The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range single-seat World War II fighter aircraft. Mustang pilots claimed 4,950 enemy aircraft shot down, the most of any Allied fighter in the conflict. It should be noted that the concept of the P-51 Mustang began more than three years before the first daylight bombing missions and the heavy losses. It is often accepted that the P-51 Mustang was designed to be an escort fighter, but as you look at the timeline, it is more plausible that the Mustang, as a fighter aircraft, fit that need better than any other fighter available. By the time heavy bomber losses were at hand, the P-51B and P-51C, with outstanding range, were already in production and being delivered to bases in England. The bombers of the daylight missions were taking very heavy losses each day from Luftwaffe pilots until an escort fighter could stay with them deep into enemy territory and home again on every mission. The North American P-51 Mustang was the immediate choice. The bomber crews nicknamed them their "little friends."
From late 1943, P-51Bs (supplemented by P-51Ds from mid-1944) were used by the USAAF’s Eighth Air Force to escort bombers in raids over Germany, while the RAF's 2 TAF and the USAAF's Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944. The P-51 was also in service with Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean and Italian theatres, and saw limited service against the Japanese in the Pacific War. At the start of Korean War the Mustang was the United Nations' main fighter. However, jet fighters, including the F-86, took over this role, and the Mustang became a specialised ground-attack fighter-bomber.
Despite the advent of jet fighters, the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s. After World War II and the Korean War, many Mustangs were converted for civilian use, especially air racing. This nice card was sent to me by Paige.