their Big Brothers over Germany. In August,

1943, the P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, equipped

with drop tanks, were able to accompany the

bombers to a distance of approximately 375nm,

which roughly corresponded to the area of

Frankfurt am Main, Hanover, or Kassel. This, of

course, provided that they did not get into a fight

with German fighters. Any significant change

in the flight regime, let alone the necessity of

premature jettisoning of the extra tanks, of

course significantly shortened their range. The

P-38 had a greater range and in December 1943

they were able to scrape the area of “Big B”,

Berlin itself (approx. 520 nm). However, their

combat capabilities at that time were already

significantly behind the newer versions of the

Luftwaffe’s main fighter types, the Bf 109G-6

and Fw 190A-5 and their following variants.

Only the P-51B and C, which appeared in Europe

at the turn of 1943 / 1944, were able to escort

bombers deeper over the Reich itself and the

center of Europe. Significantly better protection

of the bombers was provided by the P-51D,

which entered service during the summer of

1944. These were not only able to escort the

bombers to the vast majority of their targets

on the continent, but in several cases of special

operations of the Frantic type, they protected

their Big Brothers taking off from their home

bases in Great Britain up to the region of Poltava

and Mirgorod in Ukraine (approximately 1,300


As the Luftwaffe’s ability to respond to

American raids weakened, the role of escort

fighters shifted partly to ground attack.

American aviators destroyed locomotives,

substations, German planes on the ground, river

boats and other means of transport. In essence,

everything that could even remotely appear to

be a target of military importance had to be on

the lookout for the hunters' thirst

Protecting the bombers from Luftwaffe

aircraft remained a priority task, as long as

there was something to protect them from.

However, the impression that the German air

force was already completely defeated could

be very dangerous. This was especially true

in the closing months of the war, when Me 262

jets began to appear more and more regularly

among the intercepting fighters, which in classic

combat were a difficult opponent even for

Mustang pilots. Unfortunately for the Germans,

realizations regarding the conduct of the war

came too late. “Jets” became the prestigious

hunting trophy of many USAAF fighters.

It will probably remain an eternal topic of

historical debate, which weapon, vehicle or

aircraft primarily provided the Allies with the

opportunity to end the war in Europe by the

spring of 1945 and which element thus ensured

the air supremacy necessary for victory.

Among the main favorites of the debates will


INFO Eduard

Photo: Public Domain


339th FG´s P-51 escorts a damaged B-17 returning from enemy territory.

understandably be the planes participating in

the strategic bombing of German war industry

and transport. And even among proponents of

this theory, there will be differences of opinion

as to whether these were the four-engined

B-17s and B-24s, or their “Little Friends”. Even

if the final answer were to be the four-engined

heavies, it is quite certain that without their

“little brothers” and among them the P-51D, they

would never have been able to do their job.


- Maurer Maurer: Combat Squadrons of the Air Force

– World War II, Office of Air Force History, HQ USAF,


- Maurer Maurer: Air Force Combat Units of World

War II, Office of Air Force History, HQ USAF, 1983

- Archives of the Air Battle over the Ore Mountains,

September 11th, 1944 in Kovářská

- US National Archives and Records Administration,

College Park, Maryland; Unit Histories, Reports and

Mission Orders

- Proposed plans for organization of the Eight Air

Force, HQ EIGHT AIR FORCE, March 1944

- Eight Air Force – Tactical development August 1943

– May 1945, AAF Evaluation Board, 1945

- Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

- Color profiles and emblem of the 8th Air Force –

Jan Zdiarský

July 2023