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Eastern Aircraft Division FM-2 Wildcat

Eastern Aircraft Division FM-2 Wildcat

Eastern Aircraft Division FM-2 Wildcat

The final version of the Wildcat was produced by General Motor’s Eastern Aircraft Division. It was based on the Grumman prototype XF4F-8 aircraft, designed to be a light weight version of the Wildcat. A great deal of effort went into reducing the weight of the airframe, which went down by 500 lbs. The engine was changed to a 1350 HP Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone air cooled radial engine, giving more power at the same weight.

These changes significantly improved the overall performance of the aircraft, especially at altitude. Compared to the F4F-4, the FM-2 had a higher service ceiling and produced its maximum speed of 320 mph at 28,000 feet (the F4F-4 could reach 318 mph, but at only 19,400). The FM-2 restored much of the performance lost when the folding wings were added to the F4F-4. Finally, the more powerful lighter aircraft could take off in a shorter length than earlier Wildcats.

The FM-2 Wildcat carried the same four .50 calibre machine guns as the FM-1. The last 1,400 FM-2s also had the capacity to carry six rockets under the wings.

The FM-2 entered production in the autumn of 1943. 310 aircraft were built that year. In total 4,437 FM-2s and 340 Wildcat VIs for British use were built before production ended in May 1945, accounting for well over half of all Wildcat production.

At first glance it seems odd that the most numerous version of the Wildcat entered production after the aircraft had been superseded by the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair. However, the FM-2 Wildcat could operate easily off the smaller escort carriers, while the newer, larger aircraft were better suited to use from the fleet carriers. The FM-2 was used on escort carriers in the Atlantic, where they played a major role in the anti-submarine warfare that won the battle of the Atlantic. In the Pacific the FM-2 was used to provide close support during the island hoping campaign.


FM-2 Wildcat FM-2 Wildcat Sponsor Group

N5833 was produced in Mid August 1945 by General Motors under contract as Grumman Eastern Aircraft Division as a FM-2, BuNu 86819. After flight test it was immediately put into surplus and then sold. It operated for a number of years (late 50's to mid 60's) as an aerial bug sprayer out of Pennsylvania and the pacific northwest. It passed through a few more owners before being purchased by Bob and Claire Reiss of San Diego, CA around mid 1980's. They then donated the Wildcat to the CAF. It wore the paint of VOC-1, Commander Bush Bringle. During restoration in 2003 it was painted as a Martlet VI to commemorate RAF Squadron 835 on the aircraft carrier HMS Nairana. Aug 2019 it was again repainted, now with a more traditional Navy tri color scheme typical of FM-2's leaving the factory in 1944. Currently the Wildcat is wearing squadron markings of VC-27, The Saints, who operated off the USS Savo Island. VC-27, a composite squadron of TBM torpedo bombers and FM-2 fighters, fought from the Battle of Peleliu, through the battle of the Philippines as Taffy 2 to the invasion of Lingayan Gulf (Sep 1944 to Jan 1945). VC-27 downed 61.5 enemy aircraft producing the top Wildcat ace of all escort carriers, Lt Ralph Elliot Jr, while also destroying numerous warships and surface targets.

The FM-2 differed from the F4F as it was lighter, faster, had improved climb rate, longer range and was more maneuverable with the more powerful Wright R-1820 (1350HP) engine. Armed with 4 .50 Cal Browning machine guns. Max speed of 332 MPH and service ceiling of 35,000ft. Typical range of 900 miles. The Wildcat was the only Navy fighter to serve throughout the entire war from Pearl Harbor to VJ day. More Wildcat pilots were awarded the Medal of Honor than any other fighter including Joe Foss and Marion Carl. British and French pilots operated the Wildcat prior to the US Navy and acquired its first combat victory on 12/25/1940 on a JU-88.

N5833 is based in Upland Ca, but is typically on display at the CAF Airbase Arizona Museum, Mesa, during the winter months.


