Historic Airfields

Air Power of World War II

September 7, 2019

Bomber Planes

The Dornier 17 was one of the medium bombers that the Luftwaffe used during the Second World War but only for a short period of time. The max range for the Dornier was 721 miles and it flew at a top speed of 255 Mph. It was pulled from service after 1941 due to lack of defensive weapons and being vulnerable to attacks at the underbelly and rear of the plane. The following History Channel video gives a good idea of WWII Air Power:

The Boeing B29 Super Fortress was a heavy bomber for the United States. It was powered by 4 2,200-horsepower engines and it could either carry 16 500-lb bombs or one 2,000-lb bomb. When empty, the Super Fortress could fly at 400 mph and as high as 30,000 feet. An earlier version of the Super Fortress has a defensive armament of 10 50-caliber machine guns and each a belt of 1,000 rounds while later versions carried 20-mm cannons instead of 50-caliber machine guns. The most famous Super fortress was the Enola Gay which dropped the first atomic bomb.

The Mosquito was a British bomber plane that was a jack-of-all-trades type of bomber because it was suited for different types of jobs ranging from working as a scout plane to flying bomb runs at night on Germany. The first Mosquito bomber was powered by two 1,250 Merlin engines which gave the bomber incredible speed and a later version of the plane, equipped with better Merlin engines, could carry a 400-pound bomb and fly at 415 mph. The Mosquito, stationed at RAF Coltishall close to Norwich, had no weapons on board instead, it relied on speed rather than firepower to escape the German Luftwaffe.

Fighter Planes

The Swordfish was a British plane that was used from 1942 to 1944 by several countries. The Swordfish was slow yet could always be counted on to get the job done. The swordfish crew varied from 2 to 3 people and could carry anything from mines and rockets to torpedoes and was armed with two machine guns. It was made famous when it helped sink Nazi Battle Ship The Bismarck.

The P-51 Mustang, stationed at RAF Church Fenton in Yorkshire, some 20 miles due east of Leeds, was the workhorse of the Airforce during the later stages of World War II. It was powered by a Merlin engine reaching a max speed around 431 miles an hour while its service range was anywhere from 1000 to 1,300 miles depending on if it carried extra gas tanks. The P-51 Mustang was armed with 6 50-caliber machine guns and it either carried rockets or bombs.

The Messerschmitt 109 was a German Fighter that was used during the Battle of Britain even though it had its flaws compared to its British counterpart. It still proved to be a deadly foe usually armed with cannons either on its wing or the nose cone. The Messerschmitt 109 had a maximum range of 373 miles and its maximum speed was 385 mph.

The Flying Tigers

The Flying Tigers were an all-volunteer force that flew in China in the years 1941 and 1942. They fought against the Japanese Air Force hoping to keep the Japanese out of China. They flew Tomahawk 77’s which were painted brown with a shark’s mouth on the front of the plane. The idea of the flying tigers was started by a man named Claire Chennault.

Claire Chennault was born in the late 1800s in Texas. After going to a couple of different schools, he joined the army during the late stages of the First World War and he is the man thought to be responsible for helping form the Flying Tigers.

The Flying Tigers were a special air unit made up of all American volunteers. The Tomahawk 77, also known as the P-36, was an outdated model due to the fact that they were air-cooled and not liquid-cooled like the newer planes. The Americans were able, though, to produce far more Tomahawk 77’s than their counterparts in the Japanese Airforce.

In order to get pilots to fly these planes in China, they were offered about 600 dollars and given the rank equivalent to a first lieutenant. The main idea of the Flying Tigers was to help and support Chinese forces loyal to Chiang Kai-shek and help Chinese forces from falling to the Japanese.

Cactus Air force

The only air power stationed on Guadalcanal was a small batch of fighters and torpedo divers and a P-400. The P-400 could not reach anything above 15,000 feet and therefore could not intercept any of the Japanese airplanes. The Cactus Airforce. even though they were small and vastly outnumbered. was the only air support for the 1st marine division stationed on Guadalcanal.

The Cactus Airforce was made up of two squadrons, the 223 and 224. They were sent to Guadalcanal on an at that time special mission which was to support the 1st Marine division and provide air support to the Marines and any other American forces on the Guadalcanal.

The 223 and the 224 squadrons were made up several different planes like the F-4 Wildcat and the torpedo dive bombers known as SBD 3. Even though the Cactus Air Force was outnumbered and outgunned, it proved to a great threat to the Japanese Military and after it was almost wiped out, the Cactus Air Force hung in there and helped secure victory on Guadalcanal.

The idea behind Dam Busting in Europe was intended to cripple the Germans Ruhr valley where at that time all of the German raw materials were found. There were six dams that were listed as targets and that, if they were destroyed, could either cripple or possibly stop Germany from continuing the war.

Since this was a new idea, a new type of bomb had to be developed. It was called the bouncing bomb which was a bomb that weighed almost ten tons and was so heavy that in order to carry it, the Royal Air Force had to develop a new type of plane called the Arvo Lancaster.

The bouncing bomb was a cross between a regular type of bomb and a depth charge because once the bomb was dropped, it would spin across the water and when it would hit the damn, it would sink and explode to cause the dam to break. The bomb would be attached to the underbelly of the plane and when the plane got to a certain point, it would release the bomb to let it spin towards the dam, sink towards it, and explode.

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