During the course of American aviation history, the aerial fleet of the US military has undergone vast changes to keep up with the changing demands of warfare. Aircraft that were once simple flying machines have evolved into complex and powerful planes capable of delivering deadly payloads that could level cities.

The Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor is home to a large collection of these incredible aircraft, some dating back to more than 76 years ago and the attack on Pearl Harbor that led the US into World War II. The collection is split between two pre-World War II-era hangars, 37 and 79. Hangar 37 houses fewer aircraft, but they all were connected to the Second World War in some way.

Some were flown during the attack on Pearl Harbor while others took part in the many battles that took place across the Pacific. Six of the following aircraft were important parts of the US armed forces, while the seventh was a devastating fighter used help lay waste to the naval base and other military installations on Oahu on December 7, 1941.

Aeronca Model 65TC Defender

Hangar 37

Aeronca 65TC Defender

Location: Hangar 37
Wing span: 35’
Length: 21’ 10”
Height: 9’ 1”
Maximum Speed: 109 mph
Armament: None

During the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, attorney and legislator Roy Vitousek was piloting a TC-65 Defender with his son, but was forced to land when they started to take fire. The TC65 saw increased production to be used for a Civilian Pilot Training program for the US government, which was implemented to train potential pilots for wartime service.

Boeing-Stearman N2S-3

Hangar 37

Stearman N2S-3s at a training base ca. 1944

Location: Hangar 37
Wing span: 32’ 2”
Length: 24’ 9”
Height: 9’ 8”
Maximum Speed: 135 mph

Also known as the “Yellow Peril.” Former President George H.W. Bush flew an N2S-3 solo on Dec. 15, 1942 for flight training. The two-seat biplane was used to determine which pilots were cut out for wartime service. The Stearman on display is the one flown by President Bush at Naval Air Station, Minneapolis, MN.

North American B-25B Mitchell

Hangar 37

NAA B-25 Mitchells on route to carry out the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, April 18, 1942

Location: Hangar 37
Wing span: 16’ 9”
Length: 53’
Maximum Speed: 230 mph
Armament: 6 .50-caliber machine guns; 5,000 lbs of bombs

Used across every theater of operations during World War II, the B-25 remained in service for four decades. The B-25B was notably used during the Doolittle Raid against Tokyo. It was named for General Billy Mitchell, who was known for his contributions to American aviation.

By the time production ceased, just under 10,000 B-25s had been produced and flown in a range of conflicts throughout the Pacific. Twenty-three B-25s were also provided to the Royal Air Force under the label Mitchell Mk I.

Curtiss P-40E Warhawk

Hangar 37

Curtiss P-40E Warhawk

Location: Hangar 37
Wing span: 37’ 4”
Length: 31’ 9”
Height: 12’ 4”
Weight: 9,100 lbs
Maximum Speed: 362 mph
Armament: 6 .50-caliber machine guns; 700 lbs external bombs

Nicknamed the Kittyhawk, the P-40E was produced from 1938-1944 and was flown by the “Flying Tigers” American Volunteer Group. The model on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum is a replica painted to look like Lt. Ken Taylor’s P-40B. On the morning of December 7, 1941, Taylor and fellow pilot George Welch took to the skies in P-40E Warhawks and downed multiple Japanese aircraft.

The Warhawk was designed to be able to manage unimproved airfields, was agile at high speeds, and served as a counter the Japanese A6M2 Zero.

Douglas SBD Dauntless

Hangar 37

Douglas SBD Dauntless

Location: Hangar 37
Wing span: 41’ 6”
Length: 33’ 1”
Height: 13’ 7”
Weight: 6,404 lbs
Maximum Speed: 255 mph
Armament: 2 .50-caliber forward-firing synchronized Browning M2 machine guns; 2 .30-caliber flexible-mounted Browning machine guns; 2 2,250 lb bombs.

During the war in the Pacific, the Dauntless was the most-used aircraft. More than 1,189,000 operational hours were logged for SBD’s flown from the time of the Pearl Harbor attack to April 1944. The Dauntless performed admirably during the Battle of Midway in June of 1942, as four squadrons attacked and sank four of the Japanese aircraft carriers that had been a part of the Pearl Harbor attacking force. Since Japanese carriers were vulnerable, the SBD Dauntless dive bombers were an effective means of devastating the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The SBD also played an important role during the campaign at Guadalcanal.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat

Hangar 37

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats

Location: Hangar 37
Wing span: 38’
Length: 28’ 9”
Height: 11’ 10”
Weight: 7,000 lbs
Maximum Speed: 331 mph
Armament: 4 .50-caliber AN/M2 Browning machine guns; 2 100 lb bombs and/or 2 58-gallon drop tanks

The Wildcat on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum is the one flown by George Hahn from the training carrier USS Sable (IX-81) during training in 1943. During the flight, the craft suffered mechanical failures, forcing Hahn to ditch in the middle of Lake Michigan. It was recovered in 1991 and spent four years being restored for the museum.

The Wildcat served throughout World War II and was more durable than the Japanese Zero fighter. It was, however, also heavier, slower, and more difficult to maneuver, forcing Wildcat pilots to implement specific flight maneuvers and tactics to combat the faster Japanese craft. The Thach Weave tactic was typically used, with two Wildcats turning and weaving toward one another. Two Wildcats lured the enemy craft while another two approached head-on and engaged with their 50-mm guns.

Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero

Hangar 37

Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero taking off on route to Pearl Harbor, December 7. 1941

Location: Hangar 37
Wing span: 39 feet 4 7/16 inches
Lenght: 29 feet 8 11/16 inches
Height: 10 feet 1/16 inches
Maximum Speed: 331.5 mph
Armament: 2 forward-firing 7.7-mm Type 97 machine guns; 2 wing-mounted 20-mm Type 99 cannons w/ 2 external 132 lb bombs

Introduced in 1940, the Mitsubishi A6M2 was responsible for launching the attack on Pearl Harbor, escorting Japanese bombers to the naval base. Compared to American aircraft at the time, the A6M2 was considerably faster and more maneuverable, making it an unbeatable force in the early stages of the war.

The paint design for the Zero fighter on display comes from the plane that crash landed on the island of Niihau after the attack on Pearl Harbor though the craft itself fought in the Solomon Islands in 1943.

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