In the first part of GAR’s coverage of the 70th anniversary of the US Army Air Force’s arrival in Europe, we take a look at the new “Eagle” Squadron paint scheme applied to Spitfire Mk Ia ‘P7308’ (actually ‘AR213’) in the lead up to the Duxford Spring Airshow on Sunday 26 May 2013.
The Spitfire now wears the No 71 “Eagle” Squadron codes XR-D and the markings of P7308, a Spitfire Mk IIa. The “Eagle” Squadron crest has also been applied to the Spitfire’s nose.
Whilst not an aircraft of the “Mighty Eighth” Air Force itself, the Spitfire’s new scheme represents the Eighth’s “Eagle” Squadron forebears, the American fighter pilots who joined the Royal Air Force in the early 1940s, flying and fighting a common enemy alongside their British comrades before the USA officially entered the war in Europe in 1942.
The markings are those of Pilot Officer William R. Dunn, an early American ‘ace’, credited with downing five Luftwaffe aircraft between May and August 1941. Dunn was badly wounded in an accident in P7308 at North Weald on 27 August 1941.
After a period of rehabilitation, Dunn returned to flight with the USAAF, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt with the 53rd Fighter Group. He would go on to score a further kill during WWII, his sixth in total. He continued flying with the USAAF, and latterly the USAF, until his retirement in 1973.
This Spitfire will play a prominent role in the ‘Eagle Squadron’ formation, the marquee act at Duxford’s Spring Airshow on 26 May, in which it will fly alongside The Fighter Collection’s P-47G Thunderbolt ‘Snafu’, Comanche Fighters’ imported P-51C Mustang ‘Princess Elizabeth’ from the USA, and Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Hawker Hurricane MkXII. Indeed, ‘Princess Elizabeth’ arrived by crate at Duxford on the morning of 29 April 2013 and re-assembly should begin in mid-May.
The Spring Airshow will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the USAAF in Europe with a host of representative types including the B-17 Flying Fortress, C-47 Skytrain, P-51D Mustang & Piper L-4 Grasshopper. Starring alongside them will be a host of popular display acts including the Red Arrows, a Hawker Hunter, the F-86A Sabre, P-40B Warhawk and P-40F Kittyhawk, Spitfire Mk TIX and Hispano Buchon.
Following the initial publication of this article, Pete Kynsey took P7308 for a flight and display at Duxford on 1 May 2013. David Whitworth was there and has kindly permitted the use of his photographs here. No doubt the Spitfire will be taking the skies much more in the lead up to Duxford’s Spring Airshow as the pilots prepare for the Eagle Squadron formation display.
In the coming weeks we’ll be bringing you news of the Mustang’s arrival at Duxford, a preview of the Spring Airshow, and the GAR team will also be at Duxford from 25-27 May to publish extensive coverage of the airshow and a separate feature on the ‘Eagle Squadron’ formation following the event.
Spitfire Mk Ia AR213
Spitfire Mk Ia P7308