The Second World War: Fighters of WWII

The Second World War: Fighters of WWII


(somber music) – [Narrator] Fame,
according to the experts, is the condition of
being much talked about. The fighter aircraft in this
film were much talked about during World War II, and they’ve all found
their place in the annals of aviation history as famous
fighters of the period. (airplane buzzes) Each suffered its shortcomings,
which imposed limitations on the tactics employed by the pilots. Each experienced both
successes and failures, and each evoked strong
affection, or profound dislike, in the pilots that flew them. (airplane roars) Some of those fighters truly
changed the course of history. Others marked the end of
an era in fighter design, whilst others signified new beginnings. (airplane rumbles) (airplane buzzes) (airplane rumbles) the following fighters from
many of the nations involved were not all supremely successful, yet they were all to find their own place in the aviation world’s hall of fame. (airplanes buzz) An important attribute of any
successful combat aircraft is often said to be its
suitability for development. (airplanes buzz) A capacity for modification,
or adaptation to take larger and more powerful
engines, heavier armament, and other operational equipment,
as such becomes available, without necessitating
an extensive redesign of fundamental components and
consequent major retooling may well be of incalculable value. (airplanes buzz) Germany’s Messerschmitt
Bf 109 single-seat fighter was an excellent example of
such development suitability. In its final production
models, it differed radically from its original prototype of 1935. But the changes were introduced gradually, and thus the flow of new
machines to the squadrons was never stemmed. (airplane rumbles) It has been claimed that the
Bf 109 served as a prototype for international fighter construction. It has been referred to as the progenitor of the high-powered single-seat
low-wing monoplane fighter. (airplane rumbles) In fact, it made its debut but
a few weeks before Britain’s Hawker Hurricane, and a mere
six months before its major wartime antagonist, the
Supermarine Spitfire. But it attained service
status considerably earlier than either one of its contemporaries, and it was subsequently
to claim the distinction of being produced in larger
numbers than any other combat aircraft of the Second World War. (engine rumbles) During its infancy, it
appeared to lack the hallmark of the thoroughbred, but
success came with maturity, for, despite several widely
publicized shortcomings, the BF 109 was a highly
successful combat airplane. (airplane rumbles) It was conceived in the summer of 1934, when the German Air Ministry
issued a requirement for a single-seat
interceptor fighter monoplane with which to replace the
obsolescent Heinkel He 51 and Arado Ar 68 biplanes
then serving the Luftwaffe’s fighter elements. (airplane rumbles) The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a standard Luftwaffe single-seat
fighter for nearly a decade. (airplane rumbles) No exact figures are available for the total number of
fighters of this type produced, but it is believed that
more than 33,000 were built between 1936 and the end
of the Second World War, representing more than 60%
of all the single-engine fighters produced by
Germany during that period. Having fought on every front
upon which the Luftwaffe was engaged, and having been
produced in greater numbers than any other combat type, the Messerschmitt Bf 109
probably ranked second only to the Supermarine Spitfire
as one of the true immortals of the Second World War. No combat aircraft has
ever achieved perfection, but at the time of its debut,
the Fw 190 probably came as near to this elusive
goal as any fighter. It was a brilliant design,
in which weight consciousness and simplicity were keynotes,
although they had not been allowed to affect structural strength. But this beautifully proportioned fighter was not merely a pilot’s airplane. It had been conceived with a careful eye to the problems of both production and maintenance in the field. It was highly praised both by its pilots and by their opponents, and its appearance in
action gave the Luftwaffe a decided, if temporary,
ascendancy over its adversaries. Its ease of control and the
incredible aileron turns, which it performed at speeds
that would’ve torn wings from most of its contemporaries, commanded immediate respect
from RAF fighter pilots, and alarm at Britain’s Air Ministry. When, in June 1942, a Luftwaffe deserter fortuitously presented the Allies with his Fw 190A fighter intact, the detailed examination
of this remarkable product of the Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau
profoundly influenced fighter thinking in Britain. It directly resulted in the issue of the specification F.2/43, which was designated the Hawker Fury, embodying numerous
features directly copied from the Fw 190A. What higher tribute could’ve
been paid to what was undoubtedly the finest warplane
to which Germany gave birth? In the autumn of 1937,
the Reich Luft Ministerium placed an order with the
Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau for the design and development
of a new single-seat fighter to supplement the Messerschmitt Bf 109, a second iron in the fire, as RLM officials referred
to the order at the time. The contract was placed with Focke-Wulf primarily because this company
was not extensively committed to the development of
other combat aircraft, and possessed a highly
qualified design team, headed by Kurt Tank. Work on the Fw 190 progressed rapidly, and within 10 months, the first prototype was being readied for flight testing. Essentially a low-wing monoplane with a wide track undercarriage, it possessed aesthetically
appealing contours, in which the blending of
the bulky radial engine was little short of a
masterpiece of ingenuity. During the war years,
apart from prototypes, 13,367 Fw 190 fighters and 16,634 Fw 190 fighter bombers and close support aircraft were produced, plus 67 Ta 152s. The Fw 190 commenced its
career by wresting from the RAF the slim margin of
superiority that it had gained in fighter versus fighter combat. And, in the ground attack
role, it subsequently proved its ability to absorb
considerable punishment. (airplane roars) It is axiomatic that technical superiority couldn’t cancel out overwhelming
numerical superiority, and the technical advances embodied by the Messerschmitt Me 262 was such that this one amazing aircraft
could, late in the war, have regained for Germany
something of the ascendancy in European skies enjoyed by the Luftwaffe during the war’s earliest stages. Instead, the Me 262 became
the symbol of the vacillation and irresolution with which German leaders plagued their country’s
aircraft manufacturing programs. General Ernst Udet
considered the jet fighter to be superfluous to the
Luftwaffe’s requirements, believing that Germany would win the war with conventional aircraft that she already had in production. These sentiments were echoed
by Field Marshal Milch, who openly questioned the
value of even continuing experimental work. Nevertheless, despite
the very cool attitude towards the jet fighter evinced
by both the Air Ministry and the Luftwaffe, the
Messerschmitt design team retained their enthusiasm for the project. A total of 568 Me 262s had been produce by the
1st of January, 1945, and a further 865 were manufactured in the first four months of that year. Nevertheless, hardly more than 100 participated in operations. For those that did get into combat, remarkable success was claimed. The last operations with
the Me 262 were undertaken by an elite fighting unit, JV 44, led by General Galland. On the 7th of April, 1945, this unit, flying Me 262 A-1b fighters, each carrying 24
