Hobby Master HA8904 USN Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat Fighter - Lt. Edward H. "Butch" O'Hare, "White F-15", VF-3, USS Lexington (CV-2), 1942 (1:48 Scale)
"Skipper, it really worked. I couldn't make any attack without seeing the nose of one of your airplanes pointed at me."
- Ensign Edward "Butch" O'Hare discussing the newly-developed "Thach Weave" maneuver with Lt. Commander John Thach
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 Martlets 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 in spite 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 USN Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter that was piloted by Lt. Edward H. "Butch" O'Hare, who was attached to VF-3, then embarked upon the USS Lexington (CV-2) during 1942.
Pre-order! Ship Date: May 2020.
Release Date: ?
Historical Account: "Butch" - Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare was an American naval aviator of the United States Navy, who on February 20th, 1942, became the Navy's first flying ace when he single-handedly attacked a formation of nine heavy bombers approaching his aircraft carrier. Even though he had a limited amount of ammunition, he managed to shoot down five enemy bombers. On April 21st, 1942, he became the first naval recipient of the Medal of Honor in World War II.
O'Hare's final action took place on the night of November 26th, 1943, while he was leading the U.S. Navy's first-ever nighttime fighter attack launched from an aircraft carrier. During this encounter with a group of Japanese torpedo bombers, O'Hare's Grumman F6F Hellcat was shot down; his aircraft was never found. In 1945, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS O'Hare (DD-889) was named in his honor.
A few years later, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, suggested that the name of Chicago's Orchard Depot Airport be changed as a tribute to Butch O'Hare. On September 19th, 1949, the Chicago, Illinois airport was renamed O'Hare International Airport to honor O'Hare's bravery. The airport displays a Grumman F4F-3 museum aircraft replicating the one flown by Butch O'Hare during his Medal of Honor flight. The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat on display was recovered virtually intact from the bottom of Lake Michigan, where it sank after a training accident in 1943 when it went off the training aircraft carrier USS Wolverine (IX-64). In 2001, the Air Classics Museum remodeled the aircraft to replicate the F4F-3 Wildcat that O'Hare flew on his Medal of Honor flight. The restored Wildcat is exhibited in the west end of Terminal 2 behind the security checkpoint to honor O'Hare International Airport's namesake.