The “Jug” P-47 Thunderbolt – Workhorse of WWII in 30+ Photos

 
 
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Republic’s P-47 Thunderbolt was the backbone of the U.S. Air Force during Second World War and was certainly one of the most iconic American aircraft, alongside its successor, the P-51 Mustang.

Nicknamed as the “Jug” due to its silhouette looking like a milk jug, it was also the heaviest Allied fighter aircraft, achieving a weight of up to eight tons when fully loaded. Capable of carrying five-inch rockets or a bomb load of 2,500 pounds, together with its eight .50 cal machineguns serving as its primary armament, this medium-range fighter-bomber was usually involved in high-altitude escort missions and ground attacks on targets of opportunity.

A P-47 Thunderbolt during take off
A P-47 Thunderbolt during take off

Entering active service in November 1942, a contingent of Thunderbolts was dispatched to England as part of the 56th Fighter Group, under the command of the 8th Air Force. It first saw combat in March 1943, during a mission over occupied France, but due to a radio malfunction, the mission turned out to be a catastrophe.

Very soon, the P-47s stationed in England were refitted with new, English-made radio equipment, resuming active service.

P-47 Thunderbolts from the 318th Fighter Group taking off from East Field on Saipan, Marianas Islands in October 1944.
P-47 Thunderbolts from the 318th Fighter Group taking off from East Field on Saipan, Marianas Islands in October 1944.

From that point on the Jug proved to be a formidable opponent. After encountering it in combat, Heinz Bäer, a Luftwaffe Ace, noted that the P-47 could absorb an astounding amount of lead and had to be handled very carefully.

This was, in fact, true ― its sturdy airframe, powered by the mighty Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine, together with its armored cockpit provided safety for the pilot. The unique bubble-top canopy offered excellent visibility, despite its weight limiting the airplane’s maneuverability.

366th FG P-47 Machine Gun Maintenance at Saint Pierre du Mont Airfield A-1, 1944
366th FG P-47 Machine Gun Maintenance at Saint Pierre du Mont Airfield A-1, 1944

Even though P-51 Mustangs subsequently replaced Thunderbolts in a number of squadrons, its initial users, the 56th, decided to stick with the Jug until the very end of the war.

Serving both in Europe and in the Pacific, the P-47 Thunderbolt flew over 746,000 sorties of all types, claiming some 3,752 air-to-air kills of enemy aircraft. It’s loss rate, however, was equally as high ― some  3,499 P-47s were downed during the course of the war.

Apart from US service, the P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft saw action as part of the British RAF, the French Air Force, Soviet Air Force and also as part of the contingent of pilots hailing from Brazil and Mexico who also participated as part of the Allied war effort.

F-47 Thunderbolts in 1947
F-47 Thunderbolts in 1947

After WWII, Thunderbolts were exported to various countries of Latin America and the Middle East while small numbers were provided to countries such as China and Yugoslavia.

One of the most recognizable U.S. ground-attack aircraft today, the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II adopted its name from its WWII-era predecessor.

More photos

P-47 of the 325th Fighter Group
P-47 of the 325th Fighter Group
345th Fighter Squadron, 350th Fighter Group, 12th Air Force.
345th Fighter Squadron, 350th Fighter Group, 12th Air Force.
Colonel J.L. Laughlin, of the 362nd Fighter Group, smokes a cigar with his dog mascot “Prince” inside the cockpit of his P-47D serial 44-33287 “Five By Five” (coded B8-A)
Colonel J.L. Laughlin, of the 362nd Fighter Group, smokes a cigar with his dog mascot “Prince” inside the cockpit of his P-47D serial 44-33287 “Five By Five” (coded B8-A)
A two-seat P-47 Thunderbolt nicknamed “Astra” of the 365th Fighter Group.
A two-seat P-47 Thunderbolt nicknamed “Astra” of the 365th Fighter Group.
Thunderbolts in France, 1945
Thunderbolts in France, 1945
P47 43-2773 ‘Bird Ass Bird II’ of the 406th Fighter Group flown by Howard Park.
P47 43-2773 ‘Bird Ass Bird II’ of the 406th Fighter Group flown by Howard Park.
P-47 Thunderbolts, including (2N-U, serial number 42-25904) nicknamed “Lethal Liz II”, of the 50th Fighter Group, with cows at Carentan Airfield (A-10), France, Summer 1944
P-47 Thunderbolts, including (2N-U, serial number 42-25904) nicknamed “Lethal Liz II”, of the 50th Fighter Group, with cows at Carentan Airfield (A-10), France, Summer 1944
62d Fighter Squadron P-47 Thunderbolts on an escort mission, 1943
62d Fighter Squadron P-47 Thunderbolts on an escort mission, 1943
The ground crew servicing the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt flown by Captain Johnson. Sergeant George Baltimore is working on the petrol tank, Corporal Jack Kazanjac on top of the engine, Sergeant Howard Buckner by the cockpit, and Private Albert Asplint on the wing.
The ground crew servicing the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt flown by Captain Johnson. Sergeant George Baltimore is working on the petrol tank, Corporal Jack Kazanjac on top of the engine, Sergeant Howard Buckner by the cockpit, and Private Albert Asplint on the wing.
9th Air Force mechanics refill the compartments for the 4 12.7 machine guns on the left side of a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.
9th Air Force mechanics refill the compartments for the 4 12.7 machine guns on the left side of a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.
Cletrac in front of a P-47 Thunderbolt of the 406th Fighter Group.
Cletrac in front of a P-47 Thunderbolt of the 406th Fighter Group.
A line of 82nd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolts at Duxford airbase.
A line of 82nd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolts at Duxford airbase.
Captain Harold E. Stump and Second Lieutenant George J. Hays of the 78th Fighter Group with a P-47 Thunderbolt nicknamed “Bad Medicine”, 15 October 1943
Captain Harold E. Stump and Second Lieutenant George J. Hays of the 78th Fighter Group with a P-47 Thunderbolt nicknamed “Bad Medicine”, 15 October 1943
F-80s and F-47s of the 36th and 86th Fighter Wings over Germany.
F-80s and F-47s of the 36th and 86th Fighter Wings over Germany.
Republic F-47N-5-RE Thunderbolt 44-88566 along with an F-86A Sabre and T-33 Shooting Star trainer, 1954
Republic F-47N-5-RE Thunderbolt 44-88566 along with an F-86A Sabre and T-33 Shooting Star trainer, 1954
P-47 firing its M2 machine guns during night gunnery
P-47 firing its M2 machine guns during night gunnery