General Motors (Grumman) FM-2 (F4F) Wildcat

The FM-2 is a late World War II variant of the famous Grumman F4F Wildcat built by General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division. Changes to the aircraft included a larger engine and a taller vertical tail. General Motors began building Wildcats when Grumman’s factories were dedicated to the production of F6F Hellcats. The Wildcat first flew in 1937 and entered Navy service with VF-41 in 1940. F4Fs were the primary carrier and land-based fighter for the Navy and Marines for the first two years of the war. It was also supplied in large numbers to the British Royal Navy, which called it the Martlet. In 1943, the greatly improved F6F Hellcat began to replace the Wildcat on the Navy’s large carriers, while the Vought F4U Corsair replaced it in land-based Marine squadrons. The smaller Wildcat remained the primary fighter for the American and British escort carriers. Many Wildcats also served as trainers throughout the war. One of the Navy’s largest training centers was located near Chicago. In order to have a carrier to practice takeoffs and landings two Great Lakes paddlewheel steamers were converted into aircraft carriers. The USS Wolverine and USS Sable sailed from Chicago’s Navy Pier each day to let new aviators practice landing and taking off from ships. The combination of new pilots and the inherently dangerous activity of landing on a moving ship resulted in many aircraft littered across the bottom of southern Lake Michigan. Fortunately for future historians Lake Michigan has just the right combination of depth, cold and fresh water to help preserve these aircraft.

Maximum Speed

Service Ceiling

Manufacturer
General Motors

Markings
Carrier Qualification Training Unit, Glenview, Illinois, 1945


Beneath the surface of Lake Michigan rest nearly 120 aircraft that sank during the U.S. Navy aircraft training operations of World War II. These historically significant aircraft would be lost forever if it weren’t for the help of the Chicago-based company A&T Recovery, which has successfully recovered dozens of World War II-era planes from the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Many of these planes are obtained by aviation museums and receive major restoration work. This week, the USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum unveiled their most recent restoration of an FM-2 Wildcat, which was recovered by A&T in 1994. Now, after over five years of restoration work, the FM-2 is ready to be displayed in the museum in Alameda, California.

Built by the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors, the FM-2 Wildcat was intended to be an improved version of the Grumman F4F-4. Dubbed the “Wilder Wildcat,” the FM-2 was optimized for small-carrier operations, with an enhanced power plant, increased fuel capacity and a taller fin than the F4F. The FM-2 also had fewer wing guns than the F4F – four instead of six – allowing the aircraft to carry more ammunition to the fight.

But how did so many aircraft end up at the bottom of Lake Michigan? As Air Zoo CEO Troy Thrash explained in a 2016 interview, “During World War II, there were two passenger cruise ships that had their decks leveled to basically create a simulated aircraft carrier. There was a need for American pilots to be trained to take off and land on aircraft carriers before they could be cleared to go fly in the Pacific or in Europe.”

According to Thrash, over 15,000 pilots were trained in the early 1940s, practicing takeoffs and landings on the surface of the cruise ships. Many planes, like the FM-2, missed the surface of the ship and landed in the lake.

Now on display at the USS Hornet’s floating museum, this FM-2 looks better than ever thanks to the restoration work of volunteers with the Hornet Air Group.

According to Rick Thom, Director of Aircraft and Ship Restoration for the USS Hornet, the restoration was intended to be as authentic as possible.

“We’re striving to make her (the aircraft) a tribute to the men and women who flew the aircraft, built the aircraft, and maintained the aircraft,” he said in the museum’s Facebook video.

The FM-2 is on display at the USS Hornet museum, along with a new gallery exhibition “Sister Ship Row,” featuring 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers that served during World War II.

Check out the FM-2’s “before and after” photos of the restoration project.


Kalamazoo’s Air Zoo begins restoration of ‘Wildcat’ WWII fighter

In this photo taken on April 3, 2014, Boyd Naylor, 81, explains to West Michigan Aviation Academy students how certain parts of the FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter plane have to be fabricated in order to have a complete aircraft once the restoration is finished at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Mich. Naylor, 81, has helped with numerous restorations at the Air Zoo and even has an aircraft that he built on display. (AP Photo) (Photo: Rob Wetterholt Jr., AP)

KALAMAZOO – The restoration of a General Motors/Eastern Aircraft Division FM-2 “Wildcat” fighter that sat upside down on the bottom of Lake Michigan for 68 years has officially begun at the Air Zoo.

