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Italian fishermen net historic 'Jug' at sea

by Tech. Sgt. Michael O'Connor
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/10/2009 - CHIOGGIA, Italy (AFNS) -- If you've ever gone fishing or know someone who has, you've probably told or heard your fair share of stories about "the one that got away."

On the early morning hours of May 12, two Italian fishermen aboard the Padre Pio returned to the fishing port city of Chioggia, Italy, following a day at sea on the Adriatic. As one would expect from fishermen, they had a story to tell. Only this one wasn't about a ficticous fish that eluded them at sea.

Unsure on what they had entangled in their net, Filippo Salvagno, owner of the Padre Pio, said he was sure it wasn't the squid they were fishing for.

While their catch of the day won't find its way onto any dinner table or restaurant menu, it did cause local Italian and U.S. Air Force aviation enthusiasts and historians mouth's to water once they learned of the 60-something-year-old "Jug," that had been recovered from the bottom of the Adriatic Sea.

The find is believed to be a section of a P-47 Thunderbolt, a World War II Army Air Force fighter aircraft that's been lying on the bottom of the Adriatic since the mid 1940s, said Andrea Anesini, president of the Aeroclub Ferrarin in Thiene, Italy, during a symbolic Nov. 14 ceremony held on the Chioggia fishing docks. "Jug" was a nickname for the P-47. An engine, believed to be that from this wreckage has also been recovered.

Used as both a high-altitude escort fighter and a low-level fighter-bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness. Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the P-47 to absorb severe battle damage and keep flying. During World War II, the P-47 served in almost every active war theater and in the forces of several allied nations. By the end of World War II, more than 15,600 P-47s had been built.

Following the ceremony, the wreckage is going to Bassano del Grappa, Italy, where the Ferrarin will spend the next two years trying to restore as much of the "Jug" as possible.

Mr. Anesini said he hoped by the completion of the restoration project that his aero club will find clues that will lead to the identity of the pilot who was lost more than 60 years ago and bring closure to the family.

Col. Patrick Miller, the 31st Operations Group commander from Aviano Air Base, Italy, officials from the Italian Port Authority in Chioggia, and several other Italian distinguished visitors from the Veneto Region and towns of Thiene and Chioggia attended the ceremony as well as other family and friends of everyone involved.

During the ceremony, Colonel Miller thanked everyone involved and for hosting the ceremony.

"We appreciate being invited out to be a part of this ceremony," Colonel Miller said. "We thank you for the respect you've shown to this wreckage and your consideration for the lost pilot, and the plans you have to find out the serial number and to identify the pilot. I can assure you we will do what we can to assist you in that endeavor."

The Padre Pio crew said they netted the heavy load while out on a routine fishing expedition near Porto di Piave Vecchia at cordinates 45 degree 20.333 minutes north latitude and 12 degrees 44.936 minutes east longitude.

To the recreational fisherman who casts a line from the dock of a lake or from a fishing pier, a catch so big that can't be reeled in by oneself would most certainly highten one's curiousity on what's on the other end of the line.

Mr. Salvagno, a native of Chioggia who's been fishing recreationally and professionally for the past 30 years, said he was more worried about the new fishing net he had wrapped around this "whopper" of a catch, than the catch itself.

In an attempt to recover the new fishing net and to keep from causing further damage to the equipment and boat itself, Mr. Salvagno said they opted to drag the mystery catch back to the port versus cutting the line and leaving the net in the water.

While the Padre Pio crew is credited with recovering what's believed to be a part of the fuselage, right wing with landing gear, and a small part of the left wing, Mr. Salvagno said the find actually cost his fishing business approximately 30,000 euro in damages to his equipment and boat and in lost wages as his boat was not operational for nearly three weeks.

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