In Flight

The Navy's two most famous Wildcat pilots in early '42 - Leader of VF-2, Lt. Cmdr. John S. "Jimmy" Thach (creator of the Thach Weave) flys F4F-3 #F-1 alongside the Navy's first ace "Butch" O'Hare (in #F-13) near NAS Kaneohe on April 10, 1942. Note the opened canopies (a typical action when not in combat).
(Source: Aviation History magazine, November 1995)
Last chance for combat - A pair of Marine SB2U Vindicator dive bombers take off from Midway Island on June 4 1942, in search of the Japanese fleet. Like a number of other Marine aircraft at the time, the Vindicator was somewhat obsolete and had been phased out of front-line U.S. Navy service, and handed-down to the Marines. After the battle most Marine dive bombing squadrons would replace their aging SB2Us with the Douglas SBD Dauntless.
(Source: "Tragic Victories", by Edward Jablonski)
A much-maligned warrior - The Brewster F2A Buffalo fighter had certain parallels with the Vindicator dive bomber. It too was obsolete at the beginning of the war, had been handed down to the Marines, and was phased out of front-line service after the Battle of Midway. Midway was it's first and last combat action in U.S. hands, where it's heavy losses proved that it was no match for the nimble Zero.
(Source: "Tragic Victories", by Edward Jablonski)
A classic photo - SBD Dauntlesses fly over a smoking Japanese warship during the Battle of Midway.
Down she goes - Nearing the bottom of a perfect dive, the perforated flaps on his SBD Dauntless biting the air to hold his speed to a perfect 275 mph, a dive bomber pilot releases a 500-pound bomb.
(Source:"The Carrier War" by Clark G. Reynolds & Time-Life)
Wildcats in combat - Another photo of the well-done dioramas of the Midway battle, this one shows U.S. Navy F4F Wildcats shooting down Japanese Kate torpedo bombers.
(Source: U.S. Navy)
Torp's away! - A TBF Avenger releases its fish during its low-level torpedo run.
(Source: "Naval Aircraft 1939-1945" by Louis S. Casey)
Group practice - Similar to the above photo, but clearer and showing multiple aircraft. A squadron of TBFs drop their torpedos in this non-combat shot.
(Sent in by website visitor John S. McDonald. Thanks, John!)
Another long patrol - A Navy PV-1 Ventura bomber patrols over an Aleutian island.
(Source: "The Forgotten War" by Stan Cohen)
Waiting to land - SBD-5s from VB-10 of the USS Enterprise circle their carrier after returning from action in March 1944.
(Source:"Air War Over The Pacific" by Robert C. Stern)
Replacement for the Ventura - Lockheed followed their PV-1 Ventura with the similar (but larger and slower) PV-2 Harpoon. Though it had better flight handling characteristics, its slower speed reduced its fighting abilities.
(Source:"Carrier Air War - In Original WWII Color" by R. Lawson & B. Tillman)
Marine Mitchell - A U.S. Marine PBJ-1H (the Navy version of the B-25H) Mitchell is shown here in 1944. Deliveries of the H-model of the Marine versions of the Mitchell began in 1943, and served in a variety of roles, like their Army counterparts.
(Source:"Carrier Air War - In Original WWII Color" by R. Lawson & B. Tillman)
Eyes for the fleet - This Vought OS2U-3 Kingfisher directs naval gunfire during the opening phase of the Palau Islands invasion on 15 September 1944. Landing craft can be seen below heading for the beaches.
(Source: Marine Fighting Squadron One-Twenty-One (VMF-121) by Thomas Doll)
Avengers in flight - On January 12, 1945, American Avenger aircraft from Air Group 4 of the USS Essex formed up and flew off to bomb and torpedo airfields and shipping near Saigon in Japanese-held Indochina.
(Source:"The Naval Air War" by Nathan Miller)
Helldiver's bombs away - an SB2C Helldiver drops its bomb; note the bomb cradle that has dropped forward from the open bomb bay, releasing it's payload. This photo was listed as occurring during the 12 January 1945 raids on the Indochina coast.
(Source: "Golden Wings" by Martin Caidin)
TBM flying with missing wingtip - An Avenger torpedo bomber that lost a wingtip to flak over Chichi Jima heads for its carrier (USS Bennington) on February 17, 1945. The plane later crashed when the landing gear was lowered.
(Source:"The Naval Air War" by Nathan Miller, and the USS Bennington cruise book)
Corsair firing rockets - Marine F4U Corsairs use rocket barrages to blast enemy positions dug into the rocky ridges of Okinawa.
(Source:"The Naval Air War" by Nathan Miller)
A show of strength - A mass formation of more than 1,200 aircraft fly over the U.S. fleet anchored in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945, to signal (with the signing of the surrender documents) the end of the war. The battleship Missouri (BB-63) is in the foreground.
(Source: The Hook magazine, Summer 1996)