The Wildcat Was a Strong Opponent to the Zero
I have often read comparisons of these two WWII fighter aircraft that state the Wildcat was no match for the Zero. My view is different. At the beginning of the Pacific war, the Zero squadrons were formidable opponents. But this was largely due to non-design advantages such as superior numbers and training. In spite of these early Japanese advantages, the Wildcat helped to turn the tide of war against the Japanese. The Wildcat was much more rugged than the Japanese warplanes. In fact, it was jokingly described as a product of an iron works. The Wildcat was also superior to the Zero in armament and other areas.
This is not to say that the Wildcat was without shortcomings. In 1940, consideration had been given to improving the Wildcat by using the more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engine. Instead, Grumman developed the second member of the “Cat” series of fighters, the Hellcat. The Hellcat had an even more powerful engine than the R-2000, and other improvements. The empty weight of the F6F-5 Hellcat was 60% greater than the F4F-4 Wildcat. Even so, the Hellcat’s design was heavily influenced by the Wildcat.
The F4F-4 and later Wildcat models had folding wings. The wing spread width was 38 feet, and the wing folded width was 14 feet, 4 inches. This feature added weight and reduced performance, but it was considered a good tradeoff, as it allowed carriers to have more planes. The wing-folding mechanism, first developed for the Wildcat, was later incorporated into the Hellcat and Avenger. Some models of the Zero had folding wingtips, but the folded width was considerably more than on the Wildcat.
Perhaps Grumman also should have gone forward with the R-2000 engine improvement to the Wildcat. The Wildcat’s weight would increase significantly, due to the folding wings and other changes, and more power would have helped. The Hellcat would not start to join the fleet until February 1943. But even without the more powerful engine, the Wildcat was good enough to battle the Zero and other Japanese warplanes.
The Wildcat was the U.S. fighter at Wake Island and Coral Sea. It was also the primary U.S. fighter at the Battle of Midway. (Land-based Brewster Buffalo fighters also fought at Midway, and suffered heavy losses in combat with Zeros. After the battle, the U.S. withdrew the Buffalo from combat units and used it for training.)
The U.S. scored a great victory over Japan at Midway in June 1942, sinking four large aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser. This set the stage for the U.S. to go on the offensive, which started in August 1942 with the Guadalcanal campaign. Japan was constructing a forward airbase on the island, which posed a threat to the sea lanes between the U.S. and Australia. The U.S. invaded Guadalcanal, quickly captured the airbase and named it Henderson Field. Guadalcanal would provide the U.S. with a stepping stone up the Solomon Islands chain. But first, the U.S. faced a long struggle for Guadalcanal, which Japan unsuccessfully attempted to recapture. Both sides suffered significant casualties in the fight for the island, but the Japanese casualties, including many skilled aviators, were far more serious.
Admiral John S. McCain, the Navy’s Commander of Aircraft in the South Pacific, saw the possibilities early in the campaign: “With substantially the reinforcements requested, Guadalcanal can be a sinkhole for enemy air power and can be consolidated, expanded, and exploited to the enemy’s mortal hurt. The reverse is true if we lose Guadalcanal.” Shortly after, Admiral Nimitz made the decision to transfer carrier planes and personnel to the airbase at Guadalcanal.
From the start, the battle for Guadalcanal paid the Allies a dividend. It used Japanese military resources at a time when Allied (Australia and U.S.) forces were waging a successful campaign in New Guinea. For instance, the Japanese prepared to launch a heavy air assault against the Allied airbase at Rabi, New Guinea. But on the morning the attack was to start, the U.S. invaded Guadalcanal. The Japanese hastily changed their plans and sent their aircraft to counterattack the invasion force instead.
The Wildcat was the U.S. Navy’s shipboard fighter during the Guadalcanal campaign. It was also the primary fighter of the “Cactus Air Force,” as the U.S. air units (and a small contingent from New Zealand) stationed at Guadalcanal were known. The Wildcat engaged in fierce battles with Japanese Zeros and bombers. It also strafed Japanese ships. The U.S. Army Air Force contributed some P-400 fighters, which could not operate at high altitude. They were of limited value in fighting enemy aircraft, although they proved useful in a ground attack role.
The sturdiness of the Wildcat, and the dedication of a pilot is shown by an incident on November 12, 1942. Lieutenant Pat McEntee on the USS Atlanta witnessed it. The Japanese sent a wave of twin-engine Betty bombers armed with torpedoes to attack the American ships at Guadalcanal. A Wildcat sent to intercept continued to fight after running out of ammunition. The pilot lowered the landing gear and repeatedly dropped hard onto the top of a Betty. He pounded the bomber into the sea.
