What Do You Know About the World's Most Famous Air Battles?

John Miller

The Battle of Britain took place during which war?

In 1940, German bombers and fighters sought air superiority over Britain. But the Royal Air Force (RAF) sent its many fighters into the skies in hopes of protecting the motherland from a Nazi invasion.

What is one of the defining traits of the Battle of Britain?

The Battle of Britain was the first major air-to-air battle in human history. Planes clashed all over the English Channel … where many of them met their watery end.

Why did Germany really, really want to achieve air superiority during the Battle of Britain?

Operation Sealion was Germany's planned ground invasion of Britain. But before the Nazis could initiate the operation, they first had to decimate the RAF and claim air superiority using the Luftwaffe.

Which of the following planes did the RAF NOT use to fight the Luftwaffe at the Battle of Britain?

The RAF is legendary for deploying its Hurricanes and Spitfires to scatter German fighters and blast German bombers into the sea. The RAF's dedication under fire made its pilots heroes of WWII.

The Battle of St. Mihiel was a major fight in which war?

In July 1918, the Americans were told to push back the Germans. More than 1,400 Allied aircraft were gathered for a major offensive that became the Battle of St. Mihiel.

How many aircraft did the Germans have at the Air Battle of St. Mihiel?

The Allies gathered about 1,400 planes … the Germans had 500. But the Germans were entrenched in their positions and had no plans of moving, no matter how many bombs the Allies dropped.

How many aircraft did the Allies lose during the Battle of Britain?

The RAF and its allies lost about 1,700 precious planes in the ferocity of the Battle of Britain. Germany lost even more planes -- about 2,000 total.

Where did the Battle of the Bismarck Sea take place?

In March 1943, U.S. planes attacked a convoy of Japanese ships meant to reinforce troops at New Guinea. The Americans inflicted heavy losses on the convoy, and most of the reinforcements never reached their destination.

At the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, the Americans lost about 13 men. How many did the Japanese lose?

The Americans lost 13 men -- the Japanese? About, 2,900, and perhaps far more. It was a devastating blow to Japan during a critical juncture of the war.

How did the Battle of Midway begin?

On June 3, 1942, U.S. bombers attacked a Japanese naval convoy. The bombers didn't accomplish much, but it was the start of one of the world's most famous air battles.

How did the Allies eventually gain air superiority at the Air Battle of St. Mihiel?

At the Air Battle of St. Mihiel, losses from air-to-air combat were pretty even. But the Allies got the upper hand by bombing Germany's airfields, which were soon nearly unusable.

At the very beginning of the Battle of Midway, American Torpedo Squadron 8 attacked Japanese ships. What happened?

By the time Midway began, the Douglas TBD Devastators were obsolete. The planes were blasted into the sea, and most of the men were killed.

During the Battle of Britain, why were German bombers unable to strike airfields deep in England?

German bombers struggled to reach Britain's distant airfields because their escort fighters just didn't have enough range for such a long trip. The result? Britain's forces had a safe place to hide in preparation for battle.

At the Battle of Midway, how did American planes inflict heavy damage on the Japanese convoy?

American dive bombers used their mad skills to ricochet bombs off of the waves and into the sides of Japanese ships. And some dove straight at the enemy, dropping their deadly loads when their planes were just a few hundred yards from enemy ships.

The Battle of Kursk was an enormous air battle that's often overshadowed by the use of what other weapon?

In the WWII Battle of Kursk, thousands of German and Soviet tanks clashed -- it was the biggest tank battle ever. But it was also a huge clash of warplanes.

In the WWII Battle of Kursk, about how many TOTAL warplanes were lost?

During the Battle of Kursk, which lasted about two months, both sides were bloodied in the air. Altogether, about 5,000 planes were destroyed.

Before the Battle of Britain began, a German commander guessed that the battle would last about how long?

Germany's air force was supremely confident in its ability to subdue the RAF in the Battle of Britain. One commander predicted the battle would be over in just a few days.

How long was the Battle of Britain?

For three months, the Battle of Britain raged, often in full view of English citizes on the ground below. It was one of WWII's key turning points.

On August 25, 1940, during the Battle of Britain, one German bomber veered off course and accidentally bombed ______.

