P-51 Mustang pilot Ben Griffin recalls past and General Patton

Photo: Ben Griffin inside the cockpit of his P-51 Mustang in England. (Credit: Ben Griffin.)

Ben L. Griffin was born in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1922. In October 1942 he volunteered for service with the U.S. Army Air Corps. After induction in Miami, Ben went to Knoxville, Tenn., to fly Piper Cubs. At Jackson, Tenn., Ben flew Fairchild PT-23 Cornell primary trainers and earned his first solo flight. Vultee BT-13 and BT-15 Valiants were the next challenges at Newport, Ark..

Moving on to Jackson, Miss., Ben completed Advanced Flight Training in North American T-6 Texans and received a commission as a second lieutenant. Now officially an army aviator and officer, Ben went to Marianna, Fla., where he learned to fly the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. Additional gunnery training took place at Sarasota, Fla.

After sailing to England, Ben went to the Fourth Fighter Group and the 336th Fighter Squadron, a P-51 Mustang outfit. There he fell in love with the high performance fighters. The Americans soon began flying their mounts deep into occupied Europe.

Mr. Griffin eventually met the enemy in the air. On January 1, 1945, during his first mission over Germany, Ben shot down a German Messerschmitt Me-109. He also encountered one of the enemy’s much faster Me-262 Schwalbe (Swallow) turbojet interceptors.

On his 38th mission Ben and his mates attacked an aerodrome near Prague, Czechoslovakia. Exposing himself, Griffin attacked aircraft on the field. His luck ended as shrapnel from a 40mm anti-aircraft shell mortally damaged his Packard Merlin engine. With landing gear retracted, he landed in a nearby field. Five German soldiers appeared and took the pilot, who was bleeding from facial injuries, prisoner.

Ben eventually found himself at Stalag VII-A near Moosburg, Bavaria. After weeks of deprivation, one day, near the end of May 1945, Gen. George Patton rode into the camp in a jeep. The liberator stopped about 30 yards away, stood up, placed a hand on the windshield and said, “Well, you boys can go home now!”

After the war Ben trained to fly the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star jet. His regular military career ended at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, but he remained in the Air Force Reserve until April 10, 1982. Ben retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He most recently piloted a P-51 at age 80.

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The author (John Stemple) wishes to thank Ben Griffin for graciously granting him an interview.

11 Responses to P-51 Mustang pilot Ben Griffin recalls past and General Patton

  1. Is this the same Griffin family from frostproof Florida that is in the fruit business?

  2. Kevin Griffin says:

    I am Ben’s youngest son. My father passed away on Sept. 6, 2012 and is now flying cover for us all. Thnak you very much for posting this article about my Dad.

  3. hloubkari says:

    This is to to add that Benjamin L. Griffin crash-landed on the south-eastern outskirts of Prague on April 16, 1945. On that day the 4th Fighter Group strafed airfields in this vicinity and lost eight planes, two pilost were KIA. May I ask Mr Hafer or Mr Griffin Jr. to approach me at hloubkari[@]seznam.cz ? Thank you. Regards, Filip Vojtasek, Prague

    • Thank you for your comment Mr. Vojtasek. I cannot speak for Mr. Griffin Jr. but let me invite you to write an article about your perspective regarding this story or we would welcome you to write any articles you would like to regarding aviation, for our blog. (Please write them in English) You can send them to me in (RTF format, NOT PDF since I must copy and paste it), to my email: JRHaferAviationBlog@rocketmail.com (Please put story for blog in subject line). Make sure you let me know that you are sending the story by sending me a personal email at JRHafer@yahoo.com
      You are always welcome to communicate with me any time. Thank you for your comment Filip, I look forward to hearing from you. “JR” Hafer Publisher

    • was unable to meet you at hloubkari[@]seznam.cz

  4. Kevin Griffin says:

    Hello,
    I am Ben Griffin’s son and you may reach me at griffinkev@ msn.com. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have regarding my father’s time in service as a fighter pilot to the United States of America.

  5. hloubkari says:

    Dear Mr Griffin, I sent you an e-mail from my Gmail account yesterday. Filip

  6. Kevin Griffin says:

    Hi Flip,
    I have not received the email you sent, can you try again? Send to griffinkev@man.com and send to kgriffin@rollins.edu hopefully it will make it thru on one of those. Put Mustang Pilot in the subject line so I can easily identify it.
    Best!
    Kevin

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