When it comes to some of the most dangerous, thrilling and fear-inducing activities in history, being a fighter pilot has to be up there, especially during the time before aviation technology was very advanced. Nothing epitomizes the idea of danger and self-sacrifice as much as the World War Two fighter pilot, who had to deal with the uncertainty of his vehicle’s reliability, maintaining the vehicle tens of thousands of feet in the air, and traveling at insane rates of speed, all while trying to avoid getting shot out of the sky. This makes understanding the history of these pilots and the state of aviation during World War Two a very compelling story.
It is interesting to know about the great impact that fighter jets had across the board during World War 2 and the state of aviation technology at the time. Early during the war, Germany had the upper hand. The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world’s first operational jet fighter aircraft. It was used from the beginning of the war and throughout the war. The United States came into the picture later with a total of 135 different aircraft in the war manufactured by different companies.
During the war, aircraft had a huge impact on the results of the war. If a country was using fighter jets, they had a huge upper hand against their enemies. Germany was reigning early in World War Two primarily thanks to fighter jets. The United States had not entered the war at full force until 1942. This gave Germany a huge advantage early in the war.
The United States did not really use fighter jets until 1942 due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. This bombing by Japan made the United States go full force in 1942. The main aircraft used by Japan during the bombing on Pearl Harbor was the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. This fighter jet was main catalyst that ignited the United States into the war. The United States responded to this attack with a numerous amount of fighter jets from several huge companies.
Companies such as Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, North American, and Republic helped produce over 100,000 fighter jets and over 10,000 bombers. A standout fighter jet for Lockheed Martin was the “Lockheed Lightning.” 9,200 of these planes were produced and primarily used in the Pacific in the beginning of March 1942. The P-47 Republic Thunderbolt was one of the standout jets for the Republic. Over 15,000 of these were produced in March of 1942 as well. Grumman came out with a couple of great fighter jets, the Grumman Wildcat as well as the Grumman Hellcat. Producing a total of over 22,000 planes between the two, these planes were produced before the bombing at Pearl Harbor in 1940. Considered by many as the best fighter jet throughout the war was the North American Mustang. Over 15,000 Mustangs were produced in the summer of 1942 and were a great resource for the bombing in Berlin towards the end of the war.
This was the dawn of fighter jets going into future wars, including post World War Two, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and many more. Going into the 1930’s, fighter jets were still new and barely used. Post World War Two and thereafter, countries would not last in a war without fighter jets. This increased the necessity for the types of people who could capably, and more importantly, bravely man these machines. It takes a special type of person to be able to sacrifice and endure the crazy act of flying one of these machines and attempting to carry out a mission at the same time. It would be very interesting to get in the minds of some of these men to see what they were thinking and what drove them to that point.