When the American Eighth Air Force arrived in England in 1942 they had a second enemy to battle besides the Luftwaffe – the English weather.
The mighty Eighth, the largest and most powerful air force in the world, were on many occasions almost paralyzed by the unpredictable and unexpected climate – much to the relief of the Luftwaffe. Many of the aircrew had trained in the sunny air of southern California and took time to adjust to the grey, dismal skies, and the rolling banks of cloud that gathered over England and the near continent.
The winter of 1944 / 45 had been one of the worst on record with temperatures plunging across the whole country, bringing with it ice, freezing fog and drifting snow. But the war had gone on oblivious to the weather, and by April 1945 the sunless, dreary skies that had cast their frosty shadow over much of north-west Europe were long gone and the end was finally in sight.
This reflected the feeling amongst most of Europe towards the war in general – the storm was finally passing. Shortages of fuel, pilots and spares meant that the Luftwaffe was on its last legs, putting up little serious opposition. By now, after escorting the heavy bombers to their targets, complete groups of P-51 Mustangs were sweeping the entire western Reich on the return trip, strafing anything hostile on the ground. On one such mission fifteen Fighter Groups had gone on a strafing spree attacking 40 airfields in eastern Bavaria and western Czechoslovakia, claiming a record number of 747 aircraft destroyed on the ground. There wasn’t much left for the P-51s to destroy.
In this pair of eye-catching pieces, Anthony Saunders has chosen P-51s of the Mighty Eighth’s 352nd Fighter Group to represent all those who flew Mustangs so heroically with the US 8th Air Force from England during WWII. In Checking Out
, the bad weather that has dogged the past few days is thankfully clearing, allowing the Group to begin their dispersal from Bodney to take part in an escort mission in early 1945. In Beyond the Storm
, the bad weather is, however, once again closing in as Captain Ray Littge, flying his P-51D Miss Helen, leads the 487th Fighter Squadron back home over the familiar Suffolk coastline in April 1945. With luck they’ll be home long before the distant storm begins!
This print is available as a portfolio pair with Beyond the Storm
by Anthony Saunders.