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2 September 1944

Lt. (j.g.) George H.W. Bush, USNR, VT-51, in cockpit of TBM-1C Avenger Bu.No. 46214, USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), 1944. (U.S.Navy)

2 September 1944: Lieutenant (Junior Grade) George Herbert Walker Bush, United States Naval Reserve, led a flight of four TBF/TBM Avenger torpedo bombers of Torpedo Squadron 51 (VT-51), from the Independence-class light aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), against a radio transmission station on the island of Chichi-Jima.

The Avenger had a crew of three. Along with Lt (j.g.) Bush were Lt. (j.g.) William G. White, USNR, gunner, and radio operator ARM 2/c John Lawson Delaney, USNR.

Undated photo of future United States President George H.W. Bush as a United States Navy pilot seated in the cockpit of an Avenger. (U.S. Navy)

Each airplane was armed with four 500-pound¹ general purpose bombs. The flight was joined by eight Curtiss-Wright SB2C Helldiver dive bombers of VB-20, escorted by twelve Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat fighters of VF-20, from USS Enterprise (CV-6).

Chichi-Jima is the largest island in the Ogasawara Archipelago of the Bonin Islands, approximately 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Iwo Jima and 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Tokyo, Japan. The United States Hydrographic Survey described the island in 1920 as “very irregular in shape,” approximately 4¼ miles (7.2 kilometers) long and 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) wide. The area of the island is presently given as 23.45 square kilometers (9.05 square miles). Its highest point is 326 meters (1,070 feet) above Sea level. The island has a small sea port where midget submarines were based beginning in August 1944. Chichi-Jima was heavily garrisoned with 20,656 Imperial Japanese Army and Navy personnel, and 2,285 civilian workers.²

A Curtiss-Wright SB2C Helldiver over Chichi Jima. (U.S. Navy)

Lieutenant Bush’s flight was scheduled for a time over target of 0825–0830. They encountered heavy antiaircraft fire and Bush’s Avenger was hit. With the torpedo bomber on fire, Bush continued the attack and later reported good results. Unable to return to the aircraft carrier, he flew away from the island to limit the risk of capture of the crew by the enemy when they bailed out.

Bush and one other crewman (which one is not known) bailed out. While Bush parachuted safely, the second crewman’s parachute never opened. The third crewman went down with the airplane. Both Lieutenant White and Radioman Delaney were killed.

The Gato-class fleet submarine USS Finback (SS-230) was stationed near the island on lifeguard duty during the attack. At 0933, Finback was notified of an aircraft down nine miles northeast of Minami-Jima.  Escorted by two F6F fighters, the submarine headed for the location. At 1156, Finback picked up Lt. Bush, floating in his life raft. A search for White and Delaney was unsuccessful. Their bodies were not recovered.

Lt. (j.g.) George H. W. Bush, USNR, in inflatable raft, is rescued by the crew of USS Finback (SS-230), 2 September 1944. (U.S. Navy)

(Later that same day, Finback, while submerged, towed a second pilot and his life raft away from Magane-Iwa, as he held on to the sub’s periscope.)

Lieutenant Bush and the other rescued pilots remained aboard for the remainder of Finback‘s war patrol (her tenth), and were then returned to Pearl Harbor. In November he rejoined San Jacinto for operations in the Philippines.

Gato-class fleet submarine USS Finback (SS-230) off New London, Connecticut, 7 March 1949. (U.S. Navy)

George Herbert Walker Bush was born at Milton, Massachusetts, 12 June 1924, the son of Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. He attended high school at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

One day after his 18th birthday, 13 June 1942, Bush enlisted as a seaman, 2nd class, in the United States Naval Reserve. He was appointed an aviation cadet and underwent preflight training at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He was honorably discharged 8 June, and commissioned as an ensign, United States Naval Reserve, 9 June 1943. At the age of 19 years, 2 days, he became the youngest Naval Aviator in history. (His age record was broken the following month by Ensign Charles Stanley Downey, who was commissioned 16 July 1943 at the age of 18 years, 11 months, 14 days.)

Aviation Cadet George H. W. Bush, USNR, 1942. (U.S. Navy)

Ensign Bush continued flight training at NAS Pensacola, Florida, and then the Carrier Qualification Training Unit, NAS Glenville, Illinois. After training with the Atlantic Fleet, Ensign Bush was assigned to Torpedo Squadron Fifty-One (VT-51), in September 1943. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade), 1 August 1944.

