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P-47 Unearthed in France

By Stephan Wilkinson 
Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: January 24, 2011 
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On January 5, 1944, 2nd Lt. Kenneth Hindersinn was flying his P-47D Thunderbolt as tail-end Charlie on a B-17 escort mission over France when 20mm cannon rounds from a Focke-Wulf Fw-190 tore into his fighter from directly astern. It was the beginning of a lousy day for Hindersinn. He turned toward England with smoke in the cockpit, but losing altitude over the icy Channel, thought better of that plan and returned to France, where he tried to bail out over Normandy.

The canopy had been jammed by the German rounds, so his only option was to worm through the small escape panel in the greenhouse, parachute pack and all (his was a razorback D model, not one of the later bubble-canopied Ds). He inevitably got stuck. Fortunately, the Jug entered a spin, the centrifugal force tore Hinnersinn loose and he popped his chute.

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Landing on a farmhouse roof amid German troops, he made a run for it…only to become entangled in a hedgerow's barbed wire. Hindersinn spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft I, on the Baltic Sea. Bad luck continued to dog him: In 1993, when Hindersinn was 73, his schizophrenic eldest son attacked him with an ax, badly injuring him. He died in 2003.

Last September a farmer near St.-Mère-Eglise, in Normandy, was backhoeing a drainage system for his field when he hit metal—first a landing-gear leg and wheel, then four machine guns, an engine, parts of a cockpit and a P-47's big, tailcone-mounted turbosupercharger. When the engine's serial number was checked out, it turned out to be Hindersinn's airplane. One of the propeller blades had obviously taken a 20mm hit.

The wreck recovery was overseen by a French WWII historical society, Picauville se Souvient (Picauville Remembers). Another local commemoration organization, Association Normande pour le Souvenir Aérien (Normandy Aviation Memorial Association), estimates that Hindersinn's airplane was one of the 10,000 Allied and German airplanes shot down over Normandy, 6,000 of them during the three months following D-Day.

8 Responses to “P-47 Unearthed in France”

  1. 1
    Chuck Stewart says:

    Hi…you stumped me with "…his only option was to worm through the small escape panel in the greenhouse…." What/where is this escape panel in the P-47? Google search yielded no results.

    • 1.1
      Stephan Wilkinson says:

      On the Razorback, I believe it's the second panel back on the right side of the sliding part of the canopy, and it can be pushed out from inside. I'm not positive–could be one of the other panels on that part of the greenhouse–but the fact that he did it, wherever the panel was, is from the pilot's own report of the forced landing.

  2. 2
    Stephan Wilkinson says:

    I'm now wondering if it isn't one of the two overhead panels on the sliding part of the canopy, but I can't find anything by Googling "P-47 cockpit images" to confirm this.

    Another good source of this kind of information, by the way–though it doesn't help here–is to Google "[airplane type] walkaround." Walkarounds are files full of detail snapshots of just about any warbird you can think of, typically taken at a museum or during a restoration, and they're intended for the use of detailed-scale-model builders who want to know exactly what the inside of a landing-gear door, or whatever, looks like.

    • 2.1
      Chuck Stewart says:

      Thanks, again! I have viewed those 360 degree views at several sites. They are a great modeling resource…provided they don’t make me airsick! ;-)

      • 2.1.1
        Stephan Wilkinson says:

        I think we're talking about two different things. The 360-degree cockpit panoramas are one thing, and I've seen them too, but "walkarounds" are simply the product of an enthusiast walking all around, under and if possible on an airplane, taking snapshots of all sort of external details.

  3. 3
    Guillermo Horruitiner says:

    Please let me see some photos of that beautifull plane. It would be an interesting look.

    • 3.1
      Stephan Wilkinson says:

      The P-47 unearthed in France is certainly no longer a "beautiful plane." It has been under ground for nearly 70 years. For photos of a "beautiful" P-47D, do a Google search and click on "images.."

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