Whether it was the Tomahawk, Warhawk, or Kittyhawk, the Curtiss P-40, in all its many variations, was a successful and versatile fighter aircraft during the first half of World War II. The shark-mouthed Tomahawks that General Claire Chennault led against the Japanese remain among the most popular fighter aircraft of the war. P-40s were first-line Army Air Corps fighters at the start of the war but they soon gave way to more advanced designs such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the Lockheed P-38 Lightening. The P-40 is not ranked among the best overall fighters of the war but it was a rugged, effective design available in large numbers early in the war when America and her allies urgently required them. The P-40 remained in production from 1939 to the end of 1944 and a total of 13,737 were built.
During the war, P-40's were supplied through the Lend-Lease program to England, China, Russia, and numerous other allies. These pursuit aircraft were found in all theatres of the war from Alaska to North Africa, throughout the Pacific, and in many parts of Europe. The shark teeth painted on the lower engine cowl was an idea borrowed from the British P-40 airplanes operating in North Africa and this scheme was later adopted by the American Volunteer Group in China.