The year is 1941 and just weeks after the shocking attack on Pearl Harbor. The US military is scrambling to take action and retaliate against the Japanese Imperial Navy for the crushing defeat in Hawaii. In the next year to come the shortcomings of the US fighter aircraft inventory become very apparent. Thanks to Congress’s refusal to take a global conflict into account even though the entire world’s governments were locked in a war with the Axis Powers the development of the US war machine had lagged behind egregiously.
The P-40 Warhawk, Tomahawk, and KittyHawk were on Lend Lease Agreement with Great Britain and Russia. The P-39 Air Cobra was also on Lend Lease Agreement with Russian and had proven to be unsatisfactory in contests with Germany’s ME-109 and Focke Wulf 190. In Great Britain the British used the Curtis Wright built P-40 and it’s variants in all theaters of war all the way to North Africa against Rommel’s army. Although a tough well-armored fighter with excellent armament the P-40 was not as nimble in dog fighting but proved to be one of the best ground attack aircraft in the war.
With one hand tied behind their backs
However, in all this the US pacific Fleet was having a tough go of it with the only aircraft carrier plane being the F-4F Wildcat. Once again like the P-40 it was a tough durable platform and one the enemy did not envy a fight with, but the Japanese Zero was still more maneuverable and also possessed a 20 millimeter canon with 2 additional machine guns while the Wildcat had only four wing mounted 50 caliber machine guns. In battles that came weeks later over Guadalcanal the air to air combat ratio was anywhere from 1 to 1 kills for both US and Japan to 1-2 in favor of the Americans but at that rate attrition was too costly. A new generation of fighters needed to be called up ASAP and new specifications by the Department of Defense were being sent to US contractors who now went into full swing manufacturing aircraft instead of cars while aluminum drives where the American public was asked to pitch in anything made of metal for the war effort.
Necessity the mother of invention
As America fought off the Japanese air superiority in Pacific Ocean battles with inferior aircraft and brave well trained pilots the Grumman Aircraft Company came up with a world beater of unmatched performance and kill capability. In a year’s time in response to specifications issued by the Defense Department Grumman designed and built the most devastating Fighter in World War II. Known as the F4F’s “Big Brother” the F6F Hellcat, larger, more maneuverable, better armed, faster, and could remain in the air longer, this aircraft is considered the best in US history with more kills than any other US made fighter.
Although other aircraft are considered more recognizable and even more fashionable because of their slick and aerodynamic design, the Hellcat proved itself from the first day it was launched from an aircraft carrier deck in 1943 and flew a combat mission. Once the Japanese saw what the new fighter could do they knew their days were numbered as the Grumman F6F Hellcat held a 19 to 1 kill ratio over the Japanese Zero or any other fighter they could field against the US Navy. Responsible for more than 6 thousand kills in the Pacific theater of war the Grumman F6F was planned, tested, mass manufactured and delivered in one year! Unlike other aircraft who had a number of variants to either improve flaws or enhance capability, the beauty of the F6F was that it was unpacked, ready to do combat, and simply outclassed the enemy in record time! Other more sexy US Aircraft models such as the North American P-51 Mustang, or the Vought F4U Corsair both air superiority fighters grabbed the public’s attention, but it was the Grumman F6F Hellcat that reigned supreme and racked up more kills than any other military aircraft in World War II.
When the past is relevant
The question is why is this relevant today? Could the US in a sudden war time effort ever field such a superior military aircraft in record time that could be not only be competitive but defeat the enemy so handily in such a short period of time? Remember this was an age of slide rules, wind tunnel testing, and trial by error. There was no such thing as CAD (Computer Aided Design). One must also remember that these World War II designs were likely overbuilt with unnecessary structural reinforcement which made them more costly. Supposedly, the new generation fighters of the 1970’s and beyond designed with CAD were supposed to cut costs by eliminating over engineered structures to make them more affordable, but did that really happen in lieu of the fact that today’s fighters are 100’s of millions each or even more? Obviously not!
Yesterday and today
What is also a relevant question is would there even be a will and a way to achieve such an awesome engineering feat that would be a crucial factor in national security? When President Donald Trump says such things as “Making America great again” historic achievements such as the Grumman F6F Hellcat most assuredly represent a time where “Yankee ingenuity” and the will of the American people proved to clearly establish American Exceptionalism as well as a unified effort it would take to win the most devastating global war in human history.
The biggest question of all
We have seen what the Obama administration did to divide our nation to flood refugees from regimes that hate America and people who would want to impose Sharia Law over our Constitutional Republic. Could such a nation as today have such ingenuity and will to overcome such obstacles as in the treacherous early days of World War II and come up with a superior design and fighting machine in such a short time so successful that it did not need one variant or refit as it went to battle and established superiority? I would say highly unlikely! Even former President and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II, Dwight Eisenhower doubted in the early 1960’s that America would have been capable of commencing an operation like D-Day and succeeded at it. Making America great again is a multifaceted concept that applies not only to war time, but commerce, prosperity, social harmony, and success in foreign affairs. It is not a statement that should be used to scoff at what our nation now under attack by the left really means to not only its citizens but to the people of the world.