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The 8th Air Force's 78th Fighter Group moved to their permanent wartime home at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, in April 1943. The Group flew P-47 Thunderbolts until December 1944, when it converted to that "wizard kite," the P-51 Mustang. Instantly recognizable by their bold black and white checkerboard noses, the aggressive fighter pilots of the 78th were credited with 326 confirmed aerial victories. They earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations over Holland during September 1944, and a second DUC for their actions over Czechoslovakia in April 1945.
Maj. Richard A. "Dick" Hewitt, seen here in his Mustang nicknamed "Big Dick," came to the 78th in September 1943 and served until the end of the war, logging 426 hours of combat time. During his second tour Dick was promoted to commander of the 82nd Fighter Squadron. His awards include the Silver Star, 4 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 13 Air Medals. His P-51's moniker alludes to his name and of course the traditional Craps call of ten. Dick's postwar book "Target of Opportunity" is a fascinating read.
Flying close formation on Hewitt is 1Lt. Larry Nelson in his "Heavenly Body".
February 12th, 2013
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