Tag Archives: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation

15 June 1946

The Navy Demonstration Team Hellcats taxi out for their first public performance, Craig Field, Jacksonville,Florida, 15 June 1946. (Butch Voris collection)
The Navy Demonstration Team Hellcats taxi out for their first public performance, Craig Field, Jacksonville,Florida, 15 June 1946. (Butch Voris collection)

15 June 1946: At Craig Field, Jacksonville Florida, the United States Navy’s Navy Flight Demonstration Team made its first public appearance at the municipal airport’s dedication ceremony. A flight of three lightened Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat fighters, led by Officer-in-Charge Lieutenant Commander Roy Marlin Voris, flew a fifteen minute aerobatic performance.

The team had been formed for the purpose of raising public political support for the Navy. Their fighters were painted overall glossy sea blue with “U.S. NAVY” on the fuselage in gold leaf. A single numeral, also gold leaf, on the vertical fin identified each individual airplane.

Five weeks later, 21 July, the team would first call themselves The Blue Angels.

The pilots of the Navy Flight Demonstartion Team with one of their Grumman F6F-5 Wildcat fighters. (Butch Voris Collection)
The pilots of the Navy Flight Demonstration Team with one of their Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat fighters. Left to right: Lieutenant Al Taddeo, Lieutenant (j.g.) Gale Stouse, Lieutenant Commander Roy “Butch” Voris, Lieutenant Maurice N. Wickendoll, and Lieutenant Melvin Cassidy.  (Butch Voris Collection)

In addition to Lieutenant Commander Voris, other pilots in the original demonstration team were Lieutenant Commander Lloyd G. Barnard, Lieutenant Melvin Cassidy, Lieutenant Alfred Taddeo, Lieutenant Maurice N. Wickendoll and Lieutenant (j.g.) Gale Stouse.

Flight leader Lieutenant Commander Roy W. "Butch" Voris with his F6F-5 Hellcat, circa May–August 1946. (U.S. Navy)
Flight leader Lieutenant Commander Roy W. “Butch” Voris with his Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, Bu. No. 80097, circa May–August 1946. (U.S. Navy)

The Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat is single-place, single-engine fighter designed early in World War II to operate from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It is a low wing monoplane of all metal construction. The wings can be folded against the sides of the fuselage for storage aboard the carriers. Landing gear is conventional, retractable, and includes an arresting hook. The Hellcat became operational in 1944.

The F6F-5 is 33 feet, 7 inches (10.236 meters) long with a wingspan of 42, feet 10 inches (12.842 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 5 inches (4.394 meters). It has an empty weight of 9,238 pounds (4,190 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 15,300 pounds (6,940 kilograms).

The F6F-5 Hellcat is powered by a 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter) air-cooled, supercharged, Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp SSB2-G (R-2800-10W) twin-row 18-cylinder radial engine with water injection. The engine had with a compression ratio of 6.65:1 and was rated at 1,550 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 21,500 feet (6,553 meters), and  2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine drove a three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 13 feet, 1 inch (3.988 meters) through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-10 was 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter, 7 feet, 4.47 inches (2.247 meters) long, and weighed 2,480 pounds (1,125 kilograms), each.

The F6F-5 had a maximum speed of 276 knots (318 miles per hour/511 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 330 knots (380 miles per hour/611 kilometers per hour) at 23,400 feet (7,132 meters). The Hellcat’s service ceiling was 35,100 feet (10.698 meters) and it had a combat radius of 820 nautical miles (944 miles/1,519 kilometers). The maximum ferry range is 1,330 nautical miles (1,531 miles/2,463 kilometers).

The Hellcat’s armament consisted of six Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted three in each wing, with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun.

Between 1942 and 1945, the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, New York, built 12,275 F6F Hellcats. This was the largest number of any aircraft type produced by a single plant.

Four Grumman F6F-5 Four Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat fighters of the Navy Flight Demonstration Team, circa May–August 1946
Four Grumman F6F-5 Four Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat fighters of the Navy Flight Demonstration Team, circa May–August 1946

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 April 1960

Grumman YA2F-1 Inruder Bu. No. 147864 (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Grumman YA2F-1 Intruder Bu. No. 147864 with landing gear extended during the first flight, 19 April 1960. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

19 April 1960: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation test pilot Robert K. Smyth made the first flight of the prototype YA2F-1 Intruder, Bu. No. 147864, at the Grumman Peconic River Airport (CTO), Calverton, Long Island, New York. During the flight, Smyth climbed to 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The landing gear remained extended during the flight. At one point, Smyth attempted to retract it, but a malfunction was indicated, so they remained down and locked. The first flight lasted one hour.

