P-47 Thunderbolt
July 16, 2006 2:31 AM   Subscribe

Nice gun camera shots from WWII. Includes a bit of strafing. The Plane.
posted by IronLizard (27 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by IronLizard at 2:36 AM on July 16, 2006

Some more. Set to music.
posted by IronLizard at 2:39 AM on July 16, 2006

Second link should be this.
posted by IronLizard at 3:06 AM on July 16, 2006

Very neat, IronLizard. For whatever reason, I didn't realize they had color gun footage from back then.

I've played combat flight sims many times, and the footage is eerily similar. Assuming those are real and not colorized, the more recent computer games are more accurate than I'd realized. I always thought they were sort of, um, cartoon versions, I guess. I see they get pretty close, both visually and in terms of pilot control.... you could probably have put a virtual camera in some of my strafe runs and it would have looked almost identical. (ie, jerky, bobby, not terribly accurate :) ) I always thought I just sucked... you made my day!
posted by Malor at 4:16 AM on July 16, 2006

Some very quick notes about the P-47 for folks with no time to peruse.... it was primarily a short-range ground-attack plane in WW2, being a bit heavy and on the slow side for dogfighting. It could DO that -- and often had to -- but that wasn't where it excelled. It had a buttload of armor and was very, very tough. It had either six or eight machine guns, I forget which... it was a lot of firepower. Things the P47 pointed at, died. The heavy armor made it somewhat resistant to AA fire, so it could get in and blow things up where wimpier fighters simply didn't dare go.

The modern equivalent would be the A-10 Warthog... ugly, tough, and supremely functional.

The P-51, which is the plane everyone loves, was the sleek, long-range fighter. It didn't have that much armor, but was much faster and far more maneuverable, and could penetrate into central Germany as a bomber escort. It wasn't at all suited for the ground attacks like you see in the videos IronLizard linked to.

There's a lot more to know about both, of course, but that's probably a reasonable thumbnail sketch.
posted by Malor at 4:30 AM on July 16, 2006

The formations they flew in were so tight - amazing...
posted by runkelfinker at 4:59 AM on July 16, 2006

Incredible. Thanks!

Was that some early HUD technology (maybe 2 minutes in), or just some random light reflections?
posted by Bort at 6:03 AM on July 16, 2006

my grandpa flew a P-51 in the war, but luckily for me never saw combat. my other grandpa's merchant navy ship was sunk by this guy, but luckily for me got out alive (as did everyone else on board). It's funny how were it not for that war, really very few of us would actually be here.
posted by 6am at 6:47 AM on July 16, 2006

Thanks for posting this. Those early aviators had big brass cajones.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:48 AM on July 16, 2006

The P-47 Thunderbolt (known affectionately as "The Jug" because of its size and shape) carried 8 .50 caliber machine guns, four on each wing.

At high altitudes they actually were quite good at dogfighting. They were a little underpowered, so they didn't climb quite as well as you might like, but they had a lot of good features, including quite long range (comments above notwithstanding).

They did not use color film in gun cameras; those videos have been colorized.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:58 AM on July 16, 2006

Mmmm, war pr0n.
posted by signal at 7:58 AM on July 16, 2006

They did not use color film in gun cameras

You mean "color gun camera footage was rare in the European theater and common in the Pacific."

We also don't know that this wasn't some special effort for propaganda / documentary reasons.

We also also don't know that the relevant planes were USAAF and not RAF or assorted foreign add-ons thereunto. All we know is that whoever they are doesn't like villages, trucks, or BF109s very much.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:32 AM on July 16, 2006

That's right kids, that's some killin' yer watching. (not that there's anything wrong with that)
posted by blue_beetle at 10:17 AM on July 16, 2006

They did not use color film in gun cameras

You mean "color gun camera footage was rare in the European theater and common in the Pacific."
No, I mean they did not use color film in gun cameras.

When I need your assistance in formulating my thoughts into words, I will most definitely ask you for it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:04 AM on July 16, 2006

No, I mean they did not use color film in gun cameras.

That was trying to be a nicer way of saying "That thing you said? It's wrong."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:15 AM on July 16, 2006

Woah, dude - the footage in that Google video is all in colour and is mostly from gun cameras. No way is that 'colorized' film.
posted by Flashman at 11:16 AM on July 16, 2006

What Malor said.

I have more respect for the games, the game designers and the historical researchers. I've flown both the P-47 and P-51 in these sims in "realistic" configurations and settings, and while the P-51 is fast, powerful and lively, the P-47 sure can take and dish out a whole lot more damage.

Also, that's some damn fancy flying and shooting in those videos. Some of the dogfights and strafing runs are right down there on the deck, and I can't even shoot that accurately in the comfort and calmness of my computer chair. It's real easy to get turned around and make a wrong turn into the ground, or lose tracking on a ground target.
posted by loquacious at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2006

A historical note about the P-47 and the P-51. Anyone see the movie "The Tuskegee Airmen"? (If not, see it; it's really very good.)