With work on the mangled World War II fighter beginning in February of this year, Air Zoo president and CEO Troy Thrash said that Air Zoo volunteers have been eager to begin restoring the aircraft since its arrival to the museum in August 2013.

“Our restoration team was champing at the bit,” Thrash told the Kalamazoo Gazette. “It’s like taking a kid into a candy store and not allowing the kid to get candy and just say, ‘You’re going to be in here for five months.’ So having that airplane here, they were so excited to work on it, so as soon as we got that green light they were rolling and they’re doing some wonderful work already.”

Thrash said that one of the reasons that the Air Zoo was chosen to restore this aircraft was because it would serve as a way to educate and engage the community. Air Zoo volunteers will be working to restore the plane over the course of the next four to five years.

“We didn’t really want to do restoration for restoration’s sake,” Thrash said. “We wanted to really expand this to become a community education project. The opportunity to say that I was a part of that restoration and that I helped to sand that wing or I helped to clean something or I turned a wrench or I drove a rivet or something like that we thought would be a fantastic piece of community engagement.”

On April 3, a group of students from the West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids came to the Air Zoo and worked alongside restoration volunteers in order to learn about the Wildcat and what it will take to restore the aircraft.

“Just being able to be around these (aircraft) shows the great opportunity and appreciation we have for the aircraft history and bringing that back to see how far we have advanced, from nothing,” 16-year-old academy sophomore Daniel Herweyer said.

The Wildcat, Bureau Number 57039, was being used for aircraft carrier landing and takeoff training on Dec. 28, 1944, when a problem with the aircraft’s engine caused Ensign William Forbes to leave the deck of the U.S.S. Sable, operating in Lake Michigan, without sufficient flying speed.

The aircraft struck the water and was then run over and cut in half by the oncoming Sable. Forbes survived the crash and completed his training.

The Wildcat sank, upside down, in roughly 200 feet of water where it rested for decades.

The aircraft was discovered in the mid-1990s and was removed by Chicago-based A & T Recovery on Dec. 7, 2012.


Eastern Aircraft Division FM-2 Wildcat - History


Click HERE to see the 3-way view use your BACK button to return.

This stubby but rugged little plane was the main fighter for the U.S. Navy during the hard-fought first year of the war. It saw action at the Coral Sea, Midway, and the Solomons Campaign. Despite claims that it was no match for the Zero, it more than held its own, due to its solid construction and the quality of the pilots that flew her. While it was replaced by the F6F Hellcat in most Navy fighter squadrons during 1943, the Wildcat continued to be used from jeep carriers until the war's end. The Wildcat was also built by General Motors (Eastern Aircraft Division), and this version was known as the FM-2 Wildcat.

For more data and photos on this aircraft, click here for the Naval Historical Center webpage.
For additional data and history on the F4F, click here for Jack McKillop's article on Microworks.net.
For more photos of this aircraft, visit my Naval Air War In the Pacific website,
and my Air War over Guadalcanal website.
For more photos of this aircraft, click here for the Totavia photo archives.

---> Additional information on this aircraft can be found at Wikipedia here .
(updated February 2009)

To see books about this aircraft on Amazon.com, click here.

If this page does not have a navigational frame on the left, click HERE to see the rest of the website.