After leaving San Jacinto, Bush was assigned to NAS Norfolk, Virginia, from December 1944 to February 1945. He then joined Torpedo Squadron Ninety-Seven (VT-97) and then VT-153.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Bush was released from active duty on 18 September 1945, retaining his commission. He was promoted to lieutenant 16 November 1948. On 24 October 1955, Lieutenant Bush resigned from the U.S. Navy.

During World War II, George H. W. Bush flew 58 combat missions. He flew a total of 1,221 hours and made 126 carrier landings. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with two gold stars (three awards), and the Presidential Unit Citation.

He would later become the forty-first President of the United States of America.

Grumman TBF or General Motors TBM Avengers over Wake Island, 1943. (U.S. Navy)

The airplane flown by Lt. (j.g.) Bush on 2 September 1944 was a General Motors TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bomber, Bu. No. 46214. This was a licensed variant of the Grumman TBF-1C Avenger, built by the General Motors Corporation Eastern Aircraft Division at Linden, New Jersey.

The Avenger was designed by Robert Leicester Hall, Chief Engineer and Test Pilot for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, New York. The prototype XTBF-1 made its first flight 1 August 1941. It was a large single-engine aircraft, operated by a crew of three (pilot, radio operator and ball turret gunner). It was equipped with folding wings for storage on aircraft carriers. Production of the torpedo bomber began with the opening of a new manufacturing plant, Sunday, 7 December 1941. The first production Avenger was delivered to the U.S. Navy in January 1942.

The TBF-1 and TBM-1 were 40 feet, 11 inches (12.471 meters) long, with a wingspan of 54 feet, 2 inches (16.510 meters) and overall height of 16 feet, 5 inches (5.004 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 10,545 pounds (478 kilograms), and its maximum gross eight was 17,895 pounds (8,117 kilograms). The Avenger was the largest single-engine aircraft of World War II.

LCDR Albert B. Cahn, USN, gives the take-of signal to a General Motors TBM-1C Avenger of Torpedo Squadron 51 (VT-51) aboard the light aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), during exercises on 16 May 1944. (U.S. Navy)

The Avenger was powered by one of several variants of the Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 14 (R-2600): GR2600B698 (R-2600-8 and -8A); GR2600B676 (R-2600-10); and 776C14B31. The R-2600 was series of air-cooled, supercharged, 2,603.737-cubic-inch-displacement (42.688 liter), two-row 14-cylinder radial engines. The engines used in the Avengers all had a compression ratio of 6.9:1, supercharger ratios of 7.06:1 and 10.06:1, and propeller gear reduction ratio of 0.5625:1.

The R-2600-8, -8A and -10 had Normal Power ratings of 1,500 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for takeoff. The R-2600-20 was rated at 1,600 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 1,900 horsepower at 2,800 horsepower, respectively.

Dimensions and weights varied. The R-2600-8 and -8A were 64.91 inches (1.649 meters) long. The -10 was 74.91 inches (1.903 meters) long, and the length of the -20 was 66.08 inches (1.678 meter). The R-2600-8 and 8A and -10 were 54.26 inches (1.378 meters) in diameter. The -20 was 54.08 inches (1.374 meters). The -8 and -8A both weighed 1,995 pounds (905 kilograms). The -10 weighed 2,115 pounds (959 kilograms) and the -20 weighed 2,045 pounds (928 kilograms).

The engines drove a three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller.

The TBF/TBM had a cruise speed of 147 miles per hour (237 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 276 miles per hour (444 kilometers per hour) at 16,500 feet (5,029 meters). The service ceiling was 30,100 feet (9,174 meters). Its maximum range was 1,010 miles (1,625 kilometers).

The Avenger was armed with one air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine gun mounted in each wing, firing forward. Another .50-caliber machine gun was installed in an electrically-operated dorsal ball turret. In the ventral position was a Browning M2 .30-caliber aircraft machine gun in a flexible mounting.

The primary weapon of the Avenger was carried in an enclosed weapons bay. It could be armed with one Mk. 13 aerial torpedo, ³ or up to 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of bombs.

A Grumman TBF-1 Avenger 4-T-2 of Torpedo Squadron Four (VT-4) drops a Mk. 13 aerial torpedo, circa 1942. Following the destruction of Torpedo Eight at the Battle of Midway, aerial torpedo attacks were rarely used by the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy)

The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation produced TBF Avengers from Early 1942 until 1943, when production was taken over by the General Motors Corporation Eastern Aircraft Division. Grumman produced 2,290 TBFs, while Eastern built 9,836 TBMs.

