While there were 26 members of the United Nations in World War II, only the "Big Three" United States, Great Britain, and Soviet Union had indigenous aircraft industries during the war. The French had had their own aircraft industry, but French planes played only a minor part, since France was occupied for virtually all of the war.
The United States is my home country, had the largest publishing industry during the war, and had a copyright policy that makes it possible to restore period articles, so US planes will be the primary focus of this site. US-built planes were, predictably (because of availability of information, access to primary sources, and interest among readers), the planes most frequently and most thoroughly covered in the US press. US planes are described and discussed here as separate entities.
The primary Ally was the United Kingdom, at the time a world-spanning empire. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all participated, along with Cyprus and British India. Of these, Canada and Australia had aircraft industries that contributed significantly to the war effort. In this context, all members of the United Kingdom are lumped together as British.
In the early stages of the war, British planes were more advanced in terms of combat-ready design elements than US planes were. Britain, however, rapidly ran up against the limits of their manufacturing capacity. Prewar orders from Great Britain and France (and a few other nations) went a long way toward preparing the US manufacturing base for the massive buildup that took place between 1939 and 1943. Douglas DB-7 Bostons (became A-20 Havoc), Curtiss Tomahawk (P-40), Grumman Martlet (F4F Wildcat), Consolidated Liberator (B-24 Liberator), Boeing Fortress (B-17 Flying Fortress), North American Mustang (P-51 Mustang) all were produced for British and French (impounded when France fell) orders in much larger quantities than had previously been the order rate. This allowed the manufacturers to identify and correct various difficulties and bottlenecks in production processes. They also provided much-needed funding toward the expansion
of capacity. In return, feedback from the front lines allowed design and incorporation of modifications that would make the planes more effective as tools of combat.
Through Lend-Lease, both the British and the Soviets (or Russians the terms were used interchangeably) flew a lot of American-designed and -built planes. Those planes are addressed here as US planes, even though their use was by a foreign power. The British flew all the planes mentioned above and quite a few others. The Soviets got much of their mileage out of P-39s, B-25s and A-20s. And, of course, everyone who could used the incomparable C-47.
Of British planes, the Bristol Beaufighter and de Havilland Mosquito got detailed Design Analysis articles and a lot of other coverage, especially of the Mosquito.
There were also articles on the British and Commonwealth war effort:
Other British planes got less complete coverage, but enough to warrant their own links here:
- "RAF Maintenance" [ HTML ] describes the organization and operation of RAF Maintenance Command.
- "Now We Are In It" [ HTML ] describes the situation in England near the end of the Phony War. It discusses British actions in Norway and extols the virtues of the Boulton-Paul Defiant.
- Aviation magazine's "Canada's Warplane Industry" [ HTML ] describes the state of Canada's aircraft industry as of the fall of 1940, with a listing of the models then in production.
- "Thumbs Up! is the "all well" symbol of the British these days" [ HTML ] describes the overall actions taken against Nazi raiders in the Blitz.
- The RAF vs the Axis" [ HTML ] is a six-page pictorial article featuring action and detail photos of British, German and Italian planes.
- "Waiting for the Blitzkrieg", subtitled "A Letter from London", [ HTML ] , [ PDF, 5.8 MiB ] is a lighthearted piece from London talking up the general mood and attitude in England.
- "Britain's Aerial Outpost" [ HTML ] describes the development of the RAAF and Anzac air forces up to mid-1941.
- "Captured: One Junkers
" [ HTML ] tells of the shooting-down of a Ju-88 in England, debriefing the POW crew, and British countermeasures to the German X-Gerät bomber-directing system.
- "Air Defense 'Down Under'" [ HTML ] describes the defense preparations for Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies and lists many of the planes being made available to the defense forces.
- "Yanks In Canada" [ HTML ] tells of the influx of American pilots to RAF and RCAF positions ferrying and instructing and relates a number of anecdotes taken from letters home from the US pilots.
