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History >> World War 2 for Kids

World War II

WW2 Aircraft

Importance of Aircraft

Although World War I was the first major war that involved aircraft, it was during World War II that aircraft took on one of the most important roles of war. Some battles were fought almost entirely in the air.

North American P-51 Mustangs flying in a row
North American P-51 Mustangs
Source: US Air Force

Major Battles in the Air

The first major attacks in World War II were made by German aircraft in the takeover of countries such as Denmark, Poland, and the Netherlands. Later, Germany would attempt to destroy England's Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain. During this battle, German planes dropped thousands of bombs on England for over three months straight. The Allies later countered with a major air attack on D-Day during the Invasion of Normandy. They launched around 14,000 sorties (airplane attacks) in one day.

There were also major air battles in the Pacific during World War II. The first major attack was when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Later, aircraft played major roles in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and the Battle of Guadalcanal. The final blow in the war was also struck by aircraft when atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Types of Planes

There were three major types of planes used in World War II including fighters, bombers, and transport planes.

Fighters

Japanese Zero taking off
Japanese Zero
Source: Naval History and Heritage Command


Fighter planes are designed for air-to-air combat. They are fast and agile. During World War II fighter planes were used to gain air superiority over a battlefield. They would try to shoot down the enemy's bomber planes and also protect their own bombers. Fighter planes were armed with high powered machine guns and cannons.

Spitfire
Spitfire
by Adrian Pingstone


Some of the more famous fighter planes during World War II included the German Messerschmitt Bf 109, the British Spitfire, the Japanese Zero, and the U.S. P51 Mustang.

Bombers

Bombers were larger planes that were designed to carry and drop bombs on enemy targets. There were different sizes of bomber planes including light, medium, and heavy. Light bombers took out smaller targets like armored vehicles. Some light bombers could also take off and land from an aircraft carrier. The heavy bombers could fly long distances and were used to take out larger targets such as cities and large military complexes. Bombers often had machine gun turrets including a tail gunner that would help to fight off enemy fighter planes.

B-29 Bomber by Unknown
B-29 Bomber by Unknown
Famous bomber planes of World War II include the German Heinkel He 111 (medium bomber), the British Avro 863 Lancaster (heavy bomber), the U.S. Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (heavy bomber), and the U.S. Boeing B-29 Superfortress (heavy bomber).

Transport

Transport planes were important during the war. They carried troops and supplies to different areas around the world. Many of these planes were civilian aircraft and passenger planes that were adapted to be used by the air force. Transport planes included the U.S. Douglas C-47 Skytrain and the U.S. C54 Skymaster.

Air Forces of World War II
Interesting Facts about the Aircraft of World War II Activities

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Learn More about World War II:

Overview:
World War II Timeline
Allied Powers and Leaders
Axis Powers and Leaders
Causes of WW2
War in Europe
War in the Pacific
After the War

Battles:
Battle of Britain
Battle of the Atlantic
Pearl Harbor
Battle of Stalingrad
D-Day (Invasion of Normandy)
Battle of the Bulge
Battle of Berlin
Battle of Midway
Battle of Guadalcanal
Battle of Iwo Jima

Events:
The Holocaust
Japanese Internment Camps
Bataan Death March
Fireside Chats
Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Atomic Bomb)
War Crimes Trials
Recovery and the Marshall Plan
Leaders:
Winston Churchill
Charles de Gaulle
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Douglas MacArthur
George Patton
Adolf Hitler
Joseph Stalin
Benito Mussolini
Hirohito
Anne Frank
Eleanor Roosevelt

Other:
The US Home Front
Women of World War II
African Americans in WW2
Spies and Secret Agents
Aircraft
Aircraft Carriers
Technology
World War II Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History >> World War 2 for Kids





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