332nd Ground Crew

 
While the pilots tended to get the glory, the often overlooked finely tuned fighter squadron are the people who make everything work. The ground crew are people who might not be talked about much, but are essential to the success of the squadrons and their pilots.
 
Without the skill of the aircraft maintainers, the airplanes weren’t going anywhere. They were as intense about their aircraft as the pilots were. Most crew chiefs considered the aircraft to be theirs and would just lend them to the pilots occasionally. They acquired a strong bond with their airplanes and the pilots that they let fly them.
 
P-51 Mustangs were as temperamental as the horse they were named after. Powered by a Packard built, Rolls Royce “Merlin” V-12 liquid-cooled engine, the P-51 mechanics were as highly trained as the pilots. There were also the armorers who had to keep the guns and ammunition in top working condition.
 
Generally, after all the maintenance had been finished, the person within the squadron that had some artistic talent would be put to work creating the nose art. In the painting above, one of Jack Holsclaw’s ground crew is adorning Jack’s P-51 with the name “Bernice Baby”, named after his wife Bernice.
An armorer of the 332nd carefully preparing his P-51 for its next mission.
An armorer of the 332nd carefully preparing his P-51 for its next mission.
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