Republic Aviation P-47D 42-27609 received the paint scheme of ‘BONNIE’, USAAF 460th Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group based in the Pacific Theater. This immaculate P-47 THUNDERBOLT is the only flying Republic built razorback P-47D in the world and was restored by AirCorps Aviation.
BONNIE was named by Brigadier General William “Bill” Dunham Commanding Officer of the 460th Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group. Dunham was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star with oak leaf cluster Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Commendation Medal. The Bonnie namesake was emblazoned on all three of Dunham’s P-47s and ended with an P-51K which was named Mrs. Bonnie because by then Miss Bonnie Harris had become Mrs. Bonnie Dunham.
“Leadership, of course, cannot be obtained by talk, or maintained by sporadic practice.”
P-47D-23RA Serial Number 42-27609 on display at Girau Airfield in Papua New Guinea before restoration at AirCorps Aviation, photo with permission from Charles Darby
P-47D-23RA Serial Number 42-27609 circa 1972, at at Dobodura circa 1972, photo with permission from Charles Darby
P-47D BONNIE is housed at the Dakota Territory Museum located in Minot, North Dakota. The remarkable collection of flying aircraft is globally recognized and sought after. The DTAM collection includes a D-Day veteran Spitfire Mk.IX, Hurricane Mk.XII, P-40E Warhawk, FM-2 Wildcat, C-47/C-53 Skytrooper Duchess of Dakota, Harvard Mk.IV, P-51C Mustang “Lope’s Hope 3rd”, P-51D Mustang “Miss Kitty III“, P-51D Mustang “Little Horse”, P-51D Dakota Kid, a Battle of Iwo Jima veteran Stinson L-5 Sentinel and a Luscombe T8F.
Bonnie Harris was the love of Bill Dunham’s life, and became the namesake for the P-47 Bonnie. While Bill flew in the South Pacific she became a nurse in Spokane, WA. She waited for the small town war hero to return on leave and they were married in January before the end of the war. Their 30 year life in the Air Force was full of travel moving about every three years to every part of the country including England twice. Being a Brigadier General’s wife came with some glamour, a lot of responsibility, and opportunity she never dreamed of as a girl. Bonnie could be found elegantly dressed for the many receptions and fancy dinners they attended or hosted. One of her most memorable events was to Buckingham Palace to the Queen’s Garden Party. Bonnie, with her sense of humor, said how dashing Bill was in his top hat and Morning Dress until the rented attire warmed up and began to have the odor of the dozens of bodies who had previously rented it. Dry cleaning was not common in England at that time.
Weighing 10,000 pounds empty, the Thunderbolt was the largest single-engine fighter built by any country during World War II. Fully loaded with pilot, fuel and armaments, it topped out at more than 19,400 pounds—yet was exceptionally fast as a fighter-bomber, achieving a top speed of 428 miles per hour. The 15,683 “Jugs” as Thunderbolt was commonly known flew more than half a million missions and dropped more than 132 thousand tons of bombs.