4th Fighter Group
The 4th Fighter Group would be one of the top US fighter groups in the war against Germany. Early models of the Thunderbolt were among the first weapons they flew.
After the jump, a look at this group and one of their Thunderbolts.
Prior to the US getting involved in World War II, many young American men had signed up to fight the Nazis. The British Royal Air Force had three full squadrons, known as Eagle Squadrons staffed with American pilots. On August 22, 1942, the Eagle Squadrons were absorbed into the US Army Air Force as the 4th Fighter Group. Initially retaining their Spitfires.
But in time, they were re-equiped with the latest and greatest American fighter. The Spitfire and Thunderbolt were about as different as two fighters could be. One was all about maneuver, the other all about power and kinetic energy. So while the US 56th Fighter Group, which trained in Thunderbolts, loved their mounts and would stand by them to the end of the war; the 4th Fighter group loathed them. They were too different. One fact stands out; the Spitfire Mk V had a maximum gross weight of 6700 lbs, the P-47D Thunderbolt weighed 17500 lbs. One pilot quipped “evasive maneuvers in the Thunderbolt meant you unstrapped and ran around the cockpit.” When Group CO Don Blakeslee scored one of the group’s first kills in the Thunderbolt with a spectacular high speed dive he was quoted as saying “well it sure ought to be able to dive, it sure as hell can’t climb!”
The Thunderbolt would go through dramatic improvement in a short time, and later versions with improved R-2800 engines and paddle-blade propellers actually would have a good rate of climb. And apparently the type became significantly more nimble at altitude, boasting one of the best roll rates of any aircraft. But the 4th Fighter group’s tenure with the type was fairly brief. When Mustangs first came available in early 1944, Blakeslee promised he could have his group ready to fly missions in less than a month if they were re-equiped. As an ace, and commander of the most experienced group in the 8th, he got his way.
Ironically, the 4th and 56th Fighter Groups would be the two highest scoring groups in the entire 8th Air Force. But their order changes depending on the measure one uses. During the war, 8th Air Force awarded full victory credit for ground kills (strafing attacks against airfields was considered very dangerous), which made 4th Fighter Group the top scorer with 1052 enemy destroyed. Today, no one really counts ground kills, so the 56th is considered number one with 675 air to air.
This is the Hasegawa kit, depicting an early P-47D of the 4th Fighter Group. The decals are by Super Scale.
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