09 June, 2008

Profile 2 - PINKY flown by Elmer Smith...and Iggy.

"Pinkie" exemplifies the collaborative spirit that created the P-51 Mustang fighter.  Born of British need, American airframe, British engine* and American manufacturing, the Mustang is no lucky compromise.  Instead, it's the product of the rare magic that happens when people truly work to serve a need.  

In pilot Elmer Smith's words, he would have "rather taken a beating" than suffer the pre-combat jitters that wracked his nerves.   Yet, he knew once he engaged the Starter on those 1,700-odd horses under the cowl, the shakes would blow away, leaving him fresh and focused on duty. No fear.  No worry.  Elmer could take courage in the sureness of his machine.

For Ignazio Marinello, Pinkie's Crew Chief, the ritual was just the opposite.  Under his care, Pinkie was a labor of love, an expression of his brilliant mechanical mind.  But once it left the grass field at Bodney, England, bound for the Reich across the English Channel, the doubts, the worry, the wonder..."Did I do it right?!" 

In the end, Pinkie landed every mission, no small thanks to Iggy's care.  Two of these prints have Iggy and Elmer's signature, signed at the same time at a dinner some 60 years after war. A reminder of how our differences mesh together, serve a shared purpose and reap reward.

“I got antsy. Once we had the engines started, everything was ok, but until then, I’d have rather taken a beating.”

*The first series of Mustangs had American Allison engines, but it wasn't until being harnessed to a British Rolls Royce engine did the P-51 become Legend.