ONE (OF TWO)
WAS PORTLY. But she was unbelievably deadly and a surprisingly
good dance partner. Those who knew her well loved the Thunderbolt
and saw her in a completely different light from those who didnít.
The pilots who strapped in behind that big Pratt & Whitney R-2800
and rode it into combat knew the Thunderbolt would take care
of them. It could take it as well as it could give it, and more
badly damaged Thunderbolts brought their pilots home than any
other single engine fighter.
Those who look down their noses at the blunt form of the Jug
and smirk are ignoring the facts: most references credit the
rotund Jug with having knocked 3,752 enemy aircraft out of the
air, many of which were supposedly much more agile. More important,
only 0.7 percent of the Jugs that left on a combat mission didnít
The most heavily armed fighter in the American arsenal, the
Thunderbolt came into its own as a ground-pounder and, because
of this, it flew more than twice as many sorties as the Mustang.
When its eight .50-caliber Brownings were combined with rockets
and bombs, the Jug was a fiercesome ground-attack machine. In
the ETO alone, between D-Day and VE day, it is credited with
the destruction of 9,000 locomotives and 86,000 rail cars.
Unfortunately, the survival rate of P-47s is among the lowest
of any American fighter. In recent years, however, a small handful
have been recovered from South America, where they last served
as front-line fighters. This P-47D-40 restored by Bill Klaers
and Alan Wojciak of Klaers Aviation in Rialto, California, is
one of those from far south of the border. Their veritable Thunderbolt
"production line" is taking corroded and battered
hulks and returning them to the air, where they belong.