P-51D-30-NT was built at NAA Dallas, Texas in 1945, too late to see any action during WWII.
She was obtained by the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The RNZAF originally placed an order with NAA for 370 P-51Ds, intended to replace its F-4U1 Corsairs. By the end of the war, 30 airframes were delivered and the remainder of the order was cancelled. Those 30 airframes were shipped from the US on the “Dominion Park” and arrived in New Zealand at the Aircraft Assembly Depot Hobsonville on August 27th , 1945.
45-11495 was one of those 30 airframes and was given serial NZ2406 upon arrival.
Following the end of WWII, the RNZAF downsized their combat fleet. As a result, the 30 Mustang airframes remained in storage. They were moved from Hobsonville to Ardmore Aerodrome by road and by barge in February of 1947, where they remained in storage until early 1952.
The New Zealand Government decided that, in order to maintain pilots' flying skills, an Air Force Reserve (known as the Territorial Air Force or TAF in New Zealand) needed to be established to supplement the post-war RNZAF.
In 1948, four TAF Squadrons were formed:
- No. 1 Squadron (Auckland)
- No. 2 Squadron (Wellington
- No. 3 Squadron (Canterbury)
- No. 4 Squadron (Otago)
These TAF Squadrons were initially equipped with Tiger Moths and Harvards.
In late 1951, early 1952, the TAF received a significant upgrade when it was re-equipped with P-51 Mustangs.
NZ2406 was the first RNZAF Mustang to fly however at Ardmore on August 19th , 1951, in the hands of Squadron leader R. Fuller. The aircraft was then delivered from Whenuapai to the Central Flying School by Flt. Lt. T. Rabone on August 21st.
Next, the aircraft went on to serve with No. 75 Squadron in July of 1952 and later served with No. 2 Squadron at Wellington from June 22nd , 1953, to November 25th of 1955.
The withdrawal of the Mustangs was announced in May of 1955. Officially withdrawn because of “undercarriage problems”, although the most frequently used Mustang in TAF service only had 480 hours.
Six Mustangs had crashed in the eight months prior to the announcement, mostly due to the low amount of hours flown and a lack of experience on the type.
Of the 30 P-51s sent to New Zealand, a total of 10 had been destroyed or written off in accidents. Two had become instructional airframes (NZ2401 and NZ2405), one had been damaged prior to assembly and was reduced to spares without ever being used. Four aircraft continued to be used as drogue-tugs until 1957.
The remainder were flown into storage at Woodbourne (NZ2406 being one of them) on December 16th , 1955.
In 1958, the remaining 17 aircraft were sold for scrap. Today, only 4 airframes of the original 30 send to New Zealand have survived, of which 2 are restored or helped in the restoration of currently airworthy airframes:
- NZ2417 – fuselage used in the restoration of Kermit Weeks's N921 “Cripes A Mighty 3 rd”
- NZ2423 – in storage with Mr. Smith at Mapua
- NZ2427 – currently restored in the UK as Maurice Hammond's G-MSTG “Janie”
NZ2406 was sold by tender 5926 to Ansa Co, Nelson for 70 pounds in May of 1958 and was broken up into parts in 1961. Numerous parts, including the aircraft data plates, were sold to Philip Warner near Cheltenham, UK, in early 2000 for rebuild to flying condition. The aircraft was described as nearly a complete fuselage, without wings.
In 2004, the project changed hands however, to Robert S. “Bob” Baker of Alva, Oklahoma, US. Bob Baker had previously restored two P-51s himself, P-51D-25-NA 44-73463, N351D “Oklahoma Miss” (which was later sold) and P-51D-25-NA 44-73279, which he restored (and still owns) as Lt. Cuthbert “Bill” Pattillo's HO-O “Sweet & Lovely”. Both Mustangs won honors at EAA Oshkosh, the latter winning the ultimate prize of Grand Champion Warbird WWII.
As with 44-73279 “Sweet & Lovely”, Bob relied on Bob Odegaard once more to rebuild a set of wings.
On July 25th , 2006, the Mustang was re-registered N495RB.
The decision for a paint scheme was obvious for Bob this time. He would restore the aircraft in the colours of Bill Pattillo's twin brother Buck (Lt. Charles C. “Buck” Pattillo) 44-13737 PZ-W “Little Rebel”. Additional bonus for Bob was that both brothers were still very well alive at that time and that both would make the trip to EAA Oshkosh in 2009 to be reunited with “their” Mustangs, and perhaps participate in a backseat formation flight.
As a result, the pressure on getting 45-11495 ready in time for EAA was on.
In 2008, the wings, flaps, ailerons and engine mount were rebuilt and restored. In March of 2009, Bob picked up his wings and components from Bob Odegaard.
Just three days before EAA 2009, the project was complete. However, when the crew started her up for the first time, there was something wrong with the engine. The crew worked overtime, day and night, to get the aircraft ready for EAA.
