Special Report

P-47s Did It All

★ Republic P-47 Thunderbolt ★ The heaviest single-engine aircraft of the war, the P-47 was a tail-sitter with wide-stance landing gear and flat-face radial engine giving it the look of an aggressive bull-dog. Its 2,000-hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 18-cylinder radial engine, boosted by a General Electric turbosupercharger, endowed it with 400+ mph performance up to 40,000 feet. But it frequently flew low to annihilate armored vehicles, trains, gun emplacements, and anything unlucky enough to be under its flight path. (Lyle Jansma)
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In the months before Normandy, P-47 Thunderbolt pilots began using their fighters to bomb and strafe targets on the ground. After the P-51 Mustang arrived in England, the 56th Fighter Group, alone among the units of the Eighth Air Force, continued flying P-47s as bomber escorts; it remained the Eighth’s top-scoring group.

Among the T-bolt’s laurels are the attacks that helped repel the Nazi advance known as the Battle of the Bulge, the World War II battle that proved most costly for Americans.

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