Grummans versus Zeroes

evangilder

"Shooter"
19,051
203
Sep 17, 2004
Moorpark, CA
www.vg-photo.com
I just read an amazing story. It's actually a quite from Saburo Sakai, one of the Japanese aces, who flew the Zero.

I closed in from the best firing angle, approaching from the rear left of the Grumman [F4F Wildcat], the pilot appeared to realize that he could no longer win. He fled at full speed toward Lunga.
I had full confidence in my ability to destroy the Grumman, and decided to finish off the enemy fighter with only my 7.7mm machine guns. I turned the 20mm cannon switch to the 'off' position, and closed in.

For some strange reason, even after I had poured about five or six hundred rounds of ammunition into the Grumman, the airplane did not fall, but kept on flying. I thought this very odd - it had never happened before - and closed the distance between the two airplanes until I could almost reach out and touch the Grumman. To my surprise, the Grumman's rudder and tail were ripped to shreds, looking like an old torn piece of rag.


Tells you 2 things; the 7.7mm machine gun is not an effective aircraft gun and the F4F was one tough little bird!
 

the lancaster kicks ass

Major General
19,937
16
Dec 20, 2003
if it was the otherway round though, the 7.7mm going into the zero (yes i know the wildcat had .50cal) that proberly would have brought it down............
 

evangilder

"Shooter"
19,051
203
Sep 17, 2004
Moorpark, CA
www.vg-photo.com
You're right Lanc, the Zero was appropriately named. How much armor did it have to protect the pilot? ZERO
How about the fuel tank protection? ZERO

It sacrificed alot to keep the weight down and keep it fast and nimble. But one good burst through a wing, and BOOM!
 

evangilder

"Shooter"
19,051
203
Sep 17, 2004
Moorpark, CA
www.vg-photo.com
Yes, it was, which it needed to be. Otherwise it was just a pilot oven. In the early days, it did rule the pacific. If they had done some further development or upgrades earlier, it might have stayed a great plane. Unfortunately, it ended up a throwaway kamikaze like the rest.

After having actually worked on one though (We have one that flies in our museum), I have alot of respect for those mechanics. That plane is a big pain to work on.
 

evangilder

"Shooter"
19,051
203
Sep 17, 2004
Moorpark, CA
www.vg-photo.com
Nope, not at all easy. We had removed the prop spinner and front cowling off the thing to do some engine work. It took three of us over an hour to put it all back together. The prop spinner is 2 pieces and only fits on one way. There are about 30 screws to hold on the spinner alone!

The cowling is a split clamshell type design that has turnbuckle hook type fasteners that are a royal pain to tighten and get straight. Once they start to tighten , you get a reall small area for your wrench to tighten and spend alot of time removing the wrench and flipping it for the other angle.

The other problem is some of those areas are really tight, which might be okay if you have small hands, but all of us had American ham fists. Alot of knuckle busting and swear words happened that day! But we did get it working and up.
 

evangilder

"Shooter"
19,051
203
Sep 17, 2004
Moorpark, CA
www.vg-photo.com
They were smaller. I am 5'8" and when I sit in the Zero and close the canopy, my head is in the arc of the canopy. I'd have to slouch down to fly it. I can't imagine that would be much fun.

I don't know if they had special tools, especially for that cowling. There is very little room to clamp it down. Even less when it starts to close up. I did read that they were not real easy to build either because of the tight spaces.
 

Nonskimmer

Captain
8,620
9
Nov 11, 2004
Halifax, Nova Scotia
American fighters were built tough! 8)
The Zero could be thought of as the TIE fighter of WW2. :lol: (I like Star Wars, sorry) Built for maximum agility, like evanglider said, at the sacrifice of just about everything else!

But I never knew they were such a bitch to work on. :shock:
 

MP-Willow

Staff Sergeant
894
2
Jan 16, 2004
Saco, MAINE!!!!
Evenglider, I had thought that the A6Ms were hard to produce and have read that they were not great to work on, but the program was developed well. In the end the IJN just waited to long to put the upgrades and development of the Zero and its replacement.

I really like the quote as to the rudder being all shot up. The USAAF planes all seemed to be stuborn and hard to kill, like the pilots. Grumman had a lot of that in there 'Cats. ;)
 
21
0
Jul 16, 2006
AS u said those grumman cats were tough little birds indeed. But I wonder why the Japanese did not upgrade the Zero. Even after Combat lessons they should have realised it needed self-sealing tanks.
 

twoeagles

Senior Airman
666
12
Oct 18, 2006
Chambersburg
My Dad flew Grumman's Cats from 1942 through the war, and a couple of
things he told me: after the AAF lost a couple of P-47's to low level spins,
Hellcats were forbidden to particpate in any more mock combat with them! He still gets a kick out of that.

He was probably an average pilot with just 830 hours when he fought
at Truk, and he will, to this day, tell you that the Hellcat saved his life on
several occasions. He had three of them so shot up they were pushed over
the edge of the flight deck, and yet he never received a scratch. He had
3 confirmed and 5 probables, flying with VF-16 and Paul Buie. As is widely
known, he said that anytime he had a Zero on his 6, he could easily evade
by pushing over into a dive and then rolling - the Zero was not able to stay
with the Cat and it's roll rate was especially reduced as airspeed increased.
Most importantly, Dad says the Hellcat was easy to fly and the controls were
beautifully balanced so that even an average pilot had confidence. He would
take a Hellcat over the F4U any day.
 

davparlr

Senior Master Sergeant
3,290
631
Mar 23, 2006
Southern California
My Dad flew Grumman's Cats from 1942 through the war, and a couple of
things he told me: after the AAF lost a couple of P-47's to low level spins,
Hellcats were forbidden to particpate in any more mock combat with them! He still gets a kick out of that.

Wow! That's cool to have a dad participate in history like that. What a thrill it must be to listen to his stories. You must have been inspired. Didn't I read where you were a Navy pilot?

As for the comment on the P-47, the P-47 pilot would be crazy to try to turn with an F6F, like an F4F would be crazy to turn with a zero. The P-47 pilot would be better served to use it 40mph+ airspeed advantage to come and go as he pleased, just as the Navy and Army planes did with the Zero. The F6F was a lot tougher bird than the Zero, however.

Most importantly, Dad says the Hellcat was easy to fly and the controls were
beautifully balanced so that even an average pilot had confidence. He would
take a Hellcat over the F4U any day.

I am sure most F6F pilots would agree. But then most F4U pilots would not.

Grumman built great, tough aircraft that protected their pilots and gave them tools to, at first, overcome quantitative and experience disadvantage, and then to overwhelm the enemy and sweep it from the sky.
 

syscom3

Pacific Historian
14,305
8,031
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
AS u said those grumman cats were tough little birds indeed. But I wonder why the Japanese did not upgrade the Zero. Even after Combat lessons they should have realised it needed self-sealing tanks.


Of all the combatants of WW2, the japanese probably had the worst "design" inertia of all.

If you consider how much additional weight the self sealing tanks and cockpit armor would add to the airframe, coupled to an already low powered engine, then some of the design bureau's probably concluded "why bother". Go be a true samurai and fight with what you have"!
 

twoeagles

Senior Airman
666
12
Oct 18, 2006
Chambersburg
Here's my Dad in his Hellcat F6F-3 in 1944. He is 23 years old here.
 

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