By Hunter Simons


The Battle of Midway (June 4–7, 1942), the first major victory for the United States in World War II, ended the Japanese advance in the Pacific Ocean. After sustaining considerable losses at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May, the Japanese made plans to extend their advances in the South Pacific eastward to the Midway Islands, approximately 2,000 km (1,250 mi) northwest of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and, at the same time, draw the remaining U.S. aircraft carriers into battle and destroy them. Toward this end, Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku assembled a fleet of 145 warships and 600 carrier-based planes, but he was unaware that U.S. intelligence knew of his fleet's movements because U.S. agents had broken Japanese codes and that Adm. Chester W. Nimitz had positioned two carrier groups near Midway. The battle began on June 4 when Japanese planes attacked Midway and the Americans responded with attacks on the Japanese aircraft carriers, destroying four of them. Sporadic fighting continued until June 7, when the U.S. carrier Yorktown was sunk. The United States also lost a few smaller ships and 147 planes in the four days of fighting, and more than 300 men were killed. But Japan's loss of four carriers, along with their 250 planes and pilots, ended Japan's initiative in the Pacific.

The KC-10A Extender, a U.S. military aircraft, is a modified version of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 designed to function on a global scale as an extended-range cargo and troop plane and an in-flight refueler of all types of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization aircraft. The U.S. Military Airlift Command (MAC) argued the need for such a plane following the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict when several nations did not permit U.S. cargo/tanker aircraft to land in their territories. In late 1977 the U.S. Air Force began evaluating existing commercial transport planes for potential use as Advanced Tanker/Cargo Aircraft (ATCA). It selected the DC-10, and in 1978 it authorized production of 12 of the modified planes. The first planes were deployed in 1981, and by 2002 the KC-10A fleet numbered 59. The planes were active during the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations (see Persian Gulf War), when —along with the smaller KC-135A Stratotanker—they moved thousands of troops and thousands of tons of cargo as well as delivering 470 million l (125 million U.S. gal) of fuel.

The P-38 was one of the most distinctive-looking of U.S. Army Air Force planes. It was a single-seat monoplane fighter with a 15.8-m (52-ft) span. Its twin Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled engines were installed at the front of the pair of slim tail-supporting booms, and it had tricycle landing gear and powerful nose-mounted armament. The plane originated as the winner of the February 1937 U.S. Army Air Corps design competition for a high-performance pursuit plane capable of intercepting enemy aircraft at high altitude. Eventually, the P-38 operated in several variants throughout World War II in all theaters; its long range and twin-engine reliability made it particularly effective as an escort fighter.

The Battle of the Coral Sea, on May 4–8, 1942, about 200 km (125 mi) southeast of New Guinea in the South Pacific, was the first Japanese setback in World War II. It was also the first naval battle fought entirely by carrier-based aircraft; the opposing U.S. and Japanese fleets never came in sight of each other. In early May a Japanese fleet of one small and two large aircraft carriers and a number of cruisers, destroyers, and troop transport ships sailed toward New Guinea with the intention of capturing Port Moresby. In response, U.S. admiral Chester W. Nimitz assembled a naval task force that included the carriers Yorktown and Lexington

ships sailed toward New Guinea with the intention of capturing Port Moresby. In response, U.S. admiral Chester W. Nimitz assembled a naval task force that included the carriers Yorktown and Lexington when U.S. planes sank a Japanese carrier. On the following day they damaged another, but the Japanese caused such damage to the Lexington that it had to be abandoned and sunk. At Coral Sea the Americans lost more planes and ships than the Japanese, but the battle is considered a victory because it forced the Japanese to abandon plans to capture Port Moresby, thereby ending their threat to Australia. Further, Japanese losses helped tip the scales in favor of the Americans at the Battle of Midway.

Airplanes can be grouped into many different categories. One way of classifying them is by the number of wings they have. Many early airplanes were biplanes, meaning that they had two pairs of wings, one above the other. Triplanes were also built in the early days of aviation. Today most airplanes are monoplanes, with one pair of wings.

Most airplanes take off and land from dry land, but some operate on water. Seaplanes have special landing gear that supports them in the water.

Humans have always envied birds for their ability to fly. In the 1700s and 1800s humans flew in lighter-than-air ships such as balloons, but not until 1903 did people build the first heavier-than-air craft—the airplane.

The term airplane, which is often shortened to plane, usually refers to any type of power-driven aircraft that has fixed wings and is heavier than air. An airplane moves through the air with the help of its engine and wings. The wings are shaped in a particular way so that air flows over them and gives them lift. By contrast, balloons and airships are lifted by gases that are lighter than air. Helicopters are lifted by spinning blades.

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