Rare photographs from Wartime Archives.
By Tony Holmes.
Through the medium of period photography, Star-Spangled Spitfires chronicles the combat operations of the USAAF units equipped with the iconic Super-marine fighter whilst employed in both the European and Mediterranean theatres of war, from the summer of 1942 right up to the end of the conflict.
Only a handful of British combat aircraft wore the stars and bars of the USAAF during the Second World War, with the Beaufighter, Mosquito and Spitfire being the key types to see action with American crews in American squadrons. The Spitfire was, by some margin, the most widely used of the three, and the Yanks that flew it in combat rated the fighter very highly.
Employed primarily by the six squadrons of the 31st and 52nd Fighter Groups, initially from airfields in the UK and then in North Africa and Italy, the Spitfire was used both as a fighter and fighter-bomber until it was replaced by the P-51 Mustang from the spring of 1944. The final star-spangled Spitfires in the front-line were the Eighth Air Forces high-flying, and unarmed, PR XI photo-reconnaissance aircraft, flown by to the 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group alongside F-5 Lightnings from November 1943. Ranging as far into Germany as Berlin, the PR Blue Spitfires provided critical target imagery both pre- and post-strike for the Mighty Eighths heavy bombardment groups through to April 1945. All feature here across a series of black and white and colour images that all capture some unique aspect of the star-spangled Spitfire's illustrious service career.