Hobby Master HA1115 US Navy Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Fighter - Paper Doll, VF-27, USS Princeton (CVL-23), October 1944 (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 attached to VF-27, then embarked upon the USS Princeton (CVL-23), during October 1944.
Release Date: July 2014
Historical Account: "Hellcats of the Pacific" - Established at NAS Norfolk,VA in April 1942 flying the Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, VGF-27 became one of the most traveled Navy squadrons of the war. Following OPERATION TORCH against French Morocco in November 1942, the squadron remained aboard the USS Suwannee as part of CVEG-27 through most of the next eight months. Upon redesigination as VF-27 in March 1943, the squadron operated their Wildcats ashore at Guadalcanal until July, except for a brief period at sea, again aboard the USS Suwannee, in June. Among the 12 victories credited during April through July, were the first for future standouts Cecil harris, and Sam Silber.
After refitting with the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat in the U.S. in early 1944, and intense training in Hawaii during March, and April 1944, VF-27 embarked aboard the USS Princeton CVL-23. This would prove to be one of the most spectacular Light Carrier cruises of the war. Under Lcdr. Ernest Wood, the "Cat Mouthed" Hellcats flew warm-up missions against Saipan, and Tinian, on June 11th and 12th of 1944. Within a week the squadron participated in the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot", on June 19th. The Hellcats of VF-27 claimed 30 kills against Japanese aircraft attempting to strike Task Force 58. Squadron commander Lt. Cdr Wood was lost on this day however, his replacement was Lcdr. Fred Bardshar. Future aces Bill Lamb, Dick Stambook, and Gordon Stanley splashed four enemy aircraft apiece during the operation. Lcdr. Bardshar led VF-27 on a fighter sweep over Manila on Sept 21st, with VF-27 claiming 38 victories over IJN, and IJAAF aircraft. The days bag included 4.5 kills for Lt. John Rodgers, and 4 kills for Lt. Jim "Red" Shirley.
After strikes against Formosa in mid- October, the Princeton was back in the Leyte Gulf as part of Task Force 38.3 on 24 October. Near Pollilo Island in the eastern part of the gulf VF-27 wrecked havoc on the Japanese, destroying 36 enemy fighters that day. Four pilots emerged as "Aces in a Day" in this engagement. They were Lt's Carl Brown, and Jim Shirley, plus Lt. (jg) Gene Townsend, and Ensign Tom Conroy.
However upon return to the fleet, "Sweet P", the USS Princeton was found afire and sinking. At 9:38 that morning a lone JUDY dive bomber appeared suddenly out of thick clouds and dropped a single bomb on the Princeton's flight deck. The bomb exploded amidst fueld and armed Grumman TBF Avengers on the hanger deck. The ship was rocked by multiple explosions, seven hours later gutted by fire the Princeton was scuttled by American torpedoes. VF-27's 5 month war cruise was over. Of the 136 victories credited during the deployment, a staggering 104 occured on three days. A record unbeaten by any other CVL fighter squadron during the war. Lcdr. Bardshar reformed the squadron in time to return to the Western Pacific abaord the carrier USS Independance. One more victory was scored before the war ended. VF-27 officially disbanded Nov 26, 1945.