Grumman F4F Wildcat The F4F Wildcat was the fighter used by Lieutenant Edward O’Hare who shot down five Mitsubishi G4M bombers near Rabaul on February 20, 1942. For this action O’Hare was awarded the Medal of Honor, and also became the US Navy’s first ace of WWII. It held the line in the dark days prior to the incredible victory at Midway, when we were outnumbered, and badly unprepared for war.
F6F Hellcat [right photo] The Hellcat came into service approximately June 1943. Films about the battle of Midway will show the Hellcat when the time frame was a year prior to its entry into the war. The F6F Hellcat was larger than the Wildcat and used the more powerful 2000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine. The F6F had distinct advantages over the Japanese Zero including greater speed, better rate of climb, and armor.
The Wildcat was already obsolescent when it entered service. But this mid-wing fighter, was -like all allied aircraft- designed to protect the pilot. Armor protection, self sealing fuel tanks and heavy armament made it slower and less maneuverable than the feared “Zeke” -the code name given to the Mitsubishi Zero fighter- The landing gear had to be manually extended or retracted by the pilot , and folded up into the fuselage behind the engine. The Hellcat was a low wing, aircraft, with the landing gear rotating 90 degrees, folding backward into the wings.
Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber The SBD Dauntless was the Navy’s main carrier-based dive-bomber in World War Two and was responsible for sinking more enemy ships than any other single type of aircraft, playing a major role in the battles of Midway, the Coral Sea and the Solomons. At Midway, after grievous losses by Torpedo squadron eight’s unsuccessful attempt to strike the Japanese carriers with obsolete Devestator torpedo planes, the SBD’s arrived.
in about five minutes, they had hit and sunk three of the four Japanese carriers along with their crews and veteran pilots.
TBF Avenger Torpedo Bomber First used in combat in 1942. The first six TBF Avenger torpedo bombers arrived at Midway just in time to suffer five combat loses in the battle on June 5th, 1942. TBF Avengers were the torpedo bombers later involved with the sinking of many enemy ships and submarines, including the Japanese battleship Hiei and the super battleships Yamato and Musashi. With the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, need for the aircraft grew urgent and Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors became a second source of Avengers which would be designated TBM. In all, Eastern produced 7,546 of the total 9,836 Avengers built.
F4U Corsair Although the F4U Corsair was intended for the Navy, safety concerns regarding carrier landings resulted in its being delayed from Naval service till about February 1945. It was deemed unsuitable as a carrier-based aircraft. With the location of the pilot behind the large R-2800 engine, visibility was a problem. The “bird cage” style canopy contributed further to the problem. Deliveries of the Corsair began in October of 1942, with most of the early aircraft going to land-based Marine Corps squadrons where they first saw combat in February of 1943. It was used extensively by Marine pilots with great success against Japanese aircraft; the Japanese gave it the nickname “Whistling Death”.
Both Great Britain and New Zealand received the Corsair as well. The British, desperate for carrier-based fighters, reduced the visibility problem by allowing their pilots to approach the aircraft carrier in a gentle left turn, allowing the pilot to view the carrier over the dip in the wing until the last few seconds of the approach. (This was how experienced Marine pilots landed it; being transferred to carrier duty.)
It was to be a replacement for the older SBD Dauntless, the latter still held in high regard — particularly after sinking or heavily damaging all four of the Japanese aircraft carriers in the Battle of Midway. Although also ordered by the Army under the designation A-25 (Shrike), most of this order was instead taken by the Marines and re-designated. There were complaints that the SB2C was underpowered, and had structural weaknesses, poor handling, and inadequate stability. Problems were addressed and a number of improvements were incorporated through a series of variants. Improvements including an uprated engine, self-sealing fuel tanks, new rear fuselage and tail assembly, increased armament, increase in fuel capacity, and armor protection.
Although not a particularly popular aircraft with its airmen, (many who said SB2C stood for “Son of a Bitch, 2nd Class”), Curtiss was still unable to meet the US Navy’s demand for the Helldiver. This prompted two Canadian companies (Fairchild Aircraft Ltd. And Canadian Car & Foundry) to produced Helldivers under license with the designation or SBF and SBW.
Photos, details [with some of my own info added in italics] courtesy of: http://worldwar2headquarters.com/HTML/aircraft/americanAircraft/aircraftAmerican.html