“Dotttie Mae” has a story to her with a touch of history to go along with it. She is a P-47D Thunderbolt (P47D-28-RA), serial number 42-29150, and manufactured in 1944 at the Republic factory in Evansville, Indiana. She was assigned to the USAAF’s 9th Air Force on December 16, 1944, and served with the 405th Fighter Group, 511th Fighter Squadron.
Lt. Lawrence Kuhl had 17 combat missions in his log book when he was assigned a new P-47 airframe. To honor his wife, he named the plane “Dottie Mae” and had the Roberto Vargas pin up calendar artwork piece titled “Santa’s Little Helper” painted on the side.
After flying in 90 combat missions, Dottie’s flying career came to an end on May 8, 1945 when she crashed into a lake near Ebensee, Austria. Sadly, the incident was not related to combat, but instead as a celebration. The pilot that day, Lt. Henry Mohr, was flying low over a recently liberated concentration camp to boost the morale of the prisoners. However, he came down too low and the propeller blades clipped the water causing the aircraft to crash into the lake. The airframe sank, but luckily Lt. Mohr survived the incident and exited the aircraft. Dottie remained at the bottom of the lake for over 60 years. With the crash, Dottie Mae made history as the last USAAF aircraft lost “in action” in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) during World War II.
In the summer of 2005, Dottie was raised from the lake in Austria, and in 2010 she brought to Idaho for restoration by Vintage Airframes, LLC. Surprisingly, she was reported to be in good shape considering she was in water for over six decades. Some of her original paint still remained including her name and nose art. The aircraft flipped over when she sank. The depth of the water, combined with the silt that collected over her underside surfaces preserved the aircraft nicely. The preservation is similar to the US Navy aircraft that sank in the Great Lakes during WWII.
The team at Vintage Airframes used original wartime design documents to make repairs and components. The owner spared no expense in restoring the aircraft to a “factory new” condition and the results are easily apparent. The preference was to use original parts if possible, then using new old stock or fabrication as a last resort. Dottie returned to the sky on her first post-restoration flight on June 23, 2017.
The aircraft is now owned by the “Allied Fighters” organization, which is based at the Chino, California airport. An excellent area for warbirds considering Planes of Fame Museum and Yank’s Air Museum are also located at the airport.
The return to flight is not the only bright spot in the story. When the restored Dottie was unveiled, three of her former crew were there to see her. Pilots Larry Kuhl (the one that named her) and Ralph Vanderkove were in the audience as well as one of her armorer’s, Leonard Hitchman.
After the war ended, many of the P-47s were scrapped rather than flown back or transported back to the United States. Of the approximately 15,000 P-47s built, Dottie is the only known combat veteran of either the 8th or 9th Air Force ETO area of operations with a combat history.
Dorie now makes many regular appearances at airshows on the West Coast. The casual person may identify the aircraft as a P-47, but few people know her place in history. She is a beautiful aircraft and it has been fun seeing her in her glory.
I have always wanted to go to Miramar, and in September of 2019, I finally made it happen. The Miramar show has historically been impressive and highly attended. This year the lineup was stacked since the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows Flight Demonstration Team included Miramar as one of the final stops on their 2019 North American Tour along with the other performers that included the US Navy Blue Angels, the USAF F-16 Viper demo, and the Heritage Flight. Not to be outdone, the Marine MAGTF demo is impressive on its own.
Sadly, the weather did not want to cooperate and provided gray skies and rain on and off for the first two days of the event. However, that did not prevent the Marines from Miramar or the other performers from putting on an incredible show. Sunday’s show was the beautiful blue skies I had hoped for and the Marines brought out all the stops for the final day!
MCAS Miramar is a huge facility, and is located just outside of downtown San Diego, California. The static display was well stocked and the Marine Squadrons stationed at Miramar had tables and tents set up near their aircraft to sell their squadron geedunk. The display was so large that I did not even get to see the entire static ramp. Hard to believe, but the flying starts early and there was simply so much to see and do that you cannot hit it all.
I really enjoyed this show and will plan on coming back regularly now. San Diego is a fun city and I plan to post some of the tourist stops I made on this trip in another post.
The US Marines MAGTF Demo
The MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) is a demonstration of the Marine’s air and ground forces across the missions assigned to the Marines. This includes fixed wing assets such as the KC-130 Hercules, F-35B Lightning II, and F/A-18C Hornets, tilt rotor V-22 Ospreys, and rotor assets such as the AH-1W Cobra, UH-1W Huey and massive CH-53 Sea Stallion. Armor and riflemen were also flown in to simulate ground forces.
The demo was impressive and one could not feel anything but patriotic after watching. The crowd cheered and the Marines that participated enjoyed every clap and cheer. Truly the highlight of the event.
F-35B Lightning II
At the conclusion of the MAGTF Demo, the Marines did a brief solo demonstration of the F-35B Lightning II, the STVOL version of the airframe. The F-35 is a loud aircraft, likely the loudest in service today. The “B” is no exception, but does not have the high shrill sound of the AV-8B Harrier it is replacing the in Marine fleet. The aircraft is just incredible and I enjoyed seeing the STOVL capabilities. The squadron performing was the VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers (stationed at MCAS Yuma) and part of MAG-13 stationed at Miramar.
