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Years in aviation: 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943
Centuries: 19th century · 20th century · 21st century
Decades: 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s
Years: 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1940:

EventsEdit

JanuaryEdit

FebruaryEdit

MarchEdit

  • The United States begins construction of a U.S. Navy seaplane base at Midway Atoll.[8]
  • March 2 – The United Kingdom and France promise to send 100 bombers with crews and bombs to assist Finland at once, but do not follow through on the promise.[9]
  • March 6 – France informs the Finnish government that it will dispatch an expeditionary force including 72 bombers to Finland on March 13, but the Winter War ends before the French force can begin its journey.[10]
  • March 13 – The Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland ends in the defeat of Finland. During the 3½-month war, the Finnish Air Force has grown from 96 to 287 aircraft,[11] and has lost 62 aircraft in air-to-air combat and 59 more damaged beyond repair, while the Soviet Union has lost between 700 and 900[4] – 725 confirmed destroyed and about 200 unconfirmed – of the 2,500 to 3,000 aircraft it has committed to the campaign, and another 300 damaged. The Soviet Air Force has dropped 150,000 bombs – about 7,500 tons (6,803,955 kg) of bombs – on Finnish territory, but has performed poorly; its operations in early December 1939 had failed to disrupt Finnish mobilization and, despite unusually clear weather in January and February, it failed to disrupt the lone railroad connecting Finland with the outside world for more than a few hours at a time or to disrupt Finnish merchant shipping, despite 60 air raids on Finnish ports.[12]
  • March 16 – The United Kingdom suffers its first civilian air-raid casualties of the war after a raid by the Luftwaffe's Kampfgeschwader 26 on Scapa Flow.
  • March 19–20 (overnight) – Royal Air Force Bomber Command conducts its first attack of World War II against a land target, when 20 Hampdens and 30 Whitleys strike the German seaplane base at Hörnum on the island of Sylt. One Whitley is lost.[13][14]
  • March 25 – The United States Government grants permission to American aircraft manufacturers to sell advanced combat aircraft to countries fighting the Axis powers.

