Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

The P-47 is the United States’ all-time most-produced fighter plane, with 15,660 built.  It grew out of the general design philosophy embodied in earlier Seversky and Republic designs, using a reliable and damage-resistant radial engine with a general shape conforming to the teardrop-fuselage and elliptical wing theories of the mid 1930s.  Compared to its predecessors, its main point of difference was scale.  Using an engine designed for use in multiples in large bombers and transports, attached to a large and heavy turbosupercharger system that took up much of the interior volume of the fuselage, the P-47 had almost unprecedented power and could afford to be a lot of airplane.  It was armed with eight .50 calibre machine guns (two more than the standard for U.S. fighters) and could carry a substantial amount of ordnance.  Though not as nimble or long-ranged as its rival the P-51 Mustang, and progressively phased out in favor of the P-51 in U.K.-based units for that reason, the Thunderbolt was much tougher and better at the fighter-bomber role.  It continued to be important in the Mediterranean and Pacific theatres to the end of the war and was also used by the British, the French and by two unusual Latin American units, a fighter squadron from Brazil that operated alongside U.S. forces in Italy and a Mexican Air Force squadron that operated with the U.S. 5th Air Force in the Phillippines.

After World War II, the U.S. equipped some of the new Air National Guard units with P-47s (later called F-47s) and supplied others to friendly air forces including those of Italy, China, Turkey, and numerous Central and South American countries.

Despite its vast production count, airworthy P-47s soon became very rare in the United States.  It could not compete with surplus P-51s as a racer or recreational aircraft and did not have many research or other uses.  By the early 1960s, when there were still dozens of P-51s around, only a single restored P-47 was flying, maintained by Republic as a public relations tool.  Fortunately Peru kept its P-47s in active service until 1966, after which the entire inventory was acquired by entrepreneurial individuals associated with the Confederate Air Force and the nascent warbird movement.  The several complete airframes and extensive parts inventory shipped from Peru, plus a handful of aircraft recovered from trade schools and memorials and a few others that have dribbled in from Brazil, were the basis of the dozen or so airworthy P-47s extant today.  In recent years, more have been recovered from wreck sites in the south Pacific.  Perhaps 25 more P-47s exist in static display condition, mostly in the United States but also in the U.K. (2 aircraft), Brazil (5 aircraft), Chile (2 aircraft), Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Serbia and Turkey.

P-47D 42-8205 “Big Stud”

This Thunderbolt went to Bolivia in the late 1940s but reportedly never became operational.  It was displayed as a war memorial until recovered to the U.S. in the 1970s.  Registered N14159, it became an airworthy but rarely flown part of the Champlin Fighter Museum, then was acquired along with most of the collection’s assets by the Museum of Flight in Seattle.  The original “Big Stud” (serial 42-75008) was flown by Robert Baseler, commander of the 325th Fighter Group operating in Lesnina, Italy, from June 1943 to April 1944.  The aircraft of this fighter group were all painted with yellow and black checkers on their tails, which has made them a popular paint scheme choice for historical artists and modelers.  

P-47D 42-23278 “Fiery Ginger”

Recovered from a California technical college in the late 1950s, this P-47 was acquired by its builder, Republic Aviation Corp., and based at its birthplace of Farmingdale, NY, where it was flown throughout the 1960s for public relations purposes.  It appeared throughout the United States and made at least one visit to Europe, registered N5087V.  After being moderately damaged in a landing accident it was repaired and donated to the USAF Museum which has had it on display since 1964.  For most of that time it has been displayed in the markings shown here, of the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group.  Operating out of Kings Cliffe, the 56th was the only 8th Air Force fighter group to retain P-47s until the war’s end.  More recently it has been repainted as “Fiery Ginger,” the aircraft of Neel E. Kearby, commander of the 348th Fighter Group in New Guinea.  Kearby named all of his aircraft Fiery Ginger after his red-haired wife. 