five-centimeter R4M missiles, engaged a formation of Boeing
Fortresses over Westphalia. The missiles were launched
against the formation outside the range of the defensive fire, and within minutes, 25
Fortresses had been destroyed, and the remainder of the
formation had jettisoned its bombs and turned for home. One single-seat fighter
first conceived in 1932, the Polikarpov I-16, was
to gain the distinction of becoming the first low-wing interceptor with a fully retractable undercarriage to enter service anywhere in the world. Yet, paradoxically, the Soviet Union, although the first major air
power to introduce fighters of such advanced concept,
was the last to relinquish the fighter biplane. The I-16 was deserving of
considerably more credit than it was later to receive in the West. Despite some crudity of
construction and equipment, by Western standards
appertaining at the time, it was a rugged and extremely
maneuverable fighter, appreciably faster than
any true contemporary, easily maintained in the field, and offering some armor
protection for its pilot, at a time when such luxuries
were not generally considered to be necessary. Its designer never succeeded in overcoming the poor takeoff and
landing characteristics that had plagued it from its birth. Yet, once its undercarriage was tucked up, it handled pleasantly enough. And there is no doubt that it
taught the Soviet air forces and aircraft industry much
that was eventually used to good effect in the later fighters. The I-16 was the precursor of
a new style in fighter design, a style favored until the
advent of the turbojet, and as such, it possesses a unique place in the history of fighter development. (airplane drones) Italy had two first-generation
fighters in the war, the Fiat G.50 being one of them. This aircraft was slower than
most of the fighters it faced in combat, but in the hands
of experienced pilots, gave a good show of itself. Most early World War II
Italian fighter pilots rejected the use of enclosed cockpits in favor of the topless
canopy with side windows, considering the use of the former to be unsporting and unmanly. Though smaller in size than
most of its contemporaries, and despite its lack of power, the Fiat G.50 was reckoned by most to be a dream to fly and a joy to maneuver. (airplane buzzes) The development of the
Macchi Castoldi fighter, the second of Italy’s
first-generation fighters, presents an interesting parallel with that of the Supermarine Spitfire. Neither of these fighters
was the logical outcome of a line of fighting aircraft, both designers drawing
heavily upon high-speed design experience gained
with racing seaplanes. (airplane roars) The C.200 was an all-metal
cantilever low-wing monoplane with a hydraulically
retractable undercarriage and fully enclosed all-around
vision cockpit canopy. Although lacking much of the
elegance of such fighters as the Spitfire and the
Messerschmitt Bf 109, with their liquid-cooled engines, the MC.200 proved to possess
exceptional maneuverability for a monoplane. Stability was of a very high order, and handing was finger-light
under all conditions. Climb rate was good, but one of the outstanding characteristics of the Macchi Castoldi fighter was its high dive rate. In service with the Regia Aeronautica, the MC.200 was named Saetta,
which could be translated as both lighting and arrow,
the weapons of Jupiter. But the fighter suffered a
number of teething problems, the most serious being a
tendency to spin without warning under certain circumstances. This was eventually
rectified by modifications, which delayed production deliveries, and only 29 Saetta fighters
had entered service by the 1st of November, 1939, all but 12 of these being unserviceable. The first Saetta fighters to see action were 26 machines forming
part of the Sixth Group based in Sicily. These participated in
the air war over Malta, where they encountered
the Hawker Hurricane for the first time, proving to be only slightly
slower than the British fighter. The Saetta had, however, a
considerably better climb rate, and could outdive and outturn
the Hurricane with ease. (engine rumbles) The MC.202 structure
was essentially similar to that of the Saetta, the vertical and horizontal
tail surfaces being identical, as were also the wings, the main difference being the
installation of fuel tanks in each of the inboard wing sections, these supplementing the fuselage tanks. The glazed panels aft
of the pilot’s headrest featured by the prototype were deleted on the production
model, as the extremely slim aft fairing rendered these unnecessary. And the anti-turnover structure
aft of the pilot’s head was supplanted by a
strengthened canopy frame. (engine roars) In service, the MC.202 was
dubbed Folgore, lightning, and the first fighters of
this type reached Libya on the 25th of November, 1941, being operated by the 1st Stormo and supplementing the Saettas, which were now largely
transferred to the fighter bomber and escort roles. (airplanes roar) Had it been possible to build
the Macchi Castoldi fighters in really large numbers, the air war over North
Africa and the Mediterranean could well have followed
a different course. (airplanes roar) A USAAF pilot’s comment
after flight testing a captured Folgore may
be considered descriptive of all the Macchi Castoldi fighters. “Gee, that’s a honey of an airplane.” (airplanes roar) The Curtiss Hawk, which
was called the Mohawk by the Royal Air Force, was a low-wing cantilever
monoplane single-seat fighter. The P-36, which were the
Hawk’s designated type, entered service with the
United States Army Air Corps’ 20th Pursuit Group in April, 1938. (airplane rumbles) The Hawk replaced their
existing complement of aging Boeing P-26 fighters. However, from the day
they arrived on the field, the new Curtiss fighters
began to encounter an extensive series of teething problems. Severe skin buckling in the vicinity of the landing gear wells appeared, dictating the necessity
to replace the skins with increasingly thicker ones, along with the addition
of reinforced webbing. Engine exhaust difficulties
and some weaknesses in the fuselage structure
were also encountered. However, despite all of these problems, both the American and British air forces found this fighter to have excellent handling characteristics,
especially in its superior ability in a fast dive. By the outbreak of war, however, although the British
and Americans both used variants of the Hawk, or Mohawk, they were considered as
obsolescent machines, and by 1941, they were gradually replaced by the more efficient
fighters coming online. (airplanes buzz) (airplane roars) The Curtiss P-40 was
undoubtedly one of the most controversial fighters
to serve in quantity during the Second World War. It was praised and abused,
lauded and vilified. But the fact remains that,
as the first American single-seat fighter to be manufactured on a mass production basis,
it bore much of the brunt of the air warfare over
several battlefronts. Its performance was
inferior to the performances of the majority of its antagonists. But this shortcoming was
partly compensated for by its tractability and its sturdiness, which enabled to withstand
a considerable amount of punishment. It was amenable to adaptation, and it was available
when most sorely needed. To understand the requirements
which gave birth to the P-40, it is necessary to
appreciate the United States’ strategic thinking in the early ’30s. Between the two world wars,
fighter development in the USA fell behind international standards, principally because of the
United States Army Air Corps’ preoccupation with the long-range bomber, which had prior claim on a
limited air appropriations. At that time, there was a