The FM-2 is a late World War II variant of the famous Grumman F4F Wildcat built by General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division. Changes to the aircraft included a larger engine and a taller vertical tail. General Motors began building Wildcats when Grumman’s factories were dedicated to the production of F6F Hellcats. The Wildcat first flew in 1937 and entered Navy service with VF-41 in 1940. F4Fs were the primary carrier and land-based fighter for the Navy and Marines for the first two years of the war. It was also supplied in large numbers to the British Royal Navy, which called it the Martlet. In 1943, the greatly improved F6F Hellcat began to replace the Wildcat on the Navy’s large carriers, while the Vought F4U Corsair replaced it in land-based Marine squadrons. The smaller Wildcat remained the primary fighter for the American and British escort carriers. Many Wildcats also served as trainers throughout the war. One of the Navy’s largest training centers was located near Chicago. In order to have a carrier to practice takeoffs and landings two Great Lakes paddlewheel steamers were converted into aircraft carriers. The USS Wolverine and USS Sable sailed from Chicago’s Navy Pier each day to let new aviators practice landing and taking off from ships. The combination of new pilots and the inherently dangerous activity of landing on a moving ship resulted in many aircraft littered across the bottom of southern Lake Michigan. Fortunately for future historians Lake Michigan has just the right combination of depth, cold and fresh water to help preserve these aircraft.

Maximum Speed

Service Ceiling

Manufacturer
General Motors

Markings
Carrier Qualification Training Unit, Glenview, Illinois, 1945


Eastern Aircraft Division FM-2 Wildcat - History

The Wildcat will always be best known for its role in the epic battles of 1942 from Coral Sea to Midway to Guadalcanal. But this type actually remained in production until 1944!

After the jump, a brief look at a late war Wildcat.

Many of the early war types remained in production long after their replacements started arriving at the front. Some of that is just because it takes time to implement new training and parts, and some is because wastage is always so high in wartime new aircraft types have to fill out squadrons even as they’re being expended in combat.

General Motors built Wildcats only had four .50s, two in each wing. Pilots considered the reduction in firepower and increase in ammunition supply to be a good thing!

But the Wildcat proved to be useful all the way to the end of the war when a new role emerged for it early 1943. Both the US and British Royal Navy were putting large numbers of Escort Carriers into service at this time. These little aircraft carriers, or “Baby Flat Tops” were converted from various types of merchant ships. These carriers were first intended to protect merchant shipping, convoys, wherever they might sail. They would also be used extensively to provide close support for invasion convoys. So while the role of the “Fleet Carrier” was offensive, the role of the Escort Carrier was mostly defensive.

Size was a big issue for little aircraft carriers. They were intended to operate around 30 aircraft (compared to 80 or so on a Fleet Carrier). Well the new generation of powerful carrier based aircraft were all much bigger than earlier sorts, so the US and Royal Navy both decided to use the older, smaller Wildcat as the standard fighter on their Baby Flat Tops.

Grumman was overwhelmed with production for their TBF Avenger and F6F Hellcat, so continuing production of the Wildcat (and some for the Avenger too) would be passed to General Motors’ recently formed “Eastern Aircraft” division. There was actually much concern over if an auto maker’s mass production techniques could be applied to the world of military aviation with its much tighter tolerances and quality issues. So Grumman engineers and production specialists were assigned to work closely with General Motors. The first result of this cooperation was the FM-1 Wildcat (see “What’s in a Name – United States” for the explanation of how the designation changed!) which was an F4F-4 Wildcat with only a very few changes.

Meanwhile, Grumman had also been working on a much improved Wildcat for use on the Escort Carriers. Under the Grumman designation XF4F-8 this redesign was much lighter and switched from an R-1830 engine to a newer R-1820*. This would have been a pretty inconsequential switch (earlier Wildcats had actually used both engines) but super-charging was changed dramatically. Instead of the more sophisticated two-stage two-speed supercharging a simplified single-stage supercharger was used. This was because this version Wildcat was not expected to need high altitude performance. So a little more powerful engine, 250 lbs less of super-charger, and 500 lbs of other weight saving led to what was known as the hot rod, or wilder Wildcat. It was ordered into production by General Motors as the FM-2.

This new version of Wildcat was faster down low, more maneuverable, and was very easy to handle on the tight deck space of an Escort Carrier. It was the exclusive fighter on US Escort Carriers, and most common choice on Royal Navy Escort Carriers. It was often used to provide top cover for convoys out in the middle of the ocean, and occasionally chased off long range patrol aircraft. A pair of Wildcats with a single Avenger often comprised a sub-hunting team the Wildcats with machine guns and rockets could keep a submarine busy while the Avenger set up for the kill. And Wildcats often flew close support missions for amphibious operations.

