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WW II Fighters & Dive Bombers

Fighter planes contributed significantly to the Allied powers' victory in World War II. At the start of the war in September 1939 when the German Luftwaffe led the invasion of Poland, the U.S. was awestruck. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 was led by similarly impressive aircraft. But the U.S. quickly developed and deployed fighter planes of equal and then superior capabilities, turned out in huge numbers by the U.S. aircraft manufacturing industry. These fighters provided escort for bombers, attacked ground and sea targets, and performed reconnaissance. Their role in the Allied victory cannot be underestimated, and showed the importance of air superiority in modern warfare.

Navy SB2C-1 Helldivers return to the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10) after a raid in early July 1944
Navy SB2C-1 "Helldivers" return to the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10) after a raid in early July 1944.

Today in WW II: 17 Jun 1940 As Germany overruns France, Allied troops execute Operation Ariel, the evacuation of France [15-25 June].  More 
17 Jun 1940 Luftwaffe bombs and sinks the British ship RMS Lancastria with the loss of 5800 troops being evacuated near Saint-Nazaire, France.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

Fighter Planes and Dive Bombers of World War II

North American P-51 fighter in flight during World War II
North American P-51 fighter in flight during World War II.

Fighter Planes and Dive Bombers were important weapons of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy respectively. In the U.S. Army, the Army Air Corps was responsible for developing and deploying aircraft, plus training pilots. The Army Air Corps became the Army Air Forces in June 1941, then became a separate branch of the U.S. military, the U.S. Air Force, on 18 September 1947.

Dive Bombers are related to fighters in size, but have a different mission. Their bombs are delivered by diving on the target with release of the bomb at short range. This increases accuracy against small targets such as ships, armored vehicles, or fixed emplacements such as bridges.

The Army's aircraft include some of the best known planes of World War II. The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was famed as the first American airplane to destroy a German aircraft in the war. It also played an important role in reconnaissance because of its high service ceiling. Both the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the North American P-51 Mustang provided close-air support for ground operations and escort for bombers, whose crews referred to them as their "Little Friends."

The U.S. Navy had its own aircraft, developed in concert with aircraft carriers to project force, particularly in the Pacific theater where the war against Japan involved taking control of islands such as Midway, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. Carrier-based operations involved protecting ships from Japanese aircraft and surface vessels as well as attacking Japanese assets.

The Navy's planes were renowned as dive-bombers and torpedo bombers. The Grumman F4F Wildcat could take off from small aircraft carriers, then hunt and kill Japanese submarines. The F6F Hellcat became the most successful plane in the Pacific theater because it could easily defeat the Japanese A6M Zero. Its power and versatility contributed substantially to the Allied victory in the Pacific.

WW II Fighters Photo Pages

The most significant fighter and dive bomber aircraft used in WW II are presented on the following Olive-Drab.com pages, with photos and description. Click on the photo link to go to the page for the individual aircraft.

 Chart of American World War II Fighters 
Aircraft Description Photo Link
P-38 Lockheed P-38 Lightning Lockheed P-38 Lightning
P-39 Bell P-39 Airacobra Bell P-39 Airacobra
P-40 Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
P-47 Republic P-47 Thunderbolt Republic P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter
P-51 North American P-51 Mustang North American P-51 Mustang
P-61 Northrop P-61 Black Widow Northrop P-61 Black Widow
P-63 Bell P-63 Kingcobra Bell P-63 Kingcobra
F2A Brewster F2A Buffalo Brewster F2A Buffalo
F4F Grumman F4F Wildcat Grumman F4F Wildcat
F4U Chance Vought F4U Corsair Chance Vought F4U Corsair
F6F Grumman F6F Hellcat Grumman F6F Hellcat
SBD Douglas SBD Dauntless Douglas SBD Dauntless
SB2C Curtiss SB2C Helldiver Curtiss SB2C Helldiver
TBF Grumman TBF Avenger Grumman TBF Avenger
TBD Douglas TBD Devastator Douglas TBD Devastator

Recommended Books about World War II Fighter Planes

See also the Olive-Drab.com Recommended Military Books: Air Force and Military Aviation.

Find More Information on the Internet

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