Lieutenant Bush’s aircraft carrier, USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), was an Independence-class light carrier. It had been started by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation as a Cleveland-class light cruiser, USS Newark (CL-100), but was converted during construction. Construction took 11 months and the ship was launched 26 September 1943. It was commissioned 15 November 1943.

The carrier was 622.5 feet (189.7 meters) long, with a beam of 71.5 feet (21.8 meters) and draft of 26 feet (7.9 meters). It had a full load displacement of 15,100 long tons (16,912 short tons, or 15,342 metric tons). The ship was powered by steam turbines producing 100,000 horsepower and driving four shafts. San Jacinto was capable of a maximum 31.6 knots (36.4 miles per hour, or 58.5 kilometers per hour).

San Jacinto had a complement of 1,549 men, and carried 45 airplanes. For defense, it was armed with 28 Bofors 40 millimeter anti-aircraft guns and 40 Oerlikon 20 millimeter autocannon.

San Jacinto was decommissioned 1 March 1947 and was later scrapped.

USS Independence (CVL-30), late 1943. (U.S. Navy)

On 7 October 2006, the tenth and final Nimitz-class supercarrier was christened USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) in honor of President Bush’s service to his country.

USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77). (U.S. Navy)

¹ The most common U.S. 500-pound general purpose bomb of World War II was the AN-M64. Nominally a 500-pound (227 kilogram) bomb, the munition actually weighed from 516.3 to 535.4 pounds (234.2 to 242.9 kilograms), depending on the explosive used. It contained 266 pounds (120.7 kilograms) of TNT, or 258.5 pounds (117.3 kilograms) of a 50/50 TNT and Amatol mixture. For easy identification, these were marked with a single 1-inch (2.54 centimeter) wide yellow band painted at the nose and tail. Composition B bombs, which were marked with two yellow identification bands, contained 272.7 pounds (123.7 kilograms) of explosive, while the heaviest was filled with 278.3 pounds (126.2 kilograms) of Tritonal. This variant was marked with three yellow bands. The bomb, without fins or fuses, was 36 inches (0.914 meters) long. The overall length was 59.16 inches (1.503 meters), including nose and tail fuses. The maximum diameter was 10.9 inches (0.277 meters).

² Personnel numbers as of 3 September 1945.

³ The U.S. Navy Torpedo, Mark 13, was a gyroscopically-steered single-speed anti-ship torpedo designed to be dropped from aircraft. It was 13 feet, 8.55 inches (4.180 meters) long, 1 foot, 10.42 inches (0.570 meters) in diameter and weighed 1,949 pounds (884 kilograms) ± 20 pounds (9 kilograms). The warhead contained a 400 pound (181 kilogram) TNT explosive charge.  The Mk. 13 was driven by a two-stage alcohol-fueled geared steam turbine, turning 10,983 r.p.m., with the coaxial counter-rotating propellers turning 1,150 r.p.m. It was capable of running at 33.5 knots (38.6 miles per hour, or 62.0 kilometers per hour), with a range of 6,300 yards (5.8 kilometers). This same type torpedo was used by the U.S. Navy’s PT boats late in the war.

Thanks to regular TDiA reader Joolz Adderly for suggesting this topic.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 September 1937: Grumman F4F Wildcat

Grumman XF4F-2, Bu. No. 0383, in flight. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation via World War Photos)

2 September 1937: First flight, Grumman XF4F-2 Bu. No.¹ 0383, a prototype fighter for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The airplane was designed by Grumman’s Chief Engineer, Robert Leicester Hall.

Grumman XF4F-2 Bu. No. 0383. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation via World War Photos)

The prototype was damaged when it nosed over during a forced landing, 11 April 1938. The pilot, Lieutenant Gurney, was not injured. 0383 was rebuilt as an XF4F-3. The Navy ordered the fighter into production as the F4F-3 Wildcat. XF4F-3 0383 was destroyed in an accident, 16 December 1940. The pilot was killed.

Grumman XF4F-2 Bu. No. 0383 dead-stick landing accident near Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, 11 April 1938. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat was a single-engine, single-place, mid-wing monoplane fighter designed for operation from aircraft carriers. F4F-4 and later variants had folding wings for a smaller “foot print” while stored aboard.

