During World War II, aircraft became more important than ever before. This was particularly true for the US armed forces. Over the course of the war, US factories churned out hundreds of thousands of planes. These include several different models that were used in a variety of theaters, for a variety of purposes, over the course of the war.
Today, many of these aircraft are still in existence. They can be found in museum collections and private collections. Some are in great condition and can still be flown. These appear in airshows, and they are also used for film and television shoots. World War II-era airplanes are mostly propeller-driven. However, by the end of the war, there were some jet-powered planes in service. This was one of the most rapid periods of technological advancement for aircraft.
The Douglas SBD Dauntless is one of the most famous World War II-era planes. This model is a dive-bomber, designed to attack aircraft carriers. The Dauntless was famously used against Japan’s formidable navy at Midway. In the Dauntless, pilots and gunners sat back-to-back. The planes were famously “slow but deadly” with a top speed of just 255 miles per hour.
By contrast, North American Aviation’s P-51 Mustang was used in the European theater. These planes went deep into Germany. When modified with extra fuel tanks, the Mustang could fly over 2,000 miles without refueling. These propeller-driven planes were designed in 1940 after the Royal Air Force requested additional planes. These single-seat planes were used in World War II and the Korean War.
Pilots in the US Army Air Corps typically trained on the Boeing PT-17 Stearman. Many of the famous Tuskegee Airmen first trained in these planes. Over 10,000 of the Boeing PT-17 Stearmans were produced during this era. These planes were a great place for pilots to learn. A propeller-driven biplane, the PT-17 was a forgiving machine. Even pilots who made big errors were able to recover. Significant errors included crewmen who weren’t properly buckled in. Even after floating out of their seats, they remained safe. Other famous training planes of this era included the Vultee BT-13 and the T-6 Texan.
Over the course of WWII, the United States produced an estimated 300,000 airplanes. With such a high production volume, one might assume that the planes lacked quality, but many of them are still flying today. If you’re ever interested in seeing one of the planes in action, look into your local event calendar and you may just find an airplane expo near you!