DAD'S PLANES


Dad's official Army Air Force publicity shot on the occasion of his first Japanese air-to-air kill, dated June 12, 1945. The aircraft is a republic P-47D-23 thunderbolt. The badge under the cockpit is one of many variations of the 333rd Fighter Squadron's "Coral Cobra" emblem.

Why do I like building models of World War Two fighter planes? 'Cause I can't fly the real ones! My interest in military aviation was inspired by my dad, who was a fighter pilot during World War Two. I grew up listening to his war stories and tales of death-defying adventures. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a WWII fighter pilot, but I eventually realized that, barring time travel, that wasn't gonna happen. But I can still capture the romance (what romance there was) in plastic. Here's a brief rundown on the planes Dad flew.



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1. "Jack The Ripper"
Republic P-47D Thunderbolt, 468th Fighter Squadron, 508th Fighter Group

John H. Payne, Jr. ("Jack"), flew Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. His primary combat experience was in the Pacific with the 318th Fighter Group. The 318th began their tour by guarding Hawaii, but they moved into the heart of Pacific combat when they supported the invasion of Saipan in June, 1944. They were the only Army Air Forces unit ever to launch from aircraft carriers. From Saipan, they attacked ground targets on the neighboring islands in the Marianas chain; Guam and Tinian. Dad flew two P-47D Razorbacks during the Marianas campaign; the first was a silver P-47D named "Jack the Ripper," assigned to the 333rd Squadron of the 318th. Ripper was shot up over Tinian, and Dad ditched the plane and swam ashore, sitting on an enemy held island for the few minutes it took to be rescued (Tinian was in naked-eye sight of Saipan). The second plane was "Big Squaw," an olive green and gray P-47D-15 of the 19th Squadron. Big Squaw suffered the same fate as her predecessor, getting shot all to hell over Tinian. Dad bellied her in on the beach back at Saipan.


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2. "Big Squaw"
Republic P-47D Thunderbolt, 19th FS, 318th FG, 43-25327

The second plane was "Big Squaw," an olive green and gray P-47D-15 of the 19th Squadron. Big Squaw suffered the same fate as her predecessor, getting shot all to hell over Tinian. Dad bellied her in on the beach back at Saipan.


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3. "Icky and Me"
Republic P-47N Thunderbolt, 333rd FS, 318th FG

After Saipan, the 318th moved to Ie Shima, a tiny island off the northeast edge of Okinawa. They also upgraded their equipment to the long range P-47N Thunderbolt. Their mission was to fly Very Long Range (VLR) strike missions against the southern islands of the Japanese homeland itself. It was on one of these mission that Dad's P-47N, "Icky and Me," was shot up so badly that he had to bail out half way home, and he spent 8 days floating in the Pacific in a one-man liferaft. When he was finally rescued and got back into action, he named his new plane the same as the last.


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4. Piper J3 Cub
Sylvania Air Photo Service

After the war, in the 1950s, Dad got himself a nifty little 1939 Piper J3 Cub, and, with his friend Paul Nielson, started an aerial photography business. Dad flew, and Paul took pictures hanging out of the open door with a very large aerial camera. For years everybody at Lincoln Park Airport knew the little blue "Photo Cub."


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