Formation 1: Trainer formation

Boeing Stearman PT-17/N2S

The fixed-gear biplane trained more military pilots, including Navy flier George H.W. Bush and the Tuskegee Airmen, than any other basic trainer in World War II.

Top view Wingspan: 32 ft.
Side view Length: 24 ft.

North American AT-6/SNJ

Army, Navy and Marine pilots learned how to dogfight and shoot in this single-engine advanced trainer, which also saw “action” in Hollywood movies about World War II, standing in for Japanese aircraft.

Top view Wingspan: 42 ft.
Side view Length: 29 ft.

Beech AT-11 Kansan

Developed as a civilian transport aircraft, the two-engine plane was given a glassed-in nose and trained bombardiers and pilots for America’s bombers.

Top view Wingspan: 48 ft.
Side view Length: 34 ft.

Piper L-4 Grasshopper

The military version of the famous Piper Cub flew for reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions, evacuated the wounded and transported supplies. Flying low and slow in France, it spotted German tanks and sometimes destroyed them with bazooka fire.

Top view Wingspan: 35 ft.
Side view Length: 22.5 ft.

Formation 2: Pearl Harbor

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

Claire Lee Chennault’s American Volunteer Group – the Flying Tigers -- made this single-engined fighter, outmoded at the start of the war, famous through their hit-and-run tactics against the Japanese in China. The British, the Russians and other allied air forces used it in all theaters.

Top view Wingspan: 37 ft.
Side view Length: 32 ft.

Formation 3: Doolittle Raid

North American B-25 Mitchell

This bomber was used by Col. Jimmy Doolittle in the Tokyo Raid in 1942. During World War II, this plane was flown by many allied air forces, including those of the Dutch, British, Chinese, Russians and Australians.

Top view Wingspan: 67.5 ft.
Side view Length: 53 ft.

Formation 4: Battle of Midway

Grumman F4F Wildcat

In the early years of the Pacific war, skilled Navy and Marine pilots held their own against the superior Japanese Zero through innovative tactics and the ruggedness of this single-engine fighter. Marine Capt. Joe Foss surpassed Eddie Rickenbacker’s World War I mark for kills with the Wildcat.

Top view Wingspan: 38 ft.
Side view Length: 29 ft.

Douglas SBD Dauntless

The rugged dive bomber, which first flew in 1940, became one of the most decisive weapons of World War II by sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway, turning the tide of war in the Pacific.

Top view Wingspan: 41.5 ft.
Side view Length: 33 ft.

Consolidated PBY Catalina

The versatile twin-engine Navy flying boats were known as “Dumbos” for air-sea rescue missions and “Black Cats” for night torpedo raids against the Japanese, but their most pivotal moment was spotting the Japanese fleet at the Battle of Midway while the U.S. fleet remained undetected.

Top view Wingspan: 104 ft.
Side view Length: 64 ft.

Formation 5: Guadalcanal Campaign

Grumman F4F Wildcat

In the early years of the Pacific war, skilled Navy and Marine pilots held their own against the superior Japanese Zero through innovative tactics and the ruggedness of this single-engine fighter. Marine Capt. Joe Foss surpassed Eddie Rickenbacker’s World War I mark for kills with the Wildcat.

Top view Wingspan: 38 ft.
Side view Length: 29 ft.

Formation 6: Yamamoto Shootdown

Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Co-designed by the legendary designer Kelly Johnson, creator of Lockheed’s “Skunk Works,” the twin-engine fighter was dubbed “the fork-tailed devil” by the Germans. It had its greatest success in the Pacific, where America’s leading aces flew it against the Japanese. P-38 pilots shot down the bomber carrying Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, in a daring long-range ambush.

Top view Wingspan: 52 ft.
Side view Length: 38 ft.

Formation 7: Ploesti Raid

Consolidated B-24 Liberator

The most-produced heavy bomber in history. It flew in every combat theater during World War II between 1943 and 1945. More than 18,000 Liberators were produced.

Top view Wingspan: 110 ft.
Side view Length: 66 ft.

North American P-51 Mustang

Made its first flight in 1940 and operated primarily as a long-range escort fighter and ground-attack fighter-bomber. The Mustang possessed excellent speed and maneuverability and was last used in combat by the USAF during the Korean War. Foreign air forces used it until the early 1980s.

Top view Wingspan: 37 ft.
Side view Length: 32 ft.