During follow-on flights, Bob Smyth and project test pilot Ernie von der Heyden (who flew the photo-chase plane during the first flight) alternated left and right seats.

Bu. No. 147864 was painted gray with U.S. Navy markings before being accepted by the Navy on 29 April 1960. The airplane was lost 31 May 1960.

Grumman test pilot Robert K. Smyth in the cockpit of the YA2F-1 prototype, Bu. No. 147864, 29 April 1960. With Program manager Bruce Tuttle and VP Larry Mead. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Grumman test pilot Robert K. Smyth in the cockpit of the YA2F-1 prototype, Bu. No. 147864, 29 April 1960. With Program manager Bruce Tuttle and VP Larry Mead. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Eight Grumman YA2F-1 Intruders were built for the test program.  They were later redesignated A-6A Intruder.

The Grumman A-6A Intruder was a carrier-based, all-weather attack bomber powered by two turbojet engines. It was operated by a pilot and a bombardier/navigator, or “b/n,” in a side-by-side cockpit. The wings were slightly swept.

The A-6A was 54 feet, 9 inches (16.688 meters) long with a wing span of 53 feet, 0 inches (16.154 meters) and overall height of 16 feet, 2 inches (4.928 meters). The aircraft had an empty weight of 25,300 pounds (11,476 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 53,700 pounds (24,358 kilograms).

 Grumman YA2F-1 Intruder, Bu. No. 147864, in Navy markings. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Grumman YA2F-1 Intruder, Bu. No. 147864, in Navy markings. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The prototypes were powered by two Pratt & Whitney J52-P-6 turbojet engines which had previously been used on the North American Aviation AGM-28 Hound Dog cruise missile. The J52 was a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet with a 12-stage compressor section (5 low- and 7 high-pressure stages) and 2-stage (1 high- and 1-low pressure stages). The engines were rated at 8,500 pounds of thrust (37.81 kilonewtons), each. The J52-P-6 was 2 feet, 6.2 inches (0.767 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,056 pounds (953 kilograms) The engine incorporated an exhaust nozzle that could be swiveled downward 23° to assist in short field takeoffs.

The A-6A had a cruise speed of 481 miles per hour (774 kilometers per hour), and a maximum speed of 646 miles per hour (1,040 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The service ceiling was 40,250 feet (12,268 meters), and the range was 1,350 miles (2,173 kilometers).

The initial production Intruders could carry 15,000 pounds (6,804 kilograms) of bombs on hardpoints under the wings.

The Intruder was a very successful combat aircraft with 693 built in attack, tanker and electronic warfare variants. They remained in service with the United States Navy until 1997.

Grumman YA2F-1 (A-6A) Intruder Bu. No. 147867, the third prototype, carrying thirty Mk. 82 low-drag bombs on multiple ejector racks under the wings and fuselage. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman YA2F-1 (A-6A) Intruder Bu. No. 147867, the third prototype, carrying thirty Mk. 82 low-drag 500-pound bombs on multiple ejector racks under the wings and fuselage. (U.S. Navy)

© 2017 Bryan R. Swopes

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18 April 1958

Lieutenant Commander George Clinton Watkins, United States Navy, set a World Altitude Record with a Grumman F11F-1F Tiger, 18 April 1958. (U.S. Navy)
Lieutenant Commander George Clinton Watkins, United States Navy, set a World Altitude Record with a Grumman F11F-1F Super Tiger, 18 April 1958. (U.S. Navy)

18 April 1958: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, test pilot Lieutenant Commander George Clinton Watkins, United States Navy, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Altitude Record of 23,449 meters (76,932 feet)¹ with a Grumman F11F-1F Tiger, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (Bu. No.) 138647.

Lieutenant Commander Watkins wore a David Clark Co. C-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit with an International Latex Corporation (ILC Dover) K-1 helmet and face plate for protection at high altitudes.

