Military Aviation 1930-41

Note: date/month


17/12: Orville and Wilbur Wright changed the course of history by completing the first sustained powered flight.



B 17 “Flying Fortress 

28/7: First flight of Boeing Model 299 – prototype of B 17 “Flying Fortress”.


Hawker Hurricane 

6/11: First flight of the Hawker “Hurricane” fighter prototype. First fighter monoplane to join the Royal Air Force—also first RAF combat air raft capable of exceeding 300 mph.

17/12: The prototype of the Douglas C-47 (DC-3) “Skytrain/Dakota” was first flown. It has proven to be one of the most enduring aircraft of all time.



Supermarine Spitfire

5/3: First flight of Supermarine Spitfire prototype


Messerschmitt Bf 110 

12/5: First flight of Messerschmitt Bf 110 prototype

Handley Page Hampden (2)

Handley Page Hampden prototype


14/6: First flight of Handley Page Hampden bomber prototype


Tupolov SB-2 used in the Spanish Civil War by the Russians


18/7: Spanish Civil War begins.

Junkers Ju-88

Junkers Ju 88 

21/12: First flight of Junkers Ju 88 bomber prototype


26/4: Basque town of Guernica destroyed by German He 111s and Ju 52s during Spanish Civil War. First time in history that aircraft are intentionally used against civilian targets.


Boulton Paul Defiant 1


11/8: First flight of Boulton Paul Defiant single-engined two seat fighter-all armament concentrated in power operated turret mounted behind pilot.

2/9: First flight of the XF4F-2 Grumman “Wildcat” prototype shipboard fighter.


Messerschmitt Bf 109  

11/11: Messerschmitt Bf 109V13 raises international speed for land planes to 379.39 mph


6/4: First fighter plane to carry a cannon- the P39 Airacobra is tested. 37 mm cannon is located on fuselage centre line, barrel projects through the reduction gearbox and propeller hub.

28/9: Munich Pact signed by representatives of France, Great Britain, Italy and Germany to solve the Sudeten problem (control goes to Germany). “Munich” becomes the symbol of humiliating appeasement of Hitler.



Lockheed P-38 Lightning

27/1: First flight of Lockheed XP-38.

4/2: Lockheed XP-38 fighter flies from California to New York in 7 hours 2 minutes–damaged in crash landing.

27/3: First flight of Australian C.A.C. ‘Wirraway’ (CA-1)

30/3: German Heinkel 100 fighter raises world airspeed record to 463.92 mph

1/4: First flight of Mitsubishi Zero Sen shipboard-launched fighter. Zero possessed complete mastery over the Pacific skies until the Battle of Midway.

26/4: Messerschmitt Bf 109R fighter sets new world airspeed record of 469.32 mph.



Focke-Wulf 190V1 

1/6: Flight flight of Focke-Wulf 190V1 fighter prototype

30/6: First flight of Heinkel He 176, the first all rocket powered air raft. Rocket power lasted less than a minute and the machine barely got off the ground. German Air Ministry technical chief Ernest Udet exclaims “That’s no airplane . . . I forbid any more flights”. So the He 176 is crated and sent off to Berlin Air Museum.

Bristol Beaufighter

Bristol Beaufighter 

17/7: First flight of Bristol Beaufighter prototype

17/8: First flight of DB-7 production prototype (Douglas A20 Havoc).

27/8: German Heinkel He 178 makes first jet propelled flight–engine design is basis for later full production axial flow turbojets built by Junkers and BMW.

31/8: Hitler signs the order for assault on Poland (earlier, Germans had staged a phony raid on their own radio station at Gleiwitz, then accused Poland of “unprovoked attack”).

1/9: Without formal declaration of war, Germany crosses into Poland. Poland defences overwhelmed in few hours.

3/9: France and Great Britain enter war against Germany. That evening 10 Armstrong Whitworth “Whitley” bombers drop 13 tons of leaflets on Bremen, Hamburg and the Ruhr– nicknamed the “bumph raid”.

4/9: Japan declares her neutrality in European war–devotes her efforts to own war in China.

5/9: United States proclaims her neutrality in European war.

10/9: Canada declares war on Germany.

27/9: Warsaw, Poland surrenders to German forces.

16/10: First air attack on British territory-German aircraft damage cruisers South-Hampton and Edinburgh, destroyer Mohawk at Firth of Forth.

14/11: Soviet Union expelled from League of Nations following its aggression against Finland.

