Defending the ‘Canal’

Fighting around Guadalcanal, in the Pacific, northeast of Australia, was intense and it was there that the F4F Wildcat proved to be a tenacious and effective fighter. Warren E Thompson describes the action

Wildcat in Combat

A flight of F4F-4s over the coast of Guadalcanal in late 1942.

Three American fighter prototypes flew within 11 months of one another: the Brewster Buffalo in December 1937, the Grumman F4F Wildcat in September 1938 and, a month later, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. The Buffalo would have a brief and unsung combat career while the Grumman and Curtiss fighters were to achieve considerable fame.

Test pilot Robert L Hall took the first Wildcat, the XF4F-1, aloft from Grumman’s home at Bethpage, New York, for the first time on September 2, 1938. The name ‘Wildcat’ did not become official until October 1, 1941, starting the famous Grumman ‘Cat’ family which ran all the way through to the swing-wing, twin-jet F-14 Tomcat, which first appeared in 1970.

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