Grumman XF4F-2. (The hoisting chains are air-brushed out.) (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Grumman XF4F-3 Wildcat, Bu. No. 0383, circa April 1939. The vertical fin is taller and squared-off. (United States Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command NH 97481)

The F4F-3 Wildcat was 28 feet, 10½ inches (8.801 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.582 meters). The height over the propeller with the airplane in 3-point attitude was 11 feet, 9 inches (3.581 meters). The wings had a total area of 260 square feet (24.16 square meters). They had 0° incidence and no leading edge sweep. Thewings had 5° dihedral. The F4F-3 had an empty weight of 5,293 pounds (2,401 kilograms) and gross weight of 7,432 pounds (3,371 kilograms) with 147 gallons (556 liters) of gasoline.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

The F4F-3 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp SSC7-G (R-1830-86) two-row, 14-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-86 had a normal power rating of 1,100 at 2,550 r.p.m., from Sea Level to 3,300 feet (1,006 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 19,000 feet (5,791 meters). It was rated at 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine turned a three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller with a diameter of 9 feet, 9 inches (2.972 meters) through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-86 was 4 feet, 0.19 inches (1.224 meters) in diameter, 5 feet, 7.44 inches (1.713 meters) long, and weighed 1,560 pounds (708 kilograms).

Grumman XF4F-3 Wildcat Bu. No. 0383. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

The F4F-3 had a maximum speed of 278 miles per hour (447 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 330 miles per hour (531 kilometers per hour at 19,000 feet (5,791 meters). It could climn to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 7.6 minutes. The service ceiling was 30,500 feet (9,296 meters) and its maximum range was 1,280 miles (2,060 kilometers).

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, Bu. No. 1844 at Bethpage, New York, awaiting delivery to the U.S. Navy. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

The F4F-3 Wildcat was armed with four Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Later variants would have six guns.

The F4F Wildcat was produced by Grumman and the General Motors Corporation Eastern Aircraft Division as the FM-1. Grumman shifted to production of teh F6F Hellcat in early 1943. GM continued to build Wildcats until the end of the War. A total of 7,885 were built.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat Bu. No. 1844. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat Bu. No. 1844. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, Bu. No. 1844. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat.(Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat Bu. No. 1845, Summer 1940. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, circa 1942. (Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum NASM 2009-9043)
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in three-color camouflage (LIFE Magazine)
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat (LIFE Magazine)
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat Bu. No. 2638, Bethpage, L.I., N.Y. This airplane was assigned to NACA Langley from 4 April–22 August 1941. Chief Engineer Robert Leicester Hall, front, kneeling, second from left (dark pullover sweater with light, open collar). Test pilot Corky Meyer in cockpit). (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Corky Meyer demonstrates deployment of life raft, 19 November 1942. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

¹ “Bu. No.” is the abbreviation for the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics serial number assigned to each aircraft.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 August 1942

Captain Marion E. Carl, USMC, with a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat. (U.S. Navy)

24 August 1942: Flying a Grumman F4F Wildcat, Lieutenant Marion Eugene Carl, United States Marine Corps, a 27-year-old fighter pilot assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 223 (VMF-223) based at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal Island, shot down four enemy airplanes in one day. They were a Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” fighter, a Mitsubishi G4M1 “Betty” medium bomber and two Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” torpedo bombers. Carl had previously shot down an A6M during the Battle of Midway, less than three months earlier. He now had five aerial combat victories, making him the Marine Corps’ first ace.

Captain Carl was awarded the Navy Cross (his second) for his actions in the Solomon Islands from 24 August to 9 September 1942.

Marion Carl’s fighter was a Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, designed by Robert Leicester Hall as a carrier-based fighter for the United States Navy. The F4F-4 was a single-place, single-engine, mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear.

Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat. (U.S. Navy)

The F4F-4 was 29 feet, 9-3/8 inches (9.077 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.582 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 1-3/8 inches (3.693 meters). Unlike the preceding F4F-3, the F4F-4 had folding wings for storage aboard aircraft carriers. With the wings folded, the airplane was 14 feet, 4 inches (4.369 meters) wide. Its empty weight was 5,895 pounds (2,674 kilograms), and the gross weight was 7,975 pounds (3,617 kilograms).

