War II was a definitive moment in history for aircraft. For both the
military and commercial industry it was the heyday of aircraft production.
Before the start of the war the U.S. Army Air Corps had only a few hundred
air planes. By the end of the war it was the largest Air Force ever
assembled with nearly 80,000 airplanes. Aircraft production and technology
improved at dramatic rates as America set the world pace for military and
civil aviation. More than 100 types of aircraft were used by the Army Air
Force (AAF) during World War II.
During World War II military airplanes consisted of a single wing
aluminum airframe, one to four engines and equipment for navigation,
armament, communications and crew accommodations. Major advancements in
propulsion or engine technology were made during the war and were major
sources of competition between aircraft contractors.
During World War II the primary mission of attack aircraft was to
support ground forces in battle and aircraft were designed with this in
mind. The attack aircraft provided support and operated primarily at low
Also considered a light bomber, the attack planes were known for their
high speed, maneuverability and weapons. They carried both machine guns
and bombs. The A-20, A-24 and A-26 were the attack aircraft most used by
the AAF during the war.
Many different bombers were used during World War II. The B-17, B-24, B
26, and B-29 were the workhorses of the AAF fleet. Both the B-25 and B 26
were twin engine, all-metal monoplanes. The B-25 "Mitchell" and
B-26 "Marauder" were medium bombers used mainly at altitudes of
8,000 to 14,000 feet. They primarily supported ground forces by targeting
fortified positions, depots, railroad yards and other targets behind
battle lines. They also supplemented heavier bombers on more strategic
raids. The B 17 "Flying Fortress" was the first of the big
bombers used during World War II. It was used mainly in Europe by 8th Air
Force but in much smaller numbers in the Far East.
BOEING B-17G FLYING FORTRESS
The Flying Fortress is one of the most famous airplanes ever built. The
B-17 prototype first flew July 28, 1935. Few B-17s were in service on Dec.
7, 1941, but production quickly accelerated.
The aircraft served in every World War II combat zone, but is best known
for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. Production
ended in May 1945, and totaled 12,726.
In March 1944, this B-17G was assigned to the 91st Bomb Group and based at
Bassingbourn, England. There it was named "Shoo Shoo Baby" by
its crew, after a popular song. It flew 24 combat missions in WWII,
receiving flak damage seven times. Its first mission (Frankfurt, Germany)
was March 24, 1944, and last mission (Posan, Poland) May 29, 1944, when
engine problems forced a landing in neutral Sweden where the airplane and
crew were interned.
In 1968, "Shoo Shoo Baby" was found abandoned in France; the
French government presented the airplane to the U.S. Air Force. In July
1978, the 512th Military Airlift Wing moved it to Dover AFB, Del., for
restoration by the volunteers of the 512th Antique Restoration Group. The
massive 10-year job of restoration to flying condition was completed in
1988 and the aircraft was flown to the U.S. Air Force Museum in October
- ENGINES; FOUR WRIGHT R-1820-97 CYCLONE 9 CYLINDER AIR COOLED
RADIALS, 1,200 HP EACH.
- WINGSPAN; 103 FT. 9 IN./ LENGTH; 74 FT. 9 IN. / HEIGHT; 19 FT. 1
IN. WEIGHT; 65,500 LB.
- MAXIMUM SPEED; 287 MPH / CEILING; 35,600 FT / RANGE; 3,400 MILES.
- ARMAMENT; 13 MACHINE GUNS / 6,000 BOMBS.
The C-47 "Skytrain" evolved from the DC-3 airliner. It could
carry 25 paratroopers or up to 10,000 pounds of cargo. It was the standard
transport and glider tug used by the USAAF during the war and was flown in
every airborne forces operation of the war. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said
the C-47 was one of the four principal instruments of the allied victory
during World War II.
The P-38 "Lightning" was a single-seat fighter/bomber used
widely in Europe and the Far East. Originally designed to be a
high-altitude interceptor, it was modified for use as a bomber and photo
reconnaissance aircraft. America's top ace, Maj. Richard Bong, scored most
of his 40 victories while flying the P-38.
One of America's three outstanding fighters of the war, the P-47 was used
by many other Allied Air Forces including the French, British and
Russians. It served in Europe, the Far East and the Mediterranean and was
the first fighter to fly escort missions for B-17s. The
"Thunderbolts" were known for their ability to survive heavy
One of the premier fighters of the war was the P-51 "Mustang."
It was a long-range fighter used to escort heavy bombers on missions up to
2,000 miles. The aircraft was the top USAAF air-to-air fighter in World