2/12: The 1940 Winter Olympic Games scheduled to be held in Finland are cancelled.

24/12: Pope Pius XII makes a Christmas Eve appeal for peace.

B-24 Liberator

Consolidated XB-24 “Liberator 

28/12: First flight of the Consolidated XB-24 “Liberator” bomber prototype.


19/3: First bombs dropped on German soil. Seaplane base at Hornum is attacked by RAF Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Hampden bombers.

9/4: Germans invade Denmark and Norway- first major airborne attacks on Allied forces with Ju87s, He111s and Ju88s.

Junkers Ju87 Stuka; Junkers Ju88

10/5: First flight of Luftwaffe’s Arado twin-engined Ar240V-1. Designed for use as fighter, bomber and reconnaissance.

10/5: Germany invades Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.

13/6: Churchill declares to House of Commons “I have nothing to offer but blood and toil and tears and sweat.”

Chance Vought F4U Corsair

29/6: First flight of Chance Vought “Corsair” XF4U-1 prototype.

4/6: The last of 338,226 British soldiers evacuate France. Although over 2,000 guns, 60,000 vehicles, 600,000 tons of fuel and supplies and 76,000 tons of munitions are left behind for the Germans, the British consider this a victory.

10/6: Italy joins WWII as an ally of Germany- declares herself at war against the Allies as of June 11. Great Britain, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India and South Africa declare war on Italy.

11/6: The military governor of Paris, General Hering declares Paris an”open city” to prevent its destruction.

14/6: Germans begin occupying Paris. French government moved from Tours to Bordeaux.

20/6: The Army Air Corps is renamed the Army Air Force.

21/6: France accepts German armistice terms.

2/7: Marshal Petain’s government moves from Bordeaux to Vichy.

3/7: “Operation Catapult”- British squadron commanded by Vice Admiral Sommerville shells French naval vessels at Oran and Mers-el-Kebir to stop them from falling into German hands. Several ships sunk, many French seamen lose lives.

5/7: Vichy France breaks diplomatic relations with Britain because of their attacks on French Fleet.

14/7: “Bastille Day” in France is observed as a day of national mourning.

1/8: Hitler issues top secret “Directive #17” ordering Luftwaffe to “crush the British air force by every means available.”

11/8: Eve of German air offensive on England-British have available 704 operational fighters-Germany has total of 2,669 aircraft.

13/8: “Battle of Britain” begins – first day known as as “Day of the Eagle.” Germans quickly learn that Stuka dive bombers- with their slow speed and low ceiling-are no match for RAF Spitfire fighters.

North American B- 25 Mitchell

19/8: First flight of North American B-25 “Mitchell”.

7/9: “London Blitz” begins.

11/9: Buckingham Palace damaged during air raid.

22/9: between August 13 (Day of the Eagle) and this date, over 15,000 tons of bombs have been dropped on Britain..

27/9: Tripartite Pact between Germany, Italy and Japan signed in Berlin. Recognizes their “right” to establish a “new order” in Europe and Asia.

28/10: Italians invade Greece

14/11: 449 Luftwaffe aircraft carry out “carpet bombing” raid on Coventry-centre of British auto industry-destroying many historical buildings, including 14th century cathedral.

16/11: RAF creates special “Spitfire” unit-fighters are unarmed and equipped with photographic instruments to reconnoiter bombing targets.

25/11: First flight of deHavilland “Mosquito” fighter prototype. Intended as a night-fighter, the aircraft was used for almost every conceivable mission including high and low-level bomber, minelayer, photo-recon, and high speed transport for dropping agents behind German lines.

Martin B-26 Marauder

25/11: First flight of Martin B-26 “Marauder” medium bomber. First of 1,000 ordered “right off the drawing board”-no prototypes were built first.

29/12: “The Second Great Fire of London”-The German Luftwaffe firebombs London in one of the most destructive air raids of the London Blitz. The unimaginable destruction covered the largest continuous area in Britain.


Avro Lancaster

9/1: First flight of Avro Lancaster prototype.

10/1: First action by German aircraft in the Mediterranean. Ju-87 and Ju-88 bombers are part of 10th Fliegerkorps stationed in Sicily.

16/1: Start of the “Illustrious Blitz” as German aircraft attempt to bomb the island of Malta into rubble.

14/3: Japanese Mitsubishi A6Ms stage raid on Chengtu, south central China. Largest distance for a fighter operation to date anywhere in the world.

