Not long ago I had a chance to visit the Yanks Air Museum located in Chino California. They have a wonderful collection of historical aircraft including my favorite World War II fighter, the P-47 Thunderbolt. Seeing the “Jug” in person quickly reveals an aircraft with a huge 18 cylinder radial engine and 8 machine guns protruding from it’s wings. It was the largest & heaviest single-engine WWII fighter. Not only could it fly as high as 40,000 feet, higher than any other fighter of it’s time because of it’s super-charged engine, but the P-47 could also fly faster, exceed 500 mph.
Don’t let the large round nose fool you, this plane was lethal. With 8 wing mounted .50 caliber machine guns that could deliver 13 Lbs of lead each second the pilots finger was on the trigger, the Thunderbolt was feared by the enemy. The P-47 was used in both the European and Pacific theaters. It had self-sealing fuel tanks and was the first to drop napalm bombs and the first to fire 5 inch rockets from the wings (according to aviation-history.com). When loaded with armor-piercing incendiary (API) rounds the .50 caliber did considerable damage to light armored vehicles, trains, and aircraft. Seven of the top 10 European Aces flew the P-47 Thunderbolt against the Luftwaffe.
Pilots who flew the Jug loved it because it was faster, more lethal, safer and more reliable than any other attack fighter including the P-51 Mustang. The air-cooled radial engine could take hits and keep running even with dead cylinders. During WWII, Thunderbolt’s knocked 3,752 enemy aircraft out of the air while destroying another 2,800+ on the ground. This aircraft was capable of taking direct enemy hits and still flying. The heavily armored plane flew 746,000 sorties of all types and sustained 824 combat losses, only .07% of the Jugs didn’t return from a combat mission, the lowest total of any Allied fighter.
Do a search on the web to learn more about this wonderful aircraft or better yet, go to the Chino, CA area and see one in person. There is also a nice P-47 with the “turtle-deck” on display at the Wright Patterson Air Museum in Dayton OH. For more info about this fighter-bomber brute, take a look at this video which honors the men who defended our country in this aircraft.