Tools of War: The Stuka

One of the best-known images of a Stuka, preparing to pull out if its dive after releasing  its bombs. Source: Wikipedia.

One of the best-known images of a Stuka, preparing to pull out if its dive after releasing its bombs. Source: Wikipedia.

The Blitzkrieg was particularly noted by two technological innovations which petrified both Allied soldier and civilian alike. One was the armored spearheads led by the panzers, which cut miles into Allied lines and separated units from one another. And then, most terrifyingly, were the squadrons of Stukas, which dived down upon the retreating Allies and sowed chaos with their wailing sirens.

By Seth Marshall

            In the second half of the First World War, the importance of ground attack and close air support became increasingly important roles for air forces to provide to armies on the ground. By 1918, dedicated ground attack squadrons had been formed in the Luftstreitskrafte, and numerous designs had been put into production whose sole purpose was attacking ground targets in support of advancing troops.  In the interwar years, some air forces, particularly the US Army Air Corps and the Royal Air Force both placed more emphasis on the development of doctrine, tactics, and aircraft which would fulfill the role of the strategic bomber. The Luftwaffe however placed a greater importance on aircraft which would provide direct support to advancing troops on the ground. The Junkers Ju 87 was developed in the 1930s to fulfill this role.

                In 1933, Walter Wever was appointed the Commanding General of the Luftwaffe. Among the objectives listed by Wever as being the purpose of the as-yet unannounced air force was this:

“3. To support the operations of the army formations, independent of railways- i.e. armored forces and motorized forces, by impeding the enemy advance and participating directly in ground operations.”[1]

To this end, it was decided that a dive bomber would be bested suited to meet the needs of a modern German army. Dive bombing was a practice which had begun to be put into use during the late 1920s- US Marines had used dive bombing with success in operations in South American in 1928. Dive bombing, which involved diving at a steep angle from a high altitude, was seen as the best means of attaining accurate bombing results against fixed targets, and to a more limited extent against moving targets. The requirement for a dive bomber was issued by Wever’s staff in 1933.[2] Development of a new dive bomber was driven by Ernst Udet, a successful fighter pilot during the First World War who had been impressed enough by an dive bombing demonstration by Curtiss Goshawk Helldivers in the US to buy his own two aircraft. He then carried out a demonstration of his own in Germany, resulting in the dive bomber requirement.[3] Despite concerns from another World War I fighter pilot, Major Wolfram Freiherr von Richtofen (the cousin of the Red Baron), Wever ordered that development of the new dive bomber continue on. The new aircraft would have to be capable of withstanding a dive at 360 miles an hour and have dive brakes to enable a steep pull-out at lower altitudes. It was to be called a Sturzkampfflugzeug (diving combat plane), abbreviated simply to “Stuka”.

            By April 1935, four firms were at work on prototypes- Arado, Blohm and Voss, Heinkel, and Junkers. Among the competing designs included Arado’s Ar 81 biplane, Blohm & Voss’ Ha 137, Heinkel’s He 118 and the Junkers Ju 87.[4] The Ju 87 was designed by a team led by Hermann Pohlmannn. Initially, the aircraft was designed with twin tailfins rather than the single tail structure seen in production models, and was powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine.[5] The first prototype aircraft made its first flight in October 1935. Junkers previous experience with foreign dive bombers proved useful- it surpassed the performance of its competition. However, the development program was not without its problems. In early 1936, the twin-tail design lost control and crashed, killing pilot Willy Neuenhofen and an observer in the rear seat. Subsequently the design was modified to incorporate a single tail fin. Further prototypes would include a sloped nose to improve visibility, a more powerful Jumo 210Ca engine with 675 horsepower, a larger rudder, and revised covers over the landing gear (known as “pants”). The final prototype, the V-4, was put into preproduction as the Ju-87A-0. The last competitor to the Ju 87, the He-118, broke up during a test flight with Ernst Udet at the controls- Udet was forced to bail out.[6] The failure of the Heinkel and success of the Junkers during flight testing ended the competition in favor of the Ju 87.

            While flight testing on the Ju 87 was carried out, Luftwaffe commanders were developing doctrine to use the new aircraft in conjunction with army units. Wever ordered the creation of numerous air-ground liaison positions- officers and communications teams were sent forward on the ground with army units to provide better coordination between aircraft overhead and their ground counterparts. These officers were called Fliegerverbindungsoffizier – frequently shortened to “Flivo”. Flivos frequently collocated their motorized command posts with corps or division headquarters. To help ease the communications between army and air force, Flivos were usually Ju 87 Staffelkapitans- squadron commanders. Overall command of tactical air support was placed under a more senior officer at a local Luftwaffe command- the Nahkampffuhrer, or Close Air Support Leader.[7] Wever also encouraged Luftwaffe units to conduct combined arms training with local army units, and to establish direct communication with the army without first confirming the decision with Luftwaffe High Command, in order to streamline the process. In this way, he hoped that the army would have a better understanding of the air force’s roles and capabilities.[8]

            Many of these practices were put to use during the Spanish Civil War, which would be the Ju 87’s first use in combat. Three Ju 87A-1s were sent to support the Kondor Legion, Germany’s expeditionary forces fighting on the side of Franco’s nationalists and were put to use in ground support and anti-shipping missions.[9] The Stuka’s first mission over Spain came on February 17, 1938.[10] Around the same time, the Luftwaffe began replacing the Ju-87A series, of which some 200 had been built, with the Ju-87B-1. The B-1 Stuka had been improved with Jumo 211Da engine which provided nearly 1200 horsepower. A second 7.92mm MG 17 machine gun was added to the left wing, providing two forward-facing machine guns. The fuselage was strengthened and the tailfin enlarged even further, and the fairings over the landing gear were streamlined. The Ju-87B-1 was capable of carrying one 1,100lbs (500 kg) bomb on the center mount or a 550lbs (250kg) on the center mount and four 110lbs (50kg) bombs on wing racks. The rear gunner retained a 7.92mm MG 15 machine gun mounted in a flexible position to defend the aircraft.[11] The B-1 had a maximum speed of 242mph, a ceiling of over 26,000ft, and a maximum range with a full load of 373 miles.[12] Five Ju 87B-1s were sent to Spain to join the three earlier models. The Kondor Legion appreciated the work of the Stukas, which often flew between two to four missions a day. One Stuka was lost in combat during the Spanish Civil War.[13]

One of the early model Ju-87s flying above Spain. The large fairings and more slender fuselage of the early Stukas is evident in this picture. Source: Wikipedia.

One of the early model Ju-87s flying above Spain. The large fairings and more slender fuselage of the early Stukas is evident in this picture. Source: Wikipedia.

            Despite the highly useful experiences gained in Spain with the Kondor Legion, the Luftwaffe’s policies on tactical air operations and coordination with the army for operations was not made doctrine until further combat experience had been gained during the first two years of World War II. Additionally, while Stukas had been successful in Spain, dive bombers and crewmen to man them were in short supply leading up to the war. In August 1938, the Luftwaffe had 300 authorized slots for dive-bomber crewmen- just 80 were occupied.[14] However, Stuka unit strength was ramped up in the following year. By the time that Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the Luftwaffe had 366 Ju-87s organized into nine Sturzkampfgeschwader (dive bomber wing).  Stuka units were composed of three groups with a headquarters unit. Earlier in 1939, the Luftwaffe’s second Chief of Staff, Hans Jeschonnek, decided to consolidate more than half of that force into a specialized task group called the Nahkampfdivision (close combat division), with the objective of providing close air support to ground units. Curiously, a previous critic of the Stuka, Wolfram von Richthofen was placed in command.[15] Each Stukagruppe (Stuka group) had three Staffeln (squadrons) and one Stab (headquarters flight)- each Gruppe consisted usually of about 40 aircraft, which individual squadrons equipped with about twelve aircraft each.[16] During the final years of the interwar period, the Luftwaffe continued to develop its tactical air power doctrine. Flivos, detached on a temporary basis from their squadrons, began taking part in Wehrmacht exercises in 1937.[17]

            As stated previously, when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, over 350 Stukas were in service with the Luftwaffe. Among the Stuka units which participated in the Poland campaign were I./StG 2, III./StG 51, I./StG 76 and I./ and II./StG 77, which were part of Luftflotte 4.[18] At the outset, the Stuka proved itself as a highly valuable asset in conducting a successful Blitzkrieg. In the opening days of the war, Stukas sank most of the ships in the Polish Navy, annihilated train yards, and attacking enemy units blocking the advance of German infantry and tanks.[19] Stukas encountered relatively little resistance in the air- the Polish Air Force was outnumbered and generally equipped with outdated aircraft which were swept aside by escorting fighters. Eight months after the end of the Polish campaign, Stukas were again a key component in the air campaign, this time against France and the Low Countries. 380 Stukas were concentrated into Fliegerkorps VIII, under the command of Richthofen.[20] By this time, B-model Stukas had been equipped with a prop-driven siren fitted to the landing gear, known as the “Trumpets of Jericho.”[21] The wailing sirens of diving Stukas terrorized Allied troops, bombing them repeatedly as they retreated to Dunkirk. German ground units repeatedly called on the Stukas, with some units flying as many as nine sorties per day. As panzer units outpaced their support elements, the Stukas were increasingly used as a sort of aerial artillery. During the first four days of the invasion of the West, only four Stukas were shot down.[22] At Dunkirk, Stukas were among the principle antagonists which continuously rained bombs down on the BEF as it evacuated, sinking numerous ships in the process. As had been the case in Poland, the success of the Stuka was due in part to the success of Luftwaffe fighter units providing effective escort to the dive bombers. However, the ominous presence of RAF fighters lingered above Dunkirk, providing a glimpse at what was to come during the late summer of 1940. Through June and July, Stukas were primarily engaged in targeted Channel convoys. During July 3-4, 90 Stukas of StG 2 attacked a convoy traveling through the Channel, sinking three ships totaling 10,000 tons without loss.[23] Stukas attacking  shipping operated with escort, but RAF fighters began making their presence known in July. On July 25, a group of Me 109s escorting Stukas were attacked by about 20 Spitfires from three different squadrons- five of the attackers were shot down, but not before two Me 109s and two Stukas were also destroyed.[24] Things became much worse for Stuka crews in August.

The plan, side, and front views of the Ju-87B-2, perhaps the most recognizable Stuka. This was the aircraft which was at the forefront of the Blitzkrieg in Poland, the Low Countries, France, and southern England. Source: Wikipedia.

The plan, side, and front views of the Ju-87B-2, perhaps the most recognizable Stuka. This was the aircraft which was at the forefront of the Blitzkrieg in Poland, the Low Countries, France, and southern England. Source: Wikipedia.

