EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT) A nearly 40-year treasure hunt is apparently over for Evansville.

Community leaders have been looking for a made in Evansville P-47  Thunderbolt to bring it back home.

A group led by Evansville P-47 Foundation President Rick Kaskel and Evansville Wartime Museum President Richard Kuhn found one of the World War II planes in Houston. Thanks to their effort, the aircraft will fly back to Evansville Thursday.

Some military leaders called the P-47 the plane that won the war. One Evansville veteran pilot credits this fighter plane for his survival.

“It proved to be the best fighter plane in the war.”

Allen Sanderson became a fighter pilot and went off to war when he was just 19 years old. He is now 97.

He says a bulky P-47 Thunderbolt was not what he envisioned flying.

“The first look on it you said, ‘well, it’s too big.’ but it wasn’t. It was a great airplane.”

“It had a lot of power, a lot of fire power. The nice part about it was it would take a lot of damage and still bring you back home too.”

Sanderson says this is something he experienced first hand after his plane was shot at several times over the course of 118 missions he flew.

“Still here today.”

Now Sanderson is helping the P-47 Foundation and the Evansville Wartime Museum bring P-47 Tarheel Hal back home, paying homage to his fellow World War II pilots who weren’t as fortunate.

“To bring back a Thunderbolt, one that was made in Evansville especially, makes it even closer to home. It’s great.”

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch both lauded the effort and sacrifice people made in those most dangerous times.

Tarheel Hal will be flying over the River City for the first time since it left for war 75 years ago.

More than 6000 Thunderbolt fighter planes were built in Evansville by 1942.

A project which brought nearly 50,000 workers to the Tri-State, giving the town a boost during the aftermath of the Great Depression.

Tarheel Hal is set to fly over the Ohio River, near the LST before landing near the Evansville Wartime Museum on Petersburg Rd.

The fly-by should happen between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon, weather permitting.

After that the Thunderbolt is scheduled to finally have its home at the museum.

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(This story was originally published on October 11, 2020)