The F4F-4 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp SSC7-G (R-1830-86) two-row, 14-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-86 had a normal power rating of 1,100 at 2,550 r.p.m., from Sea Level to 3,300 feet (1,006 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 19,000 feet (5,791 meters). It was rated at 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine turned a three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller with a diameter of 9 feet, 9 inches (2.972 meters) through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-86 was 4 feet, 0.19 inches (1.224 meters) in diameter, 5 feet, 7.44 inches (1.713 meters) long, and weighed 1,560 pounds (708 kilograms).

The F4F-4 had a maximum speed of 284 miles per hour (457 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 320 miles per hour (515 kilometers per hour) at 18,800 feet (5,730 meters). Its service ceiling was 34,000 feet (10,363 meters).

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in three-color camouflage

While the F4F-3 Wildcat was armed with four air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns; the F4F-4 had six. It carried 1,400 rounds of ammunition.

The prototype XF4F-1 made its first flight in 1935. It was substantially improved as the XF4F-2. The first production F4F-3 Wildcat was built in February 1940. The airplane remained in production through World War II, with 7,860 built by Grumman and General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division (FM-1 Wildcat).

According to the National Naval Aviation Museum, F4F Wildcats held a 9:1 ratio of victories over Japanese aircraft, with 1,006 enemy airplanes destroyed in combat.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat at Henderson Field
A Grumman F4F Wildcat at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. There are 19 Japanese flags painted on the fuselage, suggesting that this is Major John L. Smith’s fighter. (U.S. Navy)

Marion Eugene Carl was born at Hubbard, Oregon, 1 November 1915. He was the second of four children of Herman Lee Carl, a dairy farmer, and Ellen Lavine Ellingsen Carl.

Carl graduated from Oregon State College at Corvallis, Oregon, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve, 31 May 1938. Lieutenant Carl soon resigned this commission to accept an appointment as an Aviation Cadet, United States Navy. He enlisted as a private, first class, Volunteer Marine Corps Reserve, 17 July 1938, and was designated a student Enlisted Naval Aviation Pilot assigned to the Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Squantum, Massachusetts. He entered flight school as an Aviation Cadet at Naval Air Station Pensacola near Pensacola, Florida, 26 July 1938.

Lieutenant Marion E. Carl, USMC, Naval Aviator. (U.S. Navy)

After completing flight training, Carl was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps Reserve, 20 October 1939. He was then assigned to Marine Fighting Squadron One (VMF-1) at Brown Field, Quantico, Virginia.

In 1940, Lieutenant Carl returned to NAS Pensacola as a flight instructor. On 25 February 1941, Second Lieutenant Carl, U.S.M.C.R., was appointed a Second Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps.

Lieutenant Carl was transferred to VMF-221 at San Diego, California, as a fighter pilot. The unit was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) for transportation to Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. On 25 December 1941, VMF-221 was deployed to Midway Atoll.

Marion Carl and his squadron fought during the Battle of Midway. Flying a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, Bu. No. 1864,¹ on 4 June 1942, he shot down his first enemy airplane, a Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, and damaged two others. Lieutenant Carl was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in that decisive battle.

Marion Carl was next assigned to VMF-223 under the command of Captain John L. Smith. The Marine fighter squadron was the first air unit to arrive at Henderson Field on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomons, 20 August 1942. This was a critical airfield, originally built by the Japanese military but occupied by Allied forces. On 24 August, Lieutenant Carl became the Marine Corps’ first “ace.”

Carl was shot down in 9 September 1942 and was missing for five days. He was helped by islanders who eventually returned him to his base.

The squadron departed Guadalcanal 16 October 1942, and sailed to San Francisco, California. VMF-223 was credited with destroying 110½ enemy aircraft. Carl was credited with 16.

Lieutenant Carl married Miss Edna T. Kirvin at New York City, New York, 7 January 1943.

On 26 January, he took command of VMF-223. On 8 May 1943, Lieutenant Carl was promoted to the temporary rank of captain. The squadron was re-equipped with the new Vought-Sikorsky F4U-1 Corsair. Training in the new fighter took place at MCAS El Toro, in southern California.

In August, the squadron returned to combat in the Solomons. By the end of 1943, Major Carl’s total of enemy aircraft destroyed was 18½ with 3 damaged, making him the seventh highest-scoring Marine fighter pilot of World War II.