            August 1940 brought a change in targets for the Stukas. Shifting away from Channel convoys, Stukas would now focus on radar stations and military targets inland. In August 1940, the Luftwaffe’s Stuka strength consisted of II./StG 1 and IV./StLG.1 in Luftflotte 2, II Fliegerkorps, while in Luftflotte 3’s VIII Fliegerkorps, the bulk of Stuka units were concentrated- Stab, I., and II./StG 1, Stab, I./, and II./StG 2, and Stab., I./, II./StG 77.[25] At the start of the Battle of Britain, 280 Stukas were serviceable in the Luftwaffe. In August, that figure dropped dramatically. On August 8th, 10 Stukas were shot down by RAF fighters.[26] Five days later, on August 13, thirteen Spitfires from No. 609 Squadron attacked a group of Stukas escorted by Me 109s headed to bomb the RAF airfield at Middle Wallop. “On the way the Spitfires dive through five Me 109s, breaking them up, Pilot Officer D.M. Crook sending one spinning down into a field of fire. The whole Stuka formation broke up with nine falling in flames or with the crews dead… the remaining Ju 87s missed their target, Middle Wallop, and scattered their bombs over three counties.”[27]  The losses would continue on August 15th, with seven shot down, and on the 16th with nine more Stukas lost. A pilot from 5./StG 2 who survived an attack by RAF fighters gave this account:

“The enemy fighters came out of nowhere. The cockard-marked aircraft dive almost vertically against us and we make sharp evasive maneuvers and close our formation even tighter in order to allow the radio operators/rear gunners to give more concentrated fire. They form a dense barrage, which the attackers must pass through. Amidst the cacophony of clattering machine guns, I suddenly hear a shrill cry. “Fighters below!” I turn around quickly and see Spitfires in a steep climb. And what is even worse: I see that my radio operator is badly wounded. His machine gun is unattended. He clenches his teeth, trying to control himself. Through the internal communication, he informs me about each attacking Spitfire. And the attacks seem to never end… This time the Tommies are numerically superior. One after the other breaks through our formation and disappears downwards. Large flames emerge from its hit tank. Shortly afterwards two parachutes blossom in the sky… More automatically than consciously, I control the rudders and we begin the descent towards the airfield. The diving has a calming effect on us. We focus only on our target. From 4,000 meters altitude our aircraft bolt at lightning speed towards the target. The Spitfires have no chance to follow suit. Only now do we discover that the anti-aircraft fire is not moderate at all, but this doesn’t bother us now. We are caught by the strange magic of flying in a steep dive. Our bombs explode in a series of bright flashes. Thick smoke is rising from several hangars. Apparently a fuel storage has also been hit… When we fly back at low altitude above the sea, our Staffel is positioned in the rear of the formation. And suddenly the planes with the peacock eyes under the wings are among us again! The British seem to be completely consumed by combat excitement. A Spitfire that manages to approach quite close to me despite all my evasive maneuvers recovers from a dive too late, hits the water surface and is torn to pieces. But several others have taken its place. Two Spitfires take turns to attack me. The pilots of both these planes seem to have realized that my radio operator is “neutralized.” I try every trick in the book to get rid of my pursuers. Sharp turns is the only thing left available to me. As I perform these desperate turns, I involuntarily touch the mercilessly chased and my aircraft becomes severely damaged. I also am hit… Eventually our own fighters arrive and put an end to the wild fight. Despite the enemy’s numerical superiority, some of our fighter pilots managed to fight their way out and rush to our aid. And the Spitfires, which by that time must have used up most of their ammunition, leave. Finally we can breathe!”[28]

In an effort to stem the losses, Reichsmarschall Herman Goering ordered that every Stukagruppe would be escorted by three fighter Gruppen; one would fly in advance of the bombers to attempt to draw out the RAF fighters, one would fly alongside the Stukas, and the third would provide top cover by flying several thousand feet above.[29] Even with this new policy, losses continued to pile up. On August 16th, two formations of Stuka targeted the RAF sector airfield at Tangmere and the Ventnor radar station. Stukas from Stab and III./StG 1 were successful in their attack on Ventnor radar station knocking it out for a week.[30] The Stukas heading for Tangmere, from I. and III./StG 2, had some success by damaging or destroying a small number of Hurricanes, Blenheims, and a Miles Magister training aircraft. They paid heavily for this small victory- nine Stukas were shot down, another six heavily damaged.[31] The final straw came on August 18th- 85 Stukas from StG 77 headed across the Channel with an escort of 200 Me-109s. Spitfires from No. 234 Squadron attacked the escorting Me-109s, while RAF fighters from other squadrons hit the Stukas. The losses were staggering- StG 77 had 16 Stukas shot down, while another two aircraft crashed on their return to France. Several Me-109s were lost as well.[32] During the whole month of August, 62 Stukas were destroyed.[33] It had become abundantly clear that the in a combat environment where air superiority had not been secured, the Stuka was more of a liability. On August 19th, Goering ordered the transfer of Fliegerkorps VIII out of the combat zone, ostensibly to save the remaining Stukas for the coming invasion of England. With 220 of the 280 Stukas in the Luftwaffe a part of this unit, the withdrawal of Fliegerkorps VIII effectively ended the aircraft’s participation in the battle.[34]

            Despite the obvious obsolescence of the Stuka, development of a replacement dive bomber was not a priority for the Luftwaffe. Instead, Stukas continued to be used in other theaters.

In the Mediterranean, Stuka units continued to demonstrate the dive-bomber’s prowess in the anti-shipping role. The first two Stukagruppen arrived in the theater in 1940 and scored their first success on January 10, 1941 when they scored six hits on the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. Despite serious damage, the carrier was able to limp to Malta, where the Stukas still attempted to sink her. The admiral in command of the carrier, Admiral Cunningham, described the attack of the dive bombers: “I can still see clearly a German bomber diving through that terrific curtain of steel, followed by a Fulmar [Royal Navy fighter]. The bomber dropped his bomb and proceeded to sneak his way out through the harbor entry only a few inches above the water. He was so low that he had to rise to clear the breakwater, which is only some 15 high.”[35] In May 1941, Stukas operated in support of the invasion of Crete in their old role of flying artillery. In operations around Crete, Stukas sank several Royal Navy warships attempting to evacuate troops- the destroyers Juno, Greyhound, Kashmir, Kelly and the cruiser Gloucester were all sunk around the island, while the destroyer Fiji was damaged.[36] However, the Stuka’s success in the Mediterranean corresponded with the lack of enemy fighter opposition, just as it had in Western Europe. Even in the invasion of Crete, 8 Stukas were lost during a three-day period from May 22-May 24.[37] The Stuka’s success in North Africa and the Mediterranean began winding down after numerous aircraft were lost during the siege of Tobruk in late 1941, and the type’s decline in the area only worsened with ever increasing numbers of Allied fighters.[38]

This Ju-87B-2 was captured by British forces in North Africa in 1941. Photo source: Wikipedia.

This Ju-87B-2 was captured by British forces in North Africa in 1941. Photo source: Wikipedia.

This Ju-87 has been damaged in a crash-landing and of parts. With Allied air power becoming ever more powerful, the Stuka found itself  in increasingly hostile skies, in which it could not long survive.

This Ju-87 has been damaged in a crash-landing and of parts. With Allied air power becoming ever more powerful, the Stuka found itself in increasingly hostile skies, in which it could not long survive.

            When Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Stuka was yet again called upon to fulfill the close air support role. At the start of Operation Barbarossa, the Luftflotte had three air fleets, Luftflotten 1, 2, and 4, positioned against the Soviet Union. These Luftflotten had among them 900 dive bombers, including 270 Stukas.[39][40] These dive bombers were heavily used during the opening phases of the invasion to achieve the breaches through which the Wehrmacht’s forces would drive. On the first day of the invasion, it was not uncommon for crews to fly 7-8 missions.[41] As the panzers moved forward, it was a common practice for Stukas to fly above the tanks and wait for targets of opportunity that could be seen from the air or were reported up by the Flivo.[42] Even when the dive bombers were not directly overhead, it generally did not take more than two hours from the time the Flivo made a request for air support to when the Stukas had dropped their bombs.[43] With Soviet fighters either being destroyed on the ground or swept from the air by German fighters, Stukas found success again early in the invasion. From June 24-25, Stukas and level bombers attacked Soviet armored concentrations in the Kuznica-Odelsk-Grodno-Dabrowa region, destroying 105 tanks in the process.[44] In September, Stukas returned to the anti-ship role by attacking Soviet warships in Kronstadt, diving from 15,000 ft at a 70-80 degree before releasing at 1,000 ft to avoid as much anti-aircraft fire as possible. One pilot, Hans-Ulrich Rudel, was able to drop a 1,000kg bomb on the battleship Marat on September 22, blowing the battleship’s bow off and causing it to sink.[45]

            Despite the Stuka’s success in the opening months of Barbarossa, the Luftwaffe quickly found itself becoming stretched thin as the lines lengthened with the advance of the panzers. Initially eager to help their counterparts on the ground, the staff of Luftflotte 4 found that they could not answer every request made by the ground troops; “In view of the manifold tasks of the Air Fleet, the troops must not count on the same type of support that they have grown accustomed to in previous campaigns. Officers and men must be aware that the Luftwaffe may support the operations of Army Group South only in the immediate Schwerpunkt (center of gravity) of the attack. The tendency to call in a Stuka attack at the first sign of enemy resistance must from now on be resisted at all costs.”[46] To help better meet the Wehrmacht’s missions, at the end of the summer of 1941 the posts of Close Air Support Commanders North and South were created.[47]

The Red Air Force’s fragility in the early months of the war gave new life to the Stuka’s combat career. Here a flight of Ju-87Ds fly in tight formation low over a Russian town. Photo source: Wikipedia.

The Red Air Force’s fragility in the early months of the war gave new life to the Stuka’s combat career. Here a flight of Ju-87Ds fly in tight formation low over a Russian town. Photo source: Wikipedia.

As the Russian campaign dragged on, Stukas were forced to weather Russia’s extreme temperatures during winter. This whitewashed Stuka, stained with exhaust and oil from extensive use, would have often required burning an open fire beneath the engine to warm it enough to start. Photo: Wikipedia.

As the Russian campaign dragged on, Stukas were forced to weather Russia’s extreme temperatures during winter. This whitewashed Stuka, stained with exhaust and oil from extensive use, would have often required burning an open fire beneath the engine to warm it enough to start. Photo: Wikipedia.

            By this time, the most-produced version of the Ju 87, the Ju 87D, was arriving at frontline units. This Stuka had the most-powerful engine yet fitted to the type, a 1400-horsepower Junkers Jumo 211J, allowing the Ju 87D to carry up to 1200kg of ordnance. Range was extended by expanding the internal tanks to carry 800L of fuel, with the option of carry 300L wing tanks. Ultimately, 3,639 examples of the Ju 87 would be built.[48] Even with the improvements, the limited number of Stukas at the front could never fully meet the needs of the Wehrmacht, no matter what the state of their maintenance or absence of Soviet fighters. The overtaxed Stukagruppen flew several sorties per day for every aircraft- typical of these units was StG 77, which by July 1942 had flown 30,000 sorties along the Eastern Front.[49] Numerous Stuka pilots amassed sortie totals of over 1,000 mission during the whole of the war on the Eastern Front.[50]

During the Battle of Stalingrad, Stukas were called upon to perform especially-close air support, a necessity of the nature of the close combat taking place in the city. On November 1st, Richthofen, who by now commanded a Luftflotte, remarked in his diary that the Stukas were dropping their bombs within hand-grenade range.[51] For missions against the Soviet positions in buildings such as the infamous tractor factory, Luftwaffe armorers loaded the dive bombers with one armor-piercing 500kg bomb one the centerline mount and a 250kg bomb on each wing.[52] The commander of one Stuka group, Major Hozzel remarked, “We could not risk making a dive-bombing attack from 4,000 meters altitude of the wide area of bomb dispersion. We had to fly a slant range attack, releasing the bombs directly over the roofs. We had to push the bombs into the target like loaves of bread into an oven, with one plane succeeding the other.”[53] Stukas also again performed anti-shipping missions at Stalingrad, strafing and bombing boats bringing Soviet infantry across the Volga River.

The most produced version of the Stuka was the Ju-87D, featuring a more powerful engine. Photo source: Bundesarchiv.

The most produced version of the Stuka was the Ju-87D, featuring a more powerful engine. Photo source: Bundesarchiv.

Another heavily-used Ju-87D taxies back after landing following a mission. Photo source: Bundesarchiv.

Another heavily-used Ju-87D taxies back after landing following a mission. Photo source: Bundesarchiv.