AprilEdit

MayEdit

  • The Imperial Japanese Navy's air arm begins Operation 101, the largest aerial offensive of the Second Sino-Japanese War to date, seeking to destroy Nationalist Chinese air capabilities in Szechuan Province and military facilities around Chungking. It continues until the end of the summer, and will involve 3,715 sorties in 182 raids and the dropping of over 2,000 tons (1,814,388 kg) of bombs.[23]
  • Germany suspends construction of the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. It will not resume until May 1942.[24]
  • Helen Richey obtains a flight instructor's certificate and begins training United States Army Air Corps cadets – the only woman to do so – at Pittsburgh-Butler Airport in Butler, Pennsylvania.[25]
  • May 1 – German aircraft attack the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious off Norway. Her embarked Gloster Sea Gladiators defend her.[21]
  • May 5 – The British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal begins a week and a half of support to Allied forces in the Narvik area of Norway.
  • May 10 – Germany invades the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Paratroops again play a key role. German aircraft surprise aircraft of the Royal Air Force's Advanced Air Striking Force on the ground, but inflict only light damage. Thirty-three Blenheims attack German transport aircraft and other targets in the Netherlands, losing three aircraft. At noon, 32 Fairey Battles attack German ground forces in Luxembourg, losing 13 aircraft shot down and the rest damaged; a second raid by 32 Battles sees the loss of 10 more aircraft.[26] During the day, the Dutch Air Force loses about half its aircraft and the Belgian Air Force about a quarter of its planes, a combined total of more than 100 planes; France loses four of its 879 combat-ready planes destroyed on the ground and 30 damaged, while the Royal Air Force loses six planes destroyed and 12 put out of action out of 384 deployed in France. Dutch and Belgian aircraft and anti-aircraft guns shoot down 230 German planes including most of Germany's transport aircraft, and Germany loses 44 more aircraft to French and British forces over France.[27] The Germans are the first to use military gliders in action in the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael when 41 DFS 230 gliders each carrying ten soldiers are launched behind Junkers Ju 52s. Ten gliders land on the grassed roof of the fortress. Only twenty minutes after landing the force had neutralized the fortress at a cost of six dead and twenty wounded.[28]
  • May 11–12 (overnight) – British bombers drop bombs on a German town for the first time, as 37 Handley Page Hampdens and Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys bomb road and rail junctions near Mönchengladbach. Three British bombers are lost.[29]
  • May 13 – The Sikorsky VS-300, which made its first flight the previous year, makes its first untethered flight.
  • May 14 – The Allies lose 110 aircraft – 70 British Fairey Battles and Bristol Blenheims and forty French planes – on one day in a disastrous attempt to bomb bridges over the River Meuse.[30]
  • May 14 – Fifty-three German Heinkel He.111 bombers drop nearly 100 tons of bombs on Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The attack kills nearly 1,000 people, destroys 20,000 buildings, and leaves 78,000 people homeless.[30]
  • May 15 – During British evacuation and demolition operations in Dutch ports, German dive bombers attack the British destroyer HMS Valentine, which is beached and wrecked at the mouth of the Scheldt.[31][32]
  • May 15–16 (overnight) – RAF Bomber Command conducts its first strategic bombing raid of World War II, as 99 Hampden, Whitley, and Vickers Wellington bombers strike German targets in the Ruhr Valley. One British bomber is lost.[29]
  • May 17–18 (overnight) – 72 British bombers attack Bremen, Cologne, and Hamburg, killing at least 47 and injuring 127 in Bremen and Hamburg.[33]
  • May 18 – The British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious flies off Fleet Air Arm Supermarine Walrus flying boats of No. 701 Squadron for service at Harstad, Norway.[34]
  • May 19 – During British naval operations to bring refugees from Ostend, Belgium, to the United Kingdom, German bombers sink the British destroyer HMS Whitley off Belgium.[35]
  • May 21 – The British aircraft carriers HMS Glorious and HMS Furious fly off Royal Air Force aircraft for service ashore at Bardufoss, Norway, with Glorious delivering the Hurricanes of No. 46 Squadron and Furious the Gladiators of No. 263 Squadron.[34]
  • May 24 – Adolf Hitler endorses the "Halt Order," stopping the German ground advance in France against Allied forces surrounded at Dunkirk to allow the Luftwaffe to finish them off. He does not rescind the order until May 26.
  • May 24 – German bombers sink the British destroyer HMS Wessex off Calais and damage a British and a Polish destroyer while they support British troops fighting there.[36][37]
  • May 25 – HMS Illustrious enters service with the Royal Navy as the world's first fully armored aircraft carrier.[38]
  • May 26-June 4 – Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk evacuation, takes place, as 308,888 Allied soldiers are evacuated to the United Kingdom from Dunkirk by sea under continuous German air attack. During the evacuation, German aircraft sink six British and three French destroyers and eight personnel ships and put 19 British destroyers and nine personnel ships out of action.[39]
  • May 27–28 (overnight) – 120 British bombers attack Bremen, Hamburg, Duisburg, Dortmund, Neuss, and other German cities. During the raid, Aircraftman Stan Oldridge, rear gunner of a Whitley of No. 10 Squadron, scores the first aerial victory of World War II over a German night fighter, shooting down what was probably a Messerschmitt Bf 109D near Utrecht early on May 28.[40]

JuneEdit

JulyEdit

  • July 3
    • British bombers make a daylight attack against German barges assembling at Rotterdam in anticipation of an invasion of the United Kingdom, their first attack against German efforts to build an invasion force. Such raids will peak in September and end in October after the threat of a German invasion abates.[47]
    • During the British attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria, Fairey Swordfish aircraft from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal mine the harbor and unsuccessfully attack the French battlecruiser Strasbourg as she flees to Toulon. French Curtiss Hawk 75 fighters and Blackburn Skua fighters from Ark Royal engage in a dogfight, during which the French shoot down one Skua.
  • July 4 – In retaliation for the British attack at Mers-el-Kébir, French Air Force bombers raid Gibraltar, causing little damage.
  • July 5 – Shore-based Swordfish of the Fleet Air Arm's No. 813 Squadron make a torpedo strike against Italian ships at Tobruk, sinking a transport and a destroyer, blowing the bow off another destroyer, and damaging an ocean liner.[48]
  • July 6 – Twelve Swordfish aircraft from Ark Royal make a torpedo strike against Mers-el-Kébir, sinking a French patrol boat and badly damaging the beached battlecruiser Dunkerque. It is the most successful aerial torpedo attack against a capital ship in history at the time.[49]
  • July 8 – Aircraft from the British aircraft carrier HMS Hermes torpedo the French battleship Richelieu at Dakar, Senegal, damaging her. Richelieu is not seaworthy again for a year.[50]
  • July 8–9 (overnight) – 64 British bombers strike airfields in the Netherlands and ports in north Germany and lay sea mines. Germany's first specialized night fighter unit, Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, scores its first victory, as Oberfeldwebel Hermann Förster shoots down a Whitley off Heligoland.[51]
  • July 8–13 – Italian high-level bombers subject ships of the British Mediterranean Fleet to repeated heavy attacks while the fleet is at sea in the Mediterranean. They score only one hit, on the light cruiser HMS Gloucester.[52]
  • July 9
    • The indecisive Battle of Calabria is the first major fleet action of World War II between the British and Italian navies. Swordfish from the British aircraft carrier HMS Eagle conduct two torpedo strikes but score no hits.[53]
    • 40 Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers attack the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and other ships of Force H off Sardinia. They drop over 100 bombs but score no hits, and Blackburn Skuas from Ark Royal shoot down two SM.79s and damage two others.[50]
  • July 10 – The Battle of Britain commences with the first German attacks on British convoys in the English Channel.
  • July 14 – In retaliation for the British attacks at Mers-el-Kébir and Dakar, French bombers again attack Gibraltar, but most of their bombs fall into the sea.
  • July 20 – Fleet Air Arm Swordfish of No. 813 Squadron conduct another torpedo strike against Tobruk, sinking two Italian destroyers.[48]
  • July 25–26 (overnight) – 166 British bombers strike German airfields in the Netherlands and targets in the Ruhr.[47]
  • Late July – In the first use of airborne radar for interception of an enemy aircraft, a Flying Officer Ashfield flying a British Bristol Blenheim IF night fighter destroys a German Dornier Do 17 bomber. A second such kill will not be achieved until November – again by Ashfield.[1][54]

