Aircrafts During World War II
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Published: Tue, 18 Apr 2017
World War II was the most devastating conflict in the entire history of mankind. This war involved most of the nations in the world and almost all of the nations’ resources were devoted to the war effort, making it a disastrous and deadly global war that greatly affected the planet. One significant aspect of World War II was the number of deaths and casualties that occurred during the process. Many weapons had caused this and one of the most important factors was planes. Planes had their undeniable role in the killing of human beings and turned World War II into a completely different war with their improved capabilities.
Aircraft had a long and interesting history which had lead them to the battlefields of World War II. The dream for humans to be able to fly dates all the way back to the 13th century as people continuously constructed machines that would hopefully achieve this goal. Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright invented the first successful engine airplane that flew at an altitude of ten feet, traveled one hundred and twenty feet, and landed twelve seconds after takeoff. Developments in aviation allowed World War I to have huge biplane bombers and also made Airmail possible. The use of planes during the First World War also made military figures realize the importance of aerial warfare as opposed to just land and naval warfare. After the First World War, between 1919 and 1926, great progress had been made and many records of aviation took place. Because of military necessities, many countries spent significant amounts of money to improve the planes’ capabilities and established many research facilities of aviation. All these aspects built the basis for aircraft’s role and abilities during the Second World War. Under the pressure of the Second World War, two more major advancements were made for aircraft. The first being the performance of piston engine planes reaching their peak and the other was the new jet planes making their appearances in the war. Most planes still operated with the piston engine because they have a wide range of variety and were well equipped with radars and other crucial devices. From the creation of planes all the way to their employment in World War II, many improvements had been made upon them which ensured their decisive position in the war.
Aircraft were essential on the battlefields which resulted in a huge growth in the aircraft industry during the war due to their high demand. There were many aircraft manufacturers all around the world and some of the most important ones included Boeing, Lockheed, Curtiss Wright and Chance Vought. A total of eight hundred thousand planes were produced by the end of the war and before World War II only about one hundred and ninety three thousand people were in the aviation industry but during 1941 the number increased to four hundred and fifty thousand. All these data clearly demonstrates how necessary planes were and also displays the massive scale in which the war was fought.
There were three main types of aircraft during the war: fighters, bombers and transporters, each with their own unique roles in the war. Fighters were designed for the primary purpose of air to air combat. They are usually light weighted, small in size, maneuverable and usually have secondary ground attacking abilities. Fighters were very important during the war as they were the main weapon to secure air superiority, harass and stop ground units which was used successfully by the German forces. Fighters could also wipe out bombers with ease which shattered the theory of bombers being able to break through any defense. Before the end of World War II fighters had reached a new peak with their capabilities. Their speed almost reached the speed of sound, they were able to travel more than two thousand miles and could rise all the way to an altitude of forty thousand feet. During the Winter War, the Soviet Union had thirty times the amount of aircraft that the Finnish had, but with effective strategies the Finnish were able to hold off the invasion for an unexpected long period of time. Some important models during the war were: the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Supermarine Spitfire, the Yakovlev Yak-1 and the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel noted the effect of airpower: “Anyone who has to fight, even with the most modern weapons, against an enemy in complete command of the air, fights like a savage against modern European troops, under the same handicaps and with the same chances of success.”(Rommel) This quote clearly shows how destructive fighters were and their potential to change the course of battles.
