P51 Mustang

P51 Mustang – “The Dakota Kid”

*Shared with our museum courtesy of the Texas Flying Legends Museum from mid May to the latter part of July*

The P-51 story begins in 1940 when the British approached North American aviation to build a new fighter. North American agreed in January, 1940, and remarkably, by September the aircraft made its first flight. The D model, powered by a Packard-Merlin Rolls-Royce V-12 engine rated at 1490 horse power, was produced in the greatest numbers. It had a maximum speed of 437 miles per hour at 25,000 feet, and a combat range of 1000 miles. It had three 50 caliber machine guns in each wing with a service ceiling of 42,000 feet and was considered the best fighter of its time.

The original “Dakota Kid” was a “C” model born in March of 1944 flown by Noble Peterson of New England, North Dakota. During his second tour, he flew a P-51D which replaced the “C” model. The second plane was known as the Dakota Kid II. His plane was so named because he was the only pilot in the 355th fighter group of the 358th squadron from North Dakota. The 355th was based at Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire, England. The 358th squadron could be identified by a yellow band on the nose and a yellow tail rudder. Captain Noble Peterson flew 106 combat missions over two tours of duty between March 1944 and May ’45. Captain Peterson was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, followed by three oak leaf clusters. He was also awarded the Air Medal and then with nine oak leaf clusters. In addition he received a European Theater Ribbon with six battle stars, each standing for a major battle. Peterson was credited with three confirmed victories and four probables. His major mission was bomber escort, but he also did low level strafing. Born in 1915, he remained active in ranching until he passed away at the age of 93.

The re-born “Dakota Kid” is a “parts” plane rebuilt at Tri-state Aviation in Wahpeton, North Dakota. The wings and flying surfaces were rebuilt by Bob Odegaard in Kindred, North Dakota and the remainder was undertaken by the late Jerry Beck at Wahpeton, North Dakota. Both of these people and their staffs are true artists as shown in the final product. This reborn “Dakota Kid” also has a modified dual control of Jerry Beck’s design.

Noble Peterson became an acquaintance in early 1990 along with some of his flying experiences. When the restoration project was acquired, he was kept abreast with info and photos. When finished, it seemed only right that it should be painted in the colors of the original “Dakota Kid”. A 358th “Angels” insignia was added on the side, and the “Dakota Kid” name was enlarged and lowered to make it more visible.

The P-51-D is truly one of the greatest fighters ever built. It is a testament to the design and industrial capabilities of the U. S. and to the courage and sacrifice of all those who served this country. It is a great privilege to honor Captain Peterson and all of the veterans of WWII and subsequent conflicts