- "'Toys' For The War" [ HTML ] describes the manufacture, by schoolboys, of scale models for use in recognition and operational training.
- "Canada Trains The Empire's Warbirds" [ HTML ] describes the development and operation of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
- "The RAF in the USA"[ HTML ] describes some of the experiences of, and reactions to, RAF pilot trainees at the Arcadia Embry-Riddle flight-training school.
- "If You're Going to England" [ HTML ] instructs the American officer on what to expect in England, especially focusing on cultural differences and the impact of the wartime shortages in England.
- "Rebirth of The RAF" [ HTML ] describes the growth and reorganization of the RAF from prewar form.
- "Echelon of the RAF" [ HTML ] discusses the maintenance/repair service organization of the RAF.
- "The RCAF" [ HTML ] describes the growth of the RCAF and the structure of the training organizations. The article was issued in concert with the release of a Warner Brothers film, Captains of the Clouds.
- "Underground Factory" [ HTML ] describes British efforts to move factory facilities underground to forestall bombing damage.
- "News Notes From Britain," June, 1942, [ HTML ] mentions the Airgraph Service (Britain's precursor to US V-mail), a new underground aircraft factory, and the first descriptions of the Whirlwind.
- "Canada's Aircraft Industry" [ HTML ] describes the state of Canadian aircraft industry as of mid-1942. The changes from a previous report on the industry ("Canada's Warplane Industry", above) are instructive.
- "American Aircraft Training In the RAF" [ HTML ] describes issues, primarily technical issues, in bringing up a service organization in England to support American airplanes.
- "The Spitter" [ HTML ] contains a description of the RAF defense strategy during the Battle of Britain.
- "Report from the British Airfront" [ HTML ] discusses the evolution of types in the air over England and Europe.
- Flying magazine's "Canada's Warplane Industry" [ HTML ] describes the growth of the Canadian aviation industry, with details of the main aircraft types manufactured through mid-1942.
- "The Ladies Go To War" [ HTML ] describes the origins and organization of the Canadian Women's Auxiliary Air Force.
- Flying ran "special issues" focusing on a particular air service. The "Special Royal Air Force Issue" for September, 1942, featured a number of articles describing various organizational units, operations and functions in the RAF:
- "Air Ministry" [ HTML ] discusses the origins and growth of the Air Ministry and includes an organizational chart and a roster of the Governing Body of the RAF.
- "Air Transport Auxiliary Service" [ HTML ] describes the development and operations of the "Air Ferry" the Air Transport Auxiliary Service, which is responsible for delivery of aircraft to operational sites around Britain, including those coming from Canada and the United States.
- "Armament Production" [ HTML ] gives background on the development of the eight-gun fighter and of powered turrets, with a mention of production of bombs.
- "Army Cooperation" [ HTML ] discusses the requirements and usages of the army-cooperation ("Liaison" in the US) planes, with a lot of focus on the Westland Lysander.
- "Balloon Command" [ HTML ] describes the origins, organization and operations of the groups who maintain the barrage balloon distributions.
- "Bomber Command" [ HTML ] describes the workup and followup of a typical mission a raid on Rostok then gives some history and philosophy of Bomber Command.
- "Box Score" [ HTML ] gives a list of the most-bombed cities in Germany and the number of raids each had suffered.
- "East of Suez" [ HTML ] lays out preparations for self-defense against the Japanese in India.
- "The Middle East" [ HTML ] describes RAF activities in Greece, Crete, Syria, Iraq and, especially, Egypt and North Africa.
- "The Organisation Of The Royal Air Force" [ HTML ] lays out the operational structure of the RAF, with some history as to how it came to be structured the way it is. The article includes an organizational chart of the Air Council.
- "Salvage" [ HTML ] describes the functions of the RAF Maintenance Group in recovering crashed aircraft, both Allied and Axis.
- "Training and Manpower" [ HTML ]
describes in some detail the procedures involved in training aircrew.
- "Women's Auxiliary Air Force" [ HTML ] describes the activities of the WAAF and the progress made in their expansion into many functions formerly limited to men.
