World War II in Color, Part II

Posted on Mon, August 24, 2020

As we continue exploring images to feature in the Museum’s upcoming World War II gallery, there are several themes to note among these incredible color photographs from World War II. The first is the human face of the American experience. For the Museum’s aviation perspective on the war, we are looking at the nation’s participation in the air war through three lenses – aircrew, ground crew, and the war workers that built the aircraft. Each had an enormous role to play and for every person that went aloft were dozens of support personnel that made that flight possible.

These images reflect another telling theme: that aviation is a system of technologies. Fighter planes and bombers, along with their crews, depended on infrastructure ranging from hangars, runways, and air traffic control, to training equipment and new methods of production. While many people identify aeronautical effectiveness during the war with the development of major engineering feats like jet propulsion, the ability to carve out hundreds of new airfields in remote areas in mere days or weeks was often far more important.

Third, Allies figure prominently in the images. Americans recall World War II in a way distinct from much of the world, as the nation avoided most of its destruction while significantly enhancing its geopolitical reach. Aviation played a central role in the international partnerships that made this possible. Many of the more than 300,000 airplanes built in the United States during the war went to Allied nations to fight the Axis, while American planes were given access to operate from bases on six continents.

To view the full descriptions of images below, click on the • • • icon (three dots).

Images can be downloaded in full resolution by clicking on the image and downloading via Flickr webite. Please note that a desktop web browser is required (or a mobile browser in desktop mode) to access this feature.

A U.S. Army cavalry squadron trots past a Piper CubAn inspector looks over a Mustang Mk I fighterFuture Medal of Honor winner David McCampbell waves his Landing Signal Officer (LSO)Free French air force formally receives a Curtiss P-40FsA Martin PBM-3D Mariner prepares to launch from a coastal Naval Air StationA PT boat crew during WW IIPilots of North American A-36 ApachesBoeing B-17G Flying Fortresses lined up on an English airfieldCaptain Michael Ragan blesses the crew of the Boeing B-17G “Fifinella”Lt. Robert Williams briefs pilot Lorena DailyU.S. Navy officers review a line of Brazilian PBY-5A amphibians with Brazilian naval aviatorsP-51D Mustangs of the 4th Fighter Squadron

Navy L-ships at Naval Air Station Moffett Field“Five Grand” -  the 5,000th Boeing B-17 off the company’s Seattle wartime production lineMechanics at Tuskegee Army Air Field maintain an engine of a Vultee BT-13A ValiantLt. Erwin Niebling receives a Distinguished Flying Cross with gold starAir traffic control trainees practice on model aircraftThe crew of a Martin PBM-5 Mariner flying boatBombardier trainers readied for instructionArmorers load North American AT-6 advanced trainers with ammunitionLt. Hiawatha Mohawk straps into his Republic P-47 for a mission in ItalySpecialists 2nd Class Mary Johnson and Lois Stoneburg communicate with air trafficThe carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) prepares to dock at the Brooklyn Navy YardAfrican American paratroopers preparing to jump from a Douglas C-47 on a wildfire in Wallowa Forest

Roger Connor is the lead curator for the Museum’s new World War II gallery in development.