very slim performance margin between a bomber and a fighter. And it was believed that
the defensive armament of the larger aircraft would
prove more than a match for the destructive
ability of the smaller. When the requirements for
the P-40 were formulated, no prospect of high altitude
enemy attack against the USA was envisaged, so that coastal
defense and ground attack were the main tasks indicated. Low altitude flying qualities
and rugged construction therefore received priority. And, in fact, the P-40 was
subsequently to prove itself an excellent ground attack weapon. But, at the time of the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, this fighter was already
approaching obsolescence, despite having been in production
for less than two years. Nevertheless, between 1940 and 1944, when acceptances were terminated, a total of 13,738 P-40 fighters were delivered to the USAAF, the peak number in service
being 2,499 in April, 1944. (airplanes buzz) Sweetheart of Okinawa to the
United States Marine Corps, whistling death to the
Japanese, and bent-winged bird to the American ground
forces that sheltered under the massive umbrella of ordnance, which it delivered in the Pacific, the Corsair was universally acknowledged to be the finest naval fighter
of the Second World War. (airplane rumbles) Many people, and particularly
its pilots, went further and claimed it to be the
best single-seat fighter of any nation to emerge
from that conflict. Despite its formidable quality, however, and the fact that it
was expressly designed for shipboard operations, the Corsair spent most
of its wartime career confined to land bases. And it was not until the end
of 1944 that it made its first operational sorties from
American carriers in the Pacific. (airplanes roar) But the same problems which kept it from the United States Navy’s
carrier decks for two years after its introduction
to operational service provided it with the opportunity
to prove its superiority. Operating from airstrips on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands,
the United States Marines forged the Corsair into
an air supremacy weapon, meeting the Japanese
navy’s Zero Zen fighters on more than equal terms the first time in the Pacific conflict,
smashing them into the sea and the jungle alike, and
helping turning the tide of air combat permanently in
favor of the Allied forces. (airplane rumbles) A total of 1,912 F4Us had been built by V-J Day, which reduced contracts of
this version of the Corsair from 3,149 to 2,356 machines. But another 7 1/2 years were to elapse before the last example
of this outstanding chance-bought fighter was to roll off the new Dallas production line. (airplane rumbles) The Corsair was to enjoy a
distinguished postwar career, the highlight of which
was the Korean campaign, its first line of service
stretching into the ’60s. (airplanes rumble) During its long life,
the Corsair underwent 981 major modifications and some 20,000 minor changes. But the airframe remained
basically unaltered throughout, and such were its qualities
that it was destined to gain the distinction of being the
last airscrew-driven fighter built in the United States, having outlived all its contemporaries, both land and carrier-based. (airplanes roar) When, in January 1943, the
USAAF’s 56th Fighter Group arrived in the United
Kingdom, with its massive Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, RAF fighter pilots banteringly suggested that their American colleagues will be able to take
evasive action when attacked by undoing their harnesses and
dodging about the fuselages of their huge mounts. The Thunderbolt was certainly big. In fact, it was the largest
and heaviest single-engine, single-seat fighter ever built. But sheer size was not
to prove detrimental to the Thunderbolt’s
subsequent operational career. It was to undertake 546,000 combat sorties between March, 1943 and August, 1945. And only 0.7% of the fighters of this type dispatched against the enemy
were to be lost in combat. The story of the Thunderbolt
began in June, 1940, when, realizing the deficiencies of
the USAAF fighter equipment, new requirements were
formulated at a meeting at Wright Field. Among the companies consulted with regard to the new fighter specification was the young Republic
Aviation Corporation, which possessed an invaluable background of fighter design experience
inherited from its predecessor, the Seversky Aircraft Corporation. (airplanes buzz) Republic’s chief engineer, Alexander Kartveli, had at the time a new fighter on the drawing boards, which had been designated XP-47. (airplane buzzes) Conforming with the official
policy prevailing at the time of its conception, the
fighter was a relatively lightweight machine, designed around a 1,150-horsepower Allison cooled V-12 engine,
and carrying an armament of two 0.5-inch machine guns. But the estimated performance
of the fighter project fell far short of what was
now considered to be essential in the USAAF’s future fighter. Kartveli therefore abandoned
the Allison engine fighter and also scrapped the
semi-completed prototype of the P-44 in order to concentrate all
resources on the development of a radically different fighter. The first tasks of the Thunderbolt, which began on the 8th of April, 1943, were high-altitude escort
duties and fighter sweeps, in which the new aircraft
acquitted itself despite the inexperience of its pilots. It was soon discovered
that the heavy Thunderbolt could outdive any Luftwaffe
or, for that matter, Allied fighter, providing
a decisive method of breaking off combat when necessary. But at low and medium
altitudes, it could not match the rate of climb or
maneuverability of German fighters. One shortcoming, which
was even more marked in other Allied fighters, was
that of insufficient range to permit deep penetration into Germany. But means were already being
sought to add to the P-47B’s 307 United States
gallons of internal fuel. (airplanes rumble) At the time of the
Thunderbolt’s European debut, radial-engine single-seat
fighters were a rarity, the only other such fighter
operational in Europe being the Fw 190A. (airplane rumbles) To prevent confusion
between the two fighters of the opposing sides, the engine cowlings of the Thunderbolts were painted white, and white bands were
painted around the vertical and horizontal tail services, an appropriate comment
on recognition standards appertaining at that time,
as it would seem impossible to mistake the sleek and
beautifully contoured German fighter for the portly Thunderbolt. During 1944, the Thunderbolt
became operational in all active theaters
of war, excepting Alaska, and served with the free
French and Russian forces, as well as with the USAAF and RAF. The P-47D was primarily
employed on long-range ground attack missions, bombing
and strafing communications, air fields, bridges, and
troop concentrations. (airplane roars) The Gabelschwanz-Teufel,
the fork-tailed devil, was a sobriquet not lightly
applied by the Luftwaffe to the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, which gave considerable cause to be known to Japanese and Germans alike. Although quantitively the
Lightning was produced in smaller numbers than any other major USAAF combat fighter, with
a total to August, 1945 of 9,923 delivered from factories, it served on every battlefront
in a wide variety of roles ranging from fighter bombing,
to casualty evacuation, and smoke laying. If slightly slower and less
maneuverable than the more widely used Mustang and Thunderbolt, the Lighting offered the advantage
of twin-engine operation, with its additional safety factor added to an excellent combat range. The Lighting was particularly interesting for the number and variety
