Tag Archives: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation

11 December 1941

Captain Henry Talmage Elrod, USMC. (1905–1941). Awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions in the defense of Wake Island.
Captain Henry Talmage Elrod, United States Marine Corps, was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions in the defense of Wake Island. (U.S. Navy)

11 December 1941: The last four aircraft of Marine Fighter Squadron 211 (VMF 211), led by Captain Henry Talmage Elrod, U.S. Marine Corps, attacked the invading Imperial Japanese Navy South Seas Force, consisting of four light cruisers, six destroyers, two patrol boats and two amphibious support ships with 450 Special Navy Landing Force soldiers, as they approached to invade the United States outpost at Wake Island. The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats bombed the destroyer IJN Kisaragi.

A U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in non-specular blue-gray over light-gray scheme in early 1942. (U.S. Navy)
A U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in non-specular blue-gray over light-gray scheme in early 1942. (U.S. Navy)

VMF 211 had lost two-thirds of its aircraft on Monday, 8 December:

“. . . 36 twin-engine bombers based on Roi and Namur Islands in the Kwajalein Atoll, 620 miles to the southward, executed the day-bombing missions.  The first strike, three 12-plane vees dove out of a rain squall at noon 8 December. The surf was roaring so furiously that nobody ashore heard or saw the enemy until fifteen seconds before the first bombs hit. The planes leveled out at 2000 feet altitude and made for the airfield, where 8 Wildcats were being serviced and fueled. Here 4 grounded planes disintegrated under direct hits; fire spread and destroyed 3; the eighth was hit but later salvaged; 23 Marine officers and men were left dead or dying. . . Four Wildcats now got into the battle, strafing the retreating ships and dropping their little 100-pound bombs from an extemporized release, returning to rearm, take off and bomb again. They put the torpedo battery of Tenryu out of action, hit the radio shack of Tatsuta, and started gasoline fires on a transport. One plane was badly shot up; the pilot, Captain Elrod, just managed to ground it on the beach, burning and broken, but he had already made a lethal pass at the retreating destroyer Kisaragi, which carried an extra load of depth charges. A second Wildcat was just pushing over to press home an attack on this destroyer at 0731 when she blew up and sank. There were no survivors.

History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume III: The Rising Sun in the Pacific 1931–April 1942, by Samuel Eliot Morison, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1988. Chapter XII at Pages 230 and 234.

IJN Kisaragi was sunk off Wake Island by four F4F-3 Wildcats of VMF 211, 11 December 1941. (Kure Maritime Museum)
The Mitsuki-class destroyer IJN Kisaragi was sunk off Wake Island by four F4F-3 Wildcats of VMF 211, 11 December 1941. (Kure Maritime Museum)

A few minutes earlier another destroyer, IJN Hayate, had received two direct hits in its magazines from the 5-inch/51-caliber guns of Battery L, a coast defense artillery battery of the U.S. Marines. It was hit at a range of 4,000 yards (3,658 meters), exploded and sank with all hands. The invasion force flag ship, light cruiser IJN Yubari, received 11 direct hits from the Marine gunners. Under the combined air and artillery attacks, the invasion force withdrew.

The island finally fell to the unrelenting Japanese attacks, 23 December 1941.

Captain Henry T. Elrod's Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, 211-F-11, Bu. No. 4019, shown here damaged beyond repair and salvaged for parts, took part in the attack on IJN Kisaragi. (Imperial Japanese Navy)
Captain Henry T. Elrod’s Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, 211-F-11, Bu. No. 4019 (second number series), shown here damaged beyond repair and salvaged for parts, took part in the attack on IJN Kisaragi. (Imperial Japanese Navy)

Captain Elrod’s fighter was a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, designed by Robert Leicester Hall as a carrier-based fighter for the United States Navy. The F4F 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

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).

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat

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).

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. (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.