Major Marion E. Carl, USMC, commanding VMF-223 in 1943. The aircraft is a Vought F4U Corsair in which Carl shot down two enemy aircraft in December 1943. (U.S. Navy)

After the War Marion Carl was assigned as a test pilot at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, testing jet aircraft on aircraft carriers. He was also the first Marine Corps pilot to fly a helicopter. Carl commanded the Marine’s first jet squadron, VMF-122, which flew the McDonnell FH-1 Phantom. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel 7 August 1947.

In May 1955, Colonel Carl commanded Marine Photo Reconnaissance Squadron One (VMJ-1). The squadron flew the McDonnell FH-2 Banshee from air bases on the island of Formosa (Taiwan) on secret missions over the People’s Republic of China.

At Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) Marion Carl tested the Douglas D-558-I Skystreak and D-558-II Skyrocket, setting world records for speed and altitude. He was promoted to colonel, 1 October 1956.

Major Marion E. Carl, USMC, and Commander Turner F. Caldwell, Jr., USN, stand with the record-setting Douglas D-558-I Skystreak, Bu. No. 37970, on Muroc Dry Lake. (U.S. Navy)

By 1962 Colonel Carl was Director of Marine Corps Aviation. He was promoted to brigadier general, 1 June 1964. He commanded the First Marine Brigade during the Vietnam War and flew combat missions in jet fighters and helicopter gun ships.

Major General Marion E. Carl, United States Marine Corps.

Carl was promoted to major general in August 1967, with his date of rank retroactive to 1 June 1964. Carl commanded the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, then served as Inspector General of the Marine Corps from 1970 until 1973. When he retired in 1973, General Carl had accumulated more that 13,000 flight hours.

During his military career, Major General Carl was awarded the Navy Cross with two gold stars (three awards); The Legion of Merit with valor device and three gold stars (four awards); The Distinguished Flying Cross with four gold stars (five awards); and the Air Medal with two gold and two silver stars (twelve awards).

Tragically, General Carl was murdered in Roseburg, Oregon, 28 June 1998, as he defended his wife, Edna, during a home-invasion robbery. Mrs. Carl was wounded, but survived.

Major General Marion E. Carl, United States Marine Corps, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

A Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 "Zero" fighter takes off from an aircraft carrier of teh Imperial Japanese Navy.
A Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 Model 21 “Zero” fighter takes off from an aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Marion Carl shot down one of these and damaged two others during the Battle of Midway, 4 June 1942. (Imperial Japanese Navy)
Mitsubisshi A6M3 Model 22 "Zeke" in the Solomon Islands, 1943. (Imperial Japanese Navy)
Mitsubishi A6M3 Type 0 Model 22 “Zeke” in the Solomon Islands, 1943. (This fighter is flown by Petty Officer 1st Class Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, one of the most successful fighter pilots of World War II.)  (Imperial Japanese Navy) 
A Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" takes off from Rabaul, 1942.
A Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 Model 11 “Betty” takes off from Rabaul, 1942.
Nakajima B5N Kate. Marion Carl shot down two of these light bombers, 24 August 1942.
Nakajima B5N2 Type 97 “Kate”. Marion Carl shot down two of these torpedo bombers, 24 August 1942.

¹ The fighter flown by Marion Carl to shoot down his first enemy airplane is often cited as Grumman F4F-3 Bu. No. 4000 (second bureau number series, 1935–1940). However, the entry in Carl’s certified pilot logbook for 4 June 1942 states the airplane he flew was F4F-3 Bu. No. 1864.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 August 1989

Lyle Shelton in the cockpit of Rare Bear. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

21 August 1989: Forty-five years to the day after the first flight of the prototype Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat, Lyle Shelton flew his highly-modified Unlimited Class racing plane, the F8F-2 Rare Bear, N777L, over a 3 kilometer course at Las Vegas, New Mexico, setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record of  850.24 kilometers per hour (528.315 miles per hour),¹ and becoming the world’s fastest piston engine airplane.

Rare Bear had been built for the U.S. Navy at Grumman’s Bethpage, New York, plant, and assigned Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (Bu. No.) 122629. It was a light-weight, high performance interceptor designed to operate from the Navy’s smaller aircraft carriers.

Among other things, the original 2,250 horsepower Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp E12 (R-2800-30W) engine was replaced with a 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) hybrid Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone 18-cylinder radial engine and a 13 foot, 6 inch (4.115 meters) diameter Aero Products four-bladed propeller from a Douglas AD-Skyraider, with the cowling from a Douglas DC-7. This customized engine reportedly produced 4,500 horsepower at 3,200 r.p.m, with 80 inches of manifold pressure.