21/3: “The 99th Pursuit Squadron”, the first all-black unit of US Army Air Corps is activated.

25/3: Yugoslavia signs Tripartite Pact with Germany. Protests breakout throughout the country.

27/3: Bloodless coup by Yugoslav air force officers topples pro-Axis government. Hitler orders total liquidation of Yugoslavia in retaliation.

2/4: RAF drops 75,000 tea bags over Dutch towns. Each one is printed with words, “Holland will arise. Keep your courage up.”

Republic P 47-Thunderbolt

Republic P47 B Thunderbolt 

6/5: First flight of XP47B Republic Thunderbolt prototype.

27/5: During first and last mission in the north Atlantic dreaded German battleship Bismarck is hunted down and sunk by British battleships and carrier launched “Swordfish” torpedo bombers. Of 2,400 crews only 110 survive.

22/6: Germans invade Soviet Union without declaring war. “Operation Barbarossa” is an overwhelming success as German air and ground forces take Russians by complete surprise. Soviets immediately call up 15 million men—Winston Churchill declares that, “Any state who fights Nazism will have our aid.”

8/7: Germany and Italy announce the end of the Yugoslav nation.

12/7: Luftwaffe raids Moscow for the first time.

2/8: American aid begins to flow to the USSR.

20/9: First operational flight of the de-Havilland “Mosquito”.


de-Havilland Mosquito

de-Havilland Mosquito

16/10: Day of the “Bolshoi Trap”- Germans are at the gates of Moscow. Amid panic and
looting residents flee city

19/10: Stalin remains in Moscow – proclaims a state of siege, declares city “will be defended to the last.”

31/10: US destroyer Reuben James torpedoed by U-Boat in waters off Iceland – becomes first US naval vessel sunk by enemy action in WWII.


Vickers Wellington 

30/11: German submarine U-206 sunk in Bay of Biscay by “Whitley” VII bomber from number 502 Squadron Coastal Command—first aircraft to carry A.S.V. Mark II air to surface radar.

4/12: German offensive on Eastern Front rapidly losing its strength due to lack of equipment and terrible winter conditions. In the 30-degree below zero weather, tanks will not start, guns will not fire. German troops are freezing—no winter clothing issued.

5/12: Great Britain declares on Finland, Hungary and Romania.

B-24 Liberator

5/12: Several Consolidated B-24 “Liberator” bombers arrive in Hawaii to undertake photo-reconnaissance of Japanese military installations in the Marshall and Caroline Islands.

Mitsubishi A6M Reisen

Mitsubishi A6M Reisen “Zero” 


Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa


Kawasaki Ki-48-IIB

Kawasaki Ki 48IIB 


7/12: At 7.55 am on the “Day of Infamy” the backbone of the American Pacific Fleet is broken. Without declaration of war, Japanese aircraft from Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto’s carrier task force successfully carry out surprise attack on strategic air and naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.

8/12: United States and Great Britain formally declare war on Japan.

8/12: First Japanese attack on Wake Island.

9/12: First American bombing mission in the Orient—Boeing B-17s “Fortress” bombers of the 19th Bombardment Group attack Japanese ships off the east coast of Vigan, Luzon in the Philippine Islands.

10/12: British ships the Prince of Wales and the Repulse are sunk by Japanese bombers and torpedo aircraft near Malaya.

11/12: Hitler and Mussolini declare war on United States—United States declares war on Germany and Italy.

Grumman F4F Wildcat

12/12: Wake Island – USMC F4F “Wildcats” sink four enemy warships, the first major Japanese vessels sunk during the Pacific war by American aircraft.

14/12: Japan sign treaty of alliance with Thailand.


Curtis P 40 

20/12: First battle of American Volunteer Group (better known as “Flying Tigers”) under General Claire Chennault in Kunming China.

22/12: Nine B-17s of the 19th Bomb group USAAF take off from Batchelor Field in Australia’s Northern Territory to bomb Davao in the Philippines.

23/12: Wake Island., most remote American island base, falls to Japanese navy. Air garrison of 12 USMC Grumman F4F-3 fighters are no match for Japanese bombers from Marshall Islands.

Courtesy of:

  • The Great Book of Combat Aircraft by Paolo Matricardi; VMB Publishers Italy 2006
  • Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation 
  • Ultimate Aviation Calendar 37th Edition, Ghosts Remembered 2017

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