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Camouflage and markings of North American P-51 Mustang

Part 2

n by Rick Kent


This page is a continuation of Camouflage and Markings of North American P-51 Mustang, Part 1. Both parts cover wartime paint schemes of P-51 Mustang in the U.S. service.

14th Air Force

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North American P-51C Mustang
530th Fighter Squadron, 311th Fighter Group
14th U.S. Army Air Force
Ch'engtu (Chengdu), China, July 1945

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Here's a Mustang of the somewhat forgotten 14th AF which operated in China from 1943 onwards to the end of the war, having been split away from the 10th in India/Burma.

As you can see, it is a P-51C model with the normal natural metal finish and Olive Drab anti-glare panel. The serial number is moved from the fin to the rear fuselage to make way for the Group/Squadron markings and the large number '1061' is the individual aircraft identification. The whole 311th Fighter Group had yellow tails with two black bands; the 530th Fighter Squadron having its diagonal bands sloping from top right to bottom left, while the other two Sqns had theirs either vertical or sloping the opposite way. The red nose was also a squadron marking.

Many planes of this Group had a girl's name on the nose but very few had any artwork.

15th Air Force

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North American P-51C Mustang
2nd Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Group
15th U.S. Army Air Force
Madna, Italy, May 1944

There were four Fighter Groups of the 15th AF based in Italy which were equipped with the P-51. This P-51C shows the earlier style of 52nd Fighter Group markings over the usual natural metal finish with Olive Drab anti-glare panel.

The main Group marking was the yellow band edged in black around the fuselage; this was repeated around the outer wing tip and midway round the tailplane in various combinations. Some fighters had both, some had only one - this particular aircraft only has the wing tip band but no tailplane bands.

The yellow band around the inboard wing on this aeroplane was a common P-51 identification marking in Italy and not a Group marking. Likewise, the red nose was common to all allied fighters in the Mediterranean theatre.

The 2nd Fighter Squadron is identified by the code letters 'QP' on the fuselage, the individual letter 'L' in black being on the vertical tail. These individual letters were always on the fin for all three squadrons of the Group, sometimes plain black or sometimes yellow outlined with black. The 4th Fighter Squadron was coded 'WD' and the 5th FS 'VF'; thus the codes for the three Sqns of the 52nd Group duplicated those of the famous 4th Fighter Group (the Debden Eagles) of the 8th AF based in the UK.

Later on, towards the end of WWII, the 52nd changed its markings to an all yellow tail and rear fuselage, retaining the wing tip bands.

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North American P-51D Mustang
308th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Group
15th U.S. Army Air Force
Mondolfo, Italy, November 1944

The second of my 15th AF Mustangs is this early type P-51D of the 31st Fighter Group with their red diagonal stripes on the vertical tail. Note also the yellow bands around the wingtips (later on the tips themselves were painted red).

The nose is again standard red theatre marking for all Allied fighters and the overall finish is natural metal with Olive Drab anti-glare panel. The 308th Fighter Squadron is identified by the 'HL' code letters, the other two Sqns of the Group, the 307th and 309th, being respectively 'MX' and 'WZ'; these code letters duplicated those of the 78th Fighter Group of the 8th AF based in the UK.

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North American P-51D Mustang
302nd Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group
15th U.S. Army Air Force
Ramitelli, Italy, 1945

Another 15th AF Mustang, this is a late type P-51D of the 332nd Fighter Group.

Unfortunately by modern standards, during World War II the US Army practiced a policy of strict segregation of black people, so this Group was entirely manned by black Americans. Their proud claim at the end of the war was that they never lost a single bomber under their escort, which is a tremendous record.

The Group was identified by their all red tails and in some cases wingtips like this one. The Group had four Squadrons (99th, 100th, 301st and 302nd) of which the 302nd was identified by the number range 70 - 90 and the colour yellow on tail trim tabs and the band behind the spinner. The red spinner is of course the standard Allied fighter marking; and the yellow bands around the inner wings were standard P-51 ident markings. The basic finish is the usual natural metal with Olive Drab anti-glare panel.