As the first test flight arrived, Stewart Dawson took off, but quickly set the aircraft down on the runway again, stating that the engine sounded more like a Griffin than a Merlin.
EAA opened on Monday, but both P-51s weren't there. The judging deadline was on Thursday, which was also the day on which both Pattillo brothers would arrive. After some more sweat and tears, the crew finally pulled it off and the sky above EAA was filled with the sound of two Merlin engines on Wednesday afternoon.
When Buck arrived at the airplane, the crowds silenced and backed away to give him some room with “his” Mustang. At first Buck just touched the wing and drop tanks, so he was encouraged to step up to the nose. As he turned back to face the crowd, the flash bulbs came alive… a truly special moment. As he walked around the Mustang, Buck said “This is my airplane. This is just how she looked”.
As did his brother Bill at the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends back in 2007, Buck signed the rudder of “Little Rebel”.
On Friday night, the real magic happened as both brothers strapped into the back seats of their respective P-51s and were taken for an evening flight. Bob Baker had finally pulled it off and reached his goal.
“Little Rebel” won Best P-51 that year at EAA. Bob stated that the airplane was about 98% completed at that time and needed some final touches.
Registration N5551D (previously belonging to 44-13016 Dove of Peace, but available again when it was sold to Robert Broek of Wanaka, New Zealand) was adopted on May 20 th , 2009.
She returned to EAA the very next year and won Returning Best of Class. When both Pattillo brothers returned to EAA in 2010 Bob asked if they would like to go up for another ride. Both brothers declined, stating that “it could never be better than it was the first time”.
Pattillo Twins 1
Pattillo Twins 2
|Built at NAA Dallas, Texas. Too late to see any action during the war.
Shipped to New Zealand on August 27th to serve with the RNZAF, but put away for storage instead
First flight with RNZAF on August 19th
Delivered to Central Flying School on August 21st
Service with No.75 Sqn in July
Service with No. 2 Sqn at Wellington from June 22nd to November 25th , 1955
Put into storage again at Woodbourne on December 16th
Sold by Tender 5926 to Ansa Co., Nelson for 70 pounds in May
Broken up into parts
Sold to Philip Warner, Cheltenham, UK
Sold to Robert S. “Bob” Baker, Alva, Oklahoma
First post restoration flight on July 25th
Lt. Charles C. Pattillo's 44-13737 PZ-W "Little Rebel"
Won Best P-51 at EAA Oshkosh
Won Returning Best of Class at EAA Oshkosh
N451D is painted in the colours of Lt. Charles C. "Buck" Pattillo's P-51D PZ-W/44-13737 “Little Rebel ”, 486th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group. It was Buck's only P-51 of the war.
The real P-51D-5-NA 44-13737 “Little Rebel” was built at NAA at Inglewood, California in 1944. Upon arrival in the UK she was assigned to the 486th FS of the 352 nd FG and became the personal aircraft of Captain Alton J. “Al” Wallace.
Capt. Wallace named all of his aircraft “Little Rebel”. He scored one aerial kill with 44-13737.
When Wallace's second tour was up in November of 1944, the aircraft was transferred to Buck. He retained the name, but personalized it by changing the colouring of the lettering from black with white outlines to white with red outlines. Buck used the aircraft in the destruction of 5 enemy aircraft on a strafing mission on April 16th , 1945.
As mentioned above, the name originated from Capt. Alton J. “Al” Wallace, who named every fighter he flew “Little Rebel”. When the Mustang was transferred to Buck Pattillo, he retained the name.
Charles C. “Buck” Pattillo and his twin brother, Cuthbert, were born just seven minutes apart on June 3rd , 1924, in Atlanta, Georgia, Cuthbert being the oldest of the two. Just like many other identical twins, their lives would often run parallel: both enlisted in the Army Air Force, both flew with the 352nd FG, both left the service and entered the Georgia School of Technology, both re-entered service in 1948 and were assigned to the same base in Georgia before moving to the same base in Germany. Both were part of the display team “The Skyblazers”, both helped to form and were part of the original USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team, both would assume command of a Fighter Wing in Vietnam and both became Generals at the end of their military carreers.
They graduated from Atlanta Technical High School in 1942 and enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in November of 1942. Thanks to the alphabet, both brothers went through the same process during and after their training. When the list was parcelled out for training, both brothers were shipped off to primary training in PT-17s, followed by basic training in BT-13 monoplanes and finally advanced training in the AT-6.
They completed the aviation cadet program and received their pilot wings as Second Lieutenants at Marianna, Florida, on March 12th , 1944. After completing P-40 Warhawk training, they would be assigned to a Fighter Group. His brother Bill remembers fearing that the Army Air Forces would finally separate them, following the loss of several Sullivan brothers on one ship.
They were separated… in a certain way. Both brothers were assigned to the 352 nd Fighter Group, then known as the “Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney”, however Bill was assigned to the 487th FS while Buck was assigned to the 486th FS. They would make the trip to Europe in late November of 1944.