In mid-November 1942, the U.S. repulsed a major landing attempt, effectively ending the Japanese threat to recapture the island. The Pacific war would drag on for almost three more years, but Japan would not recover from the defeats at Midway and Guadalcanal. The tide of war had shifted to the Allies. A Japanese staff officer put it this way in late October: “It must be said that success or failure in recapturing Guadalcanal, and the results of the final naval battle related to it, is the fork in the road which leads to victory for them or for us.”
Combat between the Wildcat and Zero gradually diminished after Japan’s failed landing attempt in November, and the impact on the war was not as great. Starting that month, the Army stationed the P-38 twin-engine fighter at Guadalcanal. The Wildcat and the P-38 both took part in the mid-November battle. The Marines started to get the Corsair fighter at Guadalcanal in February 1943. The Navy started to put the Hellcat aboard ships at about the same time.
By March 1943, Guadalcanal had become a major Allied base. The Allies were using it to mount air raids and as a staging area for a future invasion up the Solomon Islands chain. On April 7, 1943, the Japanese launched a large air raid against the ships at Guadalcanal. They sent a wave of 67 Val dive bombers escorted by 110 Zeros. The Allied warning network detected the approaching planes, and an unprecedented “Condition Very Red” was declared. 76 Allied fighters, including the remaining Wildcats at Guadalcanal, were sent to intercept.
Marine Lieutenant James E. Swett stood out in this battle. He was a Wildcat pilot in his first combat. He shot down three Vals, and was then hit in his wing by a friendly fire 40-mm anti-aircraft shell. Despite this, he shot down four more Vals and at least damaged another. To put this in perspective, the Japanese lost twelve Vals in the attack. Swett was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Shortly afterwards, the Marine fighter squadrons at Guadalcanal completed the transition to the Corsair. The Wildcat’s service at Guadalcanal was over. However, the U.S. and the British had the insight that the Wildcat could still be useful. They had a number of small aircraft carriers known as escort carriers (“baby flattops”), and were building many more. These ships were conceived as providing protection for convoys against German U-boats, although their role was expanded. The Wildcat was already aboard these ships and considered to be well suited for the assignment because it was a relatively light fighter. As the Hellcat and Corsair were phased into service, displaced Wildcats found a home on the expanding fleet of escort carriers. The U.S. also produced for the escort carriers a new model of the Wildcat, the FM-2.
In 1942, General Motors started producing the Wildcat, allowing Grumman to concentrate on the Hellcat. GM first produced the FM-1, which was the same as Grumman’s F4F-4, except that it used the four-gun arrangement of the F4F-3/3A instead of the six guns on the F4F-4. The four-gun Wildcats had more rounds per gun and did not run out of ammunition as quickly. After producing 1,220 FM-1’s, GM switched to producing the FM-2 Wildcat. The FM-2 was designed for the short flight decks of escort carriers. It weighed even less than the FM-1 and F4F-4. Also, its Wright engine put out more power at low altitude than the Pratt & Whitney engine used on the earlier Wildcats. The FM-2’s superior low altitude performance earned it the nickname of “wilder Wildcat.” But the Wright engine had a simpler supercharger than the Pratt & Whitney engine, so the FM-2’s high altitude performance was less than that of the earlier Wildcats. The last of 4,060 FM-2 aircraft was produced in May 1945, the same month that fighting ended in Europe. GM produced 5,280 Wildcats, and Grumman produced 1,971, for a total of 7,251.
The Wildcat’s aerial combat role was reduced, particularly high-altitude combat. But it was also used for tasks such as submarine hunting, ground and ship attack, artillery spotting, photo reconnaissance, and training. While the Wildcat is best known for its role in the Pacific, both the U.S. and the British used it in the Atlantic (as a U-boat hunter), and in Europe. The British version was initially called the Martlet.
After Guadalcanal, the tide of war in the Pacific was firmly with the Allies. The Wildcat would fight to the end of the war, and have one more moment of high drama. At Leyte Gulf in October 1944, FM-2 Wildcats and Avenger bombers, flying from U.S. escort carriers, fought a desperate battle off Samar Island. Even when their ordinance ran out, the aircraft continued to make runs at enemy warships. They played a major role in turning back a powerful Japanese naval force, which was closing in on vulnerable U.S. ships and the beachhead held by U.S. troops.