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North American P-51D Mustang
319th Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Group
15th U.S. Army Air Force
Vincenzo, Italy, 1945

The last of the 15th AF Mustangs is this P-51D of the famous "Checkertail Clan" 325th Fighter Group. Apart from the chequered fin/rudder, rear fuselage and tailplane the Group had the black outlined yellow bands near the wingtips (near to the end of the war some aircraft had checks on the wingtips).

This aircraft also has the inboard yellow bands around the wings, and, of course, the usual red nose. The three Squadrons of the Group (317th FS, 318th FS and 319th FS) did not use any separate colour ident, but each had its own range of ident numbers, in this case 70 - 99 for the 319th. Overall colour scheme is the usual natural metal with Olive Drab anti-glare panel.

20th Air Force

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North American P-51D Mustang
45th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group
20th U.S. Army Air Force
South Field, Iwo-Jima, Japan, April 1945

Now we move on to the 20th AF. There were three P-51D Groups in the 20th AF, the 15th, 21st and 506th, identified respectively by the number ranges 50-199, 200-349, and 500-649.

The 15th Fighter Group was composed of the 45th, 47th, and 78th Fighter Squadrons which were respectively numbered 51-99, 150-199, and 100-149, hence this 45th Fighter Squadron aircraft is number '56'.

The green markings edged in black are also Squadron marks; there were no distinctive coloured Group markings as such. Some aircraft of the 45th Fighter Squadron had the diagonal bands repeated on the wings and tailplane.

The overall finish is the standard natural metal with Olive Drab anti-glare panel. This particular aircraft has the normal single radio mast on top of the fuselage, but modellers should note that many 20th AF P-51D's had two masts side by side.

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North American P-51D Mustang
47th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group
20th U.S. Army Air Force
South Field, Iwo-Jima, Japan, May 1945

profile_mustang_15a.gif (2450 bytes)This P-51D shows the markings of the 47th Fighter Squadron of the 15th Fighter Group: all of the black/yellow markings are Squadron markings, as well as the fuselage identification number '150'. Note that this aircraft has two radio masts side-by-side, which are painted black also.

The only other thing to say is that the finish is as per usual in natural metal with Olive Drab anti-glare panel.

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North American P-51D Mustang
46th Fighter Squadron, 21st Fighter Group
20th U.S. Army Air Force
South Field, Iwo-Jima, Japan, April 1945

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The third of the 20th AF Mustangs is this one of the 21st Fighter Group. The three Squadrons of this Group (46th, 72nd, and 531st) all had the same markings but in different colours - light blue, yellow, and white respectively - and different individual aircraft ident number ranges: 200-249 for the 46th, 250-299 for the 72nd, and 300-349 for the 531st. All the squadron coloured markings were edged in black as shown on this one.

This one also has its two radio masts painted blue. The name on the nose Little "ANGEL" the 104 is in black and red. Yet again this is a natural metal aircraft with Olive Drab anti-glare panel.

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North American P-51D Mustang
457th Fighter Squadron, 506th Fighter Group
20th U.S. Army Air Force
North Field, Iwo-Jima, Japan, July 1945

profile_mustang_17a.gif (1659 bytes)Here's the last of the USAAF Mustangs in this roundup, this one of the 506th Fighter Group, 20th AF.

The three Sqns (457th, 458th, and 462nd) of the Group had similar markings in different colours and also had different series of ident numbers (457th 500-549, 458th 550-599, and 462nd 600-649). The squadron markings consisted of painting the fin, rear fuselage and tailplane all over in a colour. As shown here, the 457th was red; the 458th had black diagonal stripes over the natural metal background, and the 462nd was yellow.

Otherwise the finish was standard in natural metal, including propeller spinner, with Olive Drab anti-glare panel. Note that this particular aircraft has two aerial masts side-by-side.

Continue to Camouflage and Markings of North American P-51 Mustang, Part 3

Rick Kent is a modeller, IPMS:er and a productive aviation artist. His speciality are computer-generated aircraft profiles.

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