This Film Will Make You Feel Like You Flew a WWII Fighter Escort Mission Yourself!

63rd Fighter Squadron P-47D Thunderbolt. Official US Air Force photograph

The film “The Thunderbolts:  Ramrod to Emden” portrays the effort and determination that went into a typical long range escort mission (known as a ramrod mission) flown by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) VIII Fighter Command. The particular mission in the film was flown on October 2nd 1943. The mission planning and preparation process, beginning with the call from VIII Air Force Headquarters the previous day and moving forward all the way through field orders and preparation of the Republic P-47D Thunderbolts and Lockheed P-38H Lightnings that will fly the mission, is depicted in the film. The film was uploaded to YouTube by airailimages.

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62nd Fighter Squadron P-47D Thunderbolts. Official US Air Force photograph

The film also includes a smattering of combat footage and the return of the fighter groups to their bases in England. The P-47Ds appearing in the film belong to the 334th, 335th, and 336th Fighter Squadrons of the 4th Fighter Group Flying Eagles and the 61st, 62nd, and 63rd Fighter Squadrons of the 56th Fighter Group Zemke’s Wolfpack. The P-38Hs were assigned to the 38th, 338th, and 343rd Fighter Squadrons of the 55th Fighter Group Fightin’ 55th. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers appearing in the film belonged to the 95th and 96th Bombardment Groups of the 4th Bombardment Wing. Among the many notable fighter pilots who flew this mission were future Thunderbolt aces Robert S. Johnson and Francis S. Gabreski, who was then in command of the 61st Fighter Squadron.

38th Fighter Squadron P-38H Lightning. Official US Air Force photograph