31 July 1923: The original patent application, Serial No. 654,955, for the legendary Browning .50-caliber machine gun was filed with the United States Patent Office on 31 July 1923. Patent Number 1,628,226 was issued to the estate of John Moses Browning by the Patent Office on 10 May 1927.
The majority of United States combat aircraft during World War II were armed with the Browning Machine Gun, Caliber .50, AN-M2. The machine gun could be mounted as a fixed weapon in the aircraft’s wings or nose, in flexible mounts, or power-operated turrets.
The basic aircraft Browning machine gun, cal. .50, AN-M2. . . is an automatic, recoil-operated, belt-fed, air-cooled machine gun. The metallic link disintegrating belt is used in all firing of the gun. The gun is designed for all cal. .50 aircraft machine gun installations. By properly repositioning some of the component parts, ammunition may be fed into the gun from either the right or the left side.
—TM9-225 War Department Technical Manual, BROWNING MACHINE GUN, CALIBER .50, AN-M2, AIRCRAFT, BASIC, 28 January 1947, Section II., Paragraph 3. General, at Page 2
The Browning Machine Gun (“BMG”) was designed by John Moses Browning, who had also designed the Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911, the standard sidearm of the U.S. military for 74 years; the Rifle, Caliber .30, Automatic, Browning, M1918 (best known as the “Browning Automatic Rifle” or “BAR”); the Browning Machine Gun, Caliber .30, M1919; and the Browning Hi-Power, a 9 × 19 mm double-action semiautomatic pistol designed for Fabrique National (FN) of Herstal, Belgium.
The basic weapon had an overall length of 56.25 inches (1.429 meters) and weighed 61.00 pounds (27.67 kilograms). The barrel is cylindrical, and 36.00 inches (0.91 meters) long. It is surrounded by a barrel jacket with ventilation holes to dissipate heat. The bore has 8 rifled-grooves with a right-hand twist, making one complete turn in every 15.00 inches (0.381 meters).
The basic AN-M2 gun could be modified to be manually fired with the substitution of a “spade grip” back plate. It could also be changed from left-hand ammunition feed to right hand by reversing some internal parts.
The M2 machine gun had a rate of fire of 750 to 850 rounds per minute.
Ammunition is ball, armor-piercing, armor-piercing-incendiary, tracer, blank (no bullet), and dummy. The armor-piercing cartridge, M2, has a muzzle velocity of 2,840 feet per second (866 meters per second) and maximum range of 7,275 yards (6,652 meters). Some .50-caliber rounds have muzzle velocities as high as 3,450 feet per second (1,052 meters per second), though most range from 2,730 fps to 2,900 fps (832–884 m/s). The ammunition produces chamber pressures of approximately 55,000 pounds per square inch (3,792 bar).
The .50 BMG cartridge is 5.45 inches (13.843 centimeters) long (NATO 12.7 × 99). The rimless, tapered bottleneck case is 3.91 inches (9.931 centimeters) long, with diameters of 0.560 inches (14.224 millimeters) at the neck, 0.735 inches (18.669 millimeters) at the shoulder, and 0.804 inches (20.422 millimeters) at the base. The bullet is 2.31 inches (58.67 millimeters) long, with a maximum diameter of 0.510 inches (12.954 millimeters) and weighs 706.7 grains (1.6 ounces, 45.8 grams).
8 July 1941: Three Royal Air Force Boeing Fortress Mk.I heavy bombers departed from their base at RAF Watton to attack Wilhelmshaven, Germany. This was a daylight bombing mission, with the airplanes flying at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). One bomber diverted to a secondary target because of engine trouble, while the remaining two Fortresses continued to the primary target.
At the very high altitudes flown, the defensive heavy machine guns that gave the airplane its name froze due to the low temperatures and could not be fired. (In standard atmospheric conditions, the temperature at 30,000 feet would be -45 °C., or -49 °F.)
All three aircraft returned safely to their base. The mission was completely ineffective, however.
This was the very first use of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in combat.