Grumman F11F-1F Tiger, Bu. No. 138647, in flight near Edwards AFB, California. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F11F-1F Tiger, Bu. No. 138647, in flight near Edwards AFB, California. (U.S. Navy)

The F11F-1F Tiger was a higher performance variant of the U.S. Navy F11F single-seat, single-engine swept wing aircraft carrier-based supersonic fighter. The last two regular production F11F-1 Tigers, Bu. Nos. 138646 and 138647 were completed as F11F-2s, with the standard Westinghouse J65-WE-18 turbojet engine replaced by a more powerful General Electric YJ79-GE-3, which produced 9,800 pounds of thrust (43.59 kilonewtons), or 15,000 pounds (66.72 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The air intakes on each side of the fuselage were longer and had a larger area to provide greater airflow for the new engine. After testing, the fuselage was lengthened 1 foot, 1½ inches (0.343 meters) and an upgraded J79 engine installed. The first “Super Tiger” was damaged beyond repair in a takeoff accident and was “expended” as a training aid for fire fighters.

The U.S. Navy determined that the F11F-2 was too heavy for operation aboard carriers and did not place any orders. The designation was changed from F11F-2 to F11F-1F, and later, to F-11B, although the remaining aircraft was no longer flying by that time.

The F11F-1F Tiger is 48 feet, 9 inches (14.859 meters) long with a wingspan of 31 feet, 7½ inches (9.639 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 4¾ inches (4.388 meters). The Super Tiger has an empty weight of 16,457 pounds (7,465 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 26,086 pounds (11,832 kilograms).

With the YJ79 engine, the F11F-1F has a maximum speed of 836 miles per hour (1,345 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, 1,325 miles per hour (2,132 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) and 1,400 miles per hour (2,253 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters). Cruise speed is 580 miles per hour (933 kilometers per hour). It had an initial rate of climb of 8,950 feet per minute (45.5 meters per second) and service ceiling of 50,300 feet (15,331 meters). Range with internal fuel was 1,136 miles (1,828 kilometers).

The Tiger’s armament consisted of four 20 mm Colt Mk 12 autocannon with 125 rounds of ammunition per gun, and four AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.

The single remaining F11F-1F, Bu. No. 138647, is on static display at the Naval Air Weapons center, China Lake, California.

Grumman F11F-1F Tiger, Bu. No. 138647. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F11F-1F Tiger, Bu. No. 138647. (U.S. Navy)

George Clinton Watkins was born at Alhambra, California, 10 March 1921, the third of seven children of Edward Francis Watkins, a purchasing agent for the Edison Company, and Louise Whipple Ward Watkins.

Watkins graduated from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland in 1943, was commissioned an ensign and assigned as a gunnery officer aboard the battleship, USS Pennsylvania (BB-38). Near the end of the war, he entered pilot training and won his naval aviator’s wings in 1945. In 1950 he attended the Navy’s test pilot school at NAS Patuxent River, along with classmates John H. Glenn and Alan B. Shepard. He served as a fighter pilot during the Korean War, then returned to duty as a test pilot.

George Watkins was the first U.S. Navy pilot to fly higher than 60,000 feet (18,288 meters) and 70,000 feet (21,336 meters). In 1956, he set a speed record of 1,210 miles per hour (1,947.3 kilometers per hour). In 1962, Commander Watkins was the first U.S. Navy pilot to have made 1,000 aircraft carrier landings.

Captain George C. Watkins, U.S. Navy (1921–2005)

Captain Watkins served in planning assignments at the Pentagon, and was an aide to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. He commanded a supply ship [experience commanding a deep draft ship was a requirement before serving as captain of an aircraft carrier] during the Vietnam War, and served as a technical adviser for the 1970 20th Century Fox/Toei Company movie, “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” about the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor which brought the United States of America into World War II.

By the time Captain Watkins retired from the Navy in 1973, he had flown more than 200 aircraft types, made 1,418 landings on 37 aircraft carriers, and logged more than 16,000 flight hours. He continued flying after he retired, operating sailplane schools at Santa Monica and Lompoc, California. By the time he passed away, 18 September 2005, he had flown more than 21,000 hours during 26,000 flights.

