The P-47 Thunderbolt
Affectionately nicknamed “Jug,” the P-47 was one of the most famous US Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighter planes of World War II. Although originally conceived as a lightweight interceptor, the P-47 developed as a heavyweight fighter and made its first flight on May 6, 1941. The first production model was delivered to the USAAF in March 1942, and in April 1943 the Thunderbolt flew its first combat mission — a sweep over Western Europe.
Used as both a high-altitude escort fighter and a low-level fighter-bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness. Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the Thunderbolt to absorb severe battle damage and keep flying, as proved by the story of Lt. Raymundo da Costa Canário, a Brazilian Air Force P-47 pilot who was able to RTB after the right wing of his Thunderbolt was completely sheared off against a chimney on a strafing run.
On Jan. 27, 1945 Canário, then a 20-year-old rookie took off at 9:00 AM to complete a ground mission alongside the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF), which flew Supermarine Spitfires. According to an interesting article by Samantha Franco appeared on War History Online, the mission was to bomb as many German Tiger I tanks as possible while flying over Northern Italy.
Although on that day visibility was quite poor Canário was able to complete three attack runs after he reached his target. He took out two during the first, but his Thunderbolt suffered damage from ground attacks. During the second run he took out another tank, but, again, he suffered damage to his fuselage.
P-47 with a wing sheared off
Since his P-47 was still flying adequately, Canário went for a third attack run.
But this time, he made a near-fatal mistake.
In fact, because of the low visibility, Canário flew into the chimney of an industrial factory, which impacted his right wing. It was a clean cut that took off exactly 128 cm of the wing. Miraculously, his P-47 continued to fly. He made a sharp vertical pull to reach a higher altitude and quickly took cover behind patrolling Spitfires.
But Canário couldn’t advise the Spitfire pilots that he was taking cover behind them because the radio line was cut as a result of the damage the P-47 had suffered. For this reason, the Spitfire pilots confused him for an enemy fighter and began to shoot. Eventually, they caught on that Canário was an ally and stopped attacking, but only after damaging his P-47’s tail.
But, as a testament to both the reliability of the Thunderbolt and his skill as a pilot Canário was able to safely land his crippled P-47 on the allied airfield of Pisa in Italy.
As told by Franco, while the plane was destined for the scrapyard, Canário insisted it could be repaired, and he wound up flying it for another 50 missions.
Photo credit: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain