The Wildcat was the US Navy’s primary fighter at the beginning of World War II. Although it was outmaneuvered by its principal opponent, the Japanese A6M Zero, but could take far more damage and was a sturdy aircraft. Tactical improvements such as the famous Thach Weave levelled the field somewhat and allowed the Wildcat to cope with the Zero. It was replaced as frontline fighter by the F6F Hellcat, but remained in service until the end of the war.
1. FM-1 Wildcat stationed on the USS Block Island in 1944.
2. F4F-3 Wildcat of VF-41 aboard USS Ranger, 1941. The colourful pre-war US Navy paint scheme was used throughout 1940 and 1941.
3. F4F-4 Wildcat of VF-41 aboard USS Ranger, 1942. In October 1941, this non-specular grey-blue over light-grey paint scheme was adopted by the Navy.
4. F4F-4 Wildcat of VGF-29, based on the USS Santee during Operation Torch, the Allied landing in Northern Africa in 1942. The gold ring around the US roundel is a typical feature of Operation Torch.
5. FM-2 Wildcat of VC-93 on USS Petroff Bay. The FM-2 was the most widely produced variant of the Wildcat.
6. F4F-3 flown by Maj. Marion E. Carl, Guadalcanal, September 1942. The aircraft has 16 kill marks on its port side.
7. F4F-3 of VF-7, onboard USS Wasp in December 1940 – January 1941, in typical prewar paint scheme. (Thanks to Benoît P. for the extra information).
8. F4F-4 in the typical paint scheme of the beginning of the war. The red circle in the middle of the US national marking was too often confused with the Japanese Hinomaru and disappeared later in the war.
9. F4F-4 of VF-11 Sundowners, Henderson Field, May 1943.
10. The FM-2 was produced by General Motors when Grumman began building the F6F Hellcat, and production continued until the end of the war. It could be distinguished from other Wildcat variants by its taller tail and the absence of belly windows, which had proven to be useless.