At that time, the 352nd had already converted to the P-51 Mustang and Buck inherited his P-51D 44-13737 PZ-W “Little Rebel” from Capt. Alton J "Al" Wallace. Buck didn't bother to change the name of the Mustang.
On a mission on March 2nd , 1945, Buck damaged 2 aircraft on a strafing mission.
On April 16th , 1945, both brothers were part of an epic strafing mission at Gonecker airfield near Straubing, Germany. Upon attacking an airfield, the attacking force would usually split up into two groups: one group would take care of the flak units and once this task was completed, the second group would come in and establish a pattern to tear up the airfield. In most cases, the first group would then join them in the attack.
On this particular mission, his brother Bill was part of the group which had to take care of the anti-aircraft batteries and Buck was part of the strafing team. Bill effectively aided in silencing the flak batteries which enabled Buck to commence his strafing run.
During his multiple strafing passes, Buck managed to destroy 3 FW-190s and 2 Me-109s. He damaged one more, a FW-190.
Buck's brother Bill was taken prisoner, but was finally liberated by tanks of Patton's 3rd Army on May 5th . Buck didn't know that his brother had survived the April 16th crash until May 17th , when Bill came walking into the 486th pilot's ready room.
In all, Buck completed 37 combat missions with the 486th , and scored 5 strafing kills. In addition, he damaged one more on the ground.
Both brothers were released from active duty in December of 1945.
You can read more about Buck Pattillo here.
The paint scheme
The 352nd FG was assigned to the 8th AF on July 6th , 1943, and was stationed at Bodney in Norfolk, UK. They converted to the P-51 Mustang at the end of March, 1944. It was at that time that all units in the 8th AF were assigned different Group colours.
The 352nd FG applied a bright sky blue shade to the noses of their P-51s, which were B- and C-models at that time and which were all delivered in the two-colour camouflage paint scheme of Olive Drab and Neutral Grey. However, the light blue coloured spinner and 12-inch wide nose band provided insufficient contrast with the camouflage finish, so the blue paintwork was extended back to a point approximately halfway below the exhaust stacks and then swept up and back to the windshield.
The following month, the 328th and 487th FS began receiving their replacement Mustangs, all in a natural metal finish.
For a very brief period the 352nd FG attempted to identify its new aircraft by replacing the white QIM cowlings with a substitute application of a medium blue paint. This particular procedure was quickly abandoned when it was determined that there was insufficient contrast between either finish to be functional as a group marker.
In May of 1944 the 352nd FG selected an RAF Azure Blue shade of paint to replace the original Medium Blue Group colour. The distinct blue colour earned them the name “Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney”.
On June 3rd , SHAEF issued an order for the application of the infamous D-Day stripes (aka Invasion Stripes). With the hastily application of the stripes on all operational aircraft, the second unit code letter was almost completely over painted, as was the unit call letter. The 328th FS and 487th FS elected to relocate the call letter to the tail fin, while the 486th FS chose to reposition it just above the wing root and slightly back from the exhaust cut-out. This was short lived however and by late June the 486th FS also repositioned the letter to the tail fin.
In October of 1944, the 8th AF issued an order for additional squadron identification by means of coloured rudders. The 328th FS (unit code “PE”) was assigned Insignia Red as a rudder colour, the 486th FS (unit code “PZ”) wore Identification Yellow and the 487th FS (unit code “HO”) adopted the same shade of blue as that used for the Group nose marker for their rudders.
As the war progressed some unit markings and colours changed slightly, some to offer better visibilty, others for a more esthetic reason. Starting in the summer of 1944, the 352nd applied a slightly darker shade of blue as they started receiving bare metal finished P-51Ds. The shade used was probably British Deep Sky Blue, which was similar to Insignia Blue.
The name “Little Rebel” was white with red outlining and is displayed on the port side of the cowlingThe pilot's name on the port side of the canopy frame was painted in red. The 5 swastika kill markings were applied in black.
For more information on the following general P-51 markings, please click their appropriate links:
US National Insignia markings
General P-51 markings
If we were to put a timeframe on N5551D we could assume that it was situated later than December of 1944, given certain parameters:
Lt. Pattillo scored his five strafing kills on April 16th , 1945 and there are five kill markings on the port side of the fuselage, so it is certainly dated later than April 16th , 1945.
The complete absence of Invasion Stripes. These were ordered deleted by SHAEF on December 6th , effective December 31st , 1944.
Note that N5551D's last three digits of the tail numbers were over painted with yellow on the rudder in 2009. This was also a common practice in October of 1944 with the introduction of Squadron rudder colours. As of 2010 the tail numbers were reinstated (which is historically correct as the 352nd at a later stage did reinstate the numbers) in black paint.
Contributor pictures of N5551D Little Rebel
Contributor image copyright (left to right, top to bottom):
Pictures of the original "Little Rebel "
(all images © 352nd FG Association Archive)
If you have any high-quality photographs of N5551D you would like to share on this website, please contact us.
352nd Fighter Group Association