¹ FAI Record File Number 8596

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 April 1943

First Lieutenant James Elms Swett, United States Marine Corps Reserve. (U.S. Naval Institute)

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

FIRST LIEUTENANT JAMES E. SWETT
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE
 

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as a division leader in Marine Fighting Squadron TWO TWENTY-ONE in action against enemy Japanese aerial forces in the Solomon Islands Area, April 7, 1943. In a daring flight to intercept a wave of 150 Japanese planes, First Lieutenant Swett unhesitatingly hurled his four-plane division into action against a formation of fifteen enemy bombers and during his dive personally exploded three hostile planes in mid-air with accurate and deadly fire. Although separated from his division while clearing the heavy concentration of anti-aircraft fire, he boldly attacked six enemy bombers, engaged the first four in turn, and unaided, shot them down in flames. Exhausting his ammunition as he closed the fifth Japanese bomber, he relentlessly drove his attack against terrific opposition which partially disabled his engine, shattered the windscreen and slashed his face. In spite of this, he brought his battered plane down with skillful precision in the water off Tulagi without further injury. The superb airmanship and tenacious fighting spirit which enabled First Lieutenant Swett to destroy eight enemy bombers in a single flight were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

/S/ FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

James Elms Swett was born at Seattle, Washington, 15 June 1920, the first of three children of George Elms Swett, an electrical engineer and U.S. Marine Corps reservist, and Nellie Emily Burns Swett. He grew up in San Mateo, California, where he attended San Mateo High School and the College of San Mateo. While in college, Swett learned to fly through the Civilian Pilot Training Program.

Swett enlisted in the United States Navy as a Seaman 2nd Class, 26 August 1941. Swett was 5 feet, 11 inches (1.803 meters) tall and weighed 154 pounds (69.9 kilograms). He had brown hair and blue eyes. Seaman Swett was assigned to flight training as an Aviation Cadet at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. While in training, Sweet elected to serve as a U.S. Marine Corps officer. On completion of flight training, James Swett was awarded the gold wings of a Naval Aviator and commissioned a Second Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps Reserve, 1 April 1942. He was then sent to MCAS Quantico at Quantico, Virginia, for advanced training.

In July 1942, 2nd Lieutenant Swett was placed under arrest for a period of ten days for “diving and zooming over traffic” below 500 feet (152 meters), along U.S. Route 1. He was then transferred to an air station in Florida.

Swett was next assigned to Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221), Marine Air Group 21 (MAG-21), 1st Marine Air Wing, Fleet Marine Force. In March 1943, the squadron deployed from Hawaii to the South Pacific aboard the Bogue-class escort carrier USS Nassau (CVE-16), arriving at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, in late March. VMF-221 then flew on to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands.

Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, 1943.

On the morning of 7 April 1943, Lieutenant Swett led a four-plane flight of Wildcats on a patrol, then returned to refuel at Henderson Field. While his fighter, Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, Bu. No. 12084, was being serviced, word came of a large group of enemy aircraft approaching from the north. Swett and his flight joined a number of other fighters to intercept the attacking enemy aircraft.

Near the Russell Islands, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Guadalcanal, the American fighters came in contact with an estimated 150 enemy aircraft. Swett, in combat for the first time, quickly engaged three Aichi D3A Type 99 (American reporting name, “Val”) dive bombers. He shot them down. Becoming separated from his flight, he continued to engage the enemy, shooting down several more. His right wing was damaged by American anti-aircraft guns, but he continued. Having shot down seven Vals, he engaged an eighth. The Val’s gunner fired his two 7.7 mm machine guns in defense. By this time, Swett was running out of ammunition, but his final bullets killed the enemy gunner and set the Aichi on fire. Machine gun bullets fired from the Val damaged his windshield, punctured an engine oil cooler and set the Wildcat on fire.

Aichi D3A Type 99 dive bomber, Allied reporting name, “Val”. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Photo Archives)

Unable to make it back to Henderson, Swett ditched in the ocean near Tulagi. The airplane quickly sank. It was about 25 feet (7 meters) down before Swett was able to escape from the Wildcat’s cockpit. He was picked up by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat. Lieutenant Swett was listed as wounded in action.

During only fifteen minutes, 2nd Lieutenant Swett destroyed seven enemy aircraft and damaged an eighth.¹ He had become an “Ace in One Day.”

This Grumman F4F Wildcat on the sea floor near Tulagi may be Lieutenant Swett’s F4F-4, Bu. No. 12084. (Dive PlanIt)

Swett was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and transitioned to the Chance Vought F4U-1 Corsair. He shot down four Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” twin-engine medium bombers and an A6M Zero, before being shot down again near New Georgia, 10 July 1943. He returned to combat in October, shot down two more Val dive bombers and a Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien Type 3 fighter, known to Allied forces as “Tony.”

