World Aviation in 1943

5 January
United States Army Air Force (USAAF) North West African Air Forces are activated under the command of Major General Carl Spaatz.

14-23 January
The Casablanca Conference in Morocco. Churchill, Roosevelt and their Chiefs of Staff reach an important decision to step up round-the-clock bombing of targets in Germany and also to begin an invasion of Sicily, the ‘soft underbelly’ of Europe. A cross-Channel invasion is deferred until 1944.

27 January
The first United States Army Air Force (USAAF) heavy bomber attack on Germany. Boeing B17 Flying Fortresses of the 1st Bombardment Wing, 8th USAAF, attack Emden and Wilhelmhaven

13 February
Marine Fighter Squadron 124 makes the first operational use of the Vought F4U Corsair aircraft during an escort mission of Navy Consolidated PB4Y Liberators attacking Bougainville.

15 February
Major General Iran C. Eaker is appointed as Commanding General of the 8th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) in the United Kingdom, in succession to Major General Carl Spaatz.

2-4 March
The Battle of the Bismarck Sea: a major attempt by the Japanese to re-enforce Lae is foiled by United States Southwest Pacific Air Forces. 40,000 tons of Japanese shipping is sunk and almost 60 aircraft are destroyed.

10 March
The 14th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) is activated with Major General Clair Chennault in command.

16 March
On Eastern Front, the first operational trails of an anti tank version of the Junkers Ju87G take place. The aircraft is fitted with two 37mm Flak guns.

18 April
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is killed when his Mitsubishi G4M ‘Betty’ is shot down over Bougainville. The attack is made by Lockheed P-38 Lightnings of 339th Fighter Squadron flying 885 kilometres (550 miles) from their bases.

13 May
Axis troops in North Africa surrender.

The Messerschmitt Me262 is ordered into production.

11 June
The Italian garrison on the island of Pantellaria surrenders after an intensive air bombardment by allied aircraft. This is the first time that a large defended area has been conquered by air power alone.

9-10 July
Following a month of air bombardment on Sicily, Sardinia and Italy an Anglo-American force invades Sicily. The amphibious landings are preceded with an assault by paratroopers and a large number of cargo carrying gliders (sailplanes). This operation is not a resounding success, with 69 gliders of the 137 released, coming down in the sea. A further 56 land at various points on the Sicilian coast and only twelve alight on their intended targets. The paratroop drop is also dispersed and is far less effective than had been intended.

18 July
The United States Navy (USN) airship K74 is shot down off the Florida coast by a German submarine. This is the only United States airship to be destroyed by enemy action during the Second World War.

25 July
Benito Mussolini is overthrow and King Victor Emmanuel takes over command of the Italian Armed Forces.

1 August
A female Russian fighter pilot, Junior Lieutenant Lydia Litvak of the 73rd Guards Fighter Air Regiment, is killed in action.

1 August
United States Army Air Force (USAAF) Consolidated B24 Liberators based in the Mediterranean make a low level attack on the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania. This is the first low level mission against this vital Axis target and is the longest bombing raid to date. 177 aircraft are despatched, 164 reach their targets, 49 are shot down and a further 7 are interned in Turkey.

13 August
Northwest African Air Force aircraft attack Wiener Neustadt. This is the first attack on Austria by United States Army Air Force (USAAF) forces based in the Mediterranean.

17 August
During daylight attacks on Regensburg and Schweinfurt the 8th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) loses 59 heavy bombers.

18 August
The first operational use of the Henschel HS293 remotely-controlled glide bomb. German Dornier Do217Es of II/KG100 carry out an anti-shipping strike against British ships in the Bay of Biscay.

27 August
The first use of a guided missile in warfare. HMS Egret, a corvette, is sunk by an air-launched Henschel Hs293 remotely-controlled glide bomb while on patrol in the Bay of Biscay.

31 August
United States Navy (USN) squadron VF5, operating off USS Yorktown makes the first operational use of the Grumman F6F Hellcat, in an attack on Japanese positions on Marcus Island.

3 September
Peace negotiations between the Allies and Italy are concluded in secret. An Armistice will become effective on the 8 September.

3 September
British and Canadian troops cross the Straits of Messina and land on the mainland of southern Italy.

9 September
The 46,200 ton Italian battleship Roma is sunk by two Ruhrstahl/Kramer Fritz X1 radio controlled bombs launched from Luftwaffe Dornier Do217s.

12 September
Benito Mussolini is rescued by German glider (sailplane) troops from a hotel in the Gran Sasso mountains where he is being held prisoner. He is airlifted to safety in a Fieseler Fi156 Storch aircraft.

13 October
Italy declares war on Germany, but there are in fact two Italian factions in the war. Those in Northern Italy continue to fight alongside the Germans.

14 October
A second United States Army Air Force (USAAF) attack is made on the Schweinfurt ball-bearing factories. The Americans lose 60 of the 288 heavy bombers despatched.

16 October
The 9th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) is reorganised in the United Kingdom to act as a tactical air arm of the USAAF in North-west Europe.

30 October
In order to evaluate the capability of the helicopter, the United States Navy (USN) acquires a single example of the Sikorsky YR4B from the United States Army Air Force (USAAF).

31 October
The United States Navy (USN) achieves the first aerial victory with the use of airborne interception (AI) radar, when an AI equipped Vought F4U2 Corsair destroys a Japanese aircraft in New Guinea.

2 November
The newly formed 15th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) takes on its first mission, when twelve heavy bombers attack aircraft factories at Wiener Neustadt in Austria.

5 November
Japanese cruisers and destroyers steaming between Truk and Rabaul are attacked and damaged by United States carrier aircraft operating off USS Princeton and USS Saratoga.

11 November
Further attacks by United States aircraft operating from the USS Bunker Hill, Essex and Independence cause severe damage to Japanese naval vessels off Rabaul.

Aircraft of the 5th and 13th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) co-ordinate their attacks with the United States carrier forces.

25 November
Lockheed P38 Lightnings, North American B25 Mitchells and North American P51 Mustangs of the 14th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) make their first attack on Formosa from their bases in China.

2-3 December
German aircraft drop bombs and parachute mines at Bari in Italy. An ammunition ship explodes and seventeen vessels are set on fire or sunk. Nearly 1,000 people are killed. The Germans drop, for the first time, metallised paper strips to confuse radar stations. Known as ‘Window’ in Bomber Command, it had been first used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the 24-25 July raid on Hamburg.

5 December
Japanese bombers make their first daylight raid on Calcutta and 500 people are killed or injured in the attack.

13 December
The 8th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) begins long range fighter escort missions.

17 December
Orville Wright, on the 40th Anniversary of making his first flight, presents the Collier Trophy for outstanding achievement in aviation to his former pupil General H.H. ‘Hap’ Arnold.

26 December
Intensive pre-invasion bombing of Cape Gloucester in New Britain by the 5th United States Army Air Force (USAAF).