Based on the experiences thus far in the war against the Soviets, the Luftwaffe made further modifications to the Stuka to increase its deadliness alternatively against infantry and tanks. SD-1 and SD-2 containers carrying either 180 2kg or 360 1kg fragmentation devices were developed to be fitted to the underside of the wings to be dropped over troop concentrations and soft-skinned vehicles.[54] Additionally, a final version of the Stuka was developed, the Ju 87G-2. This aircraft completely discarded the role of dive bomber in favor of the anti-tank role. Two 600lbs 37mm cannon pods were attached, one on either wing. These cannons fired tungsten-core shells, specially designed to punch through tank armor. Ju 87G-2s became known as Kanonenvogel (cannon bird) or Panzerknacker (tank cracker).[55] A special unit formed around these Stukas and cannon-armed Henschel Hs-129B in early 1943, called the Versuchskommmando fur Panzerbekampfung (anti-tank command). By the time that the Wehrmacht was ready to launch Operation Citadel (the Battle of Kursk), the two Luftwaffe task forces which would support Wehrmacht operations, the 1st Air Division and 8th German Air Corps, had four and six groups of Ju 87s respectively at the start of July 1943.[56] On the first day of the offensive, Stuka dive bombers were used to attempt to punch a hole in Soviet defenses-

“As they approached high over Butovo, the German dive-bombers began crashing their bombs into the Soviet first line of defense. Then another Staffel came in, and another, then a fourth an fifth and in no time at all 2,500 bombs had been dropped on a strip of ground just two miles long and 500 yards deep. At 1500 the Stukas finished and the German artillery took over.”[57]

The cannon-toting Stukas went to work against the Soviet armor formations, but had limited effects on halting their progress. By this stage in the war, Soviet fighters were attacking German aircraft in ever-increasing numbers, and large numbers of Soviet anti-aircraft guns were making life extremely hazardous for the Stuka pilots- these factors had serious impact on the number of Stukas in operation. By the end of July, the 8th German Air Corps alone had lost 55 Stukas in combat, and another 24 in non-combat accidents.[58]

The Ju-87G-2, with its two 37mm cannons, was pressed into service to stop the flood of Soviet tanks. The armor piercing rounds, with a core of tungsten, were particularly effective. Photo source: Wikipedia.

The Ju-87G-2, with its two 37mm cannons, was pressed into service to stop the flood of Soviet tanks. The armor piercing rounds, with a core of tungsten, were particularly effective. Photo source: Wikipedia.

The serious losses at Kursk spelled the beginning of the end of the use of the Stuka in large numbers. The Luftwaffe began retiring Ju 87s from front-line duties and replacing them with Focke-Wulf FW-190F fighter-bombers, which were faster, could carry a diverse load of ordnance ranging from bombs, rockets and cannons, and could defend themselves more adeptly than the Stukas. On October 18th, the Luftwaffe formally abandoned the previous distinctions it had made between different types of attack units- dive-bombers (Stukagruppen), fighter-bombers (Schlachtgruppen) and anti-tank units (Panzerjagerstaffeln) were reorganized into Schlachtgeschwader.[59] Many Stukas were relegated to training squadrons or to night attack squadrons (Nachtschlachtgruppen) in the face of overwhelming Allied air power. In December 1943, Fliegerkorps IV ended operations as a close air support force and became an exclusively strategic bombing force, further reflecting the Luftwaffe’s recognition that the Stuka was completely inadequate in the face of the Allied air forces facing it on every front.[60] In 1944, the replacement of Stukas with fighter-bombers increased as the German Air Ministry made fighter production the top priority for aircraft construction. By June 1944, of the 19 Schlachtgruppen along the Eastern Front, half were flying FW-190s.[61] As a result, Junkers and its affiliates ceased production of the Ju 87 in September 1944, with a final number of 5,709 aircraft built.[62]

Despite the relegation of most Stukas to duties away from the frontline, the Stuka soldiered on in a limited role during daylight operations. Pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel eventually rose to command a unit equipped with Ju 87G-2s which specialized in attacking tanks. Rudel became the most well-known Stuka pilot of the war- by the end of the war, he had claimed the destruction of 519 tanks, nine aircraft, and several warships. He flew over 2,000 missions along the Eastern Front and was awarded the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds.[63] He was shot down 30 times during the war and wounded 8 times, the most serious of which occurred in February 1945, when his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire which forced the amputation of one of his legs.[64] Surprisingly, Rudel resumed flying in April.[65] An ardent Nazi, Rudel fled to South America after the war and died in 1982. His unit was likely the last to be operating the anti-tank Stukas during the war. One of the Stuka’s last notable combat missions came in March 1945, when Stukas from Nachtschlachtgruppe 2 attacked the American bridgehead at Ludendorff bridge.[66]

One of only two remaining complete Stukas in existence, a Ju-87B-2 which was captured in North Africa in 1943. Today, the aircraft is on display in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois. Photo source: Wikipedia.

One of only two remaining complete Stukas in existence, a Ju-87B-2 which was captured in North Africa in 1943. Today, the aircraft is on display in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Owing to the extreme attrition experienced by Luftwaffe units, only two Stukas remain intact today. One is a Ju 87R-2 Trop, a long-range version of the Ju 87B-2, was found by British forces abandoned in Libya in 1941. After being placed on display for American war bond drives, the aircraft was permanently installed in the Museum of Science of Industry in Chicago- in a fitting move, the museum installed a Spitfire positioned directly behind the Stuka. The second Ju 87 was originally built as a Ju 87D-5 but modified to the Ju 87G-2 standard. The aircraft was captured at the end of the war and placed on display at the RAF Museum at Hendon.[67]

            The Stuka was one of the most effective aerial weapons in the early part of World War II. It remains an important aircraft in the history of military aviation as one of the first aircraft designed for close air support to be placed into production. Equally important was the system developed to ensure that the pilots flying the Stukas coordinated effectively with Wehrmacht troops on the ground, a system which was later duplicated by the British and Americans. However, the Stuka’s most lasting legacy is that of a terror weapon- a wailing siren screaming down from the sky which would be forever remembered by Allied soldiers.

 


Sources

1.      Corum, James S. The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940. University Press of Kansas, 1997.

2.      Goebel, Greg. “The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka.” Air Vectors, 1 July 2004, www.airvectors.net/avstuka.html. Accessed 6 March, 2019

3.      Dwyer, Larry. “Junkers Ju 87 Stuka.” The Aviation History Online Museum, 29 Dec. 2013, www.aviation-history.com/junkers/ju87.html. Accessed 6 March 2019.

4.      Hooton, E. R. War Over the Steppes: The Air Campaigns on the Eastern Front, 1941-1945. Random House, 2016.

5.      Gunston, Bill. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Cresent Books, 1998.

6.      McNab, Chris. Order of Battle: German Luftwaffe in World War II. Amber Books, 2009.

7.      Wood, Tony, and Bill Gunston. Hitler's Luftwaffe: a Pictorial History and Technical Encyclopedia of Hitler's Air Power in World War II. Salamander Books, 1997.

8.      Bergström Christer. The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited. Vaktel Förlag Publishing, 2015.

9.      Weal, John A. Junkers Ju 87: Stukageschwader of North Africa and the Mediterranean. Osprey Pub., 1998.

10.  Brookes, Andrew. Air War Over Russia. Ian Allan Pub., 2003.

11.  Hayward, Joel S. A. Stopped at Stalingrad: the Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East, 1942-1943. University Press of Kansas, 2001.

12.  Trigg, Jonathan. Defeat of the Luftwaffe: the Eastern Front 1941-45, a Strategy for Disaster. Amberley Publishing, 2018.

13.  Khazanov, Dmitriy. Air War Over Kursk: Turning Points in the East. Sam Publications, 2010.

14.  Weal, John. Luftwaffe Schlachtgruppen. Osprey Publishing, 2003.

15.  Holloway, Don. “Hans-Ulrich Rudel: Eagle of the Eastern Front.” HistoryNet, HistoryNet, 1 Feb. 2019, www.historynet.com/hans-ulrich-rudel-eagle-eastern-front.htm. Accessed 6 March 2019















[1] P.138- The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940

[2] P.165- The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940

[3] http://www.aviation-history.com/junkers/ju87.html

[4] http://www.aviation-history.com/junkers/ju87.html

[5] http://www.airvectors.net/avstuka.html

[6] http://www.airvectors.net/avstuka.html

[7] P.35- War over the Steppes: The Air Campaign of the Eastern Front, 1941-45

[8] P.167- The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940.

[9] http://www.airvectors.net/avstuka.html

[10] P.204- The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940

[11] http://www.airvectors.net/avstuka.html

[12] P.208- Fighting Aircraft of World War II

[13] P.207-208- The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940

[14] P.13- Order of Battle: German Luftwaffe in World War II

[15] P.248- The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940

[16] P.13- Order of Battle: German Luftwaffe in World War II

[17] P.247- The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940

[18] P.14- Hitler’s Luftwaffe

[19] http://www.airvectors.net/avstuka.html

[20] P.16- Hitler’s Luftwaffe

[21] http://www.airvectors.net/avstuka.html

[22]P.18- Hitler’s Luftwaffe

[23] P.68- The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited

[24] P.85-86- The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited

[25] P.151- The Narrow Margin: The Battle of Britain and the Rise of Airpower, 1930-1949

[26] P.142- The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited

[27] P.163- The Narrow Margin: The Battle of Britain and the Rise of Airpower, 1930-1949

[28] P.108-109- The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited

[29] P.117- The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited

[30] P.133- The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited

[31] P.133- The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited

[32] P.139- The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited

[33] P.57- Order of Battle: German Luftwaffe in World War II

[34] P.181- The Narrow Margin: The Battle of Britain and the Rise of Airpower, 1930-1949

[35] P.9- Junkers Ju 87 Stukageschwader of North Africa and the Mediterranean

[36] P.38- Junkers Ju 87 Stukageschwader of North Africa and the Mediterranean

[37] P.36- Junkers Ju 87 Stukageschwader of North Africa and the Mediterranean

[38] P.55- Junkers Ju 87 Stukageschwader of North Africa and the Mediterranean

[39] P.45- War Over the Steppes: The Air Campaigns of the Eastern Front, 1941-45

[40] P.24- Air War Over Russia

[41] P.24- Air War Over Russia

[42] P.33- Air War Over Russia

[43] P.72- War Over the Steppes: The Air Campaigns of the Eastern Front, 1941-45

[44] P.40- Air War Over Russia

[45] P.48- Air War Over Russia

[46] P.38- Air War Over Russia

[47] P.52- Air War Over Russia

[48] http://www.aviation-history.com/junkers/ju87.html

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[50] P.50- War Over the Steppes: The Air Campaigns of the Eastern Front 1941-45

[51] P.131- War Over the Steppes: The Air Campaigns of the Eastern Front 1941-45

[52] P.211- Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler’s Defeat in the East, 1942-1943

[53] P.211- Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler’s Defeat in the East, 1942-1943

[54]P.181- The Defeat of the Luftwaffe: The Eastern Front 1941-45- A Strategy for Disaster

[55] http://www.historynet.com/hans-ulrich-rudel-eagle-eastern-front.htm

[56] P.129-130- Air War Over Kursk: Turning Points in the East

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[59] P.185- War Over the Steppes: The Air Campaigns of the Eastern Front 1941-45

[60] P.135-

[61] P.199- War Over the Steppes: The Air Campaigns of the Eastern Front 1941-45

[62] Fighting Aircraft of World War II

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[64] http://www.aviation-history.com/junkers/ju87.html

[65] P.111- Luftwaffe Schlachtgruppen

[66] P.100- Luftwaffe Schlachtgruppen

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Battlefield Visit: Franklin

A post-war illustration of the Battle of Franklin made by the Kurz & Allison company. Photo: Wikipedia.

A post-war illustration of the Battle of Franklin made by the Kurz & Allison company. Photo: Wikipedia.

In late 1864, the situation for the Confederacy was bleak. In the north, Grant had been laying siege to Petersburg, where the Army of Northern Virginia was trapped. In Georgia, John Bell Hood’s Army of the Tennessee had failed to stop William Tecumseh Sherman from taking Atlanta. In an effort to lure Sherman away from the city, Hood launched an ill-advised offensive into Tennessee. In late November, near the town of Franklin, Hood’s army met with disaster.

By Seth Marshall

The Confederacy’s situation in September 1864 was indeed becoming untenable. Since June, Grant’s Army of the Potomac had had Lee bottled up at Petersburg. Sherman took Atlanta on September 2nd. Off the coast, the Union Navy had effectively blockaded the southern coast, cutting off nearly all trade and keeping nearly all of the South’s warships stuck in port. Desertion rates among the South’s armies were increasing, and the Confederacy’s economy was in ruins.

