P-51D-20-NA serial number 44-72253 rolled off the North American Inglewood, California assembly line in December of 1944. With little time to spare on January 6th, 1945 44-72253 was on a ship destined for England. By February 6th, 1945 44-72253 was assigned to the now-famous 355th Fighter Group based out of RAF Steeple Morden in Cambridge, England. It was at this time 44-72253 was assigned to Lt. Col. Bret W Marshall and became WR * B “JANE VI”. Lt. Col. Marshall and “JANE VI” flew around 60 hours of combat together. From escorting B-17s into the heart of Nazi Germany, to strafing targets of opportunity, “JANE VI” and Lt. Col. Marshall took the fight to the Third Riech. On March 31st, 1945 just one day after Lt. Gen. James “Jimmy” Doolittle visited Steeple Morden, Lt. Col. Marshall and “JANE VI” were hit by anti-aircraft fire, while strafing targets near Munich, Germany. The stricken “JANE VI” and an adrenalin-filled Lt. Col. Marshall were able to limp for over 2 hours back home to Steeple Morden. Upon arriving back in England the landing gear on “JANE VI” wouldn’t come down, having been damaged in battle. Lt. Col. Marshall, now familiar with belly landings – having done it 3 times prior – set up and bellied in “JANE VI”. “Jane” was taken into the 355th repair depot and was returned to service in April of 1945.
At this time Lt. Glen D Beeler was assigned to 44-72253, he renamed it “Big Gas Bird” and the aircraft was assigned the new squadron code WR * L. Lt. Beeler flew “Big Gas Bird” through to the end of the war and even scored a kill, a Fw 190 over Bremen, Germany on April 7th, 1945. After the official surrender of Nazi Germany, “Big Gas Bird” and Lt. Beeler flew training missions until June 2nd, 1945. On that day four flights from the 355th Fighter Group took off for an unusual training mission: using a squadron hack P-51 equipped with a rear seat, a member of the ground crew shot in-flight footage with his 45mm camera, filming the 355th flying over the English countryside. 44-72253 can be seen in that footage. It is the second aircraft in formation with the code letters WR * L. Long after the 355th rotated home and after decades of whispers and rumors, in 1986 a group of Aviation Archeologists found 44-72253. In 2018 the Muszala family purchased 44-72253 and started the restoration with Pacific Fighters to return this incredibly historic P-51 back to flying condition.
There are very few World War II combat veteran P-51Ds that survive today. This is a very unique and one of a kind P-51. Pacific Fighters is already well underway on the restoration and is excited about the prospect of working with you to complete this incredible Mustang.
If you would like to know more and are interested in acquiring this project, please do get in contact with us via email or over the phone.
- A true World War II Combat Veteran with over 150 hours of combat time in the ETO.
- Restoration already started to airworthy and award-winning standards.
- All factory specifications and historical details applied. No stone left unturned!
- Price on application.
- For more information, please contact John Muszala via email on email@example.com or via phone on +1 (208) 522-3502