Formation 8: Escorting the Bombers

North American P-51 Mustang

Made its first flight in 1940 and operated primarily as a long-range escort fighter and ground-attack fighter-bomber. The Mustang possessed excellent speed and maneuverability and was last used in combat by the USAF during the Korean War. Foreign air forces used it until the early 1980s.

Top view Wingspan: 37 ft.
Side view Length: 32 ft.

Formation 9: Big Week

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

First used in combat in 1941 (though prototypes were flown before then), the B-17 is one of the most famous bombers ever built. This aircraft was pivotal in the destruction of Germany’s industrial fabric and the allied victory in Europe.

Top view Wingspan: 104 ft.
Side view Length: 74 ft.

Formation 10: D-Day

Douglas C-47/R4D Skytrain

The military version of the famed DC-3 airliner carried paratroopers into combat in the D-Day invasion and cargo from India to China over “The Hump,” the famed route over the Himalayas.

Top view Wingspan: 95.5 ft.
Side view Length: 64 ft.

Formation 11: Leyte Gulf

Grumman TBM Avenger

The heaviest carrier-based U.S. aircraft of the war was developed by Grumman and made by General Motors. It first saw action at the Battle of Midway and was a mainstay of the carrier wars. Future president George H.W. Bush flew it in combat.

Top view Wingspan: 54 ft.
Side view Length: 41 ft.

Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

A carrier-based dive bomber produced between 1943 and 1945. Versions of this aircraft were used by the Navy and were in active service in other countries until the mid-1950s.

Top view Wingspan: 50 ft.
Side view Length: 37 ft.

Formation 12: Battle of the Bulge

Douglas A-26 Invader

The fastest U.S. bomber of World War II served with distinction in Europe as a light attack bomber and stayed in service through the Cold War and Vietnam. It is still used today as a water bomber to fight forest fires.

Top view Wingspan: 70 ft.
Side view Length: 50 ft.

Formation 13: Iwo Jima

Vought F4U Corsair

The gull-winged Corsair was the first U.S. fighter to exceed 400 mph in level flight. Late to enter carrier service because of landing gear problems, it became famous flying from island bases in the Pacific with such squadrons as the Black Sheep Squadron led by Marine Corps ace Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. The Japanese called it “Whistling Death,” and it served through World War II and the Korean War. It served in Central American air forces until the early 1970s.

Top view Wingspan: 41 ft.
Side view Length: 34 ft.

Formation 14: Final Air Offensive

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

A long-range heavy bomber that entered active service toward the end of World War II. One of the largest aircraft of its time, the B-29 was used in the nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Top view Wingspan: 141 ft.
Side view Length: 99 ft.

Formation 15: Missing Man Formation

Grumman TBM Avenger

The heaviest carrier-based U.S. aircraft of the war was developed by Grumman and made by General Motors. It first saw action at the Battle of Midway and was a mainstay of the carrier wars. Future president George H.W. Bush flew it in combat.

Top view Wingspan: 54 ft.
Side view Length: 41 ft.

Vought F4U Corsair

The gull-winged Corsair was the first U.S. fighter to exceed 400 mph in level flight. Late to enter carrier service because of landing gear problems, it became famous flying from island bases in the Pacific with such squadrons as the Black Sheep Squadron led by Marine Corps ace Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. The Japanese called it “Whistling Death,” and it served through World War II and the Korean War. It served in Central American air forces until the early 1970s.

Top view Wingspan: 41 ft.
Side view Length: 34 ft.

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

Claire Lee Chennault’s American Volunteer Group – the Flying Tigers -- made this single-engined fighter, outmoded at the start of the war, famous through their hit-and-run tactics against the Japanese in China. The British, the Russians and other allied air forces used it in all theaters.

Top view Wingspan: 37 ft.
Side view Length: 32 ft.

North American P-51 Mustang

Made its first flight in 1940 and operated primarily as a long-range escort fighter and ground-attack fighter-bomber. The Mustang possessed excellent speed and maneuverability and was last used in combat by the USAF during the Korean War. Foreign air forces used it until the early 1980s.

Top view Wingspan: 37 ft.
Side view Length: 32 ft.

SOURCE: Arsenal of Democracy Flyover, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, National Air and Space Museum, Air & Space Magazine, National Naval Aviation Museum, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Boeing and the Library of Congress. GRAPHIC: Shelly Tan, Denise Lu, Alberto Cuadra, Vincent Rinehart, Samuel Granados and Kevin Uhrmacher. Published May 7, 2015.

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