This particular aircraft was part of the most unlikely battle any such support group ever found itself involved in. In October of 1944 this plane was based on the USS Gambier Bay, which was a part of a Task Group known as “Taffy 3” under Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague. On the morning of October 25, due to good Japanese planning and sloppy American communications, Taffy 3 was ambushed by heavy units of the Imperial Navy. That’s a nice, understated way of putting it. The Japanese had four Battleships (including Yamato), eight Cruisers and eleven Destroyers. Taffy 3 was 6 Escort Carriers escorted by three Destroyers (DD) and four Destroyer Escorts (DE that means small destroyers!) . This encounter could be sub-titled “Godzilla Meets Bambi”. Considering the Escort Carriers are essentially merchant ships with flight decks that means only the DDs and DEs counted as true warships. So any one of the Japanese Battleships outweighed the entire American surface force by five-to-one.

An earlier F4F-4 Wildcat on the left.
The FM-2 had a taller tail to counteract greater engine torque. The cockpit should sit a little taller, I don’t believe is properly represented by the kit. And the nose should be a little blunter on the FM-2.

The short version would be the Escort Carriers ran, the Destroyers and Destroyers Escorts charged to attack, while the carriers launched every plane available to attack the Japanese fleet. None of these planes were armed for armored warships. They carried weapons for anti-sub patrols, or to support troops ashore. Some were even empty and short of fuel. But they all attacked. And when they were out of ordnance they pretended to attack.

An hour into the attack Admiral Sprague wrote “by this time I expected to be swimming”. But the Japanese broke off. They were apparently confused by the aggression of the American response. They had actually lost three Cruisers. They had sunk two DDs, a DE and the Gambier Bay. But American aerial response was increasing as aircraft responded from other Task Groups, more of these aircraft were properly armed too. As the Japanese turned away Admiral Sprague recalled one sailor near him yelling “damn it boys, they’re getting away!”.

An FM-2, a little worse for wear, being restored at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo.

I highly recommend “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors” by James D. Hornfischer. Its an excellent account of one of the most epic and amazing naval battles in history.

A Composite Air Group on an Escort Carrier would be made of about 30 planes. A mix of Avengers and Wildcats.

This example is the Hobby Boss kit with Tech Mod decals. I have serious reservations about this kit. It is fiddly and difficult, especially the landing gear. But that’s not the worst of it. Hobby Boss has kits of the entire Wildcat family, but there’s maybe a little too much commonality of parts. The nose profile here simply looks wrong to me. The FM-2 had a shorter, blunter nose than earlier Wildcats because of the engine change. The R-1820 was a single row engine of greater diameter than the two-row, but smaller around R-1830. I would look forward to any other company making another try at this important aircraft!

Zero and Wildcat were both improved as the war went.
This is a late Zero with the FM-2.

* – just to be clear, these two engines are of similar age and capability. But a newer, slightly more powerful version of the R-1820 was chosen here.


FM-2P Wildcat

First introduced in 1940, the Grumman Wildcat became one of the US Navy’s and British Royal Navy’s primary fighters in the early years of WWII. The Wildcat replaced the Brewster Buffalo in the US Navy and Marine units to better combat the then dominating Mitsubishi Zero in the Pacific Theaters. While still slower then the Zero, the Wildcat was more rugged, surviving multiple battles while bringing their pilots home safely. With the development of better manuevers to counter enemy attacks, such as the Thach Weave, the Wildcat proved an instrumental fighter in several early battles including Coral Sea, Midway and in the Solomon Islands.

Grumman ceased production of the F4F in 1943 with the need to optimize factory space for the F6F Hellcat. The request for the Wildcat and Grumman’s TBM Avenger was still high so Grumman licensed out the plans to General Motors. General Motors started building Avengers and Wildcats out of their five plants of the Eastern Aircraft Division Tarrytown, NY, Baltimore, MD, Trenton, NJ, Linden, NJ, and Bloomfield, NJ. General Motors changed the designations of their aircraft to FM and TBF, the M and F standing for Eastern Aircraft Division.

