F6F-3 Hellcat


Model review

Eduard 1/48 F6F-3 Hellcat (8221)

Box cover and painting guide

Kit
This kit is Eduard's new line of kits with simpler parts breakdown and easier assembly than many of the earlier Eduard kits. This is totally new kit and do not base on any other manufacturers moulds. Dimensions and shape of the main parts fits to the scale drawings well. According to many sources also the shape of the engine cowling air intake, the famous "grin", looks also right in this kit. Kit's 108 parts are moulded in light greengray plastic, one part is not to be used. There's 17 clear parts of which one part is not to be used. The kit contains also 74 photoetched parts and some of them is pre-painted. Decals are for five different planes. Painting masks are also included in the kit. Painting instruction booklet is excellent and is printed in colors. The kit is extremely sharply moulded with finely engraved panel lines and surface details. The rear fuselage sheet metal overlapping towards to the tail looks excellent. The kit parts are almost flash free. The fabric covering of the rudders and flaps is nice. Unfortunately there were long sink marks on the upper side of the ailerons on my kit. The kit contains also two sliding canopys, one for enclosed position and the other one, a little bigger, for open position. One good thing is that Eduard has made ailerons and landing flaps separately so we have on this kit thin wing trailing edges. It would have been nice if you could have had the opportunity to lower the flaps and deviate the ailerons but Eduard has decided that you have to assemble those control units to their neutral positions. The lower part of the engine cowling and especially the "grin" of the F6F Hellcat has always raised strong emotions amongst modellers. Here is where Eduard has succeed better than its competitor Hasegawa. The shape of the engine cowling "grin" is good, but not perfect. There is also resin replacement parts available on the market for the purists.

Although the kits main components are accurate and are well detailed there is also some imperfections and flaws that needs to be corrected:

- propeller blades are too wide about 1 mm and they narrows down too sudden towards the tips. Tips of the blades are too straight.
- trim tab on the right aileron should be external
- trim actuating rod and it's fairing is placed below the left aileron /wing. It should be above the left aileron/ wing.
- both ailerons have big gaps on upper sides
- landing light underneath the left wing has to be deleted (it was used on the first 272 F6F-3 planes)
- there are four round hatch and a rivet line on a fabric covered area at the tips of the elevators which have to be deleted
- few panel lines and one hatch on fuselage has to be deleted on F6F-3 (there are differencies between scale drawings)
- machine gun barrels are too long (about 1 mm), the outermost mg barrels should be inside the wing
- tail wheel well is missing
- blue navigation lights are missing above the wings near ailerons (they are marked with panel lines on the wings)
- antenna mast should be on the right side of the fuselage center line
- armoured glass is missing inside the windscreen (only F6F-5 had armoured windscreen)
- kit's wheels are too narrow and there's no patterning on the wearing surface
- vertical edging which twists around the auxiliary tank is missing


Construction

Exceptionally I started building with wings. Wing halfs fitted together well and I didn't need putty at all. I remembered also glue the wing guns on their places before I glued the wing halfs together. In the wheel wells there's a horizontal glue joint which goes around the wheel wells and is quite difficult to fill and sand out. After I had finished the wheel wells seams I glued flaps and ailerons to the wings with CA glue. As I mensioned before there were long sink marks on the upper side of the ailerons which bothered me so much that I decided to repair them. I filled the sink marks with putty and sanded them straight. Next I made new ribs in place of those I had sanded off above and partially below the ailerons. I masked the rib places with masking tape and painted the ribs with thick paint. After removing the masks I finished the ribs with a little sanding.

Kit's instruction booklet guides you to assemble two landing lights to the left wing. One under the wing and another to the leading edge of the wing. There were never two landing lights on a one plane! The first 272 F6F-3 planes had landing light under the left wing. On later production planes landing light under the left wing had to be deleted, they had only landing light on the leading edge of the left wing. If you are making an initial series plane which had landing light under the left wing then the plane should also have cowling with underneath gills, forward leaning antenna mast and inner machine gun fairings like the 909 first F6F-3 planes had.

F6F-3 had an external trim tab on the right aileron so the kits internal trim tab has to be removed and in place of it a new external trim tab have to make of a thin styrene sheet. Under the left aileron and left wing you have to delete trim actuating rod and it's fairing and make a new one on the upperside of the wing /aileron. (The kit depicts F6F-5 trim system). Compared to the scale drawings the propeller blades are 1 mm too wide at the widest point and the shape of the blades is wrong from the front. The blades narrows down towards the tips too steeply. Also tips of the blades are not round enough. Fortunately its quite easy to correct the propeller with a file and sandpaper.

On the fuselage there are few panel lines at wrong places and they have be removed (there are some differencies between the drawings). Also ADI tank's access door behind rear window on the right side of the plane have to be deleted (it was used from BuNo 40634, R-2800-10W engine with water injection). I filled the needless panel lines with CA glue and sanded them smooth. I also opened tail wheel's well with knife, kit's fuselage was enclosed.

Exceptionally I glued wings to the fuselage at this stage because I wanted to make sure good wing to fuselage glue joint. At this stage it was easy to push the wing to the gap at the fuselage half and press back with the other hand inside the fuselage. I think this is the best way to make good wing to fuselage joint like Eduard has meant. Next day when the glue had dried overnight I put the fuselage halfs together with tape. I wanted to check the wings to fuselage alingment which was perfect. From tips of elevators you have to delete four round hatches and a rivet line (fabric covered area). I filled the engraved round hatches and rivets with CA glue using hoppy knife's blade. When the glue had dried I sanded the surface smooth. After that I glued together horizontal stabilators and glued elevators to the stabilators. No putty was needed there.

Next I glued together engine cowling. Be aware at this stage and read carefully instructions, because there is three different types of cowlings which were used at the different stages of the F6F-3's evolution. Parts fit together well except the front part of the cowling which was too wide. I glued the cowling's front part on its place and filed leftover plastic away. Then I scribed lost panel lines and rivets. I also removed three ejector spots from inner sides of the cowling before glueing the parts together. It's good to make the rear edge of the cowling thinner at place of exhaust pipes at this stage. I painted the cowling's inside first and then test fitted it and noticed that the rear edge was too thick (see the work in progres photo). I used kit's engine on my model which is quite good representation of R-2800-10 engine. PE spark plug wires are also a nice detail to the engine.

Kit's cockpit is quite simply but with the PE parts included in the kit it's easy to build accurate. Painting guide for side consoles is insufficient and I used references from the internet. Kit includes also injected instrument panel if you don't like to use PE parts. Maybe the most difficult thing to correct is making a new armoured glass, which lack's from the kit, behind the windscreen. After I had finished the cockpit I glued it onto the other fuselage half. At this stage it's good to glue the two small rear windows on their places behind the cockpit, don't forget to attach the two small struts inside the rear windows too, because later it's imbossible to do. After I had glued the rear windows on their places I glued the fuselage halfs with the wings together using pressing devices and tape. When the glue joint had dried overnight I glued elevators and rudder on their places with CA glue. Fit was good and no putty was needed except into to the elevator/fuselage joint.

Be precise and follow the instructions carefully when you assemble the landing gear because there are a lot of very small parts. Without a doubt these were the most complicated landing gears in WW2 area plane I have ever built. Although there is injection moulded brake line on the landing gear strut you have to make some scracth building too. Part of the brake line is missing between the landing gear struts upper end and the wheel well. I used CMK resin wheels (Q48055) instead of the kit parts on my model. They are a little better than the kits wheels are and they have also the so called diamond type surface pattern on them. Also the wheel trims are very nicely moulded in resin.


Painting
My model depicts lieutenant Alexander Vraciu's plane "White 19" (BuNo 40467), when he served with VF-6 on USS Intrepid from February 1943 to March 1944. The model is painted on US Navys so called The Non-Specular, or Three-Tone, scheme used from February 1943 to March 1944. On that sceme upper surfaces were painted with Non-Specular Sea Blue (ANA 607, FS 35042), fuselage sides, vertical tail surfaces and rudder was painted with Non-Specular Intermediate Blue (ANA 608, FS 35164). Undersurfaces were Non-Specular Insignia White (ANA 601, FS 37880). On aircraft with folding wings, the portion of the wing viewed when folded was painted Non-Specular Intemediate Blue ANA 608. In late March 1944, colors from the 1943 Three Tone scheme were changed from Non-Specular to Glossy. The exception to this rule was fighter aircraft which were to now carry Glossy Sea Blue ANA 623 (FS 15042) overall. Non-Specular Sea Blue (ANA 607, FS 35042) could be substituted in areas where it was necessary to protect the pilot from sun glare.

