Thunderbolt with Free French

Last revised June 5, 1999




In March of 1944, the USAAF began providing Hurricane-equipped units of the Free French air force based in North Africa with P-47Ds. By may of 1944 the 4eme Escdre de Chasse was established in Corsica with two Groupes de Chasse. A third Groupe de Chasse was added soon thereafter. These units subsequently moved to southern France and participated in support of US and French units all the way into Germany. A second Escadre was formed late in 1944 and went into action In the last months of the war.

446 Thunderbolts were delivered to the Free French air force based in North Africa. They equipped the following units:

The Groupes de Chasse all bore the name of a French colony or province.

French use of the Thunderbolt continued on for several years after the end of the war in Europe. GC II/3 and GC II/5 were redesignated GC I/4 and GC II/4 in July of 1947. They remained as part of the occupation forces in Germany until late 1949. Also in July of 1947 GC I/4 and GC I/5 were redesignated as GC I/3 and GC II/3.

The personnel of the 3eme Escadre were sent to Indo-China in support of the supression of the Viet Minh insurrection, but their planes remained in Europe and they flew other aircraft. When the personnel returned to France late in 1948, they again operated P-47s until 1950, when the P-47s were replaced in service by De Havilland Vampire jets.

Other French post-war units flying the P-47 included:

Many of these French Thunderbolts were then transferred to Algeria, where they were used against the nationalist forces during the Algerian civil war. GC I/10, GC II/10, and GC III/10 were established from reserve training units in 1951. The first two were redesignated Escadron d'Entrainement a la Chasse (EEC) II/17 and Groupe d'Entrainement a la Chasse (GEC) II/17 in 1954. EEC I/7 was formed in the same year. In 1956, these operational training units were formed into the 20-eme Escradre for combat operations in Algeria. GC I/20 Ayres-Nementcha operated P-47s into mid 1950 but GC II/20 Ouarsenis operated P-47s as late as 1960. They were finally phased out of service during 1960, at about the same time that the French pulled out of Algeria.

Sources:

  1. American Combat Planes, Ray Wagner, Third Enlarged Edition, Doubleday, 1982.

  2. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion Books, 1987.

  3. United States Military Aircraft since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  4. The Republic P-47D Thunderbolt, Aircraft in Profile, Edward Shacklady, Doubleday, 1969.

  5. Famous Fighters of the Second World War, Volume I, William Green, 1967.

  6. Thunderbolt: A Documentary History of the Republic P-47, Roger Freeman, Motorbooks, 1992.