In was in this atmosphere of desperation that Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, the commander of the Army of the Tennessee, decided to mount his offensive into Tennessee. Hood had taken command of the army during the summer and had been in charge of defending Atlanta from Sherman. Though he had inflicted some tactical defeats on the tenacious Union general, he had ultimately failed to prevent the city from being taken. Believing that he could draw Sherman away from Atlanta, he decided that an offensive into Tennessee would lure Sherman into a position where Hood could seize a victory. Hood’s ultimate, highly-ambitious plan was to advance through Tennessee and Kentucky, recruiting additional soldiers as he went, before rendezvousing with Lee to break the siege at Petersburg.[1] This plan was extremely ambitious, and would be overseen by a man who was perhaps not the best to carry it out. John Bell Hood had been born in the small town of Owningsville, Kentucky in 1831. He successfully received an appointment to West Point in 1849, but struggled academically, finishing near the back of his class in 1853. He was assigned to a number of frontier posts through the 1850s and was once wounded by an arrow during a fight with Native Americans. When the Civil War broke out, Hood sided with the Confederacy and was appointed as a first lieutenant in a cavalry unit. He proved himself as a commander, participating in the Peninsula Campaign, the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredricksburg,  Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. At Gettysburg, Hood had lost an arm leading his men in an assault on Little Round Top. He had wounded again three months later at Chickamauga, where he was wounded in the leg so badly that he’d had it amputated. Hood had been a capable division commander, but was not as able as an army commander. During the Atlanta campaign, Hood had shown himself willing to push his army to the point of extreme casualties.[2]

John Bell Hood began his military career with education at West Point. After graduating in 1853, Hood served in outposts in California and Texas as well as as a cavalry instructor at West Point. Curiously, Hood had graduated in the same class as his opposite number, John Schofield. Hood was considered an excellent division and brigade commander; as an officer in the Confederate army, Hood was wounded in the arm at Gettysburg and lost a leg at Chickamauga. He was appointed to command the Army of the Tennessee on July 18, 1864 at the age of 33, the youngest army commander on either side. Photo: Wikipedia.

John Bell Hood began his military career with education at West Point. After graduating in 1853, Hood served in outposts in California and Texas as well as as a cavalry instructor at West Point. Curiously, Hood had graduated in the same class as his opposite number, John Schofield. Hood was considered an excellent division and brigade commander; as an officer in the Confederate army, Hood was wounded in the arm at Gettysburg and lost a leg at Chickamauga. He was appointed to command the Army of the Tennessee on July 18, 1864 at the age of 33, the youngest army commander on either side. Photo: Wikipedia.

John Schofield was born in New York in 1831. A graduate of the same West Point class as John Bell Hood, Schofield became an artillery officer serving in Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. He later served in Florida before returning to West Point as an instructor. Schofield rose steadily through the ranks after the outbreak of the war, attaining various commands in the Western Theater before being appointed commander of the Army of the Ohio on February 9, 1864. Photo: Wikipedia.

John Schofield was born in New York in 1831. A graduate of the same West Point class as John Bell Hood, Schofield became an artillery officer serving in Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. He later served in Florida before returning to West Point as an instructor. Schofield rose steadily through the ranks after the outbreak of the war, attaining various commands in the Western Theater before being appointed commander of the Army of the Ohio on February 9, 1864. Photo: Wikipedia.

Hood’s offensive began in late September-early October with a series of raids in northern Georgia. With 39,000 men in his army, Hood’s Army of the Tennessee was one of the largest remaining armies in the Confederacy, and posed a viable threat to cities in the upper South. When Jefferson Davis inadvertently revealed Hood’s intentions in a speech in Richmond, Grant moved Major General George H. Thomas to Nashville to organize defenses. Hood continued sending raids into Tennessee until late November. Hood’s army finally crossed into Tennessee from Alabama on November 21st, after joining up with Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry force. For several days beginning on November 24th, Hood’s forces began skirmishing with Union forces at Columbia. Hood’s main enemy in the region was Major General John M. Schofield with his army of 30,000 men. In an effort to get into the rear of Schofield’s army, Hood detached Forrest’s cavalry force along with two corps of infantry on a flanking march while leaving behind a sizeable force across the river to tie down Schofield’s men. However, Schofield’s scouts saw this force moving and relayed the information to their commander.[3] Reluctant to believe the reports, Schofield didn’t send two divisions of infantry to hold the turnpike and crossroads at Spring Hill until the morning of November 29th.[4] Schofield’s men arrived just in time at the crossroads- not long after, the Southerners began to attempt to cut off Schofield’s army from the north by seizing the crossroads. However, a series of miscommunications throughout the day and culminating that night after Hood went to bed. As a result, Schofield was able to affect his withdrawal during the night, marching his men 12 miles to the north to Franklin.[5]

When Hood discovered what had happened the following morning, he was livid. He blamed his subordinate commanders for the failure to trap the Union force, writing:

“The best move in my career as a soldier, I was thus destined to behold come to naught. The discovery that the Army, after a forward march of one hundred and eighty miles, was still, seemingly, unwilling to accept battle unless under the protection of breastworks, caused me to experience grave concern. In my inmost heart I questioned whether or not I would ever succeed in eradicating this evil.”[6]

Movements during the Franklin-Nashville campaign leading up to the Battle of Franklin. Photo: Wikipedia.

Movements during the Franklin-Nashville campaign leading up to the Battle of Franklin. Photo: Wikipedia.

Hood’s anger only increased when it was found that rising waters had destroyed the wagon bridge across the Harpeth River, forcing him to wait for a new one to be built. Meanwhile, Schofield had reached Franklin early in the morning. Instead of allowing his men to rest, he quickly ordered them to begin improving fortifications which had initially been dug the previous year. The main Union line, a trench with earthen barriers and wood fortifications, formed a rough crescent to the south of the town, with either flank butting up against the Harpeth River. In the middle of the line, a gap was left to allow still-arriving units to proceed forward. 70 yards behind the front line, a second line was constructed as a fall-back position.[7] Embrasures were cut in the defenses to allow guns to fire from cover- 60 guns in total. Many of these were emplaced on elevated terrain, giving them the ability to provide plunging fire against any foe marching across the fields from the south. Within the Union defenses a number of buildings stood, several belonging to the Carter family. Before the sun had risen, Brigadier General Jacob Cox, a temporary corps commander, woke Fountain Branch Carter. Carter lived in Franklin since 1830 when he built his small house and set to work as a farmer. He lived in the house with his wife Polly and several of their eight living children. Cox moved into Carter’s house, which occupied a small hill, and made it his headquarters. Carter meanwhile moved to the basement and took shelter with the Lotz family and several slaves, and would remain there until after the fighting had halted.

            Still furious with his subordinates, Hood marched his men north as quickly as he could. Arriving south of Franklin in mid-afternoon, Hood ordered his commanders to assault the Union position with first reconnoitering the position. His junior commanders protested, which only caused Hood to imply cowardice was the reason for their reluctance.[8] Hood even refused to wait for Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee’s corps to catch up with the rest of the army, even though Lee still had the bulk of the Confederate artillery.[9] As a result, Hood’s infantry would be approaching the heavily fortified Union positions across two miles of open terrain without the support of massed artillery fire. Hood’s attack began at around 4PM.[10]

This is the view which would have appeared to Union defenders in 1864. The Confederates had to march across open terrain for nearly two miles before finally coming up to the Union line. Photo: Warfare History Network.

This is the view which would have appeared to Union defenders in 1864. The Confederates had to march across open terrain for nearly two miles before finally coming up to the Union line. Photo: Warfare History Network.

Hood’s army begins its assault at 4PM, approaching from the south. Photo: Wikipedia.

Hood’s army begins its assault at 4PM, approaching from the south. Photo: Wikipedia.

            Almost as soon as the Confederates were within range, they came under heavy Union cannon and musket fire and began taking casualties. Despite the losses the Confederates were taking, the Union’s defenses were nearly undone by two Union brigades commanded by Brigadier General George Wagner, which had been positioned as an advance guard half a mile in front of the main Union line. Wagner’s men were quickly overwhelmed and began retreating straight into the defensive positions. Seeing blue-clad troops mixed in with the approaching mass of grey, many Union troops in the front lines held their fire. As a result, Confederate soldiers from Major General Benjamin Cheatham’s corps began penetrating the initial line of trenches. Several northern units turned and ran as positions were overwhelmed. East of the main road, a position which contained a battery of Kentucky artillery and supported by the 100th and 104th Ohio regiments was overrun and forced to retreat.[11] It was at this juncture that the third of Wagner’s brigades stepped in to plug the gap. Brigadier General Emerson Opdycke was a headstrong commander who had refused to obey orders to position his men on the opposite side of the road as Wagner’s other two brigades. After taking significant casualties during the rear guard action at Spring Hill, Opkycke had no patience for taking a position he saw as untenable, and moved his men to the rear of the fortifications to rest, eat, and have some coffee. Subsequently, Wagner told Opdycke he could fight in reserve as he saw fit.[12]

            By this time, the Confederates, doggedly determined to push forward heedless of their losses, had captured a 200-yard section of the line stretching from the Carter farm’s cotton gin to a locust grove west of the road. Approximately 15-17 Union regiments had been driven back, many in a rout. At this critical moment, Opdycke, positioned 200 yards north of Carter House, drew his revolver and ordered his men forward to plug the gap with a cry of, “First Brigade, forward into the works!”[13] Opdycke’s earlier frustration proved fortunate- his brigade closed the gap and allowed the Union lines to stabilize- many soldiers who had retreated earlier now returned and began supporting Opdycke. Opdycke’s men and the stragglers pushed forward into the trenches from the Carter yard, shooting and bayoneting Confederates who stood in their way. Men from Cox’s and Wagner’s units rallied around Opdycke’s brigade and formed a group of troops four to five ranks deep and began firing muskets as rapidly as possible, passing them backwards to be reloaded by the men in the rear.[14] Against this wall of fire, the Confederates could not hold their ground- many began falling back to the main Union line, seeking cover.

Colonel Emerson Opdycke was a headstrong brigade commander who had been born in Ohio in 1830. He fought at Shiloh, Chickamauga, Chatanooga, and in the Atlanta campaign. Opdycke’s refusal to follow his division commander’s orders ultimately proved a godsend- his brigade formed a reserve which plunged into the gap punched in Union lines by the Confederate assault. Photo: Wikipedia.

Colonel Emerson Opdycke was a headstrong brigade commander who had been born in Ohio in 1830. He fought at Shiloh, Chickamauga, Chatanooga, and in the Atlanta campaign. Opdycke’s refusal to follow his division commander’s orders ultimately proved a godsend- his brigade formed a reserve which plunged into the gap punched in Union lines by the Confederate assault. Photo: Wikipedia.

Hood’s Army assaults the Union line from 5-9PM. Photo: Wikipedia.

Hood’s Army assaults the Union line from 5-9PM. Photo: Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, a salient had developed near the cotton gin in the Carter yard, around which many southerners were clustered. As the Confederates near the Carter house fell back, a stalemate began to develop in the lines. Southern forces tried to assault other portions of the Union line in an effort to push forward- the division of Major General Edward Walthall along with a brigade under Brigadier General William Quarles charged against the defensive positions of Colonel John Casement just to the east of the cotton gin. These positions had been fortified with a thick abates, and the shrubs to the front of the position had been cut down, giving the infantrymen an excellent field of fire. Making matters worse for the Confederates was the fact that some of the Union troops were armed with repeating rifles- soon, scores of killed or wounded Confederate soldiers were piled upon one another. Having taking horrid losses, the remnants of this southern attack moved west towards the cotton gin. There, Union troops from a division commanded by Brigadier General James Reilly were holding against an attack by Southern Brigadier General Charles Shelley.[15] At this position, a formidable Union artillery position consisting of two 12-pounder Napoleons of the 6th Ohio Light Battery under Lieutenant A.P. Baldwin were firing point blank into the charging Confederates.[16] A captain at that position described the scene:

“I went to a gun of the 6th Ohio Battery, posted a short distance east of the cotton gin… the mangled bodies of the dead rebels were piled up as high as the mouth of the embrasure, and the gunners said that repeatedly when the lanyard was pulled the embrasure was filled with men, crowding forward to get in, who were literally blown from the mouth of the cannon… [Lieutenant] Baldwin of this battery has stated that as he stood by one of his guns, watching the effect of its fire, he could hear the smashing of bones when the missiles tore their way through the dense ranks of the approaching rebels.”[17]

The Confederate soldiers were equally horrified by their losses; one Tennessee soldier wrote, “O, my God! What did we see! It was a grand holocaust of death. Death had held high carnival… The dead were piled the one on the other all over ground. I never was so horrified and appalled in my life.”[18] Despite the devastating losses, Hood was determined to press forward. He continued committing men in piecemeal attacks- these units were shredded by the Union defenses. One unit, the brigade of Brigadier General Francis Cockrell was obliterated on the western side of the Union line, sustaining 60% casualties to its 687-man strength.[19]

The Carter family cotton gin, around which a salient formed in the Union line and for which so many Confederates died attempting to take. The structure was so severely damaged that it had to be destroyed not long after the battle. The ground on which it stood was formerly occupied by a Pizza Hut, but today is preserved as a battlefield park. Photo: Warfare History Network.

