Special Report

The 26 Planes America Used to Win WWII

Hulton Archive / Archive Photos via Getty Images

From the years 1940 to 1945, the United States played a pivotal role in the outcome of World War II by bolstering its military production capabilities. After already calling on the U.S. to become “the great arsenal of democracy,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said more specifically, “I should like to see this nation geared up to the ability to turn out at least 50,000 planes a year.” Indeed, this industrial strength led to the development and mass production of multiple aircraft models that helped bring an end to the war. 

To determine the most produced American planes in WWII, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the Army Air Forces Statistical Digest: World War II, December 1945 edition, which details production numbers of U.S. aircraft during the war. Planes were ranked by the grand total produced over the course of the war. Planes with a production run of less than 1,000 during that time and training aircraft were excluded. Information about the aircraft type and the year during the war with the largest production run came from the same source. Supplemental data regarding the manufacturer of each aircraft, maximum speed, and crew came from several sources.

Some of the most-produced American warplanes during WWII, including the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, the North American P-51 Mustang, and the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, played vital roles in both advancing the Allies’ strategic interests and maintaining air superiority throughout the conflict. (Also see, these are the most produced aircraft by any nation during WW2.)

At the top of this list is the B-24 Liberator which was the most-produced American bomber of the war, with over 18,000 units manufactured. This heavy bomber provided the U.S. and the Allies with critical strategic bombing capabilities to target enemy infrastructure, crippling their war-making capacities. The B-24’s long-range attributes made it a primary asset in the air campaign against Nazi Germany, helping to disrupt its supply chain and undermine its war effort.

The North American P-51 Mustang was another highly produced warplane, with over 14,000 units manufactured between 1940 and 1945. The P-51 evolved into a versatile and effective aircraft with its long-range capabilities. Its ground-attack capacity and escort service for heavy bombers were invaluable, as it contributed to the destruction of enemy aircraft both in the air and on the ground. (Here are WWII bombings that involved the most planes.)

Lastly, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress stands as one of the most iconic, and most produced, American warplanes in history, with roughly 12,700 units built during the war. This heavy bomber, known for its exceptional durability and relentless bombing campaigns against German factories and airfields, played a decisive role in weakening the Axis powers. 

These aircraft not only played a key role in the efficient execution of strategic bombing campaigns, but also laid the foundation for future generations of aviation technology. 

Here’s a look at the most produced military planes of World War II.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

26. C-61 Forwarder
> Total built: 1,009
> Year most produced: 1943 & 1944 (400 aircraft built)
> Type: Transport
> Manufacturer: Fairchild
> Top speed: 133 mph
> Crew: 1

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

25. Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4)
> Total built: 1,089
> Year most produced: 1945 (635 aircraft built)
> Type: Transport
> Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
> Top speed: 275 mph
> Crew: 4

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

24. L-3 Grasshopper
> Total built: 1,439
> Year most produced: 1942 (813 aircraft built)
> Type: Communication
> Manufacturer: Piper Aircraft Corporation
> Top speed: 87 mph
> Crew: 2

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

23. Martin Baltimore
> Total built: 1,575
> Year most produced: 1943 (675 aircraft built)
> Type: Light bomber
> Manufacturer: Glenn L Martin Company
> Top speed: 302 mph
> Crew: 4

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Source: 101561334@N08 / Flickr

22. Beechcraft C-45 (Expeditor)
> Total built: 1,771
> Year most produced: 1944 (1060 aircraft built)
> Type: Transport
> Manufacturer: Beech Aircraft Corporation
> Top speed: 224 mph
> Crew: 9

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

21. Vultee A-35 Vengeance
> Total built: 1,931
> Year most produced: 1943 (875 aircraft built)
> Type: Light bomber
> Manufacturer: Vultee Aircraft
> Top speed: 279 mph
> Crew: 2

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Source: mark6mauno / Flickr

20. Taylorcraft L-2 Grasshopper
> Total built: 1,940
> Year most produced: 1943 (1,161 aircraft built)
> Type: Communication
> Manufacturer: Piper Aircraft Corporation
> Top speed: 92 mph
> Crew: 2

Source: Powerhouse Museum Collection / Wikimedia Commons

19. Lockheed Hudson
> Total built: 2,189
> Year most produced: 1941 (1,100 aircraft built)
> Type: Light bomber
> Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
> Top speed: 249 mph
> Crew: 6

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

18. Douglas A-26 Invader
> Total built: 2,449
> Year most produced: 1945 (1,729 aircraft built)
> Type: Light bomber
> Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
> Top speed: 355 mph
> Crew: 3

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Source: Three Lions / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

17. Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando
> Total built: 3,144
> Year most produced: 1945 (1,423 aircraft built)
> Type: Transport
> Manufacturer: Curtiss-Wright Corporation
> Top speed: 270 mph
> Crew: 4

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

16. Cessna C-78 Bobcat
> Total built: 3,206
> Year most produced: 1943 (2,548 aircraft built)
> Type: Transport
> Manufacturer: Cessna Aircraft Company
> Top speed: 175 mph
> Crew: 5

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

15. Bell P-63 Kingcobra
> Total built: 3,273
> Year most produced: 1944 (1,786 aircraft built)
> Type: Fighter
> Manufacturer: Bell Aircraft Corporation
> Top speed: 410 mph
> Crew: 1

14. Stinson L-5 Sentinel
> Total built: 3,590
> Year most produced: 1944 (1,361 aircraft built)
> Type: Communication
> Manufacturer: Stinson
> Top speed: 165 mph
> Crew: 2

Source: 37467370@N08 / Flickr / Public Domain

13. B-29 Superfortress
> Total built: 3,763
> Year most produced: 1945 (2,507 aircraft built)
> Type: Very heavy bomber
> Manufacturer: Boeing
> Top speed: 358 mph
> Crew: 10

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Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

12. Martin B-26 Marauder
> Total built: 5,157
> Year most produced: 1943 (2,364 aircraft built)
> Type: Medium bomber
> Manufacturer: Glenn L Martin Company
> Top speed: 282 mph
> Crew: 7

11. Piper L-4 Grasshopper
> Total built: 5,611
> Year most produced: 1944 (1,904 aircraft built)
> Type: Communication
> Manufacturer: Piper Aircraft Corporation
> Top speed: 85 mph
> Crew: 1

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

10. Douglas A-20 Havoc / Boston
> Total built: 7,385
> Year most produced: 1944 (2,317 aircraft built)
> Type: Light bomber
> Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
> Top speed: 339 mph
> Crew: 3

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

9. Lockheed P-38 Lightning
> Total built: 9,536
> Year most produced: 1944 (4,186 aircraft built)
> Type: Fighter
> Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
> Top speed: 414 mph
> Crew: 1

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

8. Bell P-39 Aircaobra
> Total built: 9,588
> Year most produced: 1943 (4,947 aircraft built)
> Type: Fighter
> Manufacturer: Bell Aircraft Corporation
> Top speed: 386 mph
> Crew: 1

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. North American B-25 Mitchell
> Total built: 9,816
> Year most produced: 1944 (3,677 aircraft built)
> Type: Medium bomber
> Manufacturer: North American Aircraft Corporation
> Top speed: 272 mph
> Crew: 5

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

6. Douglas DC-3
> Total built: 10,323
> Year most produced: 1944 (4,900 aircraft built)
> Type: Transport
> Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
> Top speed: 237 mph
> Crew: 5

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. B-17 Flying Fortress
> Total built: 12,692
> Year most produced: 1944 (5,352 aircraft built)
> Type: Heavy bomber
> Manufacturer: Boeing
> Top speed: 287 mph
> Crew: 10

Source: Fox Photos / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

4. Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
> Total built: 13,738
> Year most produced: 1942 (4,454 aircraft built)
> Type: Fighter
> Manufacturer: Curtiss-Wright Corporation
> Top speed: 378 mph
> Crew: 1

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr

3. North American P-51 Mustang
> Total built: 14,501
> Year most produced: 1944 (6,908 aircraft built)
> Type: Fighter
> Manufacturer: North American Aviation
> Top speed: 437 mph
> Crew: 1

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Source: US Air Force, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

2. Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
> Total built: 15,585
> Year most produced: 1944 (7,065 aircraft built)
> Type: Fighter
> Manufacturer: Republic Aviation Corporation
> Top speed: 433 mph
> Crew: 1

Source: Archive Photos / Archive Photos via Getty Images

1. B-24 Liberator
> Total built: 18,190
> Year most produced: 1944 (9,519 aircraft built)
> Type: Heavy bomber
> Manufacturer: Boeing
> Top speed: 290 mph
> Crew: 10

Methodology

To determine the most produced American planes in World War 2, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the Army Air Forces Statistical Digest: World War II, December 1945 edition which details production numbers of US aircraft during the Second World War. We ranked according to the grand total produced over the course of the war and excluded any planes with a production run of less than 1,000 during that time. We also excluded training aircraft. We included supplemental information from the same source in regards to the aircraft type, and which year during the war saw the largest production runs for each aircraft. We included supplemental data from various sources in regards to the manufacturer of each aircraft, maximum speed, and crew.

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