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On This Day: 1944

Aviation events for 1944

January 3: Japan launches first Fu-Go bombs, aka fire balloons or balloon bombs. Released from Japan, the balloons were meant to be pushed across the Pacific by the jetstream and then crash into the U.S. mainland and explode. A fascinating idea, but not a very effective weapon: Of the 9,000 balloons launched, only six Americans were killed. 300 of the balloons were ever found in North America, and it is estimated around 600 others likely landed in uninhabited deserts, forests and mountains.
 
January 8: First flight of the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star.
 
March 10: Icelandic airline Loftleidir is formed.
 
April 3: German battleship Tirpitz is badly damaged by attacks by the Fleet Air Arm and RAF.
 
April 17: Howard Hughes and TWA president Jack Frye fly a Lockheed Constellation from Burbank to Washington, DC, setting a transcontinental speed record of 6 hours 57 minutes.
 
April 24: The first B-29 Superfortress arrives in China, beginning the build-up by the United States Army Air Forces' 20th Air Force for a strategic bombing offensive against Japan.
 
June 6: A huge airborne armada, nine planes wide and 200 miles long, carries American and British troops across the British Channel for the D-Day invasion of Europe.
 
June 6: Alaska Airlines commences operations.
 
July 5: The first U.S. rocket-powered military aircraft, the MX-324, flies at Harper Dry Lake, California. The pilot, Harry Crosby, makes the voyage.
 
July 12: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) puts the first operational jet-powered airplanes into service.
 
July 17: Napalm incendiary bombs are used for the first time in war, dropped by American P-38 fighters on a fuel depot in France.
 
July 27: Gloster Meteors of No. 616 Squadron RAF fly their first V1 interception mission.
 
August 16: The world’s first and only successful rocket-powered warplane, Germany’s Messerschmidt Me 163, is used against enemy bombers for the first time.
 
August 16: The first flight of the Junkers Ju 287 takes place in Germany. The forward-swept winged, four-engined aircraft was a testbed for jet bomber technology, built mostly of parts salvaged from other aircraft. Before the second aircraft is completed, the Junkers factory is overrun by the Red Army. The Soviets would take the prototypes back to Russia for further development and create a derivative known as the OKB-1 EF 140, but the design is abandoned soon after.
 
(Private) Hawker Sea Fury T 20 (NX51SF) at  Punta Gorda - Charlotte County, United States
September 1: First flight of the Hawker Sea Fury. Read more...
 
September 8: The first German V-2 rockets explode in London and Antwerp.
 
September 9: The sole completed McDonnell XP-67 Bat prototype is destroyed by an engine fire, prompting USAAF leaders to declare the aircraft redundant and cancel the program a week later.
 
September 14: The 1st successful flight into the eye of a hurricane is made by a three-man American crew flying a Douglas A-20 Havoc. They demonstrate that valuable scientific information can be obtained in this manner, which is still done today.
 
October 25: Japan’s first kamikaze mission sinks the carrier USS St. Lo.
 
October 25: Japan’s first kamikaze mission sinks the carrier USS St. Lo.
 
November 1: The International Civil Aviation Conference opens in Chicago.
 
November 16: Dueren Germany is completely destroyed by Allied bombers.
 
December 7: Signing of the Convention on International Civil Aviation in Chicago, Illinois.
 
December 24: The people of the Philippines receive a surprise when airplanes of 43rd Bombing Group flew over to drop a million Christmas cards; each one contains the words: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 1944 – General Douglas MacArthur.”
 
 
 

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