The Spirit of Madison

The Spirit of Madison

January 19, 2017 – During World War II, thanks in large part to the pervasive patriotism of the day, it was a common occurrence for communities to raise funds to purchase a piece of war materiel, which would then bear that community’s name. Tanks, trucks, and jeeps were popular choices, but some cities seemed to have a soft spot for airplanes, including the proud citizens of Madison, New Jersey. They launched a vigorous fundraising campaign and before long had raised $75,000, which was enough to purchase a brand new Republic P-47D Thunderbolt christened The Spirit of Madison, New Jersey.

Not much is known about the aircraft’s history, though a cursory look at U.S. Army Air Forces records suggests that it was destroyed in a crash just a few months after it was delivered. Regardless, there are Madison residents who lived through the war years that still remember when they contributed to the purchase of the Spirit of Madison and the impact it had on their homefront morale. A local military history buff, John Punola, EAA 1070897, has been researching the city’s wartime contribution in conjunction with the Madison Historical Society, and is now leading the effort to find a P-47 that could be restored for static display. Those residents who still remember the airplane, and the pride they felt as their community rallied around the war effort, would love to see one in front of the historic Borough Building in downtown Madison. Anyone who knows of any non-flyable P-47 projects that might be suitable to serve as a stand-in for The Spirit of Madison are encouraged to contact John directly at japunola@aol.com or by phone at 973-822-2395. 

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Hal, EAA Lifetime 638979, is senior editor for EAA digital and print content and publications, co-author of two books, and a lifelong pilot and aviation geek. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at halbryan or e-mail him at hbryan@eaa.org.