The size of American military aviation grew dramatically during WWII, from around 2,500 planes to approximately 300,000 by the end of the conflict. The Museum’s collection of 30 World War II-era American military aircraft includes everything from propeller-driven trainers, fighters, flying boats, and bombers to the country’s first jet-powered fighters. What is the difference between an airplane and an aircraft? They represent the Army Air Forces, Navy, and Marine Corps pilots, as well as the crews that flew them, the ground and sea support personnel who maintained them, and the people who built these war machines on the home front. The legacy of their role in World War II, as well as the continuous excitement for these planes, is still felt by Americans today.
Evolution of World War 2 Planes From World War 1
During WWII, planes evolved due to several technological advances. The planes were made of wood and manufactured in biplane form during WWI. With aluminum bodies and supercharged piston engines, WW2 planes were significantly sleeker and more powerful.
During the war, the British, Germans, and Americans began to experiment with jet engines. The jet engines were deployed in several combat missions and were capable of much higher speeds than propeller engines. The Germans also developed and tested pilotless guided missiles like the V1 and V2, but the majority of WWII air warfare was fought with piloted, propeller-driven fighters and bombers.
Large bombers built towards the end of the war were crucial in weakening the Germans’ ability to supply fuel and bombs. These bombers, like the Boeing B-29, were massive planes capable of dropping atomic bombs practically anywhere on the planet. The Americans utilized a B-29 bomber called the “Enola Gay” to drop an atomic bomb on Japan in their most recent air raid. Fighters and bombers had grown into a very powerful weapon in the military armory by the end of World War II, and they are still used by armed forces all over the world today.
Plane Models During World War 2
- B-17 Flying Fortress by Boeing
The B-17 Flying Fortress was one of the deadliest planes of World War II, embodying the cherished American concept of precision daytime bombing. The B-17 was developed in the mid-to the late 1930s and entered service in 1938, although manufacturing was limited due to peacetime financial constraints. The Flying Fortress, on the other hand, seemed to live up to its name, with four Wright radial engines, a four-thousand-pound bomb load, and a strong battery of machine guns. The Fortress was first used by the Royal Air Force in April 1941, however, Bomber Command doctrine did not match the Fortress’s capabilities. Following that, RAF Coastal Command flew the majority of British B-17s.
For the United States, The B-17 was a first-to-last warrior in the Army Air Forces. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, caught a flight of B-17Es; G models remained operating on VJ-Day. The Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces’ B-17 bombers delivered 45.8% of the USAAF bomb tonnage against Germany while suffering 47.1 percent of the bomber losses—4,688 bombers were lost in battle. By June 1944, England had twenty-three B-17 groups operational.
Between 1940 and 1945, the Army Air Forces acquired 12,692 Fortresses constructed by Boeing, Douglas, and Vega. The “Fort” had the best safety record of any USAAF bomber of the time, being stable and easy to fly for a multi-engine aircraft.
- The Douglas A-20 Havoc aircraft
The Douglas Havoc, sometimes known as the Boston, had a tumultuous history before proving itself in combat against all three Axis powers during World War II. The twin-engine bomber was a “holdover” project taken over by Douglas Aircraft when it absorbed Northrop’s facility in El Segundo, California (DB for Douglas Bomber). With its two 1,100 hp Pratt & Whitney radial engines, it flew at 314 mph for the first time in October 1938.
- Consolidated B-24 Liberator aircraft
The Liberator, which was big and slab-sided, was mocked by Fortress pilots as “the box the B-17 came in.” However, it was faster and had a longer range than many World War II planes, and it became the most-produced American plane of the war, with 18,190 Liberators accepted between 1940 and August 1945. The Eighth Air Force had seventeen Liberator units at the time of Operation Overlord.
The Liberator, like the B-17, was discovered to be vulnerable to head-on German fighter attacks, thus weaponry was boosted. The B-24G, H, and J versions received motorized turrets at the nose and tail in mid-1943, bringing the overall armament to ten.50 caliber guns. Because of the B-17’s higher service ceiling, some Eighth Air Force B-24 groups were reequipped with B-17s by the fall of 1944. The Liberator’s high-aspect-ratio wing let it fly faster but at a lower altitude. It also has similarities with the famous Spitfire aircraft.
The B-24 concluded the European war with roughly identical statistics to its Boeing competitor. Both bombers averaged roughly four thousand pounds of bombs each sortie and flew somewhat more than sixty-two sorties per combat loss.
- The Douglas C-47 Skytrain
The Douglas DC-3 airliner, arguably the most important plane in World War II history, revolutionized commercial aviation when it first flew in 1935. Its military potential was clear by 1940, and the Army Air Corps awarded Douglas a contract that year. The Skytrain could carry twenty-seven troops, up to twenty-four injury litters, or five tons of goods with a simplified cabin, stronger fuselage, and wide cargo doors. The C-47’s two 1,200-horsepower Pratt and Whitney radial engines provided the altitude performance needed to penetrate some of the world’s highest mountain ranges.
General Dwight Eisenhower credited the C-47 with helping the Allies win the war in Europe. Over 900 skytroopers and skytrains provided most of the airlift for American and British paratroopers, as well as towing glider aircraft, making it a substantial contribution to Overlord. On the 5th and 6th of June, seventeen C-47s were shot down.