Historic Flight Foundation - P-51B Mustang

June 1944: Fighting for the 376th
Though World War II would end within a year, 1944 was still marked by furious hostilities between the Allies and Germany, with Allies suffering heavy losses for B-24s and other bombers during long-range missions. The Allies needed lean, mean fighters that could escort them deep into enemy territory and protect them through battle. Our plane was delivered in early 1944 to the 376th Fighter Squadron based in Bottisham, England. After being assigned to the 361st Fighter Group, it received the official code E9-R and the (highly) unofficial name “Impatient Virgin.”

September 1944: Impatient Virgin Earns Her Keep
On September 27th, 1944, a multi-squadron bombing campaign known as the Kassel Mission resulted in terrible losses for the 445th Bomber Group—in large part due to B-24s straying away from their Mustang fighter escorts in the midst of heavy cloud cover. Undaunted, Impatient Virgin and the rest of the 361st Fighter Group went after the Germans, engaging in furious dogfights that downed 18 Focke-Wulf FW 190 fighters. It’s important to note that throughout the fight, pilots stayed in close communication, working in tandem when possible and warning each other of enemy approaches. Solitary, split-second decisions were based on a single-minded focus that put their instincts to strategic use. When they returned to the 376th base, only one Mustang had been lost. Though a dark day, the Kassel Mission reinforced the Mustang’s importance as both an escort and a fighter, and helped set the stage for victory.

June 1945: Crash and Burn, or Burn and Crash?
Here’s the question: Did our plane crash and burn, or burn and crash? By mid-1945, the 361st Group, now based in Little Walden, was flying Mustangs for training purposes only. Active combat was unlikely after the bombing of Japan. During this period, Impatient Virgin was refurbished, assigned the new code E9-B, and nicknamed “Eva.” On June 22, Flight Officer Wade Ross took the plane on a low-level training flight—really low, and really fast. According to crash records, the plane was flying at 50 feet at 2400 rpm when Ross saw that the engine had overheated, popping the coolant hose. Ross took the plane up to 1,000 feet, but the cockpit quickly turned into a searing steam bath. Ross bailed, and the plane crashed into a farm field, witnessed only by a young farmhand.

Back to the crash and burn question. Ross sustained some serious burns himself. While his wounds were being dressed, he described the crash and noted that he might have flown too low and caught some hay in the coolant scoop—and that the plane was on fire by the time he reached 1,000 feet. If that were the case, the crash would have been due to pilot error, or in layman’s terms, a not-so-hot decision to fly low and fast.

Within a few days, Ross’s testimony had changed. Crash logs show Ross stating, “When I talked with Flight Officer Wood, I was excited,” which would explain why he initially said that he’d grazed a haystack and that the plane was on fire before it landed. His final testimony noted that he had neither seen nor felt the plane strike anything and that it was not on fire when he bailed. Investigation proved fruitless. The investigating board called the plane “a total mash-up” and noted they could find no witnesses to verify either of Ross’s statements. The cause for the crash was officially cited as “100% material failure,” and E9-B was quietly removed from inventory.
Historical Aviation
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