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Dottie Mae – History

THE P-47

During the spring of 1944 The P47 D-25 and D-26 models were the first to have the rear fuselage cut down and the fitment of a bubble canopy. This change finally dispensed with the 20-degree blind spot and the ‘bubbletop’ became the definitive P47 model.

1944 – SUMMER

Republic P47-D-28-RA 42-29150 was manufactured at Evansville, Indiana during the summer of 1944 under contract AC-24579, project number 92833-R. She was one of 1,028 D-28’s to be manufactured there with the serials 42-28439 to 42-29466. (In total both Evansville (RA code) and Farmingdale (RE code) produced 1778 D-28 models).

The D-28 model was fitted with a Pratt and Whitney R-2800-59 Double Wasp (2000hp/2430hp emergency boost) engine connected to a 13ft diameter Curtiss Electric paddle blade propeller.

BOUND FOR DUTY

‘29150 was signed off and became available on 18 September 1944, being allocated to SOXO. (SOXO was the shipping code for the Eighth Air Force). On 19 September it was delivered to Air Transport Command who flew her to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the same day. On 21 September she flew onto Newark, New Jersey where she was cocooned ready for her trans-Atlantic ship journey to the UK, departing New York on 30 September.

Around mid October, ‘29150 arrived at Liverpool docks and was unloaded. As with hundreds of other US aircraft, ‘29150 was transported to Speke airport (now John Lennon airport), Liverpool and re-assembled and air tested by Lockheed Overseas Corporation ready for issue to the 8AF. ‘29150 did not end up with the Eighth, but instead was issued to the Ninth. Interestingly, but not unusual, the record card for ‘29150 did not carry the new shipping code GLUE of the 9AF.

On 8 September, two new pilots arrived at the 511FS, 405FG of the 9AF at Strip A-8 Picauville, France. These two pilots were Lt. Larry Kuhl and Lt. Robert Torbet. (They were probably replacements for five pilots who were KIA and one POW who had been lost during the last two weeks of August). Five days later the 405FG moved en mass from A-8 to their new base at Site A-64 St. Dizier, also in France. Both pilots carried out local flying before going on their first mission on 3 and 4 October respectively.

On 1 November, a P47D ‘Razorback’ model (high back); coded K4-S ‘Little Audrey’ of 511FS was relegated to second line duties due to the arrival of new bubbletop examples. The code K4-S remained unused until mid December 1944, when ‘29150 was issued to the 511FS. ‘29150 arrived on site with lower D-Day stripes to the fuselage as well as a black cowling and tailplane/fin bands.

Lt Kuhl, no longer a rookie pilot (17 missions!) had been with the 511FS for nearly three months and became the guardian of a new $83,000 Thunderbolt. Although it was marked up as K4-S, Kuhl had no personnel connection with this code as during the first three month’s, he flew whichever P47 was available.

THE PAINT

In addition to the code K4-S of ‘C’ Flight, ‘29150 was painted with a yellow cowling ring and yellow canopy; the colours of 511FS (The two other squadrons of 405FG, 509FS carried red and 510FS had blue markings to these areas). The letter C was also added to the rudder trim. As was often the case with many units within the 9AF, the 405FG had no Group colours. Tail colours were generally used, but only to identify aircraft within each Flight (A Flt – Red, B Flt – White, C Flt – Blue and D Flt – Yellow) but for some reason blue did not seem to be applied. In December 44, ‘29150 was painted with yellow bands to herfin/rudder and to each tailplane and in early 1945 these were changed to red. As ‘29150 belonging to C Flight, the colours on the tailplane remain a mystery. As was often the case, the flights were assembled on available aircraft and pilots so flight colours were generally ignored.

On being assigned the new ‘Jug’, Kuhl commissioned a ground crew member of 511FS to do the artwork. On the port side of ‘29150 he had the name ‘Dottie Mae’ (his wife at the time) as well as some of the obligatory nose art. This was based on the December pin-up titled ‘Santa’s little helper’ in the 1945 Vargas calendar. Additionally, the pilots’ details – Lt. L. A. Kuhl was painted below the cockpit whilst on the other side were painted the names of the Crew Chief S/Sgt J A Thomas, Assist Crew Chief Sgt E A Bergstrom and armourer Sgt L V Hitchman. ‘29150 was now armed and ready to take on air support roles on behalf of the US 3rd Army amongst others.

What must be taken into account is that most P47 loses occurred from flak rather than air combat. It might have been safer for the 8AF P47’s undertaking escorts in late 1944-45, but the P47’s of the 9AF still had to contend with heavy and accurate flak during ground attack sorties right up until the war’s end. Also, a high proportion of 8AF P47’s loses actually occurred whilst undertaking ground strafing on their return from escort duties. It was in the nature of the job, that there  was a high probability that ‘29150 would be damaged or lost within a matter of weeks.

On 16 December, ‘29150 undertook her first combat mission, the first of ninety over the next five months. Her primary role was air support for the US Army, but on other occasions she hit targets of opportunity – airfields, bridges, barges, all types of ground vehicle, gun emplacements etc. All involved dive-bombing, low level bombing and strafing. ‘29150 was damaged on three, maybe four occasions by flak. It happened to be on an aerial demonstration flight on the last day of the  war that ‘29150 was finally lost and stricken from US records.