The Day After D-day

Air & Space Smithsonian - - Front Page - BY RICHARD P. HALLION

Step 1: Take the beach. Step 2: Call in the P-47s.

Key to mak­ing Al­lied air­power so over­whelm­ing was the rou­tine use of Re­pub­lic’s P-47 Thun­der­bolt as a swing­role fighter-bomber, sent to take on the Luft­waffe’s pi­lots and air­planes as well as Ger­many’s mech­a­nized ground forces. First con­ceived as a high-alti­tude in­ter­cep­tor, the Thun­der­bolt per­formed so well against Ger­man fight­ers that few ex­pected it to be as­signed the ground-at­tack role in 1943, eight months after its com­bat de­but. But its added skills and great sur­viv­abil­ity made the P-47 the most sig­nif­i­cant air weapon in the Al­lied push into Ger­many fol­low­ing D-day. De­vel­op­ing those skills be­gan a few months in ad­vance of the June 6, 1944 Nor­mandy land­ing.

Ma­jor Glenn E. Dun­can, a rangy, ag­gres­sive Texan who would be­come a triple ace with the 353rd Fighter Group, pioneered us­ing the P-47 to strafe and dive bomb. “Dun­can was one of those col­or­ful char­ac­ters who in­spire the rest of us to ex­ceed our per­ceived limita-

IN 1943, NAZI GER­MANY CON­TROLLED AL­MOST ALL OF EU­ROPE and much of Rus­sia. Less than two years later the regime was in ruin, its lead­ers dead or im­pris­oned, its mil­i­tary re­duced to scrap. To its com­man­ders, one cause of the catas­tro­phe stood out: the abil­ity of the Al­lies to ex­ploit their con­trol of the air. Gerd von Rund­st­edt, com­man­der of all Ger­man forces in the West, ex­pressed the ex­as­per­a­tion felt by many sol­diers when he told his cap­tors, in an over­state­ment, that air at­tacks had made it “im­pos­si­ble to bring one sin­gle rail­road train across the Rhine.”

P-47 pi­lot Ray Walsh was al­most caught by the blast pro­duced when he de­stroyed an am­mu­ni­tion truck on June 23, 1944. Ex­plo­sions downed a num­ber of fighter-bombers. Be­low: With troops fi­nally on French soil, pi­lots and tankers co­or­di­nated to di­rect air...

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.