General Motors Eastern Division produced the FM-1 Wildcat, identical to the Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, and the FM-2, which is based on a Grumman prototype designated XF4F-8. General Motors specifically made FM-2s for escort carrier operations. They featured four wing guns, a slightly taller tail fin than the previous models to handle the torque, and a more powerful engine – a Wright R-1820-56 engine (1,350 hp). After 1943 the FM-2 Wildcats were equipped with bomb racks for antisubmarine and ground attack roles.

This aircraft is an FM-2P because it has been fitted for photoreconnaissance missions. Two doors are equipped in the fuselage under the wing which when opened act as photo ports. Its flaps are vacuum operated, its under carriage is hand cranked, and the only hydraulic system in the aircraft is the brakes.

Max Speed (MPH)

Range (Miles)

Service Ceiling (ft)

The history of this aircraft is still rather unknown. The museum’s FM-2P Wildcat, N5HP Serial #86777, is a late model Wildcat built in 1945 at the Lindon, NJ Eastern Aircraft plant. It was accepted July 24th 1945 and was in delivery July 27th 1945 to Trenton,NJ. It was then ferried to NAS Tillamook,OR at the end of July/beginning of August 1945. It is unclear how long it stayed at Tillamook but it was stricken from inventory on February 28th 1946. After 1946 the history is still unknown but the belief is somewhere in the 1950’s it was sold to a private owner in Medford, OR where it was used as a crop sprayer. It was later stripped for parts.

In 1974 the plane was sold to I.N. Burchinal Jr. who restored the aircraft. Burchinal served in the Coast Guard in 1928 and later started the Flying Tiger Air Museum in the early 1970’s in Paris, TX. Burchinal loved to fly and flew for several companies including Universal Studios as a stunt pilot. TFLM’s Wildcat is a Hollywood star as it was used in the movie Midway. Burchinal was unaccredited for his role as a stunt pilot in the movie along with Rudy Frasca who flew his FM-2 Wildcat. These were the only two FM-2 Wildcats used in the movie.

In 1980 the Wildcat was sold to Howard Pardue of Breckenridge, TX. Howard served in the Marine Corps in Korea and went on to a long career in the marines flying aircraft. Pardue fell in love with Navy and Marine aircraft and bought the Wildcat. He later went on to own several aircraft at his museum in Breckenridge, including his beloved F8F Bearcat. In 1982 Pardue made his debut at the Reno National Championship Air Races with the FM-2P. He would return over the years with his F8F Bearcat. Pardue would continue to fly the Wildcat for decades under the markings of Kimberly Brooke which started with Burchinall. In 1998 the Wildcat appeared at the CAF Airshow in Midland, TX with the VMF-114 markings. These are the same markings that are seen on the plane today as well as the USN 5.

In 2012 Howard Pardue was killed in a plane crash in his F8F Bearcat. Later that year some of his aircraft went up for sale and the Wildcat was purchased by the Texas Flying Legends Museum. Today it is an essential piece to the museum’s growing collection of aircraft.


Palm Springs Air Museum

The Palm Springs Air Museum (PSAM), is a non-profit educational institution in Palm Springs, Riverside County, California. The Museum's mission is to exhibit, educate and eternalize the role of the World War II combat aircraft and the role the pilots and American citizens had in winning the war. In addition to flying aircraft, related artifacts, artwork, and library sources are used to perpetuate American history. It contains one of the world's largest collections of flying World War II warplanes, many of which were built in Southern California. [1] [2] Many of these aircraft have been used by motion picture companies in movies set during the second world war.

Located on the north-east side of the Palm Springs International Airport, the Air Museum is housed in a new structure that includes three main display hangars, theater, gift shop, ramp and airport access for flight demonstrations and visiting planes, research library, simulator and education center.

An extensive collection of aviation art by Stan Stokes.


Watch the video: Grumman FM-2 Wildcat sn 86819 cn 5877 cr N5833 (December 2021).