P-39 should
not be given more weight than the fact that the Soviet Air Force apparently not
only liked the P-39, but specifically requested it (my source for this is
Richard Lukas' "Eagles East," which is a fairly old book, but seems well
{As an aside,  Prof. Williamson Murray, who used to teach at the Air War
College, has said that the Luftwaffe had become a second-rate air force by the
end of 1943 at the latest, largely due to the atttrition warfare on the eastern
front.  The P-39 must have played a  part, perhaps a significant one, in
attriting the Luftwaffe; at least the Soviets, in negotiating the Third
Washington Protocol, which covered Lend-Lease to the USSR from Jan. thru June,
1943, asked for a staggering 500 P-39s a month to be delivered to them. They
had been using them (and P-400s) in combat for some time by then, and if the
airplane wasn't doing the job for them, they would have rejected it.  They
certainly rejected the P-40 (which plane the USAAF in the SWPA thought was a
much better airplane than the P-39--again, different air force, different

It's interesting to note that the rate of climb of the P-39, which everybody in
the USAAF pissed and moaned about, was actually not that bad.  The D and F
models (identical except for props, one electric, one hydraulic) could beat
both the P47C and P-51A to 25,000 ft.--and take *half* the time the P-40E took.
 A P-39Q could get to 25,000 ft. in about 10.5 minutes, almost six  minutes
quicker than the P-51D. (Of course, the Q couldn't fly from London to Berlin
and back.)
One of the reasons the P-39 got a bad rap in the SWPA was that when it was
initially deployed fairly early in 1942, what was desperately needed was a
super-fast climbing interceptor, because the best warning of an incoming air
raid was about five minutes.  What was needed was something like the CW-21
(something with its rate of climb, anyway).  The fact was that no fighter would
have been able to respond effectively under those circumstances. But since the
P-39 was what was on hand, it got damned by frustrated pilots struggling uphill
at 160 mph while the Japanese, thousands of feet above, winged over and howled
down on them.
It's worth noting that, despite the disadvantages they fought under, the 8FG,
which took over from RAAF 75 Squadron at Moresby, suffered fewer losses with
its P-39s than did 75 Squadron with its P-40s.  And it should not be forgotten
that the P-39 was, in fact, not a failure in those desperate early days in New
Guinea.  The 8th (and later the 35th) and its Airacobras gave the JNAF's Tainan
Air Wing (and later the 2AW) and its  Zeros a well-pulped and very bloody nose.
 Air raids on Morseby tapered off from two a day at the end of April to one or
two a week by the end of June.  Nobody else was shooting at the Japs, so it
must have been the P-39s that discouraged them.

From: (CDB100620)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: What undid the P-39.......
Date: 16 May 1998 16:15:04 GMT

>Sounds to me like you've fallen in love with a whore

Not really a great fan of the P-39, considering the P-40 the much better
all-around airplane, especially the N.  But the folks who flew the critter in
combat seem to have thought highly of it.

Re how close the prop shaft was to the pilot, it passed under the seat and
between the rudder pedals.  It wasn't noticeable to the pilot because  in front
of the stick and below the instrument panel were the radio controls, the cannon
charging system and the engine primer, blocking the view into the foot well.
The shaft never seems to have caused problems.  But, at least in humid, damp
New Guinea, the plane, which had a lot of electrically-operated systems,
suffered from shorts; in fact, the standard description of the P-39 in that
theater was "a collection of short circuits flying in close formation."

From: (CDB100620)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: What undid the P-39.......
Date: 17 May 1998 03:26:21 GMT

>Art-Glad to see you called the P-39 by its real name"AIRCOBRA",
>not airacobra.  Never could understand how the name airacobra came
>into common useage.

Airacobra is the correct name.  There was also the Airabonita and the Airacuda.
 The Airacuda was the first named plane (the XFM-1).  Larry Bell told reporters
when it was unveiled in 1937 that the name was a combination of airplane and
When the British took over the French order for Bell Model 14s (P-400s) after
the fall of France,  they called the airplane the Airacobra I. Like Mustang and
Dakota, the name stuck.

From: (CDB100620)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: What undid the P-39.......
Date: 17 May 1998 03:44:41 GMT

>ne deadly feature of the Aircobra was the fact that surviving a
>crash landing was near impossible.

Quoth a flight instructor once upon a time:  "This here airplane is perfectly
safe as long as you don't crash it."

From: (C.C. Jordan)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: "Colonial Aircraft"
Date: 20 Nov 1998 15:43:25 GMT

On 20 Nov 1998 14:41:23 GMT, (ArtKramr) wrote:

>>Subject: Re: "Colonial Aircraft"
>>From: Jeff Rankin-Lowe <>
>>Date: 11/19/98 10:03 PM PST
>>> With a full fuselage tank the P-51 handled worse than the P-39 ever did.
>>> big problem with the P-39 was that it didn't have enough range to go
>>> and couldn't climb high enough to do any good.  As for the engine being in
>>> back being a scarey, it wasn't.  It gave the P-39 great visibility over the
>>> nose.
>>Was it specifically being in front of the engine that was worrisome or was it
>>more to sitting above the driveshaft? I think the latter would concern me
>>more if
>>I were in that situation.
>It had to do wwith the engine coming forward and crushing you in a crash
>Arthur Kramer
>344th Bomb Group,9th Air Force
>England France Belgium Holland Germany

Some pilots didn't mind the engine behind them at all. When asked by a
journalist what aspect of the P-39 he liked, 7 victory ace George Welch
said, "Well, it's got 12 hundred pounds of Allison armor plate." When Welch
inquired as to when his squadron (the 36th FS) would receive P-38's, he
was told, "When we run out of P-39's." The net result was that Welch would
bail out of or ditch every P-39 that so much as hinted of a mechanical
problem. Soon, this became the practice of the entire squadron. Any
excuse was used to get rid of an Airacobra. This drove the squadron
brass insane. Yet somehow, the 5th AF kept scrounging up more P-39's.
Finally, in mid May of 1943, Welch was transfered to the 80th FS who
flew the P-38G. Within 12 weeks, George shot down 9 enemy fighters
along with 2 probables and several more damaged. He was shipped
to Sydney with a serious case of malaria, never to return to combat.

Welch was discharged in early 1944 and went to work for North American
Aviation as a test pilot. It's too that bad George is no longer with us. He,
more than anyone else, could certainly compare the P-38 to the P-51.
We do know that he thought very highly of both types. I suspect that
he would be quite content to fly either type into combat.

My regards,
C.C. Jordan

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