Notes on the four P-51s flown by Major John Brooks England, Feb 1944 – Jan 1945, 362nd Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group
By Merle Olmsted, Historian, 357th Fighter Group,
During April, 1964, the widow of John B. England, Mrs.
William Huff, loaned this writer John’s wartime photo album and assorted
papers. Under a photo of MISSOURI ARMADA, he had attached a note which
says, “This P-51 was the fourth and last plane I used during my tour in
England. This plane completed over 30 missions over the German Reich without an
abort. The man chiefly responsible for this planes consistent record was S/Sgt
Robert Currie. He was a wonderful Crew Chief and a credit to our great
unheralded Army Air Forces ground crews.”
Two of these P-51s are well known, the first a P-51B,
serial number 42-106462, named U’ve Had It. It was 362nd
The other well known P-51 was a D Model, s/n 44-14789, code G4-E. He flew this one on his
last 30 missions, and it was the last of the four. His final mission was
15 January 1945.
The third of his known P-51s was a D-5,
s/n 44-13735, code G4-H. Available photos of it do not reveal any name on
the left side - there are no photos of the right side. Victory symbols range
from nine to twelve.
We will discuss these three P-51s in detail, and deal with
the “mysterious” 4th P-51 later.
P-51B-10, s/n 42-10642, U’ve Had It, was delivered
to the AAF at the California factory on 20 January 1944. It departed the U.S.
from Newark, NJ, by sea on 8 February, 1944, arrived in England and was assigned
to 8th Air Force 21 February, 1944. It usually took from one to two
weeks for the depot to process the aircraft that came in, so it probably was
delivered to Leiston, and the 357th Fighter Group about the end of
the first week of March.
The 357th flew it's first operational mission 11
February. England flew this first mission and four more through 8 March. Since
what was to be U’ve Had It did not arrive until early March, what
aircraft did John England fly for his first month or so? We will deal with this
To complete our story on 42-106462. England was in Scotland
on a gunnery course from 25 April until 14 May, and flew no missions. The only
known photos of this aircraft show it with the “half” paint job, widely used
by the 357th in the spring of ’44. (Bare metal fuselage sides and
olive drab upper surfaces. It would arrive at Leiston in the full OD and gray
scheme.) Two photos from the England album show it with the original canopy and
four victory symbols. One photo shows it with seven symbols. He scored his 4th
victory on 13 April. Two other photos, one taken by this author, show it with
nine victory symbols, a Malcolm hood and full invasion stripes. He scored his 9th
victory on 18 August, by which time he was no longer flying this aircraft, so
the 9th symbol cannot be explained.
In a letter dated 29 May 1944, he says his aircraft was hit
by machine gun fire in the aft fuselage. In a letter dated 2 June, he says he is
thankful for armor glass and self-sealing tanks. Both comments may relate to the
mission of 21 May, when nine aircraft were damaged during strafing attacks on an
airfield. During the time 462 was under repair he would have flown whatever was
We don’t know how much longer he flew U’ve Had It,
but probably through June. By the first part of July, his new D model was on the
To complete the story of 462: It was flown on the August
shuttle mission to Russia by Flight Lieutenant Eric Wooley, RAF, by which time
it was G4-Y. It finally met its final fate on 4 October, when the tail section
separated during a high-speed training dive. 2nd Lt. Richard
“Rip” Potter, with great difficulty, bailed out successfully.
By the time of the shuttle mission to Russia (6 through 12
August, 1944), John England was flying his new P-51D, 44-13735. Photos taken at
the time of the shuttle mission departure, show it with nine victory symbols,
all in one line under the canopy edge. There is no name on the left side, and
there are no photos of it from the right. 735 had departed Newark by sea in
June, 1944, and received at Leiston somewhere around 1 July (the record card on
this aircraft is garbled.)
At this point there are some puzzling entries in his
letters. On 1 October, he says he bellied in 44-13738 (this was G4-X, JOKER).
