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B-17 "Flying Fortress"
The B-17 is among the most famous bombers used by the United States in World War II. Developed by Boeing Aircraft, the "Flying Fortress" was known for its ruggedness, firepower and ability to deliver a sizeable bombload precisely on target deep in the heart of Nazi Germany. The B-17 carried a crew of ten: Two pilots, a bombadier, a navigator, a radio operator, a crew chief who was also the top turret gunner, two waist gunners, the ball turret gunner (in the belly of the aircraft) and a tailgunner. The aircraft was equipped with a total of eleven .50 caliber machine guns for defensive firepower, truly a "flying fortress" which is how it got its name. By flying in formation with other B-17's, B-17 aircrews where able to help each other provide an extremely strong wall of steel from their machine guns against German fighters. To learn more about this aircraft, read Martin Caidin's "Flying Forts" or Edward Jablonski's " Flying Fortess" at Amazon books. Unfortunately, both these great books are out of print, but a search at Amazon, or other used book resources, can find them for you.
The B-24, though not as well known as the B-17, could carry a ;heavier bomb load. The "Liberator", like the B-17, was equipped with a crew of ten and a similiar number of .50 caliber machine guns for defensive firepower. Due to it's large interior, some B-24's were manufactered are cargo aircraft flying supplies to China from India over the Himalayas. Until the introduction of the B-29, both the B-17 and the B-24 provided the backbone of the United States heavy bomber aircraft used in World War II.
Named after General Billy Mitchell who helped form the United States Army Air Force and prove that airpower would a major force in the next war, the B-25 was a "medium" bomber equipped with a crew of five and seven .50 caliber machine guns. Some aircraft built replaced the glass nose with either six forward firing .50 calliber machine guns or a cannon for anti-ship missions. The B-25 is most famously known for the April 18th, 1942 raid on Tokyo, Japan led by General Jimmy Doolittle. The "Thirty Seconds over Toyko" (the title of a book on the raid) was the first major offensive attack on Japan in the months following Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941.
The B-26's war career got off with a rocky start through a series of crashes which earned it a variety of disparaging monickers such as "Widow maker" and "Flying Prostitute" (it's wings were so short,it "had no visible means of support"). Handling more like a fighter than a medium bomber, the B-26 quickly proved itself in combat. Another aircraft, the A-26 "Invader" (another twin-engined medium bomber/attack aircraft) is sometimes comfused with the Marauder since, after the war and the Marauder was retired, the A-26 was renamed the B-26 "Invader". The B-26 "Flak Bait" can be seen at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C.
B-29 "Super Fortress"
The B-29 was also built by Boeing as a replacement for the B-17. It was built using all the knowledge gained from using the B-17 in combat against the Germans and Japanese. It flew higher, faster, longer and carried more bombs. As the war in Europe wound down, most B-29's were deployed against the Japanese. The most famous B-29 "Super Fortress" is the "Enola Gay" which was the aircraft that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6th, 1945. After a second B-29 dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, the Japanese wisely decided to surrender the war they started four years earlier.
"Fork-tailed Devil" as it was called by the Germans was one of the few twin-engine fighters deployed during the war. The aircraft of choice by famed USAAF ace Richard Bong, the P-38 saw action in both the European and Pacific theaters.
Famous due its use by the Flying Tigers in the Chinese Airforce and flown by the American Voluteer Group (AVG), the P-40 was not as nimble as the Japanese "Zero" but was so rugged that it could hold its own against a faster and more maneuverable opponent.
The Mustang was one of the most famous fighters of WWII. The P-51D saw continued use through the Korean War even though jets were quickly replacing other aircraft. Originally, the P-51 was designed by the U.S. for the British. Though an excellent design, the P-51A was severely underpowered. When the British added the Merlin engine, the P-51 proved itself as one of the best fighters of the war. USAAF ace Chuck Yeager was able to shoot down the German Me-262 jet with the Mustang "Glamorous Glennis", named after his wife.
The British Spitfire was an extremely fast and maneuverable interceptor and made famous by the RAF against the Germans during the Battle of Britain. Though not as numerous as its less agile sister aircraft, the Hawker Hurricane, it was definitely a nightmare in the sky for attacking German bombers and fighters. The elliptical wing made it one of the most easily recognizable fighters of the war.
One of Germany's most capable and numerous fighters. In the early 1930's, the aircraft design was a trophy winning race plane. Germany improved the design through their involvement on the Fascist side of the Spanish Civil war. Though the Folke-Wulf 190 was a better fighter, the Me-109 saw action on all fronts throughout the war.
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