Spitfires Meet Mustangs at Greenham Common

Spitfire Site

American pilot Joe Thompson is posing in front of British Spitfire Mk. V at the USAAF base at Greenham Common.

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American pilot Joe Thompson is posing in front of British Spitfire Mk. V at Greenham Common, Newbury, late 1943.

Major Joe Thompson Jr. arrived in World War II England in October 1942. For a time he was attached to a Royal Air Force squadron for training. Following the buildup of USAAF forces in Britain,  Thompson served in the 67th and 109th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons of the 9th Air Force, seeing action in the invasion of Normandy, the drive across France and the Rhine Valley campaign across central Germany. After the war he returned to his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

IN 1943, Greenham Common airfield was turned over to the USAAF 9th Air Force, receiving the USAAF designation Station AAF-486.  It became known as one of the airfields used by the Ninth Air Force for fighter groups arriving from the United States, and this is why this photo is interesting: visible behind the port wing of the Spitfire is the tail of a newly-arrived, camouflaged P-51B Mustang. Many of these new fighters began arriving in Britain starting with August 1943, and Greenham Common became a base where many newly arrived US fighter units got their first taste of the new fighter. For example, this Mustang could have belonged to 354th Fighter Group, which arrived from Portland, Oregon on 4 November, 1943.  At Greenham Common they were informed they were to fly the P-51B. This was a change of equipment for the group, as in the US they were trained on Bell P-39 Airacobras.

Joe Thompson himself was to fly a P-51 in the recconaissance role.
[US Library of Congress]

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