World War II, the bloodiest conflict in history, showcased humanity’s worst and inspired remarkable ingenuity. American fighter planes lagged behind those of Germany and Japan, but after Americans joined the war, the tide turned dramatically, with American aircraft achieving air superiority by the war’s end. This shift proved instrumental in securing Allied victory.

It makes you wonder what the best American Fighter Planes are that secured the most kills in the war. This list showcases just that. These planes are testaments to the ingenuity and progress born out of necessity during a time of turmoil.

The Criteria for the Best Fighter Planes

To determine “the best” planes of World War II or any war, we must consider multiple factors.

But, in this case, this list does not evaluate the overall “best” planes based on multiple factors: tactical and strategic success, kill-to-loss ratio, or anything else. This is simply a list based on only one category: total air-to-air victories.

Here are the top five fighter planes flown by the U.S. Armed Forces of World War II, ranked by the most kills. These numbers are for those planes flown by American pilots.

1. North American P-51 Mustang

P-51 Mustangs
A pair of P-51 Mustangs (Image source: Wikimedia Common)

The US used a lot of fighter planes in WW2, but nothing was as famous and deadly as the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang. Often and usually considered the best fighter of the war, the P-51 was a game-changer for Allied forces. Employed as a long-range bomber escort, the P-51 was unmatched by German planes, especially at high altitudes.

Once the P-51 arrived, the American and Allied air forces achieved air superiority, which made ground superiority more achievable. In addition, the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO)—the Allied strategic bombing campaign—was initially not as successful as later in the war, with the Mustang escorts.

The P-51 is a truly gorgeous machine and embodies the beautiful design of this “golden age” of aviation. But what makes it good is that it boasted six .50 caliber machine guns on the wings, and with top speeds of 437 mph, it was one of the absolute fastest planes of the war.