NEW ORLEANS (February 3, 2014) — The National WWII Museum welcomed a restored P-40 Curtiss Warhawk fighter plane into its growing collection of WWII-era warbirds at an official ceremony today. The aircraft, one of only 32 known remaining in the world, will be displayed in the Museum’s new pavilion, Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters, in the exhibit Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater, when it opens in 2015.
Hanging in the China, Burma and India Gallery, the plane will illustrate the story of the "second front" in the Pacific War where the famous "Flying Tigers" fought with Chinese forces to quell the Japanese advance. The P-40 has a special connection not only to the CBI, but to Louisiana history, as it was the type of plane flown by the Flying Tigers under the command of General Claire Lee Chennault, a Texas native raised in Louisiana.
This will be the first time that the Museum, designated by the US Congress in 2004 as the nation’s official WWII museum, will cover the China Burma India story — often called "the forgotten theater" by veterans who served there. The CBI contained a number of critical wartime supply routes and tied up Japanese military resources that might otherwise have been directed toward American forces as they stormed Pacific islands.
Used in every theater of the war, P-40 fighters were also crucial to holding back the Luftwaffe in North Africa during the early phases of the war against Germany. In the Pacific, they faced stiff Japanese opposition and suffered heavy losses, but adapted their tactics to effectively challenge the Japanese Zero. It was the third most-produced American warplane, trailing only the P-51 and the P-47 in total numbers built.
"The P-40 will enjoy a place of honor in our new Campaigns Pavilion," said Dr. Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller, President and CEO of The National WWII Museum. "As the heart and soul of our institution, this new building will tell the story of how the war was won with the help of a series of amazing artifacts like the Warhawk."
The P-40 will be installed suspended overhead, mimicking aerial attack mode, allowing visitors to become immersed in the battle experience. Because this particular plane had no combat record (logging only 12 hours in the Aleutian Theater before crashing in a taxiing accident), it was painted to represent a P-40 flown by Robert L. Scott, the commander of the 23rd Fighter Group, into which the Flying Tiger were incorporated.
The plane was restored by Flyboys Aeroworks, LLC, outside of San Diego, California.
Flyboys Chief Engineer Rolando Gutierrez praises his crew, drawn from the aviation program of San Diego Miramar College, saying, "Not only are they a true team, collaborating with one another throughout the project, they also are young in a part of the industry dominated by retired volunteers." The Flyboys crew is both young and diverse. The median age is 26 and the team includes a recently graduated female Airframe and Powerplant mechanic, a rarity, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and other skilled artisans and metalsmiths.
The restoration of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was generously supported by Madlyn and Paul Hilliard and the Irene W. & C.B. Pennington Foundation.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world — why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-527-6012 or visit www.nationalww2museum.org. Follow us on Twitter at WWIImuseum or visit our Facebook fan page.