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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.

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Pursuit Planes

Some General Notes:

What’s in a name?
The US Army Air Corps was established in 1926, taking over from the previous “US Army Air Service,” and in June, 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor, the name of this branch of the Army was changed to US Army Air Forces. The significance of this is that with each name change, the importance of air power as a distinct branch of the military became more recognized. Going into World War 2, Army generals continued to see aircraft in support roles of ground forces. By the end of the war, it was clear that air power was a force in itself. Of course a lot of planes were also assigned to naval duty, especially those that could operate from a carrier. Sea-based air power became much, much more important during WW2, especially in the Pacific, and to this day, the Navy has its own planes.

Plane Names

P stands for “Pursuit,” and B stands for “Bomber.” Hence the P-51 and the B-25. The term “fighter” was mostly used after World War 2 when jets became the norm, so the jet names since 1946 generally start with the letter F. The Grumman F4F and F6F introduced before and at the beginning of the war are the exceptions. TB stands for “stands for “Torpedo Bomber.” The Grumman TBF Avenger was designed to launch torpedoes flying low over the water to sink ships, but was used more extensively on bombing missions.

Variants
The complete story about each type of plane is more complex than this web site covers, largely because design changes and improvements were often made after the first planes of the type were introduced and entered into service. So the description of a plane that is accurate for the first several dozen or hundred or thousand produced will not be accurate for planes made later. So please understand this weakness in the information provided here; it is generally true. Fortunately, there are many sources of more detailed information, some of which we will recommend.
P-51 Mustang
North American P-51 Mustang
Originally built to meet requirements of Royal Air Force, the Mustang was the plane that could outperform the German Messerschmitt
Number built: 15,000+
Wingspan: 37 ft.
Top Speed: 437 mph
F4F Wildcat
Grumman F4F Wildcat
Navy fighter early in the war. Not as fast as the Zero but more rugged.
Number built: 7,885
Length 29 ft.
Wingspan: 38 ft.
Top speed: 328 mph
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P-47 Thunderbolt
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
Army Air Corps fighter used heavily in the European Theatre. Fast, rugged and lethal.
Number Built: 15,636
Length: 36 ft.
Wing span: 41 ft.
Top speed: 433 mph
Grumman F6F Hellcat
Grumman F6F Hellcat
A fast and rugged -carrier-based Navy fighter that was credited with downing over 5,000 enemy planes in the Pacific Theatre.
Number built: 12,000+
Length: 33 ft.
Wingspan: 42 ft.
Top Speed: 388 mph
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Vought Corsair
Vought Corsair
Designed for speed the Corsair had a huge engine and needed a 13 ft. prop to take advantage of the power.
Number built: 12,000 +
Wingspan: 41 ft.
Top speed: 446 mph
P-38 Lightning
Lockeed P-38
One of the US Army’s most successful planes in the war, shooting down more Japanese aircraft than any other American plane.
Number Built: 10,000+
Length: 38 ft.
Wingspan: 52 ft.
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Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
Introduced in 1938 and ready for service at the beginning of the war, the Warhawk was used extensively by Allied powers throughout the War.
Number Built: 13,738
Length 32 ft.
Wingspan: 37 ft.
Top Speed: 360 mph
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Douglas SBD Dauntless
Douglas SBD Dauntless
Designed as a scout plane and dive bomber for the Navy, the Dauntless earned a reputation as slow but deadly.
Number Built: 5,936
Length: 32 ft.
Wingspan: 42 ft.
Top Speed 265 mph
Bell P-39 Airacobra
P-39 Bell Airacobra
Army Air Corps fighter used heavily in the European Theatre. Fast, rugged and lethal. A unique plane with the engine just aft of the cockpit, a long propeller shaft under the pilot, and a nose section filled with a machine gun instead of an engine. Used most extensively by other countries including Russia
Number Built: 9,588
Length: 30 ft.
Wingspan: 34 ft.
Top Speed: 376 mph
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Aircraft in Header Slides

B-26 Marauder
B-26 Marauder
Courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, OH
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil
P-61 Black Widow
Northrop P-61 Black Widow
Courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, OH
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil
F4F Wildcat
Grumman F4F Wildcat
Courtesy of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL
http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org
F6F Hellcat
Grumman F6F Hellcat
Courtesy of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL
http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org
P-51 Mustang
North American P-51 Mustang
Courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, OH
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil
Grumman TBM Avenger
Grumman TBM Avenger
Courtesy of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL
http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org

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