is the fourth title in the Aircraft Pictorial
series by Classic Warships Publishing
. The author is aviation expert Dana Bell
, former member of the Smithsonian aerospace department. F4F Wildcat
is a 72-page softcover and is catalogued as ISBN 13-978-09823583-9-9. It is not an operational history of Grumman's spunky fighter. It is oriented towards the modeler, researcher, and techno-historian.
Mr. Bell's background affords him with extensive resources, both informational and pictorial. Aircraft Pictorial books do not have chapters per se, yet are arranged along a chronological development of the F4F. The book begins with General History of the Grumman F4F Wildcat
, two pages of design and development, including Wildcat Serial Numbers
by type, quantity acquired, and contract number.
Pages 4-7 starts with official profiles of the XF4F-2 in November 1937. It continues with large clear photos of the Wildcat through the first full production F4Fs painted for the USS Ranger.
Pages 8-12 continue the visual history with a photo of the F3F-3S Wildcat floatplane fighter equipped with EDO floats.
Photo support includes unique scenes of Wildcats, including F4F peculiarities such as the splaying of ailerons when the wings were folded. The editors dropped the ball in the caption by referring to the ailerons as elevators.
Starting on page 13 we enter the technical subjects. A large photo with three insets show mechanics working on the R-1830-76 radial engine and the two-piece cowling halves interiors, plus the prop governor. Carburetor and supercharger intercooler ducting is explained. Three pages present high-quality closeups of cowlings and the engine and components that made it powerful. These photos also reveal the landing gear structure in detail, too. F4F cowl flaps and intake ducts changed even during production runs and this book shows the modeler what to look for.
Tires and wheel covers changed, too, and this is displayed on pages 20-22. Pages 23-27 and 29 are Navy tech manual views of the cockpit. These clearly focused and professionally exposed images are excellent references for the cockpit, however they show the cockpits of three versions of Wildcats. All are black-and-white except for page 29, which is a color pilot's seat view of the Smithsonian's Grumman-restored FM-1. Mr. Bell's narrative includes the cockpit colors and which variants they were used in.
A separate page shows both the clamshell access to the dorsal life raft and a F4F fuselage hulk being jettisoned. That image is very important because although it is black-and-white, one can clearly see the use of yellow zinc chromate verses green interior colors, and the use of the exterior color inside the wing folding bulkheads.
Page 31 is an illustration of the six antenna locations and types on Wildcats.
Page 34 begins the exploration of the fuselage interior and equipment. There are four pages of them. Again, Mr. Bell identifies and documents paint colors used within.
Six pages show color Wildcat unit emblems and list every unit that flew Wildcats.
Page 46 starts 13 single page closeup explorations of specific equipment:
Cameras for the photo reconnaissance F4F
The taller tail of the FM-2
Drop tank fittings
Over-wing flotation bags
Landing light and gun shell ejection chutes, plus fairings
Machine gun and ammunition access panels
Field modified drop tank/napalm canister
Rocket racks and attachments
Studies of colors and markings start after the previous section. This includes an unusual ASW scheme. Seven pages later the book transitions into five pages of GA (General Arrangement) draftsman schematics of Wildcats. These were occasionally changed and some of the changes were peculiar, as noted by the author.
The book ends with additional reading, resources, etc. Mr. Bell's expertise and ability to communicate it makes this book a remarkable exploration of the Wildcat and should be essential for those who want to know the F4F beyond available general model F4Fs. The text is not perfect, as noted above. There are further typos, i.e., page 53 identifying the fuselage guns ans the wing guns and visa-versa, and redundant wording in a color profiles narrative.
Photographs and graphics
Many of the photographs are from official studio-quality images for the orientation of pilots and mechanics. Three photos are in color, two being vintage shots. The third is, as mentioned, of the Smithsonian Wildcat.
Several of the photos are fascinating, e.g., an F4F with different wing camouflage patterns, the aforementioned unusual ASW scheme.
The book includes several excellent color schematics:
1. Early Factory-Applied Colors
(Yellow/aluminum and Light gray): National insignia; Wing chevrons; Section colors; Codes; Ship colors; including dates and serials.
2. Blue Gray Camouflage
: Fuselage insignia; Tail stripes; Wing markings.
3. :"Three-toned" camouflage
: 3 fuselage and 3 wing insignia types.
4. British Insignia and Colors
5. Escort Carrier Force tail and wing markings
: 15 air groups of CarDiv 23-26.
6. Wildcat combat squadron emblems
Lettering sizes, diameters of national insignias and specified placement, and a unique fuselage insignia are discussed in detail. Paints and colors are detailed. Color schemes and markings of starting with particular Wildcat variants are identified. The "three-toned" camouflage has a surprise. Narratives and captions are very detailed.
This is an exceptional book. Mr. Bell's access to information and photographic support, combined with his participation in the modeling community, gears this book to those who want to know the Wildcat in as much depth as 72 pages allows. Photographic and graphic support is the heart of this book and the heart beats strong.
There are several typos, two of which are embarrassing.
Enthusiasts and modelers of the F4F Wildcat family should find this pictorial to be a valuable resource.
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