The Boeing Model 299H, designated B-17C, was the second production variant ordered by the U.S. Army Air Corps. 38 were built by Boeing for the U.S. Army Air Corps, but 20 were transferred to Great Britain’s Royal Air Force, designated Fortress Mk.I. (Boeing Model 299T.) They were initially assigned to No. 90 Squadron, Bomber Command. (A 1941 book, War Wings: Fighting Airplanes of the American and British Air Forces, by David C. Cooke, Robert M. McBride & Company, New York, refers to the B-17C in British service as the “Seattle,” which is in keeping with the R.A.F.’s system of naming bombers after cities.)
Of the 20 Fortress Mk.I bombers, 8 were lost in combat or in accidents.
The Boeing B-17C/Fortress Mk.I was 67 feet, 10-9/16 inches (20.690 meters long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9⅜ inches (31.633 meters) and the overall height was 15 feet, 4½ inches (4.686 meters). The B-17C had an empty weight of 30,900 pounds (14,016 kilograms). The maximum design gross weight was 47,500 pounds (21,546 kilograms).
The B-17C was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone G666A (R-1820-65)¹ nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.70:1. The engines were equipped with remote General Electric turbochargers capable of 24,000 r.p.m. The R-1820-65 was rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine could produce 1,380 horsepower at War Emergency Power. 100-octane aviation gasoline was required. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-65 engine is 3 feet, 11.59 inches (1.209 meters) long and 4 feet, 7.12 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).
The B-17C had a maximum speed of 323 miles per hour (520 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). Its service ceiling was 37,000 feet (11,278 meters) and the maximum range was 3,400 miles (5,472 kilometers).
The Fortress Mk.I could carry 4,800 pounds (2,177 kilograms) of bombs in an internal bomb bay. Defensive armament consisted of one Browning AN-M2 .30-caliber air-cooled machine gun at the nose and four Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns in dorsal, ventral and waist positions.
2 July 1943: 1st Lieutenant Charles Blakesly Hall, United States Army Air Corps, of the 99th Fighter Squadron (which was briefly attached to the 324th Fighter Group) was the first of the famous “Tuskegee Airmen” to shoot down an enemy airplane during World War II. At the time the 99th was based at El Haouaria Airfield on the coast of Tunisia and was patrolling the island of Sicily. The squadron’s primary mission was ground attack.
On 2 July, the 99th was escorting North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell medium bombers near Castelventrano, in western Sicily. Enemy fighters intercepted the flight.
It was my eighth mission and the first time I had seen the enemy close enough to shoot him. I saw two Focke-Wulfs following the bombers just after the bombs were dropped. I headed for the space between the fighters and bombers and managed to turn inside the Jerries. I fired a long burst and saw my tracers penetrate the second aircraft. He was turning to the left, but suddenly fell off and headed straight into the ground. I followed him down and saw him crash. He raised a big cloud of dust.
Lieutenant Hall was officially credited with destroying a Focke-Wulf Fw 190,¹ the most effective Luftwaffe fighter of World War II. Not only was Lieutenant Hall’s victory the first for the squadron, but it was also the only enemy airplane to have been shot down by the 99th Fighter Squadron during 1943.
Charles Blakesly Hall was the second child of Franklin Hall, a 30-year-old kiln-burner from Mississippi, and Anna Blakesly Hall, 25 years old, and also from Mississippi. Charles was born 25 August 1920 at his parents home, 742 N. Columbia Street, Brazil, Indiana. He graduated from Brazil High School in 1938 and then attended Eastern Illinois University. He majored in Pre-Med, and was active in sports. Hall worked as a waiter while attending college.
After three years of college, on 12 November 1941, Hall enlisted as an Aviation Cadet, Air Corps, United States Army, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Lawrence, Indiana. Military records indicate that he stood 5 feet, 7 inches tall (170 centimeters) and weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms).
Charles Hall was part of a group of African-American airmen that would be known as the Tuskegee Airmen. They were initially trained at the Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama, an all-black college which had been established in 1881 by Booker T. Washington. Initial flight training was conducted at Moton Field, a few miles away, and the cadets transitioned into operational aircraft at Tuskegee Army Air Field. Additional flight trained took place at Cochran Field, near Montgomery, Alabama.
On completion of training, Charles B. Hall was commissioned as a second lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, on 3 July 1942. (Serial number 0790457)
Lieutenant Charles B. Hall married Miss Maxine Jessie Parish, a stenographer, in Vigo County, Indiana, 14 December 1942.
