Armour Collection B11F013 USMC Grumman F4F Wildcat Fighter - Captain Joseph Jacob "Joe" Foss, VMF-121 "Green Knights", Guadalcanal, 1942 (1:48 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 Grumman F4F Wildcat was the standard carrier-based fighter of the United States Navy for the first year and a half of World War II. An improved version built by General Motors (the General Motors FM Wildcat) remained in service throughout the war, on escort carriers where newer, larger and heavier fighters could not be used.
The Wildcat was outperformed by the Mitsubishi Zero, its major opponent in the Pacific war, but held its own by absorbing far more damage and wielding more firepower. With heavy armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, the Grumman airframe could survive far more than its lightweight, unarmored Japanese rival.
The original Grumman F4F-1 design was a biplane, which when proving inferior to rival designs was recast as the monoplane F4F-2. This was still not competitive with the Brewster F2A Buffalo which won initial US Navy orders, but when the F4F was fitted with a more powerful engine, the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp, it showed its true merits and became the F4F-3. US Navy orders followed as did some (with Wright Cyclone engines) from France; these ended up with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm after the fall of France. In British service initially these were known as the Martlet I, but not all Marlets would be to the exact same specifications as US Navy aircraft. The F4F-3A would enter service as the Martlet III(B), the FM-1 as the Martlet V, and the FM-2 as the Martlet VI. The name Wildcat was still commonly used for these aircraft inspite of the official name change.
A new version, the F4F-4, entered service in 1942 with six guns and folding wings, allowing more to be crammed on a carrier; this was the definitive version and the one that saw the most combat service in the early war years including the Battle of Midway.
Grumman production ceased in early 1943 to make way for the newer F6F Hellcat, but General Motors continued producing them for both US Navy and Fleet Air Arm use, as larger fighters such as the Hellcat and the Vought F4U Corsair were too large for use on escort carriers. At first they produced the identical FM-1 model but then switched to the improved FM-2 (based on Grumman's F4F-8 prototype) with a more powerful engine and a taller tail to cope with the torque. In all, 7,251 Wildcats were built.
All versions of the Wildcat used hand-cranked landing gear with a relatively narrow track, making landing accidents where the landing gear were not fully locked into place distressingly common.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a USMC Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter that was piloted by Captain Joseph Jacob "Joe" Foss, who was attached to VMF-121 "Green Knights", then deployed to Guadalcanal during 1942.
Wingspan: 9.5 inches
Length: 7.25 inches
Release Date: February 2009
Historical Account: "Green Knights" - Joseph Jacob "Joe" Foss (April 17, 1915–January 1, 2003) was an "ace" fighter pilot in the United States Marine Corps, a 1943 recipient of the Medal of Honor, and the 20th Governor of South Dakota.
After being designated a Naval Aviator, Foss served as a flight instructor at Pensacola, Florida and later attended the Navy School of Photography, at which time he was assigned to Marine Photographic Squadron 1 (VMD-1) which was stationed at NAS North Island in San Diego, California. Eager for combat, he qualified in Grumman F4F Wildcats while still assigned to VMD-1 and was eventually transferred to Marine Fighting Squadron 121 VMF-121. In October 1942, VMF-121 was deployed to the South Pacific and became part of the Cactus Air Force in the Battle of Guadalcanal with Foss serving as the executive officer. On combat missions he led an eight-plane element that became known as the Flying Circus. He shot down a Japanese Zero on October 13th, but his own plane was hit and, with a dead engine and three more Zeros on his tail, he landed at full speed, no flaps and minimal control on the American runway at Guadalcanal, barely missing a grove of palm trees.
By the time Foss left Guadalcanal in January 1943, his Flying Circus had shot down 72 Japanese aircraft, including 26 credited to him. As America's "ace of aces" he received the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony in 1943, and appeared on the cover of Life magazine.
Even though all of Foss' 26 victories were gained as a Marine Corps officer, the service continues recognizing Gregory Boyington as its leading ace. This is due to Boyington's wartime claims in the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) as well as the Marine Corps, though the documented records prove otherwise. (See Dr. Frank Olynyk, Stars and Bars: A Tribute to the American Fighter Ace, 1995). Currently, the Marines credit Boyington with 28 victories: six with the AVG in China and 22 with the Marine Corps, the last two being unwitnessed. Boyington's total score recognized by the American Fighter Aces Association is 24: 2 with the AVG and 22 claimed with the Marine Corps. Boyington thus ranks behind Foss (26) and Robert M. Hanson (25).