AugustEdit

SeptemberEdit

  • Imperial Japanese Navy Aichi D3A dive bombers and Nakajima B5N carrier attack bombers begin bombing attacks on Chungking.[61]
  • September 2 – Aircraft from the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal conduct Operation Smash, a night raid on Cagliari, Sardinia. While some Swordfish drop parachute flares, others bomb an Italian military headquarters and aircraft parked on the ground.[62]
  • September 3 – Ark Royal aircraft again attack Cagliari in Operation Grab in an attack similar to that of Operation Smash. The raid is less successful, with many bombs falling into the sea.[55]
  • September 4 – Adolf Hitler orders German bombing attacks on London.[60]
  • September 4 – Aircraft from the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious attack Italian airfields on Rhodes.[63]
  • September 7 – Hermann Göring orders the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) to stop targeting British airfields and to attack the city of London instead. The Luftwaffe attacks London that evening, the first of 57 consecutive nights of German air raids on London.[64]
  • September 7–8 – The largest mass air combat in history takes place over Great Britain, with 1,200 British and German aircraft operating in an area of only 24 x 48 km (15 x 30 miles).
  • September 9 – Aircraft from the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal strike Cagliari, Sardinia, inflicting more damage under heavy fire.[55]
  • September 10 – The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) forms the Corpo Aereo Italiano (Italian Air Corps) as an expeditionary force for bombing the United Kingdom alongside the German Luftwaffe from bases in Belgium.[65]
  • September 13 – The Imperial Japanese Navy's Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter scores its first aerial victories, when a flight of Zeroes attacks 27 Nationalist Chinese fighters over Chungking and claims to have destroyed all of them; actual Chinese losses probably are 13 to 24 aircraft. No Zeroes are lost.[61]
  • September 15 – Germany makes its heaviest daylight raid on London. The Royal Air Force destroys 185 German aircraft over England during the day. As a result, Germany abandons its hopes of achieving victory in the Battle of Britain.[58]
  • September 17 – Aircraft from the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious raid Benghazi, Libya.[63]
  • September 23 – The British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal arrives off Dakar, Senegal, with the Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle embarked. She flies off two French Caudron C.270 Luciole trainer aircraft which carry Free French officers ashore to request that Vichy French forces there join de Gaulle on the Allied side, but the Vichy French refuse.[66]
  • September 24–26 – A British naval force supports a disastrous Free French attempt at an amphibious invasion of Dakar. Vichy French forces resist successfully, and HMS Ark Royal loses nine Swordfish aircraft before operations are called off.[67]
  • September 24–25 – French Air Force bombers raid Gibraltar in retaliation for the British and Free French attack on Dakar.
  • September 25 – The bombers of the Corpo Aereo Italiano (Italian Air Corps) arrive at their base in Belgium to participate in the Battle of Britain. The fighters will arrive later.[65]
  • September 29 – Two Royal Australian Air Force Avro Ansons of No. 2 Service Flying Training School with two men aboard each plane collide in mid-air over Brocklesby, New South Wales, Australia, and become interlocked with one on top of the other. The engines of the lower aircraft keep running, and the pilot of the upper plane finds he can control the two aircraft using his ailerons and flaps; he lands the planes, still interlocked, safely in a paddock near Brocklesbury, and all four men survive with only one of them injured.
  • September 30 – The Battle of Britain is said to be over, with Hitler's planned invasion of the United Kingdom (Operation Sea Lion, or Unternehmen Seelöwe) postponed indefinitely.
  • September 30 – Since September 1, the Royal Air Force has lost 65 bombers.[68]

