World War II
High Flying Heroes - Fighter Planes and Pilots of WWII

High Flying Heroes - Fighter Planes and Pilots of WWII
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.85

     challenging words:    carrier-based, fuh-German, hermann, man-machine, pummel, trounce, unfulfilled, war-trained, workhorse, cockpit, downed, combat, tactics, grueling, best, caliber
     content words:    Col C., Triple Ace, World War II, War II, Air Force, Spanish Civil War, Hermann Goring, British Royal Air Force, Hawker Hurricane, P-51 Mustang

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High Flying Heroes - Fighter Planes and Pilots of WWII
By Toni Lee Robinson

1     "Staying alive was no simple thing in the skies over Europe in WWII. A lot of men couldn't. It was a bad thing to dwell on if you were a fighter pilot, and so we told ourselves we were dead men and lived for the moment with no thought of the future at all. It wasn't too difficult. Lots of us had no future and everyone knew it." (Col C. E. "Bud" Anderson, from his book "To Fly and Fight: Memoirs of a Triple Ace")
2     Fighter pilots and their planes were the dashing, romantic heroes of World War II. The man-machine teams were artists of aerial combat. Fighter battles were called "dogfights." They were life-and-death contests of personal skill and daring. High in the air, planes whirled and danced, each trying to shoot down the other, and at the same time evade fire. When a fighter downed an enemy, the pilot was credited with a victory. A pilot with five confirmed victories was called an ace.
3     Before the beginning of World War II, the dreaded Luftwaffe (LOOFT vaw fuh—German Air Force) had become the most powerful air force in the world. Its pilots had seen action in the Spanish Civil War. They were war-trained. Their planes, Stuka (STOOK uh) dive bombers and Messerschmitt 109 fighters, had been developed through several years of use.
4     The Me 109 was an elegant vessel. Powered by a supercharged Daimler-Benz engine, it could climb 3,000 ft. per minute. It was armed with two 7.9mm fuselage guns and two .20mm cannons on the wings. Hitler had used flocks of these deadly planes to pummel his neighbors into surrender. Europe's small air forces had proved no match for the brutal Luftwaffe.
5     The shadow of war spread. In 1940, Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to the skies over Britain. Hermann Goring (GAIR ing), Luftwaffe commander, boasted that his forces would trounce the British Royal Air Force in four days. In mid-August, the Luftwaffe pounced. What followed was the most intense, prolonged air battle of the entire war.

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