The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Airbase Base Georgia is participating in the 2023 “Twelve Planes of Christmas”, an annual online giving campaign to support the all-volunteer organization’s education mission of restoring and flying vintage military aircraft. Airbase Georgia has two aircraft in the program this year, to help fund the completion of a World War II-era Republic P-47N Thunderbolt fighter and Boeing N2S Stearman Kaydet. Both aircraft are well into the restoration process.
This campaign gives the public an opportunity to support the Stearman project dedicated to “Rosie the Riveter,” the cultural icon representing women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II, helping transform America into the Arsenal of Democracy. Once completed, the Stearman will become part of the organization’s fleet of historic aircraft. The Airbase Georgia restoration team includes several female members dedicated to carrying on the “Rosie” legacy through a community outreach program that inspires youth to explore American History and careers in aviation.
Airbase Georgia’s P-47N is one of the CAF’s original aircraft acquired by CAF founder Lloyd P. Nolen in 1963. The Thunderbolt did not see combat during World War II. After the war, the aircraft was assigned to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard before transfer to the Nicaraguan Air Force, eventually seeing combat in Central America. While this particular Thunderbolt did not see combat while serving with the US military, it did have an interesting career south of the border in Central America. Back in 2016, we received a great article on her Latin American history from Augusto de León Fajardo, and thought our readers would enjoy learning more about this historic airframe.
The campaign to raise funds for the two aircraft begins Dec. 1 and continues through Dec. 31, 2023. The goal is to raise $50,000 to help purchase ailerons and flaps for the P-47N. During the same period, Airbase Georgia is seeking $10,000 to purchase a new radio, avionics, and instrument package for the Stearman. The Ray Foundation, Inc. has offered to match up to $50,000 in donations to the Thunderbolt, while an anonymous donor has offered to match up to
$2,800 for the Stearman. The Ray Foundation, Inc. was co-founded by James C. Ray, a distinguished World War II pilot who believed that American youth could benefit from the lessons learned in aviation.
“The Ray Foundation’s and an anonymous donor’s generosity has inspired our volunteers and will make a tremendous impact in restoring the Thunderbolt,” said Airbase Leader Joel Perkins. “Twelve Planes of Christmas is a perfect way for us to help the public participate in our mission.”
Aircraft Development and Operational Histories
The Kaydet, a two-seater biplane introduced in 1934 by Stearman Aircraft Division of Boeing in Wichita, Kan., became an unexpected success during World War II. The aircraft had fabric-covered wooden wings, single-leg landing gear and an over-built welded-steel fuselage. More than 8,428 Stearman were manufactured for the United States to train military pilots. During 11 years of service, more American military pilots learned to fly in the Stearman than any other similar airplane. In addition to the U.S. Navy and the Army Air Corps, the trainers were sold to Canada, China, the Philippines, Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil for military and civilian uses.
The P-47, affectionately nicknamed “Jug,” was one of the most famous United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighter planes of WWII. Originally conceived as a lightweight interceptor, the P-47 was developed as a heavyweight fighter and made its first flight on May 6, 1941. The first production model was delivered to the USAAF in March 1942, and in April 1943 the Thunderbolt flew its first combat mission over Western Europe. Used as a high-altitude escort fighter and a low-level fighter bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness. Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the Thunderbolt to absorb severe battle damage and keep flying. During WWII, the P-47 served in almost every active war theater and in the forces of several Allied nations. By the end of the war, more than 15,600 Thunderbolts had been built.
The Thunderbolt also had a strong presence in the Georgia Air National Guard after the war, when the 128th Fighter Squadron at Marietta Army Airfield was equipped with F-47N Thunderbolts. The 158th Fighter Squadron, activated at Chatham Army Airfield, Pooler, also flew F-47Ns.
About the CAF Airbase Georgia Warbird Museum CAF Airbase Georgia, based in Peachtree City, Ga., was founded in 1987. The Airbase is one of the largest units of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). The group maintains and flies six vintage military aircraft including a P-51 Mustang, an FG-1D Corsair, an SBD Dauntless, an LT-6 Mosquito, Tuskegee Airmen PT-19 Cornell, and a P-63A Kingcobra. The Airbase, composed of more than 500 volunteer members, is a founding partner of the Georgia WWII Heritage Trail launched in 2021. The Airbase is part of the CAF, a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that relies on contributions of time and funds to conduct its mission. For more information, go to https://airbasegeorgia.org/.Check out the latest video update about the P-47 Thunderbolt.