A crown jewel to any World War II flight jacket collection is a painted A-2 worn by a known fighter pilot, none more desirable than from the most celebrated fighter of all time, the North American P-51 Mustang. The P-51 evolved from a lame duck into America’s most capable fighter once it was mated with the British Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. As a high performance, high altitude, long range fighter, the P-51 was invaluable to securing Allied air superiority in the European Theater. Mustang pilots have been credited for destroying 4,950 German aircraft, which is more than any other Allied fighter. Perhaps the best praise for the P-51 came from the 1944 report by the Truman Senate War Investigating Committee, which stated the P-51 was “the most aerodynamically perfect pursuit plane in existence.” This USAAF A-2 flight jacket (size 42) by Rough Wear Clothing Co. was worn by P-51 pilot Lt. John P. Starke of the 77th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group. The right side profile of Lt. Starke’s P-51 is painted on the back of the jacket. Below the fighter is a painted tally of 45 missions. The left chest features a painted 77th Fighter Squadron "The Gamblers" leather patch. The four of a kind with an ace of spades poker hand emblem was officially approved in 1931. Both epaulets have a painted 1st lieutenant bar. Painted directly on the jacket’s left shoulder is the 8th AAF insignia. Lt. Starke received this jacket in-theater from his commanding officer, Captain K.W. Mosher, who had originally worn it. Capt. Mosher’s name is handwritten on the lining towards the waist band and an imprint of Mosher’s skull and cross bone emblem, which was removed to make way for Starke’s personalized artwork, remains visible on the back of the jacket. Lt. Starke received his first aerial victory on his thirteenth mission while escorting bombers over Germany and eventually "bagged" a total of 1 1/2 aerial victories (1: Fw 190; 1/2: Me 109). In all, the 20th Fighter Group racked up a kill record of 432 enemy aircraft, 400 locomotive, 1,555 freight cars, 94 ammunition cars and 536 motor vehicles. The 77th Fighter Squadron flew out of RAF Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire, England, officially entered combat operations in November 1943, initially flew the P-38 Lightning before transitioning to the P-51, and produced 10 aces. With the jacket are Lt. Starke’s leather flight helmet, British goggles, and officer's service shirt. The flight helmet includes a Rola Co. ANB-H-1 headset receiver. The goggles feature a red tracer visor with hardware hand marked “JOLLY/JACK” above three swastikas. The service shirt features an AAF patch on the left shoulder and 1st lieutenant bar and officer's AAF lapel insignia and tie. Additional Lt. Starke’s personal effects include the following: sterling pin back wing badge hand marked “DANIELS/WARNER/BROS. DRod/3/92” on the back, three service ribbons (Air Medal with five oak clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, and European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal), two medals (Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal), 8th Air Force patch, pin back 8th Air Force emblem, an AAF officers lapel insignia, a 2nd lieutenant bar, a large collection of 20th Fighter Group intelligence bulletins (Lt. Starke is listed in at least two separate bulletins), two $1 military payment certificates, a 1945 newspaper article (copy) reporting on Lt. Starke’s exploits over the skies of Germany and receiving the Air Medal, copy of his October 1945 discharge paper, War Department identification card, and six photographs with several showing Lt. Starke, including photos where he is wearing the flight jacket, flight helmet, and goggles presented in this lot. Provenance: The Putnam Green/Sycamore Collection
Very good, with a few repairs on the worn waist band, some wear to the cuffs, a few tears in the lining and supple leather. The artwork on the back of the jacket retains most of the paint and colors remain vivid. The flight helmet is very good, and the goggles are good with a cracked glass lens. A highly attractive WWII A-2 flight jacket worn by a P-51 fighter pilot. A must have for the serious WWII aviation collector.
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