Hobby Master HA1112 US Navy Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Fighter - Lt. Hamilton McWhorter III, VF-12, USS Randolph (CV-15), 1945 (1:72 Scale)
"Why should we have a navy at all? There are no enemies for it to fight except apparently the Army Air Force."
- General Carl Spaatz, Commander of the US 8th Army Air Force, after WWII
The F6F embodied the early lessons learned by users of Grumman's previous fleet-defense fighter, the Wildcat. In June 1941, Grumman lowered the wing center section to enable the undercarriage to be wider splayed, fitting more armor-plating around the cockpit to protect the pilot while also increasing the fighter's ammunition capacity. When the prototype made its first flight, it was realized that a more powerful engine was needed to give the fighter a combat edge. A Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 engine was installed for added power.
The aircraft made its combat debut in August 1943, and from that point on, the question of aerial supremacy in the Pacific was never in doubt. Hellcats served aboard most of the US Navy's fleet carriers, being credited with the destruction of 4,947 aircraft up to V-J Day. The Fleet Air Arm was also a great believer in the Hellcat, procuring almost 1,200 planes between 1943-45. The Hellcat saw only limited service in the post-war years, being replaced by the more powerful F9F Bearcat. Of the nine F6Fs believed to be airworthy today, seven are based in the USA and two are located in the UK.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a US Navy F6F-5 Hellcat fighter that was piloted by Lt. Hamilton McWhorter III who was attached to VF-12, then embarked upon the USS Randolph during 1945.
Wingspan: 5 inches
Length: 5 inches
Release Date: May 2010
Historical Account: "One Slug" - Lt. Hamilton "Mac" McWhorter III was the first F6F Hellcat ace of the US Navy. In mid-September, 1943, the Navy put together, for the first time, a task force of six carriers, including Essex and its VF-9. When four of these carriers struck Wake Island on October 5th-6th, the Hellcats saw their first significant aerial combat. Half an hour before dawn on the 5th, each of the four carriers launched three fighter divisions, 47 Hellcats in all. When they were still 50 miles out from Wake, the Japanese radar detected them, and 27 Zeros intercepted. In the ensuing dogfight, Fighting Nine's skipper, Phil Torrey, shot down one Zero, then evaded two more by dodging in and out of clouds. Lt. Hadden, while watching a shared kill fall into the ocean, was jumped by two Zeros, and was lucky enough to make it back to Essex with most of his engine oil emptied out through several 20mm holes. Lt. (jg) McWhorter dove into a gaggle of Zeros, when one serendipitously appeared in his gunsight. He fired a short burst and exploded the Zero - his first aerial victory.
The raid showed that the new Hellcats could more than hold its own against the Zeros. They destroyed 22 of 34 aircraft at Wake, and 12 American planes were lost - 6 to the Zeros and 6 to AA gunfire. He destroyed two more Zeros in the Nov. 11th raid on Rabaul. (See Tom Blackburn's experiences on that day.) Task Force 50.3 (Essex, Bunker Hill, and Independence) arrived in the Southwest Pacific on Nov. 5th, 1943. They began to hear of casualties from the day's raid, so the fliers were a little apprehensive when they learned of the follow-up planned for the 11th. The incomplete intelligence reports that were available did little to ease their trepidation at attacking "Fortress Rabaul."
While the number of American victory claims on the Rabaul raids were overstated, they unmistakably reduced the Japanese air strength - both pilots and planes. The raids also showed that the powerful new carrier task forces could operate within the range of land-based bombers. The next step was Tarawa in the Gilberts, where VF-9 was assigned to tactical air support for the Marines. He made ace by downing a Pete floatplane off Tarawa on November 18 and a Betty bomber the next day. He only used 86 rounds to down the Betty, earning the nickname "One Slug."
When VF-9's combat tour finished in March 1944, McWhorter helped to re-organize VF-12 (formerly flying Corsairs) as a Hellcat squadron, on the carrier Randolph. He took part in the first carrier raid against Tokyo on Feb. 16th, 1945, downing a Zero. His 12th and last victory came on May 13th, when he downed a Myrt recon plane. He was flying morning CAP over Task Force 58, when he was vectored to to intercept a high bogey. The IJN C6N Myrt was at 25,000 feet and going away. McWhorter got so close that when he flamed it, its oil got all over his Hellcat. As the Myrt exploded, two parachutes popped out, each holding a modest size box. One young ensign had to investigate and the box, apparently quite solid, smashed the leading edge of his wing. Later that same day, McWhorter led an escort mission for two Vought OS2U Kingfisher that had to rescue a couple pilots downed in Japan's Inland Sea. With some difficulty, and lots of S-turns, the high-powered F6Fs kept pace with the slow Kingfishers. As they approached the area where the downed pilot had been reported, the planes that had been circling above had to depart because of low fuel. In the sea below, a bright yellow dye marker guided the Kingfishers to the downed pilots. As he made the pick-up, one of the OS2U pilots cut his engine. From high above, McWhorter saw the prop stop, and he thought that this was not a good idea, being only 15 miles from a Jap air base. But the rescue plane re-started in a couple minutes and took off safely. On the return flight the Kingfishers, now more heavily loaded with humanity, flew even more slowly. By early afternoon, all hands were back on board Randolph.
By the time they landed, McWhorter had been aloft for over five and a half hours, his longest flight of the war. While five hour flights were routine, what really hurt was the survival gear that some "sadist" had decided should be packed right under the pilot's butt, with the emergency water can cutting into them. There was no room in the cockpit to avoid this literal 'pain in the butt'.