The Hellcat’s basic design descended from the Grumman airplane company’s earlier aircraft, the Wildcat.
It included multiple improvements, in response to the Wildcat’s performance towards Japanese Zeros early in the war.
Because of the similar exterior design profile, many Zero pilots mistook the Hellcat for a Wildcat, mostly resulting in a bad surprise for Japanese pilots. The Hellcat ended the war with an unbeatable 19:1 kill ratio.
Its main asset was its incredibly strong airframe and good all-round performance.
Mitchell Flying to Betio
The B-25 Mitchell has an interesting distinction of being the only American World War II aircraft to be named after a real person. In this case, it was General Billy Mitchell, regarded as the father of US Air Force.
Famous for their part in the Doolittle Raids against Tokyo, the B-25 Mitchell proved to be an outstanding aircraft from its first missions.
Variants of the Mitchell included having a 75mm cannon mounted to fire forward.
Dauntless at Dawn
The Dauntless is the most famous of the US dive-bombers. Dauntlesses were responsible for the majority of sinking Japanese shipping in the Pacific than any other aircraft, including four Japanese carriers at Midway.
For a dive bomber, it possessed heavy gun armament, with 2 forward firing .50 caliber machine guns and one or two (depending on variant) rear gunner mounted .30 caliber machine guns.
Such armament allowed the Dauntless to be aggressive towards lightly armored Japanese fighters. One pilot, Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa, was attacked by three Zeros but managed to shoot two of them down and cut the wing of the third in a head-on pass with his wing tip.
Warhawk Front View
The P-40 Warhawk series of fighters were built in huge numbers among several variants during WWII.
It served in several combat theaters around the globe, from China and the Pacific Islands, to even North Africa.
By avoiding turn fights and using high speed and altitude “diving and slashing” aerial attack techniques, Warhawk pilots could successfully take on Japanese planes.
This aerial tactic was reportedly first proven under Colonel Claire L. Chennault in China while he commanded the famous “Flying Tigers” American Volunteer Group.
The Shinden, or ‘Magnificent Lightning,’ almost reached full production during World War II. The total flight time of prototypes was limited, due to only two prototypes available for testing. A jet powered variant was planned, as part of an adaptive engine design philosophy, but never got past the blueprint stage.
This short range interceptor was designed to defeat the B-29 Superfortress bombers that pummeled the Japanese islands. It was estimated that if the war continued, more than 1000 of these interceptors could have been produced between March 1946 and April 1947.
Corsair fighting Zeros
The groundbreaking gull-wing design of the Corsair allowed the plane to use a powerful engine matched to a huge 13-foot propeller. The Corsair’s strengths were its performance and armament. It had a kill ratio of 11:1.
One of the most famous fighter squadrons, the “Black Sheep” squadron, flew Corsairs in their collective exploits. They were commanded by US Marine Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, who earlier in his flying career learned advanced aerial combat techniques from the “Flying Tigers” and Col. Chennault in China.
The Zero was the most feared plane of WWII, dubbed a ‘wonder weapon.’ It possessed incredible maneuverability and ruled the skies in the early stages of the war. It achieved much of that by not possessing armor nor self sealing fuel tanks.
Newer aircraft later in the war eventually became a better match for it.
Near the war’s end, the Zero became a common weapon for the suicidal ‘kamikaze’ pilots.