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

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 November 1947

Corky Meyer in the cockpit of the first Grumman XF9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 122475, during the first flight, 21 November 1947. (U.S. Navy)
Corky Meyer in the cockpit of the first Grumman XF9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 122475, during the first flight, 21 November 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
Corwin H. ("Corky") Meyer
Corwin Henry Meyer, 1920–2011. (Grumman)

21 November 1947: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation engineering test pilot Corwin Henry (“Corky”) Meyer took off from the company’s 5,000 foot runaway at Bethpage, Long Island, New York, in the first prototype XF9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 122475. After the preliminary flight evaluation, Meyer landed the new jet fighter on a longer runway at Idlewild Airport. The Bethpage runway was only 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) long. As the first jet aircraft built by Grumman, it wasn’t known if the XF9F-2 could land on that short a runway.

Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine quoted Meyer as saying that the weather was “the foulest of any first flight in my experience.” He described the prototype’s handling qualities: “It handled like a J-3 Cub.” In an article for Flight Journal, Corky Meyer wrote: “I conducted a very satisfactory first flight of the 5,000-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce Nene-powered fighter on November 21, 1947.”

Corwin H. Meyer also made the first flights in Grumman’s F7F Tigercat, F8F Bearcat, F9F Panther and Cougar, and F11F Tiger. He eventually rose to Senior Vice President of Grumman Aerospace Corporation.

Grumman XF9F-2 prototype, photographed 20 November 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

The XF9F-2 Panther was the first jet-powered aircraft to be built by Grumman, a major supplier of aircraft for the United States Navy. It was a single-seat, single-engine, day fighter, designed for operation on the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was developed from a proposed four-engine XF9F-1 night fighter. Grumman planned to use the Rolls-Royce RB.41 Nene centrifugal-flow turbojet engine. With 5,000 pounds rated thrust at 12,400 r.p.m., the Nene was more powerful (and more reliable) than any engine manufactured by an American company.

The first prototype Grumman XF9F-2 Panther at Grumman's Plant 4, 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)
The first prototype Grumman XF9F-2 Panther at Grumman’s Plant 4, 1947. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

Originally it was planned that the Nene would be licensed for production to the Taylor Turbine Corporation as the J42-TT-2. No J42s were ready, so Taylor supplied Grumman with imported Rolls-Royce engines. The Navy had concerns about Taylor’s capability to produce engine in sufficient quantities and arranged for the J42 license to be sold to Pratt & Whitney.

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)
Ensign Neil A. Armstrong, as wingman to Lieutenant (j.g.) George Russell, is flying the second Grumman F9F-2 Panther, Bu. No. 125122 (marked S 116), assigned to VF-51, USS Essex (CV-9), 1951. (John Moore/Naval Museum of Naval Aviation)

The Panther was placed into production as the F9F-2. The F9F-2 was 37 feet, 5-3/8 inches (11.414 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 5⅜ inches (11.719 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.528 meters)— not including wing tanks. Its overall height was 11 feet, 4 inches (3.454 meters). The wings could be hydraulically folded to reduce the span for storage aboard ship. The Panther weighed 9,303 pounds (4,220 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 19,494 pounds (8,842 kilograms.

Grumman F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 126034, of VF-781, catches an arresting cable when landing aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 1952. (U.S. Navy)
Grumman F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 126034, of VF-781, catches an arresting cable when landing aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 15 November 1952. (U.S. Navy)

The F9F-2 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT6 (J42-P-8) turbojet engine which produced 5,000 pounds of thrust (22.241 kilonewtons) at Sea Level, and 5,750 pounds (25.577 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The J42 was a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Nene. The engine used a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, 9 combustion chambers and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The J42-P-8 weighed 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms).

The Panther had a maximum speed of 575 miles per hour (925 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 44,600 feet (13,594 meters), and the range was 1,353 miles (2,177 kilometers).

The Panther was armed with four M3 20 mm autocannon placed in the nose. It could carry up to 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of bombs or eight 5-inch (12.7 centimeters) rockets on four hardpoints under each wing.

