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The P-47 was one of America's leading fighter airplanes
of WW II. It made its initial flight on May 6, 1941. On April 8, 1943, the P-47
flew its first combat mission, taking off from England for a sweep over western
Europe. During the next several months, AAF pilots learned that the Thunderbolt
could out-dive any Luftwaffe airplane encountered. An auxilary fuel tank was suspended
under the fuselage beginning in 1943, permitting the P-47 to escort AAF heavy
bombers much farther into German territory. In addition to establishing an impressive
record as a high-altitude escort fighter, the P-47 gained recognition as a low-level
fighter-bomber because of its ability to absorb battle damage and keep flying.
By the end of the war, the Thunderbolt had been used in every active war theater
with the exception of Alaska. In addition to serving with the AAF, some were flown
in action by the British, Free French, Russians, Mexicans, and Brazilians.
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