Lockheed Martin’s D-Day80 legacy in the UK

Lockheed Martin’s D-Day80 legacy in the UK

June 03, 2024

“OK, we’ll go.” That simple order, given on 5 June by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, from Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) at Southwick House near Portsmouth signalled that the Allied invasion of Occupied France would begin later that evening.

Legacy Lockheed Martin companies were closely linked with providing the aircraft needed for the Britain’s war efforts from 1938, including establishing manufacturing and support sites around the UK from early in the war.

In 1938, our legacy company Lockheed, then a small but innovative aircraft maker in Burbank, California, was honoured to be approached by the British Purchasing Commission to build the Hudson maritime reconnaissance and patrol bomber for the RAF.

Working in partnership with the RAF, Lockheed produced the first prototype Hudson in just 24 hours and by 1939 had delivered 250 Hudsons to Britain – the largest international airplane contract received by an American company to date and arguably the start of Lockheed Martin as it exists today.

This partnership went beyond simply making the Hudson. It saw Lockheed set up manufacturing and maintenance facilities all over the UK, from Liverpool to Leamington Spa, from Renfrew to Belfast in support of the war effort.

It also saw iconic aircraft from numerous legacy Lockheed Martin companies supplied to and flown by the RAF, and ultimately by other allies, throughout that war and in the run up to and during D-Day.

Specifically for D-Day, our legacy companies supplied aircraft that delivered reconnaissance and air superiority to the Allied troops.

Lockheed F-5B reconnaissance planes captured 90 percent of aerial reconnaissance film over Europe in the lead up to D-Day and during the invasion itself. Its good rate of climb, stability, great speed and handling at high altitudes made it a great photo reconnaissance aircraft. 

F-5 recon
A Lockheed F-5B reconnaissance aircraft.
Crews flying Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers (the RAF flew 526 Marauder Mk. I, II, and IIIs) pounded targets just behind the Normandy beaches to destroy rail lines and road intersections to prevent enemy reinforcements from reaching the fight.
A Martin B-26 Marauder in D-Day invasion colours over Normandy.

Consolidated B-24 Liberators also played key roles for the RAF and U.S. Air Force before, during and after D-Day. 2,000 Liberators flew for the RAF during the war, and it was one of Coastal Command’s most effective weapons against enemy submarines. For example, in March 1945, RAF Liberator crews sank seven U-Boats in just six days.  

On June 5, 1944, Liberators pounded targets away from Normandy in an attempt to make the enemy forces think the invasion would come further north. Once the invasion started on June 6, Liberators ran several bombing raids inland from the D-Day beaches to clear the way for arriving troops.

But the Liberator did much more for the war. A Liberator II, nicknamed Commando, was modified and served as Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s private aircraft, and at the end of the war, British prisoners of war from around the world were flown home primarily aboard Liberators.

'Commando', Sir Winston Churchill's Consolidated Liberator II. 
Liberator II
British wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill disembarks 'Commando', his personal Consolidated Liberator II.
Perhaps the most famous Lockheed aircraft of this period of the war was the P-38 Lightning, precursor to today’s F-35 Lighting II as currently flown by the UK, U.S. and 16 other nations.
Today's F-35 Lightning II and its spiritual predecessor, the P-38 Lightning.
Several squadrons of P-38s, bearing the hastily hand-painted black and white D-Day invasion stripes, supported the assault on the Normandy beaches. 
A formation of Lockheed P-38s flying over Normandy.
A Lockheed P-38 Lightning in D-Day invasion colours.
 A Lockheed P-38 Lightning in D-Day invasion colours.
One was also used by Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, the commander of the U.S. Eighth Air Force, who spent two hours flying one over the Normandy Beaches to see for himself how the assault was going, reporting back to Eisenhower before his own intelligence team.
F-5B recon
Photograph of the ongoing Normandy landings taken from a Lockheed F-5B reconnaissance aircraft.


When launched, the twin-boomed P-38 was the most innovative plane of its day, combining speed with unheard-of advances: two supercharged engines and a potent mix of four 50-caliber machine guns and a 20-mm cannon concentrated in the aircraft’s nose.

The P-38 could climb to 3,300 feet in a single minute and reaching 400 mph, 100 mph faster than any other fighter in the world.

In this same spirit, Lockheed Martin continues its legacy of innovation to deliver 21st Century Security deterrence capabilities in support of the UK and its allies.