Newsletter Issue: Fall/Winter 05


"Pilots group passes baton

to flight museum"

"GALVESTON: Local museum one of only 10 to receive funds"

Reprint from the Galveston County Daily News

Friday, May 27, 2005.

by: Kelly Hawes Correspondent

Albert Hagg, member of the 412th Fighter Squadron and a veteran of 72 P-47 missions in the ETO, is seen here in the cockpit of Tarheel Hal, a P-47 fighter on display at the Lone Star Flight Museum.  On behalf of the disbanding P-47 Thunderbolt Pilots Association of which he was a Life Member, Al delivered a gift of $18,000 to the museum for their use to perpetuate the legacy of the P-47 Thunderbolt ("Jug").

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 durability.

"It came back from missions a lot of airplanes wouldn't have survived," Hagg said.

Hagg emerged from his missions without a scratch, but he knew other pilots who weren't so lucky.

"I've seen them come back with the armor shot off and oil all over the plane, but they came back," he said.

With a 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 and napalm.

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.

  Members decided to split up its assets equally among 10 museums - nine in the United States and one in England.

"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.

"With this 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.

"The 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.

"The airplanes they have are tremendous," he said.

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.

"I heard most of them were scrapped for the metal," he said.

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.

"I took the clock off and put it in my flight bag," he said.

Recipient Museums of the P-47 Pilots Association

Air Museum - Chino, CA
Air Zoo, Portage, MI
Commemorative AF, Midland ,TX
Cradle of Aviation, Garden City, NY
Duxford, England
Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
New England Air Museum, Windsor Loks, CT
Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Sprongs, Ca
Tennessee Museum of Aviation, Sevierville, TN
Texas Aviation Hall of Fame (Lone Star), Galveston, TX

Al and the P-47 on display

Al presents check of $18,000 to

 at Lone Star Flight Museum

Ralph Royce, Museum Director

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