The 10 Deadliest Planes of World War II

The overview of the deadliest planes that flew during World War II.

10. Junkers Ju 87 Stuka

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Plane Type: Dive Bomber
Fought For: Axis (Germany)
Complex Says: This was the plane that struck terror into the heart of Poland, and it came to symbolize the devastation of the Blitzkrieg at the beginning of the war. Its ability to bomb with deadly accuracy, coupled with the sirens dubbed “Jericho trumpets,” made ice water run through the veins. It was obsolete by the Battle of Britain. And it was withdrawn from combat midway through the war in the face of superior fighters like the Spitfire. But it served its purpose early on, and may still be the most recognizable German WWII plane today.

9. Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

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Plane Type: Fighter
Fought For: Allies
Complex Says: Flown by the U.S. and several other Allied forces during the war, the P-47D was mostly used either as a bomber escort or for its remarkable ground-fighter capabilities. Each one was heavily armed with eight .50-cal machine guns and 2,500 pounds of rockets or bombs. Unfortunately, range was a problem for the P-47D, which meant that the P-51 Mustang ended up taking over many of its previous bomber escort duties on long-range missions. At least 12,500 P-47Ds were built–far more than any other model of Thunderbolt before or since. [Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.]

8. P-51 Mustang

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Plane Type: Fighter, Ground Attack Fighter-Bomber
Fought For: Allies (U.S.)
Complex Says: Although the Tuskegee Airmen flew a few different planes, the P-51 Mustang is the one for which they’re most remembered. Members of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their P-51 Mustangs red, thus earning the nickname “Red Tails” or “Red-Tail Angels.” They flew with distinction, mostly as bomber escorts in Europe. They were later regarded as some of the best pilots the U.S. Air Force had produced in its history up to that point. Armament included six .50-cal machine guns and either 10 5-inch rockets or 2,000 pounds of bombs per plane.

7. Lockheed P-38 Lightning

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Plane Type: Fighter-Bomber
Fought For: Allies
Complex Says: Two engines made this bad boy twice as awesome as previous fighters in the Allied arsenal. Its reputation earned it the Luftwaffe nickname of “The Fork-Tailed Devil.” Equipped with four .50-cal machine guns and a single 20mm cannon, it was a fearsome force to be reckoned with. The P-38 Lightning was very versatile, too. It performed admirably as a long-range escort fighter, dive bomber, level bomber, ground strafer, and photo reconnaisance plane.

6. Messerschmitt Bf 109

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Plane Type: Fighter-Bomber
Fought For: Axis (Germany)
Complex Says: Lucky for Great Britain that it had the Spitfire, because this was the only plane at the time that could match (and eventually surpass) the might of the Bf 109 in combat. The Luftwaffe used this plane in combat throughout the war. It was so successful that the plane continued to be used in Spain and Israel in the post-war years. Several variants existed, each with different deadly armament suites.

5. Supermarine Spitfire66.jpg

Plane Type: Fighter
Fought For: Allies (Great Britain)
Complex Says: The Spitfire was how Great Britain won the Battle of Britain against the German Luftwaffe forces. It’s also how the Royal Air Force fought Germany’s V-1 rockets, thwarting and destroying more than 300 of them before they could hit their targets. Considering that the V-1 rockets that weren’t intercepted killed 30,000 British civilians, that’s quite a record. Four different armament suites existed for Spitfires over the course of the war. Spitfires were equipped with either eight 7.7mm machine guns, four 7.7mm machine guns and four 20mm cannons, or two 20mm cannons and two 12.7mm machine guns.

4. Vought F4U Corsair

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Plane Type: Fighter
Fought For: Allies
Complex Says: Claiming an 11-to-one kill ratio, the Corsair is widely considered to be the most successful fighter of WWII. The Japanese nicknamed it “Whistling Death,” due to its distinct engine noise. The Corsair’s inverted gull-wing design ably accommodated both the gigantic propeller and the short, stout landing gear that was an integral part of its design. To improve its aerodynamic efficiency, flush riveting and the new technique of spot-welding were used so that the plane’s body was as smooth as possible, with nothing interrupting air flow. The armament suite included six .50-cal Colt-Browning M2 machine guns and either two 1,000-pound bombs or eight 5-inch rockets.

3. Nakajima B5N88.jpg

Plane Type: Torpedo Bomber
Fought For: Axis (Japan)
Complex Says: One of the trifecta of Japanese planes that took part in the deadly attack on Pearl Harbor, the B5N was also a major part in nearly every Japanese victory during the following year. With an armament consisting of a single, rear-firing 7.7mm machine gun and capacity for either 1,764 pounds of bombs or a single 1,764-pound torpedo, it claimed a 90 percent hit rate against enemy targets.

2. Mitsubishi A6M Zero99.jpg

Plane Type: Fighter, Suicide Attack Bomber
Fought For: Axis (Japan)
Complex Says: This is the plane that answered the question of whether the U.S. would get into World War II. On December 7, 1941, Mitsubishi A6M Zeros, Nakajima B5Ns, and Aichi D3As were launched from Japanese aircraft carriers in the attack against the U.S. Naval installation at Pearl Harbor. Armament included two 7.7mm machine guns, two 20mm cannons, and two 132-pound bombs. In addition to being a long-range fighter with maneuverability, speed, and range that outclassed Allied fighters at the beginning of the war, this was the plane that Japanese Kamikaze pilots flew on suicide missions. [Photo by Tom Zwica.]

1. B-29 Superfortress

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Plane Type: Long-Range Heavy Bomber
Fought For: Allies
Complex Says: Three separate companies built B-29 Superfortresses during WWII, based on a design submitted to the U.S. Army by Boeing in 1939–before the U.S. entered the war. Boeing built 2,766, while Bell built 668 and Martin built 536. The Soviets copied the design and called their version the Tupolev Tu-4. Roughly 1,000 Superfortresses flew in the Pacific combat theater at a time. These came armed with 12 .50-cal machine guns, one 20mm cannon, and a 20,000-pound bomb load. The most famous B-29 of all was the Enola Gay, which dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. A second B-29, named Bockscar, dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki three days later. [Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.]

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