World War II and aviation
It was the period from 1941 to 1945 that truly saw the growth of aviation in the United States. According to the Smithsonian Institution, American military aviation grew from 2,500 aircraft to nearly 300,000 by the war’s end. The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has a collection of more than 30 World War II-era military aircraft representing the Army Air Forces, Navy, and Marines, many of which are on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
It’s been 75 years since World War II ended. What better way to pay tribute than to tour the museums that honor the fighters, the victims, and the survivors? The official end to the war took place on the deck of the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. It had been 2,194 days since the war started in September 1939. The United States entered the war in 1941 after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, a U.S. naval base in Hawaii. Thousands of lost lives later on June 6, 1944, the Allies broke through on the beaches of Normandy in France on what would be called D-Day (the D simply stands for “day,” according to the National World War II Museum; the day before June 6 was D-1 and the days after were D+1, D+2, et cetera). In April 1945, Nazi leader Adolph Hitler committed suicide and in May 1945, Germany surrendered. V-E day is May 8—Victory in Europe Day. Finally, after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese surrendered on August 14, 1945—V-J Day, Victory over Japan. There are museums all over the country—the world—that pay tribute, but three in the United States are truly comprehensive: the National World War II Museum in New Orleans; the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas; and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.