While WWII saw technological developments that included radar, ballistic missiles, jet aircraft and the atomic bomb, it also marked the rise of the Helicopter.  Both the Axis and Allied powers didn’t miss the opportunity to use them to strengthen their military prowess. World War II helicopters were used for troop transport, casualty evacuation, airborne command posts, search and/or rescue operations, and attacking ground targets. Different models and designs of helicopters during World War II were used, serving purposes for which they were intended, aiming only at one thing– to win the war.

The early helicopters used gas-powered reciprocating engines to power their rotors.  These engines tended to have a low power to weight ratio and as a result, they didn’t have the lift capability to carry much more than the pilot and fuel.

Nevertheless, their performance even on a limited scale in the Second World War, indicated that helicopters would become very important for militaries around the world, with the US becoming the most extensive employer of these aircraft for military and civilian applications

Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri (Hummingbird)

First on the list is a helicopter of German origin, specifically by Anton Flettner, hence the name of a series of helicopter models produced after his name.

The German helicopter Fletter Fl. 282 "Hummingbird" (Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri) at the US Air Force Base Freeman Field. Flettner Fl.
The German helicopter Fletter Fl. 282 “Hummingbird” (Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri) at the US Air Force Base Freeman Field. Flettner Fl. (tormentor4555, PDM-owner, via Wikimedia Commons)

Meet the Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri (“Hummingbird“) — a single-seat open cockpit intermeshing rotor helicopter which eliminated the need for a tail rotor. The German Navy requested a naval version in 1940, and the deliveries of the Fl 282 started in 1942. Two of these prototypes were used in service just a year after. The main roles of these German helicopters were Anti-Submarine Warfare and Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance. They were able to act as spotters that could direct German destroyers to a submerged allied submarine.

Furthermore, it was also used to survey ground targets or target areas to assess threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement. Compared to other German helicopters, the Fl 282 was more highly developed and could fly more hours. Extensive tests and measurements were made on all the flight aspects.

After the war, Soviet helicopters designs tended to favor the intermeshing rotors and even counter-rotating rotors in powering their own helicopters while the US and NATO countries tended to prefer the tail rotor designs of Igor Sikorsky.

Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache (Dragon)

Another prominent World War II helicopter is the Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache (Dragon). Only small numbers of this twin-rotor helicopter entered the service during World War II, and it was in 1940 that the Fa 223 made its first untethered flight. It could carry a variety of different payloads. It carried an observer’s seat, a FuG 17 radio, and an MG 16 machine gun mounted to its nose. It could also carry a rescue cradle, electric motor, and winch if needed. It also carried a hand camera mounted to its cockpit floor, the rescue equipment, and a jettison-able 300-liter fuel tank to extend its range for reconnaissance flights. This was actually the first medium-lift helicopter design in the world. Had the Germans put more thought into this concept they may have extended the fuselage to accommodate 10 to 20 soldiers and invented the concept of heliborne aerial assault.