World War II became the global arena for a titanic struggle for control of the air. Beginning with the war's first air strikes by the Luftwaffe on September 1, 1939, combat in the air greatly accelerated the development of aeronautical technology. New tactical and strategic roles were found for military aviation while traditional roles discovered during World War I were either enhanced and extended or abandoned. American military aviation alone witnessed tremendous growth, from about 2,500 airplanes to nearly 300,000 by the war's end. Explore the Museum's expansive collection of World War II aircraft, hear from our experts, and uncover new World War II stories.
Hear first-hand accounts and see archival footage in these WWII lectures and videos.
Versatile, durable, and an important aircraft of World War II, the L-5 flew a wide variety of missions: photo reconnaissance, resupply, evacuation of wounded, message courier, VIP transport, and artillery spotting.
Center section of the Horten Ho 229.
Between 1942 and 1945, the thunder of P-38 Lightnings was heard around the world. U. S. Army pilots flew the P-38 over Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific; from the frozen Aleutian Islands to the sun-baked deserts of North Africa. Measured by success in combat, Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and a team of designers created the most successful twin-engine fighter ever flown by any nation. In the Pacific Theater, Lightning pilots downed more Japanese aircraft than pilots flying any other Army Air Forces warplane.
First unveiled at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 remained one of Germany's principal fighters throughout World War II. Its armament included a nose-mounted cannon that fired through the propeller hub.
The North American P-51 Mustang escorted high-altitude Allied bombers deep into Europe. It was used in escort, strafing, and photo-reconnaissance roles in every other major theater as well. This one never fought in the war, but it is displayed with the markings of 351st Fighter Squadron, 353rd Fighter Group, Eighth Air Force.
The Arado Ar 234 B Blitz (Lightning) was the world's first operational jet bomber and reconnaissance aircraft.
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Enola Gay on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
The front fuselage of
Flak-Bait as it was on display inside the National Air and Space Museum World War II Aviation exhbition. Flak-Bait served with the 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group, Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. This famous B-26 flew from bases in England and, after D-Day (on which it flew two missions), from bases in France and Belgium.