- "The Work of the Ministry of Aircraft Production" [ HTML ] discusses the problems in activating British industry to a war footing and carrying on in the face of German attacks.
- "Works Directorate" [ HTML ] extols the efforts of workmen to build extensive aerodrome facilities around Britain.
- "Allies Have Big Bomber Edge In War Against Axis" [ HTML ]
, [ PDF, 9.4 MiB ] contrasts Allied bomber capabilities with those of Germany.
- "Wingtip to Wingtip" [ HTML ] discusses RAF/USAAF cooperation, with some emphasis on downplaying press-promulgated British criticisms of US planes and pilots, of the difficulties of dealing with Sahara sand, and a first-person account of the value of on-the-job training of fighter pilots.
- "Maltese Falcons" [ HTML ] describes the experiences of a torpedo squadron flying out of Malta during the Luftwaffe bombing raids.
- "Canada Gains Vital New Production Role" [ HTML ] describes the status of the Canadian aircraft industry in early 1943 and goes into the history of the development of the industry.
- "Night fighters" [ HTML ] talks about the RAF night-flying missions in North Africa.
- "Eagle Squadron" [ HTML ] recounts the origins of the Eagle Squadrons and gives some first-person accounts of early actions.
- "Conservation in Canada's Aircraft Industry" [ HTML ] details measures taken to save time and materials in Canadian aircraft construction, with emphasis on the Bolingbroke and Anson.
- A Winchester ad "Winchester radiator tubes helped Spitfires and Hurricanes clear the skies over Britain in 1940" has a diagrammatic map showing distribution of RAF fighter response to a hypothetical Luftwaffe attack in 1940. Map shows three control centers in Southeast England.
- "Canada Trains Them By Tens of Thousands" [ HTML ] gives considerable detail of the operation and finances of Canada's Combined Training Organization (CTO.)
- News clips from November, 1943, [ HTML ] mention British testing of captured Axis planes, pricing of UK vs US warplanes, and the problem of production outstripping availability of test pilots.
- A news clip photo from December, 1943, shows an 8,000-lb bomb on a bomb trolley.
- A news clip from January, 1944, [ HTML ] describes new impregnated-paper drop tanks.
- "How the RCAF Prevents Waste" [ HTML ]
describes recovery and salvage procedures in the RCAF with examples of downed Ventura and Hudson planes.
- A news clip from March, 1944,shows 18 types on the flightline at the Empire Central School.
- News clips from April, 1944, [ HTML ] mention the Tudor and Brabazon I, both intended to be postwar transports, and the Boomerang, Australia's indigenous fighter plane.
- A news clip with photo from June, 1944, " Torpedo-Toting Barracuda" [ HTML ] shows and describes the Fairey Barracuda, seen from 2 o'clock low, with torpedo.
- A news clip with photo from July, 1944, "P & W -powered Warwick Complete with footprints" [ HTML ] shows a Warwick from 10 o'clock high.
- Other news clips July, 1944, [ HTML ] mentions Tempest, Albemarle, and Mosquito.
- "Second TAF" [ HTML ] tells of the inception, organization and operations of the Second Tactical Air Force, RAF equivalent to the US Ninth AF.
- "Snow Doesn't Ground RCAF" [ HTML ] describes RCAF snow-control measures allowing training to be carried on during Canadian winters.
- "This is the Ally" [ HTML ] describes and shows the uniform insignia and medals of the RAF.
- "Birth of the Airborne" [ HTML ] tells, in retrospect, of the formation and initial operation of the glider group that spearheaded the invasion of Sicily.
Soviet attitudes toward the West were, even then, untrusting, so much less information was available on Soviet aircraft type and usages was available to the American press. For the most part, Soviet coverage consisted of survey articles, pieces on operational units and actions, and propaganda pieces on Soviet manufacturing.
- "Civil Aviation Cooperates In Russian War Effort" [ HTML ] describes the continuing operation of the Soviet civil air fleet in support of the war effort, with some focus on ambulance-plane actions.
