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.

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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