OctoberEdit

NovemberEdit

  • The United States Department of War separates General Headquarters Air Force (the United States Army's air combat element) from the United States Army Air Corps (responsible for aviation logistics and training).[75]
  • November 5 – Four RAF squadrons are deployed to Greece to support the country against Italian attacks.
  • November 5 – The U.S. Army Air Corps activates the Hawaiian Air Force, its first air force based outside the continental United States.[15]
  • November 11 – Regular ferry flights of US-built warplanes commence across the Atlantic.
  • November 11–12 (overnight) – Fairey Swordfish from HMS Illustrious make a highly successful raid against ships of the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) at Taranto, Italy. The raid damages the battleship Conte di Cavour beyond repair, and extensively damages two others, Littorio and Caio Duilio. It also damages a cruiser and two destroyers, sinks two auxiliary ships, and knocks out seaplane hangars and oil storage tanks. By far the most successful carrier-based air raid against enemy capital ships to date, it is the first time in history that aircraft alone incapacitate an enemy fleet and alter the balance of power at sea unaided.[38][49]
  • November 14–15 (overnight) – 437 aircraft of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) make a massed air raid on Coventry. 380 civilians are killed and some 800 are wounded.
  • November 17 – Operation White, a second attempt by the British aircraft carrier HMS Argus to fly off aircraft – 14 RAF Hawker Hurricanes and two Fleet Air Arm Blackburn Skuas – to Malta fails almost completely when the aircraft are launched at too great a range and become lost in bad weather. Only four Hurricanes and a Skua reach Malta; the other Hurricanes all ditch in the Mediterranean with the loss of all but one of their pilots, and one Skua crashlands on Sicily, where the Italians capture its crew.
  • November 27 – During the Battle of Cape Spartivento, the Italian naval commander Admiral Inigo Campioni orders his fleet to retire upon receiving word of the strength of the opposing British force. A torpedo strike by 11 Swordfish against his fleeing ships is ineffective, as is a belated attack on the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal by Italian high-level bombers.[48]

DecemberEdit

  • The Soviet Union abandons voluntary recruitment for its military flight training programs and begins to feed personnel into such programs via conscription.[76]
  • Early December – Southampton suffers two particularly severe German night bombing raids.[77]
  • December 4 – Operational control of RAF Coastal Command is transferred to the Royal Navy, although Coastal Command remains part of the Royal Air Force. Air protection of British merchant shipping soon begins to improve.[78]
  • December 12 – The British aircraft carriers HMS Eagle and HMS Illustrious strike Italian transport at Bardia, Libya. Later in the month their aircraft strike Rhodes and Stampalia in Greece and Tripoli in Libya.[79]
  • December 16–17 (overnight) – For the first time, Royal Air Force Bomber Command conducts a raid focusing on attacking a city center rather than specific targets in Operation Rachel, a raid by 134 British bombers against Mannheim, Germany, in reprisal for the German raid on Coventry in November. Their bombs are dispersed widely, killing 34 people in Mannheim and Ludwigshafen.[77][80]
  • December 21 – Nine Fairey Swordfish from the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious sink two Italian merchant ships off Tunisia with the loss of one Swordfish.[79]
  • December 23 – Eddie August Schneider dies in crash when his plane is clipped by a U.S. Navy bomber at Floyd Bennett Field.
  • December 25 – Two British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Grumman Martlets of 804 Naval Air Squadron shoot down a German Junkers Ju 88 off Scapa Flow. It is the first aerial victory in Europe by an American-made aircraft in history and the first by any variant of the Grumman F4F Wildcat.[81]
  • December 29–30 (overnight) – The Luftwaffe makes a devastating attack on London, making extensive use of incendiary weapons.
  • December 31 – During 1940, German night fighters defending Germany have shot down 42 British bombers.[82]

First flightsEdit

JanuaryEdit

FebruaryEdit

MarchEdit

AprilEdit

MayEdit

AugustEdit

SeptemberEdit

OctoberEdit

NovemberEdit

DecemberEdit

Entered serviceEdit

FebruaryEdit

MarchEdit

AprilEdit

MayEdit

JuneEdit

JulyEdit

SeptemberEdit

OctoberEdit

NovemberEdit

RetirementsEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  3. May, Ernest R., Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France, New York: Hill and Wang, 2000, ISBN 0-8090-8906-8, p. 246.
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