During a ceremony held at Espiritu Santo, 10 October 1943, Major General Ralph Johnson Mitchell, commanding the 1st Marine Air Wing, presented First Lieutenant James Elms Swett, United States Marine Corps Reserve, the Medal of Honor.

In 1944, Captain Swett was returned to the United States, and was training with VMF-221 at MCAS Santa Barbara, California. He would meet President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House during the Spring.

Oakland Tribune, Vol. CXL, No. 20, Thursday, 20 January 1944, Page 14, Columns 5–7

Captain Swett married Miss Lois Aileen Anderson 22 January 1944 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Burlingame, California. They would later have two sons, both of whom would go on to become Marine Corps officers.

After retraining in Southern California, VMF-221 returned to the War, assigned to the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) in the western Pacific.

Chance Vought F4U-1D Corsair aboard USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), 6 May 1945. (U.S. Navy)

On the morning of 11 May 1945, Captain Swett was flying a combat air patrol in an F4U-1D Corsair, when the fleet was attacked by kamikaze suicide aircraft. Swett shot down a Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (“Judy”) dive bomber.

During this attack, Bunker Hill was hit by two successive kamikazes and suffered catastrophic damage. 346 men were killed in action, 43 missing in action and 264 wounded. The carrier would survive, but was out of action for the remainder of the war.

Unable to land aboard their carrier, Captain Swett organized the airplanes still airborne and led them to USS Enterprise (CV-6).

30 seconds after the first, a second Mitsubishi A6M Zero crashes into USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), 1005 hours, 11 May 1945. (U.S. Navy)

During World War II, Major Swett flew 103 combat missions. He is officially credited with 15.5 aerial victories.

Following World War II, Major Swett remained in the Marine Corps Reserve. In 1949, he took command of Marine Fighting Squadron 141 (VMF-141) at NAS Oakland. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War, but was not sent to the war zone.

James Swett rose to the rank of Colonel. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1970.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, during his career in the Marine Corps, Colonel Swett was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with gold star (2 awards); Purple Heart with gold star (2 awards); Air Medal with 4 gold stars (5 awards); Navy Combat Action Ribbon; Presidential Unit Citation with 2 bronze stars (3 awards); Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 gold star and 1 silver star (6 campaigns); World War II Victory medal; and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with silver hourglass device (20 years of service).

Colonel James Elms Swett, United States Marine Corps Reserve (Retired), died at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, 18 January 2009, at the age of 88 years. He was buried at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery, Igo, California.

Major James E. Swett, United States Marine Corps Reserve

The Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat was a single-engine, single place mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear, designed for operations from United States Navy aircraft carriers. The wings could be fold alongside the fuselage for storage.

The F4F-4 was 28 feet, 10-5/8 inches (8.804 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.582 meters) and height of 12 feet, 1-3/8 inches (3.693 meters). The Wildcat’s wing had 0° angle of incidence. The fixed, inner wing has 0° dihedral, while the outer wing panels have 5° dihedral. There is no sweep. The width of the airplane with its wings folded was 14 feet, 6 inches (4.420 meters). The fighter’s empty weight was 5,895 pounds (2,674 kilograms), and the gross weight, 7,975 pounds (3,618 kilograms).

Grumman F4F Wildcat, circa 1942-1943. (U.S. Navy)

The F4F-4 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.399-cubic-inch-displacement (29.98 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp SSC7-G (R-1830-86) two-row, fourteen cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-86 was rated at 1,100 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 3,500 feet (1,067 meters), 1,000 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 19,000 feet (5,791 meters), and 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff, burning 100-octane gasoline. The engine drove 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 5 feet, 7.44 inches (1.713 meters) long, 44 feet, 0.19 inches (1.224 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,560 pounds (708 kilograms).

The F4F-4 Wildcat had a maximum speed 275.0 miles per hour (442.6 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 318.0 miles per hour (511.8 kilometers per hour) at 19,400 feet (5,913 meters). Its service ceiling was 34,800 feet (10,607 meters), and it had a maximum range of 765 miles (1,231 kilometers).

The F4F-4 was armed with six air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted in the wings with 1,440 rounds of ammunition.

Between February 1940 and August 1945, 7,898 Wildcats were produced by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, New York, and General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division at Linden, New Jersey.

