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P is for P-47 Thunderbolt

P-47 Thunderbolts are synonymous with Evansville.

At the height of the World War II home front production effort, Republic Aviation in Evansville was the largest manufacturer of this fighter aircraft in the country, churning out 6,670 planes over the course of about three years. Republic Aviation’s first plane, Hoosier Spirit, flew on Sept. 19, 1942.

In October 2020, one of Evansville’s most famous P-47’s, Tarheel Hal, made its long-awaited return to the city and can now be seen at the Evansville Wartime Museum, along with hundreds of other artifacts from Evansville’s time in the war effort.

Tarheel Hal is one of four remaining flying P-47 Thunderbolts from World War II. The plane is made mostly of aluminum and weighs about 10,000 pounds. It’s equipped with a 2,000 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine and eight .50-inch machine guns. Though it never flew in combat, the P-47 flew in air shows for nearly 20 years.

In January, the P-47 foundation announced Tarheel Hal would be formally renamed Hoosier Spirit II in honor of the first P-47 manufactured at the Republic Aviation plant.

The P-47 has become a symbol of Evansville’s wartime manufacturing prowess and continues to serve as an important artifact of the city’s past.

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