The Carter family cotton gin, around which a salient formed in the Union line and for which so many Confederates died attempting to take. The structure was so severely damaged that it had to be destroyed not long after the battle. The ground on which it stood was formerly occupied by a Pizza Hut, but today is preserved as a battlefield park. Photo: Warfare History Network.

            Eventually, Union troops gained control of the cotton mill and used it to fire directly into the flanks of Confederate troops to the sides, incurring even more casualties. Refusing to admit defeat, Hood continued to commit more men. By this time, it was long dark, and the only visible signs of the battle were the flashes of cannon and musketfire.  One of the many losses that night was Captain Tod Carter, a quartermaster with the brigade of Brigadier General Gist, and one of the sons of Fountain Branch Carter, the owner of the home that seemed the centerpoint of the battle. Carter had joined the 20th Tennessee infantry when the war began and had seen action at numerous battles including Missionary Ridge, and had even escaped captivity after being captured at Missionary Ridge. Now, as his brigade was shot to pieces, Carter rode forward on horseback trying to rally the men around him- only to be shot nine times, mortally wounded only 530 feet from the home he had grown up in. After the battle, Carter’s family found him on the battlefield and carried him inside, where he died on December 2nd.[20]

Major General Patrick Cleburne leads his men in the charge at Franklin. His horse was shot out from under him, and he would be last seen charging on foot, sword in hand. His body was later found just inside Union lines. Photo: Don Troiani.

Major General Patrick Cleburne leads his men in the charge at Franklin. His horse was shot out from under him, and he would be last seen charging on foot, sword in hand. His body was later found just inside Union lines. Photo: Don Troiani.

Captain Fountain Branch Carter was mortally wounded just a few hundred yards from his childhood home- he would die there two days later. Photo: Battle of Franklin Trust.

Captain Fountain Branch Carter was mortally wounded just a few hundred yards from his childhood home- he would die there two days later. Photo: Battle of Franklin Trust.

            Hood committed his last available reserve to attack at 9PM- the 2700 men under Mejor General Edward Johnson’s division. Advancing by torchlight, Johnson’s men got as far as the first line of Union trenches before they were met with tremendous cannon and musket fire. Over the course of an hour, Johnson’s division suffered 587 casualties before they withdrew. By 11PM, the shooting had stopped and the only sounds remaining were the groans of the wounded spread across the battlefield.[21] By midnight, Schofield ordered his men to begin withdrawing towards Nashville, 25 miles to the north. By 3 AM, the last of the Union defenders had withdrawn from the area.[22]

            Confederate losses at Franklin were appalling. Hood had gotten around 27,000 of his men into the fight- he had taken over 5500 casualties, including 1,750 killed- a casualty rate of 20.6%, the 8th costliest battle of the war for the South.[23] Historian James McPherson wrote of the battle:

“Hood had lost more men killed at Franklin than Grant at Cold Harbor or McClellan in all of the Seven Days. A dozen Confederate generals fell at Franklin, six of them killed, including Cleburne and a fire-eating South Carolinian by the name of States Rights Gist. No fewer than fifty-four southern regimental commanders, half of the total, were casualties.”[24]

Hood had lost more men at Franklin than Lee had during Picket’s charge on July 3, 1863- there, Lee had lost over 1400 killed.[25] Major General Patrick Cleburne, mentioned in the above McPherson quote, had been a well-known leader who had risen through the ranks after enlisting as a Private at the beginning of the war. He had tried to lead his men from the front against Opdycke, but was fatally wounded after having two horses shot from under him- the following day, he was supposedly found with 49 bullet wounds.[26] Against these losses, the Union had gotten off relatively lightly- 2,326 casualties, including 189 killed.[27] Hood would blame his subordinates for the abject failure, writing extensively of the defeat in his postwar memoirs and insisting that despite his grievous losses in front of Franklin, his tactics had been sound and trenchworks were not the future of war:

“General Lee never made us of entrenchments, except for the purpose of holding a part of his line with small force, whilst he assailed the enemy with the main body of his Army… He well knew that the constant use of breastworks would teach his soldiers to look and depend upon such protection as an indispensable source of strength; would imperil that spirit of devil-me-care independence and self-reliance which was one of their secret sources of power, and would, finally, impair the morale of his Army… a soldier cannot fight for a period of one or two months constantly behind breastworks… and then be expected to engage in pitched battle and prove as intrepid and impetuous as his brother who has been taught to rely solely upon his own valor. The latter, when ordered to charge and drive the enemy, will- or endeavor to- run over any obstacle he may encounter in his front; the former, on account of his undue appreciation of breastworks…, will be constantly on the look-out for such defenses. His imagination will grow vivid under bullets and bombshells, and a brush-heap will so magnify itself in dimension as to induce him to believe that he is stopped b a wall ten feet high and a mile in length. The consequence of his troubled imagination is that, if too proud to run, he will lie down, incur almost equal disgrace, and prove himself nigh worthless in a pitched battle.”[28]

Whatever Hood’s excuses may have been, his career in the Confederate Army was not long for existence. Two weeks after the end of the Battle of Franklin, what remained of Hood’s army was destroyed at the Battle of Nashville. The survivors retreated back across the Tennessee state line, and Hood resigned from his post in January 1865, and did not hold another command for the rest of the war.

            In the wake of the battle, the Carter family farm, the land on which the battle had been fought, never truly recovered. Hundreds of bodies were piled up in the yard and near the cotton gin, which had been riddled with countless bullets. The farm was eventually sold off by the family in 1896, passed through several hands before being bought by the state of Tennessee and is today preserved as a historical house. Today, visitors to Franklin may visit the Carter House along with several other remaining structures from the battle. The Battle of Franklin Trust (BOFT) is an organization which has dedicated itself to preserving as much of the battlefield as possible. In the years since the battle, urban development overtook much of the site. The BOFT has however had success in saving and preserving some tracts of land where the battle was fought. In 2006, an old Pizza Hut near the Carter House was raised and the property purchased- it now exists as a small park- immediately south across the street is a pile of cannonballs indicating the rough location where General Cleiburne is believed to have fallen. BOFT built a small museum and visitor center near the Carter House- visitors may purchase tickets which will allow them access to the Carter House, Lotz House, and Carnton Plantation. The Carter House has been well-preserved, with much of the original furniture remaining in the building along with some important artifacts, including the field desk of General Cox. The southern face of the house and its neighboring out-buildings remain pockmarked with bullet and shrapnel marks- the wooden office building is particularly sobering- here, holes in the southern wall align with holes on the northern side where bullets blasted their way completely through the building. Across the street to the east is the Lotz House; the author did not go inside the house during his visit, however, the house has been turned into a small museum. About two miles east is Carnton, a plantation on the eastern flank of the battlefield which was made an impromptu hospital. Approximately 20-30 acres surrounding the former plantation have been preserved as a battlefield park, with walking paths and placards placed throughout the field. Just to the northwest of the house is the Confederate cemetery- the McGavoks gave two acres of their property to be used  as a burial site for nearly 1500 soldiers in 1866. I did not have time to visit Carnton before it closed for the day, but the house appears to have been well-preserved, and a second visitor center is located just outside. Guided tours are offered in various packages for all three locations, though it should be noted for those interested in traveling to the site that indoor photography is not allowed. The three sites are open seven days a week, with shorter hours during the weekend- prices vary based on the number of sites visitors wish to visit, from about $20 for a guided tour of Carter House up to nearly $50 for a bundled package for all three locations.

            Despite the urban growth of Franklin in the intervening 150 years, the sites which have been preserved have conveyed some sense of the importance of the battle, and have particularly shown how the residents of Franklin weathered that battle. However, the changes in terrain around where the fighting occurred has also made it somewhat difficult to imagine the difficulties that the Confederates faced in taking the Union position, as well as making it hard to imagine the heaps of corpses which were piled around Carter House and the cotton gin. Only the scarred structures on the Carter property bear testimony to the ferocity of the battle and the desperation with which it was fought.

The Carter House. Built in 1830, this building has been converted into a house museum and furnished with as much period furniture as possible- much of it is original to the family. Among the most remarkable artifacts inside is General Schofield’s field desk. The southern face of the building is pockmarked with numerous bullet and shrapnel holes. The house is open for tours, though it should be noted that no photography is allowed inside. Photo: Author.

The Carter House. Built in 1830, this building has been converted into a house museum and furnished with as much period furniture as possible- much of it is original to the family. Among the most remarkable artifacts inside is General Schofield’s field desk. The southern face of the building is pockmarked with numerous bullet and shrapnel holes. The house is open for tours, though it should be noted that no photography is allowed inside. Photo: Author.

Impact marks on one of the outhouses on the Carter property. Photo: author.

Impact marks on one of the outhouses on the Carter property. Photo: author.

The Carter family office building- this structure is the most telling of all the buildings in the property- several bullets clearly penetrated completely through one side and out the other- the inside of the building shines with numerous rays from the hundreds of holes in the walls. Photo: Author.

The Carter family office building- this structure is the most telling of all the buildings in the property- several bullets clearly penetrated completely through one side and out the other- the inside of the building shines with numerous rays from the hundreds of holes in the walls. Photo: Author.

Immediately to the east of Carter House is the turnpike which the Confederates were advancing from the south on. This road still runs to Nashville, though it has of course been modernized several times over the years. Additionally, compared with the black and white photo early in this article, you can see how much the terrain has changed in 154 years- it has become much more developed and wooded, a far cry from the open fields of 1864. Photo: Author.

Immediately to the east of Carter House is the turnpike which the Confederates were advancing from the south on. This road still runs to Nashville, though it has of course been modernized several times over the years. Additionally, compared with the black and white photo early in this article, you can see how much the terrain has changed in 154 years- it has become much more developed and wooded, a far cry from the open fields of 1864. Photo: Author.

Three cannons stand along the area where the Union line once was. This is the property which was purchased by the Battle of Franklin Trust about 13 years ago following the demolition of the Pizza Hut which formerly stood on the site. About 150 meters in front of these cannons is a marker placed at the site where Cleburne’s body was found. Photo: Author.

Three cannons stand along the area where the Union line once was. This is the property which was purchased by the Battle of Franklin Trust about 13 years ago following the demolition of the Pizza Hut which formerly stood on the site. About 150 meters in front of these cannons is a marker placed at the site where Cleburne’s body was found. Photo: Author.

A view from just south of the preserved park, looking north- this would have been just south of the main Union line. Photo: Author.

A view from just south of the preserved park, looking north- this would have been just south of the main Union line. Photo: Author.

Just to the northeast of the battlefield is the remains of Fort Granger, a fortification built during the war. John Schofield set up his headquarters here and observed the battle’s progress. Guns here provided fire support to the Union line and hammered the Confederates as they approached Franklin from the south. The fort is open to the public and has several placards discussing the fort’s history. Photo: Author.

Just to the northeast of the battlefield is the remains of Fort Granger, a fortification built during the war. John Schofield set up his headquarters here and observed the battle’s progress. Guns here provided fire support to the Union line and hammered the Confederates as they approached Franklin from the south. The fort is open to the public and has several placards discussing the fort’s history. Photo: Author.