Another type of important aircraft was the bomber. Bombers are military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets by dropping bombs upon them. They were usually assigned with long range missions in order to destroy strategic targets such as supply bases, bridges factories, shipyards or cities themselves. Bombers were only armed for the purpose of defense against enemy aircraft and were not intended to engage in combat with other aircraft. The majority of the bombers were large, heavy and not maneuverable which made them especially weak against fighters. One important aspect of the bombers was that it had great firepower and could do massive amounts of damage just with a few warriors on board. This meant that nations could rely more on industry instead of the lives of soldiers which means fighting the war with “more money and less blood” (World War 2 Bombers). Because of this reason, the United States and Great Britain produced the most advanced bombers and making themselves the greatest bomber forces during the war. Many improvements were made during the war that enhanced the bombers’ abilities. Bombers had 4 engines, could carry ammunition up to nine tons and could travel up to seven thousand kilometers. Bombers proved to be extremely dangerous for cities to handle. In order to avoid being attacked, cities had to execute blackout rules which forced everyone to cover up their windows with black material and all the street lamps were turned off. This was for the sake of making it difficult for bombers to locate their target but because of the darkness there were deaths anyways due to accidents such as walking into ponds or falling off bridges. There was a period during the war in which Germany bombed the cities of Britain hoping for it to panic and surrender. This period was known as the blitz. If planes were spotted in the sky there would be a siren that warned all the citizens that a raid could be approaching. People had to immediately hide in shelters in hopes to survive. After the raid was over people would come out of their shelters to discover that their homes were flattened to the ground and their family members or friends were lying dead or injured on the ground.
One of the most notable bombers was the B-29 super fortress. It was the largest aircraft that appeared during World War II and included features such as: a pressurized cabin, an electronic fire-control system, and remote-controlled machine-gun turrets. It was the bomber that dropped the atomic bombs in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki which was the decisive move that forced Japan to finally surrender which practically ended the war. The bomb in Hiroshima knocked out all of the constructions in the city and around eighty thousand out of the entire population of two hundred and forty five thousand died instantly. The total numbers of casualties were around two hundred thousand. The bomb dropped in Nagasaki destroyed about sixty percent of the city’s buildings and there were eighty six thousand casualties which was thirty seven percent of the entire population. This shows that bombers were a crucial factor in the war and without them the dropping of atomic bombs would have been impossible. The existence of bombers made a huge impact upon the world and was responsible for causing devastating amounts of damage.
The third important type of military was aircraft transporters. Transporters’ purpose was to transport military personnel, weapons, equipments and other military resources. It could even drop parachutists. They allowed many military goods to be transported to the frontlines of the battles, smoothed out the rotation of personnel and could launch unexpected attacks with parachutists.
Aviation did not only prove to be useful in air battles but also in naval warfare. Aircraft carriers were used widely for the first time during World War II and they had replaced the navy the battleship which had been long seen as the dominant weapon of sea power. The aircraft carrier was a ship that was able to deploy and recover aircraft and it acts as an airbase on the sea. The advantages to carriers are that they are very long ranged and the fighters and bombers that they carry are able to attack the enemy without putting the ship itself in any danger. They also allow attacking in air and on the sea at the same time. It was very difficult to battle with carriers due to the fact that they are usually far away and cannot be seen. During the Second World War aircraft carriers were another decisive factor on the battlefields. Some examples include: the attack on Pearl Harbor, Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. Without the aircraft the carriers would not have had their advantages or to have been so effective which again demonstrates the importance of aircraft during the war.
Many significant amounts of battles were fought with the aid of planes and in most cases aircraft played a huge role in the damage and destruction. One of the most well known naval/air battle is the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base. The battle was mainly fought with planes and there were a total of three hundred and fifty aircraft that attacked in two waves which were deployed from six aircraft carriers. The damage done by the aircraft were extremely severe. Four U.S. naval battleships were sunk and the four other battleships were damaged. Three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer were sunk or damaged. A total of one hundred and eighty eight U.S. aircraft were destroyed along with over two thousand deaths and more than one thousand wounded. Another notable battle that involved aircraft was the Battle of Berlin. Around eight hundred long range bombers were sent by the British in attempt to break Germany’s resistance. The attack consisted of sixteen waves of raids and four thousand civilians were killed, ten thousand were injured and four hundred and fifty thousand were left homeless. As well as human losses many parts of the city for example civilian houses were destroyed during the process. Both attacks demonstrate the true destructive power of planes and their capacities to kill and damage.
Although not all of the losses and damages resulted from the war are caused by aircraft, it is reasonable to say that they were responsible for at least a large part of the destruction. The long course of the war took away over sixty million lives and planes probably made a large contribution to this data. With more advanced technology aircraft were enhanced in many different ways which increased their potential to kill and annihilate. The position of aircraft during the Second World War was very crucial and decisive and they had changed the entire course of the war simply with their appearance.
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