The 99th Fighter Squadron was the first unit to be assigned overseas. It was sent to North Africa, 2 April 1943, as part the 33rd Fighter Group.
The 99th Fighter Squadron was the first unit to be assigned overseas. It was sent to North Africa, 2 April 1943, as part the 33rd Fighter Group.
Hall was the first African-American to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Before the war ended, he had flown 198 combat missions and had been promoted to the rank of major.
Major Hall transferred to the Air Force Reserve. He worked at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, as a civil service employee from 1949 until retiring in 1967. He then worked at the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hall later married Miss Lola Delois Miles of Oklahoma City. They had two children and remained together until his death, 22 November 1971.
Major Charles Blakesly Hall, United States Air Force (Retired), was buried at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Charles Hall’s fighter was a Curtiss-Wright P-40L-15-CU Warhawk, 42-10895. The P-40L (Curtiss-Wright Model 87-B3) differed from the majority of P-40s in that it was powered by a Packard V-1650-1 Merlin engine instead of the Allison V-1710.
The P-40L was a lightened version of the P-40F, with fuel tanks removed from the wings, and armament reduced from six to four Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with only 201 rounds of ammunition per gun. Identifying features of the P-40F and P-40L are the absence of a carburetor intake on the top of the engine cowling, a very deep radiator scoop below the propeller spinner, and a fuselage lengthened 2 feet, 2 inches (0.660 meters).
The P-40L was 33 feet, 3-23/32 inches (10.15286 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 3½ inches (11.36650 meters) and height of 10 feet, 7-25/32 inches (3.24564 meters). The fighter’s empty weight was approximately 6,870 pounds (3,116 kilograms) and the gross weight was 9,416 pounds (4,271 kilograms).
The V-1650-1 was the first version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin to be built under license by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan. It was developed from the Merlin XX and designated Merlin 28. The Packard V-1650-1 was a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine. It had a compression ratio of 6.0:1, and required 100-octane aviation gasoline. It was rated at 1,080 horsepower at 2,650 r.p.m., and 1,300 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. for takeoff. The Military Power rating was 1,240 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 11,500 feet (3,505 meters), and 1,120 horsepower at 18,500 feet (5,639 meters). The engine drove an 11-foot (3.353 meter) diameter, three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed propeller through a 0.477:1 gear reduction. The V-1650-1 weighed 1,512 pounds (686 kilograms).
The P-40L had a maximum speed of 368 miles per hour (592 kilometers per hour).
Curtiss-Wright built 13,738 P-40-series aircraft. 3,866 of these were the P-40L variant.
¹ A study of U.S. Army Air Force claims of enemy aircraft destroyed (Andrew Arthy and Morten Jessen, 2013) indicates that no Focke Wulf Fw 190s were present at the time, however, Messerchmitt Bf 109s of Jagdgeschwader 77 were defending the target against B-25s and P-40s. Two were lost on that day. The authors suggest that opposing aircraft were often misidentified.
24 June 1942: The first production Vought-Sikorsky F4U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. 02155, made its first flight at Stratford, Connecticut. (Some sources state 25 June.)
The Corsair was designed by Rex Buren Beisel, and is best known for its distinctive inverted “gull wing,” which allowed sufficient ground clearance for its 13 foot, 4 inch (4.064 meter) diameter propeller, without using excessively long landing gear struts. The prototype XF4U-1, Bu. No. 1443, had first flown 29 May 1940, with test pilot Lyman A. Bullard in the cockpit.
The F4U-1 was had a length of 33 feet, 4.125 inches (10.163 meters), wingspan of 40 feet, 11.726 inches (12.490 meters) and overall height (to top of propeller arc) of 15 feet, 0.21 inches (4.577 meters). The wings’ angle of incidence was 2°. The outer wing had 8.5° dihedral and the leading edges were swept back 4°10′. With its wings folded, the width of the F4U-1 was 17 feet, 0.61 inches (5.197 meters), and gave it a maximum height of 16 feet, 2.3 inches (4.935 meters). When parked, the Corsair’s 13 foot, 4 inch (4.064 meter) propeller had 2 feet, 1.93 inches (65.862 centimeters) ground clearance, but with the fighter’s thrust line level, this decreased to just 9.1 inches (23.1 centimeters). The F4U-1 had an empty weight of 8,982 pounds (4,074.2 kilograms) and gross weight of 12,162 pounds (5,516.6 kilograms).