of its innovations. Apart from being Lockheed’s first venture into the military field,
the Lightning was the first squadron fighter
equipped with turbo boom configuration to be adopted by the USAAF, and the first twin-engine
single-seat fighter used by that air arm. By the spring of 1944,
there were 13 P-38 groups in overseas operational
service with the USAAF, fighting on every battlefront. In Europe, serving principally with the Tactical Ninth Air Force,
the Lightnings operated on long-range fighter escort
and ground attack duties. While, in the Pacific,
their exceptional range put them in the forefront of
the island hopping campaign. The first bomber escort missions to Berlin were mounted by Lightnings,
although they were outclassed by the more maneuverable Fw 190s, and later, Bf 109s. In the Pacific, however,
Lightnings claimed more Japanese aircraft than
did any other fighter. And the leading American
fighter ace of World War II, the late Major Richard Bong,
scored all 40 of his victories while flying a P-38 in that theater. He was closely followed by
another Lightning pilot, McGuire, with 38 Japanese victories. While, in Europe, Jenkins and White scored 16 and 22 victories, respectively,
with their Lightnings. The Lightning’s load-carrying capabilities were put to some unusual uses
at a late stage in the war, when cargo and personnel
pods were developed for attachment to the bomb pylons. Self-contained P-38 groups
in the Pacific carried spares and ground crews in order
to utilize newly captured air strips without having
to await the arrival of supporting transport. On other occasions, for swift
casualty air evacuation, the Lightning became an air ambulance. Modified drop tanks with
transparent noses were produced, each carrying two stretchers. Other unusual applications
included the use of some P-38s as glider tugs, each having a maximum tow of three laden gliders, while one P-38 was
successfully flown with skis. It was appropriate that the
Lightning should terminate a distinguished combat career
by being the first USAAF aircraft type to land
in Japan after V-J Day. (airplane rumbles) Unquestionably, the finest of
all American wartime fighters, and ranking in merit with the
best of any other combatant, the North American P-51
Mustang was an inspired design evolved almost by accident. It outperformed all other
USAAF types in speed, range, and maneuverability. And, although produced in
slightly smaller numbers than the P-47 Thunderbolt, it eventually re-equipped all but one Eighth Air Force Thunderbolt Group. The Mustang also established
itself as the principal Allied strategic fighter. Its reputation with the USAAF was made in the last two years of the war, the first combat group
arriving in the United Kingdom in November, 1943, and after
the cessation of hostilities. General Hap Arnold
admitted that it had been the USAAF’s own fault that
this excellent fighter had not been employed
operationally very much earlier. In fact, it was only by
chance that the Mustang was accepted by the USAAF at all. The Mustang owed its origin to the British Air Purchasing
Commission, which, in April, 1940, requested a substitute
for the Curtiss P-40, which it considered unsuitable for European combat conditions. North American Aviation was
consulted by the commission on the possibility of
manufacturing a fighter meeting the requirements
that it had formulated. But the commission stipulated that, in view of the serious war situation, a prototype must be
completed within 120 days. By a near superhuman effort,
the first prototype fighter, known by its manufacturer’s
designation, NA-73, was pushed out of the
assembly shed in 117 days. However, the experiment which
was to bring the Mustang to fruition as an all-around
fighter par excellence was made by Rolls-Royce. Major Thomas Hitchcock, then
United States military attache in London, reported to
Washington in the autumn of 1942 that the P-51 was one of
the best, if not the best, fighter airframes developed at that date, and advised its development
as a high-altitude fighter by cross-breeding it with
the Merlin 61 engine. This opinion was endorsed by such authorities as Eddie Rickenbacker and Air Marshal Sir
Trafford Leigh-Mallory, and four Mustangs were delivered to Rolls-Royce for conversion. High-altitude escort and combat remained the Mustang’s forte, however, and it was superior in
speed and maneuverability to all of Luftwaffe’s
piston-engine fighters above 20,000 feet. Even under the stress of war,
it takes a considerable time to apply the lessons of experience to a completely new design. But the rapid genealogical
processes through which the Mustang passed were
phenomenal by any standard. The Mustang created
records from the day of its inspired conception, and
ended as probably the best all-around single-seat
piston-engine fighter to be employed by any of the combatants. The synthesis of many
years’ intimate experience of fighter biplane design
translated into a modern formula, a compromise between
tradition and requirements born of a new era in air warfare. Such was the Hawker Hurricane. The first fighter monoplane
to join the Royal Air Force, and the first combat
aircraft adopted by that arm capable of exceeding 300 miles
per hour in level flight, the Hurricane shouldered the lion’s share of Britain’s defense during
the Battle of Britain, and was largely responsible
for the successful outcome of this conflict for the defending forces, equipping more than 3/5 of
RAF fighter command squadrons. The Hurricane also proved to possess an outstanding propensity for adaptation, and the multifarious
roles that it undertook earned for it the distinction
of being the most versatile of single-seat warplanes to emerge from the Second World War. Some aircraft manufacturers
excel in the diversity of their products. Others build success upon
the unwavering pursuit of a single idea. Both methods possess their advantages, and both have led to the
production of good airplanes. But no more outstanding example
of single-minded purpose in an aircraft manufacturer can be found than that provided by
Hawker Aircraft Limited. This company, which evolved
from the Sopwith concern, had spent its entire life in developing single-engine warplanes. As a result of this specialization, the Hawker name was coupled
with many illustrious aircraft types, but none
was to achieve more fame than the Hurricane. The early history of the Hurricane is an interesting parallel
in many ways with that of the Supermarine Spitfire,
with which it was to form an immortal partnership. But while the Spitfire was
an entirely new conception, based on specialized experience, the Hurricane was the logical outcome of a long line of fighting aircraft. Thus, although the two
airplanes met broadly the same requirements,
they represented entirely different approaches to the same problem. The two approaches were reflected
to an interesting degree in their respective appearances. The Hurricane, workmanlike,
rugged, and sturdy, the Spitfire, slender and ballerina-like. One was the studied
application of experience, the other a stroke of genius. Following the outbreak of the war, the Hurricane was quickly in action with Numbers One and 73 Squadrons, which were the first
to be posted to France as part of the advanced
air striking force, and a Hurricane registered
its first confirmed victory of the Western front on
the 30th of October, 1939. Until at least the end of 1940, the Hurricane was numerically
the most important British fighter in service. When the Battle of Britain commenced, the RAF order of battle included
30 squadrons of Hurricanes and 19 squadrons of Spitfires. It was the Hurricane,
therefore, that bore the brunt of the fighting between
July and November, 1940. The versatility of the
Hurricane is unlikely ever to be surpassed by
