In 1950 the Korean War brought two jet fighters face-to-face. One-the Russian Mig-15-was designed as an airborne defender to shoot down bombers. The other-the North American F-86 Sabre-was built as a multi-purpose offensive weapon.
Speed and maneuverability are the most important features in a combat fighter. The Japanese Zero had both, making it the deadliest plane in the Pacific during the early months of World War II.
In the Pacific during the early days of World War II, the dominant fighter plane was the legendary Japanese Zero. For the US Navy, the top fighter at the beginning of the war was the Grumman F4F Wildcat.
Among all the fighter planes of World War II, the P-51 Mustang and the Messerschmitt Me-109 fly at the top of the list. The 109 provided the backbone of German fighter forces. And when the Mustang entered service, it riddled Germany with bombing raids.
A US naval aviator named John Thach devised tactics that allowed the F4F Wildcat to fight the technologically superior Zero on equal terms.
During World War II the last thing a Thunderbolt pilot wanted was to get in a dogfight with a Focke-Wulf 190 at low altitude. But in early 1944, that's exactly what happened to Don Gentile. The result was a heart-pounding dogfight.
Ace "Pappy" Boyington scored most of his victories flying one of the best combat aircraft of World War II the F4U Corsair. But the Japanese Zero was still a formidable opponent. On January 3rd 1944 Pappy tangled with a group of Zeros in a dramatic fight.