The Wildcat was the only U.S. Navy or Marine fighter to serve in the Pacific Theater from the attack on Pearl Harbor until VJ Day. But it was first used in combat by the British. In December 1940, a Wildcat in British service scored a kill against a German bomber. This was the first kill by a U.S.-built aircraft against a German aircraft.
The Wildcat performed well during the period when it was the primary U.S. fighter in the Pacific, in spite of difficult conditions. At Midway, Japan suffered heavy losses. But it still outnumbered the U.S. in the Pacific Theater in fighters and other warplanes. At Guadalcanal, the Wildcat was often spread very thin serving as an interceptor. On those missions, the Wildcat was fighting both bombers and escorting Zeros, with the priority being the bombers. In contrast, the escorting Zeros could focus on the interceptors.
Later on, Japan lowered its selection standards and reduced the training period to replace the pilots it had lost. Japan reduced the training a pilot got to the point where starting in 1944 it resorted to kamikaze attacks. But at Guadalcanal and before, the Wildcat pilots were opposing Japanese fighter pilots who usually had considerably more training than them. Also, many Japanese aviators had more combat experience. For instance, there was Japanese ace Zero pilot Saburo Sakai, who was among the group sent to counterattack the U.S. invasion force on the first day of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was already a veteran of considerable combat. His first combat tour was in China starting in 1938. He had also fought in the Phillippines, Dutch West Indies, and New Guinea before Guadalcanal.
During the first few months of the Guadalcanal campaign, the Cactus Air Force had other major problems. They were often bombed and shelled. Their maintenance facilities were primitive. There were shortages of all kinds. Living conditions were poor. The pilots and ground crew were pushed to the limit. The fighters used a grass runway called, “The Cow Pasture.” It was often muddy, which caused accidents.
Yet with all these difficulties, the Wildcat and its pilots helped to turn the tide of war against the Japanese. 27 Navy and 34 Marine pilots became aces in the Wildcat. A number of pilots would take their experience in the Wildcat and go on to score victories in the Hellcat or Corsair. U.S. military statistics credit the Wildcat with a 5.9:1 ratio in aerial combat victories during 1942. During the last 12 months of the war, the Wildcat is credited with 377 victories against 9 losses (42:1). For the entire war, the Wildcat’s ratio was 6.9:1. The statistics do not break down the Wildcat victories to fighters and bombers. The anecdotal evidence is that many Wildcat victories were against bombers, which was the priority on interceptor missions. Through 1942, the Japanese bombers were usually escorted by large numbers of Zeros. The Zero was not very effective in protecting these bombers from the Wildcat.
New York Times correspondent Foster Hailey wrote that the Grumman Wildcat, “it is no exaggeration to say, did more than any other one single instrument of war to save the day for the United States in the Pacific.”
Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal expressed a similar view to the workers of Grumman: “Your Wildcats held the line when the going was toughest. In the hands of men like Foss, Smith and Carl of the Marines, and Thach, Flatley and O’Hare of the Navy, they started the tide of victory in the Pacific.”
The following was published in 1956. It was written by Masatake Okumiya, a high-ranking Japanese naval officer during the war:
A month later, that same ship [Yorktown] which we then permitted to survive became one of the strongest factors contributing to our Navy’s shattering defeat in the battle of Midway.
In retrospect, it is no exaggeration to state that those few Grumman Wildcats which were in the air on May 7  and which intercepted our planes on their return to their own carriers saved not only the Yorktown but also eventually many other American ships then in the Coral Sea.
The U.S. developed the Thach Weave for the Wildcat to use against the Zero. It was tested in combat at Midway and then adopted. It was also employed by U.S. fighters that were later introduced. The Thach Weave is a maneuver where two or four fighters give each other mutual support against an enemy fighter. This reduced the value of the Zero’s tight turning capability.
Major Joseph N. Renner was a Wildcat pilot and a veteran of Guadalcanal. In discussing mutual support tactics, he said the following: “One Zero against one Grumman is not an even fight, but with mutual support two Grummans are worth between four and five Zeros, and so on up.”
He also commented on the relative sturdiness and armament: “This tactic worked out because a Zero can’t take two seconds fire from a Grumman and a Grumman can take sometimes as high as fifteen minutes fire from a Zero.”
A senior Zero pilot wisely chose to disengage from the fight when Wildcats used the Thach Weave against him on the first day of the Guadalcanal campaign:
For the first time [Lt. Commander Tadashi] Nakajima encountered what was to become a famous double-team maneuver on the part of the enemy. Two Wildcats jumped on the commander’s plane. He had no trouble in getting on the tail of an enemy fighter, but never had a chance to fire before the Grumman’s teammate roared at him from the side. Nakajima was raging when he got back to Rabaul; he had been forced to dive and run for safety.