Rare Bear won the National Air Races six times and set several speed and time to altitude records.

Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, Bu. No. 122629, Unlimited Class racer Rare Bear, N777L. (Kogo via Wikipedia)
Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, Bu. No. 122629, Unlimited Class racer Rare Bear, N777L. (Kogo via Wikipedia)

¹ FAI Record File Number 8437

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 August 1944

Robert L. Hall in the cockpit of the prototype Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat. (Northrop Grumman)

21 August 1944:¹ The first of two Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat prototypes, Bu. No. 90460, made its first flight at Bethpage, New York, with Grumman’s Chief Engineer and test pilot Robert Leicester Hall at the controls. The Bearcat was a light-weight high performance interceptor, designed to operate from the U.S. Navy’s smaller aircraft carriers. It used an air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SC13-G (R-2800-22) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engine, an uprated version of the engine used in its predecessor, the Grumman F6F Hellcat.

The R-2800-22 engine was rated at 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 2,100 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., for takeoff and Military Power. In order to use the engine’s power more effectively, the prototype Bearcat used a 12-foot, 4-inch (3.759 meter) diameter, four-bladed Aero Products, Inc., propeller, driven through a 0.45:1 gear reduction.

Prototype Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat. (Northrop Grumman)

The Bearcat was 20% lighter than the Hellcat. It was 50 miles per hour faster and had a much higher rate of climb.

For aircraft carrier operations, the new fighter could not sacrifice structural strength. In order to limit the weight, armament was reduced to four .50-caliber machine guns, and fuel capacity was also less than that of the Hellcat, giving it reduced range.

Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat with wings folded. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat with wings folded, 20 March 1945. (Northrop Grumman)

The production F8F-1 Bearcat was 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 6 inches (10.820 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 10 inches (4.216 meters) (to tip of propeller, in three-point position). With its wings folded, the width of the Bearcat was reduced to 23 feet, 9½ inches (7.252 meters).

The Bearcat’s wings are sharply tapered. Their angle of incidence is −1½°, and there is 5° 30′ dihedral. The leading edges are swept aft 5° 5′. The chord decreases from 9 feet, 7.87 inches (2.943 meters) at the root to 4 feet, 3.5 inches (1.308 meters) at a point 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) inboard from the tip. The total wing area is 244 square feet (22.7 square meters).

The fighter’s horizontal stabilizer has a span of 15 feet, 9 inches (4.801 meters) and a total area of 52.2 square feet (4.85 square meters). Its angle of incidence is +½°. The rudder has a height of 6 feet, 1–13/16 inches (1.875 meters). The vertical tail has a total area of 20.8 square feet (1.93 square meters), and is offset 2° left.

The F8F-1’s empty weight was 7,070 pounds (3,207 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 12,947 pounds (5,873 kilograms). The F8F-2’s empty weight increased to 7,650 pounds (3,470 kilograms), and its maximum takeoff weight was 13,460 pounds (6,105 kilograms).

Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat prototype at NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Hampton, Virginia, 5 February 1945. (NASA)

The production F8F-1 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SC14-G (R-2800-34W) engine which had the same Sea Level power ratings as the R-2800-22. It produced 1,500 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 18,500 feet (5,639 meters) and had a Military Power rating of 1,700 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). The gear reduction drive ratio was also 0.45:1. A slightly larger Aero Products propeller with a diameter of 12 feet, 7 inches (5.835 meters) was installed. The R-2800-34W was 6 feet, 2.134 inches (1.883 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.80 inches (1.341 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,358.5 pounds (1,069.8 kilograms).

The F8F-2 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-30W. The Normal Power rating increased to 1,720 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,450 horsepower at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Takeoff and Military Power also increased: 2,250 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,600 horsepower at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). The R-2800-30W also drove an Aero Products propeller. The gear reduction ratio was the same. Its dimensions were slightly different than the -34W: 7 feet, 8.75 inches (2.356 meters) long, and 4 feet, 5.00 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter. The engine’s weight increased to 2,560 pounds (1,161 kilograms).

Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat Bu. No. 90448 in the Full Scale Tunnel at NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. (NASA EL-2003-00320)

The Bearcat had a top speed of 336 knots (387 miles per hour/622 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 388 knots (447 miles per hour/719 kilometers per hour) at 28,000 feet (8,534 meters). The airplane had initial rate of climb at Sea Level of 4,465 feet per minute (22.68 meters per second) and it could climb to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 8.4 minutes. Its ceiling was 38,200 feet (11,643 meters).

