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Last Flight of Bomber 31

Bombers of World War II


Bomber 31 homepage

Bomber 31
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Bomber 31 (pictured at left), the plane that went down in Kamchatka in March 1944, was a U.S. Navy PV-1 Ventura. During World War II, the PV-1 and the nine other American-built bombers shown in the images below served as the workhorses of the air war that ultimately helped defeat the Axis powers.—Lexi Krock

To see these historical images as a slide show, click to enlarge the images.




Lockheed PV-1 Ventura

PV-1
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Lockheed manufactured the first PV-1 Venturas in 1941 for use in England. By mid-1942, half a year after America entered the war, however, the U.S. Navy needed its own land-based heavy bomber capable of flying long distances with heavy ordnance loads. The Navy ordered the manufacture of its own PV-1 Venturas, which had a range of 1,360 miles and could carry 3,000 pounds of bombs or anti-submarine depth charges. The PV-1 bomber, which also bore four guns, flew successful missions throughout the war.




North American B-25 Mitchell

B-25
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One of the best known airplanes of World War II, the B-25 bomber was also one of the most flown, most versatile, and most successful of all the combat planes of the era. The B-25 bomber was designed and built by North American Aviation beginning in 1939, and it was used throughout the war for bombing, photoreconnaissance, submarine patrol, fighting, and strafing (attacking ground troops from a low altitude). Sixteen of these twin-engine bombers famously flew in the Tokyo Raid of April 18, 1942, the U.S. counterattack on the Japanese four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.




Douglass SBD Dauntless

SBD Dauntless
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During all of the major Pacific campaigns of World War II, including the battles at Coral Sea, Guadalcanal, and Midway, this Navy ship-borne dive-bomber was perhaps more successful than any other aircraft. SBD Dauntless fleets destroyed 18 enemy warships in all, helping to turn the tide of the Pacific war in favor of the Allies. The plane's dive capability was facilitated by special "Swiss cheese" flaps—dive breaks perforated with three-inch holes—which allowed the planes to pull out of near vertical dives after releasing bombs.




Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

SB2C Helldiver
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The SB2C Helldiver, designed as a sleeker version of the SBD Dauntless, went into action for the first time in November 1943. Though impressive-looking, this bomber handled poorly, especially in high-speed dives, and it was prone to dangerous stalls. Even so, when the Helldiver entered the Navy fleet, it replaced the SBD Dauntless and remained the sole carrier-based Navy dive-bomber from late 1944 until the war ended in 1945, managing to inflict significant damage on enemy targets.




Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

B-17
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Having served in every World War II combat zone, the B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous military airplanes. The Japanese dubbed these Army planes, which carried 9,600 pounds of ordnance and five .30 caliber mounted machine-guns, "four-engine fighters," but their "Flying Fortress" moniker best describes their brute power and endurance capabilities. The Fortresses could stay in the air even after the most vicious attacks, often flying back to their bases with large chunks of fuselage missing.




Martin B-26 Marauder

B-26
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Marauders began flying combat missions in the southwest Pacific in 1942, three years into World War II, but most of them were used in earlier combat by American, British, French, Australian, South African, and Canadian forces over England and the Mediterranean. The Marauder dropped its bombs—up to 4,000 pounds worth—from medium altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet and had the lowest loss rate of any Allied bomber: less than one-half of one percent.




Consolidated B-24 Liberator

B-24
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The U.S. Air Force employed the giant, four-engined Consolidated Aircraft B-24 bomber in every combat theater during World War II, from Europe to the Pacific Ocean to North Africa. Because of the B-24's great range—2,850 miles—it was particularly suited for long missions over the Pacific. Fully loaded, a B-24 could carry more than four tons of bombs.




Douglas A-20 Havoc

A-20
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Like many World War II airplanes, the Douglas A-20 Havoc was a multitasking craft capable of carrying out bombing missions from high and low altitudes and performing light transport, photoreconnaissance, nighttime fighting, and torpedo-carrying missions. The A-20 also functioned as a fighter when needed, requiring only slight modifications to fly with guns. Unlike most twin-engine bombers, the A-20 did not require a co-pilot; a single pilot occupied the plane's narrow cockpit.




Grumman TBF Avenger

TBF Avenger
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Considered ugly by some airplane aficionados, Grumman's stocky TBF Avenger first took to the skies in June 1942 against Japanese carriers during the Battle of Midway and remained the only carrier-based Navy torpedo aircraft in service through the end of the war. Grumman Avengers had many successes during the war, the most famous of which was the sinking of the heaviest warship in the world, the Japanese battleship Yamato, at Okinawa on April 7, 1945.




Boeing B-29 Superfortress

B-29
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Like the Consolidated B-24, the Boeing B-29's range of 3,700 miles meant that it was suited to the long sorties required to attack Japan from bases in China. In 1944, B-24s were removed from service in Europe and sent to the islands of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian in the South Pacific, where they began operating against Japan. As many as 1,000 B-29 Superfortresses at a time attacked Tokyo, destroying large swaths of the city. On August 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later a second B-29, Bockscar, dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, effectively ending the war.


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Last Flight of Bomber 31 Web Site Content
Bombers of World War II

Bombers of World War II
A brief history of ten classic American bombers.

Tour Kamchatka

Tour Kamchatka
Explore this rugged, 800-mile-long volcanic peninsula.

Bringing Home MIAs

Bringing Home MIAs
The U.S. effort to find, identify, and bury all lost service personnel.

Identifying Remains with DNA

Identifying Remains with DNA
Find out why mitochondrial DNA is so useful to forensic scientists.


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