Because of the central role of aircraft in World War 2, both the Allies and the Axis invested considerable resources into the development of the most advanced fighters and bombers of the day. The wide variety of combat environments and the unusual feats many of these aircraft were called upon to achieve turned the years between 1935 and 1950 into a golden age in aviation development.
Ultimately, the technology, materials and scientific advancements that took place during and immediately after the war led to successful space programs for both the Soviets and the Americans. They also made possible the tremendous aviation technology we know today. Here are three of World War 2’s most famous aircraft.
The Mitchell B-25 Bomber
One of the most versatile aircraft ever launched, the B-25 bomber changed the way the armed forces thought about aircraft. Because of its range and carrying capacity, the Mitchell bomber was uniquely well-suited to the kind of combat between Allied and Japanese forces in the Pacific. Later models of this twin-prop bomber were adapted for use as gunships in anti-shipping roles. The B-25 is widely regarded as one of the most durable aircraft of the war.
The Mitsubishi A6M “Zero”
Very likely one of the most famous aircraft of World War 2, the Japanese fighter started the war with no equal in either the Pacific or Europe. Hailed as one of the fastest fighters in the air and one of the most maneuverable. A Zero could turn inside nearly any allied fighter due to its incredibly low stalling speed. Its firepower was also a tremendous problem for Allied forces in the Pacific. Had Japan the manufacturing capacity, there are some who believe the Zero could have changed the outcome of the war.
Most would agree the P-51’s major contribution to the air war over Europe was its incredible speed. As one of the fastest prop-driven fighters ever launched, the Mustang attached a 14-foot propeller to one of the most advanced engines in the world and produced an aircraft that could cruise at more than 360 MPH. Even though it was fast, the Mustang also had amazing endurance, and made not only strategic fighter escorts possible, but also introduced the concept of air supremacy to the war in Europe.
World War 2 will forever be known as one of the first wars fought almost entirely with technological advances rather than just weapons. The aircraft of the era were the first to take advantage of this reality and usher the military and the world into a new era.