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Leonard Carson - FU Hero

Posted by borg on September 11, 2009

Leonard "Kit" Carson  

Leonard "Kit" Carson While looking through our next selection for FU Heroes, I happened to find a lot of art for Kit’s P-51s throughout the latter part of WW II. There are several brief references to Kit and his association with the 357th group but, as the top ace from that group, I was surprised at the lack of concise information on this skilled pilot.

Being born sometime in 1923 and entering the Army Air Corp, which originally planned to send him off to fly in the Pacific, are two of the only facts I could readily find about the early years of our current FU Hero. Kit, as stated earlier, was the top scorer of the 357th Fighter Group with 18.5 aerial victories (3.5 more by strafing). The 357th was the first P-51 unit in Eighth Air Force, beginning combat operations in February 1944. Its aircraft were distinct, having the most colorful paint schemes including red and yellow nose checkers and a variety of nicknames and nose art.
Kit Carson escortCarson was on the verge of heading for the Pacific with a P-39 outfit but instead joined the 357th. His first victory was on April 8, 1944. For gunnery, his chosen technique for success was to bore in close to his victim rather than rely on deflection shooting. "Get dead astern and drive in to 200 yards or less, right down to 50 yards and fire a couple of one-second bursts."  He chalked up the bulk of his score during the final six months of the war, flying Nooky Booky IV. Passing on his skills, for a time, he ran 'Clobber College' (Kickass name!) the 357th's combat school.
Kit Carson dogfightWhen training, he emphasized the challenges of flying seven-hour missions (piddle packs anyone?) in the harsh weather of Northwestern  Europe. He stressed the importance of the "two-ship" element, and the defensive strengths of the P-51. "Do anything you can to break his line of sight on you. Once you've done that, he can't lay a glove on you." He insisted that the new pilots master instrument flying, a necessity in the rain, snow, ice, and poor visibility of the European theater. "Anyone who has a casual attitude toward flying in this climate is going to wind up wearing an 8,000 pound coffin at the bottom of the North Sea." He noted that they should all become intimately familiar with the east coast of England, as the biggest aid in zeroing in on home plate. He emphasized the need to train and plan on the long  missions, and to dress as if they "were going to have to walk out of Germany."
All of these lessons still hold true today. Kit emphasized trend issues and special interest items before we knew what to call them. I suppose the lack of information about Kit on the Internet could be due to the fact that he had some pretty famous colleagues there with him in the 357th, Yeager and Anderson included, but I think from the little I found on him that he was a man that let his flying do the talking. He approached his craft with intelligence and did his best to hand the knowledge down to the next generation. We thank him for his insight on tactics and his service as one of the greatest generation. 

Mustang fans, check out our P-51 design in the FU Store.
  Like everything there, it kicksass!!


P-51 Mustang, History Maker



Posted by KenCooksey on
Hey Guys, Great website. Got some info for you on Mr. Carson. He authored a book about his WWII experiences, entitled "Pursue & Destroy. Published in 1978 by Sentry
Books. The book is one of the "greats" to be written about WWII fighter flying by a WWII fighter pilot. I have read it a few times. A most EXCELLENT read.
Keep up the great work on your website.
ps Got to meet Dale "Snort" Snodgrass a couple of weeks ago. Nice guy and true gentleman.
Ken Cooksey
Posted by KathyIvanick on
A dear great man, knew his sons, close to Leo Carson.
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