BY BARRE T T TILLMAN
In the six years of World War
II, 1942 was the year that was.
Between 1939 and 1945, pivotal
events occurred in each calendar
year, alternately favoring the Axis
Powers, who started the war,
That year both sides experienced vaulting
victories and crushing defeats, including the
immense global war in the air. Yet the world was a
much different place on December 31, 1942, than it
had been on January 1, 1942.
The technology differences were astonishing.
In February, Royal Navy Fairey Swordfish—
125-knot biplanes—made a gallantly doomed
torpedo attack against a powerful German
naval force in the “Channel Dash” to
That July, Messerschmitt began testing the
world’s first operational jet: the 540mph Me 262.
When Luftwaffe fighter chief Adolf Galland first flew
the “Turbo,” he famously exclaimed, “It was as if the
angels were pushing.”
Three months later, Germany led the world into
the space age, testing V-2 rockets that reached far
outside earth’s atmosphere. Later that year, the
Fieseler V-1, the first practical cruise missile, began
powered flight tests.
Around the world, a new generation of military
aircraft arrived. The de Havilland Mosquito, Avro
Lancaster, and North American Mustang I entered
service in Britain. The futuristic Lockheed P- 38 saw
combat in the Pacific, while the B- 25, B- 26, B- 17, and
B- 24 bombers flew against Japan and Germany. The
Grumman F6F Hellcat first flew that year, while the
F4U Corsair went to Navy and Marine squadrons.
1942 IN REVIEW