Lt. Royce Williams, USN, points out battle damage to his Grumman F9F-5 Panther, aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 18 November 1952. (U.S. Navy)
Lt. Royce Williams, USN, points out battle damage to his Grumman F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 125459, aboard USS Oriskany (CVA-34), 18 November 1952. (U.S. Navy via Flight Journal)

It was a very successful air-to-air and air-to-ground fighter during the Korean War. On 18 November 1952, Lieutenant Elmer Royce Williams, USN, flying an F9F-5 Panther, Bu. No. 125459, of VF-781 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34), shot down four of seven Soviet Air Force MiG 15 fighters which had launched from Vladivostok toward Task Force 77. His Panther sustained significant damage from enemy cannon shells. Though he safely returned to his carrier, the fighter, Number 106, was so badly damaged that it was pushed over the side. Lieutenant Royce was awarded the Silver Star for this action. No other pilot has ever shot down four MiG fighters during a single combat action.

This Grumman F9F-5 Panther aboard the USS Midway Museum, San Diego, California, is painted to represent Royce Williams' fighter. (USS Midway Museum)
This Grumman F9F-5 Panther aboard the USS Midway Museum, San Diego, California, is painted to represent Royce Williams’ fighter. (USS Midway Museum)

The F9F Panther was flown during the Korean War by such famed naval aviators as Ted Williams, and future astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

Grumman built 1,358 F9F-2,-3,-4 and -5 Panthers and another 1,392 swept wing F9F-6, -7 and -8 Cougars. Panthers remained in service with the United States Navy until 1958, and Cougars until 1974.

The combat survivability of Grumman's fighters earne dteh factory the nickname of "The Grumman Iron Works". In this photograph, future NASA astronaut John H. Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, examines some of the 714 holes in his F9F Panther. (U.S. Navy)
The combat survivability of Grumman’s fighters earned the factory the nickname of “The Grumman Iron Works”. In this photograph, future NASA astronaut Major John H. Glenn, U.S. Marine Corps, the first American to orbit the Earth, examines some of the 714 holes in his F9F Panther. (U.S. Navy)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 November 1950

Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, U.S. Navy, of squadron VF-111, is congratulated on his air to air victory after returning to the aircraft carrier USS Phillipine Sea (CV-47). (U.S. Navy)
Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron VF-111, is congratulated on his air to air victory after returning to the aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea (CV-47). (U.S. Navy)

9 November 1950: The first jet vs. jet air-to-air victory which can be confirmed from both sides occurred when Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, United States Navy, flying a Grumman F9F-2B Panther, Bu. No. 127184, shot down a Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 over Korea.

Captain Mikhail Fedorovich Grachev, 139th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment, led a squadron of MiG-15 fighters from their base at Antung, China to intercept U.S. Navy Douglas AD Skyraiders which were attacking bridges across the Yalu River, which marked the border between China and Korea.

Russian technicians service a MiG-15bis of the 351st Fighter Aviation Regiment at Antung Air Base, China, mid-1952. (Unattributed)
Russian technicians service a MiG-15bis of the 351st Fighter Aviation Regiment at Antung Air Base, China, mid-1952. (Unattributed)

An escorting group of Grumman F9F-2B Panther fighters, assigned to Fighter Squadron 111 (VMF-111, “Sundowners”) aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) went after the MiGs as they dove on the Skyraiders. The Soviet flight broke up into single aircraft, or pairs, and did not counterattack with any organization. Visibility was poor, and airplanes would disappear then reappear in the clouds.

Captain Grachev made a quick left turn, then reversed and rolled over into a dive. His two wingmen could not stay with him and visual contact was lost.

Bill Amen saw Grachev’s diving MiG-15 and, following him down, fired his four 20 mm cannon. Amen’s wingman saw the MiG crash into a wooded slope and burn. Grachev did not return from his mission and is presumed to have been killed in the crash.