The F4U-1 variant of the Corsair was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp SSB2-G (R-2800-8) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engine, with a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The R-2800-8 had a normal power rating of 1,675 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. and 44.0 inches of manifold pressure (1.490 bar) at 5,500 feet (1,676 meters); 1,550 horsepower at 21,500 feet (6,553 meters); and 2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. with 54.0 inches of manifold pressure (1.829 bar) for takeoff. The engine turned a three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 13 feet, 4 inches (4.064 meters) through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-8 was 7 feet, 4.47 inches (2.247 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,480 pounds (1,125 kilograms).
The F4U-1 had a cruise speed of 186 miles per hour (299 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its maximum speed at Sea Level was 365 miles per hour (587 kilometers per hour). During flight testing, an F4U-1 reached 431 miles per hour (694 kilometers per hour) at 20,300 feet (6,187 meters) with War Emergency Power. The service ceiling was 38,200 feet (11,643 meters) and its maximum range was 1,510 miles (2,430 kilometers) with full main and outer wing tanks.
The Corsair was armed with six air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, three in each wing, with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun.
A total of 12,571 Corsairs were manufactured by the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division (F4U-1), Goodyear Aircraft Corporation (FG-1D) and Brewster Aeronautical Corporation (F3A-1). The Corsair served the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in World War II and the Korean War. Corsairs also served in other countries’ armed forces. Its last known use in combat was in Central America in 1969.
15 June 1946: At Craig Field, Jacksonville Florida, the United States Navy’s Navy Flight Demonstration Team made its first public appearance at the municipal airport’s dedication ceremony. A flight of three lightened Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat fighters, led by Officer-in-Charge Lieutenant Commander Roy Marlin Voris, flew a fifteen minute aerobatic performance.
The team had been formed for the purpose of raising public political support for the Navy. Their fighters were painted overall glossy sea blue with “U.S. NAVY” on the fuselage in gold leaf. A single numeral, also gold leaf, on the vertical fin identified each individual airplane.
Five weeks later, 21 July, the team would first call themselves The Blue Angels.
In addition to Lieutenant Commander Voris, other pilots in the original demonstration team were Lieutenant Commander Lloyd G. Barnard, Lieutenant Melvin Cassidy, Lieutenant Alfred Taddeo, Lieutenant Maurice N. Wickendoll and Lieutenant (j.g.) Gale Stouse.
The Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat is single-place, single-engine fighter designed early in World War II to operate from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It is a low wing monoplane of all metal construction. The wings can be folded against the sides of the fuselage for storage aboard the carriers. Landing gear is conventional, retractable, and includes an arresting hook. The Hellcat became operational in 1944.
The F6F-5 is 33 feet, 7 inches (10.236 meters) long with a wingspan of 42, feet 10 inches (12.842 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 5 inches (4.394 meters). It has an empty weight of 9,238 pounds (4,190 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 15,300 pounds (6,940 kilograms).
The F6F-5 Hellcat is powered by a 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp SSB2-G (R-2800-10W) twin-row 18-cylinder radial engine with water injection. The engine had with a compression ratio of 6.65:1 and was rated at 1,550 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 21,500 feet (6,553 meters), and 2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine drove a three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 13 feet, 1 inch (3.988 meters) through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-10 was 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter, 7 feet, 4.47 inches (2.247 meters) long, and weighed 2,480 pounds (1,125 kilograms), each.
The F6F-5 had a maximum speed of 276 knots (318 miles per hour/511 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 330 knots (380 miles per hour/611 kilometers per hour) at 23,400 feet (7,132 meters). The Hellcat’s service ceiling was 35,100 feet (10.698 meters) and it had a combat radius of 820 nautical miles (944 miles/1,519 kilometers). The maximum ferry range is 1,330 nautical miles (1,531 miles/2,463 kilometers).
The Hellcat’s armament consisted of six Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted three in each wing, with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun.
Between 1942 and 1945, the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, New York, built 12,275 F6F Hellcats. This was the largest number of any aircraft type produced by a single plant.