P-51 Mustang Life – 339th Fighter Group – Fowlmere

This film presents to you the unique and personal experience of a P-51 pilot stationed with the 339th Fighter Group at Fowlmere, England during World War II.

20160924-puppies-steve_26_of_29Pilot Steve is making this movie he created, available publically. All he asks is that if you found value in the film that you please give a tax-deductible donation to Pilot.dog to help our efforts of saving dogs through aviation.

Then Lt. Stephen Ananian captured life around the field and in-flight using his 16mm movie camera. I had the opportunity to restore the original film and then to interview Steve about the movie.

This film contains two versions of the film. One is the restored original film and the second contains the comments from Steve Ananian through the film.

I’ve seen lots of movies that people took during World War II but I felt this one was exceptional because it focused on the flight line and flight activities. Most importantly, this is the only film that I know of where the P-51 pilot took a 16mm camera in the cockpit with him and filmed while in flight.

The film contains great footage of his wingman and what it was like approaching to land.

The film shows you the pilots heading out on a mission, the crews preparing the P-51 Mustangs, the pilots entering the aircraft and readied for flight, the flag waving takeoff, departing in formation, belly landing of damaged P-51 on field, shots of wingman on mission, views over targets, action, approach to field, landings, life on base, etc.

Here is what Steve Ananian had to say about his film.

“Being a camera enthusiast, the scarcity of photographic films during WWII was one that inconvenienced me greatly! This shortage necessitated that we pilots carry photos of ourselves in our escape kit. Since film was in short supply in the occupied countries as well, these pictures were used by the Underground to create forged identification papers for downed pilots attempting to evade capture by the enemy. Of course film for personal or recreational use was out of the question.

During my stay in England I had a 35mm camera as well as a 16mm Zeiss Ikon movie camera. The movie camera used the same cassettes as our gun cameras. 35mm film was available at the PX but 16mm cassettes were nowhere to be found. I had a solution though!

My armorer would load the empty cassette with film. I would then expose the roll on a mission. At night, in darkness, under my blankets I would remove the exposed film and wrap it in black drawing paper to protect the film from the light. The next morning my Armorer would reload the cassette with fresh film. These men were always anxious to help! At wars end I returned home with about 500 feet of exposed but undeveloped film.

After six or more years of waiting, unable to have them processed, I had to develop them myself. Age and inadequate packaging had taken its toll, the resulting films were light-struck, improperly exposed and unacceptable. I threw the reels of film into a footlocker in our basement in disgust and forgot about them.

About ten years ago I was viewing newsreel films of aerial combat from WWII. The quality of the pictures was not much better than mine. I went back to my films, discarded the unusable portions and arranged the remaining scenes in a storyline to describe a typical combat mission.

There is camera movement and framing errors due to my inability to take pictures while flying a Mustang in combat! Sorry about that, but Iím sure your understand.

Not long ago, Steve Rhode of “Rare Aviation” restored the original deteriorating film frame by frame. Steve enhanced the washed-out and dark portions. I made some appropriate titles. We added the present soundtrack and this film is the outcome!

I cannot thank Steve enough! The result is a glimpse of our past as shown by actual footage. I believe you veterans of Fowlmere will enjoy it! Pour yourself a “Scotch on the Rocks,” send the family to the Cinema and sit down and relive your fight against “Tyranny” and for “World Freedom!”

My undying gratitude to Rare Aviation for preserving this bit of history for all to see in the years to come!

Blue Skies!
Upper five-four out!

S. C. Ananian”

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