USS Phillipine Sea (CV-47) with Douglas AD Skyraiders and Grumman F9F Panthers on the flight deck, off the coast of Korea. (U.S. Navy)
USS Phillipine Sea (CV-47) with Douglas AD Skyraiders and Grumman F9F Panthers on the flight deck, off the coast of Korea. Phillipine Sea was a “long-hull” Essex-class ship, sometimes called the Ticonderoga-class. (U.S. Navy)

The Grumman F9F-2 Panther was a single-seat, single-engine turbojet powered fighter designed for operation from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was 38 feet, 5⅜ inches (11.719 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.528 meters)— not including wing tanks. Its overall height was 11 feet, 4 inches (3.454 meters). The wings could be hydraulically folded to reduce the span for storage aboard ship. The Panther weighed 9,303 pounds (4,220 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 19,494 pounds (8,842 kilograms).

The F9F-2 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT6 (J42-P-8) turbojet engine which produced 5,000 pounds of thrust (22.241 kilonewtons) at Sea Level. The J42 was a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Nene. The engine used a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, 9 combustion chambers and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The engine weighed 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms).

Interestingly, the MiG-15 was powered by an un-licensed, reverse-engineered version of the Nene, the Klimov VK-1.

The Panther had a maximum speed of 575 miles per hour (925 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 44,600 feet (13,594 meters), and the range was 1,353 miles (2,177 kilometers).

The Panther was armed with four M3 20 mm autocannon placed in the nose. It could carry up to 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of bombs or eight 5-inch (12.7 centimeters) rockets on four hardpoints under each wing.

The XF9F-2 prototype first flew 21 November 1947. 1,382 were produced and remained in service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps until 1958. A swept wing version, the F9F-6 through F9F-9J Cougar, was also produced.

For his service with VF-111 in combat from 5 August 1950 to 1 February 1951, Lieutenant Commander Amen was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

F9F-2 Bu. No. 127184 was part of a group of 28 Grumman F9F panthers that were sold to the Argentine Navy. It was transferred in April 1963.

A Grumman F9F-2 Panther of Fighter Squadron 111 drops bombs over Korea, circa 1952. It is painted overall Glossy Sea Blue with red accents at the nose and tail. This is similar in appearance to the Panther flown by Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, 9 November 1950. (U.S. Navy)
A Grumman F9F-2 Panther of Fighter Squadron 111 drops bombs over Korea, circa 1952. It is painted overall Glossy Sea Blue with red accents at the nose and tail. This is similar in appearance to the Panther flown by Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen, 9 November 1950. (U.S. Navy)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 October 1947

Grumman Model G-64, XJR2F-1 Pelican. (Уголок неба)

24 October 1947: First flight, prototype Grumman Model G-64, the XJR2F-1 Pelican. This amphibian would become the Grumman UF-1 Albatross. (In U.S. Air Force service, the Albatross was designated SA-16A. In 1962, this was changed to HU-16A for Navy, Coast Guard and USAF.)

Interestingly, several months earlier, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) conducted landing tests using a 1:7-scale model XJ2RF-1 in a test tank at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. Wave heights of 4.4 and 8.0 inches (11.2 and 20.3 centimeters) were used, with wave lengths between 10 feet and 50 feet (3–15 meters). Tests indicated that the amphibian could be expected to experience a maximum of 8.5 gs.

Grumman G-64, XJ2RF-1 Pelican (U.S. Coast Guard)

The Albatross was operated by a crew of 4 to 6, and could carry up to 10 passengers. The amphibian was 62 feet, 10 inches (19.152 meters) long and had an overall height of 25 feet, 10 inches (7.874 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 22,883 pounds (10,380 kilograms), loaded weight of 30,353 pounds (13,768 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 37,500 pounds (17,010 kilograms).

The SA-16A was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 826C9HD2 (R-1820-76) nine-cylinder radial engines rated at 1,275 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m., and 1,425 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m for takeoff. The engines drove three-bladed propellers through a 0.666:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-76 was 3 feet, 11.69 inches (1.211 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.95 inches (1.396 meters) in diameter. It weighed 1,360 pounds (617 kilograms).

The amhibia had a cruise speed of 124 miles per hour (200 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 236 miles per hour (380 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 21,500 feet (6,553 meters) and its maximum range was 2,850 miles (4,587 kilometers).

This former U.S. Coast Guard UF-1G (HU-16E) Albatross is now privately owned. (paxdaus)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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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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