This viewpoint from Fort Granger is likely where Schofield watched his army defend Franklin. From here, he would have had a clear view of nearly the entire Union defensive positions and could make adjustments according to Confederate actions. Photo: Author.

This viewpoint from Fort Granger is likely where Schofield watched his army defend Franklin. From here, he would have had a clear view of nearly the entire Union defensive positions and could make adjustments according to Confederate actions. Photo: Author.

Carnton Plantation, used as a field hospital by the Confederates, is also open to the public. Immediately after the war, the McGavoks, who owned the plantation, donated some of the property for use as a cemetery- nearly 1500 Confederate soldiers are buried here who were killed at Franklin. The land to the north of Carnton is also a battlefield park, with walking paths  marked with placards crisscrossing the field in front of the house. Photo: Wikipedia.

Carnton Plantation, used as a field hospital by the Confederates, is also open to the public. Immediately after the war, the McGavoks, who owned the plantation, donated some of the property for use as a cemetery- nearly 1500 Confederate soldiers are buried here who were killed at Franklin. The land to the north of Carnton is also a battlefield park, with walking paths marked with placards crisscrossing the field in front of the house. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

1.       Keegan, John. The American Civil War: a Military History. Vintage Books, 2010.

2.       McPherson, James M. The Oxford History of the United States, Volume VI: Battle Cry of Freedom; the Civil War Era. Oxford University Press, 1988.

3.       Hattaway, Herman, and Archer Jones. How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War. Univ. of Illinois Press, 2006.

4.       Murray, Williamson, and Wayne Wei-sang Hsieh. A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War. Princeton University Press, 2016.

5.       McWhiney, Grady, and Perry D. Jamieson. Attack and Die: Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage. University of Alabama Press, 1984.

6.       “The Battle of Franklin.” The Battle of Franklin Trust. 2018. https://boft.org/history Accessed 12 June 2018

7.       Walker, John. “The Battle of Franklin: John Bell Hood’s Catastrophic Defeat in Tennesseee.” Warfare History Network, Sovereign Media, 28 Apr. 2017, warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/. Accessed 12 June 2018.

8.       “10 Facts: The Battle of Franklin.” American Battlefield Trust, History Channel, 13 Mar. 2018, www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/10-facts-battle-franklin . Accessed 12 June 2018.

9.       Robinson, Carole. “Capt. Tod Carter's Tragic Death, a Life Lost Too Soon.” Williamson Herald, Blox Content Management System, 15 Nov. 2014. www.williamsonherald.com/features/special_sections/article_95d0431c-6d3c-11e4-9649-b7cb10965903.html . Accessed 16 August 2018.

10.   “John Bell Hood Biography.” Civil War Home, CivilWarTalk Network, 1997, www.civilwarhome.com/hoodbio.html . Accessed 12 June 2018.


[1] P.276- The American Civil War: A Military History

[2] https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/john-b-hood

[3] P.812- Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

[4] P.812- Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War era

[5] P.646- How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War

[6] P.453- A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War

[7] https://warefarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/

[8] P.812- Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

[9] P.646- How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War

[10] https://boft.org/history

[11] https://warefarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/

[12] https://warefarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/

[13] https://warefarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/

[14] https://warefarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/

[15] https://warefarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/

[16] https://warefarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/

[17] P.456- A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War

[18] P.5- Attack and Die: Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage

[19] https://warefarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/

[20] http://www.williamsonherald.com/features/special_sections/article_95d0431c-6d3c-11e4-9649-b7cb10965903.html

[21] https://warefarehistorynetwork.com/daily/civil-war/the-battle-of-franklin-john-bell-hoods-catastrophic-defeat-in-tennessee/

[22] P.647- How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War

[23] P.11- Attack and Die: Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage

[24] P.812-813- Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

[25] https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/10-facts-battle-franklin

[26] P. 455- A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War

[27] P. 647- How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War

[28] P. 164- Attack and Die: Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage

Tools of War: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

When thinking of aerial warfare, it is common to recall the glamorous and sleek fighters that engaged in tumbling dogfights high above the earth. Several such aircraft are remembered include the P-51 Mustang, the Me-109, the Spitfire, and the A6M Zero. However, the Second World War also saw the rise of fighter bombers, aircraft which would take on multiple roles, including that of supporting advancing ground troops. The best example from that war was the Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt”.

A New Zealand P-47D runs up its engine. Photo source: Wikipedia.

A New Zealand P-47D runs up its engine. Photo source: Wikipedia.

By Seth Marshall

                In the late 1930s, as war clouds gathered on the horizon, leaders of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) recognized that their existing fighter aircraft were outdated and would be unable to compete with the modern fighters that were being developed and seeing early combat over Europe at the time. Their response was to ask multiple aircraft firms to submit their proposals for fighter designs. One of the many companies to answer the call was Republic Aviation. Though Republic’s name was a new one in the aircraft industry, it was actually the successor to the Seversky Aero Corporation. Seversky was founded in 1931 by a Russian emigre, Alexander de Seversky. Seversky had designed two fighter aircraft, the P-35 and the P-43.

A Seversky P-43 Lancer in pre-war markings. The design already shares the jug-shaped fuselage which would distinguish the P-47. Photo: Wikipedia.

A Seversky P-43 Lancer in pre-war markings. The design already shares the jug-shaped fuselage which would distinguish the P-47. Photo: Wikipedia.

The P-35, a stubby radial-engined fighter, was a notable step forward for the USAAC, with its all-metal construction, retractable landing gear, and enclosed cockpit. The P-43 Lancer was a follow-on to the P-35; designed by Seversky’s head engineer, a Georgian émigré named Alexander Kartveli, the P-43 was powered by a 1200-horsepower Pratt & Whitney which could allow the fighter to reach a maximum speed of 356 mph at 20,000 feet. However, the P-43 had primarily been marketed as an export fighter- of the 272 built, 51 were delivered to China, while still others were delivered to European countries.[1] Those that did see US service were considered obsolete almost from the time they were delivered. As a result,  and in order to fulfill a 1939 USAAC request for a high-altitude interceptor, the Seversky design team began working on a new fighter which would incorporate the experiences gained from working on the P-35 and P-43.

By this time, Seversky Aero Corporation had been renamed Republic Aviation. The founder, Seversky himself, had been ousted while in Europe in 1939 by a company board vote. The new aircraft would be again designed by Kartveli. Kartveli’s creation featured many characteristics shared with the P-43- it would be powered by a large radial engine and feature a coke-bottle-shaped fuselage. Kartveli’s first design was actually finished before the USAAC request was issued- the P-47A would be powered by a 1,150-horsepower Allison engine and armed with two .50 caliber machine guns. The USAAC request called for an aircraft which could fly at 400 mph at 25,000 ft, carry an armament of six .50 caliber machine guns, carry armor-plating for pilot protection, be equipped with self-sealing fuel tanks, and be capable of carrying 315 gallons of fuel.[2] Based on these specifications, the existing P-47A design was already outdated. As a result, Kartveli had to immediately set about upgrading the new aircraft. After revisions, Kartveli’s P-47B was powered by a 2,000-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp radial engine equipped with a turbo supercharger, a three-bladed propeller, and eight .50 caliber machine guns. Owing to the ducting required to drive the turbo supercharger at altitude, the P-47’s size was tremendous.  When fully loaded, the new fighter would weigh over 12,000 lbs, far heavier than contemporary fighters. The new design seemed promising, enough so that the USAAC placed an order in September 1940.

The XP-47B first flew on May 6, 1941, with Lowry L. Brabham at the controls. The first flight did not go as planned- Brabham had to make an emergency landing because of exhaust fumes leaking into the cockpit. However, the performance of the enormous new aircraft was better than Kartveli had hoped for- the XP-47B could achieve 412 mph at over 20,000 feet, and it could climb to 15,000 feet in five minutes. However, in addition to the fume problem, there were other issues. After the first production P-47s began to be delivered to the USAAF in March 1942, one of the new fighters crashed into a golf course on March 26, 1942, killing the pilot. It was determined that the tail assembly had broken off in flight- further investigation found that at high altitudes, the fabric-covered control surfaces would burst, eliminating their effectiveness, and the canopy could not be opened, trapping the pilot. Eventually, the problem was solved by using all-metal construction for the control surfaces, reshaping them, and adding trim tabs for additional control.[3] The canopy was replaced with a new one which could be jettisoned by the pilot in the event he needed to bail out. In spite of a turbulent testing period, the USAAF placed an initial order for 171 P-47Bs and 602 P-47Cs.[4]

In mid-1942, the 56th Fighter Group, based at Farmingdale, New York, was chosen as the first fighter group to be equipped with the P-47. This decision was primarily made owing to the proximity of the group to the Republic Aviation factory. The 56th had a very difficult period of breaking in their new mounts- during training, 41 P-47Bs were lost and 13 pilots killed. Though pilot error was a problem in some cases, many crashes were caused by continual teething problems. One phenomena which was encountered by P-47 pilots was compressability, a previously unknown occurrence. During a high-speed dive, air moving across the control surfaces becomes more dense, preventing control surfaces from being effective. Additional, air can be traveling at supersonic speeds across various surfaces while the aircraft itself is subsonic. This can cause buffeting, and can potentially lead to the aircraft breaking up in flight.[5]  Eventually, these problems were overcome with the installation of dive flaps, making the P-47 a safer aircraft.[6]

The 56th Fighter ultimately proved to be the first Thunderbolt-equipped fighter group to be sent overseas. Two other Fighter Groups, the 78th and the 4th, had preceded the 56th in deploying- both of these units converted to P-47s not long afterwards. This was done, in the case of the 78th, because it had lost most of the P-38s with which it had been formed to the North African theater. Pilots in the 78th and the 4th were unimpressed by their new aircraft, which they derided as “seven-ton milk bottles.” This would eventually lead the Thunderbolt’s nickname- the “Jug.”[7]

A trio of P-47Cs from the 56th Fighter Group prepare to take off in late 1942 or early 1943 (indicated by the yellow ring around the roundels on the fuselage). Photosource: Wikipedia.

A trio of P-47Cs from the 56th Fighter Group prepare to take off in late 1942 or early 1943 (indicated by the yellow ring around the roundels on the fuselage). Photosource: Wikipedia.

The P-47’s first operational missions occurred in March 1943 and were relatively uneventful. These flights were really training flights over German-occupied territory, intended more to give their pilots experience than to target German aircraft. However, with the Luftwaffe’s strength in the West being what it was at that time, these flights did not remain quiet for long. On April 15, 1943, a flight of P-47s from the 4th Fighter Group encountered a group of Focke-Wulfe FW-190s. Former Eagle Squadron pilot Don Blakeslee caught up with one of the German fighters in a dive and shot it down, scoring the Thunderbolt’s first victory. However, the former Spitfire pilot was not overly enthused with the aircraft, remarking, “It oughta dive, it sure can’t climb.”[8]

Blakeslee’s comment was not entirely wrong. At the high altitudes that it was built for, the P-47 would prove that it was generally superior to Luftwaffe aircraft. However, at lower altitudes, it was found that the German aircraft had both superior turn and climb rates. Owing to its weight and powerful engine, it was found that at lower altitudes, the P-47’s best tactic was diving. Despite its shortcomings, the Thunderbolt was quickly pressed into service as a bomber escort. The first escort mission took place on May 4, 1943, when 117 P-47s from all three P-47 groups escorted 8th Air Force B-17s and B-24s to bomb Antwerp and Paris.[9] On these early missions, early model P-47s had mixed results. When they did engage German fighters, they had modest success. However, these P-47s did not have the range to escort their bombers all the way to targets inside of German, and had to turn back near the German border. As a result, the Luftwaffe simply had to wait until the bombers’ escort had turned for home, then they would pounce. As 1943 went on, 8th Air Force bomber losses became appalling; two raids on Schweinfurt on August 17th and October 17th respectively resulted in the loss of 60 bombers each. Until fighters with longer range could be made more readily available, stopgap solutions with the P-47 would have to be found. The best option seemed to be the addition of drop tanks. The first Thunderbolt mission with drop tanks to extend range was on July 28th, 1943 to Oschersleben and Kassel. Initially, large 200-gallon ferry tanks were used, but these were unpressurized and could not be used at altitudes above 23,000 feet. This resulted in a switch to 75-gallon teardrop-shaped tanks, which were more suitable. A third version emerged in the fall of 1943 with a centerline 108-gallon tank. This configuration finally allowed Thunderbolts to escort the bombers all the way to the target on September 27th, when the 8th Air Force hit Emden.[10] Additional improvements to the fighter’s design were made to continually improve its performance. The P-47D-20-RE saw a number of improvements: the so-called “universal wing,” designed to carry a variety of ordnance (which would greatly enhance its lethality as a fighter bomber), a four-bladed “paddle” propeller to improve rate of climb (now up to 2,750 feet per minute), and the water-injection R-2800-21 engine, which had a war emergency rating of 2300 horsepower.[11]

A P-47D from the 460th Fighter Squadron equipped with a centerline tank in flight over the Pacific, likely the Philippines. The aircraft has probably completed a ground attack mission, as its bomb racks are empty. Photo source: Wikipedia.