That unit of black aviators originally flew a plane called the "Airacobra", an incredible piece of shit which was marginally acceptable as a ground attack plane but totally hopeless for any kind of combat against other fighters.

Eventually they were given P-47's. In the movie, at one point two of the pilots were out on patrol and saw and shot up a destroyer. One of them got a lucky shot and the destroyer suffered a massive explosion amidships and sank.

They show the (B/W) gun camera film later. It's pretty amazing, because that film is genuine. Two pilots of the 302nd Squadron actually did spot a destroyer in the Gulf of Venice and attack it. There wasn't any doubt that it was an enemy ship because there was no way a friendly destroyer would have been in those waters. It was an Italian ship which was taken by the Germans and reflagged after the Italians changed side in the war.

I've thought hard about that explosion and I've come to the conclusion that Lieutenant Gynne Pierson made a lucky hit on one of the destroyer's torpedos and set off its warhead. That would have detonated all the other torpedos in the launcher, of course, and the resulting detonation would certainly have been more than enough to break the ship in half.

Anyway, it's an example, albeit a fluke example, of the sheer firepower the P-47 packed.

Another mission that the P-47 excelled at was fighting the ME-262, surprisingly enough. Not in the air around squadrons of bombers, though.

The ME-262, the first operational jet fighter in history, was fearsome in the air, but it drank fuel at an unbelievable rate and couldn't stay in the air very long. P-47 squadrons would hang around over German airfields where 262's were known to be based, and when 262's were returning from combat missions, the P-47's would dive down to the deck and attack them while they were trying to land. That gave the 262 pilots a real dilemma: if they flew low and slow and straight to make their landings, the P-47's would shoot them up. But if they maneuvered and mixed it up with the P-47's, they'd run out of fuel and crash anyway.

The P-47 was particularly good for that mission because it could dive faster than any other fighter available. In fact it was legendary for its ability to lose altitude. So they could hang out at quite high altitude, and still make it down to the ground in time to do some good.

An ugly plane, but a great one. No doubt about it. The Mustang was a much prettier plane, but there's a good reason why so many P-47's were built and deployed along side the P-51's.

[But the P-47 was far from the ugliest plane we used in WWII. For that you've got to go with the P-38 Lightning. Ye Gods. Another great plane with a face that only a mother could love.]
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:03 PM on July 16, 2006

nice is not the first word which came to my mind.
posted by nostrada at 2:41 PM on July 16, 2006

Well. Steven seems to be on such a hair trigger I hesitate to say anything, but here goes. You said elsewhere:
"Gun camera film was always B/W. This stuff is colorized."
And the response was:
"The majority of footage was B&W...however, a lot of footage survived that was shot in color. You can buy DVDs full of the stuff at Amazon, find clips all over the 'net...it's not hard to dig up 4 or five minutes of actual, legit color dogfight footage.
I don't think that video was colorized. It's obvious when color is added to B&W: that footage all looked like natural, over-saturated 40's filmstock, and since it's readily available...Occam's razor.
Posted by: JimK on June 26, 2006 03:42 AM"

Now I am admittedly not 100% certain of this, but why does the above explanation not work for you?
What I can say is that I worked for a few years doing transfers and color correction of film from the National Archives, and saw all of this same stuff many many times. If it was colorized, it was done a long time ago, as the film I handled was often very old and beat up. And they did a less than stellar job of colorizing, too - most of what we see in those links has had major color correction work done on it. I do think it was shot on color, but would be interested to know if I'm mistaken - please do explain.

Oh, and not to be contrary, but I've always thought the P-38 was especially bad-ass cool looking!

Anyway, it is very cool footage.
posted by zoinks at 5:47 PM on July 16, 2006

u call taht straffing they dint even go in a circle
posted by Ritchie at 8:46 PM on July 16, 2006

Such a polite takedown of Den Beste. Better than he deserved, I think. I spent more than two hours this morning searching the net for something definitive on this contention. The most convincing thing I read was that the 5th started using color film in '43 and did so for contrast purposes. But that claim was without citation. Nevertheless, while I did find examples where b&w had been colorized, I found quite a few examples from sources where these color gun camera films were accepted as being authentic. I'm much more inclined to believe that there was limited color gun camera film used in WW2 than I am to Den Beste's unqualified and absolute assertion that it was not.

However, it looks like it would require some off-web word to pin this down.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:28 PM on July 16, 2006

P-51 Mustang--the Cadillac of the skies!
posted by kirkaracha at 10:28 PM on July 16, 2006

Stephen C. Den Beste said: "...but they had a lot of good features, including quite long range (comments above notwithstanding)."

I don't think that's true either. One of the drivers in the creation of the P51 was the short range of the P47. It could not take off from England, escort bombers into Germany, and return. This meant that the bombers were 'naked' for about 2/3 of their journey... the enemy fighters would simply wait until the P47s were at bingo fuel and forced to turn around, and would then pounce on the unescorted bombers. The P51 fixed that problem... with external tanks, it could fly with the bombers the whole way.