I painted inside of the engine cowling and the fuselage against the instructions Grumman Gray. I also painted the area of the fuselage behind the cockpit visible through the rear view windows Grumman Gray. This also includes the back side of the rear bulkhead part E11. The color of the cowlings inside varied through the Hellcats production being Grumman Grey, Interior Green or Zinc Chromate Yellow. Late production F6F-5s had the cowling insides painted Black. Other inner surfaces were painted either Grumman Grey (Initial production planes) or Zinc Chromate Yellow. Cockpit of my model is painted with Us Interior Green. The first one hundred or so initial production planes probable had their cockpits painted Bronze Green and later production planes US Interior Green. F6F-5s had cockpits side consols and sidewalls above the consols painted Matt Black and other areas being US Interior Green. Normally US Navy planes had their wheel wells and landing gear struts painted with undersurface color. Engines gearbox is painted Engine Grey. There were matt black walking areas on the wing roots of the Hellcat which were often covered with strong exhaust fumes. Base part of Hellcats pitot tube was red (can be seen on some wartime photos).

Paints used on the model:
The first figure which indicates sheen level of a color on FS number is dropped off. X=XtraColor, LC=LifeColor, HU=Humbrol, R=Revell, WEM=White Ensign Models. (Between brackets alternative paints).

Non-Specular Sea Blue FS -5042 X121 (LC UA 047, HU181) Upper surfaces of wings and fuselage
Non-Specular Intermediate Blue FS -5164 X125 (LC UA045, HU144) Fuselage sides, fin and rudder
Non-Specular Insignia White FS -7880 R 5, 301 Lower surfaces
Black FS -7038 WEM AII Black (R 8, HU33, HU85) Propeller
US Interior green FS -4151 X117 Cockpit
Grumman Grey FS -6440 X137 (HU166) Fuselage interriors
Insignia Yellow FS -3538 X106, 706 (HU154, 24) Tips of the propeller
Engine Grey FS -6076 HU79, 32 (R 78) Engine's gearbox
Red FS - R 330 Pitot tube'shank

Decals
Kit's decal sheet includes markings for five different planes. The decals themselves are thin and glossy and printed in perfect register with minimal carrier film. Decals settled down nicely with MicroSol. I also used all stencilling markings on this model, totally 60 pieces. Instructions are good and places for all stencilling markings can easily be found.

Summary
Good kit of the one of the most important fighter / fighterbomber of the second world war.

Photos from different stages of the work
Hold the mouse cursor over thumbnail for a while before clicking !




History

Source: Wikipedia "Grumman F6F Hellcat"
Edited Jari Juvonen

The Grumman F6F Hellcat was a carrier-based fighter aircraft which was developed to replace the F4F Wildcat in United States Navy (USN) service. Although the F6F had likeness with the Wildcat, it was a completely new design and much bigger than the Wildcat. The F6F Hellcat was powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine. The F6F Hellcat and the Vought F4U Corsair were the primary USN fighters during the second half of World War II. The F6F Hellcat proved to be the most successful aircraft in naval history destroying 5271 aircraft while in service with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. After the war the F6F Hellcat was systematically phased out of front line service, but remained in service as late as 1954 as a night fighter in composite squadrons.

The Hellcat was the first USN fighter for which the design took into account lessons from combat with the Japanese Zero. Although the F4F Wildcat was a capable fighter, early air battles revealed the Japanese A6M Zero was more maneuverable and had better rate of climb than the F4F Wildcat. The F4F Wildcat did have some advantages over the Zero. Wildcats were able to absorb a tremendous amount of damage compared to the Zero, and had better armament. The F4F Wildcat was also much faster in a dive than the Zero, an advantage Wildcat pilots used frequently to elude attacking Zeros. Grumman was working on a successor to the F4F Wildcat well before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. These advantages carried over into the F6F Hellcat and, combined with other improvements, created a fighter that outclassed the Zero almost completely.

The contract for the prototype XF6F-1 was signed on 30 June 1941. The F6F was originally to be given the Wright R-2600 Cyclone engine of 1,700 hp, but based on combat experience of F4F Wildcat and Zero encounters, Grumman decided to further improve their new fighter to overcome the A6M Zero's dominance in the Pacific theater. Grumman installed the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp 2,000 hp estimating a 25% increase in performance would result. The first Cyclone-equipped prototype (02981) flew on 26 June 1942 while the first Double Wasp-equipped aircraft, the XF6F-3 (02982) had its first flight on 30 July 1942.