A P-47D from the 460th Fighter Squadron equipped with a centerline tank in flight over the Pacific, likely the Philippines. The aircraft has probably completed a ground attack mission, as its bomb racks are empty. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Around the same time period that the first P-47 units were being sent to Europe, additional fighter groups were formed and sent to the Pacific. The first of these was the 348th Fighter Group, which was made a part of the 5th Air Force in the Southwest Pacific. Under the leadership of LTC Neel Kirby, this unit demonstrated the potential of the P-47 as a fighter bomber over New Guinea. Two additional groups, the 35th and 48th, replaced their P-40s and P-39s with Thunderbolts soon after. Just as in Europe, the P-47s range was found to be an issue, particularly given the distances involved in flying from island to island in the Pacific. Drop tanks were again used as the solution- eventually, 5th Air Force technicians developed 200-gallon tanks to help cope with the problem.[12] Additional help in the Pacific came in the form of aviation legend Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh had been fulfilling the role of civilian consultant to the military by advising Pacific units on how best to maximize their aircraft’s range. He had previously worked with F4U Corsair and P-38 Lightning units.

Col. Neel Kearby, the highest-scoring P-47 ace in the Pacific. Flying with the 348th Fighter Group, Kearby racked up 21 kills by March 1944 over the South Pacific. On March 5th, Kearby was on a mission near Wewak when he encountered a formation of Japanese Ki-43 fighters. After shooting down one, Kearby himself was shot down and killed. The remains of his P-47D, Fiery Ginger IV, are on display in the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Col. Neel Kearby, the highest-scoring P-47 ace in the Pacific. Flying with the 348th Fighter Group, Kearby racked up 21 kills by March 1944 over the South Pacific. On March 5th, Kearby was on a mission near Wewak when he encountered a formation of Japanese Ki-43 fighters. After shooting down one, Kearby himself was shot down and killed. The remains of his P-47D, Fiery Ginger IV, are on display in the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Photo source: Wikipedia.

A Mexican Air Force P-47D in flight over the Philippines in early 1945. Photo source: Wikipedia.

A Mexican Air Force P-47D in flight over the Philippines in early 1945. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Back in Europe, Thunderbolt escort missions continued. By early 1944, Thunderbolts were carrying 150-gallon tanks to escort their charges all the way to their targets in Germany. During the third week of February 1944, known as “Big Week”, P-47s were used extensively in escort missions. On February 20, 1944, for example, 668 Thunderbolts escorted over 1,000 heavy bombers. Combined with additional protection from P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs, Thunderbolts wreaked havoc on the Luftwaffe’s strength in western Europe, causing large losses which temporarily forced the Luftwaffe from the skies.[13] Improvements were continually made to the big fighter in an effort to better its performance. The P-47D-25 changed the shape of the aircraft- the framed canopy and raised rear fuselage was replaced by a tear-drop-shaped canopy and cut-down rear fuselage, greatly improving rear visibility for the pilot. In late 1944, the P-47M was debuted as a limited response to the introduction of the V-1. 130 of these aircraft, powered by a 2,500-horsepower engine pushing the Thunderbolt to a maximum speed of 473mph at 30,000 feet. These aircraft were specifically intended to counter V-1 flying bombs.[14]

Even as P-47s were being used as escort fighters, there was an increasing trend of using the aircraft as a ground-attack plane. This is perhaps inevitable, given the Jug’s immense payload capacity. It could carry up to 3,000lbs of external ordnance including general purpose bombs, M10 rockets, fragmentation bombs, napalm tanks, and later in the war 4.5-inch High Velocity Aerial Rockets (HVARs). One configuration even featured a 1,000lbs bomb on each wing.[15] Paired with eight .50 caliber machine guns with 3400 rounds stored in the wings, the P-47 would prove to be an outstanding fighter bomber. The first use of the Thunderbolt as a fighter bomber came on November 25, 1943. Aircraft from the 56th and 353rd Fighter Groups, armed with a single 500lbs bomb, struck airfields in the St. Omer area of France.[16] Several months later in March 1944, 8th Fighter Command leader Brigadier Genearl Bill Kepner ordered a squadron of P-47s to form and develop ground strafing techniques. These pilots first practiced over airfields in England before undertaking a number of operational missions over the Continent. At the end of March, the pilots were returned to their units to instruct others on low-level attacks.[17]

At around the same time as these early fighter bomber missions were taking place, the P-51 Mustang began arriving in large numbers in England. With the 8th Air Force focused on the strategic bombing of Germany, most of its fighter groups began converting to the Mustang and handing over their P-47s. These used Thunderbolts, along with new ones being shipped to the theater, were used to begin building up the 9th Air Force. Unlike the 8th Air Force, the 9th was intended to provide tactical air support to ground forces. The 9th Air Force did have a bomber component, but this was made up of medium bombers intended to be used against transportation and communication hubs. The larger elements were the Tactical Air Commands (TACs). The 9th had two TACs- IX TAC, which was equipped with three Fighter Wings (each made up of 3-4 fighter groups), and XIX TAC had two Fighter Wings. IX TAC, commanded by then-Brigadier General Elwood “Pete” Quesada, supported Lieutenant General Omar Bradley’s First Army, while XIX TAC, commanded by then-Brigadier General Otto Weyland, provided supported to Lieutenant General George S. Patton.[18]

Two P-47Ds from the 65th Fighter Squadron take off for a ground attack mission in Italy from their base in Corsica. This squadron along with others in Corsica participated in a vigorous interdiction campaign in central and northern Italy called Operation Strangle, the goal of which was to cut off German front lines from their supply lines. Photo source: American Air Museum.

Two P-47Ds from the 65th Fighter Squadron take off for a ground attack mission in Italy from their base in Corsica. This squadron along with others in Corsica participated in a vigorous interdiction campaign in central and northern Italy called Operation Strangle, the goal of which was to cut off German front lines from their supply lines. Photo source: American Air Museum.

A P-47D with the 507th Fighter-Bomber Squadron in Germany in April 1945. This unit participated in the European Campaign with the IX TAC, providing close air support to General Omar Bradley's forces. Photo source: Wikipedia.

A P-47D with the 507th Fighter-Bomber Squadron in Germany in April 1945. This unit participated in the European Campaign with the IX TAC, providing close air support to General Omar Bradley's forces. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Following the invasion of Normandy, these TACs would play a significant role in the forward progress of American armies. After D-Day, P-47 units would engage in armored column cover missions, a tactic devised by Quesada, which involved several flights of heavily armed P-47s flying overhead of a tank column as it advanced. A liaison on the ground with the tanks, frequently a fighter pilot in a specially modified tank, would radio the circling fighter bombers regarding targets impeding the advance.[19] The P-47s would then act as on-call heavy artillery, hitting the target with bombs, rockets, and heavy machine gun fire. An additional tactic, armed reconnaissance, saw fighter bombers roaming as much as 30 miles in front of advancing columns and attacking targets of opportunity. As the Allies expanded their beachhead in mainland Europe, engineers worked to establish airfields and shorten the distance fighter bombers would have to travel for support. Two weeks after D-Day, five airfields had been established in France to support the fighter-bombers. By the end of the month, Quesada’s IX TAC had flown 26,000 sorties on 800 missions, claimed 204 enemy planes destroyed, as well as the destruction of 24 bridges, 506 railroad engines and cars, and nearly 1300 vehicles.[20] Operations would increase even more when the breakout from Normandy began in late July.

In this well-known provocative photo, a P-47 piloted by Captain Ray Walsh of the 406th Fighter Squadron pulls up from strafing an ammunition truck, which has exploded violently. Ground attack missions against potentially volatile targets such as ammunition train cars and storage depots could be hazardous obstacles, throwing up flaming debris into the flight path of attacking fighter bombers. Photo source: Air & Space Magazine.

In this well-known provocative photo, a P-47 piloted by Captain Ray Walsh of the 406th Fighter Squadron pulls up from strafing an ammunition truck, which has exploded violently. Ground attack missions against potentially volatile targets such as ammunition train cars and storage depots could be hazardous obstacles, throwing up flaming debris into the flight path of attacking fighter bombers. Photo source: Air & Space Magazine.

When Operation Cobra commenced on July 25, 1944, P-47 ground attack missions increased tremendously as the tanks on the ground began to break out. P-47 units were quickly relocated to the Continent to support the advancing tanks. One, the 50th Fighter Group, reported a typical day’s operations for July 29th- its three P-47 squadrons flew a total of 23 missions, losing three aircraft to flak, another three damaged, and claiming the destruction of 46 tanks, 80 other vehicles, 8 towed artillery pieces, and an estimated 80 German soldiers killed.[21] By this point in the war, the Luftwaffe on the western front was but a shadow of its former self- the primary threat to fighter bombers supporting the American advance came in the form of flak. A typical German infantry division was equipped with 84 20mm AA guns, while a panzer division could be equipped with up to 21 self-propelled AA guns, 50 towed guns, and 32 truck or half-track-mounted guns.[22]

“Ground attack pilots often had to contend with formidable concentrations of small caliber flak that was very effective up to 3000 feet and the fire of which was not visible to them; therefore they were briefed to come below 3000 feet only when carrying out their attacks. Heavy caliber automatic flak (20mm-40mm) was effective up to 6000 feet and its explosions were easily seen by the pilots; fighter-bomber formations usually flew at 7500-8000 feet, which was just out of range.”[23]

With such heavy amounts of flak then, it is unsurprising that fighter bombers suffered a far higher rate of loss to ground fire than to hostile fighters. From the start of Operation Cobra on July 25 to August 7th, IX TAC lost 80 aircraft- 49% were lost to flak, 24% to small arms fire, 24% to unknown causes, and just 7% to enemy fighters.[24]

A P-47 pilot displays a rather sober face after examining his P-47, which has sustained a direct hit from a flak round of unknown caliber. Photo source: Pinterest.

A P-47 pilot displays a rather sober face after examining his P-47, which has sustained a direct hit from a flak round of unknown caliber. Photo source: Pinterest.

Another pilot stands among the remains of his right horizontal stabilizer, which was clearly hit by flak, spraying shrapnel into the tail and fuselage. This kind of damage was not at all uncommon during the dangerous close air support and ground attack missions undertaken by Thunderbolt pilots on a routine basis. Photo source: Cradle of Aviation Museum.

Another pilot stands among the remains of his right horizontal stabilizer, which was clearly hit by flak, spraying shrapnel into the tail and fuselage. This kind of damage was not at all uncommon during the dangerous close air support and ground attack missions undertaken by Thunderbolt pilots on a routine basis. Photo source: Cradle of Aviation Museum.