any other combat aircraft. No matter what role it was
called upon to undertake, it fulfilled its task with distinction. The Hurricane strongly
deserved the place it found among the outstanding combat aircraft in the history of aviation. (airplanes buzz) It is one of the paradoxes
of aircraft development that some of the world’s
greatest airplanes have achieved their fame
doing jobs other than the one for which they were originally designed. No better example of this could
be found than the Mosquito, which, conceived as a bomber,
became one of the war’s most potent fighters. More than this, indeed,
it was probably the most successfully versatile
of any twin-engine type built between 1939 and 1945. For, contrary to the old adage, jack of all trades and master of none, it excelled in all the widely varied roles for which it was found to be amenable. Its repertoire included
the duties of a low-level and high-attack day and night bomber, long-range photo reconnaissance,
mine layer, path finder, high-speed military transport, long-range day and night fighter, and fighter bomber. It served in Europe,
the Middle and Far East, and on the Russian front. In fact, the ubiquitous
Mosquito reigned supreme among general-purpose types,
and of the grand total of 7,781 Mosquitos built, 6,710 were delivered during the war years. The story of the Mosquito commenced during the summer of 1938,
the year of the Munich crisis, when the de Havilland
organization first gave thought to the possibilities
of a high-speed bomber. The essence of de
Havilland’s bomber conception was the reliance on speed rather
than armament for defense, and it was this emphasis
on performance upon which the Mosquito’s success as a fighter was subsequently to be built. As a bomber, it was designed to outperform existing fighters. Therefore, as a fighter, it
was bound to be outstanding. As production mounted,
bomber and fighter squadrons were formed throughout
the winter of 1941, ’42. 20 Mosquitos had been
delivered by the end of 1941, the first 50 by March, 1942. The basic fighter Mosquito introduced into squadron service in
1942 was the NF Mark II, equipped primarily as a night fighter, and used for home defense
alongside the Bristol Beaufighter. (airplane rumbles) Its armament comprised
four 20-millimeter cannon in the front fuselage belly, and four 0.303-inch Browning machine guns in the extreme nose. (airplanes rumble) On the night of the
28th, 29tth of May, 1942, Mosquito NF IIs scored
their first probable. And in the following three
years, Mosquito night fighters racked up a score of
approximately 600 enemy aircraft over the British Isles, and also destroyed 600 flying
bombs in a two-month period. (airplanes rumble) They later operated in
a bomber support role, their task being to defend
the main heavy bomber streams over enemy territory. No fewer than 27 different
versions of the Mosquito went into service during the war years, and some of the most spectacular
operations of the air war stood to its credit. (airplane rumbles) The Mosquito carried phenomenal loads over extremely long
distances, performing feats at war proportions to the
specification originally envisaged by its designers. In short, the Mosquito was
an outstanding war plane on every count. The Supermarine Spitfire
was much more than just a highly successful fighter. It was the material
symbol of final victory to the British people
in their darkest hour, and it was probably the only
fighter of the Second World War to achieve a truly legendary status. Certainly, no other
fighter is more deserving of its place among the famous. In its 40 major variants, it
was built in greater numbers than any other British airplane. It flew operationally on every
front between 1939 and 1945, and it was engaged in
every major air action fought by the RAF in that time. From 1938 onwards, the
Spitfire had been a subject of an intensive development program, one which was to remain
the major preoccupation of the Supermarine design
team for several more years and precluded the introduction
of any other Supermarine combat aircraft during the war. Development followed several
lines simultaneously. One, to improve aerodynamic efficiency, and thereby performance,
taking advantage of increases in engine power offered by Rolls-Royce. Secondly, to increase the armament. Thirdly, to increase the fuel capacity. And finally, to adapt the basic design for alternative roles, particularly those of
photographic reconnaissance and shipboard fighter. The first major developments
were engine changes. In the normal course of
development, means were sought to increase the altitude
performance of the Spitfire, which was inferior to that of the Bf 109E. (engine rumbles) This called for two
principal modifications, the introduction of a pressurized cabin, and the use of an engine suitably
rated for higher altitude. For an aircraft which originated as a pure short-range interceptor,
the Spitfire proved remarkably amenable to adaptation. From the beginning to the end of the war, it was in the forefront of the fighting. Spitfires fought over
the beaches of Dunkirk, and above the D-Day
landings four years later. They supported the 14th Army in Burma. They took part in the invasion of Greece. And earlier, in 1943, they
repulsed Japanese attacks on Darwin, Australia. They flew in the Solomon
Islands, Borneo, and New Guinea. In fact, the Spitfire operated everywhere that the RAF was committed, and was flown at one time or another by nearly all of RAF’s leading
wartime fighter pilots. It was paid many tributes
by friend and foe alike. But perhaps the greatest
tribute to the Spitfire came from Germany’s General Adolf Galland, who was later to become the
Luftwaffe’s general of fighters. While on a visit to the
Luftwaffe fighter squadrons based on the Channel
coast, Reich Marshal Goring complained bitterly of the
losses being experienced by Luftwaffe bomber formations
in attacks on England. (airplane roars) Goring said that the fighters
must give the bombers closer protection. He then asked Galland what
his fighter requirements were, and Galland replied, “I should like a Staffel of
Spitfires for my Gruppe.” More than 22,000 Spitfires, including the navy’s Seafires, were built. (airplane rumbles) The Spitfire’s design epitomized
technical resourcefulness, and no combat aircraft
has ever better served the country of its birth. (airplane rumbles) The Supermarine Spitfire
was undoubtedly the only truly immortal warplane to emerge from the Second World War. (airplane rumbles) (airplanes roar) By the end of the war in 1945, the design of piston-engine fighters had reached its pinnacle. As a result, new designs were
coming off the drawing boards making use of the new powerplants
which made the fighters which fought the war seem
almost lethargic by comparison. The world air powers
had entered the jet age. The future in fighter design now lay in the gas turbine engine. The new breed of fighters and their pilots were to fight a completely
new form of air warfare. But even the most advanced
fighters remain a superbly sophisticated concoction
of computerized metallurgy. That is, until the pilot
presses the first button or flips the first switch. Accordingly, this was much the same during the years of 1939 to 1945, when fighter design came
on in leaps and bounds in terms of speed, performance, fire power, and invincibility. The aircraft would’ve been
purposeless without the skills of fighter pilots at the controls. It must therefore be recognized that, although many fighters
achieved legendary status in the annals of military
aviation history, that history is not only a
record of flying machines, but predominantly a chronicle of both men and their machines. (airplanes roar) (somber music)

