Victory Films
The 354th Fighter Group
Reviewed By  Floyd S. Werner, Jr., IPMS# 26266

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MSRP: $29.00

The P-51 Mustang. Iconic to say the least, but where did it get its start. Which unit had the distinction of introducing the P-51B to combat? That would belong to the 354th Fighter Group of the NINTH Air Force, not the 8th Air Force. The Pioneer Mustang group.

This DVD is 2-1/2 hours long and is actually a video diary of the unit's activity from its conception on 15 Nov 42 with P-39s until its deactivation on 31 Mar 46. The opening shows a very nice formation of the unit's P-39s. You are quickly moved to England and you watch the off loading of the new P-51B Mustangs in England. You follow them from the ship along the road side to the air base. It is neat to see the Mustangs cocooned in their protective shell. Takeoffs with the new aircraft with their white nose and stripes are quite interesting. One of the unique aircraft is one coded CG-2. You are also introduced the James Howard, of Flying Tiger fame and Medal of Honor winner. His P-51B "Ding Hao!" with a normal canopy and his gun camera footage from his Medal of Honor mission. His film shows some great shots at Me-110s and 109s.

The next sequence is a Berlin Mission and the highlight is a crash landing B-17.

Because of their uniqueness of the new aircraft they were visited by a variety of VIPs including the King of Yugoslavia. The King is remarkably young looking, even younger than the pilots. There is lots of pomp and circumstance. It is in this sequence that we get our first look at a NMF B model and a Malcolm hood modification. We also can see that the tail stripes are over painted and the noses are now adorned with the colors of the unit's. An interesting situation is shown as Gen. Eisenhower shoots the guns of a P-47. He and I would be too, is smiling ear to ear.

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D-Day markings are the highlight of the next sequence. The stripes are hastily painted and not very straight and proper. IPMS judges take note. LOL. The 354th actually escorted the glider force. The first D models are shown. Candid interviews with the crews are a hilarious feature. Included is Major Turner from Short Fuse Sally fame.

Interspersed throughout the video are strafing films. Everything is taken under the guns of the Mustangs from 109s to trucks and trains. Most of the films are in color which lets the viewer see what it was really like, exciting and terrifying.

Moving onto the continent at A2 in July 44 is highlighted. This sequence starts with C-47s lumbering into the air then the P-51s with full D-Day markings, which now are more neatly painted. You are treated to some excellent low level buzz jobs; some so close that you can hear the supercharger. I'm not sure if that was added post production but it sounds really cool. You also get the feel of what it was like to be a German infantryman. You can tell whoever is flying as aircraft #4 was a hot dog or an old hand flying FT-P. He gets really low. You can hear the artillery in the background as well. One thing for the modeler to note is as the aircraft land and taxi by you are treated to some great weathering and mud patterns. Some aircraft exhibit very chipped paint on the nose. The sequence ends as it begins with the C-47s landing.

LT King, an unsuspecting young looking pilot, is interviewed with a beautiful French woman and children. It is all very canned and campy but it is nostalgic. Behind and eventually highlighted is the bombed up P-51B with some excellent graffiti on the bomb. Also the nose markings of "Atlanta Peach" are very nice as well.

Horses on the airfield do not like the mechanical Mustangs or the pilots who one would believe to be from Texas as they try to rope and wrestle the horses. When they try to do this to a colt the mare is not pleased and shows them that she will not put up with their antics. Eventually she allows them to ride her but it is not an easy proposition.

An awards ceremony is highlighted, as well as, camouflage netting over "Bonnie B" a P-51B with a fuselage fillet and Malcolm hood. Nice diorama potential here. The day to day life of the soldiers and airman are included to show you what primitive conditions existed on the continent.

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Ike comes for a visit in a very filthy two seat P-51B CQ-Z. I didn't notice the "Stars look down" markings on the nose but it is very apparent that Ike is going to ride this pony to the ground if something happens as he has to be "released" from the aft cockpit. It is interesting how he has to be wrenched out of the back.

There are numerous take off and formation shots, including some in color. The formation video is very close and very useful for the modeler. The attack sequence is filmed in color and you can see the flak bursting around the aircraft. The beautiful sequence is highlighted with a flyover of a bombed out city or should I say the rubble that used to be a city. Finally there is an A-20 escort which shows them on the bomb run real close up.

Sometime in late 1944 the Pioneer Mustang group traded in their Mustangs for P-47s. There is a sequence showing the P-47s in the snow. There is lots of ice and blowing snow on everywhere. This will provide lots of inspiration for those new Hasegawa P-47s. Some great markings will keep decal manufacturers in hog heaven. There is an interesting crashed 190 shown. After about four months they traded them back in for P-51s.