P-47G 42-25068 “Little Demon” / “Snafu”

P-47G was the designation given to P-47Ds manufactured under license by Curtiss-Wright, which had production capacity resulting from its failure to produce a good fighter in the generation following the P-40.  Rescued from a salvage yard after a postwar career as an instructional and engine ground-test airframe, P-47G N47DG (formerly N42354) was transformed by Indiana restorer Ray Stutsman into an award-winning restoration and one of the best World War II fighters flying when it made its debut in 1982.  Painted as P-47D 42-8476, “Little Demon” of Walter Beckham, 351st Squadron, 353rd Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, this Thunderbolt was popular on the American airshow circuit until the 1990s.

In 1996 the P-47 was purchased by an England collector and was eventually re-restored for The Fighter Collection, flying again in 2002 as G-CDVX.  It was now marked as 42-74742 “Snafu” of the 84th Squadron of Duxford’s 78th Fighter Group, flown by Severino Calderon.  “Snafu” is a military slang acronym standing for the phrase “situation now all f–ked up.”  Snafu returned to the United States in 2014, now part of the Friedkin Collection

P-47G 42-25234 “Spirit of Atlantic City N.J.”

One of the longest continuously flying warbirds with a single private operator, Curtiss-built P-47G N3395G has been flying with various incarnations of Ed Maloney’s Planes of Fame collection since the early 1960s and has been owned by the collection since 1955.  It has worn a few paint schemes over the years, and occasionally appears with markings added or deleted for special occasions, but generally represents the P-47D 42-8487 flown by Walter “Bud” Mahurin with the 63rd Squadron, 56th Fighter Group.  Mahurin was the first American “double ace” (10 aerial victories) in the European theatre, credited with 19.25 kills while flying with the 56th Group.  Later, he was reassigned to the Pacific theatre where he was credited with one further kill in the Philippines.  Mahurin returned to action in the Korean war, where he was credited with a further 3.5 aerial victories flying F-86 Sabres, making him the only U.S. Army/Air Force pilot to have scored aerial victories in both major World War II theatres and Korea.  Mahurin was shot down in Korea and was tortured as a prisoner of war for 16 months.  He returned to the U.S. and died in 2010 at the ripe age of 92. 

YP-47M 42-27385

This P-47, originally built as a P-47D, became the prototype for the souped-up P-47M version that equipped the 56th Fighter Group of the 8th Air Force toward the end of the war, with the civil registration NX447N for testing purposes.  As a prototype, it was retained by the manufacturer, Republic Aviation, through the war.  This is one of few P-47s to have had a postwar racing career, which lasted until about 1950 when it went into storage.  It reemerged as part of the Victory Air Museum in Illinois in the 1960s, where it is shown in the first photos below registered N4477N, and eventually found its way to the Yanks Air Museum, where it has been excellently restored into airworthy but unflown condition, registered N4464N and later N27385.  It wears generic U.S.A.A.F. markings typical of a factory-fresh wartime P-47. 

P-47D 44-20371

France used P-47s during World War II and afterwards.  This one went straight from French military service to the national Musee de l’Air where it has been displayed since the 1970s. 

P-47D 44-32691

Installed in its Udvar-Hazy facility in Virginia, the NASM‘s P-47 is marked as an aircraft of the 350th Fighter Squadron, 353rd Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, wearing partial invasion stripes as in the summer of 1944. 

P-47D 44-32817 “Balls Out”

Lewis Air Legends owns this airworthy P-47, registered N767WJ, a veteran of Venezuelan Air Force service and a war memorial in Venezuela until 1995.  When photographed with its previous owners the Tillamook Air Museum, the Thunderbolt wore the markings of the 10th Fighter Squadron, 50th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force.  Lewis has since repainted the aircraft as 44-33913 “Balls Out,” flown by Milt Thompson, 309th Squadron, 405th Fighter Group. 