100 thoughts on “The Second World War: Fighters of WWII

  1. This video should be given a more accurate title, e.g.: "Fighters of the Battle of Britain" or at least add a modifier, like "WW2 The War in the Air, Part 1: The fighters of the Battle of Britain" e.g., and it is amazing how so many youtube video documentaries are badly titled; seems like for many, an ambitious title is assigned at the beginning of the project, but the final version does not carry all the content initially contemplated?

  2. 2 aircraft could've tipped the balanced in Germany's favour had they been introduced earlier….
    The FW 190 and the ME 262 together with its brand new anti air missiles would've been pretty much unbeatable, we didn't have an answer to either of them really.

  3. Herman Goering said "the first time I saw P-51's over Berlin, I knew the war was lost".
    That tells you how important the Mustang was but it only achieved this by being married with the Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
    BTW….I'm not American.

  4. The Soviet 116 fighter looks like the Gee Bee R2 with the cockpit moved forward. The R2 had a fixed under-carriage though.

  5. I've always thought that America should be using upgraded WWII piston powered fighters in the skies over the Middle East rather than modern jets

  6. At 20:46 the P-40 has Older listed as the pilot. CH Older was a US Marine whom flew with the Flying Tigers with 10 kills. Plus another 8 in the USAAC in the CBI. Flew A/B-26 Invaders in Korea. He then went into law and tried and convicted Charles Manson and his crew.

  7. Messerschmitt Bf 109
    Focke Wulf FW 190
    Messerschmitt Me 262
    Polikarpov I-16 (What is this "116" rubbish? And what of Yakovlev, Lavochkin, and MiG?)
    FIAT G.50 (No FIAT G.55?)
    Macchi C.200/C.202
    Cutriss Hawk/P 36/P 40
    Vought F4U Corsair (Thank you, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, for solving carrier operation problems!)
    Republic P 47 Thunderbolt
    Lockheed P 38 Lightning
    North American P 51 Mustang
    Hawker Hurricane (Tempest and Typhoon?)
    De Havilland Mosquito
    Supermarine Spitfire
    (Speaking of an ignored Axis enemy, Japan's Mitsubishi, A6M, Nakajima Ki43/84, Kawanishi Ki-61/100 are missing, too.)

  8. Nice work. Great commentary. My heart still still races more for the Corsair. It's lines are just like pure speed and power.

  9. Did they also do wings of the luftwaffe? Sounds like the same narrator. Who also said that the wolf d series was perhaps the best fighter of world war II

  10. Clearly, this video has a heavy ENGLISH bias. The American P-51, P-47, and Thunderbolt were clearly better than most aircraft that the British built, but I will give the English credit for the Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
    Yes, the Spitfire was the epitome of British fighter aircraft, but I would take a Mustang over a Spitfire any day of the week.

  11. The best fighter in the Pacific until 1943 was the Zero. No mention of that? It was not until the P47 and Corsair that it was challenged. But it could not be developed, being very small and lightly built. Thats was a major strategic blunder by the Japanese.

