Local museum one of only 10 to receive funds
For more than 40
years, the P-47 Thunderbolt Pilots Association
worked to keep alive the memory of an airplane
and the people who flew it. Now, the association
is hoping organizations such as the Lone Star
Flight Museum will carry on that work.
Albert Hagg traveled this week from his home
near Dallas to deliver a check for $18,000, roughly
10 % of the association's bank account, [of
which a substantial component was the invested
account of Life Membership dues.]
For Hagg, the
love affair with the P-47 began on D-Day, June
6, 1944. He was 19, and he was flying his first
mission. Hagg would go on to fly 72 missions,
and like most pilots, he loved the plane for its
back from missions a lot of airplanes wouldn't
have survived," Hagg said.
from his missions without a scratch, but he knew
other pilots who weren't so lucky.
seen them come back with the armor shot off and
oil all over the plane, but they came
back," he said.
wingspan of over 40 feet, the plane nicknamed
the "the Jug" was the largest
single-engine aircraft flown during World War
II. It was also the most destructive, excelling
in close ground support and aerial combat. The
plane destroyed almost 12,000 enemy aircraft,
9,000 enemy trains and 160,000 enemy vehicles.
It had an
18-cylinder engine rated at more than 2,000
horsepower, and the engine was air-cooled,
meaning that it would keep running when other
engines would give out.
The plane had
eight Browning .50-caliber machine guns mounted
on its wings, and it would carry more than 2,000
pounds of other ordinance such as bombs, rockets
The plane flew
its first mission on May 2, 1941 , and 20 years
later, the manufacturer, Republic Aviation, had
a reunion on Long Island for 873 pilots. Out of
that reunion grew the pilots association, which
organized subsequent reunions in cities across
the country and even in Europe.
Hagg says the membership peaked at nearly
3,000, and its annual reunions would draw as
many as 400. Hagg himself organized a reunion in
Dallas about seven years ago.
The membership, though, is aging, and it has
gotten harder and harder to find anyone willing
to take on the task of organizing the annual
meeting, generally held in early May to mark the
anniversary of that first mission. This year,
the association held its 42nd and final reunion.
decided to split up its assets equally among 10
museums - nine in the United States and one in
"This money is for the museums to use as
they see fit to keep alive the memory of the
great airplane," Hagg said.
Hagg said that
[the funds built up from 'Life Membership' dues
of $90 collected and invested, never spent,
constituted the major part of the $18,000 gift
to the museum.] There'll be another cashier check
coming when the organization officially dissolves
in a few months.
Darla Harmon, the museum's curator, said
the local museum would use the association's
money to build an interactive exhibit next to
the P-47 it has on display.
donation we'll be able to use wireless
technology to create the exhibit and keep it
updated," she said.
The museum operates on an annual budget of
about $1.5 million. Revenues come primarily
from grants and private donations, Harmon
said. There's also money from the museum
and the gift shop, and then there's revenue
generated by the airplanes themselves for
appearances at air shows across the country.
P-47 itself brings in quite a bit," she said.
Hagg, who was
making his first visit to the Galveston museum,
said he was impressed by what he found.
airplanes they have are tremendous," he
The P-47 on
display in Galveston is one of just a few that
still fly, Hagg said, and it's one of only 20
still in existence.
most of them were scrapped for the metal,"
Hagg has no
idea what happened to the plane he flew for more
than half of his 72 missions. When the war ended
in Europe, he was ordered to fly the plane to a
marshalling area in Germany. On the way, though,
he took a souvenir.
the clock off and put it in my flight bag,"
Museums of the P-47 Pilots
Museum - Chino, CA
Zoo, Portage, MI
AF, Midland ,TX
of Aviation, Garden City, NY
of Flight, Seattle, WA
England Air Museum, Windsor Loks, CT
Springs Air Museum, Palm Sprongs, Ca
Museum of Aviation, Sevierville, TN
Aviation Hall of Fame (Lone Star), Galveston, TX