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Book Review
P-40 Warhawk Aces of the MTO
P-40 Warhawk Aces of the MTO, Aircraft of the Aces 43
  • 00118

by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:

‘The Goose Shoot,’ better known as the famous ‘Palm Sunday Massacre‘ over the Mediterranean in April, 1943, saw 74 German aircraft destroyed in just 20 minutes by 46 Allied fighters. Executed not by famous Mustangs, Spitfires, Lightnings or Hurricanes, the victims were killed by pilots of the lowly Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, “The best second-best fighter of the war.” Obsolescent P-40s never grabbed the headlines, but they hurt the Axis war machine and shared the laurels of victory.

P-40 pilots fought over the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) until the summer of 1944. Their .50 caliber machine guns shot 592 Axis aircraft from the sky, sixteen Warhawk pilots achieved ‘ace‘ status in the P-40. They flew from landing grounds often to hard and rocky to even dig foxholes for protection from enemy attacks, moved to new areas often weekly; the bare necessities of life were frequently scarce. They flew from beach airfields just beyond the front on the Italian mainland. While not at the end of the finite supply line like their Warhawk brethren in the CBI (China, India, Burma), supply problems still hounded them, often because their operation tempo consumed POL (Petroleum, Oil, Lubricants) and ordnance faster than it could find them.

America’s 57th Fighter Group was the United States Army Air Force’s first over North Africa. They flew P-40s and operated from Egypt over the El Alamein front. They deployed off a US Navy aircraft carrier and flew across Africa; while not the first Army fighters flown off a flattop, the 57th FG was the first to deploy as a unit. While part of the USAAF’s fledgling 9th Air Force, they were controlled by the Royal Air Force as part of the Desert Air Force. The 57th entered combat on 9 August, 1942, took their first loss on the 14th, and shot down their first enemy on 9 October over El Daba airfield.

Four more P-40 USAAF groups launched from USN aircraft carriers directly into combat during or after Operation Torch in November 1942. They, with seven other USAAF P-38, P-39 and Spitfire FGs taken from USAAF 8th AF based in England, made up the USAAF 12th AF. Eventually the 9th AF moved to England and the USAAF 15th AF took its place with the 12th in the MTO. The pilots probably never noticed. In all, seven USAAF FGs and a squadron flew P-40s in MTO combat. Two flew until summer of 1944 but claimed no aerial kills. The extra squadron was the 99th, the famed Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military airmen. They later were transferred to the 332nd Fighter Group in the 15th Air Force.

Many of these P-40 pilots became well known during and after the war. Three became ace-in-a-day! One, Col. Philip Cochran, never got a fifth kill yet still became a famous fighter leader of the 1st Air Commando Group in the CBI; college roommate of cartoonist Milton Caniff, he was also the model for the comic strip character Flip Corkin of Caniff’s Terry And The Pirates fame, which morphed into the long-running Steve Canyon series. Mr. Molesworth’s history does not merely recount the after-action reports. Those are present, along with brief sketches of the war situation. He enriches this book with statements and quotes from the pilots. Accounts of living in a dead desert where fighting the elements was as grueling as fighting the Axis, qualities and quirks of the Curtiss fighters, combat recollections, all pull the reader into this history. ‘The Goose Shoot’ is well detailed, including the Warhawk pilots’ praise for the high-cover CAP of RAF Spitfires that kept some of the German fighters busy while the USAAF pilots slaughtered the German transports below.

Almost every page features at least one photograph, many revealing fascinating detail for the modeler and historian. MTO P-40s evolved through a plethora of markings. The short-tail P-40F (aesthetically my personal favorite P-40) markings of the 57th FG show:
*‘U.S. ARMY’ on the bottom of the wings
*National insignia on six positions
*Original OD (olive-drab) behind the fuselage canopy ’ears’
*Sharp rectangular OD areas where data was masked from the ‘desert pink’ sand camouflage application
*Some canopy frames left OD

Some long serving short and long-tailed P-40s of the F, K and L models compiled eclectic marking:
*Fuselage aircraft numbers overpainted when the side bars were added to the national insignia
*Operation Torch yellow border national insignia and American flag (both on the fuselage and under the wing)
*British tail flash
*Red bordered mid-1943 USAAF insignia
*Impromptu unit codes to differentiate from other similarly coded FGs
*Rare camouflage on certain models
*Personal unit markings, such as the famed ’Checkertailed Clan’ and ‘Black Scorpions’
--Some of the longest serving aircraft could be found with a mixture of these.

Osprey’s signature format is followed within. Color profiles of 41 aircraft are the usual high quality artwork by Jim Laurier.

Four chapters, an introduction and the appendices guide you through the story:
Chapter 3, OUT OF AFRICA
Appendices, Pilot and unit scores

This is yet another excellent offering from Osprey. Fans of the P-40 and MTO air operations need to add this work to their libraries. Recommended.

I thank the wonderful people at Osprey Publishing for assisting me with this book to review.
Highs: 96 pages of excellent illustrations, line art of the aircraft, plentiful photographs, brief historical overviews, pilot statements, pilot and unit scores.
Lows: No color samples or debate about the 'desert pink' color. No maps. I would appreciate a chart comparing the P-40s' performance with the Messerschmitts and Macchis they usually faced.
Verdict: This is yet another excellent offering from Osprey. Fans of the P-40 and MTO air operations need to add this work to their libraries. Recommended.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781841762883
  Suggested Retail: US $20.95
  Related Link: Osprey Publishing - Military history books
  PUBLISHED: Apr 06, 2007
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Fred, again, thanks for keeping my all time favorite airplane in the headlines. I reckon I'll be adding this book to my growing library. Hermon
APR 13, 2007 - 05:46 AM
Hi VonCuda, To paraphrase HOLDFAST, you can never have enough P-40s! Check back soon. I'm reading their P-40 Aces of the Pacific, and RAF & Commonwealth P-40 Aces. Hope to snare the CBI book soon, too.
APR 13, 2007 - 07:41 PM

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