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1940’s Republic P-47N Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt flies its first combat mission a sweep over the Pacific. Used as both a high-altitude escort fighter and a low-level fighter-bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness. Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the Thunderbolt to absorb severe battle damage and keep flying. (U.S. Air Force photo)
1940’s Republic P-47N Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt flies its first combat mission a sweep over the Pacific. Used as both a high-altitude escort fighter and a low-level fighter-bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness. Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the Thunderbolt to absorb severe battle damage and keep flying. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Newly arrived USAAF Republic P-47 Thunderbolts lined up in a maintenance area at Agana Airfield, Guam, Marianas Islands on 28 March 1945.
Newly arrived USAAF Republic P-47 Thunderbolts lined up in a maintenance area at Agana Airfield, Guam, Marianas Islands on 28 March 1945.
USAAF P-47D “Razorback” configuration.
USAAF P-47D “Razorback” configuration.
RAF Thunderbolt Mk.II readying for a sortie over Burma. January 1945
RAF Thunderbolt Mk.II readying for a sortie over Burma. January 1945
Mexican P-47D Thunderbolt over the Philippines.
Mexican P-47D Thunderbolt over the Philippines.
P-47Ds of the 48th Fighter Group at an advanced landing ground in France.
P-47Ds of the 48th Fighter Group at an advanced landing ground in France.
Two ground crew add the finishing touches to the nose art of a 352nd Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolt nicknamed “Dallas Blonde”. Handwritten on slide casing: ‘P-47, 352nd F.G.’
Two ground crew add the finishing touches to the nose art of a 352nd Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolt nicknamed “Dallas Blonde”. Handwritten on slide casing: ‘P-47, 352nd F.G.’
A ground crewman works on a P-47 Thunderbolt beside P-51 Mustangs, (5Q-O, serial number 42-106886) nicknamed “Swede” and (6N-O, serial number 44-14776) nicknamed “Arrow Head”, of the 339th Fighter Group at Mount Farm.
A ground crewman works on a P-47 Thunderbolt beside P-51 Mustangs, (5Q-O, serial number 42-106886) nicknamed “Swede” and (6N-O, serial number 44-14776) nicknamed “Arrow Head”, of the 339th Fighter Group at Mount Farm.
An 8th U.S. Air Force Republic P-47D Thunderbolt attacks a tower on a German airdrome in occupied France, in 1944.
An 8th U.S. Air Force Republic P-47D Thunderbolt attacks a tower on a German airdrome in occupied France, in 1944.
When a squadron of P-47 Thunderbolts attacked a gunpowder storage depot, the ensuing explosion destroyed one of their aircraft. The grave for the pilot was made by a refugee French couple, with .50cal ammunition for a border.
When a squadron of P-47 Thunderbolts attacked a gunpowder storage depot, the ensuing explosion destroyed one of their aircraft. The grave for the pilot was made by a refugee French couple, with .50cal ammunition for a border.
The U.S. Navy escort carrier USS Barnes (ACV-20) underway in the Pacific Ocean on 1 July 1943, transporting U.S. Army Air Forces Lockheed P-38 Lightning and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft.
The U.S. Navy escort carrier USS Barnes (ACV-20) underway in the Pacific Ocean on 1 July 1943, transporting U.S. Army Air Forces Lockheed P-38 Lightning and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft.
A deckload of U.S. Army Air Force Republic P-47N Thunderbolt fighters on the flight deck of the escort carrier USS Casablanca (CVE-55) in 16 July 1945. The planes were loaded at Naval Air Station Alameda, California (USA) and were bound for Guam.
A deckload of U.S. Army Air Force Republic P-47N Thunderbolt fighters on the flight deck of the escort carrier USS Casablanca (CVE-55) in 16 July 1945. The planes were loaded at Naval Air Station Alameda, California (USA) and were bound for Guam.

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Destroyed P-47s at Y-34 Metz-Frescaty airfield.
Destroyed P-47s at Y-34 Metz-Frescaty airfield.
P-47N technical drawing
P-47N technical drawing
 
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