Jettisoning an external fuel tank over a populated area is prohibited by the FAA as it will almost certainly cause injury and damage to the people in that area. But did war airplanes during World War 2 ever use that fact to their advantage?

As an example, say a P-51 Mustang dropped its bombs onto a city/town as a part of its mission, and then they realize that their external fuel tanks are empty, and are ready to be jettisoned. Well, couldn't the P-51 just jettison the external fuel tanks over the city/town to cause some additional damage?

So, did war airplanes during World War 2 ever actually jettison their empty external fuel tanks over bombing targets to cause additional damage?


1 Answer 1


Yes, and not even empty tanks. It didn’t always work, but it’s happened:

     This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII.

Fun fact, cellulose drop tanks were developed to save metal during the war! The article references P-47s, but I would not be surprised if P-51s did the same.

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    $\begingroup$ I clearly recall reading about the "Flying Tigers" using the drop tanks of their P-40s in this fashion. I don't recall whether or not the account specifically said that they had to go back and fire at the impact area w/ their guns to cause ignition. And whether the account I read was actually true-- who knows, unfortunately I can't recall the source-- $\endgroup$ May 22, 2021 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ Btw, regarding the link referenced in this answer -- P-47s did not actually have "cannons", only 50-caliber machine guns. $\endgroup$ May 22, 2021 at 2:11

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