Here's a source: One shortcoming, which was even more marked in other Allied fighters, was that of insufficient range to permit deep penetration into Germany, but means were already being sought to add to the P-47B's 307 U.S. gallons of internal fuel.

[several paragraphs omitted] By mid-1943 improved P-47Cs were becoming available, with external fuel tanks to increase range and a longer fuselage to improve maneuverability..

They don't say how long a range this variant had, but the original was certainly short range. 307 gallons, particularly in a machine that big and heavy, does not a long range fighter make.

I'm not sure if the updated versions had the range to escort bombers deep into Germany, but I don't remember reading that they were ever used that way.
posted by Malor at 12:26 AM on July 17, 2006

Malor, escorting bombers was the main mission of the 332nd fighter group (the "Tuskegee Airmen") when they were flying P-47's in Italy.

No fighter then, not even the Mustang, had the ability to stay with the bombers the whole way. What happened was that different fighter groups were tasked with escorting different parts of the bomber mission. Early ones flew with the bombers into Germany. Later ones would fly faster and meet the bombers, replacing the early ones who then returned home before their fuel ran out. On a really long mission that would happen more than once.

Late versions of the P-47 carried a quite high fuel load, using the same tricks that were used to modify the Mustang so that it too could carry a large fuel load. Neither of them was originally designed to carry as much fuel as they eventually did or to have the kind of range they eventually had.

It's possible that the Mustangs eventually had longer range than the P-47, but to refer to the P-47 as being "short range" is an insult to a fine plane.

Also, it's not the case that the Mustang was designed as a replacement for the P-47. The first Mustang flew in 1940. The first Thunderbolt flew in 1941. Both of them started showing up in theater in quantity about the same time, plus or minus a few months. Until that point, the workhorse which had replaced the obsolescent P-40 Warhawk and the execrable P-39 Airacobra was the P-38 Lightning.

The P-47 was one of three fighter planes designed to take advantage of a truly fine engine, the Pratt & Whtney R-2800 Double-Wasp. It was a radial air-cooled engine with 18 cylinders (in two ranks of 9) which produced fully 2000 horsepower (compared to 1500 for the Merlin which was used in the Mustang). The other two fighters that used that engine are also classics: the F4U Corsair, with its distinctive gull wing, and the F6F Hellcat. (The Double-Wasp was also used in a couple of bombers. Helluva engine.)

Regarding the use of color film in gun cameras, gun camera film had to be developed rapidly because it was used to evaluate the results of missions just after they were completed. In the 1940's the development process for color film was much more complicated than for B/W film, and a lot of this was done in the field. Color film was not much of an advantage in evaluating the results, but the process of developing it was much more painful. It also cost a lot more than B/W film did.

There was usage of color film. A military documentary team landed in Normandy carrying a lot of color stock and accompanied an American unit through the rest of the war, up to and including reaching one of the death camps. I saw a documentary about them which included their color footage.

But they didn't develop their film in the field. They shot it, and when it was possible it was sent back to England to be developed. Field use of color film in places where development needed to be done in the field rapidly made no sense, and that's why they used B/W instead.

Color film was also difficult to come by. It was still a new technology at the time, and production of it involved a lot more kinds of chemicals and a lot more time and effort than production of B/W film, and during the war all those things were in short supply. Where B/W film would serve, it was used. That's why few feature films during WWII were made in color: the studios couldn't get color film stock.

I'm not foolish enough to claim that it absolutely never happened even once. But it was not the norm. So I say "They didn't use color in gun cameras" because that's pretty much the truth. Like all generalizations it may be possible to find minor and unimportant exceptions.

If there was anywhere where color gun camera film might have been used, it would have been on carrier-based aircraft, because it might have been reasonable to have a pretty decent development lab on a carrier. Certainly you wouldn't want to muck with color film if everything in your airbase is in canvas tents. But I don't even believe it was done routinely by the Navy, because there was no good reason to use color film, and because of the expense and difficulty of making color film. Why bother with it?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:08 PM on July 17, 2006

You are reasoning out an argument why color gun film would be rare or nonexistent. It's not airtight reasoning and the testimony of zoinks, for example, is more convincing that at least some of these films we're seeing were shot in color. You asserted here and elsewhere that particular films under discussion unequivocably were colorized. Your argument for the rarity of color gun film doesn't warrant such absolute and specific statements.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:32 AM on July 18, 2006

Not to play dogpile on Steven C. Den Beste ( I don't have a dog in the color-film fight), but

[But the P-47 was far from the ugliest plane we used in WWII. For that you've got to go with the P-38 Lightning. Ye Gods. Another great plane with a face that only a mother could love.]

is flat-out wrong... the P-38 is one sweet-looking aircraft.
posted by COBRA! at 7:15 AM on July 18, 2006

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