The USAAF was undoubtedly the most formidable air force of the 1940s. Once the Americans began to produce military aircraft in increasing numbers after Pearl Harbor it became not only the biggest, but the best air force with some of the most advanced combat and bomber aircraft of the period. As such, American military aircraft made a big contribution to the Allies and their victory. These are a few of the U.S. planes that had the most impact.
The B-25 Mitchell
The B-25 Mitchell was one of the earlier bomber aircraft used by the American primarily in the Pacific War. Among the most famous missions the B-25 Mitchell flew in was the Doolittle Raid in 1942, which was the first Allied bombing raid on Japan. Jimmy Doolittle had a squadron of B-25s that bombed Japanese cities during the Doolittle Raid, and America celebrated the raid.
The Japanese A6M Zero was unmatched during the earlier years of the Pacific War. However, this began to change during 1943 as the Allies introduced a number of new and more advanced fighter planes that would make the A6M increasingly obsolete. One of these was the F6F, which took to the skies in 1943 and flew in the Battle of Tarawa and the ‘Allied Turkey shoot’ at the Battle of the Philippine Sea where the Japanese lost hundreds of aircraft. This battle perfectly highlighted Allied air superiority in 1944. The F6F was also a flexible aircraft that could be used in a ground attack role to bomb ground targets.
The B-17 was the Americans primary bomber aircraft for bombing German industrial targets. As such, the B-17 reduced German factories to rubble limiting German armament and munitions production. Further to this, the B-17s also bombed German oil factories which depleted Axis oil supplies. There were some famous B – 17 aircraft such as the Memphis Bell which featured in the Memphis Bell film.
The P-51 Mustang
In late 1943, the United States introduced the P-51 Mustang fighter plane. The P-51 Mustang’s biggest advantage was that it was a longer range aircraft than other Allied models such as the Spitfire. Given this, the Mustang could escort the Allied bombers for longer distances all the way to their targets, so the scope of potential Allied bombing targets in Western Europe was considerably enhanced by 1944.
Aside from this, the Mustang was also a pretty formidable combat plane too, with good speed and agility. It was a match for the best German aircraft such as the Messerschmitt 109s. Not only could the Mustang provide longer and more extended cover for the Allied bombers, they could also down Luftwaffe aircraft in larger numbers than other Allied models.
The introduction of the Mustang was one of the main factors that gained the Allies air superiority in Western Europe. The P-51 downed thousands of German combat aircraft from 1944 and into 1945. In addition to this, few Mustangs were lost in comparison to the Luftwaffe planes. In this respect, it was perhaps the Allies finest combat plane of the war.Credit: This is a public domain image.
With the Mustangs escorting them, the Allied bombing campaign became increasingly more effective. In 1944, German industry was hit hard. For all the aircraft factories and fuel depots that were hit, the number of Luftwaffe planes that took the skies also gradually decreased. This also helped cut the number of lost Allied bombers.
Mustangs also assisted with bombing targets at closer range. German airfields became a target for them. The Nazi jet fighters were the only serious match for the Mustangs, because they were a good deal faster; but they too could be taken out by the Mustangs when landing at airfields.
The P-38 Lightening was a lightning quick aircraft that remained in service for much of the Pacific War up until 1945. This plane could reach speeds of up to 400 mph, and outmatched the A6M Zeros. P-38s also downed Admiral Yamamoto’s transport plane in 1943, a couple of years after his Pearl Harbor airstrike.
The SBD Dauntless
The SBD Dauntless was a dive-bomber aircraft that had some impact in the Pacific. As it was a carrier based plane it was essential in battles with the IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) fleets at Coral Sea, Midway, Santa Cruz and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Although a little outmoded by that time, the aircraft was still retained in 1944.
The SBD dive-bomber first took to the skies in 1940. The plane included a glazed cockpit that could accommodate up to two personnel, a pilot and gunner at the rear cockpit. The gunner position included a 7.62 mm machine gun which undoubtedly saved a good number of SBD Dauntless planes. Forward gun systems that were later included provided 12.7mm machine guns. Later models included up to four machine guns which could be handy when up against Japanese combat planes.
With its air-cooled engines the SBD Dauntless could reach up to 250 miles per hour. Its range also eclipsed 1,000 miles. The Dauntless included 1,600lb or 650lb bombs, and with these it decimated a variety of ground and sea targets in the Pacific from 1941 onward.
The Battle of Coral Sea was among the first naval battles in which the SBD Dauntless would be included. As the Japanese fleet approached Port Moresby, the U.S. Navy sent a of two carriers, which included the Yorktown and Lexington, to intercept. At the battle the SBD Dauntless planes wiped out a Japanese light carrier. Japanese fleet carriers were also bombed, but they made it back to port for further repairs.
Whilst the Allies celebrated the withdrawal of the Japan's fleet at Coral Sea, a more notable victory was won at the Battle of Midway. SBD Dauntless aircraft, which the U.S Navy quickly launched from its aircraft carriers, won the victory. While the torpedo-bombers present were quickly blown out of the air by Japanese planes, a group of Dauntless aircraft broke through the clouds for a precise strike over three aircraft carriers. With their decks crowded with fueled aircraft, the sortie set the carriers ablaze. The last remaining Japanese carrier was later finished off by the SBD, and the sinking of an additional IJN cruiser wrapped up a great victory for the Allies.
In just one day the SBD Dauntless had sunk most of Japan's fleet aircraft carriers in the Pacific. The IJN sent remaining fleet carriers to battles such as the Battle of Santa Cruz, and the Battle of Eastern Solomons. These battles were not comparable to Midway, but the SBD Dauntless sank a Japanese light carrier and other warships.
By 1944 the dive-bomber was somewhat antiquated, and the last SBD Dauntless planes were manufactured that year. The SB2C replaced it, which then became the Navy's primary dive-bomber. The SBD still provided some air support in the Pacific, and overall it wiped out more Japanese ships than any other Allied aircraft.
These were some of the great USAAF military aircraft. These combat and bomber planes were essential to the Allies downing thousands of Luftwaffe and Japanese aircraft in the air, and they also reduced factories and cities to rubble on the ground.