Fuselage work continued this month, including removing the fuselage assembly from its fixture in the later part of the month. Work on wing spars was begun and, as always, parts fabrication and finishing continues.
Included in this month’s update is an image of a page from (at the time) Major Bill “ Dingy” Dunham’s own 342nd Squadron class book.
Another restoration milestone was reached this month. The fuselage has progressed to the point where it was removed from the main alignment fixture. With such a large assembly, the process was complicated and done very cautiously.
As the fuselage progresses, the wing assembly has been started. First comes the spars which were begun this month. Of course parts have been in the fabrication process for a long time, and some still are, but it is great to see the parts coming together in the fixtures.
Bill Dunham was the second leading ace (behind Neel Kearby) of the 5th Air Force’s 348th Fighter Group. While our research indicates that 42-27609 was more likely to have been a 35th Fighter Group Thunderbolt, it is still possible that it could have been assigned to the 348th, at least for a short time.
Bill’s daughter, Margo Prudente, very generously allowed us to digitize Brigadier General Dunham’s 342nd fighter squadron class book from his late 1942 training in P-47s .
The 342nd FS trained at Bedford, Mass. The notes in the image above are in Bill Dunham’s handwriting, and list his air to air victories up until October 11, 1943. He kept notes in this class book on all the members of the squadron. Notes were written on each pilot’s photo page and listed victories and their loss or transfers out, when appropriate.
In January 1943, Dunham deployed with the 342nd Fighter Squadron in Australia and New Guinea and served as operations officer and later commander. In July 1944, he became commander of the 460th Fighter Squadron in New Guinea and remained in this position until December 1944, when he became operations officer of the 348th Fighter Group, Philippine Islands.
Bill Dunham flew three different P-47s in combat, a D-2RE, a D-21RE and the one shown above, a D-23RA, his final P-47 before the 348th FG switched to Mustangs.
In January 1945, Lt. Col Dunham returned to the United States and attended gunnery school at Foster Field Texas, until May 1945. Upon graduation, he immediately returned to the 348th Fighter Group in the Philippine Islands and continued to serve as operations officer. He later became deputy commander.1
Dunham’s final World War Two victory tally reached 16 on August 1, 1945 in a P-51 named Mrs. Bonnie. All 15 earlier victories were achieved while he was flying one of his three P-47s.2
1 USAF Biographies, downloaded 4/18/2019: https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/Display/Article/107188/brigadier-general-william-d-dunham/
2 John Stanaway, Mustang and Thunderbolt Aces of the Pacific and CBI, Aircraft of the Aces Series (Book 26), (New York: Osprey Publishing, 1999) p47
The P-47D-23 from the Evansville factory and the D-22 from the Farmingdale, N.Y. factory were the first of the Thunderbolts to use paddle blade propellor blades. These wider and longer blades were installed to better use the horsepower of the R-2800 at high altitudes, and to increase climb performance. The D-22 used a 13 foot 1 inch Hamilton Standard hydraulically actuated prop and the D-23 used a 13 foot 1 inch Curtiss Electric, with the pitch change accomplished via an electric motor driven mechanism.
Coupled with the water injection and the higher turbo rpm limits, the P-47D-23 represented an increase in performance.
In his excellent book, “Check Six”, co authored with Terry Poprovak; James Curran mentions the D-23. “ Later in the war, my last Jug, a P-47D-23, had a turbo relined at 23,000 rpm. Coupled with alcohol/water fuel injection, the Pratt & Whitney engine delivered 60 inches of manifold pressure all the way to 40,000 feet. What a ride!”3
3 Jim Curran and Terrence Popravak Check Six!: A Thunderbolt Pilot’s War Across the Pacific ( Havertown, PA, Casemate Publishers, 2015) 64
Engine: Pratt& Whitney R-28800-59 Turbo
Propellor: Curtiss 13’0” Diam. 4 Blade constant speed electric
Brake Horsepower at Altitude
Take Off: 2,000 at sea level
Military: 2,000 at 27,000 ft. asl
with water injection: 2,300 at 27,000 ft. asl
Overall Length: 36 feet 2 inches
Wingspan: 40 feet 9 inches
Wing Area: 300 square feet
Empty: 9,900 lbs.
Basic: 10,500 lbs.
Combat: 14,000 lbs.
War Maximum: 17,000 lbs.
Main: 205 gallons
Auxiliary: 100 gallons
External: 2X 150 gallons wing (Plus 1X 75 gallon belly drop tank)
Total: 680 gallons
Note: there were other fuel tank configurations including the 200 gallon Townsend belly tank made by Ford of Australia