Hobby Master HA7206 USMC Grumman F9F-5 Panther Fighter - Captain Ted Williams, VMF-311, Marine Aircraft Group 33 (MAG-33), Based at K-3 Airfield, Pohang, Korea, 1953 (1:48 Scale)
"To Ted Williams - not only America's greatest baseball player, but a great American who served his country. Your friend, Douglas MacArthur. General U.S. Army."
- Inscription found on an oil painting of General Douglas MacArthur to Ted Williams celebrating his fortieth birthday
The Grumman F9F Panther was the manufacturer's first jet fighter and the U.S. Navy's second. The Panther was the most widely used U.S. Navy jet fighter of the Korean War. It flew 78,000 sorties and was responsible for the first air kill by the US Navy in the war - the downing of a North Korean Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter. Total F9F production was 1,382, with several variants being shipped to Argentina for export.
Development studies at the Grumman company began near the end of the World War II as the first jet engines emerged. The prototype Panther, piloted by test pilot Corky Meyer, first flew on November 24th, 1947. Propulsion was a Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet built under license by Pratt & Whitney as the J42. Since there was insufficient space within the wings and fuselage for fuel for the thirsty jet, permanently-mounted wingtip fuel tanks were added which incidentally improved the fighter's rate of roll. It was cleared for flight from aircraft carriers in September 1949. During the development phase, Grumman decided to change the Panther's engine, selecting the Pratt & Whitney J48-P-2, a license built version of the Rolls-Royce Tay. The other engine that had been tested was the Allison J33-A-16, a development of the Rolls-Royce Derwent.
From 1946, a swept-wing version was considered and after concerns about the Panther's inferiority to its MiG opponents in Korea, a conversion of the Panther (Design 93) resulted in a swept-wing derivative of the Panther, the Grumman F9F Cougar, which retained the Panther's designation number.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a USMC Grumman F9F-5 Panther Fighter that was flown by famed baseball player Captain Ted Williams, who was attached to VMF-311, Marine Aircraft Group 33 (MAG-33), which was based at K-3 airfield, Pohang, Korea.
Release Date: March 2010
Historical Account: "To Ted" - On May 1st, 1952, at the age of 34, he was recalled to active duty for service in the Korean War. He hadn't flown for some eight years but turned away all offers to sit out the war in comfort as a member of a service baseball team. Nevertheless Williams was resentful of being called up, which he admitted years later, particularly of the Navy's policy to call up Inactive Reservists rather than members of the Active Reserve.
After eight weeks of refresher flight training and qualification in the F9F Panther jet at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, he was assigned to VMF-311, Marine Aircraft Group 33 (MAG-33), based at K-3 airfield in Pohang, Korea.
On February 16th, 1953, Williams was part of a 35-plane strike package against a tank and infantry training school just south of Pyongyang, North Korea. During the mission a piece of flak knocked out his hydraulics and electrical systems, causing Williams to have to "limp" his plane back to K-13, an Air Force base close to the front lines. For his actions of this day he was awarded the Air Medal.
Williams stayed on K-13 for several days while his plane was repaired. Because he was so popular, GI's from all around the base came to see him and his plane. After it was repaired, Williams flew his plane back to his Marine station.
Williams eventually flew 39 combat missions before being pulled from flight status in June 1953 after a hospitalization for pneumonia resulted in discovery of an inner ear infection that disqualified him from flight status. During the war he also served in the same unit as John Glenn and in the last half of his missions, he was serving as Glenn's wingman. While these absences, which took almost five years out of the heart of a great career, significantly limited his career totals, he never publicly complained about the time devoted to military service. Biographer Leigh Montville argues that Williams was not happy about being pressed into service in Korea, but he did what he felt was his patriotic duty.
Williams had a strong respect for General Douglas MacArthur, referring to him as his "idol". For Williams' fortieth birthday, MacArthur sent him an oil painting of himself with the inscription "To Ted Williams - not only America's greatest baseball player, but a great American who served his country. Your friend, Douglas MacArthur. General U.S. Army."