F6F-5 Hellcat 'McCampbell' By: John Ficklen, Signed by: David S McCampbell The Grumman F6F Hellcat was a carrier-based fighter aircraft conceived to replace the earlier F4F Wildcat in United States Navy (USN) service. The Hellcat was an erstwhile rival of the faster Vought F4U Corsair for use as a carrier based fighter. However, the Corsair had significant issues with carrier landing that the Hellcat did not, allowing the Hellcat to steal a march as the Navy's dominant fighter in the second part of World War II, a position the Hellcat did not relinquish. The Corsair instead was primarily deployed to great effect in land-based use by the U.S. Marine Corps. Captain David McCampbell (January 16, 1910 – June 30, 1996) was an American naval aviator, who became the US Navy’s all-time leading ace with 34 aerial victories during World War II. The third-highest scoring US flying ace of World War II, he was the highest-scoring ace to survive the war. McCampbell formed VF-15 on September 1, 1943 and led the squadron before being assigned as Commander of Air Group Fifteen in February 1944 to September 1944. As Commander Air Group (CAG) 15, he was in charge of fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex. From April to November 1944, his group saw six months of continuous combat and participated in two major air-sea battles, the First and Second Battles of the Philippine Sea. During the more than 20,000 hours of air combat operations before it returned to the United States for a rest period, Air Group 15 destroyed more enemy planes (315 airborne and 348 on the ground) and sank more enemy shipping than any other Air Group in the Pacific War. Air Group 15’s attacks on the Japanese in the Marianas and at Iwo Jima, Taiwan, and Okinawa were key to the success of the “island hopping” campaign. In addition to his duties as commander of the “Fabled Fifteen,” then Commander McCampbell became the Navy’s “ace of aces” during the missions he flew in 1944. McCampbell flew at least four F6F Hellcats while aboard the Essex: an F6F-3 named Monsoon Maiden (damaged by AAA & struck 20 May 1944), another F6F-3 named The Minsi (10½ kills), an F6F-5 named Minsi II, and an F6F-5 named Minsi III (Bureau Number 70143), in which he scored the last 23½ of his 34 kills. On June 19, 1944, during the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," Commander McCampbell shot down five Japanese 'Judy' dive-bombers, to become an "ace in a day". Later that afternoon, during a second sortie, McCampbell flamed another two 'Zekes' over Guam. On October 24, 1944, he became the only American airman to achieve "ace in a day" status twice. McCampbell and his wingman attacked a Japanese force of 60 aircraft. McCampbell shot down nine, setting a U.S. single mission aerial combat record. During this same action, his wingman downed another six Japanese warplanes. When he landed his Grumman F6F Hellcat aboard USS Langley (Essex's flight deck wasn't clear), his six machine guns had two rounds remaining and his airplane had to be manually released from the arrestor wire due to complete fuel exhaustion. Commander McCampbell received the Medal of Honor for both actions, becoming the only Fast Carrier Task Force pilot to be so honored.
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