This site is a tribute to the dedicated men and women who worked long hours building these planes and the brave airmen who flew them through dangerous skies, many of whom would never return to see their families again.
Weary from World War One and years of a devastating economic depression, many Americans were in no mood to build a strong military and go back to war with Germany. Though President Roosevelt and several military leaders could see the need to develop better planes and gear up for war, it was a hard sell with Congress. So in 1941, when much of Europe had been invaded by the Nazis; Britain was being bombed relentlessly; and China was under assault by the Japanese, the U.S. was way behind the Germans and the Japanese in air power. Japan, in an effort to knock out the American naval forces in the Pacific, launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval base on Hawaii. This turned out to be a serious miscalculation for the Japanese because overnight the spirit of the American people changed completely, and all across the country young men lined up at Army and Navy recruiting centers and Americans everywhere rolled up their sleeves and went to work to take the war to Japan. What happened over the next four years was nothing short of herculean.
What Americans did to win that war is, in my view, awe inspiring, from the technology developed by our engineers, to the factories that built a quarter of a million planes in just about 4 years, to the brave men who steered these machines through dangerous, flak-filled skies to get within very close striking distance. This site will focus on the incredible achievement of the American people in the 1940’s. It is essential to remember what our country was facing in 1941…. a fight for the survival of democracy against motivated and massively armed Axis powers with absolutely no certainty of the outcome. We needed every plane, every ship, every factory, every capable man and woman, and we Americans all pulled together. It would be easy now to look back and conclude that we knew the Allies would win that war once the Americans joined the fight …. but we didn't know, and we might well have failed to win if it had not been for every single ounce of effort the American people put into it.
So much aviation history took place between the Wright Brothers's first tentative flight in 1903 and the deployment of the Air Force's sleek F-86 jet fighter flying at 670 mph, nearly the speed of sound. We had fought two world wars. In the first war, brave new pilots pioneered aerial warcraft in open bi-wing planes. Then air mail, and crop dusting and passenger flights. Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. In the second war, we produced over a quarter of a million fighters, bombers, trainers, and transport planes.
The Planes that Won World War 2
When war broke out in Europe with Hitler's advance on Poland, and when Japan attacked China, the U.S. was not the leader in military aircraft design. Most of our fighting planes were biplanes. Both Germany and Japan had designed and put into large scale production, fast, single wing fighting planes. Britain had two excellent pursuit planes with the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire. The U.S. was simply way behind. This was partly due to Americans' lack of enthusiasm to enter another war and partly due to Army commanders who understood ground attack and Naval commanders who continued to believe that military power on a world scale was achieved through a mighty navy with the most powerful battleships. That had been true in the 19th and earlier centuries, but would prove to be an outdated belief on December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked our Pacific Fleet by air causing massive destruction. But then America got the message and in a very big way. In the next four years Americans would design and build more than a quarter of a million military aircraft and take the fight to the enemy in the air.
Above: Ford Motor Company designed the Willow Run Plant expressly for the purpose of building the B-24 heavy bomber. It was a massive facility that employed thousands of workers and turned out the 4-engine plane at the rate of one every 55 minutes, producing 8,600 by war's end. More Info
Pursuit and Fighter Planes
These were the planes in which one man would pit his skill and his plane against the best the other side could offer. Read More
Bombers and Transport Planes
Thousands and thousands of two-engine and powerful 4-engine planes took to the sky with young and freshly trained crews. Read More
Veteran C-46 Commando Rescues a Young Boy in 1950
The photo at left shows a C-46 on the air field at the National Museum of the US Air Force. I don't have a photo of the actual plane in this story. What I do have is an original telegram from Pan American Airlines in Florida to the boy's father explaining how a cargo plane will be rerouted to the Dutch West Indies to pick up the boy who had been stricken with Polio and desperately needed treatment that could not be provided on an island off the northern coast of South America.
This story takes place at a time when America had just recently come through the most momentous war in human history and had pulled together as a unified country. It was in that spirit that a commercial aviation company did not hesitate to send an empty 20-ton C-46 on a 1,300 mile flight at no cost to the boy's family. To me this story exemplifies a continuation of the American spirit that won the war. And it means more to me than anyone could understand. I was that young boy. Read more.
This site is part of the American Tribute Online project. It is not a commercial site, and it is not associated with any museum or other organization. The purpose of the project is to celebrate our American heritage and provide an online resource for showcasing the America that we can all be proud of. There is no paid advertising or listing on this site