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MUSTANG ACE: Memoirs of a P-51 Fighter Pilot by Robert J. Goebel + Easygoing and quick to learn, young Bob Goebel worked his way steadily through the phases of military flight training, and found in himself an aptitude for flight. Following months of rigorous operational flying in Panama, Goebel and his young companions found themselves in North Africa in the spring of 1944 with orders to the 31st Fighter Group in Italy. Just as the novices were about to join, the 31st traded its British-made Spitfire fighters for new P-51 Mustangs. Within weeks, Lieutenant Goebel had flown his first combat missions. A steady succession of bomber-escort missions over southeastern Europe slowly and then more rapidly forced Goebel to settle in and master aerial gunnery and the mentally taxing high-speed dogfights in which he became engaged. At last, he shot down his first German fighter. And he advanced to positions of leadership, in due course leading the entire 31st Fighter Group deep into enemy territory. At length, he shot down a fifth German and thus became an acea Mustang Ace. And then he shot down three Germans in one day on a mission to Ploesti, Romania. He flew to Russia and back, and supported the invasion of southern France. By September 1944, he had eleven confirmed victories to his credit and was one of the 308th Fighter Squadrons most respected combat leaders. When he was sent home at the end of his combat tour, Captain Bob Goebel was twenty-one years old.

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