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

¹ Various reliable sources give different values for the number of enemy aircraft shot down by 2nd Lieutenant Swett on 7 May 1943, with the most common being five. Swett claimed eight destroyed, and this is reflected in his Medal of Honor citation. The intelligence officer who investigated determined that his claims were valid. The USMC History Division credits seven enemy aircraft destroyed: “Colonel James Elms Swett, of San Mateo, California, earned the Medal of Honor in World War II for shooting down seven Japanese bombers within 15 minutes.”

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 February 1942

Lieutenant Edward H. O'Hare, United States Navy. A Grumman F4F Wildcat is in the background. (LIFE Magazine)
Lieutenant Edward H. O’Hare, United States Navy. A Grumman F4F Wildcat is in the background. (LIFE Magazine)

20 February 1942: During the early months of World War II, a task force centered around the United States aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) was intruding into Japanese-held waters north of New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago. In the afternoon, she came under attack by several flights of enemy Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers.

USS Lexington (CV-2) October 1941

Her fighters, Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats, were launched in defense and an air battle ensued. Another flight of nine Bettys approached from the undefended side, and Lieutenant (junior grade) Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, U.S.N. and his wingman were the only fighter pilots available to intercept.

At 1700 hours, O’Hare arrived over the nine incoming bombers and attacked. His wingman’s guns failed, so O’Hare fought on alone. In the air battle, he is credited with having shot down five of the Japanese bombers and damaging a sixth.

A Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” medium bomber photographed from the flight deck of USS Lexington, 20 February 1942. (U.S. Navy)

For his bravery, Butch O’Hare was promoted to lieutenant commander and awarded the Medal of Honor.

An airport in Chicago, O’Hare International Airport (ORD), the busiest airport in the world, is named in his honor. A Gearing-class destroyer, USS O’Hare (DD-889), was also named after the fighter pilot.

Lieutenant "Butch" O'Hare in teh cockpit of his Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter. The "Felix the Cat" insignia represents the Fighter Squadron. The five flags signify the enemy airplanes destroyed in combat 20 February 1942. (LIFE Magazine)
Lieutenant “Butch” O’Hare in the cockpit of his Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter. The “Felix the Cat” insignia represents Fighter Squadron 3 (VF-3). The five flags, the ensign of the Imperial Japanese Navy, signify the enemy airplanes destroyed in the action of 20 February 1942. (LIFE Magazine)

LIEUTENANT EDWARD HENRY O’HARE
UNITED STATES NAVY

Medal of Honor – Navy

“The President takes pleasure in presenting the Congressional Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Edward H. O’Hare, U.S. Navy, for services as set forth in the following Citation:

” ‘For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in aerial combat, at grave risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as section leader and pilot of Fighting Squadron 3, when on February 20, 1942, having lost the assistance of his teammates, he interposed his plane between his ship and an advancing enemy formation of nine attacking twin-engined heavy bombers. Without hesitation, alone and unaided he repeatedly attacked this enemy formation at close range in the face of their intense combined machine-gun and cannon fire, and despite this concentrated opposition, he, by his gallant and courageous action, his extremely skillful marksmanship, making the most of every shot of his limited amount of ammunition, shot down five enemy bombers and severely damaged a sixth before they reached the bomb release point.

” ‘As a result of his gallant action, one of the most daring, if not the most daring single action in the history of combat aviation, he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.’ “

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Thirty-third President of the United States, his remarks on the presentation of the Medal of Honor, 21 April 1942, at the White House, Washington, D.C. The American Presidency Project

President Franklin D. Roosevelt presents the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward H. O'Hare, United States Navy, at teh White House, Washington, D.C., 21 April 1942. (U.S. Navy)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt congratulates Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward H. O’Hare, United States Navy, on being presented the Medal of Honor at the White House, Washington, D.C., 21 April 1942. Also present are Secretary of the Navy William Franklin Knox, Admiral Ernest J. King, U.S. Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, and Mrs. O’Hare. (U.S. Navy)

Edward Henry O’Hare was born at St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America, 13 March 1941. He was one of three children of Edward Joseph O’Hare and Selma Anna Lauth O’Hare. He attended the Western Military Academy, Alton, Illinois, along with his friend, Paul Warfield Tibbetts (who would later command the Army Air Forces’ 509th Composite Group, and fly the B-29 Superfortress, Enola Gay). O’Hare graduated in 1932.

Butch O’Hare was appointed a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and entered 24 July 1933. He graduated 3 June 1937 and was commissioned as an ensign, United States Navy. He was then assigned to sea duty aboard the class-leading battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40).

