All Radial Warbirds at Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, Reading, PA
We just happened across some video of the Commemorative Air Force’s Curtis SB2C Helldiver, Douglas SBD5 Dauntless, FG1D Corsair, and the Greg Shelton collection FM-2 Wildcat at WWII Weekend 2015 at Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, Reading, PA. Links to the individual warbirds and background info can be found below the video.
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The West Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force proudly presents the world’s only flying example of the Curtiss-Wright SB2C Helldiver, the last true Dive Bomber produced for the US Navy. While often maligned by some critics, the SB2C’s were responsible for more ship tonnage sunk during WWII than any other aircraft.
The Northrop Corporation first developed the SBD before World War II. It was first flown in July 1935, but considered obsolete by December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Douglas Aircraft purchased the SBD contract and the SBD-1 was first delivered in late 1940. Over 5,000 aircraft were built and production of the carrier-based scout, dive and torpedo bomber ceased in July 1944.
Despite accusations that the aircraft was under-powered, vulnerable, lacking in range and exhausting to fly for any length of time, the “Dauntless” helped turn the tide of World War II at the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. The “Dauntless” sunk four major aircraft carriers of the Japanese Navy, ceasing Japanese expansion in the Pacific. The SBD also served with 20 U.S. Marine Corps Squadrons and many SBDs were retrofitted with Westinghouse ASB radar, the first to be used by the U.S. Navy.
The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was a carrier-capable fighter aircraft that saw service primarily in World War II and the Korean War. Demand for the aircraft soon overwhelmed Vought’s manufacturing capability, resulting in production by Goodyear and Brewster: Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured by Vought,in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history (1942–53).
The Corsair served in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, as well as the French Navy Aéronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s. It quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War II,and the U.S. Navy counted an 11:1 kill ratio with the F4U Corsair.
The FM-2, officially called the Wildcat, was named the “Best Dog Fighter Below 10,000 Feet” compared to the F6F Hellcat, F4U Corsair, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang. The FM-2 was the strongest and most powerful version of the Wildcats, often referred to as the “Wilder” Wildcat. By the time the F6F Hellcat was introduced in 1943, the Wildcat had already proven itself as a viable instrument of aerial warfare. Wildcats were the primary Navy and Marine Corps fighter at the start of World War II and fought in all major battles including Wake Island, Battle of Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal. The Wildcat is best known for its contribution at the Battle of Midway and Guadalcanal. Wildcat pilot Butch O’Hare shot down five Japanese bombers that were attacking the USS Lexington during the Battle of Coral Sea, becoming the first U.S. Navy Ace of World War II. A Wildcat is on display in his honor at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport that bears his name. Eight Medal of Honor recipients were Wildcat pilots, more than any other fighter aircraft of World War II. After the introduction of the F6F Hellcat, Wildcats continued to serve as a front line fighter throughout the war.
Greg Shelton’s FM-2 Wildcat was built in 1944 and flew at NAS Alameda and San Diego in VJ-9 and VJ-12 utility squadrons towing targets for other aircraft. It was given to a high school in Livingston, Montana in February 1946. In 1956 it was sold and used for aerial photography. From there it was sold from owner to owner and eventually came to be on display at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, Texas where it remained for 15 years. In 2006, Greg purchased the Wildcat from the museum, loaded it onto a trailer, and trucked it home to his hangar in Collinsville, Oklahoma.