23rd Fighter Group: Chennaults Sharks by Carl Molesworth

By Carl Molesworth

Staffed with green USAAF pilots and led through a handful of professional veterans of the yank Volunteer staff (AVG), the twenty third FG was once shaped within the box at Kunming, in China, on July four, 1942 and flew strive against missions that very same day. The teams 3 squadrons - the 74th, seventy fifth and 76th Fighter Squadrons - have been before everything outfitted with war-weary P-40s passed down from the AVG. those have been supplemented via the hooked up sixteenth FS, flying new P-40Es, and all squadrons embellished the noses in their airplanes with fearsome and iconic sharksmouth designs.

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Col H ill despatched a flight of the P-38s [Q go after it, and I Lt Robert Schultz quickly shot the aeroplane down. The Lighming flight was returning to its station when Hill spolled some enemy fighters taking offfrom the airfield ahead. A few seconds later, the P-38s found themselves in a fighter pilot's dream position when they saw a string of enemy bombers strung out low and slow in the landing pattern for their air base. A short but decisive battle ensued. The P-38s had a field day, destroying 11 Japanese bombers while the B-25s swept across Shinchiku.

He rold me, "Man, 'Tex', rhey've gor a lor of aeroplanes over rhere if you can jusr ger ro rhem". Casey Vincenr and I dreamed up a way ro do ir wirh whar we had. ' The Forward Echelon disparched an F-5A phoro-reconnaissance aircrafr from Suichuan on 24 November ro check our rhe Japanese airfield ar Shinchiku. When rhe aeroplane arrived over Formosa, irs pilor rurned onro his phoro run, rook his picrures and ran for home. The F-5s had been raking picrures over Formosa for several monrhs, bur rhis rrip was differenr.

To rectify the ituation, Maj Tom Hitchcock, Army Air For e attache in London, proposed mating the Mu rang airframe with the powerful Roll -Royce Merlin engine. The Merlin, unIt to re-equip with the new fighters to replace their ageing P-40s. Groundcrews were given maintenance manuals for the P-51 A to study, and the pilots sought out any information they could find about their new mounts. The first aeroplanes arrived in Kunming on 17 Oerober, and by the end of the week l5 of them were on hand. Although new to China, the P-51 As were not exactly new airFrames.

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