                Despite the high losses, the fighter bombers continued their grim work against German ground forces. As Allied armor began exploiting the frail German defenses in the wake of Cobra’s opening salvoes, large German convoys began attempting to fall back, only to set upon by fighter bombers. During the last week of July alone, Quesada’s IX TAC flew 9000 close air support sorties, and his pilots had claimed destruction of 384 tanks, over 2200 vehicles, and almost 100 artillery pieces.[25] On a sortie which could be described as typical of the period, the 405th Fighter Group tore into a German convoy on July 29th:

“On the afternoon of 29 July P-47s of the American 405th Fighter Group observed this dense mass of German transport, including tanks, on the roads near Coutances and on the road between St. Denis-le-Vetu and Roncey they saw a column extending for over three miles blocked by American armor to east and west. Between 310 and 940 p.m. the P-47s of the 405th Group systematically bombed and strafed this column, returning to their base to rearm and refuel before returning to the attack. Two days later American ground forces found the road impassable, and discovered 66 German tanks, 204 vehicles, and 11 guns destroyed, and 56 tanks and 55 vehicles damaged. This destruction was the result of the combined firepower of P-47s and artillery and tanks of nearby American ground units.”[26]

As the German retreat from Normandy increased in desperation, their slaughter by fighter bombers such as the P-47 only increased. The apex of this bloodbath would come during the Allied attempt to close the Falaise Gap. During this period, as thousands of vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers tried to escape encirclement, fighter-bombers wreaked havoc among the retreating Germans. German tank commander Hans von Luck recalled, “Enemy planes were swooping down uninterruptedly on anything that moved. I could see the mushroom clouds of exploding bombs, burning vehicles, and the wounded, who were picked up by retreating transports.”[27] Jack Dentz, a pilot with the 386th Fighter Squadron, later remembered, “We went in like flying artillery and just destroyed it all… It was hideous. It was the only time I actually came home feeling sick. I killed over 60 horses on just one mission; they had been pulling 88mm guns.”[28]

                The ground-attack missions, while successful, were not without cost. German units put up a tremendous amount of flak. During the length of its European campaign, XIX Tactical Air Command lost nearly 600 pilots either killed or missing, an average of two per day. During the summer of 1944, an average of 227 fighters were shot down per month, most to flak.[29] Fortunately, the P-47 proved to be one of the most rugged aircraft of the Second World War. Eventual ace Robert Johnson, of the 56th Fighter Group, had a narrow escape from a formation of FW-190s on June 26, 1943.  One FW-190 hit Johnson’s P-47 with 21 20mm cannon shells, cutting Johnson’s hydraulics and jamming his canopy shut, preventing him from bailing out. One shell had also set fire to his aircraft, and Johnson was temporarily blinded by spraying hydraulic fluid- he had also been wounded by shrapnel in the leg and nose. Regaining control of his holed aircraft, Johnson headed for the English Channel, only to be set upon by another FW-190, which pumped his aircraft full of 7.92mm machine gun rounds. Eventually the German aircraft ran out of ammunition, pulled alongside Johnson, saluted, then flew off. Johnson managed to return his aircraft to base, he gave up counting holes in his aircraft after numbering 200. Johnson would eventually go on to become one of the highest-scoring P-47 aces, shooting down 27 German aircraft by June 1944. [30] The highest-scoring P-47 ace was Francis Gabreski, who shot down 28 German planes. Gabreski’s 28 kills also made him the highest-scoring American ace in the European Theater. Despite the gradual replacement of the Thunderbolt as an escort fighter by the P-51 Mustang, during over 746,000 missions flown by the P-47 pilots claimed 3,752 enemy planes shot down.[31] The most successful P-47 unit was the 56th Fighter Group, which at the end of the war was the only fighter group in the 8th Air Force still flying the Jug- it claimed 647 aerial victories and 311 more planes destroyed on the ground. Against these claims, the 56th had lost 128 Thunderbolts.[32] 9th Air Force P-47 groups, while focused on their ground attack missions, also claimed aerial victories. The 368th Fighter Group claimed 143 enemy planes shot down and 98 more destroyed on the ground from March 1944 to May 1945. During the same period, that group also claimed the destruction of nearly 500 tanks, 3174 rail cars, 33 bridges, 31 barges, and 187 artillery pieces.[33]

LTC Francis Gabreski of the 56th Fighter Group was the leading ace of the 8th Air Force with 28 confirmed victories. On July 20, 1944, during the final mission of his tour in Europe, Gabreski flew too low during a strafing pass on a German airfield and his propeller struck the ground, forcing him to crash land. He spent the remainder of the war as a POW. After the war, Gabreski continued to fly with the Air Force, shooting down six MiGs in the Korean War and retiring in 1967 as a Colonel. He died in 2002 at the age of 83. Photo source: Wikipedia.

LTC Francis Gabreski of the 56th Fighter Group was the leading ace of the 8th Air Force with 28 confirmed victories. On July 20, 1944, during the final mission of his tour in Europe, Gabreski flew too low during a strafing pass on a German airfield and his propeller struck the ground, forcing him to crash land. He spent the remainder of the war as a POW. After the war, Gabreski continued to fly with the Air Force, shooting down six MiGs in the Korean War and retiring in 1967 as a Colonel. He died in 2002 at the age of 83. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Captain Robert S. Johnson shot down 27 German aircraft over Europe, making him the second-highest scoring 8th Air Force ace. After returning to the US in 1944, he left the military in 1947. He died in 1998 at the age of 78. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Captain Robert S. Johnson shot down 27 German aircraft over Europe, making him the second-highest scoring 8th Air Force ace. After returning to the US in 1944, he left the military in 1947. He died in 1998 at the age of 78. Photo source: Wikipedia.

                The final variant of the Thunderbolt to be produced was the P-47N. The heaviest of all of the Jugs, weighing in at 21,200lbs, was designed specifically with escort duties in mind. With external tanks, the P-47N had a combat radius of 1000 miles. Over 1800 of these final Jugs were produced, but few saw action before the war finally ended in August 1945.[34] Final production of the P-47 totaled 15,683- 5,222 were lost in combat operations.[35] With the surrender of Japan, P-47 production was cancelled. Many Thunderbolts were scrapped, which was common occurrence with most warplanes at the end of the war. In 1948, the P-47 was redesignated the F-47 in keeping with a new nomenclature system. F-47s would equip numerous Air National Guard squadrons until well into the 1950s. Air Force leaders discussed using the F-47 in Korea for close air support- the F-51 (previously known as the P-51) was in widespread use there, but took heavy losses from ground fire because of their more vulnerable liquid-cooled engines. However, by this time, F-47s and spare parts were in relatively short supply, so the Mustang continued to be used as a ground support aircraft in Korea.[36] F-47s would soldier on with a number of foreign air forces into the 1960s before the last examples in service were finally retired.

                Though the Thunderbolt was overshadowed by the Mustang as the eminent American fighter of World War II, the Thunderbolt proved to be a far more capable ground attack aircraft which came to be feared by German ground forces. Perhaps most importantly, the use of the Thunderbolt for ground attack was a precursor to the transition among the Air Force and Navy to fighter-bombers as the primary type of combat aircraft. The Thunderbolt remains arguably the best fighter-bomber aircraft of World War II.

Sources

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3.       Hughes, Thomas Alexander. Over Lord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical Air Power in World War II. The Free Press, New York, NY: 1995.

4.       Gooderson, Ian. Air Power at the Battlefront: Allied Close Air Support in Europe, 1943-45. Frank Cass, Portland, OR,  1998.

5.       Hawks, Chuck, and Rip Collins. “P-47 THUNDERBOLT.” www.chuckhawks.com, Chuck Hawks and Rip Collins, 2000, www.chuckhawks.com/p47.htm. Accessed 10 May 2018.

6.       Dwyer, Larry. “Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.” The Aviation History Online Museum, Aviation Models, 20 Sept. 1997, www.aviation-history.com/republic/p47.html. Accessed 10 May 2018

7.       “The Republic P-47 ‘Thunderbolt.’” 456th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 10 Feb. 2014, www.456fis.org/P-47.htm. Accessed 10 May 2018

8.       “Beginner's Guide to Compressible Aerodynamics.” NASA, FirstGov, 5 May 2015, www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/bgc.html. Accessed 10 May 2018

9.       McGowan, Sam. “The P-47 Thunderbolt: The Story of a Formidable Fighter-Bomber.” Warfare History Network, Warfare History Network, 15 July 2016, warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-p-47-thunderbolt-the-story-of-a-formidable-fighter-bomber/.  Accessed 10 May 2018.

10.   Szagor, Tomasz. “P-47 Thunderbolt with the USAAF – European Theatre of Operations.” Kagero, Kagero's Area, 2018, www.kagero.eu/index.php?option=com_content. Accessed 10 May 2018

11.   Hallion, Richard P. “The Day After D-Day.” Air & Space Magazine, Air & Space Magazine, 23 Mar. 2015, www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/day-after-d-day-180954668. Accessed 10 May 2018.

12.   Bergmans, Werner. “P-47 Thunderbolt, Republic.” Fighter Planes, 1996, www.fighter-planes.com/info/p47_thunderbolt.htm. Accessed 10 May 2018.

13.   Rowland, Michael D. “Why the U.S. Air Force Did Not Use the F-47 Thunderbolt in the Korean War”. Air Power History, Fall 2003. https://sobchak.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/article-why-the-u-s-air-force-did-not-use-the-f-47-thunderbolt-in-the-korean-war/ Accessed 10 May 2018.

14.   Heaton, Colin. “An Interview with World War II Ace, Robert S. Johnson.” HistoryNet, World History Group, 12 June 2006, www.historynet.com/world-war-ii-interview-with-ace-pilot-robert-s-johnson.htm. Accessed 2 July 2018.

 

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[8] http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-p-47-thunderbolt-the-story-of-a-formidable-fighter-bomber/

[9] http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-p-47-thunderbolt-the-story-of-a-formidable-fighter-bomber/

[10] http://www.kagero.pl/index.php?option+com_content&view+article&id+293:p-47-thunderbolt-with-the-usaaf--european-theater-of-operations&catid+95:aviation-of-ww2&Itemid=688

[11] http://www.chuckhawks.com/p47.htm

[12] http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-p-47-thunderbolt-the-story-of-a-formidable-fighter-bomber/

[13] http://www.kagero.pl/index.php?option+com_content&view+article&id+293:p-47-thunderbolt-with-the-usaaf--european-theater-of-operations&catid+95:aviation-of-ww2&Itemid=688

[14] http://www.aviation-history.com/republic/p47.html

[15] P. 68- US Experimental and Prototype Aircraft and Projects: Fighters 1939-1945

[16] http://www.kagero.pl/index.php?option+com_content&view+article&id+293:p-47-thunderbolt-with-the-usaaf--european-theater-of-operations&catid+95:aviation-of-ww2&Itemid=688

[17] http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-p-47-thunderbolt-the-story-of-a-formidable-fighter-bomber/

[18] P.191-192- Strike from the Sky: The History of Battlefield Air Attack, 1911-1945

[19] P.184- Overlord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical Air Power in World War II

[20] P.169- Overlord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical Air Power in World War II

[21] https://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/day-after-d-day-180954668

[22] P.201-202- Air Power at the Battlefront by Ian Gooderson

[23] P.70- Air Power at the Battlefront by Ian Gooderson

[24] P.225- Strike from the Sky: The History of Battlefield Air Attack, 1911-1945

[25] P.224- Overlord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical Air Power in World War II

[26] P.108- Air Power at the Battlefront

[27] https://www.airspaemag.com/military-aviation/day-after-d-day-180954668

[28] https://www.airspaemag.com/military-aviation/day-after-d-day-180954668

[29] https://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/day-after-d-day-180954668/

[30] http://acesofww2.com/USA/aces/johnson/                      

 

[32] https://www.fighter-planes.com/info/p47_thunderbolt.htm

[33] http://www.kagero.pl/index.php?option+com_content&view+article&id+293:p-47-thunderbolt-with-the-usaaf--european-theater-of-operations&catid+95:aviation-of-ww2&Itemid=688

[34] P.68- US Experimental and Prototype Aircraft and Projects: Fighters 1939-1945

[35] https://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviaiton/day-after-day-180954668

[36] https://sobcahk.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/article-why-the-u-s-air-force-did-not-use-the-f-47-thunderbolt-in-the-korean-war