Color film is the highlight for the rest of the video. The color gun film is remarkably clear and you get to travel the countryside blowing things up. Planes, trains and automobiles are shot up. There is one sequence that stands out for me and that is shooting down a FW-190 over an airfield and you can see the flak shooting at the Mustang. Really cool. You are treated to FW-190s and Bf-109s with P-51s swarming around them. Fish in a barrel.

The movement to Ober Olm airfield is a great sequence showing "Angel's Playmate" of Lt Carr. LTC Eagleston's P-51 is shown to great effect with the large eagle motif. As a note, Eagleston was the group's highest scoring ace with 18.5 victories. "Margie Maru" and "Wee Speck" are just some of the other Mustangs that are shown.

The next gun camera footage shows two P-51s shooting at a Ju-88 and chasing and shooting a Bf-109. There is some excellent maneuvering by the German pilot who obviously is an experten.

Maintainers and great diorama possibilities are the best part of the next sequence which shows an engine change. Excellent stuff.

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Something for the Luftwaffe buffs, and you know who you are, there are wrecks that the mechanics look over including a Bf-109G-10 or K-4. All in clear color film. There are some other aircraft including a Ju-88G-6 night fighter, including the yellow wiring in the cockpit. In Ansbach you see a well used Ju-52 and a He-111 (wkn 201413) with some very interesting squiggle markings on the tail only. Then there is another 109 this time a G-12 trainer. As far as I know this is the only color photo of a G-12 I've ever seen. Still want more? There are two other 109s both G-14s "Yellow 28" and wkn 161037. Very useful and informative.

VE-day is celebrated with some low level high speed passes, some REALLY close to the cameraman. You will find yourself ducking. The inside of the German hangars will be very helpful to modelers for dioramas.

The pilots tour the Nuremburg Stadium. What is immediately apparent is the young age of the pilots. A very picturesque and picture post card view of Alpine villages and the Eagle's Nest are included, of course all in full color.

LUFTWAFFE ALERT- A FW-190F-8 is shown in full color and from all sides. The Americans taxi the aircraft past the cameraman. It provides a wealth of knowledge including Red Primer on the one wheel hub. It really is a full walk around including a late style prop with the counter weights.

The VE party includes Red Cross nurses and a band. This is followed up with another awards ceremony with the entire group. It is amazing how many people it took to keep a group going. Also the number of aircraft spaced around the field. Lots of shots of P-51Ds, including one named "Flagship Nancy Ann" with a three colored spinner. Really colorful. There are more P-51s shown than I can name, some are very worn and weather beaten. You'll note the large amount of mud on the airplanes. The new tail insignia is shown as well. One thing to watch for is the spectacular low level stall and crash of a P-51 "Sweet Jamie".

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Awesome air to air shots are included in the next sequence including P-47s coded F4. There are more low level high speed passes from a higher elevation so you are treated to a feeling of speed and exhilaration. There are more P-51s than I can count. I noted that the canopy framing was painted silver and not natural metal.

The final sequence is the C-47 named "Pioneer Mustang Skyliner" with the 950 kills the unit amassed in combat. This unit was only 50 some short of the 4th Fighter Group in Luftwaffe kills and they were only in combat for a little a year and a half. They were finally deactivated in Mar 1946 and the DVD comes to an end.

What can I tell you about this DVD? WOW! Impressive! Great stuff! Are some of the first things that come to mind. P-51s galore, of course, mostly color, lots and lots of previously unknown video. What more can you ask for? Color shots for the Luftwaffe buffs and color gun camera footage. It is simply the best DVD I've had the pleasure to watch from Victory Films. It is impressive in its scope and documentation. If you need inspiration for a modeling project this will be all you'll need. This DVD contains more Mustangs than you will find anywhere. Buy this DVD and you'll have hours of inspiration and enjoyment.

This DVD is typical of the quality historical video I've come to expect from Victory Films. They present a unique war time view of the conflict. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this title and the rest of the series. Great research material, color and B&W film makes these DVDs a great value for the money.

You can get a copy from Wade Meyers Studios online at wademeyersart.tripod.com . Don't forget to check out the wonderful artwork while you are there. This is just one of many great DVDs that are available. Don't forget to use the coupon code at the bottom of the page to save postage. Let him know that you heard about it from here.

Thanks to Wade Meyers and Victory Films for the review copy.

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