The XF6F-2 incorporated a turbo-supercharger, but performance gains were only slight and until fleet demands for improvements in speed arose, this variant, along with the two-speed supercharger-equipped XF6F-3, languished. However, later F6F-4 and F6F-5 variants did benefit from these initial development programs. Like the Wildcat, the Hellcat was designed for ease of manufacture and ability to withstand significant damage.A total of 96 kg of cockpit armor was fitted to aid pilot survival, as well as a bullet-resistant windshield and armor around the engine oil tank and oil cooler. Self-sealing fuel tanks further reduced susceptibility to fire and often allowed damaged aircraft to return home.

The first production aircraft off the line, designated F6F-3s, flew on 3 October 1942 with the type reaching operational readiness with VF-9 on USS Essex in February 1943. Two night fighter sub-variants of the F6F-3 were also developed. The F6F-3E, converted from standard -3 frames, featured the AN/APS-4 radar in a fairing in the starboard wing. The later F6F-3N, first seen in July 1943, was fitted with the AN/APS-6 radar in a similar fairing. By November 1943, Hellcat night fighters had seen their first action. Fitting AN/APS-6 radar fairings to F6F-5s resulted in the night fighter F6F-5N, and a small number of standard F6F-5s were also fitted with camera equipment for reconnaissance duties as the F6F-5P.


Instead of the Wildcat's narrow-track undercarriage retracting into the fuselage requiring awkward hand-cranking by the pilot, the Hellcat had hydraulically-actuated undercarriage struts set wider and retracting backward, twisting through 90 into the wings. The wing was low-mounted instead of mid-mounted and folded the same way as the later versions of the Wildcat, allowing the Hellcat to take on a compact, tucked-in appearance on a flight deck.

Standard armament on the F6F consisted of six 12.7 mm M2 Browning air-cooled machine guns with 400 rpg. Later aircraft gained three hardpoints to carry a total bombload in excess of 900 kg. The center hardpoint also had the ability to carry a single 568 l disposable drop tank. Six 127 mm HVARs (High Velocity Aircraft Rocket)could be carried; three under each wing.

The most common variant, the F6F-5, featured improvements such as a more powerful R-2800-10W engine housed in a slightly more streamlined engine cowling, spring-loaded control tabs on the ailerons, deletion of the rear-view windows behind the main canopy, an improved, clear view windscreen with a flat armored-glass front panel replacing the curved plexiglass panel and internal armor glass screen and numerous other minor advances. Another improvement in the F6F-5 was the availability of more potent armament than the standard six 12.7 mm machine guns. All F6F-5s could carry an armament mix of a pair of 20 mm Hispano cannon, one mounted in each of the inboard gun bays, with a minimum of 220 rpg, along with two pairs of 12.7 mm machine guns, with 400 rpg, this configuration was only used on many later F6F-5N night fighters.

Two F6F-5s were fitted with the 18-cylinder 2,100 hp (1,567 kW) Pratt and Whitney R-2800-18W two-stage blower radial engine which was also used by the F4U-4 Corsair. The new Hellcat variant was fitted with a four-bladed propeller and was called the XF6F-6. The aircraft proved to be the best performer in the series with a top speed of 671 km/h. The war ended before this variant could be mass-produced.

The last Hellcat rolled out in November 1945, the total production figure being 12,275, of which 11,000 had been built in just two years. This impressive production rate was credited to the sound original design, which required little modification once production was underway. Only two major types with a minimal amount of differences and major changes were produced, so production could continue without interruptions.

The Hellcat first saw action against the Japanese on 1 September 1943 and were involved in practically all engagements with Japanese air power from that point onward. When trials were flown against a captured Zero Type 52, they showed that the Hellcat was faster at all altitudes. The F6F outclimbed the Zero marginally above 14,000 ft and rolled faster at speed above 235 mph. The Japanese fighter could out-turn its American opponent with ease at low speed and enjoyed a slightly better rate of climb below 14,000 ft.

The F6F accounted for 75% of all aerial victories recorded by the U.S. Navy and Marine in the Pacific. Radar-equipped Hellcat night fighter squadrons appeared in early 1944. US Navy and Marine F6Fs flew 66,530 combat sorties, 62,386 sorties were flown from aircraft carriers. 5,163 enemy planes were destroyed at a cost of 270 Hellcats (an overall kill-to-loss ratio of 19:1). It must be noted that the U.S. successes were not only attributed to superior aircraft, but also because they faced increasingly inexperienced Japanese aviators from 1942 onwards, as well as having the advantage of ever-increasing numerical superiority.

