America's First Fighter Jet (Built to Fight Hitler) Was Sent to North Korea. It Ended Badly.
The other was the legendary T-33 two-seat trainer jet. More than 6,500 were built—and another 650 license-built in Canada—and these served the Air Forces of more than forty countries ranging as widely as Burma, France and Yugoslavia. Cuban T-33s even combated CIA-sponsored anti-Castro forces during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, shooting down three B-26 bombers and sinking several ships.
In the second half of the twentieth century, thousands of fighter pilots across the world received their jet training in T-33s. Only in 2017 did Bolivia retire the last T-33s in military service, ending the type’s operational career.
Hastily designed to counter Nazis superfighters in the early 1940s, America’s first operational fighter jet would have an unexpected and long-lasting legacy.
Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
This first appeared in January.