Saburo Sakai said, “It was fighter against fighter in WWI, but in WWII it was group against group. The Japanese were very bad at this, but the Americans used the philosophy of American football – teamwork. Excellent.”
Saburo Sakai also discussed the Zero’s radio:
The radio was useless. We knew a week before the opening of the war that it was useless. It just made bunch of noise – if there was a worst piece of equipment in the Japanese Navy, it was the radio for the fighter planes. You couldn’t hear anything at all. Close to the opening of the war, we pilots realized the radio was heavy and useless so I removed mine to save weight, as well as the wooden antenna pole. I cut that off. My commander, a very difficult man, saw this and yelled, “What did you do with this airplane?” I told him, “I need to make my airplane lighter to fly to Manila. It’s much better.” He replied, “Please, take mine out too!”
James H. Flatley Jr., commanding officer of “The Grim Reapers” fighter squadron, wrote the following in June 1942 after the Battle of Midway:
What the F4F-4 lacks in climb and maneuverability is more than compensated for by its excellent armament, protective armor, protected fuel system, and greater strength. Add to this the inherent superior ability of the [U.S.] navy pilot, particularly as regards using his armament, and the outlook is very favorable.
Lt. Cdr. John S. “Jimmie” Thach, of Thach Weave fame, wrote the following shortly after the climax of the Battle of Midway. It is often cited as evidence of the inferiority of the Wildcat to the Zero:
Any success our fighter pilots may have against the Japanese Zero fighter is not due to the performance of the [F4F-4] airplane we fly but is the result of the comparatively poor marksmanship of the Japanese, stupid mistakes made by a few of their pilots and superior marksmanship and team work of some of our pilots.
Unfortunately, Thach’s two sentences that immediately preceded the above quote are less often cited:
Six F4F-4 airplanes cannot prevent 20 or 30 Japanese VF [fighters] from shooting our slow torpedo planes. It is indeed surprising that any of our pilots returned alive.
Later, the Navy asked him to comment on Flatley’s memo. He wrote this in a four page letter during the second half of July:
… it is possible by increasing each squadron to thirty-six fighters and by exploiting to the fullest extent the personnel and material [F4F-4] now on hand to successfully attack enemy carriers and to effect complete annihilation of an enemy carrier attack group before their arrival at the point of dropping torpedoes or bombs.
The two additional sentences, his comments in July, and other information give another perspective. Thach would later say, “… the [Devastator] torpedo planes were the old firetraps, slow and awkward with no self-sealing tanks.” The twelve Devastator torpedo planes of the Torpedo Three squadron could not effectively protect themselves. They needed fighter escort. Thach’s Weave fighter tactic was designed for divisions of four fighters (two sections, each with a leader and a wingman). He expected to have eight Wildcat escorts (two divisions) on the mission. Shortly before takeoff, the Yorktown’s captain reduced this to six, a decision Thach unsuccessfully tried to get reversed. Even if the size of the escort contingent had been eight, the Yorktown formation of torpedo and escort planes would have been at a serious disadvantage. They actually faced 41 Zero interceptors. But with only six escorts on the mission, one of the two Wildcat divisions was reduced to half-strength. This made a bad situation even worse. Only two of the torpedo planes survived the Zeros and the antiaircraft fire from the ships, and they ditched on the way back when they ran out of fuel.
Thach took the losses personally: “My God, I’ve lost Torpedo 3.” But the sacrifice was not in vain. The attention of the Japanese was focused on the Yorktown low-altitude formation. This allowed three squadrons of US dive bombers to approach undetected and release their bombs without opposition from the Zeros. Three large Japanese carriers were sunk, with further Japanese losses to follow soon after. More about this, focusing on the role of Thach’s Wildcats in tying up the Japanese fighters, can be found in a companion article.
Facilitated by the shift to the -4, which had folding wings, the Navy increased the number of Wildcats on each large carrier from 18 at Corel Sea to 25–27 at Midway, and then to 36. Even so, U.S. fighter pilots in the Pacific would often find themselves stretched very thin into 1943. The increasing acceptance of his Weave may have also made Thach more optimistic by the time of his July comments.
