The prototype for the North American Mustang first flew in October 1940. It was designed and built in 120 days in response to an urgent request by the British for a low-altitude fighter/reconnaissance aircraft. It combined the proven Allison V-1710 engine with an innovative cooling system, based on earlier work by the Curtiss Aircraft Company, and laminar-flow wings to gain more stability and speed. Needing a fighter with better high-altitude performance, the U.S. mated the proven Mustang airframe with the British Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The result was the P-51B Mustang — a long-range, high-performance fighter-bomber with the range to escort bombers from Britain to Berlin and back again. The famous D model had a bubbletop canopy and two more machine guns. In the Pacific, the P-51 escorted B-29s on very long range (VLR) bombing raids over Tokyo.
Although almost certainly one of the best P-51D restorations in existence, the Museum’s aircraft retains a certain mystery as to its origins. Last serving operationally with the Israeli Defense Force/Air Force, the aircraft was probably acquired by Israel from surplus Royal Swedish Air Force stocks in 1952. The Swedes acquired nearly all of their 100 P-51s from war-surplus U.S. Army Air Forces stockpiles in Germany at the end of World War II, making this airframe a probable wartime veteran. Unfortunately, when Israel acquired its P-51s, many of them had their original manufacturer’s data plates removed.
This restored aircraft displays the colors and markings of Lieutenant Colonel Glenn T. Eagleston while he was Commanding Officer of the 353rd Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group flying from Rosières-en-Haye, France, in early 1945. This was the same unit of young Lieutenant Kenneth H. Dahlberg, and Eagleston was his commanding officer. Many years later, Ken Dahlberg, an ace in his own right, was the primary benefactor in the creation of the Kenneth H. Dahlberg Military Aviation Research Center here at the Museum. This accurate restoration was completed by the Champion Air Group and the restoration team at Vintage Airframes in Caldwell, Idaho, especially for the Museum of Flight.