Ensign Edward Henry O’Hare, United States Navy, 30 June 1939. (U.S. Navy)

In 1939, Ensign O’Hare was ordered to NAS Pensacola, Florida, for primary flight training. On 3 June 1940, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (Junior Grade). He completed flight training 2 May 1940.

Lieutenant (j.g.) O’Hare was next assigned to Fighting Squadron THREE (VF-3), a fighter squadron based at San Diego, California, and assigned as part of the air group of the Lexington-class aircraft carrier, USS Saratoga (CV-3).

Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward H. O’Hare married Miss Rita Grace Wooster, a nurse at DePaul Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri, 6 September 1941. The marriage was performed by Rev. Patrick Joseph Murphy at the Church of the Immaculate Conception (St. Mary’s Church) in Phoenix, Arizona. They would have a daughter, Kathleen.

USS Saratoga was damaged by a torpedo southwest of the Hawaiian Islands, 11 January 1942. While the carrier was under repair, VF-3 was transferred to USS Lexington.

In a ceremony at the White House, Washington, D.C., at 10:45 a.m., 21 April 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Commander O’Hare. Lieutenant (j.g.) O’Hare was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander (temporary) with date of rank 8 April 1942.

Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry O’Hare, United States Navy, commanding Air Group 6 from USS Enterprise (CV-6), was killed in action on the night of 27 November 1944, when his Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat was shot down by a Mitsubishi G4M bomber. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during Operation Galvanic, 26 November 1943.

This Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat is marked F-15, as was the fighter flown by Butch O’Hare on 20 February 1942. The definition of this image is insufficient to read the fighter’s “Bu. No.” TDiA is unable to determine if this is the same airplane, or another with the same squadron markings. Compare this image to the photo of Thach and O’Hare’s Wildcats in the photograph below. The national insignia on this airplane’s fuselage is larger and the red center has been removed. The alternating red and white stripes on the rudder have been deleted. These changes took place very early in World War II. (Cropped detail from a United States Navy photograph.)

The fighter flown Lieutenant O’Hare on 20 February 1942 was a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, Bureau Number 4031, with fuselage identification markings F-15. The Wildcat was designed by Robert Leicester Hall as a carrier-based fighter for the United States Navy. It was a single-place, single-engine, mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear, designed to operate from land bases or U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.

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

The F4F-3 was 28 feet, 10½ inches (8.801 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.582 meters) and overall height of 11 feet, 9 inches (3.581 meters). Unlike the subsequent F4F-4, which had folding wings for storage aboard aircraft carriers, the F4F-3 had fixed wings. The wings had an angle of incidence of 0°, and 5° dihedral. The horizontal stabilizer span was 13 feet, 8 inches (4.166 meters) with 1½° incidence. The empty weight of the basic F4F-3 was 5,238 pounds (2,376 kilograms), and the gross weight was 7,065 pounds (3,205 kilograms).

The F4F-3 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp SSC5-G (R-1830-76) two-row, 14-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-76 had a normal power rating of 1,100 at 2,550 r.p.m., from Sea Level to 3,500 feet (1,067 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-1830-76 was 4 feet, 0.6 inches (1.221 meters) in diameter, 5 feet, 11.31 inches (1.811 meters) long, and weighed 1,550 pounds (703 kilograms).

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

The F4F-3 had a maximum speed of 278 miles per hour (447 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 331 miles per hour (533 kilometers per hour) at 21,300 feet (6,492 meters). Its service ceiling was 37,000 feet (11,228 meters). Its maximum range was 880 miles (1,416 kilometers)

The F4F-3 Wildcat was armed with four air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns with 450 rounds of ammunition per gun.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, circa 1942. (U.S. Navy)

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.

Bu. No. 4031 was struck off charge 29 July 1944.

Two Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats of VF-3, assigned to Fighting Three (VF-3), near NAS Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, 10 April 1942. Lieutenant Commander John Smith Thach, U.S.N., VF-3 squadron commander, is flying the Wildcat marked F-1 (Bu. No. 3976). The second F4F, marked F-13 (Bu. No. 3986), is flown by Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward Henry O’Hare, U.S.N. Both of these Wildcats were lost in the sinking of USS Lexington (CV-2) during the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942. (PhoM2c Harold S. Fawcett, United States Navy 80-G-10613)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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