Concurrent with their Midway operation, the Japanese struck at the Aleutians. A Zero crashed there and was recovered by the U.S. It was restored to flying condition, and tested starting around 20 September 1942. The U.S. learned useful information about the limitations of the Zero, which was soon relayed to the pilots opposing it. This is how test pilot Lt. Cmdr. Eddie R. Sanders described it:
The Zero had superior maneuverability only at the lower speeds used in dogfighting, with short turning radius and excellent aileron control at very low speeds. However, immediately apparent was the fact that the ailerons froze up at speeds above two hundred knots, so that rolling maneuvers at those speeds were slow and required much force on the control stick. It rolled to the left much easier than to the right. Also, its engine cut out under negative acceleration [as when nosing into a dive] due to its float-type carburetor.
The significance of certain factors in aerial combat is illustrated, in a general way, by considering combat between bombers and fighters. Bombers had a kind of agility, in that their guns were generally not fixed. The gunners on bombers could usually swivel their guns much faster than fighters, with their fixed-gun mount, could maneuver their guns. The B-17 bomber had as many as thirteen .50 caliber machine guns. Additionally, U.S. bombers would often fly in a formation, known as a “combat box,” which massed their defensive firepower. U.S. bombers were also quite rugged, which often enabled them to make it back home after suffering many hits. But combat in the European Theater proved challenging for U.S. bombers. When the U.S. attacked a target with less than a large number of bombers, Germany was often able to defend with a much larger number of fighters. Additionally, the difference in size of the aircraft made it relatively easier for the fighters to accurately target the bombers. The U.S. bomber force suffered heavy losses during daytime missions that extended beyond the range of escort fighters. It was not until late in the war that the U.S. acquired fighters that could escort bombers deep into German territory, providing much needed protection.
A design objective for the Zero was that it be very maneuverable. In order to achieve this, the Zero had a low aircraft weight relative to the wing size. The wing loading for this design was low, but it came at a high cost. Except for the late models, the Zero was far less rugged than the Wildcat.
For instance, most Zeros, as well as Japanese bombers, had fuel tanks that were not resistant to catching fire from enemy hits. In fact, the U.S. would call Japanese bombers, “flying Zippos.” This was a reference to the cigarette lighter and the large midair fires that would often spell the doom of Japanese bombers.
After the war, veteran Zero pilot Takao Tanimuzu remarked that “you could almost always tell if it was a Zero or enemy plane that had crashed into the sea. The Zero left a fire on the surface, but the American plane just left an oil slick.”
Part of the ruggedness of the Wildcat was specifically designed to protect the pilot. Change orders issued in the summer of 1941 provided for the installation of a bullet-resistant windshield and armor plates in the cockpit area. In many cases a Wildcat was shot down or written off due to damage, but the pilot survived. In addition to the positive effect on morale, many of these surviving pilots returned to service.
In the early part of the Pacific war, the Zero pilots were highly skilled. Yet the Zero did not protect these valuable assets with features like those mentioned in the previous paragraph. The Japanese improved pilot protection on late-model Zeros. But by then, high attrition forced them to use much less-skilled pilots.
It has already been mentioned that the Zero’s carburetor was problematic for diving. The Zero’s performance during dives was also reduced by its lightweight design. Here is how Saburo Sakai described the situation:
I don’t think they were as skilled in individual combat as the Japanese were. But the boom-and-zoom tactics they developed to take advantage of the Zero’s inability to dive well were very effective.
The light weight of the Zero involved a design tradeoff, which favored maneuverability over ruggedness. It may have been a bad decision. Japan would, in fact, put more emphasis on ruggedness in its late-model Zeros. But it was not implausible. A more serious mistake involved the armament. The Zero had two different sized guns. Except for the late models, the smaller guns were two 7.7 mm machine guns. These were weak weapons against U.S. bombers, especially the four-engine bombers. They also had difficulty against the rugged Wildcat. Consider this quote by Saburo Sakai, recounting his dogfight at the beginning of the Guadalcanal campaign against a Wildcat piloted by James J. Southerland:
I had full confidence in my ability to destroy the Grumman, and decided to finish off the enemy fighter with only my 7.7 mm machine guns. I turned the 20-mm 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 directly 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. With his plane in such condition, no wonder the enemy pilot was unable to continue fighting!
The Zero also had two 20 mm cannons, initially type 99-1. The large ammunition size limited the number of rounds that could be carried (as little as 60 per cannon). The cannons had a low rate of fire. And the type 99-1 had a low muzzle velocity and short range. It was difficult for the Zero to accurately target fighters with cannon fire.
