Thunderbolt in Chinese/Taiwanese Service

P-47D-23-RA Unit: 11th FG Serial: P-47014 Kangwan Field, Shanghai, circa 1947.

P-47D-30-RA Unit: 43rd FS, 11th FG Serial: 432917 (44-32917) Circa 1947.

P-47D-28-RE “Lady Maurene” Unit: 43rd FS, 11th FG Serial: P-47036 Nationalist’s P-47s were used during the Chinese Civil War.

P-47 Communist China CPR

ca. 1954, Taiwan — Pilots Looking at Instructions — Image by © Horace Bristol/CORBIS

After World War II, the Chinese Nationalist Air Force received 102 P-47Ds used during the Chinese Civil War. The Chinese Communists captured five P-47Ds from the Chinese Nationalist forces. In 1948-57, the Chinese Nationalists employed 70 P-47Ds and 42 P-47Ns brought by Taiwan in 1952. P-47s were used extensively in aerial clashes over the Taiwan Strait between Nationalist and Communist aircraft.

Although P-47 production ceased just weeks after Japan’s surrender, Thunderbolts (re-designated as the F-47) continued to serve for years (and in some cases decades) after World War Two. America pulled the plane from front line service in 1949, but NATO allies like Turkey, Portugal and Italy maintained squadrons of Thunderbolts into the 1950s, as did Iran. Taiwanese F-47s routinely engaged communist fighters off the coast of China. Surplus models were also liberally distributed throughout Latin America during the same period. Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic all maintained fleets for years. Peru didn’t retire its Jugs until 1966. When designing its formidable A-10 tank buster in the early 1970s, engineers at Fairchild Republic tore a page from history and dubbed their new twin-engine attack jet the Thunderbolt II in honour of the P-47. Today, at least 15 original wartime Jugs are still airworthy and can be seen on the North American air show circuit each summer.

Republic of China Air Force [ROCAF] General HQ was established in June 1946. Starting in August 1948, the Air Force started moving its equipment and institutions to Taiwan. This operation alone was a massive one. It took what is today the Air Force Institute of Technology 80 flights and three ships over four months to relocate. This did not include the other academies, training facilities, manufacturing plants, radio stations and military hospitals, which moved separately.

Chin-chang Chen writes that during this period, an average of 50 or 60 planes flew daily between Taiwan and China transporting fuel and ammunition.

By May 1949, the Air Force Command Headquarters was operating out of Taipei, having transported 1,138 officers, 814 pilots, 2,600 family members and about 6,000 tonnes of equipment and classified documents. The last group of pilots barely made it out of Shanghai as the Communists stormed the airport. Other military branches made their exits as key locations in China fell.

In October 1949 five battalions of the PLA’s 61st Division began an assault on the Nationalist-held Dengbu Island. But even with their crushing superiority, the PLA units could not prevent the introduction of enemy reinforcements by sea, and after suffering 1,490 casualties, the Communist troops retreated  in defeat. Later that same month, the PLA Tenth Army attacked the island of Quemoy, and again lost the battle at sea. It could not reinforce the initial invasion force. Taking more than 9,000 casualties, the stranded force perished, and ever after its defeat for lack of sea and air support constituted an oft-repeated “bloody lesson”.

From 1946 to 1948, during the Chinese Civil War, the ROCAF participated in combat against the People’s Liberation Army engaging in air-to-air combat on at least eleven occasions in the areas surrounding the Taiwan Strait. The ROCAF reportedly enjoyed a 31:1 kill ratio against the PLA. GHQ was evacuated to Taiwan along with the rest of the ROC Government in April 1949 following the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. The ROCAF assisted in halting the PLA advance at the Battle of Kuningtou on Kinmen the same year.

The ROCAF regularly patrolled the Taiwan Straits and fought many engagements with its Communist counterpart (the PLAAF).

Bestfong decals: Airplane 1930~1950 ROCAF

ROCAF Combat Losses 1950-7 [F-47 = P-47]

1957
11/05 34 Sq 3 POW B-26 Downed in
Fujian. The
crew were
released 8
months later.
07/01 3 Sq KIA F-47N “699” Downed by
PLA AAA
04/15 12 Sq KIA RF-84F Crashed
when
diverted
to South
Korea
following
pursuit by
PLA MiG
1956
11/10 6 Sq 9 KIA C-46 Downed by
PLA MiG in
an airdrop
mission over
Jejiang
06/22 Spec. Op.
Unit
11 KIA B-17 Downed by
PLA MiG-17
in Jiangxi
1955
07/16 1 Sq KIA F-84G “118” Downed by
PLA AAA
near Kinmen
06/27 12 Sq KIA RT-33A “7” Downed by
PLA MiG-15 off coast of
Fujian
02/20 3 Sq KIA F-47N “142” Downed by
PLA Navy
AAA
01/21 43 Sq KIA F-47N “209” Downed by
PLA Navy
AAA
01/19 1 Sq                            KIA F-84G “315” Downed by
PLA AAA.
First jet
aircraft lost.
1954
11/17 12 Sq KIA RT-33A “2” Crashed into mountains in
Fujian
when evading PLA MiG-15
11/01 5 TFG KIA F-47N “380” Crashed in a
bombing
mission in
Fujian
10/15 27 Sq MIA F-47N “227” Failed to
return
09/12 35 Sq 9 KIA PB4Y “12” Downed by
PLA AAA
near Xiamen
09/04 8 Sq KIA F-47N “369” Damaged by
PLA AAA in a
bombing
mission.
Crashed near
Kinmen.
07/06 43 Sq KIA F-47N “313” Downed by
PLA MiG-15
06/03 26 Sq KIA F-47N “222” Downed PLA
La-11
05/26 Spec. Op.
Unit
4 KIA B-17 Downed by
PLA AAA
over Fujian
03/18 26 Sq KIA F-47N “219” Downed PLA
MiG-15
02/09 27 Sq KIA F-47N “267” Downed by
PLA AAA
1953
12/17 26 Sq KIA F-47N “193” Downed by
PLA AAA
over Jejiang
07/16 41 Sq KIA F-47N “335” Downed by
PLA AAA
over
Dongshan
Island
1951
11/08 41 Sq MIA F-47N “129” Failed to
return from a
recce mission
over
Guandong
1950
07/29 41 Sq KIA F-47N “126” Downed by
PLA AAA
over Xiamen
04/02 22 Sq KIA P-51 Downed by
Soviet
aircraft
stationed in
Shanghai
03/16 23 Sq KIA P-51 Downed by
PLA AAA
03/14 12 Sq 6 KIA F-10 “07” Downed by
PLA aircraft

ROCAF Combat Losses Since 1950

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2 thoughts on “Thunderbolt in Chinese/Taiwanese Service

  1. Pingback: Taiwan Air Force – Taiwanese Straits | Weapons and Warfare

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