P-47D 44-90368 “Big Ass Bird II” / “Tarheel Hal”

P-47 N4747P was recovered from Venezuela in the 1970s and restored in Kentucky, first flying in 1991.  Originally it was restored in the colors of 44-32773 “Big Ass Bird II” of Howard Parks of the 513th Squadron, 406th Fighter Group in Belgium in 1945, but the profanity in its name presented problems with getting airshow bookings in the more puritanical parts of the United States, so it was repainted as 44-33240 “Tarheel Hal” of “Ike” Davis of the 356th Squadron, 358th Fighter Group at Toul Air Base, France, in January 1945.  “Tar heel” is a nickname for people from North Carolina, probably related to the tar-seeping pine trees that at one time were important to the state’s economy.  It is with the Lone Star Flight Museum

P-47D 44-90438 “Wicked Wabbit”

A former Yugoslavian Air Force machine acquired by a British collector from Yugoslavia’s air museum in the 1980s, P-47 N647D “Wicket Wabbit” resides at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation with another P-47 painted in the markings of the same unit, the 65th Squadron of the 57th Fighter Group based on Corsica during 1944.  The original Wicked Wabbit was flown by James Hare of that unit, whose choice of the name stemmed from his own surname being a synonyn for rabbit.  “Wabbit” was how “rabbit” was pronounced by Warner Brothers cartoon character Bugs Bunny’s speech-impaired nemesis, Elmer J. Fudd, in animated short cartoons already popular during World War II. 

P-47D 44-90447 “Jackie’s Revenge”

Registered N1345B, this P-47 was recovered from a park in Belgrade by David Price, proprietor of the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, and restored in the markings of the 350th Fighter Squadron, 353rd Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, wearing full invasion stripes as applied during and very briefly after the Normandy invasions of June 6, 1944.  The kill scoreboard and name “Jackie’s Revenge,” which are not authentic to the rest of the paint scheme, were applied by current owner the American Airpower Museum, Jackie being the wife of the museum owner-benefactor.  This P-47 has been very active and is seen at airshows in the northeastern and midwestern United States.  On May 27, 2016, it experienced a forced landing in the Hudson river near upper Manhattan.  The plane was moderately damaged but the incident was fatal to the pilot.  The plane will almost certainly be restored, although an airworthy restoration would require not only an extensive rebuild but also corrosion treatment; the Hudson river at the point of the accident is actually more of an estuary than a river, with salinity levels close to ocean levels.  

P-47D 44-90460 “Hun Hunter XVI”

Returned to the U.S. in 1988 after being displayed in Brazil, where it had served as serial 4175, N9246B is the other P-47 based in Tennessee wearing 65th Squadron, 57th Fighter Group markings.  The original Hun Hunter belonged to 65th Squadron commander Gilbert O. Wymond, who numbered his “Hun Hunters” sequentially and obviously went through quite a few aircraft. 

P-47D 45-49167

Another of the 1969 Peru recovery P-47s, this aircraft flew with the Confederate Air Force for a time as N47DB, but eventually ended up in the USAF Museum collection.  The first of these photos show it during the 1970s and 1980s, in two of the paint schemes it wore during its flying days.  As shown in the last photo, it is now painted as 44-32718, which operated with the 1st Air Commando Group, 10th Air Force, in Burma in 1945.

P-47D 45-49181

The Kalamazoo Air Zoo acquired this ex-Peruvian (serials 539 and 115) P-47D in the late 1970s and flew it for several years, registered N444SU (previously N47DC, N159LF).  The markings represent 42-26418 of Francis “Gabby” Gabreski of the 61st Squadron, 56th Fighter Group at the time of D-Day, June 1944.  The 56th Group received its P-47s in natural metal finish at that stage of the war and applied a number of unusual camouflage schemes which have presented a challenge for modelers and historians to document.  This machine was flown throughout the 1980s and 1990s and is now grounded but still airworthy.