  12. If Germany just concentrated on WMD Jets rockets instead of invading Russia They'd rule the world now

  13. ME262 had reasonable success? Maybe against bombers, NOT P-51 Mustangs and the Red Tails of The Tuskegee Airmen! Damn dumb, ignorant research..way to go Janson Media! IDIOTS

  14. Horst Petschler Loved the 190. It had more room for his tall frame and he preferred it, but like the 109 for what it was.

  15. I live close to an airforce base where some collectable planes are brought into the country. I'll never forget the raw horsepower sound of a Corsair doing laps of the base, just phenomenal.
    But fyi when saying the number 0, the correct pronunciation is "zero". "Oh" for O is a letter of the alphabet 😉 Sorry my grandma was an English teacher =P

    Great doco. Thanks for the upload.

  16. The most effective fighters of WW2: #1. P-40 warhawk/kittyhawk. #2. Hawker Hurricane. #3. A6M zero. #4. BF109 #5.F4F Wildcat. These are the aircraft of the first half of the war, these are the machines the pilots had to fly. By 1943, the p-40, the hurricane and the wildcat had pretty much won the war when better aircraft took their place.

  17. A very nice documentary and reasonably comprehensive at first sight but the ommision of the Me 110, P39 Airacobra, the Russian Mig, Jakovlev and Lavochkin fighters and all the Japanese types is rather typical. Was there another part?

  18. An immortal plane? What does that even mean? I enjoyed this video but it was ridiculously biased toward all things British. And how is the Hellcat omitted? The Hellcat had more US aces than any other plane so it really needed to be included.

  19. I will NOT apologize. There were many great combat aircraft produced during WW II, and at the beginning, I admit that the USA was "behind the curve" when it came to producing and deploying superior aircraft.

    However, by 1942, the USA was the NUMBER ONE PRODUCER of Better, High-Performance Aircraft, than ANY OTHER NATION ON THE PLANET.

    Only the Germans had one advantage, which they failed to use, because they had developed the jet and rocket fighters ahead of the Allies. It was

    only because of Hitler's incompetence that these superior aircraft were not
    given #1 priority.

    By 1942-43, the USA was building the the F6F Hellcat, the P-51 Mustang,
    the P-47 Thunderbolt, the P-38 Lightning, the Navy Corsair, and many other
    great planes that NO OTHER country could even DREAM to design or produce. By 1943, the USA had much better aircraft than Germany (other than the ME-262 JET) or Japan, and they were shooting down these enemy planes AT WILL.

  20. British Spitfire:

    369 MPH max speed
    36,500 Ft. Ceiling
    1135 miles Max range
    Introduced – 1936

    North American P-51 Mustang:

    440 MPH max speed
    42,000 Ft. Ceiling
    2300 miles Max range
    Introduced – 1941

    Simply put, the Mustang was FAR SUPERIOR in almost EVERY firepower,
    performance, and SHOOTDOWN category during WW II. It could fly FASTER,
    HIGHER, LONGER, had more FIREPOWER, and it even shot down German JETS. Yes, it took a couple of years for the Mustang to reach its full potential, but once it did, it could outfly just about ANY other combat fighter on the planet, if the pilot knew what he was doing.

  21. The 109 was the best ever fighter ever produced, no other aircraft could catch it, that's why the English kept on producing the spitfire, to catch up with it.

  22. The hurricane and the P47 are similar …they were over shadowed by the more sexy spitfire and p51 …but the former shutdown more enemy planes than the latter .

  23. i'm still early in, but they seem to have a hardon for the spitfire and BF-109 without mentioning the P-51 when talking about standout fighters of WWII

  24. The Heinkel He 178 was the world's first aircraft to fly under turbojet power, and the first practical jet aircraft. It was a private venture by the German Heinkel company in accordance with director Ernst Heinkel's emphasis on developing technology for high-speed flight. It first flew on 27 August 1939, piloted by Erich Warsitz. This flight had been preceded by a short hop three days earlier.

  25. Only ONE fighter of WW2 made the difference between losing and winning………………………the Supermarine Spitfire.

  26. Another ineptly rendered amateur production. It's commentary verges on Nazi Propaganda. 34:13 is the P51H variant, with performance well in excess of any other WWII fighter, but no mention of any of that.

  27. Mine also remember, as a 12-year-old 1975 building my model airplanes in using thread to hang them at different angles from the ceiling. My favorite airplane was a B-17 flying Fortress. Remember meticulously painting with The fan paint brushes while using model paint. The decals are my favorite. I have an always been a world war two aircraft junkie

  28. The Bf-109 had one outstanding flaw: The landing wheels were spaced too close together. Only experienced pilots has enough skill to land the plane safely. Toward the end of the war, with fewer experienced pilots flying, novice flyers could not land the plane without cracking up. Many brand new Bf 109's were destroyed during routine landings. Here the FW-190 was clearly superior, as it had a wide, stable landing stance. The FW-190 was superior to the ME-109. Too bad they mass produced the wrong plane!

  29. Just another "the entire war was Germany versus Britain video…" Wait! No it's not. 11:50. Soviet, Italian, American,and Japanese planes are also covered. Although they do have woody for the Spitfire.
    Excellent video. ++

  30. A good video with excellent and amazing historical shots of beautiful and deadly aircraft, along with some even more amazing still working models. I love going to airshows for this very reason: The ability to stand close and touch WW2 aircraft that (yes, me too) I built as a boy. I actually paid to crawl inside a B17 at one of those shows…one of the most memorable times in my life!

