During World War II, 15,000 P-51 Mustang fighter planes were produced by North American Aviation. Arguably the best fighter plane ever made, today there are less than a hundred left flying in the world. Of those, only a handful saw combat. Sierra Sue: The Story of a P-51 Mustang is the story of one of those survivors.The backdrop for the story is Sierra Sue IIs appearance at the huge Offutt Air Force Base Open House in 1989. There, we go behind-the-scenes for glimpses of warbird pilots and jet jockeys alike, preparing for their air show acts. We also go six stories underground for a rare, chilling visit to our nuclear command post.But the real story is the history of Sierra Sue II, and the remarkable pilots who flew and loved her: from 1st Lt. Bob Bohna who flew her in combat during World War II and nearly became a reverse ace, to Sten Soderquist who flew her in Sweden in the early 50s when more than thirty Swedish pilots died in Mustang crashes, to Nicaragua where she was involved in several of dictator Luis Somozas military adventures in the late 50s, to California where Dave Allender modified her with the intent of setting a new world speed record for piston aircraft.Almost forty years after her combat missions in the war, Sierra Sue II is bought by a hard-flying Minnesota physician known on the air show circuit simply as Doc. His romance with Sierra Sue II continues where Bohna and Soderquist and Allender leave off. But Doc is more than just another ardent admirer in her long history. While an Air Force jet pilot in the 50s, Doc crashed and suffered major injuries that ended his Air Force career. During his long recuperation, he took up a study of medicine that led to a general practice in Minneapolis. Now, he is determined to restore Sierra Sue II to her World War II condition and take her on the Midwest air show circuit. We follow that restoration in California by a mechanical genius named Jack Cochrane, and then Docs cross-country flight to Minnesota, ending in a harrowing landing at nightfall on a remote airstrip on the Minnesota prairie.Millions of air show fans have enjoyed the sight of Sierra Sue IIs ageless beauty. Now, here is her story.
About John Christgau
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Published September 5, 2011
History, War, Professional & Technical, Biographies & Memoirs.