In an undated letter, he says an 88mm shell exploded under the fuselage, so that
he had to belly it in. It is not known if this relates to the comment on 738. On
5 October he says he wrecked his aircraft and would soon be getting another. No
evidence has been found to show his relationship with 738. 44-13738 was wrecked
on 1 October, but the AAF accident report shows the pilot to have been Lt.
Harold Wyatt, the aircraft was a total loss.
However, John England’s un-named 44-13735 was damaged in
a landing accident on 1 October, with pilot Lt. Sam Fuller. It was due to
landing gear malfunction, with damage limited to right gear, prop and wing tip.
At this time it had 12 victory symbols arranged in two lines.
The list of aircraft accidents at Leiston airfield do not
show any involving John England., Possibly the list is not complete.
On 2 November, his un-named (as far as we know) 44-13735
was lost with Major Lawrence Giarrisso, when a wing separated during combat. At
this time, however, it was G4-N, which it probably became after repairs from the
1 October accident.
In mid September, 1944, 4414789 was ferried to Leiston and
was assigned to John England. Unlike his other P-51s, which had been coded G4H,
this one was G4-E. He flew it for the remainder of his long extended combat
tour, which ended in January, 1945. It now had 18 of the distinctive 362nd
Squadron victory symbols, for his total of 17.5 victories, only one off that of
top group scorer, Kit Carson. John England survived his long combat tour, but
was killed in an F-86 accident in 1954, in France.
After Major John England completed his extended combat tour
in January of 1945, 44-14789 was assigned to pilot Lt. Tom Ridley, who re-named
it Sad Sack, a poplar military cartoon character of the time. He flew it
until 18 April, when he was shot down, the last 357th combat loss of
the war. Ridley bailed out successful, and with the war over, soon re-joined the
This brings us to our mysterious fourth P-51, about which
nothing is known, but I have developed a theory, which might identify it.
A basic tool I have used for years to identify 362nd Squadron aircraft, is a photo taken in the squadron operations office. It is primarily a photo of two men, SSgt Enerst Fleisch, squadron parachute rigger, and SSgt Jack Paschal, Operations NCO. On the wall behind them is a chart showing all the squadron aircraft, with their code letter, and the last three digits of their tail number. The date of the photo is unknown, but the earliest loss of aircraft on the chart is G4-I, 43-7176, MIA on 29 April, 1944. The photo then, has to be previous to that date – a fairly early photo.
On the chart, G4-H is shown as 462, the last three digits
of U’ve Had It, 43-106462. Amazingly enough, however this may not be
correct. It may be another P-51 with the same last three numbers, this being
43-12462. We know this P-51 was in the 362nd Squadron, because the
logbook of Lt. Don Vogel shows he flew this airplane and many others on the
chart. Don Vogel was shot down on 1 July, 1944, but evaded capture. Oddly enough
he was flying a P-51 43-12455, only seven digits off from the one in question.
Research into 43-12462 shows that it was a P-51B-1 and it
arrived in England and was assigned to the 8th Air Force in
September, 1943. Many of these early P-51Bs were used to equip the 354th
Fighter Group, the Pioneer Mustang Group, in November, 1943.
We know that the 354th passed on some of it’s
older aircraft to the 357th when it became operational several months
later. It is a safe bet that 43-12462 came to the 357th as one of
these “hand-me-downs”, and was indeed, John England’s first P-51. There
are no photos of it, and whether it had a name or not is unknown. From the wall
chart though, we do know it was G4-H, England’s code letter.
Since this was already an “old” aircraft, the 357th probably passed it along to another new group sometime in the spring. John England then got his well known P-51B-10, U’ve Had It. 43-12462 survived it’s further adventures, whatever they were, and according to the aircraft record card, it was condemned as “excess” in October, 1944.
Now all we need is photographic proof, which it is unlikely
we will ever get.
Merle Olmsted July 2003
View our profiles of U've Had It and Missouri Armada.