By Mark McConville
STUNNING pictures have revealed the legions of Spitfires America used during World War Two after being gifted them by the RAF.
The incredible images show how the RAF roundel has been replaced on most of the planes by the ‘stars and bars’ of the USAAF.
Other shots show American pilots proudly posing with their trusted Spitfire planes, with many displaying their own custom paint jobs.
The spectacular war-time snaps are showcased in a new book, Star-Spangled Spitfires, by Tony Holmes and published by Pen and Sword.
“The USAAF received Spitfires because it lacked suitable fighters of its own in Britain with which to engage the enemy,” said Mr Holmes.
“Also, the first fighter squadrons assigned to the USAAF in Britain were ex-RAF units manned by American volunteers who had signed up to fight the enemy ahead of the US entry into World War Two.
“The squadrons were equipped with Spitfires at the time of their transfer to the USAAF’s Eighth Air Force in September 1942, and they took their aeroplanes with them.
“The USAAF was grateful to have Spitfires available when it first commenced operations in the UK, as it had no fighters of its own that could match the performance of the German Bf 109G and Fw 190A.”
Star-Spangled Spitfires chronicles the combat operations of the USAAF units that were equipped with the iconic Supermarine fighter from the summer of 1942.
“They allowed both veteran and novice pilots alike to get a taste of frontline combat in Europe prior to the arrival of American-built fighters in 1943,” said Mr Holmes.
“The American units that flew Spitfires in North Africa and the Mediterranean saw far more action with the British fighter. Indeed, the last ones were not replaced by US Mustangs in this theatre until March 1944.
“The operations of the units in the Mediterranean were highly successful. Indeed, 22 American pilots shot down five or more Axis aircraft to achieve coveted title of ace.
“The photo-reconnaissance Spitfire XIs flown by the USAAF from Britain also performed a valuable, unsung, mission, flying alone and unarmed deep into Germany through to VE-Day.”