P-47 Thunderbolt (Aircraft in Action 1208)
By Larry Davis
Publisher: Squadron/Signal Publications 2007 62 Pages
PDF 43 MB
The P-47 — it was known by several names. Officially the Thunderbolt, it was also called the Jug, 'Bolt, T-Bolt, Juggernaut, and names by the Germans that can't be mentioned. The P-47 was the biggest and most heavily armed single-engine fighter developed during World War II. It was also one of the fastest. Several P-47 experimental aircraft topped 507 mph, and several pilots claim to have flown the big fighter to transonic speeds.
By the end of the war, Republic Aviation Corp. had delivered 15,682 P-47 Thunderbolts in six major production variants — the P-47B, P-47C, razorback P-47D, bubbletop P-47D, P-47M, and P-47N. The record of achievement of the P-47 and its pilots is incredible. Between March 1943 and the end of the war in August 1945, P-47s operated in every theater of war. P-47s served with no less than 132 squadrons in the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF), 16 squadrons in the Royal Air Force (RAF), four squadrons in the French Air Force, and an unknown number of Soviet Air Force units. One group of Brazilian P-47Ds was attached to the 350th Fighter Group (FG), one Mexican squadron was attached to the 58th FG, and one Chinese squadron was attached to die 81st FG.
Thunderbolt pilots flew more than 546,000 combat sorties, dropped more than 132,000 tons of bombs, fired more than 60,000 5-inch High Velocity Aircraft Rockets (HVARs), and expended some 135 million rounds of .50-caliber ammunition. The toll? More than 9,000 locomotives, 86,000 rail cars, 68,000 trucks, 6,000 tanks, and 60,000 horse-drawn vehicles were destroyed. In the air, the awesome power of the eight .50-caliber machine guns accounted for 7,067 enemy aircraft: 3,752 shot out of the air and 3,315 shot up on the ground. Enemy aircraft shot down 824 P-47s in combat, resulting in a victory ratio of 4.6 to 1 in favor of the Jug pilots. Enemy flak knocked down another 1,642.
The number of aces who flew the P-47 is staggering, with 49 accounted for in the 56th FG alone. The total included the top two aces in the European Theater of Operations (ETO), Francis "Gabby" Gabreski with 28 kills and Bob Johnson with 27. Both pilots flew with the 56th FG. Pilots flying the Jug stood a good chance of coming home, which is what the airplane was designed for.