Japan gradually improved the firepower of the Zero. When Japan reached the model 52c in September 1944, the improvements over the early models were substantial. The model 52c had two type 99-2 cannons, with a higher muzzle velocity than model 99-1 cannons, and 125 rounds per cannon. It also had three 13.2 mm guns, a considerable improvement over the two 7.7 mm guns on most of the earlier Zeros. The 52c even had air-to-air rockets, meant for combat against bombers. But the improvements came too late.
If Japan had armed its early model Zeros with a combination of the 13.2 mm machine gun and 20 mm type 99-2 cannon, they would have packed a stronger punch when it might have made a difference to the war’s outcome. But this might also have added significant weight. My own view is that a good compromise for the early Zeros would have been one cowl-mounted 20-mm type 99-2 cannon and two wing-mounted 13.2 mm guns. This reduction from four to three guns would have partially offset the weight gain from using more effective guns.
The Wildcat carried .50 caliber Browning machine guns. This corresponds to a 12.7 mm size. The high muzzle velocity of the Browning machine gun gave it a long range. The long range proved particularly useful against bombers. The poor armor and inflammability of most Japanese warplanes made them very vulnerable to the .50 caliber ammunition.
The Wildcat and other U.S. fighters had both superior ruggedness and firepower compared with the Zero. This led to the use of an effective (and exciting) tactic by U.S. fighter pilots: head-on attacks.
Navigation was another area where the Wildcat was superior. Many Wildcat pilots were saved by the Wildcat’s ZB homing device, which allowed the pilots find their ships in poor visibility, provided they could get within the 30-mile range of the homing beacon. In contrast, the only navigation equipment the Zero carried was a compass. So while the Zero pilots gained a modest aerial combat and range improvement by not carrying the weight of extra navigation equipment, they sometimes paid the price of not being able to find their way home. This price was paid more often as the war progressed and Japan used less-skilled pilots.
1. ^ Greene, Frank L. The Wildcat Story. p. 17
2. ^ Greene. p. 14
3. ^ Office of Naval Intelligence. The Battle of Guadalcanal Combat Narrative. 1942. p. 56
4. ^ Griffith, Samuel B. The Battle for Guadalcanal. p. 111
5. ^ Barrett Tillman. The Wildcat in WWII. Appendix C
6. ^ Tillman. Appendix D
7. ^ Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. U.S. Naval Aviation in the Pacific. 1947. p. 44
8. ^ Greene. p. 25
9. ^ Hailey, Foster. Pacific Battle Line. 1944. p. 114
10. ^ Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. Grumman at War. 1945. p. 5
11. ^ CO VF-10 James H. Flatley Jr. to ComCarPac. The Navy Fighter. 25 June 1942
12. ^ Bureau of Aeronautics. Interview of Major J.N. Renner. 17 July 1943
13. ^ab Ahn, Michael. Interview with Saburo Sakai. April 2000
14. ^ Rearden, Jim. Koga’s Zero. Invention & Technology Magazine. Fall 1997 Volume 13, Issue 2.
The negative acceleration mentioned in the quotation referred to negative g-force. On the Zero, this forced fuel out of the carburetor, starving the engine of fuel.
15. ^ Bergerud, Eric M. Fire in the Sky. p. 207
16. ^ Greene. p. 40, 42
17. ^ Masatake Okumiya and Jiro Horikoshi. Zero!. 1956. p. 149
18. ^ Masatake Okumiya and Jiro Horikoshi. p. 188
19. ^ Sakai, Saburo. Samurai!. 1957. p. 216–217
20. ^ The fork in the road quotation is often found in literature about the Guadalcanal Campaign. It came from a captured Japanese document. There are two slightly different English-language translations. The main difference is that one version refers to a “final naval battle” while the other refers to a “vital naval battle.”
21. ^ LCDR John S. Thach. VF-3 Action With Enemy report. 4 June 1942
22. ^ Lundstrom, John B. The First Team: Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. 1984. p. 339–340
23. ^ After the F4F Wildcat, Grumman developed for the Navy a prototype twin-engine fighter known as the XF5F Skyrocket. It also developed a similar prototype known as the XP-50 for the Army Air Corps. Neither of these was ordered into production. Grumman’s next fighter was the F6F Hellcat.
24. ^ LCDR John S. Thach to ComCarPac. July 1942
25. ^ Mindell and Mason. “The Thach Weave Put to the Test.” The Pacific War Remembered: An Oral History Collection. p. 99
26. ^ Ibid. 5. p. 91
© 2007 Stephen Leibowitz