  31. 13:35 – what!? a first generation fighters? :-DDDD OK, but I've got another question (directed to the present Polish so called 'patriots', praising the Great Poland of 1920++ yrs… Where have you been then, when litterally the whole world was building fighters and other useful airplanes??? What did we, the Polish, had??? Oh yeah – our newest P-11C…
    And there is exactly same situation today. "Polish" government… Oh yeah, we will polish you all, at last, in the oncoming general election time, pretty soon. My humble advice for "Polish" politics and party members: To be even more Polish, you can start polishing your knobs right now, milk-suckers… 500+… Ridiculous…

  32. 41:00 the mosquito, a better bomber than a B17, better heavy hitter than any other ground attack plane, outflew fighters and had then down in seconds, if only we had moreb

  33. All of these war birds are beautiful, but I think my absolute favorite was the American P-51D Mustang. A very, very close second was the Supermarine Spitfire.

  34. that little russian airplane is one of the most intriguing of them all. it killed more of it's owners than the bad guys did and yet they still loved it and sang its praise…

  35. "Here you go gentleman… a sexy tin can with a motor on it with some heavy guns. And here's a pistol in case you get shot down and live. Sorry we probably won't be able to find you. Now go fight for freedom!" I hate war is a thing, but what a bunch of bad asses. All my respect

  36. P-38 will turn inside a P-51 and Bf 109. It has massive wings and big fowler flaps. This documentary said a P-47 out-turns a P-38… bullshittery 😛

  37. How about they have a war and nobody go? Are you going to the war???? "No, I have a tennis match to go to". How about you??? "well…I have a bag of bbq chips I want to eat". You? "I am going to go see Van Halen live".

  38. The April 7th 1945 attack on Boeing flying fortresses by ME262s at 10:30 on this video is NOT supported in ANY online record that I can find.

  39. Germany had 2 things going for it during WW II. Superior innovation and vast, difficult to detect, underground factories. IMHO – The USA – fighting the last great war has adopted these two strategies in defense of the country. DARPA and underground production facilities are the manifestations of this. Germany used slave labor during WW II to construct underground facilities and build weapons. Is the USA using illegal aliens in the same way? Illegals are easily exploited. Why else allow them into the country as illegals in such large numbers?

  40. 与零战,Fw109,噴火式互相比較,P40战鹰式机堅固耐打(0.30吋机槍殺傷力不足,20机砲携带量少約80~100發),續航力不遜色,机动雖不足,但在老鳥手中仍是狠角色,稍有疏忽輕敵也会折戟沈沙,納粹非洲之星馬謝尔也曾吃过虧。

  41. P-40 "controversial?" How about Aces in Africa who flew P-40s against ME 109/? I read about an A.A.F unit in the ETO that had a rather shocking way of humbling new Mustang pilots, fresh from the U.S; they'd pit them & their brand new 'Stangs in practice Dog-Fights against a Veteran flying a War-Weary, beat up old P-40. The guy in the P-40 literally cleaned their clocks. That's akin to a Rambler beatin' a Chevelle at the Drags. Must've been real fun! Tactics, Tactics, Tactics.
    Ya might've added that the P- 47 pilots were in the majority of the top-ten scorers in the ETO, and could NOT be matched above 25,000 feet, according to Hub Zemke (who flew P-38s, P-47s, & P-51s) and Francis Gabreski, (our top- scoring Ace in the ETO,) which is exactly what they were designed for; high altitude combat. The M & N models were much hotter than the D models & were absolutely Awesome.

  42. The Limey doing the narrative needs to read some aviation history books… He claimed the P-38 shot down more Japanese aircraft than any other (?) I believe that honor went to the Grumman F6F Hellcat….

  43. The Mustang was also used as a ground attack aircraft, the A-36 used a P51 razor back airframe with the original Allison engine which performed better at low altitudes than the Merlin ….

  44. This Limey is a bit of a xenophobe… the Supermarine Spitfire was according to him the only “truly legendary fighter… of the Second World War…” (?)
    Wrong !!!!! What about the ONLY TRULY LONG RANGE FIGHTER OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR ???? THE P-51 MUSTANG GETS THAT HONOR !!! Sorry Brit ‘ !!!!

  45. Excellent footage of these terrific WW2 aircraft. I have seen a lot of documentaries of WW2 fighters, but this is one of the best. I don't know where you guys dug up all this fantastic footage, but you put it together just great !!

  46. My uncle flew with the Flying Tigers in Burma before Pearl Harbor. He joined the army in 1938 at 16 years old. A captain at 19.

  47. the somewhat ponsy plum in the mouth pronunciation manner of the presenter is very very annoying and not at all pleasant.

  48. I hate seeing German fighters with the wrong engines in them. Yes, I understand they are hard to come by, but dammit, they are supposed to have inverted V-12s, not upright allied V-12s.

  49. Bullshit
    American aircraft ruled
    This is bull shit American haters
    Hurricane and spit fire please ,
    Like today ?
    American aircraft rule today like then

  50. I USED TO BE AN RC NUT, AND KIT BUILT AND FLEW MOST OF THESE PLANES. I STARTED OFF WITH CONTROL LINE VERSIONS FIRST IN THE LATE 7'0S. IM RETIRED FROM EVERYTHING NOW. DISABLED AND OLDER THAN DIRT(almost as dusty) I HAD A BLAST.

  51. Once again, another bullshit british produced video that proclaims the spitfire as the most immortal fighter of WW2! Hogwash! That belongs to the P51 Mustang! The Sptifire couldn't leave it's home country because the brits never figured out how to mount extra fuel tanks on it! Meanwhile the P51, P38 and P47 went into Germany to do all the dirty work! Hell! The FW190 was a far better aircraft than anything the brits made! And we're not even going to start on the ME 262!
    And another thing, the F6F Hellcat wasn't even mentioned! It was far superior to the F4U Corsair. SO Fuck You Brits! This is why we Americans have ALWAYS had to drag your lame, libtard asses out of the fire! You spend too much time drinking tea instead of fighting! Fucking Losers!

  52. First of all I'm an American. So let me start my rant at Janson Media. No Japanese or Russian fighters. No F6F Hellcats or Wildcats(F4F or FM2). All of the Janson Media video documentaries are really bad. A total thumbs down to all of them.

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