The British Fleet Air Arm (FAA) received 1,263 F6Fs under the Lend-Lease Act. They were named as the Grumman Gannet Mark I. The name Hellcat replaced it in early 1943 for the sake of simplicity, the Royal Navy at that time adopting the use of the existing American naval names for all the U.S.-made aircraft supplied to it, with the F6F-3 being designated Hellcat F I, the F6F-5, the Hellcat F II and the F6F-5N, the Hellcat NF II. They saw action off Norway, in the Mediterranean and in the Far East. A number were fitted with photographic reconnaissance equipment similar to the F6F-5P, receiving the designation Hellcat FR II. The FAA Hellcat units shot down a total of 52 enemy aircraft.


F6F Hellcat variants:

XF6F-1
First prototype, powered by a two-stage 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) Wright R-2600-10 Cyclone 14 radial piston engine

XF6F-2
Second prototype, powered by a turbocharged Wright R-2600-16 Cyclone radial piston engine

XF6F-3
The first XF6F-1 prototype revised and fitted with a two-stage supercharged 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 Double Wasp radial piston engine

F6F-3
Single-seat fighter, fighter-bomber aircraft, powered by a 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 Double Wasp radial piston engine

Gannet Mk I
British designation of the F6F-3 Hellcat; later redesignated Hellcat F Mk.I

F6F-3E Hellcat
Night fighter version, equipped with an AN/APS-4 radar in a fairing on the starboard outer wing

F6F-3N Hellcat
Another night fighter version, equipped with a newer AN/APS-6 radar in a fairing on the starboard outer wing

XF6F-4
One F6F-3 fitted with a two-speed turbocharged 2,100 hp (1,567 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 Double Wasp radial piston engine

F6F-5 Hellcat
Improved version, with a redesigned engine cowling, a new windscreen structure with an integral bullet proof windscreen, new ailerons and strengthened tail surfaces; powered by a 2,200 hp (1,640 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W (-W denotes Water Injection) radial piston engine

Hellcat F Mk II
British designation of the F6F-5 Hellcat

F6F-5K Hellcat
A number of F6F-5s and F6F-5Ns were converted into radio-controlled target drones

F6F-5N Hellcat
Night fighter version, fitted with an AN/ APS-6 radar. Some were armed with two 20 millimeter (0.79 in) AN/M2 cannon in the inner wing bays and four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in the outer

Hellcat NF Mk II
British designation of the F6F-5N Hellcat

F6F-5P Hellcat
Small numbers of F6F-5s were converted into photo-reconnaissance aircraft, with the camera equipment being fitted in the rear fuselage

Hellcat FR Mk II
This designation was given to British Hellcats fitted with camera equipment

XF6F-6
Two F6F-5s that were fitted with the 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W radial piston engine, and four bladed propellers

FV-1
Proposed designation for Hellcats to be built by Canadian Vickers; cancelled before any built



F6F-3 Hellcat technical data

Engine 2000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 two-row, 18-cylinder, air-cooled radial engine
Dimensions Span 13,06 m; lenght 10,24 m; hight 4,11 m; wing area 31,03 m2
Weights Empty weight 4100 kg; normal flying weight 5160 kg, max. flying weight 6990 kg
Performance Max. speed 605 km/h; rate of climb 988 m/min
Ceiling 11370 m
Range With internal fuel 1753 km, with drop tank 2100 km
Armament 6 x 12,7 mm mg (some late production planes 4 x 12,7 mm mg ja 2 x 20 mm cannon), 2 x 1000 lbs (454 kg) bomb or 6 x 5 " (127 mm) HVAR rocket
Production 4646 (F6F-3), 6436 (F6F-5), 1432 (F6F-5N)
Users USA, UK, France, Uruguay



Alexander Vraciu

Source: Acepilots.com

Alexander Vraciu was born in East Chicago, Indiana, and attended DePauw University on a scholarship where he enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training program. He started naval flight training in late 1941, winning his wings in August, 1942. He qualified as a carrier pilot on USS Wolverine, a converted Great Lakes steamer. His first combat unit was VF-3 (later redesignated VF-6) where he spent 5 months as wingman to Ed "Butch" O'Hare and shot down his first Japanese plane, a Zero over Wake Island in October 1943. He soon downed another Betty over Tarawa, and "made ace" on January 29, 1944 when he got three more Bettys over Kwajalein.