USAF F-16 Viper Demo and Heritage Flight
The Viper demo performed a solo demonstration of the F-16 Viper as well participated in the Heritage Flight with Planes of Fame’s F-86 Sabre.
Warbirds from Planes of Fame and CAF SoCal
Although the show is billed as a “burner” show (slang for shows that feature modern military aircraft), it also featured some of the aircraft from the Planes of Fame Museum in nearby Chino and a freshly repainted Wildcat from the CAF SoCal Wing.
Southern California Fire Fighting
Another incredible demonstration (and a first for me) was the local aerial firefighting equipment, which included the massive Erickson S-64 Skycrane. and 2 converted UH-1 Hueys. Southern California is very dry and susceptible to large wildfires. Having aerial fire fighting equipment is essential to fighting these large fires.
Royal Air Force Red Arrows
It is always a treat to see one of the European jet teams since North American tours are usually once every 10-15 years. When they announced the tour, I immediately started looking to find a location to see them. I last saw them in 2008, and they performance made a lasting impression on me. Their show is impressive and action packed. Our jet teams are fantastic due to the pure muscle and brawn of their jets. The Red Arrows are graceful and elegant, yet still have some maneuvers that impress. However, one thing that this team has over the North American jet teams is the colored smoke. It is so beautiful to see the red, white and blue trailing behind the aircraft.
One last thing about the Red Arrows. In 2008, I had the opportunity to meet several of the pilots and crew. Once again in 2019 I had the same opportunity. These men and women were nothing but friendly and happy to answer all of the questions being sent their way. They had free things to hand out to the kids and adults to better understand the team and their goodwill mission to North America. The team was under major stress and away from home for a long stretch. You would never know it given the level of professionalism presented by these fine people. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Red Arrows and will follow them again when the opportunity arises!
US Navy Blue Angels
The Navy’s flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels were the headline act and were equally impressive as their RAF colleagues. The team was sharp and performed in some difficult skies. Not too much to say about arguably the world’s most widely recognized and respected jet team other than SIMPLY THE BEST!
US Army Golden Knights
The US Army’s parachute demonstration team performed the parachute demonstrations for the event. Some of their jumps were scrubbed due to low ceilings. However, Sunday was flawless and allowed for jumps. Two notable additions to the 2019 team was the 60th Anniversary canopies and a new jump platform, the DHC-8-300.
Around the Airfield
Sometimes you have to miss the aerial action to catch some of the fun things that happen on the ground. In this instance, I was able to catch several of the squadron vehicles delivering the next rotation of staff to the squadron tents or merchandise tucked away for sale.
The 2018 Planes of Fame Airshow was held May 4 – 6, at the airport in Chino, California. This year’s theme aircraft was P-38 Lightnings and had four flyable examples on hand. Another surprise was Yanks Air Museum pulled out their F-5G Lightning, a photo reconnaissance version of the P-38L, and placed it on static display. Unfortunately, P-38 “Lightning 33” had issues with an alternator and was unable to participate in the flying portion of the show. It was still mighty impressive to see three P-38s in formation at one time! A P-38 also participated in the USAF Heritage Flight.
This years event also included a segment on air racing, which featured passes by highly modified P-51 Mustangs air racers named “Strega” and “Voodoo”. Voodoo currently holds world’s record as the fastest piston powered aircraft at 531.64 mph.
A recently restored P-47D Thunderbolt “Dottie Mae” made her airshow debut at PoF, and she was absolutely beautiful. Dottie Mae is a later model bubble top variant of the Thunderbolt. Originally, the Thunderbolt had a razorback style aft of the cockpit. Planes of Fame’s P-47 is a razorback style and flew in formation with Dottie Mae. The bubble top shows the greatly improved reward vision.
THE PLANES OF FAME COLLECTION
Nearly all of the flyable aircraft in the Planes of Fame inventory participate in the annual airshow. Their collection of aircraft is impressive and contains rare birds like the P-47 razorback variant of the Thunderbolt, P-51A Mustang and the only flying examples of the P-26 Peashooter and N9M Flying Wing. The diverse collection contains US Navy aircraft from WWII such as the SBD Dauntless and TBF Avenger, well as classics such as the P-51 Mustang and P-40. Planes of Fame also has flying examples from the Korean War era such as the Yak-9, F-86 and MiG-15. The collection also includes a Vietnam era A-1 Skyraider.
COLLABORATIONS WITH OTHER MUSEUMS
Another reason why this show is special is that many of the nearby Museums share their aircraft which allows for many other aircraft variants to be viewed. Museums include:
The Lyon Air Museum CAF – SoCal Wing Palm Springs Air Museum Warhawk Air Museum Lewis Air Legends GossHawk Unlimted, Inc. Sanders Family Yanks Air Museum
These museums bring aircraft like the P-51B Mustang, PBY4 Privateer, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, F7F Tigercat, P-51D Mustangs, Spitfires, P-63 King Cobra, P-40 Warhawks, C-47 Skytains.
Many other individual warbird owners also bring their aircraft, which also adds to the overall aircraft list.
The show also attracts demos from the USAF (this year the A-10 Warthog) and civilians such as Greg Colyer in his T-33 Shooting Star.
The lineup of aircraft below is just one of several, and by this view alone you can tell just how special this show really is. In my opinion, if you are a warbird fanatic like me, this is the ultimate warbird airshow to attend in the United States.