Hobby Master HA0301 USN Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Fighter - "Minsi II", Cdr. David McCampbell, Commander Air Group 15, USS Essex (CV-9), 1944 (1:32 Scale)
"All available fighter pilots! Man your planes!"
- Message barked into the squawk box of the Essex' ready room when the ship's radar had detected three large groups of incoming Japanese planes during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 24th, 1944
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.
This particular 1:32 scale aircraft was flown by Commander David McCampbell, Commander of Air Group 15, embarked upon the USS Essex in 1944.
Release Date: January 2014
Historical Account: "The Fabled Fifteen" - Captain David McCampbell (January 16th, 1910 - June 30th, 1996) was an American aviator, who became the US Navy's all-time leading ace with 34 aerial victories during World War II.
Following service aboard a cruiser, 1935-37, McCampbell applied for flight training and was accepted. He received his "wings of gold" in 1938 and was assigned to Fighting Squadron Four on the East Coast. Subsequently he became a landing signal officer and survived the sinking of USS Wasp (CV-7) off Guadalcanal in September 1942.
From September 1943 to September 1944 McCampbell was commander of Air Group 15, in charge of fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex. From April to November 1944, his group saw six months of continuous combat and participated in two major air-sea battles, the First and Second Battles of the Philippine Sea. During the more than 20,000 hours of air combat operations before it returned to the United States for a rest period, Air Group 15 destroyed more enemy planes (315 airborne and 348 on the ground) and sank more enemy shipping than any other Air Group in the Pacific War. Air Group 15's attacks on the Japanese in the Marianas and at Iwo Jima, Taiwan, and Okinawa were key to the success of the 'island hopping' campaign.
In addition to his duties as commander of the 'Fabled Fifteen,' then Commander McCampbell became the Navy's 'Ace of Aces' during the missions he flew in 1944. In October 1944, he and his wing man attacked a Japanese force of 60 aircraft. During the mission, Captain McCampbell shot down nine enemy planes, setting a single mission aerial combat record. When he landed his Grumman F6F Hellcat, his six machine guns had two rounds remaining and the plane had only enough fuel to keep it aloft for 10 more minutes. Captain McCampbell received the Medal of Honor for that action, becoming the only fast carrier task force pilot to do so. During a similarly courageous mission in June 1944, Air Group 15's planes routed a large enemy force and McCampbell earned seven kills.
For his brilliant record in command of Air Group 15, McCampbell was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit with Combat 'V', the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Gold Stars in lieu of the second and third awards, and the Air Medal. (courtesy: Wikipedia)