THE P-47 ERA (1943 - 1944)

Lt Col Chet Sluder of the 318th FS is pictured taxing in his P-47D named Shimmy" (a combination of the names of Col Sluder's daughter Sharon and wife Zimmy). Sluder would later serve as  Commander of the 325th Fighter Group.


Early in October 1943, the squadron was informed about the Groups transition from P-40 to Republic P-47D Thunderbolt. As the aircraft from the United States, they would be shipped to Casablanca, Algiers, or Bizerte, assembled by Civilian technicians, checked out, and flown by Civilian test pilots and flown to Mateur although most work on the fighters was accomplished in a combat zone by personnel of the squadron. The Group's pilots began training flights in their new P-47s from Mateur until the fall rains made the dirt runways unserviceable.


After the arrival of higher flying P-47s, the 325th was reassigned to the 5th Heavy Bomb Wing from the 42nd Medium Bomb Wing, on 4 November 1943, the 318th began moving from Mateur to Soliman, Tunisia. The Squadrons new base of operations, situated approximately 18 miles Northeast of Tunis, featured a hard surface runway. By 7 November, the move was complete, between 19 and 23 November P-47s of the 318th performed escort duties for transports carrying high officials to the Teheran Conference, but other than this, little flying was done.


On 29 November 1943, the 325th received orders that the entire Group was to move to a staging area at Bizerte, to many in there was no doubt that the Group would soon be on its way to Italy. The moving of men and equipment to Bizerte was complicated, but was completed by 3 December, with only a few members of the squadron remaining at Soliman to fly missions to Italy. On 9 December, the Groups air echelons were transported from Solimon aboard USAAF C-47s destined for Foggia Main Airdrome, Italy. On 12 December, half of the ground echelon boarded a US Navy Tank Landing Ship and on 14 December sailed to Foggia, while the other half leaving Bizerte on 24 December, landing at Naples on 26 December. With the move complete, missions began at Foggia Main by 28 December.


P-47's from the 318th FS prepare to take off for another mission over the 


The Green Dragons completed another move on 30 December 1943, this time settling at Foggia Airdrome, Italy. The weather in Foggia hampered flying in the first few days in January, but began immediately as the elements improved. Initially the squadron’s operational range was limited by early model P-47D's, but by the middle of the month upgraded models of the P-47 with a greater fuel capacity gave the Group a the ability to strike at the enemy with longer and more effective blows.


On 5 January 1944, Major James V. Toner, Jr. was appointed Commanding Officer of the 318th replacing Major James F. Garrett who has served in that capacity since 20 August 1943. Between the 26th and 30th of March 1944, the 318th moved from Foggia #1 to Lesina Airdrome, approximately 35 miles north of Foggia, Lesina, like most of the 318th bases, Lesina was a remote field and difficult to reach by ground.


During a 60 aircraft fighter sweep on 30 of January 1944, P-47s of the 325th encountered a like number of enemy aircraft over the Villaorba-Udine section of Italy. The pilots of Checkertail Clan found the enemy using more aggressive tactics than they had in the past;  a costly ploy that saw the pilots of the Checkertail Clan downing 37 opponents with seven probable's, while only losing two of their own P-47s to enemy actions.


The ability to return home after sustaining a large amount of battle damage - as shown in this photo of "Butch" P-47 # 50 assigned to Pilot Lt L.W. Adams and Crew Chief Sgt William Stolarczyk. Including the damage in the wing "Butch" also returned with damage to the horizontal and vertical stabilizers.


The Group saw great success killing the enemy as they attempted to disrupt a formation of B-24 attack in the Rome area during the 3rd of March, not only failed in their intent, but had 6 of his fast diminishing supply of fighters destroyed and 8 more probably destroyed or badly damaged. On 18 March, over the Villaorba-Udine area, 325th Fighter Group’s P-47s destroyed nine enemy planes attempting to down B-17s on a bombing mission.


On the 87th mission in the P-47 on 5 May 1944, the 325th P-47s and the B-24s they were escorting to Turnul Severin marshalling yard flew into defenses of some 35 ME-109s with the Group knocking down 3 fighters while losing one P-47s.


One of the last missions took a tragic twist, on 12 May 53 P-47s took off on a mission to escort bombers to Bologna, heavy cloud rising to 28,000 feet prevented the Group to make a rendezvous with the bombers, in the overcast the group lost five aircraft. In last mission in the P-47 on 24 May, an escort mission to Wollersdorf Airfield in Austria, six ME-109s were killed.  


Final record for the 325th Fighter Group in the P-47:


- 97 missions

- 3,626 sorties

- 15,280 combat hours

- 153 aerial victories

- 38 losses

Next page: The P-51 Era (1943 - 1944)