- "They Learned About Parachuting from Us" [ HTML ] tells how the Soviet Union got the idea for and developed their parachute corps and how Stalin scuttled the program with his purges.
- "Siberia: Our Next Air Base" [ HTML ] describes the attributes of Siberia, with special emphasis on its potential usefulness as a base for American bombers ranging against the Japanese home islands.
- "Typical Soviet Aircraft" [ HTML ] gives thumbnail descriptions of the front-line Soviet planes early in the war.
- "The Ramming Russians" [ HTML ] discusses the Soviet use of ramming as a method to bring down enemy aircraft, with several first-person accounts.
- "Red Comets" [ HTML ] discusses the origins of the Red Air Force and gives short descriptions of the major Soviet military aircraft available and in use in the latter part of 1942.
- "Red Star Rides High" [ HTML ] describes the medals awarded by the Soviet Union, with an emphasis on those awarded to members of the Red Air Force.
Of course, not all of our allies were involved in the European war. Apart from the Commonwealth nations, which I lump together with British, there were the Chinese, who had large land forces, a country partly occupied by the Axis, and a compelling need for air forces. China had no significant indigenous aircraft industry. Nearly all aerial action over China and in the CBI theater (China-Burma-India) generally was between US and Japanese aircraft, though there was some contribution by British planes, too.
Other Allies with aircraft industries
- "Aces for China" [ HTML ] describes the training of Chinese pilots in the US.
- A Ryan Aeronautical Co ad, "Earth-Bound No Longer," features a rendering of a Chinese pilot in a PT-16 and 7 thumbnail photos of Ryan planes.
- A news clip, "China's 'C-47 Road,'" [ HTML ] tells of the arrival of 35 C-47s to start "flying the Hump" ferrying supplies into China while the Burma Road was unusable.
- "Chinese air cadets" [ HTML ] describes the training regimen for Chinese pilots in the USA, along with the reasons for their training here rather than in China.
Brazil and Mexico had relatively small indigenous aircraft industries.
Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the "associated state" of the Philippines were all essentially governments in exile. Yugoslavia was a battleground state, nominally occupied territory. None were in a position to supply airframes to the war effort. Both the French and Dutch aircraft industries were absorbed the the German war effort, but primarily as manufacturers of German machinery.
- A news clip with photo, from July. 1940, of the Fokker T-5 medium bomber speculates that capture of the Fokker plants in Holland might add this plane to the Luftwaffe arsenal.
- "French Lesson" [ HTML ] Has considerable detail of the political and social condition in France leading up to the Fall of France.
- "War in the Air" [ HTML ] lauds Dutch preparations for war in the Netherlands East Indies and shows
- A news clip with photo from April, 1942, shows Fokker TSW floatplanes operated for the RAF by the Dutch.
- "French Developments" [ HTML ] describes several planes in development in France.
- "Why French Aviation Failed" [ HTML ] gives an insider's view of the reasons for the collapse one could say "implosion" of French aviation in the face of blitzkrieg.
- "Nazi Plants in France" [ HTML ] mentions the German takeover of French-owned aircraft factories. Mention is made of the Heinkel He-274 being developed in a French plant.
- "Exiles in the Air" [ HTML ] tells the stories of some of the pilots from occupied nations serving in the RAF.
- "French Developments" [ HTML ] describes the state of the French aircraft industry and mentions some French designs in production.
- "French With A German Accent" [ HTML ] discusses French designs, most of which were sidelined to allow German usage of the production lines, though some transport types were left in production.
Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama were signatories to the original Declaration by United Nations. None contributed significant aircraft types.
Turkey formally joined the Allies late in the war, but ended up on the right side.
- "The Turkish Air Force" [ HTML ] discusses the history of the Turkish Air Force and give a sketchy account of the kind of planes the Turks had at the outset of the war.
- "Flying Blue Amazons" [ HTML ] describes the participation of women in the Turkish air force.