Fuel capacity is 185 U.S. gallons (700 liters). The fighter’s range could be extended with a jettisonable centerline and two underwing tanks. The Bearcat’s combat radius was 235 nautical miles (270 statute miles/435 kilometers). Its maximum range, with three external tanks (350 gallons/1,325 liters), was 1,595 nautical miles (1,835 statute miles/2,954 kilometers).

The F8F-1 Bearcat was armed with four Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Inboard guns were provided with 325 rounds of ammunition, each, while the outboard guns had 200 rounds per gun. The F8F-2 replaced these with four M3 20 mm autocannon. Each inboard cannon had 325 rounds per gun, and the outboard guns had 188 rounds each. The F8F could also be armed with up to three 11.75-inch (29.845 centimeters) Tiny Tim air-to-ground rockets, or four 5-inch (12.7 centimeter) High Velocity Aerial Rockets (HVAR). For bombing missions, the Bearcat could carry one 1,600 pound (726 kilograms) bomb on the centerline and two 1,000 pounders (454 kilograms, each) under the wings.

The first prototype Grumman XF8F-1 Bearcat, Bu. No. 90460, crashed into Chesapeake Bay during gunnery tests at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, 18 March 1945. Its pilot was missing, presumably killed. The airplane has recently–probably—been located.²

“Multi-beam echo image of the aircraft at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay believed to be the XF8F-1 Bearcat lost out of NAS Patuxent River March 18, 1945.” (NOAA/Naval Aviation News)

Between 1945 and 1949, Grumman produced 1,265 F8F Bearcats, including a civilian G-58A and a G-58B. A number of American test pilots and astronauts flew the Bearcat in naval service, and several, including Neil Armstong, described it as their all-time favorite airplane.

Grumman F8F bearcat fighters aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Tarawa (CV-40) circa 1948. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F8F Bearcat fighters ready for takeoff aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Tarawa (CV-40) circa 1948. (U.S. Navy)

Robert Leicester Hall was born at Taunton, Massachussetts, 22 August 1905. He was the son of Bicknell Hall, a mechanical engineer, and Estella Beatrice Lane Hall.

Robert L. Hall (Michiganesian of 1927)

Hall attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1927 with Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.). He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta (ΦΓΔ) fraternity and the glee club. While at the University, Hall became a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

In 1929 he went to work for the Fairchild Airplane Manufacturing Company at Farmingdale, New York. While there, Hall met his first wife, Eugenie Therese Zeller, a 1928 graduate of Cornell University, and a secretary at the plant. They were married in 1930, and lived in a rented home on St. James Avenue, Chicopee City, Massachusetts. Their son, Robert Jr., was born 5 November 1931. They later divorced.

Granville Brothers Gee Bee Z

Also in 1931, Hall began working for Granville Brothers Aircraft at Springfield, Massachusetts. He designed the Gee Bee Model Z Super Sportster air racer. He left Granville Brothers in 1933 to go to work for the Stinson Aircraft Company in Dayton, Ohio. There he designed the Stinson Reliant.

Stinson Reliant (NASA)

In 1936, Bob Hall became the Chief Engineer for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, Long Island, New York. He designed the F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, and F8F Bearcat fighters, and the TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. As corporate vice president, he supervised the design of the F9F Panther and Cougar jet fighters.

A U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in non-specular blue-gray over light-gray scheme in early 1942. (U.S. Navy)
Two Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat fighters, Summer 1943. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. (U.S. Navy)
Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, as wingman to Lieutenant (j.g.) Ernie Moore, is flying the second Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 125122 (marked S 116), assigned to VF-51, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951. (Naval Aviation Museum)

Hall married his second wife, Rhoda C. Halvorsen, 18 January 1939, at New York City, New York.

Robert Hall retired from Grumman in 1970. Two of his sons, Eric and Ben Hall, founded Hall Spars and Rigging of Bristol, Rhode Island.

Robert Leicester Hall died at Newport, Rhode Island, 25 February 1991 at the age of 85 years.

¹ Some sources give 31 August 1944 as the date of the first flight.

² Naval Aviation News, 31 August 2017:

http://navalaviationnews.navylive.dodlive.mil/2017/08/31/lost-bearcat-found-or-still-missing/

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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