P-51 Mustang – Seventy-five Years of America’s Most Famous Warbird – Review by Mark Barnes

If you are looking for a book to put a smile on your face, look no further than this colourful history presented by Cory Graff.

This sumptuous book offers a genuinely pleasing history of the P-51 Mustang with an easy on the brain text wrapped up in a blizzard of glossy photographs and imagery.

Ok, we all know the basics of the Mustang and how the British went looking for a new fighter in the United States to supplement production of Spitfires and Hurricanes alongside the hundreds of P-40s and other models already on order. The Mustang owes much of its greatness to the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine that turned it into a war-winning icon. But the design didn’t stand still and by the time the P-51D came into service the aircraft had become a giant and perhaps the ultimate piston powered thoroughbred. That just about covers it, doesn’t it?

Of course there is much more to it than that and I know for sure that there are the equivalent of more than a couple of football stadiums full of people who can tell us much, much more. But this is not the place for details. The fact is books like this will be attractive to aviation buffs while they should also tickle the fancy of random visitors to our military world.

The design of this book is so appealing, I hope the publishers sees the merit in going down a similar route with other American aircraft. I have only just started receiving books from Zenith but they clearly know what they are about.

Mr Graff is quite obviously steeped in Mustang history and I find his writing style informative and entertaining. You can’t ask for much more. The use of archive photography, period advertisements and other ephemera is really well done and I particularly like the way contemporary imagery is mixed with air to air shoots of restored aircraft.

The younger me used to love seeing images of the modified air racing Mustangs from Reno and elsewhere that appeared in Aeroplane Monthly a million years ago. Mr Graff does not ignore this aspect of P-51 history and he makes good use of stunning images to hurry this element along. This is all good stuff.

I would have liked to see a little bit more on RAF use of the P-51, but this is not nit-picking or narrow nationalism. Mr Graff knows the history and tips his hat in all the right directions. The author touches on the plane’s service in other air forces, but this book is really about where the lion’s share of its history resides and only an idiot would deny him that.

All in all, this is a really fine book in every sense, one I will return to time and again. I’ve had the joy of seeing Mustangs thundering by in some of those “Cadillac of the skies” moments we all love and I will always look forward to more. This book really whets my appetite for such times and it will do the same for you. Outstanding.

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online.

Seventy-five Years of America’s Most Famous Warbird
By Cory Graff
Zenith Press
ISBN: 978 0 7603 4859 8

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.