One Luftwaffe bomber accidentally dropped its munitions on central London (even though their orders said not to attack civilian targets). The accident caused a major escalation in the Battle of Britain, as an enraged Winston Churchill began bombing civilian targets in Germany.

At the Battle of Midway, Japan lost many of its _____.

The Battle of Midway was devastating to Japan, which lost four carriers and numerous other vital ships. The tremendous American victory reshaped the rest of the Pacific War.

Exasperated by the inability of the Luftwaffe to win the Battle of Britain, what did Hitler do next?

Eventually, Hitler realized he wasn't going to win the Battle of Britain anytime soon … so rather than be patient, he attacked the Soviet Union, opening the Eastern Front.

"Black Thursday" was a bad day for the American Air Force in which war?

On April 12, 1951, just 30 North Korean MiGs brazenly attacked a much larger group of American planes, shooting down several bombers before escaping without harm. It was "Black Thursday," when American officials realized that MiG fighters were very fast and very deadly.

In 1973, during the Air Battle of El Masoura, Israel attacked the air force of which nation?

The Battle of El Mansoura was part of the Yom Kippur War. On Oct. 14, 1973, Israel's planes met Egypt's … and for an hour, the two sides fought one of the longest jet battles ever.

Which side won the Battle of El Mansoura?

Israel went on the offensive at the Battle of El Mansoura, but dozens of Egyptian jets met them in opposition. The Egyptian pilots won the day, forcing the Israelis to give up on their primary objectives of the battle.

Which air force suffered terribly at the Battle of the Philippines Sea?

At the June 1944 Battle of the Philippines Sea, the Americans were launching an amphibious invasion … and the Japanese swooped into to stop them. American ships and plans decimated Japanese air attacks, destroying perhaps 600 of them.

The Battle of the Philippines Sea was so lopsided that it's often called _____.

As the Americans downed plane after enemy plane, it was obvious that they had the upper hand. At the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot," it seemed that maybe there was hope that the U.S. could put the war to rest.

What did American commanders do after "Black Thursday" in the Korean War?

After Black Thursday, American commanders in Korea realized that the Communist's MiG fighters were much faster than American planes. They paused all bombing campaigns for months trying to devise new attack strategies.

The Dieppe Raid was a large amphibious assault by the Allies in WWII. How did it fare?

In August 1942, the Dieppe Raid was meant to help the Allies grab a French port back from the Nazis. Instead, Allied planes were scattered, leaving landing troops exposed. The raid was repelled by the Germans, and it would be nearly two more years before an amphibious assault called D-Day finally breached the Atlantic Wall.

Operation Mole Cricket 19 found Israel's air force fighting _____.

In June 1982, Israel attacked Syria's air defenses at the beginning of the 1982 Lebanon War. Their planes smashed Syrian SAM batteries and shot down nearly 90 planes.

In the 1944 Air battle over Niš, U.S and USSR pilots clashed, each thinking that the other was _____.

At the Air battle over Niš, Soviet and U.S. pilots mistook each other for the Germans … and they began to fight. In the aftermath, the U.S. apologized profusely for the error.

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Image: Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA

About This Quiz

Before manned aircraft took to the skies in the early 1900s, hot-air balloons were used in war. In most situations, these big balloons offered a high vantage point so that scouts could pinpoint enemy troop movements. Then, as airplanes took to the skies in greater numbers, aerial machines slowly became offensive weapons. 

In the earliest days, pilots literally chucked bombs right out of the cockpits hoping to hit targets below. These days, planes are much more sophisticated. Do you really know much about the most famous air battles in history?

In 1911, famed French General Ferdinand Foch was quoted as saying, “Airplanes are interesting toys, but of no military value.” Just a few years later, as World War I tore Europe to bloody shreds, he changed his mind. Tens of thousands of (terrifyingly rickety) warplanes took part in many WWI battles, slowly but surely changing the nature of warfare. Can you name any of the big WWI battles involving airplanes?

As technologies evolved, more and more battles hinged on air power. In the Second World War, massive bombing campaigns leveled entire cities. And fast fighters attempted to thwart those devastating attacks.

Soar into this famous air battles quiz now! We’ll see if you’re a RAF pilot for the ages or if you’re a failed Luftwaffe loser!


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