His next combat occurred with Intrepid's VF-6, on the February 16-17, 1944 strike against Truk airfields on Moen, Eten, and Param Islands. The day started with a large fighter sweep, 72 Hellcats, over the Jap bases. Vraciu arrived over Moen at 13,000 foot (4000 m) altitude just before sunrise. Amidst the anti-aircraft fire, the Hellcats began diving toward the airstrips for their strafing runs. Looking all around, Lt. Vraciu spotted some Zeros above and to port, which he swung toward and attacked. Using the superior maneuverability of the Hellcat at high speeds (over 250 knots, 460 km/h), he successfully gained altitude on the Zeros and chased them into clouds and onto the deck. During this action he hit and set afire 3 Zeros, which splashed inside Truk lagoon. He then got another after a bit of cat-and-mouse in a cloud. The afternoon saw little air-to-air action, as Vraciu and the other Hellcat pilots escorted bombers and torpedo planes on their runs. That evening, when the planes had returned, Intrepid was hit by a torpedo and was withdrawn from combat for repairs.

He was then assigned to VF-16, and scored two more kills when he downed two Zeros in another raid on Truk on April 29, 1944. His twelfth victory was a Betty 'snooper' that he downed over Saipan on June 12, 1944. On June 14, he didn't add to his "air-to-air" wins, but he achieved the spectacular feat of sinking a Japanese merchant ship with a direct hit on its stern!

Marianas Turkey Shoot

On June 19, 1944 during what came to be known as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," he was assigned to CAP over the US fleet, and engaged an attacking Jap air group about 25 miles west of USS Lexington. He shot down a remarkable 6 Japanese 'Judy' dive bombers in just eight minutes using only 360 rounds of ammunition. In that frenetic interception, Lt. Vraciu wove his way through the enemy formation to pick off six enemy aircraft. He downed his initial quarry from a distance of only 200 feet and quickly reacted to avoid damage from the dive bomber's debris. He then crept toward a pair of dive bombers and shot down the trailing Judy before splashing the lead plane. Every minute brought the action continuously closer to Lexington, which meant that not only was the carrier in danger, but Vraciu and other American pilots would have to fly directly into their own ships' anti-aircraft fire to chase attacking enemy planes.

Vraciu scanned the skies, which by now were dotted with speeding Hellcats, plunging enemy planes, and hundreds of lethal bursts of anti-aircraft fire. He warned Lexington: "Don't see how we can possibly shoot 'em all down. Too many!" But he nevertheless chased after, and downed, a fourth dive bomber. Three other Judys zoomed into view as they began their final runs on ships below, and Vraciu followed them. He quickly downed the first but was forced into a perilous vertical dive to stop the second before it dropped its bomb on a destroyer. With anti-aircraft fire intensifying, Vraciu caught up to the enemy plane and destroyed it, then pulled out of his dive to avoid crashing into the water. Battleship anti-aircraft fire downed the final enemy dive bomber.

Vraciu headed back to Lexington, where he was almost killed by his own ship's fire. Shouting into his radio that he was an American, Vraciu finally landed. As he walked away from his plane, a tired Vraciu glanced toward Admiral Mitscher on the bridge and smiling widely, held up six fingers to indicate his success, a scene captured in a well-known photograph. His nineteenth (and last) victory came the next day when he got another Zero.

He was referred to as "Grumman's Best Customer" after surviving two carriers being torpedoed, two ditchings and two parachute jumps. In December, 1944, he was shot down on a raid over Manila's Clark Field, and hid out with Filipino guerrillas for five weeks, before meeting up with American forces. Alex Vraciu ended WWII as the U.S. Navy's fourth-ranking ace with 19 enemy aircraft shot down plus 21 more destroyed on the ground. He spent the last few months of the war as a test pilot at the Navy's Patuxent River facility. After the war, he commanded VF-51.


Sources

  • Wikipedia "Grumman F6F Hellcat"
  • Acepilots.com "Grumman F6F Hellcat"
  • IPMS Stockholm: Camouflage & Markings Interior Colours of US Aircraft, 1941-45 Part III"
  • Modelwarships.com
  • The Concise Guide to American Aircraft of World War II by David Mondey
  • F6F Hellcat in Action by Jim Sullivan; Squadron Signal Publications n:o 36
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