P-47D 45-49192 “No Guts No Glory”

Yet another of the Peruvian Air Force (FAP 119) Thunderbolts, N47DD (now N147PF) was wrecked in a 1980 accident and rebuilt for The Fighter Collection in England, which operated the aircraft to the delight of British airshow audiences from 1984 until 2007.  The aircraft then became part of Tom Duffy’s collection in Milville, New Jersey, and is seen occasionally at airshows in the American mid-Atlantic region.  It is painted as “No Guts No Glory”, serial 42-26671, the aircraft of 82nd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group commander Ben Mayo.  The 78th Fighter Group’s distinctive black and white nose checkers, used on their P-47s and later their P-51 Mustangs, have been popular with warbird restorers.

P-47D 45-49205 “Big Chief” / “Squirt VIII”

Formerly serial 547 and 122 of the Peruvian air force, this P-47 spent time flying in Britain (as G-BLZW) in the 1970s and was acquired by Robert Pond in 1986.  It is now registered N47RP, having previously been N47DE upon import from Peru.  It has since been part of Pond’s collections in Minnesota and now the Palm Springs Air Museum.  Grounded since Mr. Pond’s death by financial arrangements between his estate and the museum, this Thunderbolt will eventually fly again.  During the 1980s it was painted as 42-28473 “Big Chief,” of the 61st Squadron, 56th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force.  More recently it wears the name “Squirt VIII,” Vargas-girl-based nose art and the same serial.

P-47D 45-49346

Sent to Brazil as serial 4191, this P-47 was on static display in various places until 1988, when it was brought to California and restored to pristine condition by the Yanks Air Museum.  It is registered N3152D and probably could be flown but has not been. 

P-47D 45-49385

N47DF is the house aircraft of WestPac, a Colorado Springs, Colorado company that specializes in P-47 restorations and opened the National World War II Aviation Museum in 2012.  Another P-47 from Peru, this machine was serialled 549 and 127 in Peruvian service and suffered accidents in 1980 and in 1990 before being rebuilt in the late 1990s.  It is painted in the markings of the 84th Squadron, 78th Fighter Group, flying from Duxford in 1944.  This machine travels fairly widely and is a regular at airshows in the Western U.S.

P-47D 45-49406 “Tallahassee Lassie”

The Flying Heritage Collection maintains N7159Z in flying condition.  Retrieved from Brazil, where it had been serial 4192 and had served as a war memorial, in the late 1980s, this aircraft was restored to impeccable condition and flew again in 2007.  The original Tallahassee Lassie, 44-33133, was flown by Ralph Jenkins and named for his wife, who came from Florida’s capital city located at the neck of the Florida panhandle.  Jenkins flew with the 510th Squadron, 405th Fighter Group of the 9th Air Force, based in Christchurch, England. 

P-47D 45-49458 “Norma”

Restored in the colors of “Norma” of the 65th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group, the New England Air Museum‘s P-47 was donated in 1971 by the Peruvian government to the USAF Museum, which has loaned the aircraft to the NEAM.  In Peruvian service the aircraft had been serial 451. 

P-47D Identity Unknown

The Beijng Air and Space Museum displays a P-47D whose identity and history are unknown.  Most likely it was inherited from the Kuomintang air force, which was supplied with P-47s by the U.S. late in World War II and may have used them in combat against the communist insurrection.  The aircraft is displayed in reasonably accurate 78th Fighter Group checkers and D-Day invasion stripes and appears reasonably intact, although some replacement parts clearly have been fabricated. 

P-47N 44-89348

The P-47N was developed as a still larger and heavier Thunderbolt with a greater wing area for more fuel for long-range missions in the Pacific theatre.  Only a few of these aircraft entered service before the end of World War II, but they made up a disproportionate share of the Thunderbolts retained by the USAF and assigned to Air National Guard units, so there are several survivors.  One is displayed at the USAF Airman Heritage Museum in Texas, dressed up inaccurately as a P-47D of the 56th Fighter Group. 

P-47N 44-89414

Many surplus warplanes became training aids for mechanics in the years after World War II.  Dick grabbed a few shots of P-47N 44-89414 at Keesler Field near Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1947. 

P-47N 44-89444 “Cheek Baby”

This P-47N is displayed at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island, New York. 

 

 

 

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