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Nicknamed the Timber Terror, the Loping Lumberyard, the Wooden Wonder: the de Havilland Mosquito, entered the war relatively late, a year to the day after the Battle of Britain ended, but it debuted with technology and aerodynamics far more advanced than the Spitfire’s. To preserve scarce metal reserves and for speed of production, the plane was made from pieces of wood, pressed and glued together in moulds. Exactly 7,781 were eventually built, the last one on November 15, 1950. 6,710 of them were delivered during WWII. Certainly no airplane flew as many different kinds of missions and performed them as well as the Mosquito, one of the world’s first successful multirole combat aircraft. The Mosquito was an unarmed bomber with a crew of two, able to carry a bigger bombload farther than a B-17. It was also a fighter-bomber and a night fighter with an eight-gun nose battery. It was the most productive photoreconnaissance aircraft of the war. A high-speed courier. A weather-recon airplane. A carrier-qualified torpedo bomber (though too late to see combat). A pathfinder and target-marker for heavy bombers. The war’s most effective extreme-low-altitude intruder. A multiengine trainer and a high-speed target tug. A decoy frequently used to convince the Luftwaffe that three or four spoof-raid Mosquitos dropping chaff were a bomber stream of Lancasters.
Many other airplanes did many of these missions, but none did them all. Mosquitos were built in 33 different variants during WWII and seven that were introduced after the war, at a time when everything else with a propeller was being shunted off to reserve and training units. Herman Goering, Germany’s wartime aviation minister, said the aircraft turned him “green and yellow with envy”.